Paralegals, like lawyers, work in all aspects of business. Remember, that a paralegal must work under the supervision of a lawyer therefore, wherever lawyers are, paralegals will be found. The primary source of employment are law firms (approximately 71%); corporate legal departments; and local, state and federal government legal departments. Paralegals are also highly sought after at financial institutions, such as in the trust and or real estate departments; insurance companies; title companies; international trade companies; professional sports teams; airlines; hospitality; and the entertainment business. Paralegals are everywhere!
I think this is more important than starting out with what a paralegal can do, because many paralegals walk this fine line and it's called the "unauthorized practice of law." First and foremost, paralegals MUST work under the direct supervision of an attorney...no if's, and's or but's about it. Paralegals are "explicitly prohibited from carrying out duties considered to be within the scope of practice of law, such as setting legal fees, giving legal advice, and presenting cases in court." You might think this is pretty clear-cut but, I assure you, it's not, particularly the "giving legal advice" part. Many times a client will call and ask about the status of their case or what they can expect during the "next step" of litigation...if you give them an answer, you're walking the "fine line." Do yourself a favor, take a message noting the client's concerns and have the attorney call and tell them, EVEN IF YOU KNOW THE ANSWERS TO THEIR QUESTIONS!
Many states have criminal penalties and or treat the unauthorized practice of law as a form of contempt together with penalties and possible jail time...and we haven't even brought up your exposure to potential liability... DON'T GO HERE!
Paralegals are a very important member of a legal team and are an attorney's "right hand man or woman." They help attorneys with a myriad of tasks including, but not limited to, working-up the facts of a case, preparing for meetings and trials, investigating a case, interviewing witnesses, drafting documents for the attorney's review, researching case law, organizing and tracking files, and maintaining financial records...just about everything!