A paralegal, also known as legal assistant helps attorneys with their tasks. They work in private law firms, government agencies or corporate legal offices. Paralegals help attorneys by planning for hearings, trials, and meetings and by keeping up communication with clients. These legal professionals can perform numerous legal services, although tasks that are considered practicing law, such as representing a client in court, are prohibited.
Paralegals handle a broad range of administrative and research duties under the supervision of attorneys. The type of work a paralegal performs will depend upon his area of specialization and the specialty of the employing law firm.
Conducting legal research and collecting information on the case.
Assist attorney in preparing for trials, hearings, and closings.
Paralegals prepare presentations for the client.
Paralegals interview clients and summarize the testimony.
Paralegal draft legal documents.
Paralegals handle administrative tasks.
Paralegals deliver or retrieve documents from the courthouse.
They organize evidence and documents for attorneys to review.
They also manage schedules with witnesses and experts.
Although most paralegals work as a generalist in a legal firm, some specialize in a particular sector of law. Deciding a specialty early will give time to the student to plan his career ahead and study subjects that are relevant to his/her carrier goals.
Bachelor’s degree programs in paralegal studies and legal studies are both common. While some organizations will hire candidates with a two-year degree or certificate, the National Federation of Paralegals Association asserts that employers are increasingly requiring paralegals to possess a four-year degree and recommends that all aspiring paralegals work toward a bachelor’s degree.
Certification in paralegals is not mandatory; however, a student can stand out from the crowd by earning one. Some employer may require certification. Regardless, national surveys consistently show that certifications such as Certified Paralegals (CP) and Certified Legal Assistants (CLA) are used to determine and measure applicants’ abilities and skills. Paralegal organizations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants offer the CLA and CP certifications, which require passing a test and then pursuing continuing education.
Chances of getting hired increases if the student has done an internship during its degree program. Students should look for an internship with a Law Firm, Corporation, Non-profit, or Government Agency during his/her degree program. Students will gain experience and have more opportunities for an entry-level job.
Students should take help of their school’s career placement services and apply for a range of positions to maximize their chances of getting hired as a paralegal. Entry-level positions will give students an opportunity to begin practicing the techniques learned in school and allows for increased responsibilities down the road.
Earning an associate degree in paralegal studies gives students a strong understanding of the basic principles of the field as well as general education in math, science, social science, and English. Paralegal topics that are covered in most associate degree programs include an introduction to law, legal research and writing, civil litigation, and legal ethics.
A bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies is a four-year degree that trains students to perform the duties required of a paralegal through studies that focus litigation procedures, computer applications for law offices, ethics, various legal specialties, in addition to general education course requirements.
A master’s degree in paralegal studies is the highest level of education paralegal majors can pursue and designed for students who already have experience in the paralegal field, and who are looking to advance their career or focus their studies on one area of the law field.
Most paralegal certificates are for students who already have a bachelor’s degree or, at the very least, an associate degree. A post-baccalaureate certificate program can help you reach the next level of professionalism as it often lends itself to specialization in a specific area–in this case, paralegal studies.