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What is a Paralegal? Exploring the Role and Responsibilities of a Legal Assistant

Category: Guides | Date: February 25, 2023

A paralegal is a professional who assists lawyers in their work. The term “paralegal” is sometimes used interchangeably with “legal assistant,” although there are some distinctions between the two roles. Generally speaking, a paralegal performs a variety of tasks to support attorneys in their legal work, but they are not authorized to provide legal advice or represent clients in court.

Paralegals work in a variety of settings, including law firms, corporate legal departments, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. They can specialize in different areas of law, such as family law, corporate law, or intellectual property law. Some paralegals also work as freelance consultants, offering their services to law firms and other clients on a project-by-project basis.

The exact duties of a paralegal can vary depending on the needs of their employer or client, but here are some common tasks that paralegals might be asked to perform:

  1. Conducting legal research: Paralegals often assist attorneys in conducting legal research to support their cases. This can involve reading legal cases, statutes, and regulations, as well as using online databases and other resources to find relevant information.
  2. Drafting legal documents: Paralegals may be responsible for drafting legal documents such as contracts, pleadings, and briefs. They may also review and edit documents prepared by attorneys to ensure accuracy and completeness.
  3. Managing case files: Paralegals often help to organize and manage the documents and evidence related to a case. This can involve creating and maintaining a database or filing system, as well as ensuring that all documents are properly labeled and stored.
  4. Assisting in trial preparation: Paralegals may help attorneys prepare for trials by organizing evidence, drafting witness lists, and assisting with other trial-related tasks.
  5. Interacting with clients: While paralegals cannot provide legal advice or represent clients in court, they may still have contact with clients to provide updates on their cases or gather information.
  6. Administrative tasks: Paralegals may be responsible for handling administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments, answering phone calls and emails, and preparing expense reports.

Becoming a paralegal typically requires completing a post-secondary program in paralegal studies or a related field, although some paralegals may have a bachelor’s degree or other legal or administrative experience. In some states, paralegals are required to be certified or licensed, although this is not the case everywhere.

In conclusion, a paralegal is a professional who supports attorneys in their legal work by performing a variety of tasks such as conducting legal research, drafting documents, managing case files, assisting in trial preparation, interacting with clients, and handling administrative tasks. Paralegals can work in a variety of settings and may specialize in different areas of law. If you are interested in working in the legal field but do not want to become an attorney, a career as a paralegal may be a great option to consider.