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The [paralegal] field [has] an overdose of terminology: lay practitioner, sub legals and paralegals, legal paraprofessionals, legal executive, legal service assistant, lay advocate, legal nurse, legal technician, legal counselor, lay councilor, lay representative, lay assistant, and so forth (Fins 2). Regardless of what one labels the profession, paralegals are assistants to lawyers. When I was a freshman my class did a project on law and the legal system. I was a defense attorney. All of the work that we did leading up to the mock trial was fun and enjoyable, but then when it came time to present our case in court I didnt feel that comfortable with the actual presentation of the cases.
Thats when I decided that I didnt want to be a lawyer. When I heard of the job of paralegal, I realized that that is what I want to do. I like to do the research, talk to the witnesses, and do most of the work leading up to a trial, and as a paralegal, thats what I could do. To have a career in the legal system, one doesnt have to work in a courtroom like a lawyer or judge, because paralegals work with the law more often than lawyers do and they hardly ever step foot inside a courtroom. Paralegals are similar to lawyers in many ways. A paralegal researches laws, investigates facts, prepares documents, and in general does background work for lawyers (Hopke 677).
Paralegals basically do the work leading up to a trial to help a lawyer out. They also serve as a communication link between [an] attorney and [his] client (Your career as a paralegal 9). Attorneys are often elusive to their clients and too busy to do all the work, so paralegals step in and talk to the clients as well as make lists of possible witnesses, and other areas where information could be gathered (your career). Not only do paralegals prepare cases for courts, but they also draft contracts, mortgages, and other documents (Hopke 677). When it comes to dealing with an obviously frivolous lawsuit, paralegals often are asked to see it all the way through (Fins). Paralegals do a lot of work that lawyers usually get credit for, and they usually work long hour [and] alone to do so (Hopke).
Paralegals [who work for large corporations] often work in offices that are pleasant and comfortable (Hopke 679). In a larger office there are more lawyers and more money coming in to the company, so they can afford better furnishings for all of their employees. However some [smaller firms have] offices [that] are dreary places (Fins 76). Also, when one is in business for himself, his office will most likely be dull and ordinary. The reason for this is that there is less money coming into small firms and personal businesses than large firms so the furnishings cant be so extravagant. Fortunately however, if paralegals work alone or in small firms they rarely can be found working in their offices.
Much of the work [is] performed in a library (Hopke 679) [engaged in] long hours of [exhaustive] research (Your Career 10), especially when there is pressure to meet a deadline (Hopke 679). When working in large firms, paralegals often have access to libraries and many books and other sources right there in the office, but in smaller firms, they cant afford to have their own library. While working as a paralegal, a 40 -hour week in standard, but long hours and overtime is not uncommon (Hopke). When there is as much work to do, as paralegals have to do, it is often necessary to work so much. Wherever there are lawyers, paralegals will be needed and welcome. [They] work in every U. S.
state and territory (Your Career 6). Although it is most common to find paralegals working for law firms, [they] also work for banks, accounting firms, and government agencies (Hopke 679). There are a lot of opportunities for a certified paralegal if one takes the time to look. [A] paralegals education has evolved over the years (Your 4). In the past there were only two-year programs in very few schools. [Now] there are certificate programs, four year degree programs, post baccalaureate programs, and masters degree programs (Your 4).
Many paralegals have an associate degree, where they studied many different areas to become a generalist. In a four-year degree program they study a little in every area, and then go in depth into a few distinct areas. Lots of paralegals get a job after two years and continue to go to school for either a further degree or to be a lawyer. Some employers are willing to pay for continuing education courses for paralegals (Fins 18) to become more skilled in law and be able to help the firm more effectively. [There are currently] no formal paths of advancement (Hopke 678) however there are advancement opportunities if you know how to find them. One type of advancement is to change jobs. Moving from ones own business to a small firm and then to a larger one is one possible way to advance.
