What Is a Paralegal?

A paralegal is a legal professional who performs clerical duties or administrative functions autonomously or semi-autonomously, outside of a law firm, and usually performs tasks that require knowledge of the relevant laws for the proper execution. Paralegals are often found working in the courtroom as an assistant to lawyers or other legal professionals. Their duties may include preparing documents, interviewing witnesses, conducting research, interviewing suspects, drafting documents, assisting lawyers in court, and filing paperwork. However, paralegals do not appear in the courtroom unless they are independently engaged and acting on the behalf of a client.

What is a paralegal?

Paralegals are very similar to attorneys, but they are not lawyers and typically work in a different capacity. Some paralegals are attorneys, others are paralegals, but not all paralegals are attorneys. The requirements to become an attorney are much more strict than the requirements to become a paralegal.

paralegal working

Supports an attorney’s work

A paralegal supports an attorney’s work by taking notes, taking telephone calls, interviewing witnesses, drafting documents, interviewing people, interviewing clients, correspondence, preparing reports, interviewing witnesses, and depositing fees and disbursements. This is the typical day-to-day function of a paralegal. They do not appear in the courtroom, although it is possible that some may appear at motions, answer questions, or make filings on their behalf. In order to become an attorney-paralegal, a student must graduate from an approved paralegal institute. There are numerous institutes around the United States. If a student wishes to become a paralegal, he or she must pass the necessary licensing exams to become a Certified Legal Assistant (CLIA).

Most people think that a paralegal simply prepares legal documents for the lawyers. This is not entirely true. Paralegals also organize and prepare the cases, draft appropriate documents, and communicate with the parties involved in a case. They will review pleadings and briefs. If a client wishes to sue his or her spouse, the paralegal will prepare the documents and communicate them with the lawyer.

They may also open their own law firm

As paralegal gets more education and experience, they may also start a law firm, if they wish. In some states, paralegals are required to register separately with the State Bar. Most law firms today hire paralegals, although some law firms choose to retain attorneys. Most bar associations require paralegals to take a one or two-year course and pass an examination before becoming an attorney-paralegal.

paralegal working

Start out working for firms of lawyers

Most paralegals start out working for firms of lawyers. These firms may hire them as assistants. When they are able to do so, they continue to work for the firms and can continue to become attorneys-in-fact, once they have passed the bar examination and are practicing law. A paralegal can find work in private practice as well. As more paralegals start their careers in the legal profession, there are more positions available for them.

Paralegal writer

The second most important job of a paralegal, after being a paralegal assistant, is that of a paralegal writer. Writers are needed by all types of firms, whether they specialize in family law, or contract law, real estate law, corporate law, litigation, immigration, tax, or any other area of the law. A writer needs to know to research, writing, interviewing, researching, writing, and the legal world.

Currently, Gerry Spence is serving as a legal aide to the famed trial lawyer, Gerry Spence. This may be one of the first jobs for a paralegal who does not want to practice law. If you are a great listener and a good writer, you might just be ready to be a paralegal. There will always be a need for attorneys-in-fact, so don’t let anything stop you from getting your dream job!