Paralegals fill an important role in the law office. A paralegal's job can be quite varied, depending on the size of the office and the type of law being practised. Sometimes a paralegal may work for just one attorney, even in a large firm. Sometimes the paralegal may be a "catch all," where the paralegal does numerous jobs.
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A paralegal may perform duties such as drafting pleadings, drafting correspondence, meeting with clients, scheduling hearings and mediation, prepping discovery and trial prep. He may also, if he works in a small office, serve as the receptionist at the same time. Sometimes a paralegal may serve as an administrative assistant to one attorney, which means he may keep the attorney's personal and work schedule.
There are many types of paralegals--all of whom make different salaries, depending on the job function. Generally, litigation paralegals make more than a real estate paralegal or a family law paralegal. Other types of paralegals include (but are not limited to) criminal law paralegals, administrative law paralegals and personal injury law paralegals.
Paralegals should have a college degree, which takes 2 years for an associate's and 4 years for a bachelor's. The associate's degree is more common. Many firms also require their paralegals to have at least 5 years of experience. Be prepared to work your way up in a firm if you are fresh out of college or if you do not have college education, but would like to try to become a legal assistant.
Paralegals do many of the same things an attorney does, such as research, and if the paralegal has enough experience, may also be requested to draft more complicated documents such as summary judgments or memorandums of law. The only things a paralegal cannot do are argue a case in the courtroom and give legal advice. A paralegal may attend court with her attorney to assist with the reams of discovery that may be used in some cases.
A paralegal can make from the high-teens to over £65,000 per year, depending on the firm he chooses and the firm's requirements. Often, a small firm cannot pay much, but the paralegal does more work than at a large firm. Personal injury paralegals tend to make in the upper salary ranges. Larger firms also tend to hire paralegals who specialise in a certain area of the law. When choosing an area of the law, keep in mind the salary you wish to eventually be making. Some paralegal positions top out at a certain amount.