var googletag = googletag || {}; googletag.cmd = googletag.cmd || []; googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.pubads().disableInitialLoad(); });
device = device.default;
//this function refreshes [adhesion] ad slot every 60 second and makes prebid bid on it every 60 seconds // Set timer to refresh slot every 60 seconds function setIntervalMobile() { if (! return if (adhesion) setInterval(function(){ googletag.pubads().refresh([adhesion]); }, 60000); } if(device.desktop()) { googletag.cmd.push(function() { leaderboard_top = googletag.defineSlot('/22018898626/LC_Article_detail_page', [728, 90], 'div-gpt-ad-1591620860846-0').setTargeting('pos', ['1']).setTargeting('div_id', ['leaderboard_top']).addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.pubads().collapseEmptyDivs(); googletag.enableServices(); }); } else if(device.tablet()) { googletag.cmd.push(function() { leaderboard_top = googletag.defineSlot('/22018898626/LC_Article_detail_page', [320, 50], 'div-gpt-ad-1591620860846-0').setTargeting('pos', ['1']).setTargeting('div_id', ['leaderboard_top']).addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.pubads().collapseEmptyDivs(); googletag.enableServices(); }); } else if( { googletag.cmd.push(function() { leaderboard_top = googletag.defineSlot('/22018898626/LC_Article_detail_page', [320, 50], 'div-gpt-ad-1591620860846-0').setTargeting('pos', ['1']).setTargeting('div_id', ['leaderboard_top']).addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.pubads().collapseEmptyDivs(); googletag.enableServices(); }); } googletag.cmd.push(function() { // Enable lazy loading with... googletag.pubads().enableLazyLoad({ // Fetch slots within 5 viewports. // fetchMarginPercent: 500, fetchMarginPercent: 100, // Render slots within 2 viewports. // renderMarginPercent: 200, renderMarginPercent: 100, // Double the above values on mobile, where viewports are smaller // and users tend to scroll faster. mobileScaling: 2.0 }); });
 Upload Your Resume   Employers / Post Jobs 

Paralegal Duties on the Job

published February 18, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
Published By
( 19 votes, average: 3.8 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.

The paralegal profession was born in the 1960s, during former President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty," as a way of providing basic legal assistance to the poor. Although unable to give legal advice, a paralegal could help clients fill out forms, prepare them for court appearances, maintain contact with them, and help attorneys prepare their cases. A few attorneys, assisted by paralegals, could provide services to many more people than the lawyers would be able to handle alone.

Paralegal Duties on the Job

Originally, paralegals worked in public agencies charged with providing legal services to the poor. Over time, corporations and private attorneys began to see the benefit of employing paralegals in their practices as well; now, most paralegals work in large, private law firms. Initially, paralegals were trained on the job; in the 1970s, paralegal training programs began to appear. There are now nearly 1,000 distinct training programs.

Although the term "paralegal" is generally preferred over "legal assistant," tradition and even court rules dictate which term is used in different areas. Paralegals are also distinct from legal secretaries, although many legal secretaries become paralegals. Of course, the size of a legal office can affect this distinction; also, the advent of computers means that almost everyone-even attorneys-does some clerical work. As the Iowa Bar Association puts it, "In general, the legal assistants are performing a number of activities involving client contact, and their activities for the most part are different from, and more demanding than, those normally associated with secretarial or stenographic work."

Typical Duties

Paralegals do a variety of tasks, just as lawyers do. As a paralegal, some of your duties could include:
  • Research: Library, on-line, public records, medical, scientific
  • Investigation: Interview clients, witnesses, experts; on-site analysis
  • Writing: Draft memos, briefs, correspondence, interrogatories, pleadings
  • Administration; Index documents, digest documents, organize pleadings, organize trial exhibits, monitor tax and corporate filings
  • Docket control: Prepare discovery requests and responses, schedule depositions, notify clients, witnesses, and attorneys of trial dates, file motions and pleadings

As you look at this list, it becomes apparent that there are a few basic skills you need if you want to be a paralegal. A good legal assistant is bright, personable, literate, organized, and even more organized. Lawyers depend on paralegals to do much of the background work for any given client. This includes getting information from the client, researching the particular area of the law involved, preparing memos that keep the attorney informed of the progress in the case, maintaining the client's file, and making sure that all deadlines are met. Falling short in one of these areas is one of the worst things an attorney can do; if it's up to you to keep the lawyer on track, it becomes your nightmare, too.

The particulars of any paralegal job will depend on your employer and the firm's clients. Since paralegals work under the supervision of an attorney, it is up to your boss to determine which tasks you will be assigned in any given case. As in any profession, different attorneys have different ways of working. You might find that you have a great deal of autonomy to handle a case, or your boss may prefer a team approach. A mere glance at this "daily planner" wouldn't tell you whether it came off a lawyer's desk or a paralegal's.

What a paralegal cannot do that an attorney does is practice law. Believe it or not, this is a fine line, and it's not always easy to see when it's been crossed. It is imperative that, as a paralegal, every time you communicate with a court, client, witness, or opposing counsel, you make sure you make it clear that you are a paralegal and not an attorney. And never tell someone what to do about a legal matter.

For example, paralegals frequently help clients fill out forms, such as tax, corporate, or bankruptcy forms. But as some experts note, "The dangerous part is [when helping clients with a bankruptcy,] they can easily step over into the unauthorized practice of law. Technically, what they should be doing is helping people fill out the forms. If they do something like help them decide whether they're going to file Chapter 15 or Chapter 11 [bankruptcy], they're practicing law."

No matter what kind of office you work in, there are a few things you can count on if you decide to become a paralegal. First, the work will be interesting. When people come to a lawyer, it is because something has happened-or is going to happen in their lives that they want help dealing with. For example, the first thing most of us would do if we were arrested is hire an attorney. And it's probably going to be interesting to hear the story behind a person's arrest-and, no doubt, an explanation of why he or she is innocent! Less obvious things can be quite interesting, too-for example, why your client wants to cut someone out of a will or how one company is attempting a hostile takeover of another.

Second, the work will be varied. Even when you specialize in a particular area of the law, your clients will have an assortment of legal issues. In corporate law, for example, you may deal with companies that produce anything from apple cider to zoo enclosures. Third, the work will be satisfying. While it is true that a lawyer can't solve every problem just exactly the way a client wants it solved, in most cases people seem to feel that the attorney helped them through a troubling time. Also, from your perspective, most of the tasks you work on have an end, a solution. Sometimes when you begin researching a legal problem, you feel as if it's brand new and no one ever faced it before. Then you usually find that the law has dealt with it and there is an answer. It can be very gratifying when you are the one who finds that answer.

Finally, as the paralegal profession continues to grow, you will be presented with more and more opportunities for growth within your career. Whether you take on more responsibility within a job or take the plunge and leave your job for a new paralegal position in another area of the law, you will be in charge of your own professional destiny. As the demand for paralegals grows throughout the country, it can even provide you with the opportunity to move to a new area-and almost be guaranteed you'll be able to find a job.

Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

About LawCrossing

LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit

published February 18, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 19 votes, average: 3.8 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.