Over the last several years, the paralegal profession has grown tremendously.  With the help of paralegal associations and local colleges, the paralegal/legal assistant is becoming one of the top ten professions in the job market today.  With specialized legal training, a paralegal can increase a law firm's revenue while at the same time, decreasing an attorney's workload.

Many area colleges offer two and four year paralegal degrees.  Some of the more reputable colleges offer ABA (American Bar Association) approved paralegal programs which are preferred by firm's looking for paralegals..

What is a paralegal?  A paralegal works under the supervision of an attorney, and is able to perform many of the tasks that an attorney performs.  Paralegals are not permitted to give legal advice or practice law, however, they are becoming a "right arm" for many attorneys.  With the help of education and experience, paralegals are able to prepare many legal documents and perform legal research for attorneys.

Some examples of services and documents that a paralegal is able to provide are categorized as follows:

Estate and Trust Administration:
Drafting Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, Living Will, Power of Attorney (financial),  Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts and Trust & Probate Administration including transferring of assets, estate tax preparation, accounting and distribution of assets.

Domestic Relations:
Drafting Separation Agreements, Petitions for Dissolution, Complaints for Divorce, child support calculations and forms required by the Domestic Relations Court; 

Bankruptcy
Drafting Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 petitions and various pleadings related to adversary proceedings;

Corporate:
Drafting Articles of Incorporation, Operating Agreements, Minutes, By-Laws, Corporate Dissolutions and documents required by the Secretary of State;

Litigation:
Drafting Complaints, Interrogatories, Request for Documents, Request for Admissions and various other civil pleadings. [Of course, the supervising attorney must review each document, no matter how good the paralegal is or how much experience the paralegal has.

Other areas of interest for Paralegals include:

Social Security Disability,

Medicaid Planning,

Special Needs Trusts,

Special Education,

Intellectual Property,

Real Estate,

Mergers & Acquisitions
and many others..

Paralegals are not only employed by law firms, but they are also found in government agencies and corporations.  Many paralegals often "free-lance" their position by performing work for different attorneys at their own leisure. 

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Helpful Tips for Paralegal Students...what they don't teach you in class...
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The goal of each paralegal program is to give the paralegal student the tools they need to succeed in the profession.  Unless you are physically working in the field, however, some of these tools can only be learned on the job.

~ Join your local paralegal association to obtain valuable networking and mentoring resources.

~ Don't expect to make the 'big bucks' right after graduation.

~ Brush up on your computer skills.

~ When preparing your resume, don't over state what your abilities are...(
they will find out if you can't do something!!)

~ Take an extra writing course to improve your attention to detail...many mistakes that are made in drafting are common sense errors, such as misspellings and lack of proofreading skills.

~ Remember that each office is different.  Some have software programs to help format documents...some do not.  Some have a directory of frequently used forms for each practice area...some do not. 

~ Remember that paralegals are bound by the Attorney/Client priviledge...keep that in mind when discussing a case outside closed doors.

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