Paralegal Job Description

A paralegal, or legal assistant, works alongside a licensed attorney. They are not able to dispense legal advice, set fees or try cases, but they can take on a number of tasks under the supervision of an attorney.

The paralegal’s role is to provide assistance to the lawyer. He or she may be involved in preparing for corporate meetings, negotiation, trials or hearings. The job duties may involve investigating the facts of a case that an attorney is working on, as well as interviewing witnesses and experts.

The paralegal may be asked to conduct research by reviewing relevant statutes, articles in legal publications, reported judicial decisions and any other materials that are relevant to the case they are working on. The paralegal will analyze the information and present it in a written report to the attorney, who will use it to determine how to represent a client.

When a lawyer is doing litigation work, the paralegal may be asked to draft pleadings and motions that will be filed with the court. He or she may also be asked to work on arguments the lawyer will be making in front of the judge. The paralegal may be asked to prepare affidavits and be present when they are signed.

Organizing client files and managing a system so that they can be kept moving forward and that deadlines are met are also the paralegal’s responsibility. The lawyer will be relying on the paralegal to manage that part of his or her practice.

Preparing draft versions of contracts, separation agreements and mortgages. Depending on the practice, the paralegal may be working on estate planning matters or setting up and administering trust funds. Some of them work in a supervisory role to manage other staff members.

Specialized legal software packages may be used to store and manage information. The paralegal may also go online to conduct research or find information for his or her lawyer. They may need to scan documents onto the computer system for storage and later use. The hours they spend working on a case may be tracked by billing software and the paralegal may be asked to review total hours spent on a file before the client is billed.

Most paralegals are employed by law firms or in corporate legal departments. They can also find work in government agencies or departments and non-profit organizations. Within those kinds of work environments, the paralegal can specialize in a specific area of law, such as:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Corporate Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Employee Benefits
  • Family Law
  • Immigration
  • Intellectual Property
  • Labor Law
  • Litigation
  • Personal Injury
  • Real Estate

A junior paralegal will be given routine assignments to perform. As he or she gains experience, the level of responsibility will increase. Most of the work is performed in a law office or law library. A more senior paralegal may need to travel to different locations to attend meetings, interview people or conduct research.

The standard work week for a paralegal who is working for a corporation or government agency is 40 hours. A person working for a law firm may be expected to work overtime when preparing a large case, trying to meet a deadline or at certain times of year when the workload is heavier.

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