Paralegals are emerging as some of the most sought-after people for getting anything legal done. You may be sure by the name that they have a legal job to do, but do you wonder what exactly does a paralegal do?
Paralegals are those useful folks who work on the back end of any law firm and assist lawyers in getting valuable information, processing the documentation and performing other subsidiary tasks like research and investigation for a case. A paralegal can involve in a multitude of activities in a law firm, depending upon what exactly their office specializes in.
What are the qualifications of a Paralegal?
Clearly, a paralegal isn’t a lawyer. Is he/she then, Mike Ross from Suits, who defrauded the authorities and became an impostor attorney? Definitely not! Paralegals are legal secretaries who are appointed to do the subsidiary tasks for attorneys. There are specific courses or diplomas that an individual can pursue to become a certified paralegal. Becoming a paralegal involves taking up any one of the options listed below:
- Completing two years of training as a legal intern.
- At least six months of assisting experience under a practicing attorney.
- Graduating from a course for legal assistants, which includes 60 hours of classroom study.
- Graduating from a study program for legal assistants, which includes 6 months of in-house training under an attorney.
- Successfully passing the Certified Legal Assistant Examination.
Being a Paralegal in India-
In India, formalized positions for a paralegal per-se do not exist. However, going by the nature of a paralegal’s job, a law graduate, a legal intern, or even a Company Secretary (CS) can function as a paralegal in Indian law firms. Basically, anybody who assists a lawyer to do subsidiary jobs in connection with a case, trial or hearing, may be a paralegal. The requirements listed above for becoming a paralegal in the United States aren’t necessarily the ones that India observes. So, even if you’re a babu in a law firm in India, you can safely call yourself a paralegal.
While it is easy to become a paralegal, let us see the top 15 reasons and advantages as to why you must consider becoming one in India and also overseas:
While you’re freshly graduated and need a push to enter the workspace, trying to make sense out of the reality of the fact that you need to act like a responsible, working adult now, becoming a Paralegal comes as an easy entry into the legal profession. You could put to use those lectures that almost put you to sleep in college.
A minimum level of education required
Simple words – It is NOT rocket science! A person who is blessed with good common sense, basic organisation skills and a willingness to do menial tasks for their attorney can be a successful paralegal in the long run. You could take any of the routes mentioned above and start your paralegal journey. The best part is that one could even be a graduate from an unrelated field and get into legal work through this way, just with a few months of dedicated training or internship.
It puts your communication skills to good use
A paralegal is also someone who interrogates clients, witnesses and other associated people for the purpose of the designated case. While you were feeling proud about your smooth-talking abilities at your usual café or bar, it is through this way that you could make some extra bucks for yourself and completely sweep your client off their feet. If you’re a strategic one, you could also extract crucial information from the witnesses.
No age criteria to begin
If a person is too exhausted as a middle-aged worker, they could consider a switch by becoming a paralegal. Few years into your workspace, if you realise that you need a change or a break, the paralegal street is open to you. No matter what the age, if a person is capable of learning and understanding procedures, this is a great way to get a change of pace and place.
You will always be in demand
With the legal horizon expanding its scope each year in India and abroad, there is more demand for lawyers. An increased demand for lawyers simply implies that the requirement for paralegals will magnify too. Taking for example, the Indian Judiciary system, where fast-track courts are set up. Now, those fast-track courts also need fast-track lawyers. These lawyers would most certainly need super-swift assistants as their helping hands. The demand is ever-growing for paralegals.
A legal intern makes a lot more moolah than other ‘just-graduate’ intern make. While you go up the experience ladder, you are expected to get a decent raise from your already-good salary. While in India, paralegals may not get the highest of payments, if you’re the lucky American counterpart, you may end up getting thousands of dollars annually. All this is derived from the increasing demand of legal assistants.
