Paralegals are people who are knowledgeable and trained in legal matters. They are hired to assist lawyers in the delivery of legal services. Most paralegals work in the government, corporations, law firms, and other environments, but are mostly under the supervision of an attorney. As paralegals, they cannot give legal advice nor represent clients in court, ask for legal fees or sign legal documents for filing in court.
There are many paralegals currently employed by law firms and companies providing legal services. The number is even expected to rise further because getting a paralegal certificate in cities like NY has become easier and more accessible.
Duties of a Paralegal
The job of paralegals depends on the company they are connected with or for whom they are working for. There are common responsibilities that they are in charge of, such as the arrangement of mediation. Paralegals can also take care of the expert psychological evaluation on family divorce and custodial cases, preparing materials for litigation practice, support and assist lawyers in courtroom hearings or trials, arbitration, administrative proceedings, and mediation.
Paralegals are also great researchers and writers. They draft and legal documents, such as subpoenas, certifications, motions, deposition notices, briefs, contracts, and complaints. In some cases, paralegals also interview clients, witnesses, and conduct research to help investigate facts surrounding the case. Additionally, paralegals are also tasked to keep documents, exhibits, and files well managed and organized.
Although the law has established what paralegals cannot do, what they work on and how they work are dependent on the judgment of their employers. Attorneys can be very busy with various cases, and they find that delegating most of their paperwork makes things easier. Their presence frees up most of the lawyer’s time so that they can perform better at defending their clients at court.
Education, Certification, and Training
There are paralegals without formal training. Most have learned their skills on the job under the supervision of lawyers and often carrying on the task of a paralegal and other duties. But there are also other means for students to pursue an interest in being a paralegal. There are associate degrees as well as four-year bachelor’s degree courses that they can take. Most junior college levels get a paralegal certificate.
In terms of training, paralegals get most of their training by experience. They must have knowledge of legal terminologies, legal procedure, as well as state and substantive laws. This profession is not yet regulated; thus, having a professional certification can help aspiring candidates stand out from other applicants. Generally, the best prospects have bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies and a paralegal certificate.
Work Environment and Job Outlook
Paralegals work hand in hand with other personnel such as an attorney or their support staff. It is a people profession that requires constant interaction in this area of the law. Most of the time is spent in offices, but they can be called to attend court hearings with their attorney or travel to other places for filing or information gathering.
At present, lawyers with increasing caseloads are now hiring more paralegals to delegate tasks. The job growth can be attributed to the fact that most lawyers pass off their paperwork to paralegals at a lower wage that they would personally charge their time, as some clients can no longer afford their high legal fees.