The paralegal or legal assistant aids lawyers in everyday office functions, such as doing paperwork and answering the phone. They are not qualified to be lawyers, but they must have some legal knowledge so that they can make sense of the information they are working with. Paralegals/legal assistants provide a valuable service to law offices by handling all of the tasks that law professionals do not have time to handle.
The paralegal/legal assistant works either for a law office under the supervision of a lawyer or provides freelance services. The primary duties of a paralegal/legal assistant involve handling paperwork, organizing files, managing databases, scheduling, and many other law office-related tasks. Paralegals/legal assistants must be able to multitask, as they may have many things to do in the same period of time. Their work hours are normal business hours, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Paralegals/legal assistants must be proficient in the use of computers and various documentation programs. Their tools for work include computers, telephones, pens and paper, and other typical office supplies.
Paralegals/legal assistants are able to be hired with a high school diploma and some law courses. However, an associate's degree is sometimes required for this position. Bachelor's degrees in law are also strongly preferred. Paralegal certifications may be required by some offices.
Paralegals/legal assistants play an important role in everyday law office functions. Without them, a lawyer would not have the time to organize and prepare for his or her cases. Many paralegals/legal assistants use the position for experience and move on to become lawyers.
Paralegal or Legal Assistant Tasks
- 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.