Knowing Your Place as a Paralegal
You’re not a lawyer, but you do a lot of the same things. You’re not a judge, but you know exactly how to communicate with one. And you’re not the court clerk, but you understand the system like one. You’re a paralegal, who earns between $36,000 and $59,000, depending on where you work, and has the responsibility of helping attorneys with their case preparation or performing certain legal tasks for clients at a lower cost.
The duties of the paralegal, also known as a legal assistant, vary based on the type of organization in which they are employed:
- Corporate paralegals assist with the preparation of contracts, shareholder agreements, stock-option plans, and employee benefit plans.
- Litigation paralegals analyze legal documents, maintain reference files, conduct research, and analyze evidence for hearings.
- Employees of community legal-service projects provide legal assistance to the elderly, poor, and others in need of low- or no-cost help.
Despite the extensiveness of the paralegal training programs that are available, legal assistants are not to consider themselves lawyers. As such, there are specific areas in which they are explicitly prohibited from providing help and “practicing.” These include:
- Setting legal fees
- Giving legal advice
- Presenting cases in court
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