Paralegals help lawyers to become more efficient because they free up their time to concentrate on important client issues and spend less time on paperwork which although important can be very time-consuming. In order to be a good legal assistant, you will need to be very well organized and have the ability to work to tight deadlines. You will also need to be able to prioritize your work tasks particularly if you work for more than one lawyer. As you attain more seniority you may be responsible for looking after more junior legal assistants.
Generally speaking although a paralegal may compile the legal research, review the evidence and write the legal briefs, they are generally not legally responsible if a mistake has been made. The responsibility rests with the lawyer who employed him or her.
With the exception of the state of California it is not necessary to hold any qualifications to work as a paralegal. But with competition being quite fierce for jobs in some areas, you may find it easier to secure a position if you have at least passed a paralegal certificate exam. If you have been working in the legal practice for a number of years, perhaps as a legal secretary, you may find that your existing employer will be prepared to help meet the costs of your paralegal studies. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask the question and you may be pleasantly surprised by the answer.
Some paralegal training programs will incorporate an internship as part of their study program. An internship is important because it provides you with practical experience working in a law firm. You may find yourself working for a bank, government agency or in a corporate legal department. If you already know the area of law you wish to specialize in, you should ask your student representative or the college placement officer to try to place you with a relevant internship. Gaining relevant work experience will help to give your paralegal resume the edge.