There are many reasons why an attorney, or even the general public, would want to hire a paralegal. Attorneys can save money and time for their clients by delegating routine daily case work to a paralegal. Anyone can hire a paralegal to assist in filling out court forms and records, or a paralegal can also assist you with contracts and other documents, instead of having the expense of hiring an attorney. However, paralegals cannot give legal advice.
But how can anyone be sure they are hiring a good paralegal? What skills does a paralegal need to posses in order to get good work with a good salary? A paralegal assists attorneys in the law office. Most paralegals are the main support in most law offices, keeping the case running smoothly and in a timely manner, which is why having some paralegal training before attempting to get hired is a must.
Potential employers should look for paralegals that posses the skills and experience in the type of of law the employer practices. A good paralegal should have multiple skills over a broad range of duties. For example, a good paralegal knows about the law, has a good understanding of the latest technology, and has general office skills as well. Computer skills are a must these days. Many attorneys use legal software to run their office, as well as using technology in the courtroom and to prepare for trial. Knowledge of the different software programs and a basic understanding of office equipment is important to work well as paralegal.
Basic paralegal skills can be learned many ways. Online courses are available that award a certificate of paralegal studies. There are also junior colleges that offer associate degrees, and four year colleges that offer bachelor degrees. Business schools also offer paralegal training for both at both a certificate and associates degree level. A basic degree will teach the future paralegal the basics of civil and criminal law, the litigation process, and familiarize the paralegal with court documents. Basic courses such as civil and criminal litigation, legal research and writing and English courses should be taken by the potential paralegal.
It’s imperative that an aspiring paralegal have the right training for the type of paralegal a person wishes to become. For example, there are paralegals that work in real estate, criminal law, environmental law and contract law. Any reputable paralegal program will provide specialty courses that focus on specific areas of law. For example, a student can choose to take maritime law courses , that focuses mainly with boating and water law, and then work for law firms or companies that represent these types of companies and people.
Many paralegals have extensive on the job training, but have not attended college or received a certificate. Years of experience in the real world of law can be very beneficial to an attorney looking for a good paralegal. They have the knowledge of local courts and the law, and are most likely very familiar with certain niches. People that have extensive on the job legal experience also tend to have and know a large network of people within the legal community, which is always beneficial to a law practice.
What makes a person decide to be a paralegal, compared to other professions? Many paralegals say it’s because they feel like they are making a real difference in people’s lives. There are additional benefits, such as the opportunity for travel, the ability to grow within the career, and the possibility of earning a very good salary. A good paralegal will also understand that there are ethics to follow, such as keeping client confidentiality.
Starting a paralegal career begins with education and experience and a professional attitude.