Paralegals are often thought of as being legal secretaries or legal assistants, but their research and duties can be absolutely fundamental to an attorney’s success and they actually do a lot of the same work that an attorney does. There are clear distinctions and considerations, though. Paralegals are subject to legal standards and laws which prevent them from conducting various tasks typically reserved for licensed attorneys, such as providing clients with legal advice, and presenting a case in the courtroom etc. Paralegals can prepare work for a client, but cannot actually represent the clients themselves. Attorneys have responsibility for the legal work delegated to paralegals, and is held responsible for ethical violations committed by a paralegal. By law, any work performed by the paralegals has to be under the supervision of an attorney.
Unlike a typical secretary or executive assistant, paralegals are also exposed to a lot of sensitive or confidential information which they are duty bound to treat with consideration to all relevant legal ethics and standards.
Typically daily activities that a paralegal is responsible for will include: document preparation, research for clients as well as research, litigation preparation, trials, hearings and lawsuits, general office admin, judicial data-related work, interviewing clients and witnesses, etc.
Typically, thge main employer of paralegals are all kinds of law firms, but there are also many paralegals working directly for corporations, banks, finance companies, accounting firms, real estate agencies, advertising agencies, engineering firms, government agencies, insurance companies, and many choose to work as freelancers in private practice, an interesting case is described here on Guardian. Day-to-day activities a paralegal is performing vary greatly according to factors like specialized work environment and their position. There are many specialist areas in which a paralegal can choose specialize, such as health care, family law, civil processes, immigration, environmental protection, personal injury, criminal law and bankruptcy services.
For someone with aspirations for a law career, paralegal work is a great way to generate income while attending a full- or part-time program, while gaining an understanding of legal processes, expectations, standards and ethics. Paralegal programs and certificates are offered through lots of local colleges, online or ground schools, universities or post-graduate establishments.
Paralegal salaries can differ greatly, depending on a plethora of factors. The state or city, responsibilities on recent/current job, years of experience and what experience it was, education level and simply amount of working hours determine the salary of a paralegal. The average salary for a beginner with no experience is generally between $25k-$32k, although for more experienced paralegals working their way up the ladder, salaries can potentially advance to more than $75k sometimes, often depending on bonuses and the success of the company’s financial year. The core base requirement for the majority of law firms is successfully accomplished training, which in its turn requires a 6+ months of full-time curriculum, although it is worth noting that the legal profession can be a competitive one given all the potential benefits available and the steady nature of the industry, so a bachelors or even masters in paralegal studies is much more desirable.