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What Is a Paralegal?
A paralegals is a legal professional who assist attorneys in a wide range of duties related to the practice of law. Paralegals are employed by law firms, government agencies, and the legal departments of large corporations.
As paralegals are essential to any legal practice, paralegals from a good paralegal college, working at top law firms or corporate legal departments can be very well paid.
Paralegals perform a wide variety of roles in the legal system and legal industry. Many paralegals attend a paralegal college to learn the skills necessary to become a successful paralegal.
What Do Paralegals Do?
Paralegals perform a wide variety of roles in the legal system and legal industry. Many paralegals attend a paralegal school to learn the skills necessary to become a successful paralegal. Some states require certification before a person is allowed to work as a paralegal.
Some skills paralegals learn include completing high-level legal research, spotting the relevant legal issues in a situation with extremely complex facts, drafting legal documents, and asking clients questions.
What Is the Difference Between a Lawyer and a Paralegal?
Unlike lawyers, paralegals cannot appear in court on behalf of a client and they cannot give legal advice to a client.
Paralegals often draft simple legal documents or complete legal research in order to help a lawyer in his or her duties. While paralegals might complete the first drafting of legal documents, their lawyers have the final say over the documents. A paralegal cannot draft documents without the supervision of a lawyer.
Do Paralegals Have to Follow the Same Ethics Rules as Lawyers?
Lawyers have to obey special ethical rules, but these rules do not apply to non-lawyers. Generally, the most severe punishment that can be imposed for violating these rules is loss of a lawyer’s license to practice law (called "disbarment"). Because a paralegal does not have a law license, a paralegal cannot be disbarred.
However, as any good paralegal college will make clear, lawyers are held accountable for the actions of their paralegals. So, if a paralegal makes a huge mistake, such as divulging confidential client information or not catching a conflict of interest before an attorney takes on a new client, their actions might result in the attorney they work for getting into trouble with the state bar. If this happens, the professional consequences could be disastrous. For that reason, paralegals need to be very familiar with the laws that govern the professional conduct of attorneys.
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Last Modified: 03-04-2014 12:56 PM PST
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