Paralegals are sometimes referred to as legal assistants because they are aids to an attorney-at-law. While they do not give legal advice, they are responsible for preparing cases for trial and giving the attorney facts so he may better assist his client. Paralegals may work for private law firms, corporations, and city, county, or state governments. Those that work for the United States government are considered federal paralegals.
The duties of a paralegal at the federal government level may be much the same as that of one working for an attorney in private practice. A federal paralegal conducts a great deal of legal research to determine whether or not potential cases have a legal cause of action. A legal assistant reads decided cases and prepares case briefs for the supervising attorney to view. These documents are usually extremely valuable in determining whether a case goes forward or is settled before trial.
A paralegal also aids in interviewing and deposing witnesses. Unlike one working at the county or state government level, a federal paralegal may interview those who have information about terrorist acts or crimes of espionage. A top secret government security clearance will likely be a prerequisite to being hired for this job.
Other duties of a federal paralegal generally include preparing correspondence, filing court documents, investigations, documenting evidence needed for trial, and maintaining client files. The responsibilities typically vary from day to day, and from case to case. For this reason, paralegals must be able to multi-task, be well organized, and pay careful attention to details, especially in official correspondence to a court.
Federal paralegals often work on active-duty military installations, or bases. In such locations, this legal professional works under the direction of a Judge Advocate General, or JAG. This person is basically a military attorney who represents service members. A JAG attorney specializes in areas that are unique to service personnel, such as violations of military regulations and offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Other government agencies that may hire a federal paralegal include the Social Security Administration (SSA), United States Department of Justice (DOJ), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Department of Homeland Security, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Those interested in positions with these agencies normally must have a two-year or four-year degree from an accredited college. Often they are asked to pass a paralegal certification exam as well.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that the need for paralegals will increase by 28% by the year 2018. This means that people wishing to obtain employment as a federal paralegal will have increased opportunities to do so. Working in this arena, for the United States government, can be rewarding both personally and financially.