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Areas of Specialization for Paralegals
Government positions that handle citizen queries and complaints and draft proposed regulations and statutes for agencies. Positions are also available with law firms that represent citizens before particular agencies, including the United States Patent Office, Department of Health and Human Services, and others. Paralegal duties include investigation, research, advocacy at agency hearings, drafting pleadings for litigation, attending hearings, and preparing re-ports, exhibits, or witnesses.
Law covering accidents, injuries, and deaths connected with vessels on navigable waters. Paralegal duties include investigation, research, and litigation assistance.
Paralegal work includes aspects of document control (pleadings, deposition testimony, interrogatories, and exhibits); indexing documents, drafting pleadings, investigation (statistical data and corporate structures); legal research on monopolies, marked allocation, or the Federal Trade Commission.
Banking Law and Lender Liability
Paralegal assists legal staff in such tasks as assessing bank liability for negligence claims, collection abuse, and other claims. Assists attorneys in litigating claims, monitors activities of various banking regulatory agencies, drafts and reviews loan applications and credit documents. May also analyze documents (mortgages or security agreements), arrange closings, prepare notarization of documents, monitor recordation, and conduct Uniform Commercial Code searches.
Paralegal interviews clients on matters of bankruptcy; reviews questionnaires on assets and liabilities. Investigates indebtedness, verifies tax liabilities, and identifies creditor claims. Arranges for asset valuation, prepares inventories of assets and liabilities, opens bankruptcy petitions, and answers creditor inquiries.
Change of Name Law
Paralegal researches, gathers records, and drafts applications, files applications and pleadings in court on behalf of individuals and organizations requesting name change.
Law of Children
Paralegal works with attorney in all aspects of investigation, preliminary draftings, client counseling, legal research, and litigation assistance in cases involving adoption, child abuse, custody, paternity, and juvenile delinquency. See also Domestic Relations Law.
Civil Rights Law
Paralegal assists in litigation brought by citizens or law firms representing citizens in discrimination complaints, including complaints based on sex, race, religion or age.
Commercial Law Collections
Paralegal investigates claims, conducts asset checks, and verifies information. Litigation assistant in Civil Court and Small Claims Court.
Government paralegal assists attorneys in Federal Communications Com-mission work of regulating the communications industry. Assists in litigation and representation of citizens or companies in drafting applications for licenses; prepares compliance reports, exemption applications, and statistical analyses.
Construction Claims Law
Paralegal works with engineering consultant claims, including data collection, graph preparation, document preparation, and arranging for arbitration of claims.
Specialty includes all aspects of consumer problems and public or private concerns that affect them: utility shutoffs, garnished wages, default judgments, lost credit cards, automobile insurance suspension, merchandise complaints, defective goods, unsatisfactory repair work, insurance claims, and so forth. Paralegals investigate, draft forms and reports, counsel clients, and assist in litigation. They also help citizens in case preparations before Small Claims Court, train other paralegals to handle consumer cases, educate community groups on consumer laws, and draft consumer-education reports.
All aspects of law of contract law are included in this specialty, such as antitrust law, banking law, bankruptcy law, construction law, corporate law, copyright law, domestic relations law, employee benefits law, employment law, government contract law, insurance law, international law, landlord- tenant law, oil and gas law, partnership law, real estate law, and tax law. Paralegal duties include investigation of alleged breach of contract, legal research on law of specific contracts, litigation assistance in trial of breach of contract case, and preparation of form contracts.
Paralegals assist clients in copyright registration, collect data for application, file applications, prepare contracts, investigate any existing infringements, and assist in general litigation. Patent law and trademark law are related specialties.
Specialty includes incorporation and corporate work, such as drafting reincorporation subscriptions, recording Articles of Incorporation, preparing documents, attending directors’ meetings and drafting minutes, drafting sections of annual reports, preparing general documents, doing legal research for documents on pending legislation, preparing case profiles, monitoring law journals or newspapers, maintaining a corporate forms file, and assisting in processing patent, copyright, and trademark applications.
Paralegal works for prosecutors on case reviews, police liaison, citizen complaints, consumer fraud, nonsupport and Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, and bad checks restitution. Serves as calendaring Aide to Calendar Court and witness liaison and helps in trial preparation. Paralegal works for defense attorneys on arranging for bail, determining of eligibility, diversion, initial client review, planning community services for clients, liaison with detained defendants, fieldwork assistance, trial preparations, plea negotiations, and appeals and collateral attacks.
