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The Job Profile and work involved as a Paralegal

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Paralegal jobs involve the ability and expertise to handle a broad scope of duties. A paralegal must be able to function independently in the job setting, but they are always under the approval and supervision of the attorney. As new graduates, paralegals usually have less job experience than many legal assistants, and they can find the LawCrossing job board a helpful means of locating entry-level attorney jobs that they are qualified for.

These workers must always be very careful not to give people the mistaken idea that they are actual attorneys. Paralegals and legal assistants both have a legal job, but they are in a different category of legal work than attorneys and cannot give any legal advice to clients. If these legal assistants do this, they would have penalties and fines imposed on them for unauthorized practice of the law. They must always correct any incorrect assumption on the part of the client.


Legal assistants have education, extensive training, and legal office experience. This equips them with the abilities and skills to work as a functional and independent staff member in an attorney's firm or practice.

Paralegals must have demonstrated a detailed knowledge of the law and the legal system in order to qualify as an attorney's assistant. In this capacity, they are able to do a variety of assignments of a legal nature. This work is always done with the approval and the supervision of an attorney.

Beginning in the latter part of the 1960s, many attorneys and large legal firms were devising ways to save time and become more efficient with office duties and routine legal data work. This meant that they could free their time for more billable attorney/client hours.

This was also a time of increasing lawsuits, and this meant that many lawyers were becoming backlogged with legal work. As legal assistants were introduced and brought in as staff members, it became apparent that this would be a good way to relieve the attorney of some of his or her more tedious and routine duties.

Legal assistants and paralegals are descriptions that can be used interchangeably, but legal assistants were actually the first to hold the position of attorney's assistant. As these programs were sending new graduates into the workforce, some attorneys preferred to use their office staff to fill these positions.

These workers were given any additional testing and education they needed. Many of these were legal secretaries with a great deal of in-house experience, and they were advanced to these positions by the attorneys for whom they already worked. For some this was little more than a title change because they were already performing most of the same job duties, just not openly, as they could now do.

Paralegals and legal assistants cannot give legal advice or represent a client in court.

Paralegals can conduct interviews with clients and maintain contact with them to relate information pertaining to the case, as long as the client is aware that they are only a legal assistant.

Paralegals and legal assistants are not allowed to set fees or accept client money for services. They cannot accept or decline a case.

Paralegals are allowed to canvass or search for witnesses that are relevant to any of the practice's cases.

Paralegals have the ability to do legal research for the attorneys; they can also draft legal papers and compose legal correspondence.

Paralegals are allowed to conduct and record client and witness interrogatories, take testimony, handle pleadings, and they can make deposition summaries.

They can attend real estate closings, depositions, and hearings. They can also attend trials if the attorney is also in attendance.

Paralegals can draft, dictate, write, and sign office and legal correspondence originating at their legal practice.

Paralegal jobs involve billable hours that are charged to clients, but the rate is lower than the attorney's hourly rate.

The position of the paralegal must be clear at the very beginning of any client meeting that they attend. They must always correct a client that may mistakenly think of them as their ''lawyer.''

Paralegal training and education is typically through a two- or four-year college program. The following courses qualify a graduate for entry-level paralegal jobs:

Associate Degree Programs — These are two-year programs offered by community colleges, business schools, and a few universities. Between 60-70 semester hours must be completed to graduate. Upon successfully completing this program, an AD in Paralegal Studies is awarded.

Bachelor Degree Programs — A baccalaureate degree in Paralegal Studies is available at some four-year colleges and universities. This program requires 120 semester hours, with 30-60 being paralegal studies.

Certificate Programs — To receive certification as a paralegal, 18-60 hours must be completed in paralegal studies. These certification programs are for those individuals with an AD or BA/BS degree.

Legal Assistant's Training

Legal assistants must successfully pass the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) examination. The following qualifications also apply:

1. Be an ABA approved program for legal assistants graduate.
2. Have a BA/BS degree and at least six months of actual work training as an assistant.
3. Have three years working with an attorney and six months legal assistant training.
4. Have in-house training for two years as a legal assistant.

Paralegals should continue to see growth and new opportunities in this field. Most of these workers are hired by attorneys, but banks, insurance companies, real estate companies, and title insurance companies are hiring these workers for entry-level legal jobs with attorney supervision.


About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of LawCrossing and an internationally recognized expert in attorney search and placement. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

About LawCrossing
LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.


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Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

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Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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About Harrison Barnes

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

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