What is Paralegal ?
The Paralegal Profession
A paralegal is an individual who is educated and trained to assist a practicing attorney. Paralegals, also called legal assistants, perform a wide variety of duties and tasks which are professional in nature, distinct from routine clerical tasks. A primary responsibility of a paralegal is to relieve the supervising attorney of routine duties so that the attorney is able to use his/her time in more complex areas of the case. Proper use of a paralegal/legal assistant enables an attorney to handle a heavier case load and increase productivity, thereby resulting in the delivery of legal services to a client more efficiently and economically.
The Paralegal Studies Program is designed to prepare the student with the necessary knowledge and skills to gain employment as a paralegal/legal assistant and/or to allow the student to advance to positions of increasing responsibility in the legal field. The program is not offered to train attorneys or legal administrators.
WORK TASKS: Paralegals perform routine tasks that allow lawyers to attend to other matters. They research, compile and use information obtained from offices of public records, law libraries, and other sources to assist with cases. They prepare legal and business documents such as deeds, titles, contracts, and mortgages. They research law and court decisions to prepare valid arguments for use in court cases. They interview clients and prepare discovery documents. They often attend depositions with the supervising attorney. These tasks are performed under the direction of a lawyer. Paralegal Studies s cannot accept cases, set fees, give legal advice, or represent a client in court.
Paralegal Studies TASKS:
A person in the Paralegal Studies profession CAN:
Interview clients and witnesses
Draft pleadings and documents
Perform legal research
Write legal memoranda and briefs
Research public records
Prepare discovery requests and responses
Prepare exhibit lists
Assist the attorney at trial
Provide case management
Perform law office management tasks
A person in the Paralegal Studies profession CANNOT:
Give legal advice
Accept cases or set legal fees
Represent a party in court
ALL legal services performed by a paralegal must be supervised by an attorney. Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public except as permitted by law.
Paralegals work in offices for:
Private law firms
Banks and corporations
Public service corporations
Federal, state, and local government
TOOLS & MATERIALS
Paralegals work with:
Public records, court documents, and other research materials
Legal and business documents such as titles, contracts, and mortgages
Computers and software applicable to their area of specialty
Clients on a daily basis
Paralegals should be able to:
Reason clearly and logically
Communicate clearly and effectively in speech and writing
Be responsible, ethical, and motivated
Perform detailed work
Plan and organize work
Earnings vary greatly. Salaries depend on the education, training, and experience the paralegal brings to the job. Generally, paralegals who work for large law firms or in large metropolitan areas earn more than those who work for smaller firms or in less populated regions.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of paralegals is expected to grow 42% through the year 2008 as the use of paralegals increases. Prospects are likely to be best for persons with formal paralegal training. The current Oklahoma employment outlook is good job growth but still competitive.
PROS AND CONS
Positive aspects of the career:
Working with people as well as data
The variety of the work
The ability to work on a temporary or freelance basis
Negative aspects of the career:
Performing detailed work tasks
Keeping up with changes in laws
Working long hours when under pressure to meet deadlines
For more information regarding the Paralegal Studies profession, contact:
American Bar Association
National Association of Paralegal Studies
1516 S. Boston, Suite 200
Tulsa, OK 74119-4013
(918) 587-6828 FAX (918) 582-6772
American Association for Paralegal Education
National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc
Central Oklahoma Association of Paralegal Studies s (COALA)
Membership Chairperson or Recruitment Chairperson
P. O. Box 2146
Oklahoma City, OK 73101-2146
Oklahoma Paralegal Association
P.O. Box 5784
Enid, OK 73702-5784
The Discover and Oklahoma Career Search career computer programs in Student Development, SSB 100, can provide you with more detailed information on the paralegal profession, job markets, salaries, etc.