Domestic Relations Law
Paralegal works with attorney in problem identification and resolution in domestic issues (divorce, law of children, and so forth.) Conducts preliminary interviews, consults with lawyers, drafts complaints, summons, judgments, and separation agreements, acts as general litigation assistant, and trains other staff.
This field includes issues concerning school board procedures or citizen advocacy. Paralegal conducts preliminary interviews with parent or child, identifies non-legal problems for referral to other agencies, serves as informal advocate, appears at school board meetings, and before legislative committees, attends formal hearings representing child counsel clients, and assists in litigation.
Employee Benefits Law (Qualified Plans)
Paralegals work closely with attorney, plan sponsor, administrator, and trustee in preparation and drafting of qualified employee plans. Prepares accompanying documents and monitors program, handles government compliance work, prepares and reviews annual reports of plan.
Paralegal identifies and investigates problems concerning individual com-plaints based on discrimination, demotion (or failure to promote) due to discrimination, and alleged nonpayment of salary. Prepares documents for hearing and serves as an informal advocate and negotiations mediator. Related to Labor Law and Civil Rights Law.
Paralegal works with different media, including television, film, radio, and print media (newspaper, book, and magazine publishers). Such work would also include contact with writers, directors, producers, and entertainers in all fields on legal issues affecting royalties, financing, and intellectual property cases.
This area includes environmental protection and violation cases in all areas, including pollution (violation of pollution laws, and smoke-free environments), waste management by manufacturers, corporations, and any organization violating laws established by the Organization for Safety and Health Administration.
Family Law (Children’s Rights)
Duties may include research, deposition, client interview with family members, medical personnel, legal research, and drafting documents.
Federal Government Specialties
While titles for specialties may vary within government agencies, the following indicate the primary function of the paralegal:
Civil Rights Analyst, Employee Relations Specialist, Environmental Protection Specialist, Foreign Law Specialist, Foreign Service Diplomatic Security Officer, Freedom of Information Act Specialist, Labor Management Relations Examiner, Mediator, Security Specialist.
See Appendix A for additional information on working with the federal government.
This specialty includes an understanding of franchise registration, trade-mark, and contract law.
Government Contract Law
Paralegal maintains calendar for Courts and Appeals Board, prepares claims and documents for appearances and post-hearing briefs in matters concerning government contracts.
Paralegal consults with attorney in problem identification and resolution in all aspects of legal health issues. Investigates medical records, visits sites to explore public health issues, may serve as interpreter of foreign language between medical staff and patient (explaining hospital procedures), addresses community groups on health law issues, serves as informal advocate, and assists in negotiation mediation. Appears before legislative committees or health administrative bodies to express views on healthcare issues.
Paralegal identifies immigration problems, including difficulties in obtaining visa, permanent residency difficulties, nonimmigrant status, citizenship status, deportation proceedings. Provides information on visa process, residency, registration process citizenship process, and deportation process. Assists individuals in obtaining documents, refers individuals to foreign consulates or nationality organizations for assistance. Helps individuals in completing all required forms.
Paralegal duties involve legal research, processing disputed benefit claims, assisting in litigation on claims brought to court, monitoring activities of insurance regulatory agencies and committees of the legislature with jurisdiction over insurance. Related to Employee Benefits Law.
Intellectual Property Law
This area concerns legal aspects of creative works and ideas, including manuscripts, fiction and nonfiction books, proposals, and artistic creations. Patents and copyrights are handled.
Paralegal researches, prepares, and coordinates documents and data regarding international trade, for presentation to the Commerce Department, Court of International Trade, or other governmental bodies.
Paralegal investigates and examines documents, assists in litigation in labor disputes before the United States Labor Relations Board, state labor relations board, and the courts. Drafts documents, arranges for depositions, and prepares statistical data, appeals, and exhibits. Relates to Employee Benefits Law, Unemployment Compensation Law, and Worker’s Compensation Law.
This field includes issues relating to public and private housing. Paralegal files application for procedures, conducts preliminary interviews, drafts orders or letters requesting hearings, and serves pleadings on landlords.
