Paralegals work to assist attorneys with their client caseload and the smooth management of the legal firm or office. They have a variety of responsibilities, including file creation and storage, research, and the drafting of briefs. Because a paralegal bills at considerably less per hour than an attorney, clients are best served by a combination of attorney and paralegal services: The lawyer represents the client in meetings and the courtroom, while the paralegal works mainly behind the scenes to make sure the documents are properly researched and executed.
Paralegals working in the field of corporate law can expect to spend a lot of time checking licenses, drafting organizational documents, and managing files. Although the majority of paralegals do not perform their own administrative functions, those working in a corporate setting may serve as registrars for annual events and be asked to perform secretarial functions, such as keeping the minutes of board meetings, in addition to more tradition tasks.
In criminal defense offices, paralegals will often act as the first line of contact between potential clients and the office, taking preliminary notes about the case to present to the attorney. They assist in the management of trial files, help to generate cross examination questions, and preside over the collection of evidence. They are often responsible for jury selection and help to draft motions related to all aspects of a criminal case, from pretrial through appeal.
Paralegals working in the field of family law conduct preliminary client interviews and research all aspects of the case. They are responsible for investigating the finances of each party in a divorce and for interviewing witnesses in the case. They draft and file motions with the court and help in the writing of all documents related to the case. In addition to these traditional duties, paralegals in this field may act to represent parties in child custody suits; in some states, they may also function as a certified mediator in the divorce settlement.
Probate, Trusts and Estates
Paralegals working in probate and estates are responsible for transferring assets, drafting documents related to the will and trust, interviewing clients, and corresponding with the court over matters related to the case. They prepare the paperwork to close estates and prepare tax returns for guardianship trusts.
All in all, paralegals work tirelessly to need the legal needs of the firm’s clients. Their role is much more than administrative, as paralegals require expert knowledge of everything ranging from the court calendar to the legal history of a particular statute. They are also required to read people and be a sympathetic and reassuring presence for individuals under a great deal of stress. The field is changing all the time, becoming ever more specialized and complex. It is both a challenging and an exciting career.