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Attorney General's Office
In a state's attorney general's office, the paralegals may be assigned to either the criminal or civil division. The attorney general (state's attorney) represents the public and the state in cases involving consumer protection, tenants and homeowners, energy and utility services, environmental protection, civil rights, protection of workers, protection of investors, regulation of charities and trusts, and criminal investigations and prosecutions.
This office defends the state's laws and public policies, represents state agencies and officials in prisoner- related litigation, claims and collections, and in taxation and revenue issues. Legal assistants working in the attorney general's office can be assigned a variety of job duties.
In the litigation bureau they may assist in the preparation of motions, pleadings, briefs, trials, and appellate records.
In the antitrust bureau, they may assist in document work and participate in investigations of possible violations of the criminal and civil provisions of the antitrust laws.
In the consumer frauds and protection bureau they may assist the attorneys in investigating complaints regarding possible violations of consumer protection statutes and in preparing for a consumer frauds litigation.
In the real estate financing bureau of the attorney general's office legal assistants may explain the legal aspects of cooperative and condominium conversions to the public, elected officials, and tenants. They may assist in regulating the workload of attorneys in the investigation and prosecution of real estate fraud.
In the investor protection and securities bureau paralegals may assist in the review of broker-dealer and salesmen statements, takeover registration statements, and theatrical and franchise prospectus submissions.
In the charities, trusts, and estates bureau paralegals may assist attorneys in the investigation and litigation of cases involving hospitals.
Although a college degree is not mandatory, a paralegal certificate from an accredited paralegal assistant training program is required for a legal assistant position with an attorney general's office. Vacation, health, and insurance benefits are good.
Since this is a civil service position, legal assistants working in this office must eventually take an examination. Provisional appointments are made before an examination is passed.
Available legal assistant positions may be posted in state office buildings or advertised in newspapers.
There may be on-the-job training available in some states. For example, the New York State Department of Law is starting a "Bridge Program" whereby it will move clerical staff into legal assistant positions after they have worked for two years in the office. This program will be supplemented by outside paralegal courses.
Some of the New York state agencies where paralegals are utilized are in the Department of Social Services, Department of Health Services, and Department of Transportation. The job duties for these agencies include similar responsibilities as those in the Attorney General’s Office.
In general, such paralegals may perform legal research, assist in trial preparation, control documents, and docket cases. They may administer crime victim programs, assist in civil rights actions, and serve as consumer fraud representatives. They may draft complaints, accusations, statements of issue, interview witnesses, attend depositions, digest depositions, maintain files on legislative and regulatory issues, organize documents, and do investigative work.
Paralegals are also used in county and city governments by the district attorney's office, county public defender's office, and the city attorney's office.
District Attorney's Office
The district attorney's office (also referred to as the county attorney's office in some states) is the county office, which represents the state in criminal prosecutions. The funding for this office is derived from the federal, state, and city governments.
The types of cases referred to the district attorney's office are those involving domestic violence, child abuse, juvenile offenses, homicides, fraud, and other major offenses.
A paralegal is considered to be an integral part of this office, and he/she works both independently and as a member of a team.
Paralegals screen cases with the district attorney, assist in writing up the cases, perform legal research, help to manage special bureaus, and accompany assistant district attorneys on homicide calls.
To apply for a position in a district attorney's office a paralegal graduate must submit a résumé to the D.A. and interview with the personnel office. When there is an opening in the office, and provided that the paralegal "passed" the interview, he/she can join the office. There is a special test, which is given to paralegals after they have worked about a year. There are standard health and insurance benefits, and between two and three weeks paid vacation the first year of employment. The work day is usually 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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