If you are interested in the legal field and want to help families in need, a career as a paralegal could be ideal for you. Family law is an important law area that protects families’ rights during divorce proceedings, child custody disputes, and other similar issues.
As a family law paralegal, you’d be responsible for assisting lawyers with family law cases by preparing court documents, conducting legal research, and other responsibilities discussed in this article.
What Is a Family Law Paralegal?
A family law paralegal is a professional who assists attorneys and clients during family law cases. Because family law attorneys deal with complex issues that are often emotionally charged, paralegals play an important role in ensuring that the legal process runs smoothly.
Paralegals must have excellent organizational skills, be detail-oriented, and be able to handle sensitive information with discretion. Although many family law paralegals work for law firms, others work for government agencies or non-profit organizations. Some may even decide to start their own private practice.
What Does a Paralegal Do?
While family law paralegals are not permitted to provide legal advice or set fees, a paralegal’s tasks extend far beyond filing and paperwork. In addition to providing administrative support, paralegals also conduct legal research, draft documents, and manage communication between the parties involved in a case. They may also provide guidance and support to clients outside of the courtroom.
Typically, paralegals meet with the potential client and schedule an appointment with the attorney at the start of the process. A family law paralegal’s duties begin the moment the lawyer is hired and usually include:
- Communication and interaction with clients
- Legal research, investigation, and writing
- Preparation of petition and other important documents
- Putting together a list of potential witnesses
The size of the law firm you work for will also impact your workload and responsibilities. Small-office paralegals typically have a broader range of responsibilities than their counterparts in larger firms.
How To Become a Family Law Paralegal?
To begin, you must obtain a paralegal certificate or an associate degree from an accredited program. Many community colleges have paralegal programs that last two years or less. You can also pursue an online program or a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies.
Some employers may prefer graduates of an ABA-approved law school. It is definitely a path worth considering if you can afford one of those programs.
After completing your education, you must pass the Certified Paralegal (or Certified Legal Assistant) exam before you can begin working. Courses specializing in family law are another option for those looking to advance their knowledge in this area.
When you start looking for work, it’s best to locate a family law attorney or a firm that specializes in family law for paralegals. You should look for an employer who is a good fit for your skill set and personality.
This part of the process could mean a difference between working for a small firm specializing in adoptions or child custody cases or a more prominent firm handling all aspects of family law. All in all, the point is to find an environment in which you will feel at ease and thrive.
Family Law: Legal Assistant vs. Paralegal
There is often confusion about the difference between paralegals and legal assistants. While both positions provide support to lawyers, there are some key distinctions.
Paralegals typically have a higher level of education, with many completing post-secondary programs or even law school. Paralegal’s duties place greater emphasis on research and writing, as well as working on more complex legal tasks.
Legal assistants, on the other hand, handle more administrative tasks such as file management and correspondence. They may also provide basic paralegal services, but their work is generally less specialized. To be successful in a law firm, you must understand what distinguishes each of these roles and why they are important.
Family Law Paralegal: Salary and Outlook
A paralegal in family law usually earns more than a legal assistant. In May 2021, the median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants was $56,230, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Larger corporations are increasingly embracing in-house legal departments as more and more attorneys are looking to cut costs by employing paralegals to help them. Paralegal and legal assistant job openings are expected to grow 12% between 2020 and 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.
Getting education and certification is the first step for those who want to work as family law paralegals. Then you must spend some time looking for a job that is a good fit for you. If you work hard and dedicate yourself to the role of a family law paralegal, you can have a successful career assisting families during some of their most difficult times.