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Paralegal Research Paper

LIBS100
Thalia Ray

The role of a paralegal is to be an assistant to the lawyer in charge. Just like a


nurse knows what a doctor is doing during a surgery he/she does not have the authority to
perform the surgery. The same is true for a paralegal; he/she has the legal knowledge but does
not have the authority to perform the lawyer’s duties. Paralegals are authorized to perform all
duties of a lawyer except the giving of legal advice and appearing in court as council, these
duties are reserved for lawyers alone. The job of the paralegal is to perform the research,
paperwork, and basic duties of a case so the lawyer can concentrate on the client’s needs and the
details of the case. The paralegal is a vital part of the legal team.

According to (Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations, 2009, Regulation of the


Paralegal Profession, Para 3)

Because of the lack of formal definition, it is not unusual to have a


legal secretary or other personnel in the legal environment referred to
as a legal assistant. Additionally, there are many similar terms such
as: legal technician, attorney assistant, independent paralegal,
contract paralegal, etc., which further confuses the public.

This is why in 1998 the Alliance (Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations)


designated the term paralegal to be the preferred title and all member associations adopted the
term formally changing the names to reflect the removal of the “legal assistant” terminology.
Today the definition of a Paralegal is as stated by the (Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations,
2009, Regulation of the Paralegal Profession, Para 4) “Is a person who has special training; who
is knowledgeable about legal issues; and who works under the supervision of a lawyer.”

The reason I chose to pursue this profession was I have always been fascinated
with the law, the way a law written say fifty years ago can be just as relevant now as when it was
written. I feel my passion for researching, investigating, trying to find the truth no matter where
it may lead attitude will help me in this field. I also feel that my deliberative strengths will serve
me very well in this field since I will need to be thorough in my research in order to make the job
easier for the lawyer to do their job. To work in the profession you do not have to believe in all
the laws written but you must obey them. The internal angst that you sometimes feel because you
do not agree with a law, thinking it unjust but you have to professionally support and defend it
because without laws there is anarchy and chaos. The lawyer or paralegal can help to change the
laws they personally oppose, but they must also obey those same laws until the law is changed
no matter if they oppose it or not.

In doing my research I decided to research more regional compared to national


requirements since I reside in Florida and therefore Florida requirements and regulations would
Paralegal Research Paper
LIBS100
Thalia Ray

be what I had to follow. Certification for a paralegal in Florida is voluntary but there are not a lot
of positions for non certified paralegals. If you are not already in a paralegal position and would
like to enter the field for the first time it is recommended that you get the certification for CP
(Certified Paralegal) which requires the passing of five tests in a three year period. According to
(National Association of Legal Assistants, 2009, CP Statistics Para 1) “Since the examination
was first administered in 1976, over 25,000 have participated in this program” nationwide. Even
though there is not a required certification it appears that NALA (National Association of Legal
Assistants) has developed the most widely recognized CP certification. The article on (National
Association of Legal Assistants, 2009, CP Exam Description) describes the process and gives the
requirements for the certification for this exam. There are 5 parts of the test and they have to be
passed at one time and with a passing grade of at least a 70%. As referenced in (National
Association of Legal Assistants, 2009, Certified Paralegal Examinee Information) there are many
ways to meet the requirements for certification eligibility.

The first thing that enters your mind when you think of the law field is the criminal court
system and that is what I thought of when I first thought of being a paralegal. I have found
though there are so many other avenues for a paralegal that I wanted to research a few of them in
detail.

The first being family law, when I researched this area I found that not only would I be
working with families and the lawyer on the case but also departments in the state government
like the department of family services and also sometimes law enforcement agencies. This
position would require not only empathy for the family but also a successful working
relationship with government agencies. I feel that my empathy for children and people in general
that are having hardships will help me in this area. I found that the job consisted of various
general duties relating to divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, marital property
settlement and adoption. The job duties are helping with the preparation of discovery, searching
financial or tax records and arranging mediations just to name a few. The position not only
requires a broad knowledge of various laws but also being sensitive towards the client because
most of the time you are dealing with people who are facing divorce or some other traumatic
phase of life. In this position you serve as a liaison between the client and the attorney and you
must be able to handle not only the legal side, but also the human emotional aspect of the cases.

