What do paralegals do? Paralegals are trained legal professionals who assist in the day-to-day representation of clients. In some states, paralegals operate much like legal assistants, while in other states, paralegals have been granted far broader powers to handle routine legal matters for clients. Paralegals are often integral to the success of any firm’s litigation strategy.
Paralegals are often the first people a client will meet. They gather background information about clients and their cases, much the way nurses do when you go to a doctor’s office. When clients call the office, paralegals are often the ones fielding many of the routine questions, such as:
- When is my court date?
- What’s going on with my case?
- What should I bring to my appointment?
When attorneys need legal documents drafted, paralegals are usually the ones preparing pleadings, motions, response briefs, and discovery requests and responses. Of course, attorneys should always review these documents, but much of the routine legal work that goes into document drafting is done by paralegals.
While not all paralegals are comfortable with legal research, those who are tend to be a real asset to their law firms. Legal research is the process of reviewing statutes, regulations, and past court decisions to determine the current legal status of disputes. Research plays a key role in almost all litigation practices.
Communicating With Opposing Counsel
In a litigation practice, there can be many phone calls, emails, and other correspondence with opposing law firms. Paralegals often handle the bulk of these communications on behalf of the attorneys, which frees up the attorney’s time to deal with only the most important matters. A good paralegal is adept at identifying what is unimportant, what is urgent, and what is absolutely critical.
Conflict Management & Screening
In some practices, especially commercial or corporate firms, paralegals often serve in roles where they are responsible for screening new cases for conflicts of interests. Most firms have procedures in place to weed out potential conflicts so they don’t end up accidentally representing someone they shouldn’t. For instance, if a client calls to meet with an attorney about filing for divorce, it is helpful to know whether the firm already represents the spouse. Paralegals often handle this in order to shield attorneys from potentially discussing matters with clients who may be adverse parties in litigation.
When cases proceed to trial, paralegals become invaluable. Attorneys often have paralegals coordinate with court reporters, schedule depositions, and work on gathering evidence lists and exhibit packs.
Advanced Paralegal Training
In some states, paralegals are being given certified status, allowing them to handle more complex work, such as drafting estate plans, handling uncontested divorces, and even some in-court representation.
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From dynamic trial exhibits and high-tech e-discovery support to eye-popping animations and illustrations, experienced litigators know that the key to success often boils down to having the right support on your team. A. William Roberts, Jr. & Associates (AWR) provides a full range of litigation services to support your case. Contact us today for help with all your court reporting and litigation support needs.