The Role of the Paralegal in the Law Firm

The paralegal provides invaluable aid to the attorney in the legal process. Paralegals are the backbone of the trial team, coordinating thousands of details that must be accomplished from the beginning of the first client interview through the trial process and post-trial procedures. The paralegal is also important to the client as they utilize time efficiently and provide the client necessary legal assistant services at a much lower rate than that of the attorney. This enables the attorney to focus on the major aspects of the case, while the paralegal gathers and collates important and necessary data.

Paralegals should in most instances utilize critical thinking skills, business managerial skills, organizational skills, general communication skills, general office skills, computer skills, and research and writing skills.

From the beginning of the client interview, under the supervision of the attorney, the paralegal will begin gathering information to assist the attorney in analyzing the client’s specific legal issues through interviews with clients, witnesses and experts. The paralegal, under the attorney’s direction, will also identify and evaluate alternative legal solutions; formulate logical solutions to specific problems of the case; construct logical arguments in support of the client’s position; suggest potential solutions; determine which areas of law are relevant to the client’s particular issues; identify interrelationships among cases, statutes, regulations, and other legal authorities; apply recognized legal authority to a specific factual situation; analyze factual situations to determine when it is appropriate to apply exceptions to general legal rules; distinguish evidentiary facts from other material and/or controlling facts; and identify factual omissions and inconsistencies.

Using organizational skills the paralegal will sort information by category and prioritize assignments according to the client’s needs, manage information manually and through computerized databases.

It is the job of the paralegal to interact effectively with clients, witnesses, experts, counsel of record, courts and other legal and business professionals. They must adapt to situations as they arise and keep the attorney informed of all new developments in the case. They must be able to adapt to situations as they arise, and understand the need to ask questions and seek guidance form the attorney.

Legal research involves the application of critical thinking, organizational skills, and effective communication skills. The paralegal must be able to carry out legal research and analyze and categorize key facts in each legal situation. They must read, evaluate and analyze both printed and electronic sources of law and with supervision of the attorney apply that law to the facts of each case. They must not only properly cite sources, but must check the cited sources of other legal professionals to locate and formulate proper legal concepts.

One of the most important and difficult jobs of the paralegal is the drafting of legal documents. This involves understanding and application of principles of writing and rules of English grammar. The writing must be done in a way that conveys legal theory in a clear and concise manner and conforms with local, state and federal court rules. They must further locate, modify and/or customize standardized forms found in formbooks, pleadings files, form files, or on computer data banks according to the facts of each potential case.

The paralegal must have a well rounded knowledge of the legal system, the various court procedures and the law and how it applies to the various legal matters at issue for each client. They are a critical member of the legal support team and used effectively assist in providing the client with the appropriate legal representation at a more efficient price.

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