What Do Paralegals Do?
You might think that paralegals only work in law offices, but opportunities in this exciting field also exist in large and small corporations, government agencies, banks, nonprofits and insurance companies. In a legal setting, you would support attorneys, perform basic research, and even meet with clients to gather information. But the attention to detail and critical skills you need to be a paralegal are valuable in almost any profession. And paralegals are expected to see much faster than average job growth through 2029. Is this a good career path for you?
Here are just some of the responsibilities you might have in various legal specialties:
Paralegals Prepare for Court Cases
Whether it’s a criminal case or civil lawsuit where one party sues another, as a paralegal, you would help conduct research and prepare legal arguments. You might interview the client and witnesses, review medical, police and other records, and even assist in the courtroom during a trial. You will communicate with clients, witnesses, law enforcement, judges, investigators and forensic experts.
Work on Estate Planning and Probate Cases as a Paralegal
After someone dies, their estate must be settled with their heirs for distribution of the assets. In Estate Planning, you would draft documents such as powers of attorney, wills, trusts, transfer deeds, healthcare proxies, and life insurance trusts. You might need to conduct estate tax research or work with executors to make sure the terms of a will are met and beneficiaries get what they’re entitled to.
Paralegals Prepare for Real Estate Closings
There are lots of facts and figures to gather for the buyer and the seller during real estate transactions. Under the supervision of an attorney, you would calculate how much each party owes the other, and make sure all documents are ready for signatures at the closing. You might also work for a title insurance company where you would prepare title insurance policies and help clear any title discrepancies.
Paralegals Investigate Insurance Claims
Large insurance companies often have lawyers who work in right their offices. When a customer or another party files a claim, the attorney’s job—and their trusted paralegal—work to make sure the claim is legitimate and help decide a fair settlement amount. You might help investigate a car accident to see who was at fault, or if it’s a personal injury lawsuit, you might check someone’s social media account to make sure they are not off skiing when they claim to be disabled. And if your company is working on new products, you might handle the insurance filings with your state.
Paralegals Help Immigrants
Immigration law is complex and evolving. Working in this field, you might help to prepare visa applications, assist clients as they apply for a green card, write petitions for political asylum, or help people gain citizenship through naturalization. You might also help clients facing deportation if they are living in the U.S. legally.
Work for a Cause as a Paralegal
Nonprofit organizations have a need for good paralegals. Depending on the organization’s goals, such as helping the environment or advocating for fair housing, you would research government regulations and then apply them to a current initiative. You might help someone who is being evicted or facing foreclosure, or you could work to get a company that is polluting the environment to stop their harmful practices.
Regardless of the kind of law you focus on, you’ll need to keep up excellent records. You will use legal database software for recordkeeping and generating reports. You might also set up a filing system so that members of a firm can quickly locate records and important documents. And you’ll need to keep up government rules and regulations and share your discoveries with the attorneys and members of the legal team.
At National American University, we offer Paralegal Studies programs approved by the ABA for online delivery that are flexible and convenient. An Associate or Bachelor’s degree will give you a solid foundation to become a successful paralegal. If you already have some experience or a certificate in a law-related field, you may be able to transfer those credits to your degree program so you can start ahead.