Paralegals – Vital Members of the Legal Team

Written by admin on May 10th, 2011

by Mike Churchill

Ask almost any attorney which employee is most valuable and you’ll often get the same answer: the paralegal. The name says it all. “Para” comes from the root meaning “alongside” and “legal” means “lawyer.” Together they describe someone who has legal knowledge and works directly alongside a lawyer, but is not formally trained as an attorney. Having someone who possesses specialized skills and can offer assistance in a meaningful way is of vital importance to law firms as well as corporate legal teams, government agencies and others. That may be why job demand is expected to rise.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment is projected to grow much faster than average, as employers try to reduce costs by hiring paralegals to perform tasks formerly carried out by lawyers. Competition for jobs should continue; experienced, formally trained paralegals should have the best employment opportunities.” ( This projection should hold true nationwide; so whether you live in Los Angeles or Missouri, paralegal training can provide the skills necessary to perform the responsibilities required.

Those job duties will vary from organization to organization and from city to city. For example, if working in a corporate environment in Chicago, you might find yourself providing administrative-type tasks. However, you might conduct legal research or organize a briefing if working for a law firm in St. Louis. Paralegal program graduates have to be multi-talented in order to keep pace with this demanding, yet rewarding, career: A fact that holds true whether working in Illinois or Missouri.

Paralegal Training Can Prepare You For the Real World

It is explicitly prohibited for a paralegal to carry out work deemed to be the practice of law, such as giving legal advice or trying cases in court. However, virtually everything else is subject to being performed by an assistant. Students enrolled in a St. Louis paralegal program can learn that the most common responsibilities paralegals perform include:

Legal Research – Are there previous cases where precedents were set in favor of the client? Has all relevant information been considered? Have the laws on the books been studied in full? Attorneys depend heavily on paralegals to conduct accurate research for any number of reasons.

Legal Writing and Filing – Another primary function of the paralegal is drafting and filing legal documents. Contracts, mortgages, separation agreements, trusts, wills, deeds, motions, pleadings, affidavits and many others will usually cross the paralegal’s desk before the lawyers.

Litigation Support – Preparing for opening statements and closing arguments as well as witness location, taking depositions and other tasks are often performed by a qualified paralegal.

Once general studies have been completed, a paralegal may choose to continue his or her education by working toward any number of specialties. Labor law, family law, bankruptcy, real estate and others might provide ways to turn this gratifying career path in a new direction.

Are you organized, self-motivated and detail oriented? Do you find the law and legal processes fascinating? Do you have strong writing and computer skills? Then paralegal studies may be satisfying for you. Check into schools in your area that offer paralegal training. You might find a new career path that can help you achieve your career goals.

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