November 05, 2007
Are you interested in pursuing a paralegal or legal assistant position? We’ve got the scoop on what the job entails and how to get into the field, as well as some interesting factoids about being a paralegal.
Paralegals assist lawyers by identifying appropriate laws, judicial decisions, legal articles and other materials relevant to assigned cases. After they analyze and organize the information, paralegals may prepare written reports that attorneys use when determining how cases should be handled.
In legal proceedings, paralegals may help prepare the legal arguments, draft pleadings and motions to be filed with the court, obtain affidavits and assist attorneys during trials.
Paralegals also organize and track important case documents, making them easily accessible to attorneys.
- Ability to document and present their findings and opinions to their supervising attorneys is essential, as is a general knowledge of the law and legal terminology.
- Good research and investigative skills, as well as familiarity with the operation and applications of computers in legal research and litigation support, are also needed.
- Formal paralegal training can be obtained through associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs or certification programs. Increasingly, employers prefer graduates of four-year paralegal programs or college graduates who have completed paralegal certificate programs that take only a few months to complete.
- Participation in continuing legal education seminars to maintain and expand legal knowledge.
- Employment for paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow much faster than average for all occupations through 2014 as they increasingly perform many legal tasks formerly carried out by lawyers.
- Stiff competition is expected as the number of paralegal training program graduates and others seeking to enter the field outpaces job growth.
- Private law firms will continue to be the largest employers of paralegals, but a growing array of other organizations, such as corporate legal departments, government agencies, insurance companies, consumer organizations, real estate and title insurance firms, and banks will also continue to hire paralegals.
Several other occupations call for a specialized understanding of law and the legal system but do not require a lawyer’s extensive training. These include legal secretaries, abstractors, court clerks, title examiners, compliance and enforcement inspectors, occupational safety and health workers, tax preparers and patent agents.
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- Paralegals may work in all areas of the law, including litigation, personal injury, and corporate and criminal law.
- Paralegals cannot set legal fees, give legal advice or present cases in court.
Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics