a paralegal reviewing a case

Pursuing a Career as a Paralegal: Facts You Should Know

Back in our childhood days, we were asked what we want to be when we grow up. One of the most common responses is to be a lawyer. Being a lawyer is one of the most respected professions around. A lot of films and TV shows featured them, showcasing their impressive expertise in court.

Working with the law requires years of studying and training. Being a lawyer can be a challenging yet exciting career. But considering a paralegal career can also be as fulfilling. If you want to be one, there are paralegal schools you want to enroll in.

What They Do

Paralegals may be lesser known in the world of law, unlike lawyers. But the former also perform law-related tasks. The main difference is that paralegals work for lawyers. But it should not say less about paralegals.

For one, they play an important role in the world of legal affairs. They can work in corporate, government, or private offices. Paralegals handle law-related research and administrative tasks under a lawyer’s guidance. Their daily tasks may include the following:

    • Organizing legal documents
    • Delivery or retrieval of legal documents from the court
    • Legal researching prior to court hearings
    • Investigation of case facts and consolidation of evidence for attorney’s review
    • Provide company for attorneys during court hearings
    • May manage schedules for attorneys, witnesses, etc.

 

Their scope of work depends on the firm they are working with. For example, paralegals working in small law offices may work on an entire case. Meanwhile, those employed on bigger law offers may only handle a certain portion of the case.

Are they the same as legal assistants?

The term “legal assistant” may be more familiar to some than “paralegal.” They are often used interchangeably which may not be a big deal to many. The two perform similar legal roles as described in the previous paragraphs.

In 2004, the National Association of Legal Assistants created a distinction between the two. Paralegals perform more technical law-related tasks. They should also pass the NALA certification exam to be a certified paralegal. Meanwhile, legal assistants are also paralegals but sans the NALA certification.

Some law offices have legal secretaries, yet called legal assistants. Unlike real legal assistants and paralegals, legal secretaries are limited to administrative tasks. These include filing bills, organizing legal documents, and performing data entry and transcription.

Choosing a career as a paralegal

a lawyer and paralegal in their law office

To be a certified paralegal, you should have at least a year of legal-related work experience. Once you qualify, you can take the NALA certification exam and pass it to be a certified paralegal.

An aspiring paralegal should have good communication, multi-tasking, and research skills. Being a paralegal can be ideal for those interested in the legal system, but not necessarily want to be a lawyer.

Attending paralegal programs can be more affordable, unlike going to expensive law schools. It is also a good move to pursue paralegal studies before you decide whether you will pursue law or not. Having that said, paralegals can become lawyers depending on your career objectives.

If you are interested in law but not sure if you want to be a lawyer, you could consider paralegal studies. They play an important role in the legal system. Thus, it can be a fulfilling career for everyone.