Paralegals and Legal Assistants

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Also known as:
Assistant Paralegal, Legal Aide, Legal Assistant, Paralegal, Summer Associate, Summer Law Clerk

Video transcript

Paralegals, or legal assistants, first appeared in the late 1960's. Since that time, they have taken on much of the routine work lawyers once did themselves. Paralegals do almost everything that attorneys do except appear in court, set legal fees, or give legal advice. Many spend their time using law libraries or inline computer systems to find the information a lawyer needs in order to prepare for trial. Paralegals may also draw up contracts, affidavits, and other documents.

After researching the facts and analyzing the law, they may write reports to help an attorney determine how to proceed in a given matter. Formal training is not always required as some employers provide on-the-job training; however, a variety of paralegal programs are widely available. Individuals who pass the National Association of Legal Assistants Certifying Board Exam earn the title, "certified legal assistant," and may use the initials CLA after their names.

Working as a paralegal is an excellent way to prepare for a career a lawyer, but many find it to be a rewarding profession in and of itself. In an increasingly competitive market, paralegals help law firms offer clients excellent legal services at a lower cost. That makes a good paralegal an invaluable part of a firm's legal team.


Assist lawyers by investigating facts, preparing legal documents, or researching legal precedent. Conduct research to support a legal proceeding, to formulate a defense, or to initiate legal action.