Paralegals and legal assistants perform a variety of tasks to support lawyers, including maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents. Work Environment. Paralegals and legal assistants are found in all types of organizations, but most work for law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies.
A corporate paralegal will assist a corporation's legal department in many facets of corporate law--from paperwork to court proceedings. Much of the paralegals time will be spent carrying out routine tasks such as updating company files, preparing legal contracts, reviewing documents, and giving legal assistance. The corporate paralegal may handle executive summaries and directives. They also may be called on to assist with company compliance issues.
Criminal law paralegals generally must have a minimum of a two-year associate degree in criminal justice or paralegal training with a criminal law specialization. However, an increasing number of organizations now require candidates to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.
Immigration paralegals usually work for government agencies, or for firms that focus on immigration law. An immigration paralegal works with immigration attorneys in the process of helping clients through the citizenship process or in deportation proceedings.
Something unique to Westlaw—and one of the main challenges for paralegals learning to use the system initially—is the West Key Number System. Also called the West American Digest System, the key number system is the only current taxonomical organization system for American legal cases.
Paralegal Career Scholarships. The Legal Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship is currently on hiatus. Offered from 2014 through 2017, the scholarship was awarded to a student pursuing a paralegal career based on an essay about why the student wanted to become a paralegal. Should Paralegal411 reopen the scholarship in future years, we will update this section of our site accordingly.
Paralegals Are Leaders One task that often gets delegated down from attorneys to paralegals is the responsibility for coordinating and supervising the firm’s support staff. Paralegals can take on leadership roles both in law firms and private businesses, supervising other paralegals, secretaries, or staff.
With technology becoming more commonly used in everything from research to document production, it’s only natural that a paralegal is constantly accessing it in order to do his or her job more effectively. Because of this direct link between a paralegal’s daily job and the technology available, it was only a matter of time before they became more of a driving force behind a firm’s technological choices.
For those with the time and money, pursuing a master’s degree in paralegal studies can lead to a strong advantage in the job market. Master’s-level degree programs typically take 2 years to complete. It is wise to be certain ahead of time if the program being entered is accredited.