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What Does a Criminal Law Paralegal Do?

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For most criminal trials, the jury and the defendant see both the defense lawyer and the prosecutor presenting their arguments in court. However, behind the scenes, an entire legal team helps prepare both lawyers for the big presentations on day of the trial. Get more insight into the work a criminal law paralegal does every day at work.

Education and Training

Paralegal training varies by state. Some law firms and legal organizations simply hire college or high school graduates and train them in-house. However, some community colleges and universities offer formal paralegal training, and graduates receive a certificate, an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in paralegal studies. Some programs may focus on a particular area of law, while most programs have a more general focus. Certain state legal boards also allow paralegals to gain certification in specialty areas, like civil law or criminal law, to become “board certified”.

A good paralegal/legal assistant training program should be listed by a group like the American Association for Paralegal Education, the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Paralegals or another professional paralegal organization. A paralegal training program should also offer some practical work experience. An aspiring criminal law paralegal should ask legal professionals about which local schools have the best reputation, curriculum and job placement for their graduates.

Paralegal Tasks and Workplaces

Paralegals or legal assistants often do tasks like: conducting the daily operations of a law office, preparing reports, drafting legal documents, organizing documentation, summarizing texts and calling clients. A paralegal works under the supervision of a licensed lawyer. A legal assistant cannot represent clients in court, set legal fees or give legal advice. In a private law firm, paralegals help reduce the client's overall bill, since the hourly rate of a paralegal is less than lawyer.

A criminal law paralegal often organizes and coordinates the attorney's appearances in court and at other venues. In the discovery process, the prosecution may send over documents and evidence used in trial. A criminal law paralegal finds and categorizes crucial pieces of evidence for use in trial. A criminal law legal assistant also interviews clients, prepares summaries, organizes witness and case files, searches for court records, schedules the lawyer's case loads, proofreads/fact checks all documents and prepares exhibits for trial.

A criminal law paralegal often works for private law firms, community legal services, government agencies, courts, jails, prisons, legal aid offices and district attorney's offices.

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