Paralegal Job Description
Paralegals provide legal and clerical support to lawyers in law offices, legal departments of corporations, and courts. Paralegals are responsible for filing documents and relevant materials, taking statements, and drafting reports, contracts, and legal documents. Paralegals usually work on a full-time basis and in an office environment, although travel to take statements or meet with clients is sometimes necessary. Those looking to work as a paralegal should have strong communication skills, both written and oral, understand legal terminology, be comfortable using computer programs such as Microsoft Office, and have good administrative experience.
Paralegal Duties and Responsibilities
Paralegals take on a variety of tasks depending on the organization they work for. Based on job listings we analyzed, a paralegal’s duties typically involve:
Investigating and Researching Facts for the Case
Paralegals are responsible for researching anything that can affect the outcome a case, including facts, legal articles, and laws. They gather information that’s relevant to the case and observe regulations which might impact what is discussed in court.
Paralegals draft all correspondence, legal documents, and reports, such as mortgages and contracts, which will then be reviewed and approved by the lawyer.
Maintaining documents and ensuring all information is organized in both paper and electronic filing systems is an important aspect of a paralegal’s day-to-day job.
Gathering Statements for Use in Court
Paralegals get affidavits and formal statements from witnesses or those involved in the case, which can be used as evidence in court.
Paralegals assist lawyers by taking notes and reviewing trial transcripts, which can then be used in court or for questioning.
Paralegals often work with confidential client information, so maintaining discretion is an important part of the job.
Paralegal Skills and Qualifications
Paralegals need to have excellent time management skills, be good at researching information and preparing reports, and have strong interpersonal skills to work well with colleagues and clients. Typically, employers will require an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, as well as the following abilities:
- Computer skills – paralegals use computers and basic software to carry out legal research, type up reports, and maintain important documents
- Interpersonal skills – paralegals work with clients and other professionals on a regular basis, so it’s important that they make clients feel comfortable and can develop good working relationships with them. They also need to document and present research in a clear and articulate way, so strong communication skills are important
- Organizational skills – paralegals are often involved with multiple cases at once, so good time management and organization skills are vital to ensure deadlines are met
Paralegal Education and Training
The minimum requirement to become a paralegal is an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor’s degree in another subject coupled with a certificate in paralegal studies. These certifications can be obtained from a paralegal education program which has been approved by the American Bar Association. Associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in this topic usually offer paralegal training courses, which include topics such as legal writing and legal research.
Paralegal Salary and Outlook
The median annual salary for paralegals is nearly $50,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Paralegals in the 10th percentile earn around $31,000 annually, while the highest paid earn close to $81,000 a year. Some companies offer packages that can reach up to $5,000 from bonus structures based on individual or group performances, and up to $7,000 in profit sharing opportunities.
Location and level of experience impact the pay level for this role, and just over half of employers offer dental plans and medical insurance as part of their benefits package. The BLS predicts that the growth rate for this sector is expected to grow by 15 percent through 2026.
We’ve collected some of the best resources to help you develop a career as a paralegal.
Paralegal Edu Blog – this blog centers on all things related to paralegal studies, from how to become a paralegal to the value that can be provided by working as one. The site is updated regularly with interesting news, videos, and advice, and makes a great starting point for those new to the legal sector.
Paralegal Network – with over 41,000 members, this LinkedIn group for paralegal professionals was designed to expand the network of ideas, knowledge, and people in the industry. The conversations taking place in this group are focused on paralegal questions and answers, and industry issues, so it’s a useful place to learn.
Legal Research and Writing for Paralegals – a comprehensive and well-organized text, this book offers in-depth information on legal writing, which is reinforced by illustrations and exercises. There is coverage on writing strategies, searching, and how to cite resources properly, as well as validating legal authorities.
Paralegal Practice and Procedure – a newly revised and updated version, this reference guide is helpful for paralegals in all stages of their career. It provides step-by-step instructions on each area of the job, from paralegal ethics and federal court practice and procedures, to legal research tools and court systems.
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