The term paralegal refers to a professional who is trained in order to assist licensed lawyers of diverse legal capacities. Though the definition slightly varies, a paralegal performs the routine tasks that require knowledge of laws and legal procedures.
Job Responsibilities of Paralegals
The primary employers of paralegals include law firms, local, federal, and state government, legal department of corporations etc. Most are also sought after by the financial institutions like insurance companies, trading companies, real estate, companies, airlines, hospitality, sports teams, as well as entertainment companies. Paralegals are assigned various responsibilities, which include:
- Conducting legal and factual research
- Drafting the legal documents
- Working with clients
- Managing cases
Paralegals cannot render legal services to the public directly unless they are specially permitted.
While paralegal professionals happen to work independently most of the days, their job mainly involves with people. At times they also work with a team that includes other paralegals, lawyers, administrative assistants, etc. They are also expected to communicate with the witnesses, clients, and court officials.
Typical Day of a Paralegal
Some of the key activities in a paralegal’s day include:
- Investigating case factuality
- Organizing and presenting information
- Conducting research on the relevant legal regulations
- Updating all information related to transactions and cases in the computer database
- Keeping track of cases
- Drafting documents for correspondence, mortgages, contracts, etc.
- Helping lawyers with trials, hearings, corporate meetings, etc.
- Getting formal statements and affidavits that are produced as evidence
The responsibilities differ depending on the size of the organization and the type of the law field involved. Moreover, there are paralegals professionals who work from home for corporatations and as notary public.
How to become a paralegal?
There are different ways to become a paralegal. However the basic steps involve:
- A formal education such as bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, associate degree, or a certified program.
The next step after the qualification of a degree is to acquire license and certificate. The rules of eligibility for license vary between states. This is a crucial step to begin the career as a paralegal.
Technical knowledge is a must for a paralegal professional; almost every company and legal firm is computerized and technologically equipped. A paralegal also requires administrative skills including exposure to spreadsheets, word processor, databases, etc.
Most often paralegals are expected to complete internship as a part of education and work for law firms for specified number of hours in a week. At times they are also expected to work for additional voluntary services in non-profit entities or legal aid clinics.
Skills to become a paralegal include:
- research skills
- writing, speaking
- organizational skills
Above all, there are various areas in which paralegals can specialize and these include; complex litigation, intellectual property, corporate law, regulatory compliance, real estate, etc.
How much money can paralegals earn?
The average annual income of a paralegal professional can vary between $44,500 and $59,000 based on the company. However, the bottom 10% of them earn $30,000 or less while the top 10% earn over $73,000 annually.
Paralegals enjoy various other benefits in addition to their salary and some of these benefits include bonuses, pay for sick leave, vacation time, savings plans, insurance, higher education fee, etc.
In addition to all the qualification and skills, one has to have the passion and effort required to climb up the ladder, as the future outlook in this field is excellent