Paralegals aren’t just mere right-hand persons following lawyers everywhere they go. They play an active part in the legal industry and are constantly in high demand by law firms of all sizes. Therefore, your career goals are more than valid if you want to become a paralegal. But it takes a specific level of commitment and consistent efforts for prospective students to make it in the role. Here are some responsibilities you should know.
Conducting Legal Research
The first step is to enroll in an institution accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. Today, many prospective students can enroll in a paralegal college online without hassle. Paralegal students can access the same level of education, whether it’s an online undergraduate study or an in-person option. These study courses include law office management and soft skills like critical thinking and research. This is because these roles are vital to the case preparation stage, especially in legal research. They investigate facts, identify laws and other case results, gathering relevant data for lawyers to build a solid case for their clients.
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Interviewing Clients and Witnesses
Legal interviewing requires lawyers to cross-examine their clients, prepping them for the big stage. Lawyers list specific questions to clients, depending on the kind of case at hand. The objective can range from seeking redress before the court or pushing for a legal settlement. Generally, it involves soliciting important details from clients to advance the case preparation process.
For instance, a car accident lawyer would interview the client to ascertain the facts of the case to identify fault parties in a reckless driving accident case or auto accident. Often, lawyers handle the interviewing but need help every step of the way. They monitor client feedback, track response metrics established by the legal team, and provide specific details to help lawyers know which questions they need to probe further based on client responses.
Drafting Legal Documents
Written communication and legal writing proficiency are required for this role. They manage documents, file relevant paperwork with the court, distribute relevant documents to attorneys and other stakeholders. They also spend a lot of time drafting subpoenas, pretrial orders, trust agreements, and other contracts. Your lawyer will depend on you to be critical, precise, and neutral at all times.
You may learn legal writing as part of your training. However, every law firm may have its standards. Therefore, asking for tips from administrators and experienced lawyers can be a good idea when you get in. The same applies to file management. Some law firms may have a strong policy against shredding files in the office. So it’s essential to ask and learn on the job, especially if you don’t begin your duties with an orientation.
These roles must have their boots on the ground, following lawyers through meetings and court proceedings. Lawyers handling cases as part of a legal team often have debriefings after a court attendance, and they most likely would want to remember everything that happened in the courtroom. But that’s impossible for lawyers, so a lot of the remembering will come to you as the paralegal.
Some lawyers may not ask, depending on how familiar they are with the day’s proceedings. But taking notes can benefit paralegals in several ways. A lot of the learning you need as a lawyer doesn’t happen in the classroom. Taking notes during court sessions can be the best way to document your learning process, giving you materials you can always refer to as you build your legal career.
All in all, these points can sum up the responsibilities of paralegals in an established law firm.