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A Career Overview: Paralegal

Continuing and Professional Studies

A Career Overview: Paralegal

Date: August 6, 2018

A Career Overview: Paralegal

Behind every great lawyer is a great paralegal. 

As the saying goes, "team work makes the dream work." For legal firms, in particular, lawyers have a supporting cast whose work is just as important. Also known as "legal assistants," paralegals are responsible for tasks such as drafting motions, summarizing legal reports, conducting research, investigating facts of a case, obtaining statements or affidavits, and more. Depending on the size of the firm, however, a paralegal's list of duties could vary. 

For example, when lawyers are assigned a case, the paralegal is expected to help with trial preparation, hearings and corporate meetings. This could also include reviewing and organizing information or preparing legal arguments. Paralegals can also assume more responsibilities if they're specialized in different areas such as corporate law, personal injury, employee benefits, immigration, real estate or family law. On the other hand, there are also limitations to what a paralegal can do. 

Since paralegals are not attorneys, they are prohibited from engaging in the practice of law. More specifically, they aren't allowed to perform tasks such as acting as an advocate in a representative capacity giving legal advice, or setting legal fees. In short, paralegals cannot provided legal services to the public. The legal support that they do provide must always be under the direction or supervision of an attorney. 

The path to becoming a Paralegal isn't as complicated as some might assume. Most paralegal programs at a 2 or 4 year college are for associate degrees that can be completed in 1-2 years. You can also complete a paralegal certification at institutions such as City College's The Office of Continuing and Professional Studies, in a much shorter period - with the same quality of instruction. Totaling 102 hours, this intensive certification course will prepare you for an exciting new career!