If you have ever interacted with a law office or lawyer, you have mostly likely met or spoken to a paralegal. But what does a paralegal do on a day-to-day basis? How does a paralegal also differ from another? Here’s a summary of their work and their skills.
Across the board, paralegals straddle two main functions: assisting an attorney on a case, and assisting an entire office or department with general office duties. You can also say that a paralegal has duties within a court room setting and at the office where he or she works.
At the office, the paralegal could be seen working with an attorney by preparing legal documents needed for a case. This would include finding, drafting, or filing documents that need to be filed with the court. In addition, the paralegal would investigate leads and conduct fact finding and checking. As a case progresses, they will also work with filing appeals, exhibits, and briefs, while acquiring affidavits or statements as court evidence. Depending on the office, they might play a bigger role in the preparation by drafting and writing reports for the attorney, incorporating their research for trial use.
Throughout the day, they maintain and organize all important documents and research in the correct files. They are also found scheduling important meetings, interviews, and other legal motions that need to be done within a particular timeline.
Before arriving to a court room, the paralegal might also be in charge of logistics, such as setting up, coordinating, and transporting needed materials for the trial, such as exhibits and case notes. Other preparations a paralegal might make are reserving spaces and facilitating conversations among staff and various parties. Inside the court room, the paralegal attends a hearing or trial and takes notes for the attorney. They would also mark documents by counsel that need to be looked at again, and help prepare witnesses. At the end of the day, they might also review transcripts and documents to again prepare for future proceedings.
Duties by Occupation
Of course, there are many types of paralegals in the field, depending on the industry and office. Depending on their speciality, a paralegal might have different tasks that need to be completed, and therefore have a very different workday.
For example, corporate paralegals do a lot of back-office work, going over detailed documents and conducting speciality research for various cases concerning their corporation. They are less likely to spend time out of the office and meeting clients. In contrast, a family law paralegal becomes very involved with the cases they work on alongside the attorney, usually meeting with family members and friends and staying up-to-date on their cases.
Depending on your interests, it’s important to learn about various industries and asking current paralegals what their work is like. No two paralegals, especially across different offices and demographics, will have the same experience, even as they share certain common duties.
In order to become and succeed as a paralegal, potential paralegals should have strong written, oral, and listening skills. Interpersonal skills are greatly valued, as a paralegal’s work will always involve a degree of communication within and outside the office. In addition, an aptitude of research and computer skills can help you advance your career. Many offices and firms use speciality databases and programs, so being able to learn and become fluent in computer skills is especially needed. Other skills, such as fluency in another language or knowledge of corporate and business laws might also be required for a specific field. With these skills, and a degree or certificate in legal studies, you can be well on your way to becoming a paralegal.
For more advice and help in your journey to becoming a paralegal, contact us.