If you ask most people, they will say that a paralegal’s job is to assist attorneys. This is true to a degree, but they are actually in charge of many duties that the attorney would handle himself or herself if he or she did not have a paralegal. This being said, paralegals are not legally permitted to perform all the duties that an attorney does not have time for. For example, they are not allowed to litigate in court or give legal advice.
So, what does the law allow paralegals to do exactly, and how do they aid attorneys? Here are a few items that fit into their job description:
Performing Legal Research
Paralegals famously assist their supervising attorneys with real estate closings, and upcoming hearings and trials. In order to prepare for these, sometimes some legal research is necessary since legal solutions are always based on precedent.
That means that a parallel must be drawn between the present case and previous cases. Paralegals look up these cases and compare what has worked in the past and what hasn’t. They also search for applicable federal, state, and local laws, as well as legal opinions and treatises. They layout the information in a brief, or a summary, for the attorney so he or she can use the information and citations for court memoranda.
Drafting Legal Documents
In addition to drafting and filing litigation documents such as complaints, answers, interrogatories, subpoenas, pleadings, and motions, paralegals also draft wills, real estate forms, and contracts.
Running the Law Office
Most paralegals also do double duty as legal secretaries in smaller offices. That means they take over the administrative duties like filing paperwork, writing letters to clients, opposing counsel, the court, and others, and answering the phone and taking messages. Paralegals even help arrange their attorneys’ schedules by setting up meetings with witnesses and experts, as well as hearings, depositions, closings, and trials.
Don’t forget that paralegals’ work is completely variable depending on the types of law that their supervising attorneys practice. For example, family law paralegals draft up custody agreements, while corporate paralegals handle paperwork regarding stock buyouts. However, regardless of a paralegal’s specialty, as long as he or she is organized and enjoys multitasking, his or her career will be a rewarding one.