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Qualifications and Responsibilities of a Paralegal

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As stated in the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA.org) website: Paralegals and legal assistants are individuals who assist lawyers in the delivery of legal services. Legal assistants are not allowed to give legal advice to consumers of legal services. Legal advice may only be given by a lawyer. The American Bar Association's definition of the nature of work that legal assistants and paralegals do is as follows: A legal assistant or paralegal is a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. The work of a paralegal is never done. Although paralegals cannot offer legal advice to clients like attorneys, they are considered the cornerstone of the law practice.

During the late 1960s, law firms and individual practitioners were seeking ways to improve the efficient and cost effective delivery of legal services. Thus, the legal assistant concept was born. The increasing volume of work due to growing public awareness of legal affairs contributed to the development of the legal assistant. The terms legal assistant and paralegal are now almost always used interchangeably, similar to the terms 'attorney' and 'lawyer.' The practice of law is regulated in all 50 states, and in all states, it is illicit for legal assistants/paralegals to practice law without a license.

As stated before, legal assistants/paralegals cannot give legal advice, and they also cannot represent a client in court, set a fee, or accept a case; functions which are usually considered the practice of law. They work in conjunction with lawyers and the legal assistant's work product begins to meld with the attorney's work product. However, the legal assistant's non-lawyer role must always be clear. According to the NALA publication, an attorney can delegate certain functions to a paralegal, including but not limited to the following:

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American Bar Association (ABA)

    


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