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Investigation Law Office

Forms of Paralegal Discovery

Forms of Paralegal Discovery

Paralegals Discovery 
After all information is gathered, the paralegal must properly evaluate his/her findings to ensure clarity, accuracy, and cohesion. The paralegal or legal assistant must respect evidence law and acknowledge the varying forms of information available. During the investigation a paralegal will encounter numerous forms of evidence types. To following list will document the varying forms of evidence law.
         Direct Evidence: any evidence that establishes the fact of truth in a case 
         Circumstantial Evidence: indirect evidence that does not establish the fact regardless if believed or not. Only identifies the likelihood of fact. 
         Relevant Evidence: evidence that either proves or disproves the fact in question 
         Authentication Evidence: the process of fortifying an item that is to be introduced as evidence during the trial.

What a Paralegal Cannot Do

What a Paralegal Cannot Do

Although lawyers assume ultimate responsibility in regards to legal work, they often delegate a multitude of tasks to their paralegals. Also known as a legal assistant or legal aid, the paralegal performs many of the same tasks as a lawyer, nevertheless; they are explicitly forbidden from executing duties that are considered to be within the scope of law. 
Paralegals are prohibited from setting legal fees, presenting cases in court, and giving legal advice to clients. That being said, the role of the paralegal is vital to the well being of a firm.
  
The most crucial task given to a paralegal revolves around his/her role in investigations of cases or laws. Lawyers are constantly busy, they interview prospective clients, field questions pertaining to legal matters, and constantly give advice as it pertains to particular cases. 
Lawyers, in any field, rarely have time to make document requests or prepare investigations; most of their time is spent on the forefront of the legal battlefield. Investigations are critical for the fulfillment of a sound strategy. Paralegals perform investigations to reveal all of the facts relevant to the case in question. 
The investigations will sort through the appropriate laws, precedents, judicial rulings, legal articles, facts, and all other materials pertinent to the particular case. In order to perform these tasks, paralegals must constantly make document requests. The job is tedious, paralegals are constantly on the phone with law enforcement agencies, other law firms, and courts making document requests to streamline the investigation process. 
After all of the documents and facts have been properly organized a paralegal will prepare a written document, which essentially acts as a blueprint for an attorney. The attorney will take the report, review all of the information compiled by the paralegal and formulate a strategy based on the investigation’s findings.
  
Investigations performed by a paralegal greatly streamline the fact-finding process, and enable a lawyer to gather all pertinent information into one highly organized document. The intricacies within a legal matter can be highly complex and time consuming. 
That being said, lawyers often are too busy to partake in document requests or investigations themselves, making the role of a paralegal vital to the success of a law firm. The report filed by the paralegal is essentially the foundation for which a lawyer can build his case. As stated before it’s like a blueprint, or manual which provides the lawyer with the pertinent legal issues, facts, and precedents relevant to the case in question.
   
There are many different roles within a law office; a legal document assistant or LDA, is an individual who specializes in the preparation of legal documents or instruments.
 
The role of a legal document assistant may vary based on jurisdiction or state, but all forms of LDA greatly assist in investigations and document filing within a law office. The process to obtain documents, judicial decisions, and facts relevant to the case is complicated and requires cohesion, and a highly organized format to effectively take on legal matters.

