As a paralegal, you can be an important cog in the machinery of law and litigation by handling all the administrative tasks associated with the field.

Paralegals are specially-trained legal officials that work in law firms and courts, assisting lawyers in activities such as research, filing, drafting reports and correspondence, office management, and other administrative tasks. For many paralegals, this career is only a first step towards a future career as a lawyer.

The Scoop
Paralegals can be found at law firms, courts, and other institutions that deal with court work. The main job role of a paralegal is to assist lawyers in a variety of tasks, including:

  • Carrying out research for a case
  • Organizing and storing information
  • Helping draft correspondence, statements, and legal documentation
  • Verifying and noting legal issues and relevant laws that have to be kept in mind while working on a case
  • Managing billing and dealing with clients

As you can see, a paralegal needs to have a variety of skills not limited to legal knowledge. Organizational & communication skills, critical reasoning & logical thinking, patience, and attention to detail are the other traits that a paralegal ought to possess.

Study Options
The most common study paths to a career as a Paralegal are Associate’s or Bachelor’s degrees in Paralegal Studies. Apart from this, it is also possible to get started on a paralegal career if you have another major. As on-the-job training plays a vital role, it is not necessary that you research for Paralegal Studies. Those with college degrees in other majors can also study for a Certificate course.

No matter what level you study at, there are certain skill and knowledge areas your course will focus on:

  • Critical thinking skills such as analyzing problems, formulating logical solutions, identifying inconsistencies, and applying legal and ethical principles to the matter at hand.
  • Communication skills such as telephonic personal interviewing, tact and diplomacy required in sensitive situations, written communication, writing legal papers, and drafting paperwork.
  • Information skills including sorting and categorizing information, carrying out research, using online databases, and verifying case citations and legal rulings.
  • Organizational skills such as assigning work to other paralegals, following up on client communication, using billing systems, and applying office resources to the case at hand.

Some Paralegal Studies programs will also offer specialization in certain legal areas such as IP rights, real estate, corporate law, litigation, compliance, and taxation.

Although there are no licensing requirements for paralegals in the US, it might make sense to join a course approved by the American Bar Association or American Association for Paralegal Education.

Career Information
Around 70 percent of all paralegals are employed by law firms and other legal service providers. The government and financial/insurance sector are the other major employers. Paralegals will be found wherever lawyers work. For many paralegals, this career is only a step on the way to a future career as a lawyer – it gives you experience of the legal system and ensures that when you enter law school, you will have a very good idea of what working as a lawyer would be like.