Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

What is this job like?

Paralegals, or legal assistants, help lawyers in their work. They perform some of the same tasks as lawyers. Paralegals investigate cases to make sure that lawyers know all of the important facts.

Paralegals also do research. They look up laws and past cases in books and on computers. Then, they write reports that lawyers use to help prepare their cases. They also keep track of the documents related to the case. What paralegals do depends on where they work. For example, some paralegals help to write contracts and mortgages. Some help to prepare income tax returns and other financial documents.

Most paralegals work a typical 40-hour week. Most work year round, but some are only employed during busy times of the year. In law firms, some paralegals work very long hours. Most of their work is done at desks in offices and law libraries.

How do you get ready?

There are several ways to become a paralegal. Most people go to a community college for a 2-year degree. A few schools offer bachelor's or master's degrees in paralegal studies.

Some people learn on the job. Sometimes, legal secretaries become paralegals.

Paralegals need good research and writing skills. They should also be able to use computers. Paralegals often deal with the public, so they should be polite. They also have to be honest and ethical.

To start getting ready for this job, students can take English classes to learn how to write and do research. Social studies classes teach about research and the law. People who want to be paralegals need strong reading skills.

Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
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