The Paralegal Role Merges with the Lawyer Role
The paralegal job role has become more and more blurred with that of the attorney. Lawyers are being forced to take on larger workloads because of the demand for their service. This increased workload and decrease in time means that lawyers are forced to submit and allow the paralegal to be called upon. As a result, the paralegal is now capable of preparing a court case and collecting evidence. However, there still remain aspects that they simply cannot touch. For instance, a paralegal is unable to determine legal fees or present in court. It is also illegal for a paralegal to offer legal advice.
Interviewing and Communicating
While a legal assistant is unable to directly “practice law” or conduct legal proceedings, they can interview and communicate with clients and witnesses. This interviewing and communication role is an essential part of determining the validity of a case or establishing the grounds for a case. The legal assistant is also usually responsible for tracking down suspects as well as interviewing them. This can consume large amounts of time and often requires knowing the appropriate contacts and a few tricks.
Investigation and Research
Investigation and research both provide the lawyer with information when required. Legal research and investigation can be an incredibly long-winded and very drawn out procedure. If lawyers were to complete this task then they would have little time for anything else. As a result, this task most often falls into the hands of the paralegal.
Drafting legal documents can, and is often, done by the paralegal. Many aspects of the legal document are standard so it can take surprisingly less time than you might imagine. In a similar vein, it is also their responsibility to document interviews with suspects and any necessary associated paperwork. The result of this work is then passed to the lawyer for them to decide on the proposed course of action.
Studying to be a Paralegal
Clearly the roles and responsibilities of a paralegal are very important. The role is ideal for anyone interested in law and legal proceedings. Law school itself takes time and considerable money to complete. In contrast, studying to become a paralegal takes between 2 and 4 years and will cover many of the same topics.
There is a growing demand for paralegals as lawyers begin to hand over more and more of their responsibilities. This trend is likely to continue in the near future and because companies are looking to save money in terms of there legal costs, private firms are increasingly likely to employ paralegals. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics believes that more than a 30% increase will be witnessed for the appropriately educated candidates.
Continuing your Education
Completing a paralegal program is the quickest way into a paralegal career. Whether you choose a two-year or four-year degree, both offer a much better opportunity to advance your chosen career than attempting to gain on-the-job training. Because the position requires a wide range of legal knowledge, many paralegals choose to continue their education even once they have found full-time employment. While this isn’t necessary, it can certainly be beneficial in advancing your career.
View a list of paralegal diplomas and degree programs in Florida.