A paralegal assists lawyers with research and legal documents. Most of the time, a paralegal will research legal precedence and investigate facts related to attorneys' cases, but time is also spent preparing legal documents such as briefs, pleadings, appeals, wills, contracts, affidavits, and real estate closing statements. The paralegal will maintain document files and ensure that documents are properly filed with the clerk of court. It is the paralegal's responsibility to gather research data such as statutes, codes, previous court decisions related to the case, and legal articles. This data must be analyzed and interpreted as to how it applies to the case the attorney is handling. The paralegal might also be asked to investigate facts of the case to help the attorney determine which action to take in preparing the case. The paralegal will call on witnesses to testify at court hearings, and will help the attorney to prepare witnesses for their side of the case. Other responsibilities include directing and coordinating activities for the law office, including the delivery of subpoenas that involve important case information. Reliable transportation is necessary, as a paralegal will travel between the office and the courthouse frequently. A paralegal usually works at least fifty hours per week, as legal work is very time-consuming and hours past standard a full-time workweek are required more often than not in order to meet the stringent filing deadlines for court documents. A degree in legal studies or a related field such as criminal justice, or paralegal certification, is required. Previous experience in a law firm is extremely helpful.
- Gather and analyze research data, such as statutes, decisions and legal articles, codes and documents.
- Prepare affidavits or other documents, maintain document file and file pleadings with court clerk.
- Prepare legal documents, including briefs, pleadings, appeals, wills, contracts and real estate closing statements.
- Investigate facts and law of cases to determine causes of action and to prepare cases.
- Assist lawyers by researching legal precedent, investigating facts or preparing legal documents.