A corporate paralegal often assists attorneys with shareholder agreements, employee


contracts, employee benefit plans, stock-option plans, annual financial reports; they may
maintain corporate minutes and prepare forms to secure corporate loans. Paralegals in this field
often monitor and review government regulations to ensure that the corporation is aware of any
new requirements or regulations. This position will require not only dedication to the job but also
a lot of research of laws and government regulations. I think my deliberative attitude would best
serve me in this area, you don’t need empathy for anyone in this specialty but you need to get
your fact’s right and I think I am analytical enough to be able to do that.
Paralegal Research Paper
LIBS100
Thalia Ray

Litigation paralegals analyze legal material for internal use, maintain reference files,
conduct research, collect and analyze evidence for hearings, prepare informative material on
laws, agency regulations and policy for general use by the agency and the public. This specialty
not only consists of the duties of paralegal but also seem to be more behind the scenes, no real
interaction with the client but more in the background gathering information and analyzing it.

There are many different specialties in the field that I cannot begin to list them but you
can find a list of some of them referenced at (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006, National
Employment Matrix) the list was comprised in 2006 and gives a breakdown of what industries
are utilizing the services of a paralegal and the projected change in 2016. This is a very
informative chart and one that not only shows the diversity of the profession but also gives an
insight to the possible changes coming in the future.

This field has not only a variety of specialties but also a variety of pay ranges. The range
varies greatly according to (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009, Occupational Outlook Handbook
2008-09 Edition Earnings Section, Para 1,) “Salaries depend on education, training, experience,
the type and size of employer, and the geographic location of the job.” The highest wages seem
to be earned by federal employees with the department of justice being the largest employer and
the median earned is around forty three thousand annual with the bottom earnings being in the
state government positions. This is very helpful to know since I will be in a lot of debt from
school and also the state of the economy is not as stable as it once was. Recession does have an
impact on the field by the amount of jobs that become available in the private sector. The first
thing that people put off is estate planning and the drafting of wills, things that a paralegal would
perform and people feel that they can do at a later date.

The future of the paralegal profession is bright according to (Bureau of Labor


Statistics, 2009, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2008-09 Edition, Job Outlook Section, Para 2)
the profession will increase by 22% by 2016 although there will be more competition for these
positions because this field is attracting more people because of the job outlook of the field.
Since the downturn of the economy the private sector has embraced the paralegal field by
delegating duties once reserved for attorneys to a paralegal. These cut costs for the company and
makes the paralegal more valuable and useful to companies.

Florida has lots of associations that you can join if you are a paralegal but not one
of them is required to be a paralegal. NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants) being the
biggest and the strongest association. Since a paralegal is part of the legal community, the BAR
Association is also an association that is desirable to join. These two associations will be the first
that I apply for admission to when I receive my Associate degree in Paralegal Studies at Bryant
and Stratton. I feel that they will be the most helpful to me in my new career.

The specialization that I will most likely enter has not been decided yet, I will
most likely pursue the family law avenue or find a position within the federal government but not
Paralegal Research Paper
LIBS100
Thalia Ray

absolutely sure yet. I want to research more during my time in school before I declare what
specialty I want.

In conclusion the paralegal field is expanding every day, responsibilities and duties are
being expanded while more and more people enter the field. The hours are long and the duties
full of responsibility, but I think that suits me well. I take on responsibility with fervor and am a
workaholic so what some would see as a downside to the position I see as an asset. For this
reason, I think this field is ideal for me and I will feel good about being a part of it. The
profession has evolved extensively in the last 30 years from a low paid assistant position to a
highly trained, respected profession of its own and I will be happy to join the ranks of this proud
and dutiful crowd that call themselves a paralegal.
Paralegal Research Paper
LIBS100
Thalia Ray

References:

Bureau of Labor Statistics,(2006),National Employment Matrix,bls.gov, Retrieved June


10,2009, from ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/ep/ind-
occ.matrix/occ_pdf/occ_23-2011.pdf

Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations,(2009), About, Regulation of the Paralegal


Profession, Para 3,fapainc.org, Retrieved May 24, 2009 from
http://www.fapainc.org/AboutFAPA.html

Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations,(2009), About, Regulation of the Paralegal


Profession, Para 4,fapainc.org, Retrieved May 24, 2009 from
http://www.fapainc.org/AboutFAPA.html

National Association of Legal Assistants,(2009), Certified Paralegal Examinee Information,


nala.org, Retrieved June 10, 2009 from http://www.nala.org/examinee.aspx

National Association of Legal Assistants,(2009), CP Exam Description, nala.org, Retrieved


June 10, 2009 from http://www.nala.org/examdesc.aspx

National Association of Legal Assistants,(2009), Certification,nala.org, Association of Legal


Assistants, Background and Numbers ,nala.org, Retrieved May 28,2009 from
http://www.nala.org/Upload/file/PDF-Files/CP_Statistics_May_2009.pdf