If you think about pursuing a career in the legal industry, the first thing that may have crossed your mind is becoming a lawyer. While lawyers make up the majority of the population in law firms, there are other lucrative careers that can get you involved in the law. This is where paralegals come in. It’s a job that is important to the legal system, but often misunderstood.
What exactly is a paralegal?
As defined by the American Bar Association (ABA), paralegals are “[persons] qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible”. The “substantive legal work” required of paralegals often involve skills such as recognition, evaluation, organization, analysis, and communication of relevant facts and legal concepts. They should also be good at communicating, writing, negotiating, and resolving conflicts. Usually, paralegals work under the supervision of an attorney in the same firm where they are hired.
Many people confuse “paralegal” and “lawyer,” thinking that they are the same thing. It’s true to an extent; both lawyers and paralegals do extensive research on legal matters, and both prepare documents on legal cases. The major difference between a lawyer and a paralegal is in the actual courtroom; paralegals are not allowed to represent clients in court or give legal advice, and these are done specifically by lawyers. However, most of the work needed in preparation for a court hearing is done by the paralegal. They take on most of the lawyer’s workload, leaving the lawyer to focus on more detailed aspects of their cases. This is why it’s important for paralegals to have a strong knowledge and understanding of the law; they need to make sure that the preparations they make for the court hearing are legally sound and logically constructed.
Being a strong paralegal
Because of their responsibility in preparing for court dates and supporting lawyers, paralegals require a deep understanding of the law. Thus, if you’re interested in becoming one, it’s important for you to have a strong knowledge of the law, as well as the technical aspects that come with working in legal firms such as drafting and organizing necessary documents.
These skills are specific, and require an equally specific type of training. If you wish to receive the best paralegal training, The Center For Legal Studies says it’s best that you look for programs that allow you to focus on the skills that you’ll need in the field. Look for programs that allow you to connect with other universities that offer law studies, as well as employ different methods of training and teaching.
That way, your training will be thorough and dynamic. If you work with this kind of program, you can be sure that you will be well-equipped with the skills you need to be a strong, indispensable paralegal.