A paralegal is a legal assistant who helps lawyers with their work, investigating cases, doing legal research, tracking necessary documents and writing up reports as needed. Paralegals who work in the legal departments of businesses are known as corporate or business paralegals and their job is considered specialized, requiring degree-level training as well as a good deal of corporate legal experience. A paralegal usually needs at least a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies to be eligible for a position, but an associate’s degree paralegal with several years of experience as a legal assistant in a business environment may also be considered.
Corporate paralegals handle a great deal of documentation, including corporate charter documents, merger documents, and formative documents. They prepare documentation for stock transfers and prepare the documents for other financial operations including distributions and stock splits. Due diligence in corporate acquisitions and other transactions is also a responsibility for a corporate paralegal.
Benefits of a paralegal for businesses
In addition to the many legal skills they possess, one of the biggest benefits of employing a business paralegal is the expertise and skill they bring to the table with regard to using the latest technology. The research and documentation that a business paralegal is required to do means they have to utilize technology to a great extent and adapt to new and changing elements constantly. A large portion of business, from accounting and stock trading to legal transactions and communications is accomplished with technology, so the presence of a tech savvy employee who also has legal knowledge and corporate experience is a time and money saver for a company.
Paralegals also frequently have the most contact with business clients and stockholders, more so than the lawyers and executives of the company. Their communication skills, both verbal and on paper, are essential skills and many receive additional training through college coursework and workshops to help improve their ability to communicate with others.
For a smaller business, employing a paralegal is an excellent investment. Having a paralegal on staff to help with legalities of contracts and sales, as well as assisting with the business’ accounting, taxes and compliance issues, will save that business a good deal of money both short term and long term. Many companies have even taken the investment a step further by offering training opportunities and educational options to current employees, allowing for an employee with corporate experience and an interest in being a paralegal to pursue their degree or certification with the backing and assistance of the company. In these cases, the understanding usually includes a term of employment after completing the degree program as a means of paying back the employer for the investment in education and training.
The increase in online degree programs for a wide variety of concentrations, including paralegals, has served to increase the number available. Even with the surge in numbers, the demand for well-trained paralegals and legal assistants has not waned and is expected to continue, especially with the extensive changes being made to corporate tax codes, healthcare and insurance issues, and business and financial changes taking place in Europe and Asia.