Paralegals are also known as legal assistants. They work alongside the lawyer in their office performing important legal tasks that support the lawyer in handling their case loads. The duties that are performed by the paralegal depend primarily on the size of the law firm and the number of people that work within the office. Clearly, the paralegals are skilled legal professionals that are a critical part of the legal team in the lawyer’s office.
Paralegals perform a number of important duties that assist the lawyer in preparing for a trial or hearing. However, their duties vary widely. The type of duties performed depend on the type of law firm involved and the size of the law firm. For example, in a smaller law firm, the paralegal might handle all phases of a case. In a larger law office, the paralegal might work on only one specific section of a case. Specific paralegal duties include the following:
Performing research on the case.
Organizing records involved in the case.
Gathering and reviewing evidence.
Writing reports for the trial.
Writing legal documents concerned with the case.
Getting in contact with clients, other lawyers, and witnesses involved with the case.
Most paralegals receive their training at schools that offer classes, programs, or degrees in paralegal studies. For example, some paralegal schools offer an associate degree or certificate in the field. However, a growing number of university or college level programs are offering a bachelor degree in paralegal studies. Associate programs take 2 years to complete. Bachelor programs take 4 years to complete. However, most certificate programs provide intensive study and classes that take several months to complete.
Certification is not required in all circumstances. Many law firms hire paralegals without certification. However, certification is a great way to advance in the paralegal field. Certification represents that the student has received training at an accredited school and passed an exam on various legal procedures performed at a law firm office. Currently, there are several organizations that offer paralegal certification for those that have various levels of education or experience in the paralegal field.