Getting Along with Paralegals

Bri didn’t know what to expect when she hired an attorney.  After meeting with her attorney a few times, her attorney seemed very pleasant and perfectly capable of handling her case.  The attorney was very reassuring that Bri had a good case and told Bri that her paralegal would be contacting Bri within the next few days for some documents that would be pertinent to the case.  Bri wasn’t sure what a paralegal was.  Was it like a secretary?  Why was the attorney herself not contacting Bri directly?  Is this a normal practice among lawyers?

Although many people might think of a paralegal’s role as that of an assistant to the attorney, this view does not take into account all of the duties that a paralegal may perform.  A paralegal is qualified by their education and training to do various tasks delegated by the attorney, as an assistant would, but essentially, the work a paralegal does is work that the attorney would do in the absence of the paralegal.  Similarly, a paralegal, like an attorney, is subject to ethical standards and practices set forth by the American Bar Association.

Paralegals can have a large swath of duties they have to attend to, many of which can affect your case.  For example, a paralegal may be responsible for conducting a client interview.  This interview might include taking notes, locating witnesses, and creating a memo detailing all of the information that was obtained in the interview.

A paralegal can also be charged with helping the attorney prepare for the trial by conducting legal research and accumulating relevant case information.  This research could include completing legal documents like subpoenas, pleadings, complaints, deposition notices, pretrial orders and other things.  Often, this task can will involve the client.  The client will help in providing documents or other materials that may be important to the case.

Because a paralegal is responsible for many crucial tasks to a client’s case, it is vital that a client is compliant and does so promptly.  One of the common complaints among paralegals and legal assistants is the sluggish pace that clients sometimes have in returning important documents and completing other paralegal requests.  The slowness of the client can place a strain on the relationship between the paralegal and the client.

For a client, it is important to understand that the paralegal is acting in his/her best interest.  When the paralegal asks for something, it is because the completion of the task will help his/her case progress.  If a client fails to comply with some of the information that a paralegal requests, it can slow down the case which could result in higher attorney fees or other costly problems.

All in all, getting along with a paralegal, like any relationship, is a two-way street.  If the client does his/her part and the paralegal does his/her part, everything should run smoothly.  It is the paralegal’s job to get all the necessary paperwork completed and communicate such needs with the client.  For Bri, many of her questions regarding her Personal Injury Utah case were eventually answered as she began to work with the paralegal.  Much of her initial worry dissipated as her case began to progress.

Thanks to authors at The Advocates for insight into Paralegals and their contributions

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Author: appeals

Appellate advocate--counsel, co-counsel, or brief-writer. Appellant direct appeal reversals: federal criminal 62.5%; federal civil 50%; state criminal 53%; state civil 46%. Other appeals: interlocutory orders 50%; post-conviction 0%, extraordinary relief 50%. Appellee state civil affirmed 66%. Paul Croushore, JD, LLM, croushlaw@fuse.net (513) 225-6666

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