Becoming a paralegal may not seem as glamorous as being an attorney but the tasks you perform are just as critical to their success as their performance in and out of court. As the name suggests, a paralegal is responsible for dealing with a details relating to the law and an authorized paralegal can even perform some legal services such as administrative tribunals. The job can be very stimulating, the salary very good, and ranked as one of the careers with highest employee satisfaction.
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Becoming a paralegal does not take as much course work as it would to become a lawyer. In fact, you can become a paralegal with an associate degree and/or certificate. This is good to know, especially if you are more than ready to get started with your career. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, all you have to do is get certified through a paralegal program. There is nothing stopping you from putting the fast track on entering this rewarding career path.
A large portion of your duties as a paralegal is research. The majority of decisions made in the court are bound by decisions on similar cases decided in the past called case law. As a result, when taking on a case the attorney will need to know what similar cases were tried in the past and searching out these relevant cases usually falls to the paralegal. As part of the research, you will also need to be able to analyze, collate and organize all the research into a format that can be easily managed by an attorney usually with a summary of the key points.
Interact With Clients
For a variety of reasons one of them being that a paralegals time is generally cheaper than an attorney’s, you will often be delegated the task of interviewing clients, witnesses and experts. As a result, you need to ensure that your communication and analytical skills are top notch. Much of the interviews you will conduct are going to be similar in nature to a police interview in so much as you are going to be looking for not only the facts, but also any inconsistencies that could be used by the attorneys on the other side of the case.
The kind of documents you will be asked to prepare as a paralegal will vary depending on your area of specialization. If you are employed as a corporate paralegal your main responsibilities will be in the preparation of contracts and other business related agreements. As a civil paralegal, a large portion of your time will be spent turning your extensive research into a official legal brief. A legal brief is one of the most powerful weapons in civil cases as the majority of the time cases are settled before reaching court based on the contents of the brief and the strength of the arguments put forward there. If you are interested in the rapidly growing field of intellectual property, you should check out this Udemy course, Must-Know IP Law (Patent, Trademark and Copyright).
You will get assigned a case load in much the same way as an attorney that you are then the responsible party. While you will not be actually presenting in court, you will need to keep track of all the documents relevant to the case and prepare notes and minutes from any meetings relevant to your cases. As part of the legal process, you will also have to set and maintain document logs and in some cases be in court during a trial to keep the documents related to the case organized and ready for the attorney as they need them. In addition, an interesting course to take is, How Blind is Justice?
Depending on your practice area, you have the worthwhile opportunity to help those in need. If you work in personal injury, you can help plaintiffs claim compensation for damages received. In family law, you can assist clients with custody and divorce cases. In addition, if you work in the public interest field, you might be able to partake in some pro bono work to help those in need of legal services, but cannot afford it. You can learn more about all of the opportunities for a paralegal by taking this Udemy course, Diversity Training for Businesses, Legal Assistants and HR.
Everyone wants to work in a career that will give them job security. As a paralegal, you are doing just that. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The number of jobs for paralegals and legal assistants is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2016. Law firms will hire more paralegals to help lawyers prepare their cases.” This is because clients want more cost-efficient and quicker delivery of services. Some of the work that used to be done by lawyers are now being completed by paralegals. Good benefits and a steady work week are just two more reasons to consider this field.
Who wouldn’t want a job where they can expect continual raises? Who doesn’t want their salary to beat the rate of inflation? Well, you can have just that as a paralegal. Despite the recession, the salaries of paralegals have risen steadily over the past decade. This is because they are performing broader and more complex tasks. Bonuses and overtime hours can also pad your annual salary.
At one time, paralegals were thought of as nothing more than lawyer’s assistants. Today, that is no longer the case. They are now becoming managers, leaders in law firms and entrepreneurs in boutique paralegal firms. The once glorified legal secretary is quickly becoming a non-negotiable and honored member of legal teams throughout the world.
While this is not an exhaustive list of the duties of a paralegal, the areas highlight in this article will constitute the bulk of the work, you will be required to perform on a daily basis. It is a lot of work, and paralegals generally work very long hours in order to keep on top of all the details of each case for which they are responsible. Although the work is hard, you will find that it is also very rewarding. Well respected paralegals can command very high salaries and get large bonuses if their work consistently leads to their firms legal success. To find out more, check out this blog, Careers in Sociology: It’s a Job Smorgasboard!