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The Difference Between a Law Clerk and a Paralegal

Law is a delicate matter that has the power to affect people’s lives in both diminutive and far-reaching ways. This is why it requires the utmost of unprejudiced and factual rulings. For the law to be practiced righteously, putting the weight of the decision in one individual’s hands won’t suffice. There needs to be a constant and sturdy network of people who make up a team of legal professionals to guarantee to the best of their abilities that justice is served and truth prevails.

When it comes to building such a vital team of professionals, there are numerous spots to be filled. Two of them are law clerks and paralegals. These two positions may sound very similar, and you’re right to think that they have a few tasks in common, but they differ in various ways. Both law clerks and paralegals are legal specialists. They have the main purpose of providing indispensable legal assistance to the companies they work with, but they are not entirely in the same position.

Although they are quite similar in a few aspects, their main differences lie in their degree of education, ability to dispense legal advice, and work institutions.

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With regard to education, an aspiring law clerk would be required to undergo complete law education, which usually takes a minimum of three years. The essential fields that need to be covered during the course of law school include Constitutional law, Criminal law, Family law, Civil procedure, Ethics, and Evidence. In addition, law clerks have completed courses that focus on legal research and writing. In general, their education provides elaborate law teachings, which gives law clerks more than just the basic scope of the legal industry.

In contrast to a law clerk, a paralegal is not required to attend law school nor take part in any college course, for that matter. This does not mean they’re any less vital to the anatomy of a well-working law office compared to a law clerk. A paralegal’s work is equally challenging and invaluable to the infrastructure of any law firm.

Paralegals are obligated to take a one or two-year certification program that covers the complete details of the administrative tasks and duties they will be performing in a legal setting. This type of program aims to educate students on the principal points of a paralegal, such as complaint drafts, responses, and motions. They will most likely also be taught how to effectively manage the schedule of an attorney, liaise with court personnel regarding court dates, handle correspondence, communicate with clients, and take care of billing. After completing their paralegal course, they’ll need to complete a licensing exam before practicing their profession.

Regardless of the fact that most paralegals do not possess a degree in law, they are still highly crucial assets to law firms and attorneys.

Legal Advice

The biggest difference between a law clerk and a paralegal can be found in the extent of legal advice they can provide.

Although paralegals are aptly trained and sufficiently knowledgeable with regard to legal matters, it isn’t in their job description to offer legal advice. The aspects that are within their job’s jurisdiction are to take directives issued by the attorney they work for, meet with clients, assist them with the completion of forms such as case information statements, and address procedural concerns. If an occasion arises wherein the clients have queries regarding the merits of the case or would like to know how to proceed with a specific matter, it would be the duty of the supervising attorney to answer these questions.

In comparison, law clerks are qualified to confer legal advice to clients. In fact, it is one of their main purposes to provide summaries of law to judges in order to help in deciding the ruling for court cases. However, even if the extensive education of law clerks puts them in the position to offer legal advice, there are quite a number of jurisdictions that find it illegal for law clerks to dispense legal advice. In most places, this consequential task is usually reserved for law school graduates who have passed the Bar exam. To sum it up, law clerks will have to pass the exam first before they can be considered qualified to provide legal advice.

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Work Institutions

At this point, the differences between paralegals and law clerks may have created a clear picture of why the two are distinguishable from each other. The third point concludes their predominant differences in the workplace.

The specialized training of paralegals makes them a suitable fit to work for law firms or solo attorneys. On the other hand, law clerks do not customarily work for attorneys. Typically, they work for a judge. Unlike paralegals who spend their time in a law office interacting with clients, law clerks go about their work day in a courthouse and judge’s office.

Regardless of their differences and somewhat confusing position terminologies, both paralegals and law clerks play key roles in the world of law. Their individual responsibilities and fields of expertise contribute a great deal to presiding judges, attorneys, and law firms alike. In turn, they both help provide justice for all parties involved in legal cases.

Start Your Career in Law with Cestar College

If this is your dream career, you can always check out more information on our website. Cestar College offers various professional courses, focusing on paralegal, legal assistant, and law clerk courses. Additionally, we offer great options for financial aid.

Contact us today for more information!

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