Paralegals are some of the key employees of law firms, even though they are sometimes confused with legal assistants.
To succeed in the legal field, paralegals need a solid educational background.
The job of a paralegal often includes interviews, investigating, communicating with clients, conducting legal research for the firm, and preparing legal documents
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What Does a Paralegal Do?
Similar to other jobs in the area of law, paralegal professionals deal with a lot of stress and work under a lot of pressure every day.
Paralegals work with multiple legal specialties, including litigation, corporate, immigration, bankruptcy, real estate, family, and even criminal affairs.
The job of the paralegal can differ quite significantly depending on where they work.
The job of a paralegal can involve a wide variety of duties that depend on the specialty, employer, and the rank of a professional.
Senior paralegals have different duties from junior ones.
As they advance in the firm, they no longer are tasked with secretary duties.
While a transactional paralegal, for example, could help you with a foreclosure on a property, with the assistance of a trademark paralegal, you could patent an IP.
Paralegals handle some additional tasks as well:
- Conducting legal research.
- Creating presentations for trials.
- Interviewing clients.
- Preparing legal documentation.
- Dealing with administrative tasks.
Since this job belongs to the legal system, paralegals should possess a range of specific skills significant for the job.
Additionally, they have to be discreet and highly disciplined.
A paralegal needs to organize their work properly.
They should know the importance of deadlines, be extremely detail-oriented, and plan their work efficiently to finish the tasks on time.
Paralegals should be able to do efficient research and monitor information.
They need to have a high level of stress tolerance and be able to act rationally at all times.
Paralegal professionals should possess a particular level of empathy and be able to relate to people.
They should use good judgment, be trustworthy, and discreet.
A paralegal should be technically proficient, have good grammar, and excellent writing and editing skills.
How to Become a Paralegal
Initially, no specific training or education is required to become a paralegal.
However, if you wish to get promoted, you will need a great deal of education and training.
The salary ranges from the middle to upper tier for junior and senior paralegals respectively, so there are usually more pros than cons to this job.
However, being a paralegal is stressful and may involve hectic hours.
Training and Qualifications
Typically, law firms around the country don’t require specific qualifications from their paralegals.
However, there are firms with a pretty strict mandate.
Usually, this includes respectable law firms, foreign-run companies, or new businesses.
One absolutely necessary thing is having a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree, or certificate in paralegal coursework.
Some qualifications required by specific employers can include an award in legal studies, a paralegal certificate, diploma, or award, a law degree, legal secretary diploma.
The first thing about this job that’s so attractive for people is that you don’t need the experience to be hired.
You can be hired right after you receive your diploma.
Of course, having experience is beneficial, but legally, it’s not a mandatory requirement.
A specialty diploma or training from specific courses aren’t required as well, however, they can be greatly helpful.
Still, the requirements can be very different and vary from one employer to another.
The workweek of a paralegal is supposed to include a typical schedule of 40 hours with 8 hours a day Monday through Friday.
But as some vital events are approaching, such as trials, or client emergencies occurring, the week can last as long as 60 or even 80 hours.
This can last for a long time, and such situations aren’t even the most stressful instances of a paralegal job.
The most chaotic occurrence for a paralegal is balancing between billable and non billable hours, which is a frequent instance.
It is quite hard to advance their careers for paralegals.
To get promoted they need a law school degree, so junior paralegals often have to go back to law school to earn one.
The opportunities for paralegals in the UK or Canada are brighter than in the US.
For instance, in the UK legal training and recognized pro qualifications are offered to paralegals by the National Association of Licensed Paralegals.
In Canada, paralegals are regulated licensed professionals and officers in the court.
The job of a paralegal is extremely demanding with difficult responsibilities.
It is hard for junior paralegals to advance in the firm.
But those who manage to move up can obtain a respectful position of a full-fledged lawyer in the end.