Career Development

What Does a Paralegal Do?

Find out what a paralegal does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a paralegal.

Paralegals are professionals who assist lawyers by performing a wide range of legal tasks. Paralegals may help with everything from researching case law to drafting legal documents or preparing for trial. They commonly work under the supervision of attorneys, but they may also work independently on certain projects or cases.

Paralegals play an important role in the legal system. Their duties often overlap with those of lawyers, but paralegals are not allowed to provide legal services directly to clients. Instead, their work supports the efforts of lawyers and other legal professionals.

Paralegal Job Duties

Paralegals have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Drafting legal documents such as briefs, motions, wills, contracts, or letters to clients or other parties involved in legal proceedings
  • Researching and analyzing legal issues by reviewing statutes, precedents, legislation, case law, records, and other legal materials to help lawyers prepare for trials or other court proceedings
  • Meeting with clients and other attorneys to prepare for hearings, trials, depositions, settlements, or other legal proceedings
  • Preparing legal documents such as summonses, subpoenas, writs, injunctions, complaints, motions, and briefs
  • Drafting, filing, and arguing motions in court on behalf of clients or attorneys
  • Preparing legal documents for filing with state or federal agencies such as marriage certificates or birth certificates
  • Conducting interviews with clients to learn about their legal issues and concerns
  • Communicating with clients via phone or email to answer questions about their cases or provide information about upcoming court dates or other events related to their case
  • Preparing case files for trial by organizing and compiling evidence and other documentation related to a legal action

Paralegal Salary & Outlook

Paralegal salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of law they are working in. Paralegals may also earn additional compensation in the form of bonuses.

  • Median Annual Salary: $51,500 ($24.76/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $87,500 ($42.07/hour)

The employment of paralegals is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

As law firms continue to expand their practices and offer more services, they will need more paralegals to handle a variety of tasks. In addition, demand for paralegals will come from outside the legal field. As businesses and other organizations seek cost-effective ways to address legal matters, some paralegals may be hired by these clients.

Paralegal Job Requirements

A paralegal typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Most paralegals have at least a two-year associate’s degree in paralegal studies. Some employers prefer to hire paralegals who have a four-year bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies.

Paralegal programs teach students the fundamentals of the legal system, including civil and criminal law, ethics, legal research and writing, and legal terminology. They also teach paralegals how to conduct legal research, how to write legal documents and how to conduct legal interviews.

Training & Experience: Paralegals receive most of their training through on-the-job training programs. These programs can last from a few weeks to a few months and are often part of the onboarding process for new paralegals. During these programs, paralegals learn about the firm’s practices and procedures. They also learn about the software and technology they will use.

Certifications & Licenses: Earning a paralegal certificate is the most common way to become a paralegal. Most states require you to pass a paralegal exam after you earn your certificate, so check the requirements in your state.

Paralegal Skills

Paralegals need the following skills in order to be successful:

Research: Paralegals use research skills to find information about laws, regulations, court cases and other legal documents. They use research skills to find information about clients and their cases, too. For example, they might use research skills to find information about a client’s financial situation to help the client prepare for a court case.

Communication: Communication is the act of exchanging information. Paralegals use communication skills to interact with clients, attorneys and other legal professionals. They also use these skills to explain legal processes to clients and to draft legal documents.

Organization: Paralegals use organization skills to keep track of paperwork, files and other documents. They also use organization skills to keep track of their calendar and the calendar of their colleagues.

Time management: Paralegals often work on multiple projects at once, so time management is an important skill for them to have. They may also work with attorneys who have strict deadlines for completing certain tasks, so being able to manage their time well is important.

Technology: Technology skills can be useful for paralegals, as they may need to use computers and other devices to access and organize information, communicate with clients and attorneys and complete other tasks. Familiarizing yourself with technology and learning how to use it efficiently can be a valuable skill for paralegals.

