Paralegals, also known as legal assistants are an important part of the legal community. They work under attorney supervision to assist a law firm or legal department in a variety of legal matters.
Personal Qualities To Be A Paralegal
Personal traits helpful to become a paralegal are, logical, ability to do research, work alone as much of the job may be without much contact with others, and maintain high ethical standards.
A paralegal should be able to work with people. They may meet with clients as a go between to exchange information between clients and attorneys. Legal work is a detailed profession that requires focus and must be completed without errors. A legal assistant must be organized. Deadlines must be met, as missing them could result in lawsuits against the firm. Legal employees must keep information confidential and put client interests first. Good writing and speaking skills are necessary. Even though some of their work is alone, paralegals must be able to work as a team. A good paralegal has these personal qualities.
What Can’t A Paralegal Do?
The law restricts what paralegals can or can’t do, and this defines their jobs. A paralegal or legal assistant can’t set legal fees, represent anyone in courts of law, sign legal documents or give legal advice.
What Does A Paralegal Do?
Most paralegals work in law offices, but can also work in government, or corporate legal departments. Paralegals, also called legal assistants, do a variety of assignments for their employer. These duties include researching and preparing documents for court hearings, trial, summaries, organize data, prepare wills, taxes, assisting during trial, divorce and settlement documents. Licensed attorneys supervise and approve their work. The final responsibility for a paralegals work is with the attorney.
Paralegals work with clients, and often sit in with an attorney for client interviews. They can interview clients to obtain information, keep the client updated on case information, draft documents as required, and help with client trial preparation.
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics list the 2010 median income for paralegals at 22.44 dollars an hour. In May, 2010 their annual salary ranged between $29,460 to $74,870 with a median of $46,680. It is a growing profession, and one with the possibility for advancement.
Requirements To Be A Paralegal
Paralegals commonly have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in paralegal courses. Some employers hire a candidate with a bachelor degree and train them in the workplace. A degree in paralegal studies gives an advantage over other candidates that don’t have a degree who are seeking the same job.
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How to Get A Paralegal Degree Online
There are several pathways to getting a paralegal or legal assistant degree. Several colleges offer a course to get a paralegal certificate online. An online paralegal degree is easier for some to do, rather than going to a physical classroom.
When looking at paralegal online certificate programs, inquire as to the teachers training and qualifications. Accredited paralegal programs have qualifications to teach classes relating to legal matters. Paralegal certificate programs should have a range of courses relating to the legal profession. Check to see that the online institution has accredited paralegal programs and not a scam. This is the case to obtain online paralegal certificates as well as brick and mortar institutions.
About a third of paralegal or legal assistant courses are about the law. These legal courses cover a range of specialties. They include family law, criminal law, real estate legal research and writing, and business law are a few examples. It’s possible for a paralegal to specialize and continue study in a legal area of special interest.
If a person has the temperament and inclination for the work being a paralegal or legal assistant can be a rewarding and respected profession. It is on that requires continuing study to keep current. Certification isn’t required, but allows an employee to continue to progress.