The practice of law is an extremely prominent and lucrative career. Many people are very interested in this field, yet they do not necessarily aspire to be an attorney. For those wishing to become part of the legal industry without becoming a lawyer, a career as a paralegal is a good option to consider. Before making an ultimate decision on this particular career path, it is important to know what a job as a paralegal entails.
Paralegal is basically a fancy term for a legal assistant. Just short of actually practicing law, they basically help with any legal tasks that a lawyer would normally perform. These tend to be some of the smaller and more time-consuming tasks that, when done by a paralegal, frees up a lot of the attorney’s time to dedicate to other areas of the law and help them to be at the top of their game. It may seem that a job as a legal assistant is merely a lot of “grunt work”, however, paralegals are an essential part of the legal team that help to keep operations running smoothly and effectively.
When a client comes to an attorney’s office for the first time, they are often given a preliminary interview by a paralegal, who takes down basic information about the case and makes notes for the attorney. Handling this task helps eliminate some extra work for the lawyer so they can simply have the facts of the case laid out for them when they first meet with the client.
A paralegal can be in charge of preparing important legal documents. They draft documents to be filed with the court system and prepare exhibits and documents for the attorney to present in court. Legal assistants often help the lawyer to keep track of important dates and meet deadlines, a task that is essential to the success of any law firm. Many times, paralegals investigate several different parts of the case for the attorney. They research all the facts and interview clients and witnesses so that the lawyer can have all the information necessary for the case.
There can be a large range in different paralegal salaries. A legal assistant can make anywhere from less than $25,000 to over $61,000 annually. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 2004 study showed that the median salary for a paralegal was $39,130. The top 10% of people in this field make over $61,390 a year. Though salary can greatly vary according to geographic location, a career as a legal assistant has the potential to be very fruitful.
Working as a paralegal can be fun, interesting, and exciting. Legal assistants get to experience many of the aspects of practicing law without having to obtain a legal license. Paralegals are essential to the functionality and success of every legal office.
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