Paralegals, also called legal assistants, are trained professionals who provide lawyers with assistance by supporting them with their daily work.
Paralegals commonly work for independent lawyers, law firms, corporate legal departments, government legal departments, and any legal practice environment where they work under the supervision of attorneys. They help lawyers deliver legal services efficiently; however, they can neither provide legal advice to clients nor represent them in court.
The importance of paralegals has increased in the industry that there are firms providing paralegal services (full-time, part-time, hourly basis, fixed cost, project-based pricing, etc.) A paralegal’s assistance is a helping hand, doing wonders for busy lawyers. In fact, trained and experienced paralegals can help lawyers in several legal areas. As a lawyer, whether you are looking for a full-time paralegal or on an hourly basis, you must know what all they can do for you.
What can paralegals do?
Paralegals are individuals who are employed and trained by legal practitioners. Paralegals possess the knowledge of the law and legal procedures and perform delegated legal work for which the lawyer/attorney bears the ultimate responsibility. They provide crucial support to the entire legal system.
- Filing and drafting legal documents/pleadings
- Investigates or finds an investigation expert for the case
- Assists the lawyers during court trials
- Study and examine the laws, legal articles, or change in regulations
- Organizing, managing, and presenting information
- Record important information related to cases in web databases
- Draft legal documents like mortgages and contracts
- Gather formal statements, affidavits, and proofs that could be used as evidence in court
Manage Legal Back-office Functions: A paralegal can manage almost all the essential administrative jobs that needed to be done for the stable running of a law firm or legal department or a lawyer’s office. The jobs may include drafting legal documents (subpoenas, depositions, and motions), reviewing clients’ files, keeping them organized, and conducting interviews of clients, witnesses, and case-relevant people. Having a paralegal to perform all these legal back-office duties frees up attorneys’ time that they can use to work on more complex practice areas.
A well-organized and secure filing and document management system is essential for a law office's success, especially those that handle large amounts of documents and files or work for high-profile clients. Paralegals can make it easier for attorneys to access client information and case-relevant documents on time.
Assist Attorneys with Research: Every case that lawyers work on requires a supporting foundation as per both local and federal laws. Sifting through an abundance of information in order to find case-relevant facts can be a tiring task for lawyers; moreover, if they do it solely on their own, this may result in delayed legal proceedings.
On the other side, having a paralegal can help complete the process faster than usual. In addition to capturing and consolidating information from internal resources, they can access valuable insights, facts available in external sources of information for which lawyers often don’t have enough time.
Paralegals are the extensions of lawyers. Lawyers can assign paralegals to thoroughly investigate facts and pieces of evidence related to a case. Paralegals can conduct legal research; they can dig deeper and make detailed investigations on their assigned cases. This results in a robust framework in legal practice, increasing the chances of success in each case.
Support in Enhancing Client Experience: A law practice with heavy workloads can start to slip if lawyers fail to focus on client service, even unintentionally. Client interaction is vital for lawyers to keep the clients informed and satisfied. This will help lawyers gain clients’ trust, and the clients will be happy knowing their case is going further and are aware of what needed to be done in the future.
Lawyers are usually busy with a lot of work that requires a lot of time, effort, attention, and an eye for detail, leaving them with almost no time to interact with clients even over a phone call, let alone the one-on-one meetings.
Therefore, with paralegal support, lawyers can free up their time for client meetings or have an alternative option if they are unavailable for clients. Although paralegals cannot practice law or provide legal advice, they can act as a communication medium between clients and very busy lawyers. This ensures that there is always someone around that client can speak with, even amidst the busiest times, enhancing clients’ overall experience.
Help Improve Profitability: As a lawyer, you might have come to the legal business to earn, grow, and expand your law practice or law firm, law and finance. Yes, with the support of a paralegal managing the necessary administrative functions, you become able to increase your clientele. As you get relief from your workload, you can take on more cases, resulting in more income. Additionally, paralegals charge less than lawyers, and you can bill clients separately for the work done by your paralegals.
More importantly, when your legal practice or law firm grows with time, people will get to know about it; therefore, make sure you make your practice known for being a reliable and affordable one. With enhanced client communication, serving, and experience, satisfied clients will spread the word, and it will open doors to potential clients.
Paralegals can handle all the tasks usually performed by a lawyer, subject to lawyers' supervision, except the ones laid down by the law. A lawyer might not assign a paralegal some duties like:
- Authority for establishing an attorney‐client relationship.
- Seal of approval for the amount of a fee to be charged for a legal service.
- Mandate for a legal opinion rendered to a client.
How would a paralegal improve your practice?
A professional, experienced paralegal will help generate more value than you spend on them.
- Paralegals help improve a lawyer’s bottom line as they can accept more cases (clients) with the help of paralegals and offer more value-added legal services.
- Taking assistance from a paralegal for your core, repetitive legal jobs will help you lower your legal fees and attract more clients.
- The work your paralegal will manage can be billed directly to clients, or you can set a flat fee for the same.
- Your clients will appreciate the level of communication they will experience through your paralegal.
- You may give a separate bill to your clients for the paralegal’s time at lower costs.
- Paralegals usually take less than lawyers, and still, they perform several tasks that would otherwise be handled by busy lawyers.
- Your paralegals can be a centric point of profits for your legal practice.
- You can expect legal business referrals from your paralegals.
Ethical Responsibilities in Employing a Paralegal
- It is the lawyer's responsibility to take appropriate measures and ensure that other lawyers, courts, and clients know that the paralegal he/she has appointed does not hold a license to practice law.
- Paralegals work under lawyers' supervision; these lawyers must produce and implement policies ensuring how their professional conduct must comply with lawyers' professional obligations.
- Lawyers should introduce paralegals to their clients, other lawyers, and courts as soon as possible, by their names and titles.
- Lawyers should also explain to clients the level of contact their paralegals will have with them.
- Lawyers should help paralegals by instructing them about identifying themselves in face-to-face conversations and over phone calls.
You might hire legal assistants temporarily as per your requirements at different times. Whereas, when you have a paralegal working for your legal practice, you hire them at a fixed salary. This ensures your money is worth spending for the required legal assistance; the paralegal comes to the office every day and handles the work daily, leaving no stone unturned while efficiently performing all back-office jobs.
Different courts have different rules for punctuation, formatting, and legal filings like lawsuits. Typically, paralegals will make sure your court filings are correct for the court you’re filing it in. Having a great paralegal can significantly reduce the attorneys' workload, supporting the legal practice to reach new heights of growth and expansion.