Law Office Administration
Paralegal manages or supervises all aspects of personnel and office procedures. Evaluates performances, oversees accounting functions, establishes procedures for billing verification, supervises law library, establishes and maintains filing system, administers insurance programs for firm, prepares long-range budget projections, and prepares reports of individual attorneys and departments within the firm.
Legal Clinic Specialist
Paralegal performs all responsibilities and duties required in a self-help clinic, including speaking with clients, helping them to complete forms, directing questions to appropriate authorities, and, in general, providing information or assisting attorneys in any way deemed necessary.
Paralegal monitors all events, persons, and organizations involved in passing of legislation relevant to client of firm. Drafts proposed legislation, prepares reports and studies on the subject of proposed legislation.
Paralegal investigates, performs document research, discovery, files and serves; assists in trial preparation, and client preparation, including arranging client interviews, interviewing expert witnesses, and supervising document encodation. Assists in preparation of trial briefs, appeal documents, and other legal research.
Paralegal works with lobbying attorneys in research of legislative and regulatory history, monitors proposed regulations of administrative agencies and the legislature.
Medical Malpractice Law
Area requires an understanding of medical law and procedure and what constitutes malpractice. Paralegals may interview, do research, assist in preparing depositions, and speak with clients.
Mergers and Acquisitions Law
Paralegals with interest and training in corporate law may find this an appropriate specialty. Activities include research on areas such as corporate law and real estate law.
Paralegal assists in document preparation for military proceedings, claims against the government, court reporting, and maintenance of all records.
Motor Vehicle Law
Issues concerning license suspension or revocation are the focus of this law. Paralegal assists clients in gathering records, serves as informal advocate for client with Department of Motor Vehicles and assists client in preparation of case before hearing officer in suspension or revocation of license cases.
Municipal Bonds Law
Paralegals work with attorneys specializing in banking, investment law, and regulations governing acquisition or disposition.
Oil and Gas Law
Paralegal collects and analyzes data pertaining to land ownership and activities affecting procurement of rights to explore or drill for and produce oil or gas. Helps to acquire leases and monitors execution of leases and other agreements; helps to negotiate agreements, processes and monitors termination of leases and agreements, and examines land titles. See also Real Estate Law.
In states where judges in certain lower courts are not required to be attorneys (local magistrate courts, Justice of the Peace courts), paralegals may have limited roles in conducting designated pretrial proceedings and making recommendations to regular court.
Paralegal drafts pre-organization agreement and records minutes of meetings and agreements for dissolution of partnership. Drafts and publishes notice of termination of partnership, drafts noncompetitive agreements for selling partners, and drafts assignment of partnership interests.
Paralegal helps inventor apply for a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, conducts patent search, monitors responses from government offices, helps market invention by identifying licenses, studies market, prepares contracts, and investigates patent infringements.
Personal Injury Law
Paralegal handles all aspects of personal injury claims, including interviewing witnesses, researching cases for factual verification, and preparing interrogatories and estimates.
Post-conviction and Corrections Law
Paralegal works with inmate who wishes to appeal conviction and helps to identify problems. Helps with all aspects of appeal, including writing administrative complaints and gathering relevant records.
Products Liability Law
Area involves government regulations, factual investigation, manufacturing, toxic tort litigation, technical knowledge, federal legislation. If interested in this specialty, see also Environmental Law.
Public Interest Law
All aspects of law concerning welfare of public at large, including health and environment and safety regulations, including manufacture of safe products.
Real Estate Law
Paralegal assists law firms, corporations and development companies in transactions involving land, houses, office buildings, condominiums, shopping malls, and so forth, with research on zoning regulations, title work, mortgage closings, checking compliance on all disclosure settlements, foreclosures, office management, and tax-exempt industrial development financing.
A relatively new field with few positions. Area includes all aspects of sports law, including safety regulations, sports injury, and contract issues with owners, managers, and players.
Paralegal compiles all data for preparation of tax returns (including corporate income, employer income, employer quarterly returns, franchises, partnerships, sales, personal property, individual income, estate, gift taxes): drafts extensions, maintains tax law library, and compiles supporting documents for returns.
