Paralegals assist attorneys in several key ways. That is the primary purpose of this occupation; after all, the term paralegal is used interchangeably with the term legal assistant. These duties as an assistant are the core of what a paralegal does and should be understood in depth by anyone interested in entering the profession.
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Draft Legal Documents
One of the primary job duties of a paralegal is to draft legal documents of all varieties. This includes contracts, wills, complaints, answers, requests, affidavits and more. These documents are critically important to any legal issue and must be written without grammatical or factual errors. The presence of such errors could easily undermine a case. Paralegals are also usually responsible for ensuring these documents are filed correctly and on time both at the law firm and with the courts. Deadlines are particularly important in the legal profession and must be met at all times or clients could miss their opportunity to pursue legal action. A supervising attorney typically reviews all documents before signing them and approving them for submission.
Paralegals spend a lot of time in law libraries, both physical and virtual, where they look at previous cases and current statues to build an argument in their client’s favor or simply to ensure they have the correct information. Research can also include traveling to a location where an incident occurred to conduct an investigation or looking into any other subjects relevant to a case. Paralegals then take what they’ve learned from this research, present it to the rest of the legal team on the case and include it, properly cited, in the legal documents they write. Legal research can be very time consuming and it is something paralegals can easily do so attorneys do not have to.
Interview Clients And Witnesses
Paralegals are often responsible for interviewing clients, witnesses and other relevant parties in order to gather all the facts surrounding a case. The information they obtain helps both the paralegal and their supervising attorney create a compelling legal argument in favor of their client. In addition to having good interview skills, paralegals also need to be able to listen and pick up on important clues a witness might hold. Because people are often distressed when they need to come to a law firm, paralegals also need to be empathetic and supportive of the individuals they interview. This helps maintain a good relationship between the firm and its clients so attorneys can retain and get new clients through positive word-of-mouth.
What They Are Not Allowed To Do
Paralegals may be law professionals and have specific legal training, but they are not attorneys and are not permitted to do some of the duties attorneys perform. Paralegals are generally not allowed to represent clients in court, set rates or give legal advice according to the National Association of Legal Assistants. It is just as important to understand what paralegals are not allowed to do as it is to know how paralegals assist attorneys. Paralegals who partake in legal duties they are not allowed to practice may face legal consequences and professional ramifications.
The primary role of a paralegal is to assist an attorney, and as such, they perform many of the same duties an attorney does. Law firms commonly hire them so attorneys can spend more time doing other tasks for clients or running the firm. Paralegals assist attorneys by being an effective member of a larger legal team.