Paralegals Are More Than Assistants to Attorneys
Published on February 7, 2017 by Cassandra Hartman
Despite the common perception of the daily life of a paralegal, “assisting attorneys” doesn’t quite cover it.
There are numerous things a paralegal does in the course of his or her day, from drafting documents to conducting research for cases. Let’s take a closer look to help you get a sense of what the job entails. Of course, duties will vary depending on the size of a law firm, case loads, etc. But for example sake, we will give you a wide range and call our paralegal Rebecca. Here are some duties she may encounter at various points on the job.
Checking correspondence and prioritize
Rebecca regularly checks email and correspondence to see what needs to be done for the day. Prioritizing duties for is part of her morning routine.
This week, the law firm where Rebecca works is defending a man accused of embezzlement, and a senior attorney has asked for research on relevant cases. This will comprise the bulk of her morning’s work.
Once the research is done, Rebecca may have to draft a report for the lawyers handling the case, being sure to provide related citations and include anything that helps further the firm’s argument in the matter.
Rebecca’s duties may expand beyond research. The firm has been working with a developer on a new construction project downtown and needs to have contractual language in place for potential renters. Rebecca finds the basics from her state’s standard lease agreements and tailors them to the needs of the client. The document is then passed along to the presiding attorney for review.
A law firm may be managing a few cases at a time. Rebbeca’s firm is preparing for another case involving a child-custody dispute. As part of the case-preparation process, the firm wants to conduct an interview with the family babysitter, whose testimony may influence the matter.
To ask pertinent questions, Rebecca reviews the preliminary notes on the case, and eventually sits down with the subject for the interview. Once the interview is complete, she files the digital recording, sorts through the information and drafts a summary for the attorney handling the case.
Read police reports
Another aspect of the child-custody case is reading the police reports and criminal complaints that arose from an incident at the family’s home several months ago. Rebecca will also compare the reports to the accused’s social media accounts, looking for things that support (or conflict with) the law enforcement documents. A Facebook post from the father seems to contradict what he told police; this will later be part of the firm’s case.
To be a successful paralegal, you need to be able to manage and meet deadlines. As part of the big embezzlement case, an attorney needs some last-minute research for tomorrow’s court appearance. So Rebecca may be asked to pour over electronic databases to find the nugget of information the lawyer needs.
Fortunately, our paralegal has already been through this data several times and can quickly locate and relay what the attorney needs.
Paralegals are valued members of legal teams, providing important research support to the firms and attorneys they work for. Though no two days will be alike, you can be sure that every day will be filled with the sort of intellectual variety that makes a career rewarding for years to come.
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