Paralegal Careers & Technology

Thirty years ago, when paralegals had to produce multiple copies of a document, they used carbon paper in their typewriters! Today, it is hard to imagine working in the legal field without modern-day technology, computer software, the internet, cell phones, and instant access to important information.

The Progression of Technology Over Time
The role of paralegals continues to evolve as technology becomes more and more advanced. According to Paralegal Today Magazine, “Computer technology in the law office has evolved from word processing and spreadsheets to managing huge document databases and creating Hollywood-style productions for courtroom presentations.”

However, technology in the legal field is not limited to spreadsheets, databases, and courtroom presentations. It is also used to manage information, to conduct legal research, and to create the legal documents that are needed in all aspects of the legal industry. Enrolling in a paralegal certificate or degree program is a great way to learn about the technology that is currently used by paralegals. Once working in the field, technology will continue to progress, as will the role of paralegals.

Systems that Paralegals Must Know
It is not just important, it is ESSENTIAL, that paralegals be proficient in most of today’s commonly used computer programs. Most paralegals use Microsoft Office software for completing word processing projects and entering data into spreadsheets. Also, they use basic office equipment such as fax machines, paper shredders, and photo copiers on a daily basis.

Two computer programs paralegals use regularly are called Lexis Nexis and Westlaw. LexisNexis and Westlaw consist of databases that can be essential for conducting legal research. Depending on the specific law firm or employer, as well as the state in which it is located, paralegals may also be responsible for knowing specific programs for filing legal documents with local, state, and federal courts. One such system is called “PACER” which stands for “Public Access to Court Electronic Records.” According to the United States Courts website, PACER allows for searches of case and docket information from Federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts. Many other computer programs exist for the benefit of paralegals and others working in the legal industry, and specific training courses are available for most all of them.

Efficiency
Paralegals have no choice but to keep up with advancements in technology. Computers, databases, and the internet make the legal system more run more efficiently than it did in the past. Thanks to technology, it is easy to communicate with anyone about a case or a legal matter, regardless of where they are located in the world. Technology has also allowed paralegals quick access to legal research databases, and they now have the ability to keep track of cases through management software.

Paralegals with advanced technology skills often earn higher salaries than their non-technically-advanced counterparts, and they also have an easier time finding new employment if they are looking to switch jobs.

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