Paralegals and lawyers both play important roles in the legal system, but there are 3 major differences between these two professions: job duties, education & training, and salary.
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1. Job Duties
The responsibilities of a lawyer are much greater than the responsibilities of a paralegal. Lawyers are responsible for representing their clients in court, drafting legal documents, and giving legal advice. Paralegals are limited to assisting lawyers with these tasks.
In short, lawyers are responsible for all aspects of a case, while paralegals typically have more limited duties and focus on specific areas of law.
Generally speaking, lawyers are responsible for handling all aspects of a case, from interviewing clients to arguing in court.
Paralegals’ job duties are typically more limited. For example, paralegals may be responsible for conducting legal research, preparing court documents, and assisting lawyers with trial preparations. Paralegals assist lawyers with their work, but they cannot give legal advice or represent clients in court.
Some people might also argue that paralegals have a more hands-on role in the legal process, while lawyers are more likely to act as advisors. Paralegals may be responsible for interacting directly with clients and gathering evidence. Lawyers, on the other hand, maybe more removed from the case and only offer legal advice to clients.
Lawyers may also have a different level of expertise than paralegals. In some cases, lawyers are expected to have extensive knowledge about a specific aspect of law as it relates to the case they are working on. Paralegals may not have this same level of expertise, and instead, rely on the guidance of lawyers to properly perform their duties.
2. Education And Training
Another major difference between a lawyer and a paralegal is their level of education. This difference in education level allows lawyers to perform many of the same tasks as paralegals, but lawyers are also able to represent clients in court and give legal advice.
Lawyers have more education and training than paralegals, and they are also licensed to practice law. As a general rule, lawyers spend four years in law school and earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree before they can practice law. The J.D. program is usually three years long and requires applicants to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).
Paralegals typically enroll in associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs in paralegal studies, which typically take two years to complete. Some employers may require paralegals to have a bachelor’s degree, but this is not always the case.
Lawyers must pass a bar exam in order to be licensed to practice law in their state. Paralegals are not required to pass a bar exam in order to practice, although some states do require them to pass a certification exam.
3. Salary Difference
Their difference in responsibility often results in lawyers making more money than paralegals. According to PayScale in 2021, the average base salary for a lawyer is $87,104, while the average base salary for a paralegal is only $49,728.