Paralegals and legal assistants work with lawyers, supporting them in many tasks including updating, maintaining, and organizing files; researching; and drafting documents for cases. Their specific duties can vary depending on the specific employer and size of the firm or organization. In smaller firms, they may take on more responsibilities, helping to prepare legal arguments and court documents. Below are a few common duties for those with paralegal and legal assistant jobs as outlined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
- Investigate and conduct research for a variety of cases.
- Update and organize legal documents and files.
- Assist lawyers during trials.
- Create correspondence, such as contracts, mortgages, and other legal documents.
In the modern workplace, jobs in paralegal and legal assisting also require candidates to have strong computer skills and technical knowledge. They will need to keep relevant case information and records up to date in electronic databases. As they gain experience, paralegals and legal assistants may specialize in areas such as corporate law, litigation, intellectual property, or family law, to name a few options.
Job Growth for
Paralegal and Legal Assistant
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Becoming a Paralegal or Legal Assistant
Typically, paralegal and legal assistant qualifications include an associate degree in paralegal studies. A few schools may also offer a bachelor's or master's program, but these are not as common. Certificate programs may also be available for those who already have a degree in another field. Many employers will then provide on-the-job training once an individual is hired in this position.
Many community colleges across the country offer training programs in paralegal studies, but only about 270 are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). In addition to core topics in the field, students in most paralegal training programs will also complete an internship. Below are a few common courses you might expect to take in a paralegal studies program:
- Authority, Research, and Writing
- Business Law
- Criminal Law
- Family Law
While not required, some paralegals may seek certification. This usually requires the successful completion of an exam, along with specific education and experience requirements. As they gain experience, individuals in this profession may gain responsibilities and even supervise other employees at law firms or in their company's legal department.