Paralegal Job Description – What Does a Paralegal Do?

Paralegal duties includes many different tasks related to assisting lawyers. Most of their general responsibilities will be based off of the type of law firms that they work for and their area they specialize in (see below).


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However, there are some general job roles they carry out more than others. In this article you will find everything about the paralegal job description and their duties in the various fields they work in.

What Do Paralegals Do?

Paralegal Job Description and dutiesThe first thing that you will carry out as one, is legal research. As far as what does a paralegal do, this is one of the most important duties that you will have. The reason that it is the so important is because without proper research and discovery of similar cases that will aid the lawyers in the case they are working in, the client could lose the case.

You don’t win trial in court, you win them under a pile of paper work.

They also need to look for relevant statutes, any court decisions that may be reached, looking up other legal articles and writings that can be relevant. The assistant may also be asked to run a background check for any witnesses that will be used in a case to help the firm target with ones are more credible then the other.

Based on the size of the company that the certified paralegal works for, they may also be responsible for drafting documents like mortgages, separation agreements, sale agreements, trust agreements, real estate closing documents, and any other type of contracts. It is important that these documents are checked for accuracy and proper spelling and grammar as well.

They are responsible for aiding in case preparation. This means you will play a very important part in helping the attorney get ready for their court cases. You may be asked to draft and prepare legal arguments, opening statements, closing statements and either court pleadings or motions.

You will also be responsible in carrying out investigations to validate or authenticate information that is pertinent to the current case being worked on.

One way you can increase your chances of getting hired, is before going for a job interview, try to find out a list of all the duties you would be performing at the giving position to give you a better idea on how to craft your resume and which traits you would be emphasizing.

This will make you stand out from the other candidates and better your chanced of getting the job.

You would still benefit greatly if you can find someone that is already working at the place you are interested in, and ask them questions such as:

  • How did you get the job?
  • What is a typical day look for you?
  • What are you expected to know?
  • What would you have done differently if you weren’t currently working?
  • What additional skills would you recommend for me to acquire?

Below, we detailed out as much as possible and from our own experience, the different tasks you might be expected to perform and the job requirements you will need to have to do them well.

Paralegal Job Requirements

Verbal Skills

First you will need to make sure that your verbal skills are top notch. When it comes to working in the legal field, communication is extremely important. Your verbal skills will be needed when you are interviewing new clients, contacting an expert with a question, taking a witness statement, scheduling a court reporter, or if you are simply talking over the details of a case with your supervising attorney. As a law clerk, roughly eighty percent of your day will be spent communicating with others as you act as a liaison between the various parties.

Writing

Your writing skills will also have to be well polished as you will be responsible for carrying out many writing tasks such as:

  • Drafting correspondence
  • Formatting legal pleadings
  • Motions
  • Case Briefs
  • Legal memos

And other documents that can range from a simple letter to one that is very complex. Your written communication will need to be very clear and concise if you hope to stand out from other paralegals and get ahead in your career.

Research

Knowing how to research plays a very important role in the job of a legal assistant. It is one of their cardinal duties one must know extremely well before becoming a paralegal. You must be proficient at conducting legal research on the internet, library, and on numerous legal databases such as Westlaw, DRAGNET, and the Law Library of Congress.

In addition, once you have done the necessary research, you will then have to analyze case facts and be prepared to cite legal authority properly. You will also have to be able to track down medical records, evidence, witnesses and many other relevant documents for your case.

Tech Savvy

Technology skills are critical. Today, more than ever, the usage of technology can be seen in all aspects of law practice. You will have to master software applications such as Word processing, Excel spreadsheets, Access database, PowerPoint presentation software, and the use of the many legal research software available.

At the minimum you will need to be able to type 45 words per minute without looking at the keyboard.

That is the short list. The more technology savvy you are the better.

Organized

Organization plays a big role in the day to day tasks you will need to complete. You have to stay organized in order to locate cases and files. You will also have to be able sort, index, categorize, order and manipulate a multitude of information and documents. Being disorganized is not an option for a paralegal.


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Handle Stress Well

You will have to be able to multi-task and balance your different task by order of importance (learn to prioritize). You will have to be flexible with your time, as many cases will run in to the night and leaving it half done is not an option with the trial is in the morning. You will also need to meet the demands of your supervisors and the clients that will be requesting status reports and miscellaneous information from you all the time.

