Learn more about paralegal studies
Paralegal school is a smart choice for anyone looking to make a quick entry into the legal arena. Paralegals play a vital role in the legal system, assisting lawyers and other legal professionals in providing their services and maintaining their practices.
Responsibilities in Paralegal Careers
Paralegals perform many of the same tasks as lawyers, but they are not permitted to "practice law." This means they cannot act as legal counsel in a court of law or give legal advice. The tasks they do perform include:
- Research and investigation. Paralegals are often assigned the job of digging up vital information for cases, examining case law and finding precedent that relates to a particular case.
- Trial and legal proceeding preparation. Paralegals help lawyers get ready for trials, depositions, hearings and other legal proceedings by preparing written reports that lawyers can use as foundations for legal strategies. This can require familiarity with not only legal language, but also other specialized language, like the terminology that experts with medical or police training use.
- Document management. Paralegals are responsible for keeping records and pertinent court documents easily accessible during court proceedings and properly filed in the law office. They may also be asked to draft documents such as contracts, trademark registration applications and more.
Becoming a paralegal requires a variety of skills, not the least of which is a drive to learn. Paralegals must have excellent research and information-gathering skills, and they must also be detail-oriented, organized and efficient.
There are different options in paralegal studies, depending on the amount of time and the depth of education you're interested in:
- Paralegal certificate programs. These programs are typically one- or two-year programs and are designed for those who have already been working in legal offices. They tend to focus more on the administrative aspect of paralegal work, but they also provide a foundation for further legal studies.
- Paralegal diploma programs. Diploma programs offer more comprehensive paralegal training than certificate programs and provide a more detailed understanding of the law as it relates to a paralegal career. Students will learn more extensive case preparation and research skills to assist lawyers with trials and legal proceedings.
- Paralegal associate degree programs. A paralegal degree program can help give you an extra edge in the job market by preparing you with specialized knowledge and training on top of what you would learn in a paralegal diploma program.
Paralegal programs are traditionally offered at paralegal and criminal justice schools, but they are also available online. An online paralegal degree or diploma program is the same as a traditional program, except you will be have more flexibility in coursework and degree completion time and less face-to-face communication with teachers and peers.