The Procedure of Interviewing Witnesses

The Procedure of Interviewing Witnesses

In addition to researching and compiling all pertinent information, a paralegal must also interview relevant witnesses involved in the legal matter. 
Conducting interviews is a crucial role performed by legal assistants, one that must follow a thorough process. The reach of the paralegal also extends to expert witnesses; lawyer’s schedules are often times jumbled, much of the duties in regards to witnesses are relegated to the paralegal. The process that a paralegal must follow in regards to conducting interviews requires many steps and must be painstakingly followed in order to sufficiently fulfill the duty.
Before conducting interviews a paralegal must be aware that interviewing a witness is far different than sitting down with a client. A witness is impartial, however, there may underlying motives towards his/her sentiments. 
Depending on the situation a witness may hold a grudge or have observed a prospective client’s wrongdoing. If this is the case a witness will often times be difficult to handle, the impartiality will shift towards anger or discontent. In addition to the varying sentiment, a paralegal must also understand the different types of witnesses available. Below is a chart that documents the five categories that a witness may fall under. 
• Lay Witnesses-An ordinary witness who possesses factual information as it pertains to the event in question. 
• Eyewitnesses-A witness who observed the incident firsthand. 
• Friendly Witnesses-A witness who is biased against the client’s opposition or sympathetic toward the client’s position 
• Hostile Witnesses-A witness who is prejudiced against the client and possesses a result that is conflict with the client 
• Expert Witness-Discussed below. 
A critical aspect to the paralegal’s responsibility includes choosing an appropriate expert witness. A paralegal must have a mental checklist before beginning this process, for the decision is critical for settlement and trial purposes. An expert witness is an individual who has some form of professional expertise or training in a particular area. 
The expert witness will use his/her knowledge on the legal matter and offer an opinion based on facts and issues relevant to the case. There are approximately 11,000 categories that provide for an expert witness, including over 1,000 medical areas. In order to choose a proper candidate a paralegal must have background knowledge of the issue at hand, as well as a firm understanding of what each expert witness can bring to the case. 
With so many options available, the paralegal must pinpoint the exact issue and pair it with the appropriate expert witness. The paralegal must be aware of the general issue in question, while maintaining a general knowledge for the specifics and how the intricacies coordinate with the expert witness.
Following the appointing of the expert witness, a paralegal must then follow appropriate steps when interviewing a witness. The first aspect of conducting interviews is obviously asking questions. The paralegal should phrase each question appropriately-the answers should be complete, and lack ambiguity or misunderstanding. 
The paralegal must be able to place himself in the witnesses shoes, a full understanding of what the witness observed is necessary. At the conclusion of the interview the paralegal should provide the witness an open forum. Any additional information or thoughts should be exchanged at this time. 
Once the interview is finalized, the paralegal must document all the witnesses’ personal information including:address, telephone number, complete name, and other necessary information. Once the questions have been answered a paralegal must perform a review of all witnesses, a competency check is mandatory to ensure that proper information was exchanged. 
When checking a witnesses qualifications the paralegal must subdivide the types of witnesses and then apply an appropriate competency test. For example, a lay witness is competent only if he/she actually saw, heard, or perceived the event in question. An expert witness is qualified only if he/she possesses special knowledge, experience, or education in regards to the matter.
Following the competency test a paralegal must guarantee the credibility of the witnesses. After conducting interviews a paralegal will investigate his/her findings to evaluate the validity of statements and the information exchanged. 
In addition to credibility, the investigation should also include a thorough review of intentions-Is the witness biased? Is there any reason to believe that the witness has an interest in the outcome of the case which would make the testimony prejudicial?

A Quick Overview of Investigation in a Law Office

A Quick Overview of Investigation in a Law Office

Nature & Context: 

The legal assistant, although forbidden from executing duties within the scope of the law, plays an essential role within the law office. Lawyers who are often too busy to perform information gathering tasks, tend to delegate such roles to paralegals or legal aids within the law office. 
The lawyer is focused on growing his/her business by interviewing or meeting with prospective clients, and lending legal advice to those who need it. The lawyer also, commonly attends trials or practices law. As a result of their efforts to strengthen or extend the firms reach, the lawyer needs a bridge which connects information and organization to the lawyers relevant legal matters. The paralegal, who must possess a strong knowledge of legal matters, acts as this critical bridge.

Fact Analysis: 

To streamline a legal investigation paralegal must take part in an elaborate fact analysis campaign. The paralegal is responsible for gathering all relevant information and then subsequently compiling his/her findings into a concise, yet thorough legal document. The legal document is then transferred to the paralegal for review. 
After the facts are analyzed, the paralegal will attach relevant court precedents, critical evidence, and witness statements to the legal document. The legal memo is used by the lawyer to formulate a strategy and a foundation for the upcoming legal matter. The fact analysis must be organized and must be stripped of misinformation to ensure maximize efficiency for the lawyer.
Distortions in Investigations: 

The paralegal acts as the lawyer’s eyes and ears during the fact analysis stage, interview process, and review of all evidence. The paralegal is connected to all evidence as it pertains to a specific legal matter. The paralegal or legal assistant is rewarded the responsibility of supplying the lawyer with information, witness statements, and facts as they relate to the lawsuit in question. As a result of this importance, the paralegal must ensure the delivery of only suitable evidence. 
To rid the legal documents from misinformation the paralegal will follow a strict procedure when interviewing a witness or evaluating evidence. The paralegal will ask numerous questions, label witnesses into categories, and review all information and their relation to historical precedents to ensure validity and the dismissal of misinformation.


Sources of Evidence/Leads: 


The paralegal in many ways is similar to a private investigator or private eye. The paralegal must obtain an assortment of information and be able to investigate aspects of legal matters that require certain skills. Lawyers often times stray away from hiring private eyes because of their high prices and desired long term commitment. 
As a result of this unwillingness, the paralegal will often take on the role of private eye. In order to satisfy the needs of the lawyer and to supply all relevant information, the paralegal will commonly search and interview witnesses for relevant evidence or crucial leads. The ability to find such leads or evidence could be the difference between victory and defeat in the legal battlefield.
Gaining Access to Records: 
The chief responsibility of the paralegal is to compile information, witness statements, and evidence for a lawyer. The necessary facts and evidence obtained are used to formulate the necessary strategy utilized to win a lawsuit. As a result of this necessity, the paralegal is allowed to access a wide array of records. Although many of the resources are found within the law office in the form of legal books and the Internet, much of the previous court rulings and precedents are found in government archives.
 
