What does a paralegal do in the real world? A career as a paralegal may seem dramatic according to television, but that doesn't mean you'll find it that exciting. A paralegal is a legal assistant to one or more attorneys and may work in a law firm, government office, corporate counsel office, or even a non-profit organization's legal department. The duties of a paralegal will depend on the place of employment and the type of legal work involved. However, it is illegal for a paralegal to perform duties that might be considered practicing law or giving legal advice.
Paralegals assist attorneys in the day-to-day operations of moving cases through the legal system. The paralegal will help attorneys get ready for meetings, trials, hearings and other events. This might include preparing reports, researching relevant cases, reviewing legal articles, drafting letters or motions and filing appropriate documents with the courts.
Some paralegals, especially in smaller organizations, may have additional office management duties, such as generating financial reports, bookkeeping, billing, tracking inventory and entering data. On the other hand, paralegals for a large organization may perform only certain specialized duties. For example, a paralegal at a large law firm with an emphasis on litigation may find his duties restricted to assisting attorneys with researching prior cases and judgments on a particular issue.
In order to succeed as a paralegal, it's important to have a certain set of skills. Most important is research training, as the paralegal will spend lots of time either in an online law library or a brick-and-mortar one. Writing and communication skills also rank high. The ability to work under pressure and under deadline is crucial, as is a detailed knowledge of legal terms. A paralegal career is considered high stress, so those who are able to cope in that environment will thrive.
In order to keep up on the latest training methods and legal issues, many paralegals will attend continued learning courses and re-certification courses, which may or may not involve online paralegal classes. As a paralegal gains more job experience, generally the duties and responsibilities increase, and the paralegal can advance in his career.
Understanding the requirements to become a paralegal can help you decide if you want to try out this career, which calls for strong research skills and adaptability.
Many law students and law school graduates take jobs as "law clerks." The term actually has three different meanings, depending on where the law clerk is working.