Every successful paralegal career begins with an entry-level job. It is through your first paralegal job that you begin learning the intricacies of this highly rewarding career. This is the time to take the skills you’ve developed through a comprehensive post-secondary education or certification program and apply them in a real-world legal setting. Entry-level paralegal jobs are exciting and challenging, but they could also be the start of a long and successful career in the field of law.
Entry-Level Paralegal Job Functions
Although entry-level paralegal jobs vary somewhat from the jobs of more skilled paralegals, there are a number of important job duties with which you will likely be tasked:
- Examine statutes, articles, constitutions, codes, etc. for the preparation of documents
- Compose briefs, appeals, wills, contracts, articles of incorporation, stock certificates, deeds, etc.
- File pleadings with court clerk
- Maintain files and preparing affidavits
- Deliver or arrange for the delivery of subpoenas
- Serve as an arbitrator or mediator between parties in dispute
- Oversee the organization of legal volumes and ensure all volumes are accurate and up-to-date
- Investigate facts and laws to determine causes of action for case preparation purposes
Career Specialties for Paralegals
Not all entry-level paralegal jobs are similar. In fact, depending on the type of law practiced, job duties can vary considerably. Although most entry-level paralegal jobs generally require the preparation, organization and filing of law-related documents and correspondence, other job duties, depending on the area of law, may include:
Paralegals in entry-level positions in a bankruptcy law setting are generally assigned to work with either debtors or collectors. Some of the job duties found within this area of law may include:
- Arranging for the appraisal of assets and real and personal property
- Attending bankruptcy hearing and meetings
- Preparing for evidentiary hearings
- Preparing debtor’s monthly operating costs, petitions, schedules, and statements
A nurse paralegal is a unique profession that combines extensive knowledge in both law and medicine. Nurse paralegals may be employed by hospitals, law firms, and insurance companies, just to name a few. Some of the job duties of a nurse paralegal may include:
- Providing expertise in medical procedures, diagnoses, processes, etc.
- Reviewing medical documents for trial
- Conducting research and providing medical evidence
- Interviewing clients, medical professionals, experts and witnesses
- Preparing paperwork for medical malpractice or injury cases
Trial law may consist of either criminal or civil law. Trial paralegals, also called litigation paralegals, are often tasked with:
- Assisting attorney when preparing appeals
- Investigating and researching facts
- Drafting legal documents, including briefs, pleadings, and memoranda
- Maintaining accurate records of all court dates and deadlines
- Assisting attorney during trial preparation
- Interviewing witnesses
Entry-level paralegals in estate planning law are often responsible for drafting and documenting a number of estate planning and probate documents. Their job duties may therefore include:
- Drafting wills and other estate planning documents
- Preparing and filing state and federal tax returns
- Valuating and transferring assets
- Preparing paperwork for probate hearings
Corporate law is focused primarily on high-level business transactions, including mergers, acquisitions, and stock offerings. Corporate law may also deal with protecting intellectual property, including patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Job duties of entry-level paralegals in corporate settings may include:
- Preparing and scheduling board meetings
- Reviewing business operations and corporate bylaws for to ensure all laws are followed
- Keeping corporate minutes
- Conducting trademark and patent searches
- Preparing documents related to shareholder agreements and stockholder plans
- Preparing financial statements
- Ensuring all securities reporting requirements are met
An entry-level paralegal in a labor law setting is usually involved in one or more of the following areas: human resources, unemployment, worker’s compensation, hiring and termination, and wrongful termination claims. Some of the job duties of entry-level paralegals in a labor law setting include:
- Preparing documentation and collecting evidence for wrongful termination trials
- Investigation wrongful termination cases
- Drafting and revising employee policies, practices, and handbooks
- Preparing draft pleadings and affidavits for service disputes
Real estate entry-level paralegals may specialize in either commercial or residential real estate. Working alongside real estate attorneys, these professionals may be tasked with the following job duties:
- Drafting and revising real estate documents
- Researching title claims and related documents
- Negotiating and drafting purchase agreements, lease agreements, etc.
- Providing assistance for the buying, selling and leasing of real estate
Entry-Level Requirements for Paralegals
No hard and fast rules exist for entry-level paralegals, although many law firms and legal departments require, at a minimum, a certificate from an ABA-approved paralegal program. Paralegals often complete these programs through community colleges, four-year colleges or universities, or vocational schools. It is also common for students to minor in legal studies or paralegal studies within a four-year college or university program. It is also common for paralegals to seek post-baccalaureate certification programs.
Further, many employers seek professional certification as a Certified Paralegal (CP) through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the PACE Registered Paralegal (RP) designation from the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) from potential paralegal candidates.
Paralegals interested in exploring a paralegal specialization often pursue advanced schooling and often hold degrees in their respective fields. For example, nurse paralegals are often RNs with extensive experience in the field of nursing.