Paralegals work in the legal industry and support consultative or judicial litigation. In school, they learn all about the legal system and how to assist lawyers. Getting an education as a paralegal involves learning about communications, English, and legal studies within the United States. Paralegals themselves cannot practice law and do not need to get a law school education. While lawyers have ultimate responsibility when it comes to representing a client, they do delegate a lot of the tasks to paralegals and legal assistants. What makes a paralegal different from a legal assistant is the fact that assistants have more administrative duties. Meanwhile, paralegals have the background and knowledge to conduct legal research and documentation. So, how can paralegals assist with a major case? Learn more about their duties below.
They speak to clients about getting representation.
In some cases, the paralegal is a new client’s first point of contact. For example, a paralegal may speak to a potential client about the Zantac class action lawsuit. These ranitidine suits are moving forward rather quickly and are a legal claim for financial compensation by people who took the Zantac heartburn medication and have since been diagnosed with cancer. This can include stomach cancer, gastric cancer, pancreatic cancer, bladder cancer, and even esophageal cancer. A paralegal may speak to someone inquiring about Zantac litigation. They’ll have some experience with determining whether the client’s circumstances are suitable for legal representation.
Paralegals assist with investigation and interviews.
Sometimes, paralegals will have to interview witnesses and construct witness statements. This requires them to put on an investigative hat and support the lawyer in whatever means necessary. When they pursue their paralegal associate’s degree, they learn about principles and conduct as well as legal research. Paralegal courses include subjects such as civil litigation, bankruptcy law, family law, estate law, introduction to law, and research. These courses, along with many others, will help any aspiring paralegal to perform investigative duties. They’ll also refine their research skills through the paralegal program and learn about special topics regarding legal ethics.
They are familiar with the process of drafting legal documents.
The legal field is one of the few fields that still rely on hard copies as opposed to transitioning everything to digital. This is because legal documents are often part of court processes. So, the role of the paralegal involves maintaining and organizing files, preparing documents for a case, and drafting requests for admissions or production. When paralegals request information from the opposing party, this is called “discovery” and is typically done to provide accurate information for the lawyer to represent their clients.
Paralegals help with trial preparation.
When a case doesn’t reach a settlement, it goes to trial. In a lot of circumstances, both parties will settle out of court in order to avoid the cost of trial. But if a settlement isn’t reached or the case is more complex, an experienced lawyer is needed in order to argue for the client’s case and receive financial compensation. Paralegals assist in preparing for this process. They’ll accompany lawyers to courtroom trials, make arrangements when it comes to logistics, and even draft opening and closing arguments. They might even observe reactions from jury members in order to gather some intel and relay it back to the lawyer.
As you can see, the role of a paralegal in this field is essential to the lawyer’s ability to execute their duties. While knowledge of the field and experience in administrative work is helpful, it also requires excellent language and communication skills, the ability to operate legal software, and great critical-thinking skills in order to become a successful paralegal.