What is a Paralegal?
The paralegal job description is as wide and varied as there are attorneys, corporations, government agencies, and other entities that employ them. Perhaps this is a testament to their value and versatility. However, legal organizations and associations have established concise definitions to help clarify and standardize the paralegal profession and the paralegal’s role.
A Paralegal is a person, qualified through education, training or work experience to perform substantive legal work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and is customarily, but not exclusively, performed by a lawyer. This person may be retained or employed by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency or other entity or may be authorized by administrative, statutory or court authority to perform this work. Substantive shall mean work requiring recognition, evaluation, organization, analysis, and communication of relevant facts and legal concepts.
As is evident from the above definition, education is an important, if not the most important, component determining the qualifications of a paralegal. CALS designs its paralegal programs and its curricula to ensure its graduates not only meet, but exceed, the educational requirements necessary for a successful and rewarding paralegal career.
What do Paralegals do?
Essentially, with education and experience, paralegals are qualified to perform legal work that is customarily done by a lawyer, and for which a lawyer is ultimately accountable. Paralegals do, however, hold the responsibility of providing accurate, concise, ethical and timely work to their supervising lawyer and their clients. National surveys indicate the following duties are most common among the responsibilities of a paralegal:
- Conduct Client Interviews
- Perform Legal Research
- Investigate Facts of a Case
- Locate and Interview Witnesses
- Participate in Court Appearances
- Write and File Petitions
- Manage Trial Dockets and Court Correspondence
- Draft Correspondence and Pleadings
- Attend and Summarize Depositions
- Attend Execution of Wills, Real Estate Closings, Court or Administrative Hearings and Trials
"Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public,
except as permitted by law."