Paralegal mainly provides litigation assistance in civil wrong that has injured someone, such as negligence, trespassing, defamation, strict liability, wrongful death, and, frequently, worker’s compensation for on-the-job injuries.
Paralegal researches documents, investigates, prepares foreign trademark applications, maintains files, responds to official government actions, and investigates trademark infringement. See also Copyright Law.
All areas included in transporting of individuals delivery of products, carriers, and state and federal jurisdictions. Assignments may include such areas as violation of weight, product, or carrier transportation laws.
Work in areas of contracts between operators and suppliers, class action suits with transportation companies and travel agencies, and jurisdictions over travel suppliers.
Paralegal assists in civil and criminal cases in which both parties are Native Americans. Drafts and files complaints, and presents written and oral appeals in tribal court of appeals.
Trusts, Estates, and Probate Law
Paralegal collects data, handles preliminary drafting of wills or trusts and investment analysis in estate planning. Manages office, assists in administering estate of decedent (including asset phase, accounting phase, and termination-distribution phase). Assists in general litigation, including preparing sample pleadings, doing legal research, preparing drafts of interrogatories, and notarizing documents.
Unemployment Insurance (Compensation) Law
Paralegal meets with clients, investigates and solicits affidavits from employers, handles time determinations, serves as informal advocate with both parties, represents clients before Unemployment Insurance hearing examiner. Counsels clients, presents petitions before legislative and administrative hearings, and addresses community groups.
Paralegal holds preliminary interviews to explain welfare issues, meets with welfare departments, investigates and verifies information, and con-ducts hearings and follows up with hearing attorney. Assists attorney in gathering documents for appeal, files papers in court, and serves papers. Trains other paralegals and speaks to community organizations.
Worker’s Compensation Law
Paralegal interviews claimants, collects data, drafts claims, requests hearings, and serves as a formal or informal advocate. Follows up to determine whether payment is in compliance with awards, monitors claims, and files statutory demand for proper payment, if necessary.
Training for a Specialty
Whatever setting or specialty appeals to you, remember that you will develop many of your skills on the job. To qualify for the job or area you wish to enter, experience and training will vary, depending upon the competition in the current job market, and the specific position. Basically, however, a thorough, intensive paralegal training program, including computer skills, is excellent preparation for an entry-level position in any area. Check the qualifications required for the specialty (for example, language requirements for an immigration specialist). Learning on the job may otherwise provide the additional training essential for any given position.
The personal characteristics that are requisite for any position are equally important. In addition to those qualities which are the earmarks of a successful candidate for any job in any field—reliability, commitment, diligence, etc.—the successful paralegal will have the competitive edge if he or she has strongly developed oral and written communication skills and can relate well to other people. Working with clients, handling research, and getting along with a wide variety of personality types, frequently under stressful conditions such as stringent deadlines or a heavy load of multiple tasks, demands qualities that cannot be learned in a classroom. They are the characteristics lawyers look for when selecting the best para-legal for the position. The ability to put things into perspective, keep a sense of humor, and maintain a balanced outlook on life are all characteristics of a mature person who has the determination to get the job done but can also be counted on to work under demanding conditions.
Other skills that have been developed in other jobs, whatever the field, can enhance a paralegal’s opportunity to get a position and to perform effectively on the job. Think of the knowledge and expertise you have gained through your college education, if you have a degree or have attended college. Critical thinking skills can be developed in any academic course or any environment. A major or minor in any field may be the source of valuable, relevant skills that could make you an asset. If you do not have a college education, you may have developed other work skills, including business skills, organizational skills, computer skills, and foreign language skills; all these and more may prove to be an asset to a firm or particular attorney. Every position presents an opportunity for someone to develop specific skills as well as accomplishments.
Personal traits as well as professional skills are extremely important. Communicating effectively, getting along with others, setting priorities, managing time, solving problems, handling change, taking criticism, and working well without supervision are among the many attributes that will impress a potential employer. If you do not possess them, find ways to develop them in any current educational, volunteer or work setting.
Of course, it is a given that you have the professional qualifications for the job. Many are not fully aware, however, of the range of those qualifications. Once you discover your assets, you must learn how to convey them to a potential employer.
See the following articles for more information:
- Common Specialization Areas in the Legal Profession
- Do paralegals need to specialize in two or three areas before being hired?
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