Paralegals are the bridge between the law office and the courtroom. They perform a great deal of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into preparing and presenting cases, including research, fact-checking, preparing arguments, interviewing witnesses, and helping to manage the office.
Paralegal degree programs cover much the same ground as law school, but they are not as rigorous and demanding. Paralegal studies graduates have a lot of the same knowledge and skills as law school graduates, but they cannot sit for the bar exam. They are not lawyers and as such cannot give legal advice or defend cases in the courtroom. However, they are in all other ways equal to lawyers, and lawyers depend a great deal on the paralegal and legal secretary teams.
Paralegals need to have strong computer skills, since so much of the research for and preparation of cases is done on computers. They also have to write a lot of legal documents. And finally, paralegals need a good grasp of legal theory, legal history, and current and upcoming court decisions because it is absolutely imperative that they present factual information to their bosses.
A job in the field is fast-paced, exciting, and ever-evolving. It is also constantly stressful. Successful paralegals are able to juggle several tasks at once, effectively delegate responsibility, communicate with others, and stay organized. Most paralegals are required to take continuing education courses. They are also responsible for keeping the law office's library and software programs up to date.