What is Paralegal?

As a noun, a non-lawyer who performs routine tasks requiring some knowledge of the law and procedures, employed by a law office or who works free-lance as an independent for various lawyers. Usually paralegals have taken a prescribed series of courses in law and legal processes, which is much less demanding than those required for a licensed attorney.

As an adjective, of or relating to auxiliary aspects of the law.

Is there a difference between a Paralegal and a Legal Assistant?

The term “paralegal” is widely understood to describe a person qualified through education, training or work experience to perform substantive legal work and whose work, in the absence of a paralegal, would be performed by an attorney. The term “legal assistant” is a common title for a legal secretary or paralegal assistant. Many law firms have re-titled legal secretaries as “legal assistants” so they can bill certain tasks of the secretary (such as drafting correspondence or organizing documents) to clients.

What does Paralegals do?

Typically prepare for court dates such as closings, hearings and trials is a major part of many paralegal positions. Paralegals identify laws and judicial decisions to help lawyers build cases. They also analyze and organize data, write summaries and assist attorneys during trial.  If an attorney’s case goes to court, paralegals are responsible for preparing the legal documents including motions and pleadings, along with organizing and cataloguing all the relevant trial documents. Along with trial work, paralegals may help draft contracts for mortgages, divorces and separation agreements, or assist in preparing tax returns, planning estates and establishing trust funds. A paralegal may also coordinate the work of other law office employees and manage the overall administration of the office.  Paralegals are increasingly popular because the hourly rate charged is much less than that for the attorneys.

Is Paralegal a good career for single parents?

Yes, it is a great career in the legal field.  As a working paralegal, the hours of operations are usually during the daytime, occupying the normal work week, Monday – Friday.  This type of work schedule allows many legal single parents the opportunity to attend to the demands of their children without having to stress financially.  Moreover, most entry-level paralegals make a starting salary of $36,000, annually and can increase with the more experience and knowledge acquired. Paralegal does not require an extensive education, many successful paralegals have an Associate Degree and Paralegal Certification, as the educational creditability for this profession.  For those single parents interested in enrolling into a certification program for paralegal, the overall cost is extreme low, ranging from $6,000 – $15,000; federal grants and loans can cover most of the cost if the individual qualifies for assistance.  Moreover, the US Department of Labor expects this job market to continue to grow for the next few years.

Krystal Fowler, a paralegal & single mother states:

“Now a single mom.  I needed to put myself in a position where I never had to depend on a man; even if I ever find a breadwinner husband, I need something to fall back on if something were to happen. So I casted about for a more secure career.  My experience as a veteran of the tough, soul-destroying industry of call-center sales, I found being a paralegal is another way to help people. People come to a lawyer when they’re in a state of crisis; they’re not at their best. But, I’m good at calming people down. And, I want to help.”

Krystal Fowler, graduated from Center for Advanced Legal Studies; presently employed as a successful paralegal and is still a proud mother.