Many paralegals work for law firms. However, they can be found in organizations of all types as well as government agencies and corporate legal departments. Paralegals are skilled in the preparation of affidavits, legal correspondence, electronic filing systems and assistance in preparing for trial. A paralegal would be responsible for preparing contracts, legal documents, wills and various other documents, such as, real estate closures.
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How to Become a Paralegal
Most paralegals acquire an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies from a college or vocational school. Coursework may include an introduction to legal law, research, writing, ethical, and litigation content. However, if they would like to advance their careers they may pursue a bachelors or masters degree in legal studies. Many larger law firms and government legal departments prefer these higher degrees over an associate’s degree. In addition one may want to get certified, this is voluntary in most states it can provide an edge over other applicants when applying for employment. Look at https://www.nala.org/certification for more information.
Job Description of a Paralegal
Paralegals assist in the preparation of law cases. They would need to be informed of and give information on case details to professionals and clients and file pleadings with the court clerk. The paralegal would investigate facts in a case and do research with public records, prepare cases, confirm pertinent sources and analyze research data. The person would coordinate the law office and direct the activity which would include the delivery of subpoenas.
A paralegal would be knowledgeable in transcription, stenography and various other skills for a law office. They should be strong communicators in order to work smoothly and well with superiors, peers and clients. They should also be skilled in reading comprehension, time management and listening.
Paralegals work in law firm offices or libraries. At times they may need to go out into the community to interview clients for investigation as well, but more often they are indoors. Lawyers sometimes have the paralegals accompany them to depositions at the courthouse. Most work full time and during the week; though there may be special circumstances that require them to work overtime. Deadlines, troubled clients, and sensitive subject matter can be stressful, therefore they must work well under pressure. In addition they must possess strong written communication skills and be very detailed oriented; this is pertinent to the documentation and investigation and can be determined if something is missed.
Paralegal Career Video Transcript
High-stakes, high-speed, and—at times—high-stress, the workings of the world of law are supported by the efforts of paralegals and legal assistants. These law professionals help lawyers prepare for hearings and trials, draft documents, and coordinate electronic materials, such as emails, accounting databases, and websites related to a trial or investigation. They gather case facts and dig into related laws and regulations, write up reports, and schedule meetings and interviews with witnesses, lawyers, and others.
Not all paralegals work with trial lawyers. Corporate paralegals help prepare employee contracts, shareholder agreements, and financial reports. They stay current with regulations to give up-to-date information. Paralegals also specialize in areas such as criminal law, intellectual property, immigration, and family law. Most paralegals work for law firms. Some are employed in government or the finance and insurance industries.
In small firms, paralegals’ have more varied duties and their work lasts the duration of a case, while in large firms, paralegals may focus on a particular phase of a case. Most paralegals and legal assistants work full time in an office environment, adding overtime to meet deadlines. They may occasionally travel for research or preparation for trials. Most employers prefer applicants who have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor’s degree in another field, sometimes with a certificate in paralegal studies.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants.
National Center for O*NET Development. 23-2011.00. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.