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The Difference Between Paralegals & Lawyers

Ever found yourself at a social gathering, bragging about that courtroom drama you watched last night, only to have someone chime in with, “Well, I work in the legal field.” And you are left wondering whether they are the real deal (a lawyer) or the unsung hero of the courtroom (a paralegal).

Or perhaps you are considering a career in law, but you are not quite sure if the whole “law school and passing the bar” thing is your cup of tea? Fear not! We are about to break down the big showdown: Paralegals vs. Lawyers. Let’s dive in.

Pavel / Pexels / While both are legal professionals, lawyers and paralegals do not have the same credentials.

Lawyers Pass the Bar Exam

These folks undertake a long journey. Typically, after their bachelor’s degree, they march straight into three years of law school. Once they survive all those late-night study sessions, they have to take (and pass) the bar exam. This qualifies them to practice law. Let’s not forget about ongoing education. Why? Because the law, like fashion, changes with time.

Paralegals Do Not Need to Pass the Bar Exam

The path here is a tad shorter. Most paralegals have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor’s degree in another field with a certificate in paralegal studies. Unlike lawyers, paralegals do not need to pass a bar exam. However, they can get certified through various organizations. In turn, this can boost their credentials.

The Difference in Job Duties

Think of lawyers as the maestros of the legal world. They offer legal advice, represent clients in court, negotiate settlements, and do all the headline-grabbing stuff you see in movies. So, they are the ones responsible for the legal outcomes.

Sora / Pexels / The commonest difference between a lawyer and a paralegal is that lawyers pass bar exams. And paralegals do not.

On the other hand, paralegals are the unsung heroes behind the scenes. They research the facts of the case, organize information, prepare legal documents, and help lawyers prepare for trials, closings, and meetings. In many ways, they are the backbone of a law office, keeping things running smoothly.

Decision-Making Power

Lawyers call the shots when it comes to legal strategy and decisions. When you see someone arguing a case in court or signing off on legal documents, that is them. Although Paralegals play an indispensable role in legal prep, they can not give legal advice, represent clients, or make final decisions on cases. Think of them as Batman’s Robin: Essential, but not the main face of justice.

The Difference in Salary

Generally speaking, lawyers earn more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for lawyers was substantially higher than for paralegals.

Pavel / Pexels / Unlike lawyers, paralegals can not represent clients or give legal advice.

However, this comes with the added pressure, longer hours, and the debt from law school. Paralegals, on the other hand, might earn less. But they also might have a more predictable work schedule.

Parting Thoughts

When deciding between “Team Paralegal” and “Team Lawyer,” it all boils down to what you want. Dream of being the one standing in court, defending or prosecuting, with the weight of the case on your shoulders? A lawyer might be your route.

Prefer a crucial, detail-oriented role without the pressures of passing the bar or representing in court? A paralegal could be your jam. No matter the choice, both roles are vital in the realm of justice.

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