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Duties of a Paralegal Working Under an Attorney

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Duties of a Paralegal Working Under an Attorney
Paralegal training will familiarize you with one or several areas of law. After you receive formal paralegal training, you must be open to also learning on the job. The formalized training only gives you a foundation of knowledge. You must continually build on this knowledge through on-the-job training and continuing paralegal education.

The following text outlines some of the job duties you can expect as a working paralegal under the supervision of an attorney.


Litigation As a paralegal working in the litigation area you will be responsible for organizing and managing documents for civil or criminal trials. Because some cases are more complex than others, it is important that a paralegal responsible for managing the case documents be aware of all the phases of litigation. A paralegal working in litigation might be responsible for organizing and preparing pleadings, case outlines, manuals for complex litigation, discovery requests, and interrogatories.

He/she may digest depositions, index documents, operate computers, and draft pretrial and post-trial memoranda. Some litigation paralegals perform the initial client interviews, gather the information about witnesses, compile medical information, prepare exhibits for use as evidence at trial, and serve subpoenas. Litigation paralegals may draft pleadings, answer interrogatories, answer motions, and prepare factual analyses. There are often deadlines to meet in litigation so a person choosing to work in this area must be able to remain cool in pressure situations.

Personal Injury Litigation Personal injury litigation involves tort law. A paralegal working in this type of litigation would be involved in negligence, professional malpractice, and products liability. This type of work is a branch of civil litigation.

Corporations and Securities Paralegals working in corporations and securities law will be actively involved in assisting in the formation, continuation, and dissolution of corporations. They may draft the following documents : Powers of attorney, promissory notes, bills of sales, transfers of assets, corporate tax returns, and stock transfers. They may draft and file proxy statements under the Exchange Act of 1934—8-K forms, 9-K forms, 10-Q forms, and 10-K forms. In the Blue Sky (state security laws) area these paralegals may draft and file applications for broker-dealers, investment advisors, and salesmen, compile exhibits for applications, and draft and file notices of exemption. They may be expected to maintain a file of forms: Blue Sky, annual reports, foreign qualifications, and UCC. A corporations and securities paralegal must be capable of doing detailed work, keeping accurate records, and interacting well with business people, paralegals, and lawyers.

Probate, Trusts, and Estates Trusts and estates paralegals assist in the preparation of the legal documents associated with estate planning. They can participate in the collection of assets, maintenance of records, and notification of beneficiaries. They are able to complete tax returns for the state and federal governments, prepare accounting records, file tax waivers, and draft closing documents. These paralegals should have good mathematical abilities and enjoy interacting with clients.

Real Estate Real estate paralegals draft most documents associated with purchases and sales of property. Some of these documents may be deeds, trust agreements, estoppel certificates, partnership and joint venture agreements, regulatory agreements, and security agreements.

Title work is very often delegated to paralegals. They are expected to do title searches, prepare abstracts, draft title opinions, and complete title insurance forms. Many real estate paralegals draft escrow papers and open escrow accounts. In tax matters they are often expected to compute taxes, draft and file abatements of taxes, file appeals with the Appellate Tax Board, attend tax board hearings, and draft and file tax injunctions. With the increase of condominium and cooperative ownership, paralegals are trained to draft presentations and exhibits, set up closing procedures, arrange for title certification, and compile postclosing files. Some real estate paralegals research issues involving environ mental law, urban law, and recent legislature involving real estate and tax laws. Real estate paralegals must have the ability to work well under pressure, and enjoy doing research.

Employee Benefits Paralegals working in employee benefits law will assist attorneys in the drafting of pension and profit-sharing plans, including their design, installation, and administration. They may also aid in the design of deferred compensation plans, stock option plans, and health and medical plans. They assist in the preparation of the filings required by the Internal Revenue Service for the qualification of employee bene fit plans. These paralegals must be able to understand the tax mathematics of the design of employee benefit plans, have an aptitude for working with figures and numbers, have the ability of securing information from clients, and have good writing skills.

Commercial Bankruptcy Paralegals working in commercial bankruptcy will assist in drafting and filing Uniform Commercial Code financing statements, perform administrative work with creditors' committees, analyze financing statements, prepare routine bankruptcy pleadings, maintain bankruptcy dockets, and perform some legal research. The legal research entailed may involve researching financing statement filing requirements, classification of debts and creditors, and classification of collateral and available remedies.

Family Law Paralegals working in family law conduct initial client inter views. They often draft adoption petitions, separation agreements, and divorce petitions. The paralegal will have to know about community property systems, parent-child duties and responsibilities, paternity, adoption, juvenile delinquency, and legitimation proceedings. Much of family law is involved in litigation proceedings, so the paralegal will be required to work in litigation as well.

Administrative Law Paralegals working in administrative law will apply and research relevant statutory and regulatory provisions at the federal and state levels, draft proposed rules and regulations, and assist in the preparation for administrative law hearings. These paralegals can make preliminary drafts of documents, briefs, and opinions. They are also able to assist attorneys at the appellate stage of an administrative law proceeding.


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