Have you ever wanted to work in the legal field, but were not sure you wanted to be a lawyer? Do you enjoy clerical or research oriented work? Becoming a legal assistant can open a lot of doorways in the legal field. As a legal assistant, or paralegal as it is also called, you may find yourself doing such things as assisting lawyers, individuals, and corporations in preparing and filing legal documentation, researching issues regarding the law, providing similar services to lawyers in regards to fulfilling legal needs, such as handling cases involving tort law and litigation.
What exactly is a Legal Assistant/Paralegal?
By definition, a paralegal is someone who has been qualified, through education or on the job training that is employed by an individual lawyer, a law firm, government agency, private, or corporate entity to perform substantive legal work that a supervising lawyer will be held responsible for. The definition of substantive work can be further expanded to explain that it is legal work which requires the paralegal to use skills such as;
- The ability to communicate only relevant facts and legal concept to clients and supervisors.
- To maintain good interpersonal skills including the ability to resolve conflicts peacefully and to negotiate difficult situations.
- Paralegals/legal assistants need to have keen observation skills and the ability to quickly recognize, evaluate, organize, and analyze legal concepts and facts pertaining to a particular case.
How Does This Translate To On The Job Tasks?
Paralegals/legal assistants can perform a wide range of tasks depending on which state they are working in and who they are employed by. In many instances, when working for something like a law firm, a paralegal may double as a legal secretary and assistant to the lawyer, performing both clerical and legal research tasks. At other times, under supervision, they may perform many of the same tasks a lawyer might, but at a reduced fee for the client. Whereas, working for a corporation might involve the preparation of employment and benefit contracts, fact checking, and assisting with filing any required legal documents before they are due. The broad scope of potential placement for someone who has completed a legal assistant certificate program means that each job may have different requirements. Paralegals may also choose to specialize in a particular field, similar to how some lawyers choose to focus on personal injury, or family law.