Prestigious judges and fancy attorneys; that’s what the field of law is limited to for most of us. As surprising as this may sound; there are many other professionals who help in shaping our justice system. One of them being the paralegals. According to Forbes; the job of a Paralegal is one of the most underrated professions in America.
Paralegals assist attorneys. This can be in any and all legal services. They cannot deal with clients directly or give them legal advice. But can work under the supervision of lawyers and assist them in all legal matters in law firms, corporations, and even the government environment. Hence, paralegals mainly assist attorneys every step of the way. The law dictates what a paralegal cannot do but has not given any specific limitations to what the duties of a paralegal may entail.
Skills are required to be a paralegal?
Not everyone is capable of being a paralegal. To be a successful paralegal, some inherent skills and traits required include (but are not limited to):
The ability to work under pressure and adhere to strict deadlines
Experience in administrative skills
Ability to multitask (Answering phone calls, researching precedence, drafting pleadings is just a regular day for paralegals)
Possessing a calm and reassuring demeanor (especially when dealing with one or more mind-boggling cases at the same time)
Part of the job of a paralegal is to have control over their emotions. Doing so allows them to remain objective in their research and focus on the task at hand
They must also have unusually strong research and writing skills
Paralegals must possess exceptional organizational skills.
They should possess the skills to manage, study and take notes from voluminous files for just a single case and then do it all again for the next one.
The job of a paralegal involves having exceptionally sharp communication skills.
They must also have the grit to succeed and move up the ladder rather than making themselves comfortable where they are.
What about the duties and responsibilities of a paralegal?
The most important duty of a paralegal is to free up their attorney’s time so that the attorney can focus on more important issues. This is perhaps the reason why not all paralegals end up with the same duties. The responsibilities of a paralegal depend on the kind of legal services provided by their employers. Some of the common duties and responsibilities include:
Drafting legal documentation, notices, contracts, complaints, and pleadings
Organizing, managing, and filing legal documents
Performing legal research into case law and precedents
Arranging mediation for the client
Investigating facts of the case
Interviewing clients and witnesses
Overseeing psychological evaluations (especially in family law and custody matters)
Helping out with trial preparations (especially in litigation practices)
Providing behind the scene support (in courtroom hearings, trials, mediation, and even arbitration and closings)
Education and Training Requirements to become a paralegal
· Although many paralegals do not possess any formal training and learn on the job. But to properly take on the responsibilities of a paralegal, one must have a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree.
· As far as certification goes, many colleges are now offering paralegal certification programs. Having one isn’t a necessity, but it might help you secure a highly paid job as a paralegal.
· In case of license, very few states have licensing requirements for an individual to work as a paralegal
What about salary?
The salary of a paralegal hinges on many factors. These include their education, experience, and location. As indicated by the U.S. Bureau of LaborStatistics, a paralegal makes around $15 to $39 an hour and can earn anywhere from $31,400 to $82,050 annually. However, the federal government-based paralegals are the most highly compensated.
The increase in crime over time has burdened lawyers with more and more caseloads. This, in turn, has made the job of a paralegal even more in demand than it was before. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has even projected a 15% employment growth for paralegals by the year 2026. This anticipated growth is almost double that of lawyers.
To sum up, don’t be mistaken in thinking that the job of paralegals is merely being assistants to attorneys. Paralegals truly are the hands and feet of any law firm, always making sure what needs to get done gets done. As a paralegal, you can occupy a very significant position in a firm, offering expertise and performing duties that are indispensable to any law firm. The job of a paralegal is undoubtedly a prestigious and important profession.