What is a Paralegal?
A paralegal is a term used to describe an individual who assists legal professionals, most commonly qualified lawyers, in their day to day work. A paralegal will assist a lawyer or law firm with various administrative or research-related functions.
As a result of the amount of work the average attorney assumes, the paralegal essential to streamline and organize the typical attorney’s responsibilities. A paralegal will aid in case research, interview clients or witnesses, research pertinent legal facts to better organize an argument, organize an attorney’s daily schedule and in general, expedite the attorney’s basic responsibilities.
In the United States, paralegals are not authorized by a government body or governmental agency to offer legal services nor are they subject to the government or court sanctioned rules of conduct. Instead a paralegal is, in essence, a lawyer’s assistant; a paralegal will work under the direct supervision of their coordinating legal professional; the paralegal will provide administrative assistance to streamline the attorney’s day-to-day work.
In the United States, a paralegal cannot set fees, give legal advice, appear as counsel of record in court or sign pleadings (and other legal or court documents) in a representative fashion. If a paralegal attempts to fulfill any of these roles, which are distinctly reserved for an attorney or certified legal professional, they will be in direct violation of the unauthorized practice of law statutes that are present in the majority of states in America.
Although there are no mandatory requirements to assume the role as a legal assistant, paralegal training will bolster an individual’s salary and increase the individual’s opportunity of landing a job as a paralegal. Learning to become a paralegal will typically require the intellect or curiosity of an administrative assistant, legal researcher or reporter.
The majority of paralegal training will involve substantive or routine work, because the job will typically entail writing for a legal audience, including various lawyers, courts and parties in particular legal suits. To partake in an effective paralegal training program the individual must learn how to write in professional terms and be able to effectively research legal matters that are pertinent to the respective case at hand.
As stated before, there are no mandatory educational or certification requirements to become a paralegal; however, there are numerous schools and programs that specialize in teaching individuals the requirements needed to become a suitable and effective paralegal. Paralegal schools or programs are not law schools; paralegal training does not require the obtainment of a law degree.
These programs are focused solely on the distinct functions and responsibilities of a paralegal. For instance, paralegal training programs will teach candidates or students how to write legal briefs, how to interview prospective clients and the techniques necessary to conduct thorough legal research. In most cases, a law firm will typically hire those candidates who have partook in such paralegal training programs or who have received undergraduate degrees in related fields.