What does a Paralegal do?
The paralegal profession is one of the sought after professions in the legal industry. In general, a paralegal is usually responsible for doing all of work for a lawyer. The career may require an in-depth knowledge of the legal field, but may have fewer testing and certification requirements than that of an attorney.
A paralegal typically performs a variety of tasks; one of the most important is helping with the lawyer's preparation for a trial, meeting, or hearing. The paralegal may collect, analyze, and organize the information for the lawyer. Some paralegals may also prepare written reports for the lawyer as well. Fact checking is another task often handled by a paralegal. Paralegals will gather laws, articles, judicial decisions, and other official documents that relate to a lawyer's particular case and present them in an organized fashion.
Preparation for a trial may not end with gathering information. When the lawyer decides to file suit for a particular client, the paralegal may help with much of the paperwork involved with the process. The paralegal also may help prepare the legal arguments, motions, and pleadings the attorney will use in court. Any affidavits that need to be obtained might become his responsibility as well.
Much of a paralegal's work is now done on the computer. A large amount of legal literature comes on CD-ROM or is stored on computerized databases, and the paralegal can retrieve, organize, and store the documents electronically. The paralegal might also be responsible for tracking hours spent on a case and billing clients, and this is also done on the computer. However, they may not be able to set legal fees. That is a task left to the attorney or the law firm.
While much of the work of a paralegal can be done electronically, these professionals may not be forced to sit behind a computer screen all day. They may often spend their time in legal libraries looking up documents that have not yet been digitized. They can also sometimes assist the lawyer in the courtroom. Once a trial begins, the paralegal keeps all of the necessary documents organized and available. When the attorney needs a particular file, the paralegal is responsible for knowing where it is and how to obtain it quickly.
Paralegals may not be qualified to give legal advice. However, in some law offices they can help clients by drafting some standard forms, like legal contracts and separation agreements. Clients who use an attorney to help with their finances may work with the paralegal to file tax returns or set up legal trusts. Paralegals also help with estate planning, freeing the lawyer to work on cases and lawsuits.
In a criminal defense office, the work of a paralegal focuses mostly on analyzing and collecting legal material for the attorney to use. Keeping reference files organized is another task delegated to the paralegal. Paralegals also may be required to file forms and petitions with the court while the lawyer works on the actual case. Paralegals are not allowed to present the case in court, so they fulfill a supporting role in the courtroom drama.
Schools OfferingParalegal Courses:
With more than 300 online and residential areas of study, Liberty offers programs from the certificate to doctoral level.
- CERT: Paralegal Studies
Prepare for a productive career with education training from New York Career Institute.
- Paralegal Studies - Associate Degree
- Law Office Assistant - Certificate
Discover the power of ONE COURSE A MONTH® to fit education into your busy life.
- Certificate in Paralegal Assistant
- Associate of Science in Paralegal
- Associate of Applied Business in Paralegal
As a student at South University, you will have the opportunity to learn from accomplished faculty members who have real-world experience in the subjects that they teach. Our small class sizes allow you to receive personalized attention from instructors, and the encouragement to recognize your goals for the future and the means to achieve them.
- Paralegal Studies (AS)
No matter what occupation you choose to pursue, the competition for a good job is fierce. Lansdale School of Business (LSB) can help you stand out from the rest by teaching you the specific skills you need to succeed in the career you desire.
- Associate Degree-Paralegal
- Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies
You can advance your career with a degree from Charter College Online.
- AS - Paralegal Studies
- Certificate - Paralegal Studies
- Bachelor of Science: Paralegal Studies
- Associate of Applied Science: Paralegal Studies
- Certificate: Pathway to Paralegal Postbaccalaureate