Paralegal refers to a person qualified via different combinations of education, work experience, or training, who is engaged or employed by a lawyer, governmental agency law office or any other entity in a function or capacity that entails the performance, under the definitive supervision and direction of a licensed attorney. Paralegals are specifically entrusted to substantive legal work. Their work normally needs enough legal procedures and principles knowledge, such that it can be performed by attorneys in their absence. This paper focuses on analyzing paralegals and their role in the law enactment.
Characteristic of an Effective Paralegal
To be an effective paralegal, one needs to be organized, flexible and precise. Paralegal are basically the legal system detail specialists. To be successful, a paralegal require to be highly efficient with his time and organized. Their key duties include organizing files of with essential legal document and researching cases. According to Bevans (2008), lawyers must present a case in a courtroom in a systematic way to give a story of what transpired. To achieve this, lawyers depend on paralegals to keep evidence documents, files and notes cataloged sequentially for easy use and retrieval.
Good and effective paralegals are quick and flexible enough to adapt to changing clients’ needs and tasks. Lawyers continuously put the burden of establishing new information and resources on paralegals as court cases continue. In some cases, a paralegal may have limited time which includes days or hours to get and produce the required resources and case document for the lawyer. Paralegals work in a stressful environment frequently filled with demanding individuals. Therefore, they should have the ability to remain calm even in the most stressful and demanding situation.
Together with working effectively under pressure, a paralegal require a strong aptitude to deliver accurate details and information. Lawyers normally have to move faster to utilize all the research and evidence given by paralegals and they frequently expect the paralegal to check on the facts. Paralegals’ failure to double-check the documents and findings for accurate grammar and format makes the lawyers they assist to make fatal mistakes, a situation that can destroy the case. The need for accuracy is accompanied by good writing skills as one created legal contracts and documents used in official arrangement (Bevans, 2008).
Guidelines for Conducting Legal Research
The three guidelines that a new paralegal can employ while conducting a legal research include identification of the legal issues, identifying legal resources, and finally, finding the law. While looking for legal information, a paralegal will be required to present a factual situation terminating with a very general question or a straight forward question. The essence in this case is to identify the issue that would require legal procedures or legal facts to solve. Here, a paralegal need to weed out irrelevant information and identify facts that can be useful in the case presentation. A paralegal can consider employing a systematic technique known as TRAP to be able to analyze facts. T- stands for thing or property, place, or subject matter. A- stands for cause of action or the defense ground. R– stands for form of lawsuit or relief sought, and finally, P– stands for parties or persons involved as well as their association to each other. By the end of this stage, the paralegal should be able to point out the known information regarding the case, the jurisdiction in which the case resources and information can be researched and finally, identify the accurate issues involved in the case (Aallnet, n.d).
Identification of relevant legal resources is the second most essential procedure in the legal research. A paralegal should have the ability to identify available legal resources either online or in the lawyer’s collection that can easily provide the answer to the identified legal issue. Here, a paralegal can either use library catalogue or self-help law books to assist in identifying the required resources. A paralegal should first consider consulting a secondary source. This is because, once the identification of the general legal terms has taken place, a paralegal may require to familiarize him- or herself with particular laws in this area. Secondary legal materials are normally printed and grouped in a library with indexes. Therefore, a paralegal should consider using these indexes to access any printed legal materials.
Finally, a paralegal will be required to find laws governing the identified issues. This can be currently easy with online provision of these laws and cases that governs the law or where law has been applicable. The paralegal should also consider looking for case law, regulations, statutes, and a short local government description of codes and ordinances that can guide in building a case. The three general guidelines will ensure that a layer is addressing a case as it is required and that the chances of winning a case are high. Identifying the issues, relevant resources and laws helps in developing a strong case or defense that is based on pure facts and supported by laws of the country. Therefore, this would be sufficient, especially when facts are well organized (Aallnet, n.d.).
Strategies that a Paralegal can take to Avoid Unauthorized Law Practices
Paralegals have a duty to evade from unauthorized law practices. To achieve this, paralegals should know their working boundaries. This can be achieved by being able to understand and differentiate permitted versus prohibited activities. This simply means, being able to understand their work definition and tools they are allowed to use to accomplish their duties and the manner in which they should apply these tools for effective performance. For instance, a paralegal should understand that they are allowed to interview a client to get more information regarding the case. However, they are not permitted to give any legal advice to the client. Therefore, they should know how to carry out their duties without crossing their boundaries. This can highly be achieved by clear identification of a paralegal to clients as a paralegal and not a lawyer. This way, a paralegal will be able to evade some situations that can lead to unauthorized practices (Spahn, 2006).
The second strategy that paralegal can employ to avoid unauthorized legal practices is by holding themselves out. This involves avoiding unintentional and intentional lawyer like appearance. A paralegal should avoid presenting him or herself as a lawyer for whatever reason. This can be done by clarifying that a paralegal is not a lawyer in any professional contact, avoiding providing legal services to anyone, and be in a possession of a business card with clear identification as a paralegal. In so doing, clients will be able to understand that a paralegal has operational boundaries and may not be able to answer their legal questions. It also reduces the temptation of getting legal questions from clients that would result into a situation where a paralegal offers legal advice to the client (Spahn, 2006).
Difference between Paralegals and Attorneys
Normally, attorneys and paralegals work together in a legal environment. However, they maintain a clear distinction on their duties in the environment. This is basically based on their extensive education background difference. Attorneys are more qualified in legal field as compared to paralegals. In this regard, they are capable of performing all duties associated with legal advice and discussion. Attorneys frequently supervise paralegals enrolling them into assisting in client management and managing the case information. Client management in this case includes getting information regarding a case, and conducting transactions, and organizing their meetings with lawyers. They are also involved in cases prepetition and contract development among other legal activities that do not involve direct interpretation of law based on situation to clients.
An attorney is also involved in presentation of the prepared case in a court proceeding to defend a client. In addition, an attorney is involved in giving legal advice to a client. Beside of this, an attorney can perform all other activities that paralegals are involved in. Therefore, an attorney can basically eliminate a paralegal and do all the jobs defined for them. However, paralegals cannot do beyond what they are defined to do. They are more confined into handling of information and doing legal research, but not discussing the content with the court or the clients (Bevans, 2008).