Paralegals and lawyers work for the same purposes. The goal for both is to help clients with their legal situations, be they criminal or civil. However, how they take care of those responsibilities differs. Here are the differences between lawyers and paralegals.
When it comes to the responsibilities of a paralegal vs lawyer, they tend to do an equal amount of work in different environments. The paralegal’s job is to compile documents, conduct interviews, research legal precedents, and present everything to the attorney. In turn, they utilize the information to prepare a case. Overall, this takes days or weeks to complete for both the lawyer and paralegal.
A lawyer isn’t able to practice the profession unless they have the necessary education. This means going to a four-year university to obtain a bachelor’s degree. This is followed up by additional education at a law school.
On the other hand, a paralegal could obtain their experience through post-secondary education and in-house training within a law firm.
Both lawyers and paralegals require some form of previous experience before they work at a firm. Most of the time, this is in the form of an internship where they learn about legal policies and procedures. In this situation, the lawyer and paralegal tend to have the same responsibilities. The major difference between the two professions is a paralegal has an opportunity to train within a firm to gain their certification.
The form of certification is different with a paralegal vs lawyer. There isn’t a state or federally regulated licensing program for paralegals. In fact, sites like ParalegalEDU.org detail multiple organizations that most firms accept.
Conversely, an attorney needs to pass a state bar examination to qualify for a license. This must be repeated if they move to another state.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary of a paralegal is $53,000. The starting salary of an attorney is $127,00. However, these values change depending on the amount of education and experience. On top of this, the lawyer’s salary is significantly higher if they have a record of successful outcomes.
Paralegals aren’t licensed to handle court cases. This is only a realm for a lawyer. However, they do work on issues that simply require filing paperwork. For instance, someone goes to a paralegal to help them complete and submit divorce documents with the court.
Paralegals continue their education not only to learn about new procedures but also if they decide to become an attorney. Conversely, continuing education is mandatory for lawyers to maintain their state certification. It’s possible to lose their active bar status if they don’t commit to further learning.
In the end, paralegals and lawyers have more similarities than differences. They both require proper education and extensive knowledge of the sector they work for. They also require strong skills in customer relations and conflict de-escalation to properly help their clients.
Combined, a lawyer and paralegal must work as a cohesive team to maximize the best results for those they help.
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