Technological innovations have greatly streamlined the paralegals efforts in evaluating evidence and compiling legal reports. The majority of court rulings and government records are available to obtain online or through highly organized filing systems.
Evaluating Evidence:The evaluation of evidence is a crucial process that must be followed extensively. Under evidence law, paralegals adopt a strict procedure that requires the fulfillment and delivery of extensive and accurate evidence. The process is lengthy but must be followed precisely to solidify the inclusion of relevant and accurate information within a legal document. 
The evidence within such documents is used to formulate strategies and seek victorious settlements. Since millions of dollars or priceless emotions can be at stake in a lawsuit the building blocks of facts must be evaluated appropriately.
Interviewing Witnesses: 
In addition to researching and compiling information, a paralegal must also interview relevant witnesses involved in the legal matter. The first priority in the interview process is to establish and specify an expert witness. This form of witness has a specialty or possesses an expertise for a certain subject that is involved in the legal matter. Considering there are tens of thousands of fields that contain expert witnesses the paralegals role of sifting and pinpointing the particular expert is arduous. 
In order to accurately identify the expert witness a paralegal must have an exact understanding of the issue in question and the subsequent opinion needed. Interviewing other witnesses requires a strict procedure to be followed. There are distinct classifications for witnesses (Lay witnesses, eye witnesses, friendly witnesses, hostiles witnesses, and experts.) 
Each form of witness contains different needs and methods. The complexity and difficulty of the paralegal is exemplified through the investigation process and more specifically through the procedure of interviewing witnesses.
Taking a Witness Statement: 
During the investigation process a paralegal will interview an assortment of witnesses. While each witness is being interviewed a proper statement  must be constructed to document the findings or opinions of the particular witness. Following the conclusion of the interview a paralegal must create a memo or statement to provide an overview or summary of the information exchanged. 
As a result of the supervising attorney’s absence in the interview process, the witness statement will provide a concise review of all the necessary information, statements, and findings from the questioning. To ensure the delivery of truthful or valid statements and evidence the paralegal will supply each witness with a competency test. 
The test which is administered to all forms of witnesses aims to enlighten the paralegal and reveal the true nature of the witness. In addition to the competency test a credibility test is also applied to each witness following the conclusion of the interview.

Can A Paralegal Gain Access to Records?

Can A Paralegal Gain Access to Records?

Paralegals assist lawyers in the fast paced world of litigation. This is no easy task, for it requires a steadfast demeanor and the ability to sort through thousands of documents. The paralegal must compile a concise report which offers the lawyer a sturdy foundation for which he/she can formulate an effective strategy. 
As a result of their crucial role, a paralegal is given access to a plethora of public and private records. In order to compile pertinent information regarding laws, facts, previous court decisions, precedents, and testimonials, a paralegal must be given free reign to obtain whichever information is relevant.
   
Before a trial even takes place, there are a multitude of mandatory procedures that aid in the information gathering process. To properly compile past decisions and precedents a paralegal will have access to a series of court rulings. A paralegal will be able to examine all trials or hearings from all state, municipal, and supreme court rulings. 
This access enables a paralegal to ascertain precedents, and rulings based on previous cases. The ability to access precedents and previous rulings allows a paralegal to apply judicial rulings to the specific case in question. Granted there are thousands upon thousands of court rulings that have been documented throughout the United State’s history. 
To help streamline the information gathering process, and allow a paralegal to find a court ruling with ease, the specific documents are labeled with docket numbers. A highly organized system, docket numbers are a series of alpha or numerical characters assigned to identify particular court rulings. 
The formats associated with docket numbers vary based on state and law firm, but, the organizational technique is practiced by all legal enterprises. The introduction of docket numbers has made the investigation process more efficient for paralegals; as oppose to wasting time searching for a particular case, a docket number offers a paralegal a quick and easy way to locate a judicial ruling.
   
A large source of information that a paralegal has access to is government records. Through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) a paralegal is guaranteed the ability to access all records or documents published by the federal government. The FOIA, enforces the federal government to disclose information or certain records to permissible people upon request.
   
Requests for admission is another vital tool used by paralegals for accessing certain information relevant to the lawsuit. Requests for admission come in two different forms (truth of facts and genuineness of documents), but are always conducted before the trial. 
Requests for admission occur in the discovery of phase, and are vital for the establishment of information and facts as they pertain to a case. Rules of admission follow a strict code outlined by the Code of Civil Procedure. Requests for admissions allow a paralegal to gain access to documentation, facts, testimonials, and evidence that is crucial for the formulation of a legal strategy. Paralegal’s have access to all information that is not considered classified or privileged. 
This permitted activity allows paralegals or legal aids to compile a report which contains facts, testimonials, evidence, previous court rulings, and statements that are pertinent to the lawsuit in question.
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