If you are interested in hosting an intern from EMU’s ABA-Approved Paralegal Studies Program, please contact the Program Coordinator.
Who Is a "Paralegal"?
The Bylaws of the State Bar of Michigan, substantially tracking the ABA’s definition, define a paralegal/legal assistant, for purposes of membership in the State Bar Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section, as:
"Any person currently employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency or other entity engaged in the practice of law, in a capacity or function which involves the performance under the direction and supervision of an attorney of specifically delegated substantive legal work, which work, for the most part, requires a sufficient knowledge of legal concepts such that, absent that legal assistant, the attorney would perform the task and which is not primarily clerical or secretarial in nature…"
Freeing up an attorney’s billable time through the use of paralegals is sound business practice. Utilizing an EMU paralegal intern allows a law practice to observe this advantage first-hand without any overhead cost. This program can provide an advantageous arrangement as part of the ongoing firm business planning.
Why Paralegal Support?
Paralegals work under attorney supervision and cannot practice law. Leveraging a law firm with paralegal support just makes good business sense for a law firm, regardless of its size. An attorney struggles with being economically productive given the limited number of hours in each day. If a paralegal is assigned such tasks as interviewing clients for factual background and drafting documents and court forms, the attorney gains time to focus on the more complicated legal matters necessary to best serve the firm’s clients. The tasks of interviewing and drafting are among the skills that paralegals are taught in the EMU Paralegal Studies Program.
The attorney-paralegal model presents a win-win situation: The paralegal’s time is billed at a lower rate creating client satisfaction. The attorney no longer has to spend precious billable hours completing court forms and performing other tasks now delegated to the paralegal. The result? The attorney gains time for more complex legal matters that are billed at the higher attorney’s rate. The firm’s bottom line should see a difference.
EMU’s Paralegal Students – How they are trained to help the law firm.
EMU’s paralegals graduate with a four-year, Bachelor of Science Degree in Paralegal Studies. Serving an internship is a graduation requirement, typically completed in the last semester of the senior year. By that point in the curriculum, the paralegal student has completed 11 core legal courses, including: Legal Writing, Research and Analysis; Probate, Estates and Wills; Family Law; Court Rules, Forms, and Drafting Contracts; and Civil Litigation. The paralegal student has also completed required business and technology courses, including: Law Office Administration and Technology; Accounting; Records Administration; and computer application courses. Elective courses include Real Estate and Internet Law.
A primary goal of the Paralegal Studies Program is to develop a student’s skills so that, upon graduation, the paralegal is prepared to help an attorney with: legal research; drafting pleadings and motions; case investigation; and client interviews.
Prospective employers should know that the Program’s required courses embrace those in the highly form-driven practice areas of Family Law, Probate Law, and Real Estate. By the internship semester, the paralegal student has developed a working knowledge of the local, state, and federal forms. All Program courses are taught by experienced attorneys.
The EMU Paralegal Intern Advantage
The EMU paralegal intern program offers a law firm the opportunity to:
- Try utilizing paralegal support if the firm has never done so;
- Train a particular student paralegal for prospective employment;
- Find paralegal support to complete a particular short-term project or case task; and
- Get support for developing computer applications for the firm.
Perhaps the biggest opportunity for a firm that wants to host an intern is that the above opportunities come with no overhead! To satisfy the required internship course requirements, the paralegal student must spend 150 hours, under the supervision of an attorney in a legal setting, over a 15-week semester. The paralegal intern’s actual work schedule is worked out between the student and the firm.
The Growing Role of Paralegals in Today’s Law Firm
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook ranks "Paralegal" among the 20 fastest growing occupations through the year 2018. One reason for this projection is that employers are recognizing, more and more, that Paralegals can perform many legal tasks, under attorney supervision, for lower salaries than lawyers.