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So you have a passion for law and wonder if you can make it in this field? Well, why not consider becoming a paralegal?
First things first, you might be wondering what this profession is all about and what it takes to practice as a paralegal. Well, wonder no more. Simply defined, paralegals are professionals who work under the supervision of lawyers or attorneys.
A Para What?
The word “paralegal” sounds pretty fancy but don’t panic. This may come as a shock but you might have actually heard it before. If you have ever watched Suits, you would know that Rachel works as a paralegal. She is always assisting Harvey and company with their cases. Who said series aren’t educational?!
Back to real life: to be successful as a paralegal, you need to be someone with organisational skills, have attention to detail, be analytical and possess the ability to communicate.
Paralegals provide administrative expertise which has a significant impact on the success of law establishments. Most law firms rely on the services of paralegals to grow their business. So the work paralegals do is pretty important.
Some of their duties include doing legal research, contracts, leases and preparing other court documents. There are many benefits of a career in the paralegal field such as great career opportunities, intellectual stimulation as well as climbing the legal ladder.
What does a Paralegal do?
Let’s break it down. Paralegals work for lawyers or attorneys directly. They prepare the paperwork that is needed in court, gather legal documents and assist with other legal duties. They also deal with clients and communicate with them during trials or court cases. A paralegal can also do research for their attorney and appear in court.
However, paralegals don’t have the authorisation to give legal advice to clients and their ability to sign legal documents is restricted.
Paralegal versus Attorney and Lawyer: What’s the Difference?
One of the main differences is that an attorney has more authority in the legal field and they are authorised to sign legal documents. Attorneys can also give legal advice and advocate for the rights of their clients. Lawyers can start their own law practice while paralegals can work under them.
Paralegals interact with clients; interviewing them, taking testimonies and other administrative work that needs to be prepared for cases. As mentioned, a paralegal cannot give out legal advice and they do not have full authorisation to sign legal documents. A paralegal can work as a freelancer and choose to specialise which allows for an increased salary. In general, paralegals have long working hours, due to court preparations and deadlines they have to meet. With a paralegal qualification, there is a higher chance of gaining employment. That’s the moral of the story, yo.
What Career Opportunities are in the Paralegal Field?
As a paralegal career grows, it is possible to advance from doing administrative duties to become a manager. The legal competencies that you gain in paralegal studies allow professionals to work in the different spheres of law.
The fields you can work in as a Paralegal include:
Criminal Law and Procedure
Wills and Estates
Property Law and Conveyancing
Legal Office Practice Management
In South Africa, paralegals can be hired by legal aids, legal firms, estate agents or government departments to offer legal support.
How much do Paralegals earn?
This is the big question. Due to the efficiency paralegals provide in their legal services, their expertise is in high demand. As a qualified paralegal, it won’t be difficult to secure employment in the different sectors of law. A qualification in the field enhances your prospects and your career can soar.
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