Attorneys are famous for getting all the attention. They seemingly run the show, and whether they are representing a defendant, a plaintiff, or anyone hiring their legal expertise, lawyers are the ones up in front doing all of the work that gets noticed. But anyone who knows the legal system knows that the amount of responsibilities for any attorney far outweighs their ability to handle it all on their own. Behind any successful attorney lies a paralegal, or often a team of paralegals, who work diligently behind the scenes to provide the organization, documents, and support necessary for an attorney's office to operate efficiently.
A paralegal is not just a glorified secretary; instead, a paralegal is an incredible source of knowledge and skill that acts as an attorney's eyes and hands, providing a range of services for support. With an Associate's Degree as a paralegal, you will begin to acquire a deeper understanding of the law and the legal system, opening up opportunities to work with highly talented lawyers, and potential even laying the foundation towards becoming a lawyer yourself one day.
At the basic level, a paralegal is charged with the task of assisting an attorney in whatever areas of support they need. In includes a potentially vast range of tasks, and effective paralegals are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to work effectively inside of a law office or firm. Paralegals, in many ways, are the arms and hands of attorneys, performing a great deal of functions that the attorney themselves could not complete independently.
Some of the common responsibilities of paralegals include researching the facts of a particular case, investigating the relevant laws and regulations regarding an issue, organizing a diverse array of information, and recording this information on appropriate physical and electronic documents. An attorney can only find and remember so much information at once, so paralegals commonly assist in information-collection processes. They may also be responsible for writing reports to help attorneys prepare for trials and depositions, compose drafts of legal documents such as contracts, and serve as an attorney's right hand during the vigor of a courtroom trial.
These are not tasks that just any secretary could perform; a paralegal obtains specialized training in law to serve as an effective counterpart to attorneys. Since the world of law is diverse and complex, it is common for paralegals to specialize in one particular field of law or another, just like attorneys specialize in their unique fields. These fields might include, but are not limited to, litigation, personal injury, corporate law, criminal law, labor law, bankruptcy, real estate, and immigration.
When paralegals obtain more experience working for a particular firm, they might be assigned specific roles and responsibilities. For example, paralegals who work for larger law firms might be assigned to just a specific case, gathering details and managing information associated with it. Other times, paralegals might be promoted to supervisory positions where they manage the work of other paralegals and legal assistants, making sure that they are all functioning supportively to the firm's needs.
Even though attorneys might be the ones receiving the bulk of attention, everyone knows that behind every successful attorney is a paralegal, or team of paralegals, working diligently to perform the support services necessary for success. An Associate's Degree for becoming a paralegal trains you to work within the legal realm, supporting attorneys, working in offices, researching complex information, and ultimately learning the legal proceedings both in and out of the courtroom. As more and more individuals are becoming lawyers, with your Associate's Degree you're only steps away from finding employment inside of a local office or a large legal firm.
One this is for sure is there is no such thing as a typical day as a paralegal. One of the first things is to be prepared for everything on your first week on the job. It is important that you work on your main priorities first or you’ll get behind quickly. For the first few months you’ll be on the phone a lot dealing with clients and getting to know them so try to handle introductions in person so you aren’t spending a ton of time checking your emails. As a paralegal you’ll get copied on every email so it is important that you can clearly file your emails to keep them in order.
When you graduate with your Associate’s degree in Paralegal the you’ll be all excited when you start your job but the advice we have received from other paralegals is that you really weren’t taught in school what you’ll be done on the job so don’t be discouraged. The first few weeks can be very stressful for any new paralegal as you are just trying to understand how it all works. The best advice is to shadow another seasoned paralegal and watch how they do their job. You’ll pick up great tips and tricks that only a paralegal that has been on the job for a long time will be able to teach you.
Details – A successful paralegal pays attention to details. Because you’ll be working with lots of other people you’ll need to pay close attention to all the small details associated with your position.
Accuracy – Accuracy is probably the #1 thing you’ll need to master if you want to become a paralegal. You’ll be dealing with lawyers and the accuracy of what you’ll be doing can be used in court so the room for errors have to be limited.
Great Communications – Do you love working with others and are a great listener? Paralegals need to not only have the ability to communicate with others clearly but they need to be a great listener.
Computer Skills – During your Associate’s degree training you’ll learn about databases, spreadsheets as well as presentations. These are all skills you’ll need in order to become a great paralegal.
Multitasking - Learning to multitask is something that will benefit you during your career as a paralegal. You’ll often be working on more than one case at a time and often dealing with multiple lawyers.
If you are a military veteran or active duty military looking for a great career then look into becoming a paralegal. One of the great things about becoming a paralegal is that it is an in-demand career and no matter what state you live in you’ll find lawyers needing help. As a military veteran or active duty you could qualify to use your military TA funding to help pay for some if not all of your training. Be sure to check with your ESO officer is you are on active duty. Many paralegal schools offer training programs online
This allows you to still study while being on active duty, even if you are deployed. For military veterans not only can you qualify for additional tuition discounts but your family can also benefit from the funding that you earned while in the military. Be sure to check with the school you wish to attend to see if they are approved to accept military funding.