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The U.S. legal system has undergone many changes over the past few decades as more people turn to lawyers for help in settling disputes. This increase in litigation has placed greater demands on lawyers and other legal professionals. To help meet these demands, lawyers have hired legal assistants to help provide legal services to more people at a lower cost.

The first paralegals were given a limited number of routine duties. Many started as legal secretaries who were gradually given more responsibilities. Today, however, the work of the paralegal has expanded and formal training programs have been established.

Since this occupation developed in the late 1960s, paralegals have taken on much of the routine work that lawyers once did themselves, such as researching, investigating, and preparing legal briefs. Their work allows lawyers to concentrate on the more technical aspects of providing legal services. The paralegal profession continues to grow as they gain wider acceptance as legal professionals.

Computers play an important role in the research conducted by paralegals today. A paralegal must be proficient at using computers and the Internet to find information and to create reports.