Whether you’re a small town boy/girl or an obnoxious metropolitan number, there will always be scope for you to become a paralegal in your respective towns or cities. Lawyers and law firms exist everywhere and they all need their flunkies. Jokes apart, where there is a lawyer, there’s a paralegal. This is probably the best part about being one – you can operate from anywhere in the world, and you will still have the work that you like. This is not true for most other professions, which are highly restricted to the bounds of the larger and more developed cities for the survival of their profession or work.
Taking the paralegal avenue is the best way to learn, if you have a thirst for knowledge. You gain vast knowledge about a variety of tasks, cases, case studies, procedures and courts. Because you start at grassroot level of the legal industry, you gain the capacity to join the dots. Nothing is difficult in the long run for someone who is always ready to pick up something new.
You’re likely to get a promotion
Slogging those hours researching don’t go wasted when you are being considered for a promotion by your firm. Being a dedicated paralegal can earn you brownie points in the eyes of your attorney who is generally impressed by how prepared you always are, to assist him/her. When billed hours are taken into account, paralegals have an upper hand because they spend a lot more time working on cases than the lawyers themselves.
A reputation of a troubleshooter
Someone who knows things from scratch in a case is always the legal assistant. Whether it is identifying the witnesses, conducting that difficult deposition or getting into the minutest details of each element involved. This puts paralegals in a position where they can almost always suggest the lawyer which way to go when in trouble with the case. Sometimes less is more and when you are the lesser educated one in a case, you go all out to do your recce well. This is how you solve problems.
You will be in a better position to go to Law School
If a paralegal decides to go to Law School and come to the more fortunate end of any Law Firm, they are sufficiently equipped to do so. Going to law school and getting that degree can be the best way to escalate in the career and if you have been a paralegal in the past, you have all the practical knowledge already. There can be no better education than the one that comes with prior practical experience.
You stand a chance to be funded by your firm
If you’re as prodigal as Rachel Zane from Suits, you impress your firm enough and have really worked hard to gain all that experience and knowledge, chances are that your firm might fund your education! It is actually possible if you’re badly wanted back by your firm after you complete your degree and become a qualified lawyer. What’s better is that you already have a pre-placement offer in hand, even before you join law school. It’s a total win-win situation because you save money, earn your degree for free and come back home (to the same law firm).
The whole reason why a person is sent for an internship during summer and winter break in college is because they need to come out of their dreamland and enter the industry and experience the realistic side of the workspace. A paralegal has a host of opportunities to explore the different aspects of law. They can do everything from preparing paperwork, conducting depositions, visiting clients, preparing grounds for trials and also learn from the opponents. While working directly under a qualified attorney, there is a higher chance of witnessing a variety of cases.
With the diversified experience mentioned above, you have the chance to discover the niche of your interest. The role of a paralegal gives you plenty of opportunities to explore the tasks and their pros and cons. This puts you at an advantage since you get to know what is meant for you and what you don’t want to do in the long run. Once this is decided, you can choose to do only a certain type of work, or only work on a certain type of cases. There’s also an added benefit to it, and that is, when you’re too worn out doing your intensive job, you can always switch to a newer task profile. Such flexibility, much bliss!
You will become a better lawyer
Finally, when it’s the day of your convocation from Law School, you will look back at all the years you spent being that over-worked paralegal that helped you so much during your journey as a lawyer. What makes a better lawyer than the one who has worked their way up and has done all their spade work before becoming a qualified practitioner!
The process of becoming a paralegal is easy, cost-effective and less stressful. The experience a paralegal gains is priceless and we already have seen the bright side of being a paralegal in the above few points. It is hence, proven that there cannot be a better entry into the legal sphere than as a paralegal.
You can interact with someone who is currently a paralegal and the insights that they give will truly impress you. What an experience a paralegal packs in years, sometimes the lawyers take decades to come to that level.
From the surface, it may appear as if a lawyer is more important. However, it is the other way round because it is the small cobs in the wheel that matter more.