A Paralegal is known as a person trained to provide legal assistance to lawyers and attorneys. Although they are trained in subsidiary legal matters, they are not qualified as a lawyer.
Pursuing a career as a paralegal can be highly rewarding, however, there are some myths that revolve around being a paralegal. Let us explore more about them in this article.
In order to claim their position or authority, paralegals and attorneys/lawyers must earn their specific licenses so that they can work legally within a particular state or jurisdiction.
If you do not wish to spend extra time in school in order to be a lawyer, becoming a paralegal might be beneficial for you. It will also give you a chance to explore other options as well. People use their paralegal degrees as stepping stones to work on obtaining a more advanced position.
Inside a legal office, you will find paralegals to be the most skilled and talented individuals. However, attorneys get most of the credit after a case is completed, even though it is mostly the work done by paralegals that takes them to the win.
Generally, an outline is provided by the attorney, and on the basis of that, the paralegal does the research, reads evidence reports, and gathers all the necessary information, that can be used by the attorney in their case. Paralegals play a significant role in an attorney’s office since attorneys are dependent on paralegals due to their extraordinary skills and talent that might work well at their jobs.
Read more: What is a Paralegal
Let us look at some myths about being a paralegal, and whether they are legitimate or not-
1. Can Paralegals Give Legal Advice?
Paralegals are generally not permitted to offer legal advice. They can not offer insight into a particular case or give recommendations to an attorney.
Paralegals can only help clients negotiate a settlement or advise them if the settlement is reasonable. It is not the prime duty of a paralegal to provide the clients with any type of legal options or the next steps in a case.
Their duties are limited to assisting attorneys in helping clients achieve a reasonable resolution to their cases. In most cases, you’ll find the paralegal working from behind the scenes, and finding each and every piece of information that your attorney may need to build the case.
2. Are Paralegals Just Secretaries?
Secretaries are mainly involved in answering phone calls, making appointments, and taking notes for the attorneys. They take care of tasks that lead to the smooth functioning of their offices.
Paralegals are NOT just secretaries. It is true that they do take notes for the attorneys, however, they use the notes for conducting research and keeping attorneys in the loop for their upcoming meetings or events.
They usually do not answer calls in an office setting as they have more complex tasks such as building cases or helping attorneys make legal forms.
The paralegal is expected to complete a rigorous degree program as they have a huge list of duties and responsibilities. They have an obligation to work for long hours and make sure the case is on the right track.
They are responsible for building the core of a case. This delegation of tasks and duties allows attorneys to take multiple things at once.
Also see: How to Become a Paralegal
3. Is Paralegal Education Easy?
Every field has its challenges. Paralegals learn similar courses as lawyers, however, their duties are different.
Attorneys and paralegals both have the same strict standards and this is also one of the reasons why some states make it necessary for paralegals to earn a license before they can start working.
Paralegal degree programs are specifically made to challenge students so that they can perform their level best in the legal field. Attorneys rely on paralegals for conducting research on cases and gathering crucial evidence as and when required.
Attorneys also appreciate if paralegal continues their education even after they get their license, and continuing education credits are also provided for the same. This also makes you shine in front of employers and increases job prospects and salary.
Moreover, credits also help paralegals to stay updated with the new set of challenges in the law and learn new skills that are in demand.
See more: Paralegal Skills
4. Are Paralegals Just Law School Dropouts?
Paralegals are not considered law school dropouts. Paralegal degrees are time-consuming and similar to legal degrees. If a paralegal wants to become fully licensed, they need to show a transcript that can prove their GPA, certification, or the degree that they’ve completed.
Also see: Paralegal Certification
5. Do Paralegals Work 9-5?
Paralegals do not have a fixed work schedule and hence do not necessarily work in a 9-5 work environment. Their work timings are flexible, meaning that they can range from a few hours each day to sitting till late until they complete their assigned work.
During trials, new pieces of evidence are always favorable and should be researched thoroughly before the lawyer addresses them. In these situations, a paralegal can be expected to work a little extra and ensure that the information is recorded accurately and is accurate at every step.
A paralegal works in coordination with the attorney to put a case together to succeed. For this reason, most of the time you might see paralegals staying up late to gather more information and make sure that everything is in line with respect to the case, then can even work from home and show up to the office rarely.
6. Do Paralegals Have Specialties?
There are different specializations for paralegals, and they can be found working in fields such as family law, probate law, criminal law, and commercial law. These are a few of those specialties that both attorneys and paralegals get to choose from.
A paralegal can provide the level of confidence that an attorney would require during trials or moving ahead with further procedures. Paralegals can even possibly mentor different types of people looking to enter this field.
This gives them the flexibility to learn about various specializations and make informed decisions regarding their paralegal career.
Also see: Paralegal Tips To Fast Track Your Career
7. Do Paralegals Only Work For Law Firms?
Paralegals can be found working in many different industries, and not just law firms. They can also be found working in law libraries as researchers. A paralegal who is handy with some of the in-demand skills can enter any industry even where law may not be the mainstream role.
Moreover, paralegals act as one of the most valuable sources when it comes to legal writing, and implementing new laws at the state or federal levels. A paralegal degree can equip you with the ability to implement significant terminologies as and when required in a specific case. This is also the same type of work a paralegal would do if they worked in a business or office setting.
See: Paralegal Degree
8. Do Paralegals Have It Easier Than Lawyers?
It is obvious that a paralegal’s job is not easy. It is due to paralegals that the attorneys stay well versed with the ongoing trial, evidence, necessary documents, client updates, etc. Without a paralegal, it is quite reasonable to believe that the attorney may miss out on crucial information. With a paralegal by his side, the attorney can move forward with confidence with the case.
It can be tough to decide whose job is tougher, for example, the attorney is responsible to deliver the case to the judge, jury, and others in the courtroom. Being an attorney is not an easy job and it requires a whole decade of experience dealing with cases.
If you’re a paralegal, you need to make sure each and every document is on point, client interviews have been taken, meetings have been scheduled, petitions have been filed, etc.
A paralegal has to make sure that each and every fact of the case is critically considered in order to represent the clients with full confidence. Most of the things happening in the court are a paralegal’s accomplishments and entirely his own efforts.
Also see: What Do Paralegals Do
9. Do Paralegals Go To Court?
Paralegals are not permitted to practice law. However, they can appear in court with their attorney. This is one of those times when a paralegal is allowed to be in a court in a legal capacity. They are neither allowed to speak on their behalf nor represent them in any way.
Paralegals who work alongside their attorneys are normally there to ensure that the attorney has the right documents when they are needed.
A paralegal’s skills and talent are most required when it comes to building a case. Attorneys know how crucial is to have paralegals on their side so that they can be well prepared for the trial with all the documents fully prepared for the court.
See more: Where Do Paralegals Work
10. Are Paralegals Always On Time?
A Paralegal is generally very punctual and committed to their job, be it scheduling the meetings, or arranging the evidence, they are always on time and can even ignore for once their personal commitments.
They have typically mastered the skill of balancing personal and professional life and can even work nights and weekends just to make sure the attorney is well prepared for the trial.
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