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Paralegals Must Know How to do Research

Paralegals Must Know How to do Research

Usually the greatest burden the paralegal has been charged with relieving from attorneys since the genesis of the occupation has been that of research. When a lawyer enacts a legal action or presents a legal argument, that argument must always be based on a scrupulous amount of legal research.  

The law is not a rigid selection of rules that stands for generations, it is always changing and reacting to the world around it, being altered and reshaped by new laws enacted by legislatures and judicial reviews that determine how laws, as written, can be interpreted and implemented.

In essence, any form of argument construction in legal terms can almost be considered in and of itself a form of research law.  Therefore, a large part of legal research must be directed at finding precedents that can undermine a legal argument.  This is where paralegals play a key part in making a lawyer’s job much easier.

Paralegals in the modern legal profession engage in the bulk of a legal organization’s research time, and are thus charged with scouring legal libraries and databases for statues, laws, arguments, analyses, and precedents which form the basis of legal arguments and legal actions. 

Locating this research, however, is only part of research law.  This means they must be able to examine a document and ascertain its most pertinent elements and examine them critically; then, they must be able to figure out how to use them as part of a larger argument or counterargument.

In addition to this, researching must incorporate a precise understanding of organization, as legal research must be ultimately presented in an argument in the form of citation.  Typically, paralegals must fill out extensive written reports cataloguing their research, and emphasizing areas of interests, both for and against a legal argument.

From that point, legal research can play a significant part in drafting of arguments, which will be discussed in a separate section.

A Paralegal’s Job: Basic Tasks

A Paralegal's Job: Basic Tasks

The
duties for which a
paralegal can be called upon
can be extremely extensive and varied, as the paralegals on a hole form a
diverse marketplace.  Paralegals
are also found in many different organizations: from regular law firms, to
government offices, to corporate legal departments, to real estate agencies, to
non-profit groups, and so on. 

 

Almost
anyone entering the paralegal industry will be charged with a high degree of
administrative work, at least at the beginning of one’s tenure with an
organization (usually, greater responsibilities are given to paralegals as
means of reward for a standard of service).These basic administrative skills are usually predicated on having
strong communication and writing skills, as well as competencies in how to
function in an office.

 

A strong understanding and capacity for
clerical work is also necessary for a paralegal, since a great deal of work is
based either on filing and organization. Typical legal actions involve
tremendous amounts of paperwork, and paralegals can often be charged with their
organization and accessibility for later periods.electronic
, will
be required.   

 

Most paralegals serve a central purpose of
trying to accomplish much of the work that is usually the domain of a lawyer,
which often centers on executing many of the research and drafting duties that
can task an average attorney’s time. This means most paralegals will be
required to be able to write and research, which involves not only a basic
understanding of the law, but an ability to analyze written material. 

 

Paralegals can be expected to do a number of
tasks, but many are based on these fundamentally basic duties and abilities.
From there, they can undertake more precise tasks and duties, some of which
deserve further elaboration.

A Paralegal’s Job: Case Management

A Paralegal's Job: Case Management

As the legal system began to be based on lawyers being able to divest themselves of some of their day to day to work and give those tasks over to paralegals, there has also been a natural divestment of some supervisory duties to paralegals as well.  

Therefore, it has become common that attorneys have delegated a certain degree of case management services to their paralegals. 

What a paralegal performing case management services will generally do is take charge of the overall procession of a case, especially in a litigious situation, and make sure that all elements of the case are being collected and maintained and organized.  

It is their job to make sure all paperwork that pertains to an active case is organized and at relatively access.research or drafting assignments, and will then examine the work and determine if they are to be passed on the attorney or approval. 

Paralegals performing case management duties may also interact with clients during their work on a case, however their purpose is only to act as a representative for their attorney or firm, and not to offer legal advice. 

With the increasing amount of importance on computers and the Internet in a paralegal’s duties and case management in particular, emphasis on the discipline of Computerized Information Systems (CIS) has become more prominent in programs that train paralegals.  

Since most interoffice organization is done through computers nowadays, the importance of strong knowledge of CIS in case management cannot be understated.

A criticism of the legal system, and its over reliance on paralegals in general, has been centered on the proliferation of paralegals performing case management services.  

In some cases, it has been cited as potential basis of consumer fraud, as many clients have complained that they have hired an attorney or firm on the understanding that their case will be prepared by an attorney, only to find that much of the work has been delegated to a paralegal. 

A Paralegal’s Job: Contact with Clients

A Paralegal's Job: Contact with Clients

Depending on the organization and the scenario, paralegals may be required to interact often with clients or be restricted in their interaction with clients.  

However, it is otherwise fairly common for paralegals to interact with clients on a fairly administrative basis, provided they do not assume to take on the role of lawyer, and maintain in their relationship with a client the understanding that they are paralegals only, which means that they are required to make full disclosure of their role, as necessary.

Paralegals whose roles do involve client contact  is unavailable, however, they must always remain under the supervision of the lawyer.  It it is this is where the disclosure of paralegal status becomes vital in maintaining the sanctity of the client relationship, as a client is required to understand that what they say in front of a paralegal is not protected by the same confidence that is protected by a lawyer.

In some instances, a paralegal can act as a case manager for for an existing case and or ongoing action, and can thus play the part of conduit of information between client and attorney, again provided that they never act in the capacity of attorney.

While paralegals are forbidden from setting and collecting legal fees per se, they can play a significant role in the actual billing process, and can draft and deliver contracts on behalf of a lawyer or client, provided they are not a signatory on the documents in question. 

Paralegals are also required to reveal conflicts of interest in a given situation, and excuse themselves from a situation as necessary.

In corporate situations, paralegals often do much of the bulk or contract drafting and processing for their clients, with lawyers and legal representatives often giving the final signature to the documentation to complete the processing.

There are particular categories of paralegal where client contact is a necessity of the position, usually when a client is working with an some form of specialized independent paralegal who works outside the supervision of an attorney.

A Paralegal’s Job: Drafting

A Paralegal's Job: Drafting

Usually from the very beginning of a paralegal’s tenure with an organization, they will be called on to perform some form of document drafting, the particular natures of that drafting generally being dependent on the nature of organization.

Typically, most legal writing performed by an office or firm (as opposed to scholarly or academic writing) is done by paralegals under the guidance and direction of attorneys or other paralegals.

When a document is drafted, an attorney will often examine it  back to the paralegal or give it  When the document that is drafted meets with a lawyer’s approval, the lawyer signs it.  

In nearly all jurisdictions, only an attorney is allowed to sign and process a legal document.  paralegal profession with one of its most concrete forms of self-regulation, as it places an onus on the lawyer to ensure that the legal writing is up to muster, because the responsibility ultimately remains with them for the document, even if a paralegal did the majority of the drafting.

Paralegals can be called upon to draft all kinds of legal documents.  Corporate environments, where paralegals form the bulk of a legal department, paralegals are often tasked with drafting contracts that form the basis of agreements between organizations, as well as employee contracts and other legal agreements.  

The significant role paralegals play in the drafting of contracts and other legal documentation has been pointed to by some as a particular reason why paralegals should be more regulated than they are.

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