If you are applying to get the job of a paralegal, then read this job description guide to see the duties and responsibilities you should expect.
The job of a paralegal includes drafting legal pleads and documents, organising, maintaining and keeping files.
Paralegals perform a lot of legal duties, but there are a lot of things a paralegal can not do.
They can’t give legal advice or represent clients in court, neither can they determine legal fees or sign documents that will be considered relevant in court.
But, this article is not about what paralegals cannot do, rather, it is concerned with what they can do.
There may be a long list of activities they are not authorised to perform, but they support lawyers and attorneys.
With their services, lawyers and attorneys will have more time to perform other legal duties.
When employing a paralegal, employers look out for those who have strong communication skills and work well under pressure.
It is always a good decision to know and understand the job description of a paralegal before taking up a job as one.
What does paralegal do?
Paralegals are legal professionals who support attorneys, lawyers, law offices or other legal entities. They are saddled with the responsibility of carrying out variety of duties within the legal field.
They conduct research and collate necessary information related to a case.
Paralegals also prepare presentations for the clients of the attorney they work for.
Although there are so many things clearly stated by the law that paralegals are not authorised to do.
They are still authorised to assist the attorney perform functions he or she should have done by his or herself.
Therefore it is important for paralegals to have good knowledge of the law as well as legal systems.
Even if they don’t have a degree in law and are not authorised to practice law in any way.
Just like lawyers, paralegals usually decide to specialise in a special are of law.
Here are some of the common areas of specialisation in law a paralegal can choose from:
- Family law
- Personal injury
- Cooperate law
- Real estate
- Law and employment
- Intellectual property
Ths list can go on, but I will stop here. The major message I was trying to pass is that paralegals can specialise in a particular area of law.
What are the duties and responsibilities of a paralegal?
I already stated that there are certain duties the law does not permit paralegals to perform.
But, the duties and responsibilities carried out by paralegals may vary.
Typically, a paralegal does what ever the attorney request that they do.
But this is as long as it is in line with what the law permits.
Here are some of the duties and responsibilities usually featured in a paralegal job description
It is the duty of a paralegal to conduct interview with clients.
During interview sessions, they take note of relevant points and information.
This information considered relevant are then passed on the the lawyer or attorney for use during trial.
2. Assist lawyers in preparing for court cases
Although the law doesn’t permit paralegals represent clients in court, they still play important roles before and during trial.
They assist lawyers or attorneys prepare for trials and court hearings in every way they can.
Some of such ways include taking statements, conducting interviews and research as well as helping lawyers prepare legal argument.
3. Drafting legal pleads and documents
Paralegals are also responsible for drafting legal pleadings and documents, such as:
- Deposition notice
4. Behind the scene support
They also provide a lot of behind the scene support to lawyers and attorneys during arbitration, trial, mediation, administrative proceedings and closings.
By doing this, they reduce the work load of lawyers. And help them focus on more important legal responsibilities.
Paralegals are also responsible for carrying out investigation.
They do this by interviewing witnesses and clients as well and taking statements.
They all collate every information they dim necessary for helping the lawyer hold a strong argument in court.
Other duties and responsibilities of a paralegal commonly featured in the job description include:
- Filling case documents with courts
- Organise and maintain files, exhibits and documents, and other important information.
- Handle discovery
- Assist lawyers or attorneys prepare legal argument, and motions.
- Perform administrative duties such as responding to calls and mails.
Aoo these duties and responsibilities are performed under the supervision of lawyers or attorneys.
What qualification do I need to become a paralegal?
Paralegals do not often require any formal training, they do a lot of on-the job training under the supervision of attorneys and lawyers.
However, an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies is preferred.
Although no formal training is mandatory for paralegals, they are expected to have good knowledge of legal terminologies, systems and laws.
In some countries or states, paralegals require license to practice.
Employers also prefer employing those who have previous working experience as a secretary in a legal setting.
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What skills does a paralegal need?
The job description of a paralegal also features certain skills that employers look out for.
Possessing these skills helps a paralegal perform his or her duties with so much ease.
Some of the skills usually featured in the job description of a paralegal include
1. Communication skills
Communication skills is very relevant for carrying out ba paralegals’ duties.
It plays a very vital role when interviewing witnesses and clients as well as when taking statements.
Therefore a paralegal should be able to communicate effectively verbally and in writing.
It is also.important to note that effective communication involves listening as much as it involves speaking.
A good paralegal should also posses good listening skills.
This way, he or she will be able to get every necessary information from witnesses and clients during investigation.
2. Interpersonal skills
It is also necessary for a paralegal to posses good interpersonal skills.
They should be able to develop good relationship with clients, lawyers and attorneys as well.
3. Organisational skills
Paralegals cannot do without possessing organisational skills.
That is practically they only way one can organise and maintain numerous files, documents and exhibits.
Oftentimes one case alone may have several files and exhibits.
4. Ability to work under pressure
Deadlines and pressure can put everyone in so much tension, no doubt.
But paralegals should develop the ability to remain calm and stable when faced with deadlines to meet up with.
Especially paralegals whose area of speciality involves litigation.
Being able to multitask is also going to be of great advantage to paralegals.
That’s way, more tasks can be done within a short time.
But, multitasking will not always be possible, no doubt.
As such, prioritising activities is always the best alternative.
We all believe in giving preference to more important task, which is right.
But it is also important not to total ignore less important tasks to the point where they are left undone.
Where do paralegals work?
There are not so many organisations or companies out there that employ paralegals.
This is probably because they cannot represent a client in court.
The typical employers of paralegals are law firms and agencies that provide legal services.
Vacancies are usually advertised online or through local newspapers and/or radio stations.
How much do paralegals make?
On the average, the salary of a paralegal in the United States is about $50,940 per year.
Their salary ranges from $31,400 to $82,050 per year.
These figures nay differ in your geographical location.
A paralegals’ salary may be determined by factors such as employers experience, qualification and location as well.
More experienced and qualification paralegals are likely to earn better than their less experienced or qualified colleagues.
Paralegal work environment and schedule
Paralegals usually work together with attorneys, lawyers and other support staffs.
Oftentimes, they have to meet and interact with people. Although, in some areas of specialisation, interaction with people is more common.
Majority of their work is done in offices, when necessary, they also attend court hearings with lawyers and attorneys.
Paralegals usually work full time at regular working hours and days.
Whenever there is a deadline to meet up with, they may have to work over time and during weekends as well.
What is the disadvantage of being a paralegal?
There are so many good reasons for becoming a paralegal.
But, this career path has its down sides. Some of wish include:
- No career path
- Doing the same thing over and over again, more like a routine.
- Lack of respect
- Not authorised to practice law
- Lack of appreciation
To learn more about the disadvantages of being a paralegal, click HERE.
But, like I said this job has it’s good side.
Since we have listed some of the disadvantages, it is only fair we also list the advantage
- Without having a degree in law, becoming a paralegal is a good way to get into the legal system.
- You will have the privilege of meeting and helping so many people
Conclusion: Paralegal job description guide
The bureau of labor statistics expects a 15% increase in job opportunities for paralegals from 2016 to 2026.
Obviously there will be more jobs, therefore now is the best time to take up a paralegal job, while you improve on your qualification, skills and slo gain experience.
By 2026, you should be qualified for a better position.
Although this guide on the job description of a paralegal was written with applicants in mind, it can also be used as a template.
Therefore, you should feel free to make use of it to support your goal.
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