Paralegals and Legal Assistants
In every area of law, paralegals form the clerical support structure the legal system has come to rely on.
What is a Paralegal?
The American Bar Association (ABA) defines a paralegal as:
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.
Paralegals are becoming recognized for their ability to develop a similar degree of expertise, and offer a similar set of services, as fully-fledged lawyers, but at a fraction of the cost …
- Document preparation, including drafting agreements, contracts, and briefs.
- Representing parties in administrative law hearings.
- Providing legal information to a general audience.
- Explaining procedural issues of law.
These kinds of legal services do not revolve around practicing law outright and the degree of formal education required to become a lawyer is really more expensive and takes more time than it is worth to provide these more basic services.
The precedent that is starting to emerge is that lawyers are there to practice law… and paralegals are there to provide general legal services and do just about everything else that lawyers are traditionally known for. It all comes down to economics; it simply doesn’t make sense for a layer to charge hundreds of dollars an hour for services a paralegal is fully qualified to perform.
With their more task-focused education and training, paralegals can develop a similar level of expertise in almost any legal specialty and offer a degree of skill and competence that sometimes exceeds what a lawyer could offer. And since paralegals don’t have massive tuition bills from law school to pay off, they can do it for considerably less money.
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