Paralegal Duties & Studies

There are several different types of paralegal studies that focus on one specific area of the law. Therefore, there are different types with a variety of paralegal job descriptions.

  • Bankruptcy Paralegal

    This type of professional would be beneficial to clients that are needing assistance with filing for bankruptcy paperwork without the additional cost of a lawyer. The process for preparing the right documents for bankruptcy can be very complex and is often victim to congress and state legislatures. There are also certain rules and provisions that have to be made before an individual or a business can get help from the court to keep creditors off their back. This is where a bankruptcy paralegal services comes in, to help a client navigate the ins and outs of chapter 7, 11 and 13. Each having its own set of rules and processes to complete correctly.

  • Corporate Paralegal

    These legal assistants need to know the intricate workings of the business world (when it comes to corporate laws) in order to fulfill their duties adequately. There are many sub-specialties when it comes to corporate legal defense. For example, a law firm might only specialize in investment banking or mergers & acquisitions (M&A), while a different law firm might specialize in corporate patents or environmental regulations. The law clerk would have to know all legal aspects of these laws and regulations the firm he works for specializes in.

    However, don’t worry too much about the need to know this information prior to starting at your new job. Much of the corporate paralegal training will be provided within the first few weeks of hire. The law firm will only require that you are certified, the rest is their responsibility to develop your skills to match their needs. On the positive side, this level of knowledge will only increase your salary and make you indispensable.

  • Employment and Labor Law Paralegal

    These deal with human resource matters that can be specific to individuals as well as the labor laws in terms of how companies are treating their employees that work under a union. They deal with the legal matters that arise in the hiring and firing, sexual harassment, workplace discrimination and workplace safety matters.

  • Estate Planning and Probate Paralegal

    These law clerks will deal with the legal documents involved in the estate. The documents that they work with are addressed toward individual, family and corporate assets. Should an individual pass away without a will, then the assists they left behind will have to go through probate.

  • Nurse Paralegal

    They are responsible for helping attorneys that have cases involving medical malpractice that can result in illness and death. They have to be familiar with legal and medical terms, as well as detailed familiarity with the laws regarding health & patient privacy. As HIPA regulations and healthcare in general has become more sensitive to patient advocacy, many new specialty nurse paralegal programs have become in demand and are now available, both in traditional schools and online.

    This is different than a certified legal nurse consultant. These medical consultants are more involved in the actual inner workings of a case rather than the administrative responsibilities that is part of a nurse paralegal job description. The most common type of cases a nurse consultant will be involved, is in medical malpractice lawsuits.

    A good example of this is when you see commercials on TV regarding transvaginal mesh (which can result in severe abdominal pains in the lower left side) and bladder incontinence surgery, urging patients to call a lawfirm for free case consultation. Their unfair advantage of knowing what should have been done by a physician versus what was actually done by the physician is key to helping win a case.

  • Virtual Paralegal

    With the advent of the internet more and more people seek immediate legal advice online. This now includes virtual paralegal services in which one can submit their legal paperwork online and have it processed and serviced by a certified paralegal regardless of their physical geographical location. This has become a more common practice especially if you seeking virtual bankruptcy paralegal.

  • Real Estate Paralegal

    As the name suggested, a real estate paralegal training & job in general are focused more in commercial & residential real estate laws. I would suggest for you to specialize more in the commercial sector, if that is the type of paralegal you want to become, since a commercial real estate paralegal salary is much higher than the ones working in residential or estate planning.

  • Patent Paralegal

    Patent laws can be very complicated but lucrative. There are large shell corporations that simply acquire and old thousands of patents and general a very large profit doing so. Being able to defend their corporate clients and inventors with their patents and other trademark infringements is crucial for a law firm. This is why more and more people are going after patent paralegal training and get their certificate in this specialty.

  • Immigration Paralegal

    Thorough immigration paralegal training is key to be able to work with an immigration lawyer properly. Considering that each state as its own laws regarding this topic, you need to be very familiar with your local government’s rules and regulations before you will be able to get your certificate.

  • Litigation Paralegal


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    A civil litigation paralegal duties are to assisting in the civil litigation lawsuit between the two parties involved. These legal disputes can pertain to homeowners, insurance damages, accounting malpractice, as well as employment termination.