If you’re new to legal terms, you will think lawyers and paralegals are the same. If they are not, what is the difference between a lawyer and a paralegal?
Knowing how to differentiate a Lawyer from a paralegal is necessary, especially if you want to become a lawyer, planning to hire either a lawyer or a paralegal, or even want to become a paralegal. The term ‘lawyer and paralegal’ shouldn’t confuse you anymore. I will be explaining in detail, the difference between paralegals and lawyers.
Lawyer Vs Paralegal
Before I point out what makes a lawyer different from a paralegal, it is necessary I explain who a lawyer and a paralegal is and their duties.
Who is a lawyer?
A lawyer is defined by Britannica as “one trained and licensed to prepare, manage, and either prosecute or defend a court action as an agent for another and who also gives advice on legal matters that may or may not require court action.” This definition has summarized who a lawyer is. Lawyers are legal professionals who apply the law in life situations and give legal advice to people.
What does a lawyer do?
Lawyers or attorneys perform certain duties, which make them distinct from paralegals. Below are the functions of a lawyer.
- A Lawyer interprets the law
- He gives legal counseling or advice to people
- A lawyer represents people (his clients) in court for legal disputes
- A Lawyer or an attorney manages properties like houses, etc. on behalf of the owner
- Lawyers draw up legal documents like deeds, wills, contracts, lawsuits, and appeals.
Having known who a lawyer is and what he does, let’s proceed with paralegals and their duties.
Who is a paralegal?
According to Wikipedia, ‘a paralegal is a professional who performs tasks that require knowledge of legal concepts but not the full expertise of a lawyer.’ In other words, a paralegal is a legal expert who assists or helps lawyers with legal tasks.
What does a paralegal do?
Paralegals assist lawyers in carrying out their legal duties, perform legal research and analysis, provide general legal support to businesses but don’t have the authority to represent clients in court, give legal advice to clients, or set legal fees on behalf of their principal counsel (lawyer or attorney of their chambers).
Having explained who a lawyer and a paralegal is and their functions in the legal profession, let’s look at the distinction between lawyers or attorneys and paralegals.
What is the difference between a lawyer and a paralegal?
Below are the dissimilarities, variances, distinctions, contrasts, or dissimilitudes between attorneys and paralegals.
One major distinction between a lawyer and a paralegal is in their licensing. Whereas lawyers are permitted to represent clients in court, paralegals don’t. Except in Ontario, Canada, where lawyers and paralegals are licensed and regulated the same way by the Law Society of Ontario and are permitted to provide legal services to the public and appear before certain lower courts and administrative tribunals.
In some other countries, a paralegal can offer services like settlements, court filings, and legal research, upon the instruction and supervision of an attorney, but does not have the authority to appear in a court of competent jurisdiction.
To qualify as a lawyer, you must attend law school, pass the bar exams and obtain a degree in law, but attending law school is not a prerequisite for becoming a paralegal. Rather, you need to undergo training or mentorship by an attorney before practicing as a paralegal.
3. Lawyers give legal advice, paralegals don’t
Apart from Ontario, Canada where lawyers and paralegals perform the same duties, in some countries, paralegals don’t give legal advice to clients or the public. Going contrary to this statute is contravene and is referred to as unauthorized practice of law. But paralegals are permitted to conduct legal research, legal drafting, and some other legal duties that are not meant for lawyers.
4. Lawyers set client fees, paralegals don’t
Paralegals are legal assistants to lawyers and are not empowered to set client fees on behalf of the attorney, except they are instructed thereof. This draws a huge gap between a lawyer and a paralegal.
5. Lawyers earn more than paralegals
The May 2011 “data published by the BLS showed an average annual salary of $49,960 for paralegals. The average for lawyers was $130,490 annually. Ten percent of all paralegals earned no more than $29,390 per year, but the lowest-paid lawyers earned at least $54,120.”
When analyzing the difference between barristers and paralegals, their perspective earnings should also be compared. From the above data, it is very clear that lawyers earn more than paralegals. You can check the lawyers’ salary category of this blog to see how much lawyers earn in different states and fields of law.