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The Duties and Responsibilities of a Paralegal

Paralegal duties encompass a wide range of activities and responsibilities, depending on the size and type of law firm where the paralegal is employed. Paralegals, also called Legal Assistants, work directly with lawyers, and other legal professionals, to ensure every detail of a case is handled accurately and efficiently, perform legal research, and prepare and file legal documents.

For some individuals, becoming a paralegal is a final career goal. For others, paralegal responsibilities serve as a learning ground as they work their way through law school. Here is an example of the types of duties and responsibilities you should be prepared for when you become a paralegal.

Communicating with Clients and the Public. Paralegals must have excellent communication skills because they are the right-hand assistant to the lawyer(s). Depending on the size of the firm or office you work for, your duties may include meeting with, and counseling, clients. In some cases, you may be the initial contact to screen clients before they meet with other members of the legal team. In other situations, you may handle the bulk of the legal work for the clients, and your work will be approved and officially signed off by a lawyer at the firm. In addition to serving as a representative of the legal firm, you may also serve as a guide for the clients as they make their way through the legal proceedings.

In addition to your personal contact with clients, your paralegal responsibilities may also put you in the public spotlight. You may be required to:

  • Contact legal and case-specific experts
  • Take witness statements
  • Serve as a liaison between your firm and the opposing counsel

Writing and Research. In many law firms, paralegals do the bulk of the legal research, and the drafting of numerous types of legal documents. If you work for a litigation attorney, you’ll draft standard legal documents and forms such as:

  • Correspondence
  • Discoveries
  • Pleadings
  • Motions
  • Briefs
  • Legal memorandums
  • Various other documents that range from the simple to the complex.

Additional legal preparations include the drafting of:

  • Agreements
  • Resolutions
  • Contracts
  • Other related documents

Your paralegal responsibilities will require you to use traditional legal research methods. You must be fluent in the computer skills necessary to perform online research, and have a comprehensive knowledge of Westlaw and LexisNexis. Additionally, paralegals use investigative skills to track down and/or obtain medical records, documents, witnesses, and evidence.

Technology Skills. Your paralegal duties require that you have a comprehensive knowledge of technology. Not only will you use computers, spreadsheets, databases, presentation and legal software, you are often the individual responsible for making the technological purchases for your office.

Administrative and Managerial Duties. Your law firm may use you as an administrative or office manager of sorts. In addition to your paralegal duties, you may also be responsible for managing other office employees who work under you such as legal secretaries and other support personnel. You may be required to procure the office supplies, update and/or replace office equipment, and coordinate day-to-day office activities. Paralegals may be responsible for monitoring the legal library, and ensuring the texts are up to date.

An AAS in Paralegal Studies can be a critical first step towards gaining the education, technological training, and skill sets required to efficiently handle your paralegal duties.

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