While some paralegals work in law firms, some also choose to work with a district attorney. This is often the case if an aspiring paralegal has a particular interest in helping to convict guilty parties and make a real difference in keeping criminals off the streets. Working with a district attorney can provide a paralegal with stimulating work and always something different to do each day. When crimes are committed, the community generally wants to see justice served and paralegals working with district attorneys can play an important role in ensuring the community is satisfied.
Related resource: Top 10 Online Paralegal Degree Programs
What Paralegals Do
Paralegals assist district attorneys with many of their duties and often take care of a lot of the mundane tasks that help the office run smoothly. These may include taking notes, filing briefs, scheduling appointments, getting legal documents and affidavits, writing reports, conducting research and investigating facts for a case.
District attorney paralegals must also have a solid understanding of the court procedures and criminal codes for the venue in which they’ll be working. Depending on the office and location, paralegals may also work in victim/family support roles, prepare and file reports for federal or state agencies, work on budgets and assist in managing witness protection programs.
How to Become One
To become a paralegal, an individual must complete a certificate or a two-year associate’s degree program in paralegal studies. Some district attorneys may want their paralegals to have a bachelor’s degree. Candidates who already possess a bachelor’s degree in another field may complete a one-year certificate program to become a paralegal.
Paralegals may choose to specialize in specific areas of law, such as family law, real estate law, criminal law, personal injury or bankruptcy, among others. Paralegals interested in working with a district office often choose the criminal law specialization because most of their work will revolve around criminal law cases. Paralegals may also obtain certification.
What Paralegals Can and Cannot Do
Although paralegals can assist district attorneys in the office and the courtroom, their duties must meet the requirements set by the American Bar Association. The district attorney must inform the client that the individual is a paralegal and not licensed to practice law. Paralegals cannot establish an attorney/client confidentiality relationship with the client because the paralegal is not an attorney.
Paralegals are not allowed to offer legal advice, and a paralegal cannot determine or mention the fee that’s charged to the client for legal services. Beyond these things, a paralegal can typically assist the district attorney in any way the DA sees fit, but the paralegal is always under the supervision of the DA.
Career Outlook for Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants are very much in demand today. Their work in a law firm or DA’s office helps cut back on costs. Because paralegals can handle a lot of the day-to-day tasks that are part of a legal team, this frees up time for the DA to see more clients. Paralegals are expected to see job growth of 15% during the decade of 2016-2026 as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reports that paralegals earned wages ranging from $31,130 to $81,180 as of May 2017. The average annual wage was $53,910.
Paralegal work can be very exciting, stimulating and fast-paced. Working with the district attorney can be very rewarding because the paralegal is helping the DA have successful trial outcomes and playing a part in keeping the community safe from criminals.