When dealing with legal matters, many people turn to the services of an attorney. However, others shy away from hiring these professionals due to the high cost of getting one and instead seek the services of paralegals to save money. The reality is that attorneys and paralegals are not the same.
While attorneys provide legal assistance to business owners in both criminal and civil cases, paralegals are often hired to deal with the customer service side of legal matters or provide assistance to lawyers. But which of these two should you hire?
Hiring a Freelance Lawyer Instead of a Paralegal Could Be the Best Option
The cost of hiring an attorney could be relatively higher than working with paralegals. However, paralegals should never be an alternative for hiring a corporate lawyer when navigating legal issues around your business. You may be surprised that the cost of hiring a freelance lawyer to help with your business’s legal matters can be just as low as the cost of hiring a paralegal (read more here). With a freelance lawyer, you can be sure that your business is legally compliant without having to worry about the high cost of hiring a lawyer on a one-on-one basis.
What Are the Main Differences Between a Lawyer and A Paralegal?
Education and Training
The most significant difference between a lawyer and a paralegal is the level of education required for the different careers. To become a lawyer, one must attain a Juris Doctorate (J.D) degree from an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school. Additionally, the individual must take and pass the grueling bar test to obtain a practice license.
On the other hand, paralegals require little to no specialized education. While some states may have programs for paralegal certification, most do not, and one can become a paralegal without legal education or any experience whatsoever.
Seemingly, there is an overlap between a paralegal’s duties and what a lawyer can perform. However, there is a vast difference in the services they can legally provide. While a paralegal can help you file documents and prepare forms, they are prohibited by law from giving legal advice. If you’re looking for legal advice on business formation, it would be best to seek the advice of a licensed lawyer. Besides, a lawyer is better placed at answering all your legal questions ensuring your business is legally compliant.
While some states require paralegals to obtain a license to practice, most states only have restrictions on the services a paralegal can offer but require no form of licensing to practice. On the other hand, lawyers are some of the most regulated professionals nationwide. To practice law in the United States, one must have the prerequisite licensing depending on the jurisdiction, which must be renewed every year after paying the required fees.
Salary and Career Outlook
There is a significant difference between salaries and career outlook for lawyers and paralegals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a lawyer’s salary amounts to $126,250 annually compared to $52,920 made by paralegals.
While a lawyer can earn more than double what a paralegal can make, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 10% increase in the demand for paralegals compared to 5% for lawyers over the next decade. This is mainly because many law firms are turning to hire paralegals to handle entry-level lawyers’ jobs. With the high rise in demand for paralegals, it’s expected that the salaries will improve too.
The points highlighted above point to the main differences between a lawyer and a paralegal. Although both play an essential role in the American legal system, paralegals are limited in the roles they can play, which makes working with a lawyer for all your business legal needs the best option.