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Legal Assistant

What does a Paralegal do?

Your job duties as a paralegal, or legal assistant, will vary depending on the type of law you work in. But there are common tasks for paralegals across all legal fields, such as helping lawyers prepare for hearings, closings, trials and meetings. This equals a lot of time researching and reading legal documents. More specifically, as a paralegal, your work day might involve the following tasks:
  • Preparing legal arguments for a case
  • Drafting a legal document
  • Organizing and tracking files
  • Obtaining an affidavit
Increasingly, paralegals are sharing more responsibilities with lawyers. But there are some duties that are off-limits to paralegals; for example, you must be a lawyer to set legal fees, offer legal advice and present cases in court.

Paralegal job options

Most paralegals work for law firms, corporate legal departments and governmental offices, but the type of work paralegals do is as limitless as the law. What kind of legal work would best suit you? Here is a sample, with brief descriptions:
  • Personal Injury: As a paralegal in this field, you will spend most of your time helping lawyers build litigation cases. For instance, you might conduct research on a company being sued.
  • Corporate: Here, you will help corporations manage day-to-day legal operations. For instance, you might handle legal filings under the supervision of outside counsel or ensure that corporate records comply with state and federal laws.
  • Family Law: In this field, you will assist the lawyer in cases of divorce, separation, child support and other family-focused legal issues. For instance, you might draft a separation agreement or prepare protection order pleadings.
Other paralegals work in criminal law, employee benefits, intellectual property, labor law, bankruptcy, real estate and immigration.

The education and job prospects of a paralegal

How long does it take to prepare for this exciting career? For most, just two years in a paralegal associate degree program. Some paralegals earn a bachelor's degree, while others earn certificates. Most who earn certificates, which take only a few months to complete, already hold degrees in other subjects.

Associate degree paralegal programs include courses in technical writing, legal research and computerized legal applications. Many programs include internships, providing students with on-the-job experience before graduation. Internships usually last several months and are completed at law firms, public defender or attorney general offices, legal aid organizations, banks and more.

For a career that requires no more than a two-year degree, the paralegal profession offers good salaries. More great news can be found in the projected growth in the field: the BLS predicts that employment should grow by 28 percent.

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