Paralegal Work Environment

Paralegals work in a variety of settings, including law firms, corporate legal departments, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. They may work full-time or part-time, and their hours may be flexible to accommodate their personal needs. Paralegals who work in law firms often work long hours, including evenings and weekends, when deadlines are approaching. Paralegals who work in corporate legal departments or government agencies usually work regular business hours. However, they may be required to work overtime when deadlines are approaching or when they are needed to assist with a trial. Paralegals who work in non-profit organizations usually have regular business hours, but their work hours may be flexible to accommodate the needs of the organization.

Paralegal Trends

Here are three trends influencing how paralegals work. Paralegals will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Growth of Legal Tech

The legal industry is changing rapidly as technology becomes more prevalent. This is leading to an increased demand for paralegals who are familiar with legal tech tools and can use them to help their clients manage their legal affairs.

As legal tech continues to grow, paralegals will need to learn how to use these tools in order to stay competitive. They will also need to be able to work effectively with attorneys and other professionals in the legal field.

More Focus on Collaboration

The legal profession is shifting towards a more collaborative model, which means that paralegals will need to develop new skills in order to be successful.

Collaboration is becoming increasingly important in the legal world, as it allows lawyers and paralegals to work together on complex cases and projects. In order to be successful in this environment, paralegals will need to be able to communicate effectively with others, work well under pressure, and be able to handle multiple tasks at once.

Greater Use of Technology

The legal profession is increasingly using technology to streamline processes and improve efficiency. This trend is being seen in all areas of law, from litigation to corporate transactions.

Paralegals are in a unique position to take advantage of this trend, as they have the training and experience to utilize technology in a way that can make a real difference in the legal world. By learning how to use technology effectively, paralegals can become more productive and efficient while also providing better service to their clients.

How to Become a Paralegal

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on your interests, skills, and goals. However, there are some common paths that paralegals take. You can specialize in a particular area of law, such as family law or corporate law. You can also become certified in a specialty area, such as estate planning or real estate law.

You can also move into management or supervisory roles within the legal field. Or you can choose to work in other areas of the legal profession, such as court reporting or legal transcription.

Related: How to Write a Paralegal Resume

Advancement Prospects

Paralegals with strong writing, research, and analytical skills can find advancement opportunities in many different types of organizations. Some may move into managerial positions, working as coordinators or directors of paralegal programs. Others may become independent consultants, working on a contract basis for several different firms.

Some paralegals may decide to go to law school and become lawyers. Although a bachelor’s degree is not required for admission to most law schools, most successful applicants have at least a bachelor’s degree. Paralegals who have a law degree but do not wish to practice law may find opportunities in teaching, writing, or working as legal researchers.

Paralegal Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we provide high-quality legal services to our clients by working with a team of skilled professionals. We are currently seeking a paralegal to join our team and provide support to our attorneys. The ideal candidate will have excellent research and writing skills, as well as experience working with clients. He or she will be responsible for assisting with the preparation of legal documents, conducting research, and communicating with clients. The successful candidate will be a team player with a positive attitude and a commitment to providing excellent customer service.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Serve as the primary point of contact for clients, managing all communications in a professional and efficient manner
  • Conduct legal research and analysis, prepare reports, memoranda, and correspondence, and manage document production
  • Assist with discovery, including drafting requests for production of documents and responses to interrogatories
  • Prepare and file pleadings, motions, and other documents with state and federal courts
  • Manage and organize case files, exhibits, and other materials, ensuring accuracy and completeness
  • Coordinate schedules and deadlines, and track and monitor court dockets
  • Attend hearings, depositions, mediations, and other meetings as needed
  • Maintain knowledge of relevant laws, regulations, and procedures
  • Keep abreast of developments in the legal field through continued education and research
  • Perform administrative tasks as needed, such as scheduling appointments and maintaining calendars
  • Provide support to attorneys and other staff as needed
  • Handle sensitive and confidential information with discretion

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent
  • 3+ years of experience as a paralegal, legal assistant, or in a related role
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat Pro
  • Excellent organizational skills and attention to detail
  • Strong research and writing skills
  • Ability to work independently and with a team

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Experience with e-discovery software
  • Familiarity with court rules and procedures
  • Certification from an accredited paralegal program
  • Working knowledge of case management software

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