While Paralegals and Lawyers both play an important role in the legal system, there are some key differences between their roles and responsibilities.
Ever wondered about the differences between Paralegal and a Lawyer?
They both play a critical role in the legal system as their clients depend on them for various reasons in court cases. Though they are mostly seen doing the same work, there are many factors on which their day-to-day tasks vary.
If you are confused about which of these careers might be the best for you, read on to find out.
This article aims to highlight the differences and similarities between a lawyer and a paralegal, their career prospects, salary, qualifications, and other essential things.
Ultimately, you’ll be able to make a good choice based on the above-mentioned factors.
What is a Paralegal?
A Paralegal is a person who supports a supervising lawyer in their day-to-day tasks such as attending meetings, preparing documents, trials, conducting interviews, doing investigations, and much more. For a Paralegal, no single day consists of the same work. Hence this role is super exciting and rewarding.
Since they are not licensed, they cannot provide direct legal advice to the clients.
What is a Lawyer?
A Lawyer is a licensed attorney with the authority to represent their clients in a courtroom regarding a specific matter. As defendants cannot represent themselves in a case, lawyers actively understand their concerns, prepare arguments and advise their clients respectively.
Lawyers can often be seen communicating with witnesses and victims as well as supporting their clients with other pieces of advice as and when required. Lawyers usually specialize in their respective areas of law. They can be seen working on both small and big-level cases, ranging from contract disputes to domestic abuse cases.
Also see: Paralegal Specializations
Paralegal Vs Lawyer: Salary and Job Outlook
The salaries of both paralegals and lawyers depend on various factors such as job location, type of employer, experience, etc. The national average paralegal salary is $55,060 per year for an entry-level role. However, lawyers get around $99,022 per year as their national average salary.
There are different ways in which a lawyer gets paid, either by hourly rates or a flat one-time fee.
Lawyers and Paralegals both have a strong career outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported an expected increase in opportunities for paralegals to 14% by 2031. Conversely, lawyers can expect a growth rate of 10%.
According to BLS, both these professions are expected to grow as people seek more and more legal services in the coming years. Henceforth, lawyers will begin to recruit paralegals for the delegation of their work and reduce costs for their services.
Read: Types of Law Paralegals
Paralegal vs Lawyer: Job Duties
The duties of a Paralegal and Lawyer overlap in many situations; they both indulge in a lot of paperwork and other legal documents. To name a few, there are research reports, submissions, research work, scheduling interviews, and depositions that are actively included in the task lists of both paralegals and lawyers.
If you’re looking for a career with no deadlines or pressure, then both Paralegal and Lawyer might not be the right fit for you. These professions involve working on tight deadlines, dealing with complex legal matters, and representing clients who may be under significant stress.
However, with proper time management and stress-management techniques, it is possible to find balance and success in these careers while minimizing stress and pressure. It is important to assess your personal strengths and interests before pursuing a career in law or as a Paralegal.
Coming to duties, Lawyers often deal with more challenging tasks such as addressing the witnesses or jury in the courtroom. They are also often seen dealing with scrutiny and pressure at work. Paralegals, on the other hand, always work under the supervision of attorneys.
Read More: What do paralegals do?
Paralegal vs Lawyer: Educational Requirements
It’s not always necessary to hold a law degree to work as a paralegal, but having one can be an advantage. To become a paralegal, you typically need to complete a paralegal program, obtain paralegal certification, and gain formal work experience.
While some paralegal programs can help prepare you for the job, much of the training and knowledge you’ll need will come from on-the-job experience. (Read More: Paralegal Schools)
After completing law school, lawyers must pass the bar exam in the state or jurisdiction they intend to practice in to obtain their license to practice law. The bar exam is a rigorous exam that tests the knowledge and skills of prospective lawyers in a specific jurisdiction.
Once a lawyer has passed the bar exam and obtained their license, they can practice law in that jurisdiction and represent clients in legal matters. They can either work as a solo practitioner, in a law firm, or for a government agency.
Read More: How Long Does it Take to Become a Paralegal?
Paralegal vs Lawyer: Courtroom Duties
Both paralegals and lawyers usually work in courtrooms. On one hand, lawyers generally represent their clients, while paralegals usually assist their lawyers.
Clients generally go to lawyers for adjudicating their matters.
Advantages of Becoming a Paralegal
There are some advantages of being a Paralegal which may help you decide if you want to pursue this career.
Let us take a look at some of the advantages-
- Less Education- As mentioned earlier, Paralegals are not necessarily required to have any paralegal degree. They can meet their job requirements with less education and formal training too.
- Different tasks- Paralegals usually get varied tasks each day, and they can be seen handling both administrative tasks and clerical duties.
- Work-Life Balance- Paralegals often work full-time and have a fixed number of work hours. As compared to lawyers, paralegals usually have a better work-life balance.
Advantages of Becoming a Lawyer
There are some advantages of becoming a lawyer as well, let’s take a look at them so you can decide if you want to pursue this as your career-
- More responsibility- As compared to paralegals, lawyers handle bigger responsibilities as they directly deal with their cases. Lawyers are responsible for adjudicating the case from the front seat and have to prepare arguments respectively.
- Prestige- Being a lawyer comes with its own prestige, as they are known for their extensive training and demeanor. Lawyers also enjoy ‘respect and honor’ in society.
- Higher Salary- Lawyers have higher salaries as compared to Paralegals due to their advanced qualifications, experience, and other related factors.
Due to the emerging demand for legal services across the US, Paralegals have significantly better opportunities expected in the future. Becoming a Paralegal is somewhat easier than becoming a lawyer as there are fewer requirements to fulfill, and, most importantly, working as a paralegal gives you a better work-life balance.
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