What does a Paralegal do?

Criminal Justice Articles

What does a Paralegal do?

The paralegal profession is one of the sought after professions in the legal industry. In general, a paralegal is usually responsible for doing all of work for a lawyer. The career may require an in-depth knowledge of the legal field, but may have fewer testing and certification requirements than that of an attorney.

A paralegal typically performs a variety of tasks; one of the most important is helping with the lawyer's preparation for a trial, meeting, or hearing. The paralegal may collect, analyze, and organize the information for the lawyer. Some paralegals may also prepare written reports for the lawyer as well. Fact checking is another task often handled by a paralegal. Paralegals will gather laws, articles, judicial decisions, and other official documents that relate to a lawyer's particular case and present them in an organized fashion.

Preparation for a trial may not end with gathering information. When the lawyer decides to file suit for a particular client, the paralegal may help with much of the paperwork involved with the process. The paralegal also may help prepare the legal arguments, motions, and pleadings the attorney will use in court. Any affidavits that need to be obtained might become his responsibility as well.

Much of a paralegal's work is now done on the computer. A large amount of legal literature comes on CD-ROM or is stored on computerized databases, and the paralegal can retrieve, organize, and store the documents electronically. The paralegal might also be responsible for tracking hours spent on a case and billing clients, and this is also done on the computer. However, they may not be able to set legal fees. That is a task left to the attorney or the law firm.

While much of the work of a paralegal can be done electronically, these professionals may not be forced to sit behind a computer screen all day. They may often spend their time in legal libraries looking up documents that have not yet been digitized. They can also sometimes assist the lawyer in the courtroom. Once a trial begins, the paralegal keeps all of the necessary documents organized and available. When the attorney needs a particular file, the paralegal is responsible for knowing where it is and how to obtain it quickly.

Paralegals may not be qualified to give legal advice. However, in some law offices they can help clients by drafting some standard forms, like legal contracts and separation agreements. Clients who use an attorney to help with their finances may work with the paralegal to file tax returns or set up legal trusts. Paralegals also help with estate planning, freeing the lawyer to work on cases and lawsuits.

In a criminal defense office, the work of a paralegal focuses mostly on analyzing and collecting legal material for the attorney to use. Keeping reference files organized is another task delegated to the paralegal. Paralegals also may be required to file forms and petitions with the court while the lawyer works on the actual case. Paralegals are not allowed to present the case in court, so they fulfill a supporting role in the courtroom drama.

Schools OfferingParalegal Courses: