FAQs: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Becoming a Paralegal

Posted by on July 10, 2014

Staff Spotlight: Joseph Bazan, Paralegal Program Chair

Joseph Bazan is the paralegal program chair at Minnesota School of Business (MSB) at both the St. Cloud and Elk River campuses. Educated at Michigan State University and John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Bazan has worked as an attorney in private practice (criminal defense and bankruptcy) and as an instructor at MSB for 12 years. Students find him to be both demanding and inspiring in the classroom. They might be surprised to learn that this passionate attorney and instructor left law at one point in his career to become a stay-at-home father for three years.

Joseph Bazan, paralegal program chair, at work at his desk.

Bazan answers here some frequently asked questions about the paralegal profession.

Q: What exactly does a paralegal do?

A: The paralegal assists a lawyer by gathering factual and legal information and then by preparing documents for client cases. The primary goal is to protect the client’s interests. Although paralegals cannot give legal advice or represent people in court, they are expected to know the law as well as their supervising attorney does.

Q: What are the qualities of a top paralegal?

A: Critical thinking and problem solving. Excellent writing skills. Organizational skills. Being able to think on their feet. Students don’t always know these competencies are needed when they enter the program, so they must learn to understand the relationship between their current work and how it affects a case in its next stages. They learn that there are legitimate and serious consequences for the client if they mess up. I like to tell them, “I don’t know if I have ever been the smartest, the most experienced or the best lawyer in the room, but I do know if you are the hardest working legal professional in the room, you’ll get results.”

Q: What is the most challenging part of studying to become a paralegal?

A: There is a huge amount of information and detail to absorb. Students always ask me, “How do you keep all that stuff straight in your head?”

Q: What is the most exciting part?

A: Probably putting into practice the legal knowledge that most people don’t have. Internships, certainly. Exercising legal knowledge for real cases and real clients. Also, the law is always changing, so you must evolve with it. That’s exciting.

Q: How are your paralegal students received as interns in the community?

A: They are almost universally well-received and praised for their legal skills and professionalism. This is a great source of pride for me. Our students go to a wide variety of law offices including litigation and criminal prosecution—small, medium and large firms—throughout central Minnesota and the Twin Cities.

Q: You are well known by students and your peers as having high standards. How do you explain to your students the importance of language in their careers?

A: Law requires the highest level of writing—for clarity. Writing at a very high level proves that you can read well and that means think well. These are important skills for all legal professionals. I tell them, “Language and words are the tools to do our job.”

Q: What kinds of jobs are available to paralegals?

A: In addition to traditional law firms, paralegals work for title companies, government offices, banks and private corporations. Our students are encouraged to explore the possibilities.


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