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Definition of a Paralegal

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The American Bar Association defines a paralegal as: A legal assistant or paralegal is a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.

While the definition of the paralegal seems to be continuing to evolve and change so do their duties and job functions. “Only statutory, court authority or a supervising attorney’s determination of a paralegal’s competency limits the tasks a paralegal may perform. Paralegals perform the same functions as an attorney except those prohibited by unauthorized practice of law statutes, i.e., accepting clients, setting legal fees, giving legal advice or representing others in court.” National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc., Paralegal Responsibilities, 1, 2011. It is because of the job functions that Paralegals must have certain “core” skills to perform necessary tasks. “…such as communication, initiative, resourcefulness, problem solving, perseverance, teamwork, leadership and self-motivation.” Thomas Goldman & Henry Cheeseman, The Paralegal Professional, 7, 4th ed., 2014. Mastering these skills can be an invaluable resource to both you and a prospective employer. Communication between a client and their attorney are protected under the rule of evidence, attorney-client privilege. This privilege by extension passes through to the attorney’s support staff (the paralegal) and others the lawyer may need in their duty to their client.
No state yet requires licensure, however a few have set basic competency requirements, and voluntary certification. With both clients and the courts trending toward using paralegals more, as a cost saving measure, the level of education and degrees are increasing as the functions...

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