The fact that paralegals perform an incredible variety of tasks and are trained in advanced skills such as legal research and writing, may be a surprise to you. It's not a surprise to most lawyers. Paralegals have found the field satisfying with many opportunities for growth.
Why become a paralegal?
Paralegals are becoming an essential part of every successful law firm. Law firms are increasingly hiring paralegals to fill roles that attorneys have historically done (under the supervision of an attorney, of course), so they enjoy the respect of employers who recognize them as an asset to the organization. Many are interested in the legal field, but choose not to go through years of expensive education to become an attorney.
What do paralegals/legal assistants do?
The term paralegal and legal assistant are often used interchangeably. Legal assistants or paralegals perform many functions delegated by attorneys, including but not limited to the following:
- Conduct client interviews and maintain general contact with the client, so long as the client is aware of the status and function of the paralegal, and the paralegal works under the supervision of the attorney
- Locate and interview witnesses
- Conduct investigations and statistical and documentary research
- Conduct legal research
- Draft legal documents, correspondence and pleadings
- Summarize depositions, interrogatories and testimony
- Attend executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court or administrative hearings and trials with the attorney
- Author and sign correspondence, provided the legal assistant status is clearly indicated and the correspondence does not contain independent legal opinions or legal advice
Learn more about the paralegal industry.
What types of professional specialties are available for paralegals?
Many work as litigation paralegals, specializing in one or two other areas, such as contract law or incorporating businesses. Here are some of the many areas in which paralegals may work:
- Criminal Law
- Workman's Compensation
- Construction Defect
- Contract Law
- Corporate Law
- Real Property
- Administrative Law
- Court Clerk
- Prosecutor's Office
- Public Defender's Office
- Oil and Gas
- Environmental Law
Paralegal certification provides additional professional advantages. There are many professions that, while not titled "paralegal," are able to make use of a paralegal’s skills. Some of these professions include: real estate, landlords/property managers, patent clerks, investigative positions, social services, and office managers. Many government and corporate positions can also be enhanced by a paralegal education.
NOTE: We do not recommend that paralegals offer their services directly to the public. To do so risks engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.
Register for an upcoming information session to learn more about the SMU Paralegal Certificate Program.