Unspoken Paralegal Expectations
By J. Hauck, Paralegal Instructor
Law firms, like most employers, carry spoken and unspoken expectations of their paralegal employees. A higher paying firm will be more likely to place greater expectations on an employee’s responsibilities. Many good lawyers echo the famous sentiment, “To whom much is given, much is required.” The following information will help you recognize the common unspoken paralegal expectations that come along with most paralegal positions.
Never fear that you will not be rewarded for all of your extra effort. Whether it is for three months or five years, the hard work will pay off. Attorneys need to see the consistent hard work and dedication before offering bonuses. In a legal environment, it is much better to over-perform with an excellent attitude. In fact, the more open you keep your daily expectations, the better you will fit in with the culture.
Additionally, many paralegals and legal assistants want to fit in with their colleagues. This is not a bad thing if you keep in mind your colleagues are not who you are trying to impress. In other words, the attorney you work for is the person who should receive the best of your time and efforts. It is a common career error to give more weight to the expectations [thoughts or strategies] of your lunch buddies than to the attorney you work for.
WHAT PARALEGALS DO
In regards to expectations an employer may have, it is important to recognize when too little or too much is being asked of you. Through Blackstone’s online paralegal programs, you will see the intricacies of a paralegal career and learn that a paralegal assists lawyers with researching facts for cases, prepares documents, maintains files, and prepares for trial. Paralegals’ tasks may vary from being more specialized (in larger firms) to more generalized (in smaller firms). Tasks can include:
- Researching and investigating facts or laws related to a case
- Maintaining files and documents for various cases
- Interviewing witnesses to gather and investigate evidence
- Writing reports and compiling legal documents such as memos, briefs, depositions, or procedural motions
- Taking notes for attorneys
- Working with teams of other paralegals, attorneys, and staff on cases
WHAT PARALEGALS DO NOT DO
Just as important as what paralegals do, understanding what paralegals can’t do will tell you if any unspoken expectations are unrealistic. Paralegals cannot provide legal services or advice directly to the public. Instead, they must work under the supervision of an attorney, who is ultimately liable for their work. Paralegals cannot be called “officers of the court,” cannot be “counsel of record” in court proceedings and cannot sign court documents (except in limited circumstances, such as functioning as a notary). Paralegals can choose to seek certification by organizations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). However, in some states paralegals are required to meet certain standards and become “certified” or “registered” at the state level.
Blackstone Career Institute’s nationally accredited Legal Assistant/Paralegal online training program includes the 900 clock hours of coursework needed to sit for the Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) exam and/or the Professional Paralegal (PP) certification, given by NALS, the association for legal professionals. Graduates of our online paralegal program will also meet the accredited business/legal course criteria needed to sit for the Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal (CLA/CP) exam given by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Prepare to become a paralegal with our online certificate program.
Enhance Your Career with A Paralegal Certificate from Blackstone
Interested in learning how to become a paralegal? Are you looking to specialize in a specific area of the paralegal profession? Choose to advance your education and increase your experience by contacting our helpful faculty and staff directly, today! Contact us at (800) 826-9228 to learn more and enhance your education with Blackstone!