Though you’ve likely heard of the career, you may wonder what a paralegal does and whether the job would be a good fit for you. Paralegals provide support to attorneys by assisting them with duties such as research and other tasks in order to help prepare for cases. These professionals are not qualified to provide legal advice or assist in court proceedings, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here is some more information to help you understand the kinds of things these legal assistants do.
Typical Work Day
Paralegals can expect to work a regular nine to five, Monday through Friday workweek consisting of 40 hours. However, there are instances when you will be expected to work overtime, such as when a brief is due or a major trial is around the corner. Don’t worry if you’re not the type who wants to sit at a boring desk job. Legal assistants are often out of the office when completing their job-related duties. They may attend court or depositions. They may also be asked to obtain informational interviews or physical objects from witnesses or clients. Most days will offer something new or different to do.
Nature of the Job
Paralegals are an essential member of a lawyer’s team. What a paralegal does saves the lawyer a great deal of time, energy and frustration so that the attorney can focus on strategy to win the case. Though paralegals are a great asset to law firms, it is important to understand that they cannot perform certain duties that are the responsibilities of lawyers alone. These include providing legal advice, presenting cases in court and fixing legal fees. A paralegal is an assistant to a lawyer.
Specific Tasks of Paralegals
While duties may vary depending on the kind of law firm for which you work, there are certain tasks that all paralegals can expect to do. The legal assistant may be the very first person a clients speaks with at the law firm. As a paralegal, you will often perform the initial client interview in order to decide if the case is appropriate for your employer and if there is a legitimate claim. If the attorney takes on a case, you’ll likely perform follow-up interviews to gain pertinent information.
Research is a critical component of a paralegal’s job. You will be charged with helping lawyers prepare for a case by researching similar cases, investigating information about the case and compiling documents for court. It’s also a paralegal’s job to keep the attorney on track with regard to deadlines. If a critical deadline for filing paperwork is missed, it could mean losing the case. Paralegals also subpoena witnesses and provide assistance in interviewing witnesses. You have to be organized as a paralegal; it’s your job to maintain all client files. You will also take care of drafting numerous documents, depending on your practice’s area of specialization. Examples of these may include divorce agreements, draft pleadings, legal arguments, business acquisitions or financial documents.
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The job duties in this field are vast and vary by specialization. What a paralegal does is ensure that lawyers have the information, meet the deadlines and possess all of the paperwork needed to do their jobs.