What is a Paralegal & What Does it Take to Become One?

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What is a paralegal?So what is a paralegal? A paralegal is a person qualified through education, training or work experience to perform substantive legal work and whose work, in his or her absence, would be performed by an attorney. However, there is so much confusion regarding the terms ”paralegal” and ”legal assistant”. In fact, the roles of certified paralegals and legal assistants have become more separate and distinct over the years. A paralegal has to work in the system and complete the same duties that a lawyer would do with the exception of practicing the law, giving advice, setting fees or taking on the role of counsel in a courtroom.

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Paralegals, however, do get to play their part when it comes to the investigation of a court case, as that is one of their main areas of job responsibility and duty. They are important in the fact that they are responsible for finding out any information that can be crucial to a case and in also reading any articles that talk about the laws that have to do with a case. A certified paralegal is also important because they help the lawyers that they work for to prepare for upcoming hearings, trials the lawyers are working on and depositions.

What Does a Paralegal Do?

Many times it is actually the paralegal, in fact it is part of their job description,  that will prepare those written reports that you see lawyers refer to in court. Those reports also help the lawyer in preparing the strategy he or she will use when they handle their case. It is very important that a paralegal has training in preparing court motions, draft pleadings and any other types of paperwork that helps in creating the arguments that will be made. Many times the paralegal will interview witnesses for a case or they may even interview their client in order to gain important information that is needed for the court case. After the interviews are conducted, a report on the interview is prepared for the lawyer so that the information gained may be used in case preparation.

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Administrative duties are also important. Sometimes a paralegal is also called a law clerk. This is because they are required to file documents and other clerk duties such as answering the phones, taking messages if someone is out of the office, and answering any correspondence that comes in.

In a secretarial type of way, a paralegal helps by organizing the documents the attorney will use and also making those documents accessible to those same attorneys. Most of what they will do involves technical paperwork. However, they may also contribute in writing up a contract, creating shareholder agreements, filling out trademark registration applications, depositions for court cases and many other important types of documentation.

Where Do Paralegals Work?

Paralegals do not have to mainly work in law firms though. Many times they can find jobs in any type of business that deals with legal aspects in regard to real estate, immigration, bankruptcy, entertainment, labor relations and the government. They can also work just with employee benefits or they can choose to cover a big range of legal matters or even things like family law.

What Does it Take to Become a Paralegal?

Schooling for a paralegal takes two years as you would be required to complete an associate’s degree. Due to the important role that paralegals play when it comes to assisting lawyers, it is easy to see why this would be a highly sought after career that many people choose to become regardless of how long it takes to complete the training program.

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You would be able to still be involved in the legal system and would play an important role in helping others in their matters which is what the majority of secretaries find to be rewarding with their career as well as learning more about the law and the intricate details of matters. This can be especially helpful if they wish to pursue in becoming an attorney themselves later on.