A person should understand the academic requirements, job responsibilities and the expected work environment before investing their time and finances to become a paralegal. Paralegals assist lawyers by performing legal research and many other important administrative duties. The quantity and types of work done by paralegals depend on the popularity of the legal firm and the type of law practiced at the firm. While most paralegal duties are done in law offices, there are some exceptions. Here are some common examples of how a few paralegals get to escape their offices occasionally.
Conducting Research at a Law Library
Lawyers prepare to argue their cases based on associated local, state and federal laws. Excerpts of many of these laws are referenced online, but some may be more easily located within university law libraries. Also, an attorney may support their case’s arguments by citing rulings by judges for similar cases. Paralegals are often able to find copies of court documents, names of contacts and transcripts relating to those cases by visiting the nearest law library. Since many of the documents are considered reference materials and cannot be checked out of the libraries, paralegals would need to spend some time at the library identifying and making copies of the information that they need.
Participating in Initial Meetings With a Client or Witness
Interviewing clients or witnesses is usually an activity reserved for lawyers, but many seasoned paralegals are tasked with engaging clients in meetings for initial or follow up questions. Depending on the case’s circumstances, these meetings are most effectively performed in person rather than over the phone. If the client or witness cannot come to the lawyer’s office, the paralegal can set up an appointment to meet them offsite. Also, paralegals may accompany lawyers during their interviews with clients and witnesses to record meetings and perform any administrative tasks.
Fact Finding and Collecting Evidence
Reputable law firms do not take information given to them at face value; their legal teams follow up to confirm the veracity of the information given to them. Lawyers often delegate these fact finding missions to paralegals. Paralegals who collect evidence in this manner can end up visiting business and city officials to look at surveillance footage; they also contact police departments for background checks. Even when the services of a private detective are required, it is usually the paralegal who oversees the activities associated with fact checking.
Attending Professional Development Conferences and Training
Continued education and training is a vital part of the recipe for success for paralegals who want to excel in their profession, and many of the top law firms encourage and incentivize their paralegals to obtain this type of professional development. Organizations like the National Association of Legal Assistants and the American Bar Association offer training courses for paralegals as well as educational conferences in various locations around the country.
Technological advances have transformed the legal profession just as they have done to so many other career fields. As a result, today’s paralegals can complete a great deal of their work from anywhere that they can access electronic records and securely submit their work. Even some interviews can be conducted via video teleconferences if both parties have the proper computer systems in place. However, some of the same skills that a legal professional uses to become a paralegal are the ones that they employ to determine the best ways of getting their tasks done.