A legal assistant, also known as a paralegal is extremely important to the lawyer itself. The lawyer can trust their assistant to carry out research work and meet with witnesses to strengthen the case; all while they are tending to more serious matters.
A paralegal is retained by a certified attorney as their assistant who helps them win cases. A paralegal is a trained person to carry out important legal tasks, but is not yet certified as a full-functioning lawyer.
Paralegal services include all types of work related to the court and the case: preparing all types of court documents, planning finances, including estates with will and trust plans, and corporate services. Paralegals prepare numbers of court documents such as motions, briefs and depositions for their supervisor attorney.
How to become a Paralegal?
To become a legal assistant, there are certain paralegal qualifications that you require; it starts with a bachelor’s degree and a certificate in paralegal studies, or you could complete an associate’s degree in paralegal studies.
Students are expected to maintain a CGPA of more than 2.0 at least to graduate from the institution, and just like lawyers, paralegals too can specialize in their field of choice. Examples include:
- Real estate
- Family law
- Intellectual property
- Labor laws
- Criminal law
- Corporate law
- Personal injury
After you’ve received your degree, the next step is to gain experience by doing internships in renowned law firms, government agencies, DA’s office, public defender’s office etc. From here you can build on the skills that you really need and soon apply for high-paying jobs at law firms.
Paralegal Ethics Violations
There are certain rules and ethics in the legal world that no one should violate, whether it be an intern, a paralegal or an attorney.
- Attorney-client relationship: Having a personal relationship with your client is strictly prohibited in law, or even in any profession. Every meeting and every phone call must strictly be professional and the paralegal must never indulge in any relationship that is beyond the case they’re attending to. This is a major ethics violation that could even get a license confiscated.
- Negotiating the fees: Negotiating the fees with the client is the job of the attorney, and the paralegal must not interfere in the financial process. Clients may raise the matter of cost completely innocently, but paralegals have to be prepared to deflect these discussions and direct clients to the attorney instead.
- Misrepresentation: A paralegal cannot legally represent the client without the attorney, thus if being a paralegal you claim representation, it could prove to be a major ethics violation.
- Do not give legal advice: As a paralegal, you’re not in the position to offer your clients any legal advice so it’s better to be tight-lipped and keep comments and advice to yourself only. You can say things when you’re in private space with your supervisor, but make sure you don’t violate any rules by giving legal advice to your client.
What can a Paralegal do without an Attorney?
A paralegal- also known as a legal assistant- is bound to strictly maneuver within certain boundaries set by the legal system. Here is a list of some of the things that a paralegal can do without an attorney:
- Handling paperwork and managing contracts, pleadings, court motions, shareholder agreements, and many other types of documents
- Organize client files, conduct factual and legal research, prepare documents for legal transactions, draft pleadings and discovery notices, interview clients and witnesses, and assist at closings and trials
- Interviewing witnesses
- Attend court or administrative hearings, real estate closings, and trials with the attorney
- Summarize depositions, testimony, and interrogations
Even though paralegals aren’t licensed lawyers, they are fully trained in the legal world, which is why on average they earn somewhere around $7.25 to $32.50 per hour, with an average of most paralegals of around $15.49 per hour.
Different states have different salaries for their paralegals- let’s have a look.
|State||Hourly Wage||Annual Salary|
|New York – Paralegal Salary||$24.10||$50,119|
|Massachusetts – Paralegal Salary||$23.87||$49,645|
|Washington – Paralegal Salary||$23.70||$49,299|
|New Hampshire – Paralegal Salary||$23.23||$48,316|
|Hawaii – Paralegal Salary||$22.92||$47,681|
|Maryland – Paralegal Salary||$22.12||$46,009|
|Connecticut – Paralegal Salary||$22.11||$45,994|
|Rhode Island – Paralegal Salary||$21.93||$45,620|
|Alaska – Paralegal Salary||$21.90||$45,562|
|Vermont – Paralegal Salary||$21.81||$45,372|
|Nebraska – Paralegal Salary||$21.79||$45,315|
|Nevada – Paralegal Salary||$21.73||$45,204|
|North Dakota – Paralegal Salary||$21.65||$45,033|
|Wyoming – Paralegal Salary||$21.63||$44,994|
|California – Paralegal Salary||$21.60||$44,921|
|Virginia – Paralegal Salary||$21.50||$44,721|
|Kentucky – Paralegal Salary||$21.07||$43,821|
|South Dakota – Paralegal Salary||$21.02||$43,718|
|New Jersey – Paralegal Salary||$20.97||$43,623|
|West Virginia – Paralegal Salary||$20.95||$43,570|
|Pennsylvania – Paralegal Salary||$20.85||$43,359|
|South Carolina – Paralegal Salary||$20.74||$43,135|
|Minnesota – Paralegal Salary||$20.72||$43,095|
|Oregon – Paralegal Salary||$20.67||$42,991|
|Delaware – Paralegal Salary||$20.67||$42,985|
|Tennessee – Paralegal Salary||$20.65||$42,955|
|Colorado – Paralegal Salary||$20.64||$42,928|
|Montana – Paralegal Salary||$20.62||$42,896|
|Ohio – Paralegal Salary||$20.50||$42,645|
|Wisconsin – Paralegal Salary||$20.45||$42,544|
|Arizona – Paralegal Salary||$20.41||$42,455|
|Kansas – Paralegal Salary||$20.32||$42,272|
|Utah – Paralegal Salary||$20.31||$42,253|
|Indiana – Paralegal Salary||$20.28||$42,183|
|Oklahoma – Paralegal Salary||$20.25||$42,116|
|Idaho – Paralegal Salary||$20.19||$41,997|
|Maine – Paralegal Salary||$20.18||$41,965|
|Louisiana – Paralegal Salary||$20.09||$41,795|
|Iowa – Paralegal Salary||$19.89||$41,364|
|Georgia – Paralegal Salary||$19.69||$40,956|
|Texas – Paralegal Salary||$19.46||$40,486|
|New Mexico – Paralegal Salary||$19.42||$40,398|
|Michigan – Paralegal Salary||$19.37||$40,296|
|Arkansas – Paralegal Salary||$19.36||$40,266|
|Illinois – Paralegal Salary||$19.25||$40,047|
|Alabama – Paralegal Salary||$19.23||$39,998|
|Mississippi – Paralegal Salary||$19.04||$39,593|
|Missouri – Paralegal Salary||$18.99||$39,500|
|Florida – Paralegal Salary||$18.56||$38,602|
|North Carolina – Paralegal Salary||$17.67||$36,757|
Note: Sample rates have been extracted online, courtesy of ZipRecruiter.
A paralegal is a lawyer in the making, who works under close supervision of the attorney, and even though they’re not allowed to do a lot of the legal stuff, they’re still permitted to do some. If the paralegal breaks the rules that come with the job, they could be charged with an ethics violation which will result negatively on their career and professional path.