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Everyone knows behind every great attorney is a team of loyal and dedicated secretaries, assistants, investigators and paralegals. Each brings his own strengths to the table and together, a great team can play a significant role in a lawyer and his firm’s success. Paralegals are an intricate part of a law firm.

A paralegal, or sometimes “legal assistant” is one who is qualified via training, education and/or previous work experience within the legal sector. That experience comes from a law firm, a corporation, a government agency or anywhere else where a lawyer is responsible for the work that’s being done. They are highly qualified and accept many responsibilities throughout the course of their careers. Their work is substantive and significant and quite often, they put in as much as their lawyers do.

While each state has its own educational and experience requirements, paralegals are not a replacement for a lawyer (although some feel as though they are at times), says A. Harrison Barnes, attorney and founder of LawCrossing.com. There are, however, different certification levels that include various certification processes. Some of those associations include:

” The National Association of Paralegals (NALA)

” The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)

” The American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI)

Since the late 1960s, the American Bar Association, or ABA, has “endorsed the use of paralegals and established the first committee on paralegals in the country”.

According to A. Harrison Barnes, paralegals are generally given their tasks by the attorneys they work for and will vary on a daily basis, from one law firm to another and from lawyer to another within the same firm. They review client files, organize files, conduct various legal research efforts, type pleadings, notices and witness statements and will often sit in on meetings between lawyers and their clients. They often work as a liaison between the attorney and clients and will generally ease the load on the attorneys they’re assigned to.

Paralegals are not synonymous with administrative assistants. They are usually privy to information secretaries and other assistants do not have access to. They accompany lawyers to court and ensure the files are organized so that the lawyers can present the different cases. They ensure witnesses arrive to the courtroom on time and they meet with these clients to ensure they’re aware of what’s being expected of them.

Many law firms agree the addition of a paralegal allows them to reduce costs, thereby reducing the fees that are passed on to their clients. Since the paralegal will work as a “go between” with the lawyers and clients, it’s usually a more satisfying experience for the client as he feels as though he’s being “kept in the loop” at all times; a practice a lawyer who’s working without the benefit of a paralegal might not be able to provide.

Salaries will vary, as well. An experienced paralegal can expect to make an impressive salary. Even those recently certified paralegals discover their salary negotiations are smooth. It stands to reason the more experience, the most impressive the salary.

For those considering a change of pace, opting for a career as a paralegal is both rewarding and challenging, says the LawCrossing.com founder.

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