According to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics there are approximately 285,600 paralegals in the United States ( US Department of Labor, 2018).The majority of paralegals often work in law firms, however, some work in other industries. One thing that is often overlooked is the importance of a good paralegal. It should be noted that the role of a paralegal varies from firm to firm and thus the term paralegal is ambiguous.
What is a Paralegal?
Despite the ambiguity of what a paralegal is a paralegal IS NOT an attorney and should never present themselves as one. Nonetheless, when called upon a paralegal is a valuable asset to any firm. They may have a variety of responsibilities and have to illustrate sound competency in understanding the law. Moreover, the value a paralegal brings to an attorney or team is their ability to act as a safeguard between outside counsel, client, and the attorney. Think of it this way, paralegals are like soldiers who are in the trenches with attorneys through it all. They are carrying ammunition, plans,
scouting, and may discuss strategy with the team they serve. However, they are also radioing in to command and relaying that message to others. Get the picture? Paralegals bring a lot to the table.
Skills and Responsibilities
A key role for a paralegal is assisting attorney(s) with litigation by preparing TOC’s, TOA’s, trial notebooks, legal research and compiling data that is relevant to a case. In addition, a paralegal who can analyze the data and prepare an internal memorandum to help an attorney(s) develop a strategy for a case is priceless. Another way a paralegal is important in a law firm is by handling various administrative tasks. This often includes playing the role of a receptionist in small law firms, organizing and filing papers, making outbound calls to clients and outside counsel, scheduling, maintaining the attorney(s) calendar, and sometimes taking out the trash, just to keep you grounded. Drafting a variety of legal documents is very helpful to an attorney(s) who may have heavy caseloads. Being proactive and taking the initiative to be an efficient and effective communicator is also crucial. A paralegal who knows how to interview clients will add years to your life. True, paralegals do not normally conduct the initial interview with clients or witnesses, they are there hopefully taking important notes and observing the interview for future reference.
Law firms deal with a variety of clients who are going through a difficult situation. Let’s face it, clients can be difficult and down right rude and abusive depending on the situation they are facing. The paralegal is often tasked with dealing with these sort of clients, as well as, the nice ones. Therefore, a thick skin, patience, and a positive attitude are a definite plus. The paralegal may be the face of the firm and when you acquire a paralegal who can foster a good relationship with the client during stressful and uncomfortable situations, you will gain the respect of your clients.
As you can see the role of paralegals vary and they may wear multiple hats in small and mid-sized law firms. Nonetheless, they are important to the day to day operations of a law firm whether are the office manager or the filing clerk. Attorneys will love paralegals who make their jobs easier even though they may not show it. Attorneys are not known to say thank you since many dismiss emotions and put on that cold masculine face not to show weakness or empathy. However, a good paralegal may get that occasional nod or look of appreciation even though it is far and in between. Good paralegals add value and are appreciated.
(2018, April 13). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm#tab-3.