A paralegal is referred to as the legal assistant working in private law firms or in the public and government sector. The main task is to support the lawyers by preparing for hearings, trials and meetings and by maintaining communication with clients. Paralegals provide numerous legal services but can never practice law like the lawyers, which includes representing a client in court.
Paralegals are prohibited by law to perform tasks that are considered as practicing law. Practicing law can be providing legal advice, representing clients, accepting a client’s case, and determining a client’s fee. These tasks must be performed by a practicing attorney.
Paralegals investigate the facts of a case, collect documents from a variety of sources, research legal cases, write reports and legal documents, draft pleadings and motions to be filed with the court, and assist the lawyers during trials.
Paralegals prepare civil documents such as wills, contracts, mortgages, separation agreements, interview witnesses and clients, and maintain communication with the clients. Depending on the organization, the client contact may be minimal or extensive.
Of course, you need to have some formal education to become and work as a legal assistant or paralegal. Some universities offer 2 year paralegal programs, but some employers may require the 4 year degree. There are BS in paralegal and legal studies.
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Paralegals may find work in insurance companies, law firms, real estate firms, banks and a range of other organizations needing legal support. The public defenders or prosecutor’s office and community legal services hire paralegals.
Just so you can differentiate a paralegal from a legal secretary. Legal secretaries only provide administrative support to lawyers and paralegals, focused on the day to day tasks like answering phones and performing secretarial tasks.
A paralegal performs allowable legal tasks under the supervision of a lawyer. The legal assistant performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. In short, they are a vital part of the legal team.
You can take an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies, Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies, Post Degree Certificate of Completion in Paralegal Studies, Pre-Degree Undergraduate Certificate in Paralegal Studies.
The undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies is the minimum educational program available and is therefore the shortest. You can find them through many proprietary schools and community colleges.
An associate’s degree in paralegal studies, usually found through community colleges and proprietary schools, is the comprehensive course of study many employers are looking for in their paralegals. Like a certificate program, an associate’s degree gives you a basic education in the paralegal profession and the American legal system.
If you want to strive for the highest level of education available to you out of high school and set yourself up for the best employment opportunities, consider a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. It’ll take you about 4 years of full-time study to complete (about 120 credits).
The large number of post-degree certificate programs (post-associate’s and post-baccalaureate) in paralegal studies is proof positive that not all paralegal careers need to start early. If you’ve already earned an associate’s or bachelor’s in another area and you want to make a career change to the paralegal field, a post-degree certificate in paralegal studies is just what you need to transition into the role.
One advantage of completing an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies is the internship opportunity that it affords. Internships provide you valuable on-the-job training and a chance to work in the field, where you will network and build valuable professional relationships.
Philippines paralegal studies
The paralegal jobs in the Philippines require a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies, law or other related discipline, such as political science, liberal arts or humanities. I found two certificate courses in TESDA. You may want to give it a try.