The paralegal or legal assistant is educated and trained to perform a wide variety of legal tasks under the general supervision of a lawyer. A well educated paralegal can perform substantive legal work.
The duties performed by a paralegal in a traditional law office are professional in nature and distinct from routine clerical duties. The paralegal may interview clients, research legal and factual issues, prepare documents such as deeds, mortgages, contracts, and discovery documents. In the performance of these duties, the legal team (paralegal, lawyer, clerical staff) provide increased efficiency and economy in the delivery of legal services to the public. Paralegals cannot accept cases, set fees, give legal advice, or represent a client in court. Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public unless permitted by law. Many legal studies graduates are employed in traditional law offices.
Paralegals with a legal studies degree are qualified for employment with other organizations in the public and private sector. In the public sector, legal studies graduates have obtained jobs in state prosecutor offices, the Oklahoma Tax Commission, State of Oklahoma Human Rights Division, and federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration. In the private sector, graduates have obtained jobs in corporate legal departments, insurance companies, banks, real estate companies, and title insurance companies.
The American Bar Association (ABA) defines a Paralegal as follow:
A legal assistant or paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. http://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals.html
Paralegal Career Information can be found in the Legal Studies Library, Linscheid Library, Office of Career Development, the ABA, NALA, and NFPA websites listed below. The websites provide information regarding employment opportunities, compensation, the utilizations of paralegals, paralegal duties, paralegal regulation, certification and more.
NALA and NFPA are excellent national professional organizations for paralegals. The websites provide the organizations ethical guidelines for paralegals and case law on ethical and other paralegal issues. Students may join the paralegal organizations at a reduced rate, so explore their websites.
ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals Career Information
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
National Federation of Paralegals, Inc. (NFPA)