Differences between a lawyer and a paralegal

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:35 pm
A lawyer is a person who's authorized to give legal advice to clients and to plead cases in a court of law. A lawyer is sometimes also called an 'attorney.' A lawyer may conduct lawsuits for clients, give advice about the prosecution or defense of lawsuits, or advice about legal rights and obligations in other matters. In order to practice law legally, a lawyer must have a license. A lawyer may work with a group of other lawyers in what's called a 'firm,' or he or she may be self-employed and have his or her own law practice. A paralegal is a person who does legal work but who's not licensed to practice law or dispense legal advice. Paralegals have specialized training in law, but aren't authorized to practice it. Often, paralegals work for lawyers, assisting them with research, or helping clients with paperwork. Independent paralegals work directly with the public and not for lawyers. Independent paralegals assist their customers by providing forms, helping people fill them out correctly, and filing them with the proper court. Some law students work as paralegals before they're licensed to practice law. Because there is often a lot of paperwork involved in obtaining a divorce, a paralegal may work with a couple to ensure that they fill out the paperwork and file it with the court correctly. A paralegal can't go to court with a divorcing couple, can't take legal action on their behalf, and can't answer legal questions. An attorney must be hired for such matters.

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