Paralegals, also called legal assistants, perform specific substantive legal work a lawyer is responsible for. They are not lawyers but they assist lawyers in their legal work. The government does not authorize paralegals to set fees, give legal advice or represent clients in the court; otherwise, it will be a violation of the unauthorized practice of law statues.
Lawyers are able to deliver legal services more efficiently and economically because of the help and expertise of paralegals, who help gather and manage large amount of data to produce better quality work.
Approximately 71% of paralegals work for private lawyers and law firms while the rest are employed by big corporations or government agencies. Paralegals are also commissioned as notaries public. A few paralegals work as freelance paralegal assistants, who offer their services to attorneys or legal departments of big corporations.
What are the requirements to become a paralegal?
Individuals who want to become paralegal experts should have at least an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. Although some paralegals a completed college degree in a different field, they also have a certificate in paralegal studies.
Paralegals should also have excellent oral and written communication skills. They also prepare legal documents so they should have the ability to think on their feet, complete a thought or write a clear, grammatically-correct sentence.
Computer skills are also important for a paralegal. They should have the knowledge in word processing, spreadsheets, database, and litigation support. They should also be able to make presentations using the right application software and surf the internet.
Paralegals should be both people-oriented and team-oriented. They work with a team of lawyers, legal secretaries and other paralegals. They also communicate with clients, witnesses, and court personnel. Paralegals should also have the ability to multitask and work under pressure to meet deadlines.
How much does a paralegal earn?
The salary of a paralegal depends on the area of law they practice. Paralegals on litigation and appeals as well as paralegals in corporation, business and big mergers receive the highest pay, as much as $37,000-$56,000 in a year.
Experience is also a factor in determining the salary of a paralegal. The average salary of a paralegal increases as he gets more experienced and becomes more expert in the field. New paralegals with less than a year of experience normally receive an annual salary between $29,266 and $39,170. Experienced paralegals who have already worked in the industry for 20 years or more earn from $43,976 to $64,397 each year.
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What are the duties and responsibilities of a paralegal?
Paralegals do many tasks assigned to lawyers, who assume responsibility for legal work. One of the most important responsibilities of a paralegal is to assist lawyers in trials, hearings and corporate meetings.
Paralegals are also assigned to perform other specific tasks, such as: