The National Federation of Paralegal Association defines a paralegal as a person qualified through education, training or work experience to perform substantive legal work requiring knowledge of legal concepts. A paralegal may be retained or employed by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency or other entity or may be authorized by administrative, statutory or court authority to perform this work. Paralegals are also known as legal assistants.
The American Bar Association defines as paralegal “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.”
A paralegal cannot, however, practice law without a license, nor can a paralegal offer legal advice, accept clients, or set fees. Paralegals cannot be licensed or registered as paralegals. Paralegals, however, can obtain a paralegal certification through paralegal education programs. Paralegals can have the option of specializing in a certain type of law.
Paralegals can, and do, interview clients, investigate cases, draft documents, and research the law. A paralegal also can maintain case materials, draft legal contracts, prepare trial notebooks, and research real estate titles and prepare documents for closings.
Often, paralegals are billed to clients just as lawyers are, but at a lower rate.