What is a Paralegal?

If you have ever wondered what a paralegal does for a living, then this paralegal description should provide you with some insight into the profession. Paralegals, also sometimes referred to as legal assistants, are people who perform various administrative and legal tasks under the instruction of an attorney or lawyer. You can find paralegals working in all areas of law. Their daily responsibilities often fluctuate based on the particular needs of their employer. 

What Does a Paralegal Do?

Some common tasks performed by paralegals include interviewing clients and witnesses, analyzing legal data, researching information, drafting legal documents, managing accounts, helping the attorney prepare for court and creating files. Other tasks may be required depending on the area of law that the paralegal works in. Most paralegals do not directly provide clients with legal advice and they are not allowed to act as a client’s attorney in court.

Who Employs Paralegals?

Paralegals can be found working for private or government-run law agencies, insurance companies, courts, large corporations, non-profit businesses, banks and many other places that have legal departments. Many other people who fit the paralegal description work for environmental groups or advocacy programs. Most paralegals work directly with a licensed attorney or law professional.

How Does a Person Become a Paralegal?

There are a few different ways in which a person can become a paralegal. Two-year and four-year paralegal degree or certificate programs can be found at many community colleges, vocational schools, universities and online colleges. The majority of paralegals possess a four-year bachelor’s degree.

It is also recommended that paralegals become certified by the National Association of Legal Assistants, but this is not required by all employers. You can learn more about NALA and paralegal certification by going to their website.

What Skills Does a Paralegal Need to Have?

The job of a paralegal requires extremely good organizational skills. Paralegals also need to have very effective research skills because they will frequently be required to look up important legal information. Good social skills and the ability to communicate well with attorneys and their clients are also vital for this career.

How Much Does a Paralegal Earn?

Due to the wide variety of jobs that fit the paralegal description, the salary of a paralegal can also vary. Paralegals who possess higher levels of education and experience are paid more, as are those who have specialized in a particular area of law. Other factors, such as location, employer type and workload also play a large role in determining how much a paralegal will earn.

The average starting salary for an inexperienced paralegal is about $25,000.Those who are certified and have a bachelor’s degree can make up to $50,000 in some cases. Experienced or specialized paralegals who work for large firms, have high-level degrees and live in major metropolitan areas may earn as much as $100,000.

Working as a paralegal is a rewarding, yet sometimes tedious profession. It is best suited for people who enjoy research, writing and of course, the law. In addition to the information provided in this paralegal description, you can find more information by contacting NALA, the National Paralegal Association or the American Alliance of Paralegals.

For more information on Paralegals, please visit our “Paralegal Superstars: Unsung Heroes of the Legal World” page.