A Closer Look at a Career as Legal Secretaries, Paralegals, and Legal Assistants
Paralegal is probably one of the professions one often hears about but doesn’t fully understand. To have an idea, we can take a look at what the prefix “para” means. “Para” could refer to numerous definitions such as resembling or abnormal. However, in the context of paralegal, “para” means alongside. To simplify it, paralegals are those who are trained to work alongside a lawyer.
Legal Secretaries, Paralegals, and Legal Assistants – What You Need to Know
Paralegals are an integral part of law offices, legal departments of corporations, and courts. They perform research duties related to legal, regulatory, and business for lawyers, providing them with assistance in filing materials such as motions, memoranda, pleadings, and briefs in various court systems. At times, they accompany lawyers during client meetings or court sessions.
Apart from that, paralegals also review pleadings, technical papers, briefs, and other documents and ensure to gather facts relevant to the cases their lawyers are assigned to. Paralegals can also further provide assistance in organizations by interviewing clients in person or via phone prior to referring them to lawyers to take on their cases. In some cases, they are granted authority to reject or accept clients based on their initial assessment. They can also conduct one-on-one sessions with clients prior to the lawyers taking on the case or during case proceedings.
According to PayScale.com, legal secretaries, paralegals, and legal assistants earn an average of C$32,021 – C$71,226 a year with potential for profit sharing and commission.
Having exceptional skills in legal research and analysis is a must for anyone aspiring for a career as a legal secretary, paralegal, or legal assistant. A comprehensive understanding in law fundamentals is of course necessary. It also pays to have good organization and time management skills as they have to work according to the lawyers’ schedules. Being a good communicator and being able to have expertise in customer service and client relationship-building are also key factors for excelling in this field.
An associate’s degree or certificate in paralegal studies is required for this role, although a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field can be a substitute in lieu of that. It’s also a big boost for paralegals to consistently work on expanding their knowledge in legal terminology and principles and keep themselves posted on current cases similar to what they are working on. Once they have sufficient experience and knowledge, they can consider earning additional degrees or certifications to be fully qualified as a lawyer and therefore perform duties and responsibilities as a full-pledged lawyer.
Pros and Cons
A career as a legal secretary, paralegal, and legal assistant can prove to be a rewarding experience as one is working alongside lawyers who are directly providing clients legal services that would help break or make their cases.
However, the role can be extremely demanding in terms of work schedule especially when there are a load of documents to review and go through to be able to gather enough data such as statutes, decisions, legal articles, codes, and documents.