Law Clerk vs. Paralegal – What’s the Difference?
If you’ve been in a car accident or injured at work, your first priority is attending to your immediate medical needs – your second is embarking on the process of obtaining compensation for your injuries. Unless you work in the legal profession, many terms we use may seem foreign to you. Some may even seem to be synonymous. While it may not be your primary concern, you may come away confused about the different people working in a law firm and their specific role.
Law clerks and paralegals are two terms often confused
by those not familiar with the legal profession.
These professionals act as support staff for the attorney(s) at the firm. Many of the tasks involved with legal proceedings do not require a lawyer with years of education and good standing with the Colorado bar.
While their responsibilities do overlap somewhat, law clerks and paralegals have distinctively different roles at a firm. Continue reading to learn about these differences…
Law clerks are legal professional who work for a lawyer or judge.
Their job is to help the supervising attorney or judge research and determine legal options in a case. They will consult journals, legal books, prior cases and even legal magazines.
Responsibilities of a law clerk can differ somewhat if they work for an attorney rather than a judge, or vice versa.
Many graduates from law school get their start as a law clerk with a sitting judge. For example, our firm’s founder, R. Mack Babcock, was a law clerk in the Colorado District Courts under the Honorable Michael A. Martinez.
A paralegal is another legal professional who works as an assistant to an attorney. While there is no consistency in how paralegals are regulated, they generally help an attorney prepare cases and handle many of the administrative tasks involved with pursuing a claim. A paralegal can also conduct legal research on part of the attorney’s case, and execute orders from the attorney in relation to a case.
One key difference between law clerks and paralegals is education. Law clerks have typically completed law school, while paralegals only have a relatively small amount of technical education in the field.
Also, paralegals are confined to research and legal writing under the supervision of an attorney – they cannot provide legal advice.
While it is possible for someone to work as a law clerk in a firm, they’re more likely to clerk for a sitting judge. You’re more likely to find paralegals working in a firm. However, their job is very critical to ensuring your case goes as smoothly as possible.