What is a Paralegal? Responsibilities, Pay & More

The best legal teams comprised a group of talented lawyers and equally talented paralegals. The two professions go hand-in-hand. Depending on a firm’s client roster and size, the might have one or several paralegals on their team.

Paralegal are a great balance between duties legal secretaries can do but also have a working understanding of the legal system and how to research.

Let’s explore what paralegals offer to help you determine whether you need to bring in more paralegals for the crucial support they offer.

What is a Paralegal?

A paralegal is a professional who conducts legal work and administrative duties for lawyers. Paralegals will work at places like:

  • Law firms
  • Startups and small businesses
  • Large corporations with bustling legal teams
  • Local, state, and federal government agencies

Lawyers use paralegals to help conduct a lot of the leg work needed to operate within the legal sector. This includes documentation, transcribing, researching, and more. (We’ll get more into responsibilities in a moment.) Lawyers also utilize paralegals for the:

  • Ability to serve more clients without expensive lawyer fees
  • Opportunity to meet with clients and pass on personalized legal information while attorneys are in court or working with other clients
  • Chance for the firm to enhance time management to better serve clients
  • Knowledge and commitment to ensure reports, research, and other legal documents are complete and accurate

 Typical Responsibilities of a Paralegal

So now let’s get into the the responsibilities of a paralegal. This role’s primary duty is to assist the attorney or attorneys in the business, providing research and clerical support services. While the day-to-day can change from firm to firm, some basic responsibilities of a paralegal include:

  • Performing document preparation and reviews
  • Drafting legal correspondence, motions, and pleadings
  • Handling client and witness interviews and providing summary statements
  • Researching cases using law books and online sources
  • Conducting investigations relying on documentation, statistics, and records reviews
  • Intensive fact-checking
  • Providing support to attorneys for trial preparation
  • Managing client communications and expectations
  • Maintaining files in a physical and electronic format

Essentially, paralegals can conduct many administrative legal tasks that a lawyer would otherwise need to do while avoiding any unauthorized practice of law, such as representing clients in court, taking depositions, or signing pleadings. With a reliable paralegal taking care of crucial details behind the scenes, a lawyer can attend to more in-depth research, client relations, and other front-facing responsibilities.

Required skills and Qualifications For This Role

Paralegals need a certain skill set to effectively perform the duties of this role. The hard and soft skills needed to be a paralegal include::

  • Strong written and verbal communication
  • A deep understanding of the law, legal language and principles, legal research methods, court processes, pleadings, and other law-related matters
  • Excellent customer service, interpersonal, organizational, and time-management skills
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Composure and the ability to function in a high-paced environment
  • Compassion and client management skills
  • A commitment to maintaining confidentiality and exercising discretion and good judgment
  • Proficiency with time management and work management softwares
  • Organizational skills

What Education Is Needed?

Paralegals typically need to earn a minimum of an associate degree. However, many practices prefer to hire a paralegal who has earned a bachelor’s degree in a similar discipline that a lawyer might pursue, such as English, history, political science, or philosophy.

Depending on the state you live in, paralegals must also earn a certificate and gain relevant experience to hold this job title. They must always work under the supervision of an attorney.

Paralegal Pay and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average salary for paralegals and secretaries is around $56,000. However, paralegals tend to earn more than legal secretaries. Pay can also change based on the firm you work at and the city/state you live in.

The BLS says the field for paralegals is expected to grow by 14% over the next decade.

Looking for Paralegal Roles?

If you’re looking to become a paralegal, checkout the Insight Global job board for roles. And if there aren’t any roles in your area, still submit a resume! As roles become available, recruiters could reach out to new entries into our database.