Where to Find Legal Assistant Jobs
Most paralegals and legal assistants find jobs in law firms, corporate legal departments, insurance companies, and various government offices. Within these organizations, legal assistants – also called paralegals – often work in many areas of law, including litigation, personal injury, medical malpractice, divorce law, business and corporate law, labor law, bankruptcy, immigration, intellectual property, wills and trusts, and contract law. The duties they perform relate directly in relation to the type of organization for which they work.
- Corporate legal assistants, or paralegals, might assist an attorney with legal documents such as agreements between company share holders and plans involving stock options. They routinely help draft and file financial reports, prepare forms such as loan applications, and stay on top of federal and state regulations and requirements which might impact the operation of the corporation. Corporate paralegals may also assist in the preparation of employee documents such as contracts and benefit plans.
- Litigation paralegals help attorneys get ready for trial. They may prepare exhibits, trial notebooks, jury instructions, and may assist with the drafting of legal arguments and the preparation of witnesses. They usually accompany supervising attorneys to hearings, the pretrial conference, and frequently assist attorneys during trial, especially with technology-related tasks in the courtroom.
- Paralegals who work in community legal aid organizations help give poor, aged, and otherwise disadvantaged people access to legal services. They may help file forms, conduct legal research, prepare legal documents, and when authorized by law, may at times appear on a client’s behalf at administrative hearings.
- Bankruptcy paralegals may interview clients to get information necessary to file the bankruptcy petition. They also might communicate to clients the documents needed when filing bankruptcy, such as tax returns, certificates of title, and bank statements. In the case of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a paralegal may draft, serve, and file monthly financial statements for the client. Visit the collections jobs section of JobMonkey for more about bankruptcy.
- Legal assistants who work with attorneys who practice family law normally due a fair amount of “hand-holding” to help parties through a divorce or child custody case by taking many anxious phone calls where reassurance, and not necessarily legal advice, is needed. They often help determine child support requirements, calculate child support, and help determine whether grounds for divorce or dissolution exist.
- Immigration paralegals are often fluent in at least one language in addition to English. Their duties include functioning as a liaison between their supervising attorney and the client, especially if there are language barriers. They may obtain and coordinate supporting documents for petitions and applications to be filed with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of Labor, and sometimes also coordinate the translation of foreign documents.
- The intellectual property area of law often requires paralegals to maintain files of new products and inventions, conduct patent or trademark searches, and draft copyright applications. They might also conduct on-line searches of technical literature for patent or trademark purposes, and draft registered user agreements.
- Paralegals who work in probate and estate-planning practices draft court documents for guardianships and conservatorships, draft wills and trusts, order certified copies of documents, and obtain data for estate planning. They might also file life insurance and other death-benefit claims for clients, and ensure that the proper notices are published to interested persons.
- Real estate paralegals attend closings with their supervising attorneys, order title searches or conduct them, do the legwork involved in the purchase of title insurance, and check and review zoning requirements. They routinely draft various types of deeds, including warranty, quit-claim, and grant deeds. They also assist clients in obtaining homeowner’s insurance and draft purchase contracts and escrow instructions.
- Personal injury paralegals request, organize and summarize medical records, order accident reports, and correspond with insurance claim representatives regarding subrogation interests. They assist their attorneys in the preparation of settlement demands, calendar statutes of limitation, and prepare legal documents such as summons and complaints to file the case in court
- Paralegals who work for attorneys who practice in the area of securities law routinely draft resolutions for the issuance of bonds, prepare the annual report for a company’s shareholders, obtain a variety of certified documents from state agencies, and schedule the printing of bonds. They also attend closings, and analyze insurance policies and legal descriptions.
- Insurance paralegals may work within a legal department of an insurance company, or for a law firm representing an insurance company. Their work is usually related defending insurance companies in personal injury claims. Duties often involve reviewing the insurance company’s policies or the plaintiff’s medical information, interviewing witnesses, gathering facts in a case, preparing documents, and assisting defense insurance attorneys with trial preparation.
- Legal assistants who work for government agencies usually work for prosecuting attorneys or public defenders. These paralegals prepare documents such as complaints, exhibits, and statements that their supervising attorneys will use when prosecuting or defending those charged with crimes at the local, state, and federal level.
- Nurse paralegals specialize in the medical area, and usually have formal education and training in medicine and/or nursing, understand medical terms, and are adept at deciphering medical records. They are able to communicate with expert medical witnesses and medical providers, making them valuable members of the personal injury legal team. Some nurses who want to make a career change that will build upon their medical background become nurse paralegals.
- Some paralegals choose to work in banking institutions, usually in the trust or mortgage department. Because the banking industry is heavily regulated by state and federal agencies, the duties of banking paralegals may involve gathering and organizing data for periodic reports, assisting with audits and compliance reports, keeping abreast of regulatory changes, and providing training for employees who routinely address regulatory issues. Learn about banking and finance jobs in another section of JobMonkey.
Paralegals who want to be their own boss may decide to go into consulting. Consulting paralegals work on a contract basis, performing special projects such as trial preparation and courtroom technology, for attorneys who either do not employ a full-time paralegal or choose to hire a consultant like Karen Anderson Miller to help them get ready for trial.