Paralegals are individuals who perform supporting tasks for attorneys, solicitor and other legal practitioners. Paralegals perform different clerical and administrative tasks that need extensive knowledge of legal terms, procedures and documents. As a paralegal, you will work side by side with many firm attorneys. Paralegals have specialization in one area of law, and carry out wide range of legal works.
If you have keen interest in law and want to build a career in legal works, a career as a paralegal might be suitable for you. For this job, you will need to possess strong communication and interpersonal skills. Paralegals can specialize in one specific area of law such as immigration law, criminal law or banking law.
Basic roles, duties & responsibilities of paralegals
So, what does a paralegal do? Here we have listed out basic roles, duties or responsibilities carried out by paralegals:
- Investigate and research the facts of case
- Carry out relevant researches on laws, legal articles and regulations
- Organize and manage documents in electric or paper filing system
- Accumulate and arrange evidence and other documents for attorney to review
- Prepare reports to help lawyers be ready for trial
- Draft legal documents and correspondence
- Handle exhibits; take notes and review trial and transcripts
- File appeals, briefs, exhibits and other legal documents
The duty requirement is affected by various factors such as area of practice, national laws and so on. They often have to work long hours, endure heavy workloads and meet strict deadlines.
Employers of paralegals
- Private law firms
- Public or nonprofit sector
- Civil courts
- Government firms
- Criminal courts
- Police forces and trading organizations
- Private companies
Many agencies and companies, legal firms or business houses, assist paralegals to advice them on legal matters.
Qualification and training
Since paralegals work in the “unregulated” legal sector, there are no specific requirements of academic qualifications, certifications or training. However, you must have good standard general education and extensive knowledge of legal system and administration system.
Candidates can enroll themselves in a community college’s paralegal program to earn a associate’s degree. Very few selected institutions also provide bachelor’s and master’s level programs in paralegals studies. Other candidates with a degree preferably in Law, accounting or administration can find entry level paralegal jobs.
There are various paralegal training programs that provide internship opportunities through which aspiring students can garner practical experience by working for few months in a private law firm, a company’s legal department or at office of public defender or attorney general. These internship programs help the paralegal studies students polish their technical skills and enhance their employment chances.
Required skills or job specifications for paralegals
As a paralegal, one has to perform wide variety of functions at a same time. For this one must develop certain skills to be competent enough. Some such skills are:
- Good time management and organizational skills
- Knack for practicing legal theories in court
- Skills to present a point influentially
- Ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines
- Advocacy and interpersonal abilities
- Good command of oral and written communication
- Updated legal awareness
- Ability to analyze large amount of information