Another way is if you are promoted from a paralegal to head legal assistant in a firm (Hopke 678). If one has what it takes, he can go far in this field. What exactly does it take to be a paralegal? The physical requirements are not too demanding (Fins 44). There may be a need to carry around boxes of papers or books and folders for research on a case. [Possibly one will need to] carry displays into court (Fins 44). Also it might be necessary to visit a work site or a witness home or office to gather information.
One doesnt need to be particularly strong to be a paralegal. The real strain on a paralegal is on the mind. [A paralegal needs to be] patient enough to put in long hours of detailed research (Your 10). Working alone is hard to do. A paralegal needs to be able to deal with the isolation and loneliness to perform up to the expectations of his supervisors and / or clients. He must... have good writing and communication skills (Hopke 679).
He needs to be able to submit legible and understandable reports on the research, opinions on how it could be used, questions to ask witnesses on the stand, which witnesses to put on the stand, opening and closing arguments, and petitions to judges. If one can communicate clearly and effectively then he can succeed in this career. Starting paralegals earn a decent living, earning an annual salary [of] about $ 20, 900 (Hopke 679). After many years in the field one can earn a lot more than this. With the highest earnings among government or law firms (Your 16), they can earn around $ 40, 000 (Your).
Many other people and I believe that this is not enough considering the amount of work paralegals do everyday. When paralegals are in business for themselves, the can give themselves all of the benefits they can afford. For paralegals that work in firms, most employers provide paid vacation and sick leave, life insurance, and medical coverage. A few employers also offer a pension or retirement plan (Your 16). Paralegals for the most part do all the same work, and as much of it, as a lawyer, except that they get paid a lot less.
Fortunately, they still get the same benefits, an annual bonus, and the average salary continues to rise by the year (Your). There are very few drawbacks to being a paralegal. Being alone is a major part of this job. If one doesnt feel comfortable being and working alone for long periods of time, than being a paralegal wouldnt be a wise choice of profession. If researching laws and past cases arent appealing, than neither should be this job.
As stated before, the salaries currently being offered are insufficient compensation for the training and effort they bring to the workplace (Your 12). Most people believe that paralegals deserve a salary closer to that of a lawyer as a result of the fact that they do just as much work as lawyers do (Hopke). [The] turnover rate for a paralegal is considerable... Often [paralegals last an average of] three years. Low wages and job instability are often cited as the reason [for this] (Your 12). If a paralegal has a possibility of getting a higher paying job, he will take it, since the pay is low enough that even the slightest increase may make a difference. The paralegal profession is relatively new, dating back to the 1 st training program launched in 1970 (Your 3).
However, paralegals are a primeval occupation, existing as long as lawyers have been in existence, and they have sustained through time. Though they only recently received a title. In 1968, [the] A. B. A.
formed The Special Committee on Legal Assistance. [This committee] examines the use of paralegals and the training they receive (Fins 12). They help to raise the level of professionalism around paralegals and the people around them. Paralegals are one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. Experts forecast more than 50 % growth in this job category in the next decade (Your 1).
There are a lot of people who decide to be paralegals while they are in college studying to be lawyers, as well as people who just dont want to be in a courtroom and still work in the field of law. Employers prefer to hire more paralegals than lawyers, because they can pay them lower wages and that is beneficial to the employer (Hopke). Anyone who wants to be a paralegal has a wide variety of jobs offered to them and places in which to work. Paralegals are needed everywhere, and with the high turnover rate, it is easy to find a job if you need one. Paralegals who work for some corporations often receive free legal service and tax preparation. Being a paralegal is a great opportunity to get some exposure to law and the legal system without having to go through the pressure of working in a courtroom.
In that way, one may be a better lawyer if thats the route he chooses to go by having this extra experience with the legal system. Bibliography: WORKS CITED Fins, Alice. Opportunities in Paralegal Careers. New York: VGM Career Horizons, 1990. Hopke, William E. ed.
Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance. 9 th edition. Vol. 3. Chicago, 1993, pg. 676 - 679. Your Career as a Paralegal. Chicago: Institute for Research, 1997.
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