A legal researcher does basic research for a lawyer and prepares her for legal proceedings. Legal researchers are also called paralegals and it is their job to perform the pre-trial work essential to the lawyer's case, such as looking up cases similar in nature and doing historical research pertaining to the case.
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A legal researcher must maintain databases, provide technical and legal support to lawyers, review cases, gather information and files for lawyers, draft and finalise legal documents, locate and interview witnesses and interview clients. It is the paralegal's job to read new cases from his inbox daily and set up a research plan. He must make a list of all of the sources he will seek out for pertinent information, such as legal databases and internet searches.
A paralegal must prepare legal briefs, pleadings, appeals, wills, contracts and real estate closing statements. She may also have to call witnesses to testify at hearings and gather and analyse research data like codes, statutes, decisions and other legal documents. She prepares affidavits, or written declarations made under oath, and pleadings with the court clerk.
Paralegals must keep the law library up-to-date, appraise and inventory real and personal property for estate planning, compile evidence for court actions and analyse legal questions and existing facts or evidence. It is up to the paralegal to help the lawyer as much as possible throughout the entirety of each case. A paralegal is essentially the lawyer's professional assistant.
A paralegal must have common sense and common knowledge of the law. She must possess excellent communication skills, since she actively communicates with many people, including clients, witnesses, her boss and co-workers. It is important for a paralegal to be able to communicate effectively verbally, electronically and in writing. She should also have excellent computer skills, since research is an essential part of the job. She must have experience with computers at least on a general level and experience using the internet. It is important to use these skills while adhering to the policies and procedures of the firm or agency.
Nature of the Work
Paralegals have to mediate or arbitrate disputes and participate in appeals hearings. Most importantly, a paralegal makes sure a lawyer is fully prepared for closings, hearings, trials and corporate meetings. He must analyse the data he has collected and decide what information the lawyer should used. In addition, paralegals help draft mortgages, separation agreements and instruments of trust. They may also help coordinate activities of other employees and maintain financial records.
Environment and Earnings
Paralegals can work in different types of law, including litigation, family law, criminal law, corporate law, immigration, real estate, bankruptcy, personal injury and intellectual property. According to CBsalary.com, the average salary for a paralegal in May 2010 was £37,853 a year, with annual earnings ranging from £27,381 to £53,372.
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