Paralegal studies is a branch of study related to law and associated legal works. A paralegal is often known as a legal assistant. That is, a paralegal is not a lawyer, but someone who assists a lawyer in his or her legal works.
Paralegals are trained to assume new and competitive responsibilities in legal offices that make them stand at par with a professional lawyer. They help lawyers to prepare for hearing and closing cases, for preparing for trials and even meetings.
Paralegals complete the foundation work of a case by investigating all the facts and then identifying appropriate laws based upon past judicial decisions and articles. They next prepare the document summarizing the case history, which then is referred by the lawyer in the court.
Paralegals also help lawyers to prepare tax returns, plan and execute trust funds and estate matters. However activities such as setting the legal fee, giving legal advice and even presenting the case in the court is done only by the lawyer.
There are two major organizations that support the activities of paralegal, they are – NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants) and NFPA (National Federation of Paralegal Associations. These organizations train and certify paralegals. Few popular certifications include CLA (Certified Legal Assistant) and CP (Certified Paralegal).
In USA, there are nearly 1000 institutions dealing with paralegal studies. In colleges especially community and private colleges, a paralegal course can be taken as an associate’s degree or as a certified program.
In Universities they are available as bachelor’s and master’s degree or post baccalaureate certificates. These courses sometimes mix the paralegal studies with other field of studies.
A good paralegal course is one that is approved by the ABA – American Bar Association. Paralegal mostly find jobs in government, private law firms and companies. Paralegal as a career is not considered ‘licensed’ but only ‘certified’ or ‘registered’.
Paralegal as a career is indeed promising with salary ranging between USD 60000 to USD 100,000. This is especially true for private firms. In case of a paralegal career in a Federal government office or state law office, a paralegal can easily get a salary above USD 70,000 and USD 54000 respectively.