Paralegal or legal assistant is “a distinguishable person who assists attorneys in the delivery of legal services. Through formal education, training and experience, legal assistant has knowledge and expertise regarding the legal system and substantive and procedural law which qualify them to do work of a legal nature under the supervision of an attorney.”
In the United States, there are more than 120,000 paralegals that have received paralegal certificates that do tasks and become vital members of the legal community. Paralegal are either hired by lawyers, law firms, corporations, governmental agency, or other groups of the same manner.
Paralegals, as a legal assistant have limited task. They could mot represent a client in court not give legal advice. They cannot set fee or accept a case. In short paralegals cannot assume the duties that are set for legal officers only.
However, paralegals can perform tasks under the supervision of the attorney. These can be, but not limited to, conducting client interview without bridging the gap between paralegal and attorney. Paralegals can also conduct survey, investigations, and research whether statistical or documentary. Paralegals can also summarize depositions, interrogatories and testimony. They can also attend hearings and trial with the attorney. And with legal assistance, paralegals can author and sign correspondence but does not include legal opinions.
But becoming must have a formal education about the profession. The Associate Degree Programs, Bachelor Degree Programs, and Master’s Degree Program are some of this. There is also what we can the Certificate Program that is offered to various educational institutions that can be between 16-60 semester units.
Some educational institutions accept student and afterward award paralegal certificates to those who finished at least three semesters in college or 36 units credits. There are also eight courses in legal studies to finish before a paralegal certificate can be given. These are Business Law, Family Law, Introduction to Civil Procedures, Introduction to Criminal Law, Bankruptcy, Real Estate Law, Legal Research and Writing, and Legal Ethics.
Upon completion of the course, but before the awarding of paralegal certificate, the individual is not yet to be called paralegal, because the paralegal certificate can be obtained by standards set by the American Bar Association. The standard requires completion of the Certified Legal Assistant certifying (CLA) examination of the National Association of Legal Assistants. The school that award paralegal certificate should have “American Bar Association approved program of study for legal assistants.” The candidate should first graduate “from a course of study for legal assistants which is institutionally accredited but not ABA approved, and which requires not less than the equivalent of 60 semester hours of classroom study.”
In addition, a paralegal certificate can be obtained he the candidate graduated from “a course of study for legal assistants, other than those set forth in (2) and (3) above, plus not less than six months of in-house training as a legal assistant.” He or she should also have an attained baccalaureate degree in any field with an "in-house training as a legal assistant" not lower than six months. Achieving all these, paralegal certificate is ready to be given.
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