The word ‘paralegal’ is a portmanteau of parallel and legal. Thus, at its simplest, paralegal work is someone or a job that involves “working alongside (parallel to) a lawyer or a legal proceeding”. A paralegal’s (as they are referred to) job consist of assisting an attorney or lawyer on cases, but not actually presenting them on court, nor having to make crucial decisions related to the case. Thus, if cost and time are inhibiting factors between you and the robe, a paralegal job may just be for you.
While a large portion of significant case-dealing rests with the lawyer, paralegal work is also quite demanding, and of great significance in making or breaking a case. As a paralegal, you would be required to:
- Research legal documents, to help back the case up.
- Draft contracts, mortgages, separation agreements, trust instruments and other legal paperwork
- Help the lawyer in preparing arguments, closings, pleadings.
- Perform tasks related to investigation, when required.
- Look up witnesses, and interview them.
- Obtain affidavits
- Assist in the trial proceedings
- Prepare, organize and manage case files and other paperwork related to the case.
Generally, the duties of a paralegal differ depending on his/her chosen field of specialization; the laws of the state/country you work in; experience-level; the law firm. However, if you’ve seen Erin Brokovich, it would give you a pretty good idea of what paralegal work involves.
The field of specialization makes a lot of difference to paralegal work and job description. For instance, corporates require lawyers to be trained differently than regular civilians or the government. Similarly, paralegals working in different types of organizations are required to undergo specialized training in order to perform those tasks. Largely, paralegal training can be classified as follows:
1. Litigation Paralegal
Work involves assisting on civil and criminal disputes and litigations of myriad sorts.
2. Estate Planning and Probate Paralegal
Work involves assisting in preparing wills of estates, and executing such wills upon the client’s death. Paralegal work also includes assisting on the formation and management of trust funds, guardianships or conservatorships.
3. Corporate Paralegal
Work involves assisting in the legal transaction related to formation, acquisitions, mergers, dissolution of business entities (public limited companies, partnership firms, sole proprietorships). Work areas may also include day-to-day financial transactions like sale/purchase; leasing; etc.
4. Employment/Labour Law Paralegal
Paralegal work includes assisting in disputes and matters concerning employee-employer and employer-labour union relationships, including but not limited to recruitment and termination; discrimination cases; employee safety and well-being; compensation, salary and other finances.
5. Real Estate Paralegal
Work in assisting smooth transfer of property rights, in a sale/purchase; foreclosure; lease; finance of any type of realty (residential or commercial).
6. Government Paralegal
Work in any government institute or organization (Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission, White House). Paralegal work responsibilities would vary accordingly, but would be related to matters that concern the state and government at large.
Paralegal Work can be really rewarding and a lucrative career, finding Highly paying paralegal work is easy if you have the right attitude and qualifications.