Paralegal Studies Career Video: Becoming a Paralegal
Paralegal Studies Career Video: Becoming a Paralegal Transcript
Paralegals, sometimes known as legal assistants or legal secretaries, assist lawyers in legal offices. Though paralegals perform many functions related to the law, they are not allowed to practice law in a way that lawyers do. Many paralegals obtain certifications or associate degrees through technical or community college programs. Others enroll in a prelaw program at a four-year university.
Paralegals assist lawyers with legal tasks, such as required preparation for closings, hearings, trials and meetings. Most working paralegals have an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree with a paralegal certification.
Job Duties and Skills
Paralegals do many of the same tasks that a typical lawyer does, such as preparing for various meetings, hearings, trials and closings. They also help to investigate meetings and go over evidence and information. Paralegals may prepare reports, gather pertinent material from past legal decisions or help prepare arguments, motions and affidavits. These professionals may even help set up separation agreements, mortgages or other contracts. Paralegals are not, however, able to carry out tasks that involve the direct practice of law, such as giving legal advice, setting fees or defending cases in a court of law.
To perform their required duties, paralegals need to have a clear understanding of legal terms and the ability to research and analyze data effectively. Knowledge of the litigation process and current law developments is also important.
There are firms and organizations who will hire a paralegal with a general education background. However, many paralegals have an associate's degree in paralegal studies or a related area. Bachelor's degrees are also common. It is not a requirement for paralegals to become certified, but it is an advantage that is offered through different professional organizations. One such organization is the National Association of Legal Assistants. Individuals who pass the exam administered by this establishment become Certified Legal Assistants or Certified Paralegals.
The majority of paralegals are found working for private law firms. Others work in the legal departments of corporations or for government agencies. Paralegals have the opportunity to work in a variety of legal areas, such as litigation, corporate or criminal law, employee benefits, family law or real estate. In larger firms and corporations, paralegals are also given more opportunity to really focus in on a particular specialty or area of the law. Those who work for smaller organizations may find themselves working in a variety of areas.
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