Paralegals provide legal support to lawyers by preparing legal documents, investigating facts and researching legal precedent, among other duties. While paralegals cannot give legal advice to clients or practise law, they are an integral part of an attorney’s office to begin legal action, formulate a defense and support the entire process.
Duties and responsibilities
- Prepare various legal documents, such as affidavits, real estate closures and contracts
- Compose, proofread and edit legal correspondence
- Research legal precedent related to the case you are working on
- Maintain, update and organise electronic filing systems
- Compile and analyse legal information, like codes, articles and statutes
- Prepare for a trial by gathering information, organising exhibits and sorting minute details
- Meet clients to obtain more information or clarify notes in records
- Coordinate and confirm attorney schedules and other legal activities
- Assist arbitration disputes to resolve legal conflicts by evaluating records and reviewing title searches
- Work with colleagues on cases and sharing anything relevant to the case
- Submit pleading with the court clerk and engage with court staff to clear up information
- Organise the office’s law library and ensure that all the legal volumes are up to date
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
Standard business hours
Paralegals typically work during regular office or business hours, clocking in around 40 hours a week. Depending on the type of law the practice specialises in and how much work needs to get done, a paralegal may need to work evenings and weekends on occasions. Also, a growing number of law firms offer flexible schedules and the option to work from home at least once a week.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Associate’s degree in paralegal studies
To become a paralegal, you’ll need to attain an associate’s degree in paralegal studies from an accredited postsecondary institution. Although this is a common route to take for students, many employers are increasingly preferring candidates with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or a similar field like criminal justice.
With experience, you could progress to a more senior role with more responsibility such as senior paralegal, attorney, library technician and postsecondary instructor.
Certification, such as the Certified Paralegal (CP) credential offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), can improve your employment prospects.