What is a paralegal? A paralegal is not a lawyer, and a career in paralegal services is not necessarily a stepping stone to becoming a lawyer, considering the educational requirements for such a job. However, a paralegal does perform many important tasks directly related to the case. Paralegals perform research, verify or investigate facts, and organize paperwork, allowing the lawyer to easily deliver a presentation in court.
Though paralegals do usually require licensing and certification (depending on the jurisdiction) these legal professionals are not allowed to give legal advice. Setting fees, appearing as counselors or signing pleadings would violate what is called an “unauthorized practice of law” that is in effect for more states in the US. Nevertheless, paralegals still write and communicate quite a bit, perhaps drafting letters and other legal documents. They also organize or create databases and handle new technology for organization and presentation.
Lawyers must go to school for a much longer period of time, as their training and expertise is broad, whereas paralegals tend to learn niche areas. A lawyer is in charge of analysis and strategy, therefore taking practically all of the responsibility. A paralegal merely carries out specific tasks. Still, besides five specific actions (namely establishing an attorney-client relationship, giving legal advice, signing legal papers, appearing in court as a representative and setting or collecting legal fees) the “job description” of a paralegal is fairly open. Those who pursue a career in paralegal work can expect to be involved in many day-to-day activities of court.
There are many types of paralegals, including those who work in criminal trials, or who specialize in real estate or estate planning. Corporate paralegals may work specifically with employee contracts, shareholder agreements, stock options and financial reports. Their job may also involve reviewing the latest government regulations to ensure the company is abiding by the law of the state.
On the other hand, litigation paralegals work directly for lawyers, not companies, and may conduct research or retrieve evidence for use in trials or depositions. If you have always dreamed of landing an important job, a well-paying job and a job working with interesting people and information, you should look into a new career in paralegal services. This job is flexible, considering the many offices and law firms you could apply at, and the various fields of specialization. For more information look for an online college that offers paralegal training.