Paralegals perform legal-, regulatory- and business-related research for lawyers working at their organization. Most of the time, paralegals work for law offices, corporations’ legal departments or courts. These professionals also provide legal support services to attorneys. They assist lawyers in filing materials such as motions, memoranda, pleadings and briefs in various court systems, as well as accompany lawyers to see clients and/or to go to court.
Paralegals may have to interview clients either by phone or in person prior to referring them to their organization's lawyers; they may have the authority to accept or reject potential clients. Paralegals also edit pleadings, technical papers, briefs and other documents, helping review legal documents to make sure that relevant facts are included. They may have to travel to various courts to accompany their organization's lawyers, and they may have to train and coach new or more junior paralegals.
An associate's degree or certificate in paralegal studies is generally needed in this position; some employers require that paralegals have a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. Previous experience as a paralegal is often required or preferred as well. Paralegals should have excellent written and oral communication skills, know relevant legal terminology and principles, be able to work in a team environment and be proficient with basic computer programs such as the Microsoft Office suite. Additionally, they must be knowledgeable about legal citation rules, legal libraries, various court systems’ rules and relevant filing requirements.
Assist lawyers by researching legal precedent, investigating facts or preparing legal documents.
Direct and coordinate law office activity, including delivery of subpoenas.
Call upon witnesses to testify at hearing.
Investigate facts and law of cases to determine causes of action and to prepare cases.
Gather and analyze research data, such as statutes, decisions and legal articles, codes and documents.