During my time as a Paralegal, I was tasked with much of the work that the more junior Associates (Lawyers) would do. I worked in the Capital Markets department which specialized in a time of financial instrument called a Commercial Mortgage-Backed Security. Without going into too much detail it was basically a financial transaction related to real estate. Our law firm represented the banks that were a part of the transaction, and for the law firm that involved a lot of different legal documents (various agreements, deal documents, opinion letters, etc.). The more junior attorneys would primarily spend their time writing up the initial versions of the different legal documents our firm was responsible for and send them to the senior attorneys to review before sending them to the rest of the parties involved in the transaction (different banks, other law firms, etc.). They would then repeat the process once they received comments from everybody involved. Eventually all of the documents get finalized and received sign-off from everyone which eventually closes the deal.
The work involved a lot of reading, writing, critical thinking and communication skills to make sure that all the right detail was included in the documents required for the transactions to close legally.
When I first started out, most of time was spent in my car, to be honest. This wasn't the Lincoln Lawyer type job, but literally I spent my days running to and from courts, but the court appearances were quite short; the travel was the time consuming part of my day. I drove from 8 to 5, every day, five days a week. I learned why lawyers spend a bit extra on nice cars.
Eventually however we had a pandemic; and now much of our work is done by video. I appear in courts and offices across my state by video nearly every day now. The time I spend in court, the events you might be thinking of, are jury trials.
You represent clients, and as part of the criminal justice system you may represent clients who can be convicted. You represent them with everything you got, or you pick another line of work. The criminal system is adversarial, meaning it takes two equal competitors or adversaries, struggling against each other, to find the truth. The competition cannot be unequal or one sided. The system was designed with that tension in mind; of finding out the truth only through a complete contest. This is why cross examination of a witness was called a 'crucible' long ago, a device used to melt down the parts into purities, and impurities. If you don't believe you can defend someone accused of serious crimes, there are plenty of other cases to take; civil lawsuits, domestic relations cases and custody, wills, or immigration work. Law saturates everything around you, but its one of the few things we learn very little about in school.
Jury trials are fantastic; they are the reason I stuck with lawyering all this time. Trials are a bit of everything - investigation, acting, public speaking, theatrics, video presentation and diagrams, confrontation and cross examination. Trials are a big reason to become a lawyer, honestly. The actual work of getting to a trial includes long days, research and writing, a lot of organization, and investigation of all types; witnesses, issues, and backgrounds. I learn more from each trial I do. A good trial lawyer can memorize facts, remember outlines and questions, and stays ahead of everyone else in the courtroom. It is pretty likely there are trials going on near you now; and if you search up the video links for those courts, you can watch a trial by video, or just find an interesting trial and go see one live at the courthouse. If you see a trial going on, for real, you will see how that work is really done. Movies and shows don't do it justice.
Student loans are eternal; don't worry about the loans. They are part of the life, unfortunately.
I have worked mostly as a litigation paralegal while working closely with lawyers and I have also worked a lawyer. I found that it all depends on whether you have landed a job in a high intensity field (such as litigation). After my law degree I have worked with the police too, dealing with immigration questions too mostly. Being a lawyer is very rewarding. I often felt like I was changing the world.
I had worked in litigation so most of the prep work for the cases was going back and forth answering legal documents until trial. As a paralegal most of the work was document management.
It is up to the lawyer if they want to take on a case that they think the defendant is guilty.
Paying college expenses depends on what kind of financial package you got. You would also have to pay loans 6 months after you graduate school. It expensive but definitely worth the legal education. You would also have to take continuous education classes too after you graduate.