What Is a Paralegal?
A paralegal is an individual who is professionally trained to assist attorneys and lawyers while under their direct supervision. A paralegal is authorized to perform a wide variety of work, including the following:
Case planning, development, and management
Fact gathering and retrieving information
Drafting and analyzing legal documents
Collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent decision and recommendation to the supervising attorney
Representing clients before a state or federal administrative agency, if allowed by law
Although lawyers assume ultimate responsibility for all legal work, they delegate many tasks to paralegals. Paralegals perform many similar tasks as lawyers, however, they are explicitly prohibited from carrying out duties considered to be within the scope of the practice of law, such as giving legal advice, and representing cases in court. One of the most important tasks a paralegal has is helping lawyers prepare cases for settlement or trial.
Paralegals will often perform the initial investigations of facts for cases and ensure all relevant information is considered in each legal case. Thereafter, they organize and keep track of all important case documents and make them available and easily accessible to the attorneys. After they analyze and organize the information obtained, paralegals may prepare written reports, initial letters to various companies, and speak to many people associated with the case. The attorneys then use this information in determining how each case should be handled. If an attorney decides it is necessary to file a lawsuit on behalf of the client, paralegals may be involved in preparing some of the initial paperwork to be filed with the court.
What To Look For in a Paralegal?
Since paralegals often work directly with clients or potential clients, a paralegal should be able to communicate well, be attentive to what the client’s needs are, and then document and present their findings and opinions to the attorney. While it is ultimately the attorney’s decision on how to proceed with each case, the paralegal provides insights and recommendations to assist the attorney.
How Can Paralegals Help?
Paralegals in law offices often help keep the cost of legal services down. However, many people believe that if they go to a document preparation service, they can get the same quality service as a legal office. This is not the case (unless your lawyer is not very good). Document preparation firms, even if they call themselves "paralegals," are limited to providing "self-help" assistance, as defined in 6400 of the Business and Professions Code. If any legal advice is necessary, they must refer you to a lawyer, however, all too often, they cross the line into practicing law without a license.
Connie Macias is our paralegal here at Inland Empire Law Group, and has been with us for many years. She does a great job and we are glad to have her assistance on our cases. If you have any questions about paralegals, get in touch with our team in Victorville or Rancho Cucamonga today!