Paralegals play a vital role in the legal system, and there is a slow but definitive trend toward the increased use of paralegals in the delivery of legal services.
Although not admitted to practice law (except for those who have obtained a law degree), paralegals often perform legal tasks which are also performed by lawyers. Under the supervision of a senior lawyer they can run their own files and conduct work which may have otherwise been undertaken by a junior lawyer.
What do paralegals do
Today, paralegals play an integral role in the delivery of legal services. Depending on the firm or organisation, duties may include:
- Case planning, development, and management
- Legal research, fact gathering and information retrieval
- Drafting correspondence
- Drafting pleadings, document responses and discoveries
- Contacting and conferencing with clients
- Analysing and summarising documents
- Fact checking
- Preparing for and assisting at trial
- Locating and interviewing witnesses
Top skills you need to succeed as a Paralegal
Paralegals must have a solid knowledge of legal terminology and federal and state rules of legal procedure. Excellent organisational skills are a must, as it is likely you will be managing voluminous case files and exhibits.
Excellent communication skills are also crucial, as paralegals interact regularly with clients, experts, vendors, court personnel and of course, lawyers. Strong research and writing skills are also necessary for drafting pleadings, correspondence and other documents.
Entry into the Paralegal profession
Unlike lawyers, who must complete years of formal education and pass the bar exam to practice law, you can become a paralegal in as little as a few months of study. Consider vocational legal training such as a Certificate in Paralegal Practice, or volunteer your time to legal cases and projects to gain experience.
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