One of the most important jobs in a law firm or in-house legal department at many large corporations, paralegals play a vital role in the companies for which they work. Paralegals directly assist attorneys and may be qualified as a result of having obtained relevant education or work experience, though some entry level paralegals may be trained on the job.
Scope of Paralegal Work
In most cases, a paralegal may perform an duties an attorney may perform except those that are specifically reserved for attorneys under law. Each state’s laws differ as to what duties may only be performed by an attorney. In law practices that specialize in defending clients, a paralegal may conduct the initial interviews with new clients.
A paralegal’s job may also require a considerable amount of document drafting. Securing affidavits and drafting other instruments like contracts before submitting them to the supervising attorney and eventually they court are common tasks in the paralegal job description. Tasks that may be assigned to legal secretaries or paralegals depending on the organization include maintaining calendars and logging descriptions of the status of ongoing cases. In some instances, a paralegal position may be very research intensive, requiring workers to research past court decisions and vetting the facts of cases that are to eventually be presented in court.
Division of Labor
How labor is divided among paralegals, legal assistants, and legal secretaries will vary from employer to employer. Paralegals who work in smaller offices may find that their duties are more varied than those who work in large firms. In smaller settings, they may generally work on a variety of cases from beginning to end and even draft reports that help lawyers decide how to handle their cases. In larger organizations, paralegals are more likely to be given their assignments based on working a specific case. Some organizations even assign their paralegals to only work on a specific phase of a case.
It is possible for a paralegal to specialize his or her skill set in the interest of taking on more responsibility in the workplace. For example, there are paralegals who mainly work in certain areas of like such as criminal defense, litigation, corporate, personal injury, immigration, family law, or real estate. Those who have gained a substantial amount of experience may be appointed to supervisory roles that involve delegating the division of labor among other paralegals or overseeing projects (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Legal/Paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm#tab-2).
Overall, paralegals do very substantive work in legal settings. They may be authorized to do many tasks attorneys may perform to the extent of any state legal limits that may be in place. With many areas in which professionals may specialize, those who are interested in a legal career may find that the paralegal field offers a diverse range of options to suit a variety of interests. Furthermore, paralegals may find the potential to specialize their skills and advance into supervisory roles to be exciting and fulfilling career goals for the future.