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Litigation Paralegal: The Paralegal of All Trades

published February 19, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left

( 21 votes, average: 4 out of 5)

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The Litigation Paralegal

One student recently asked me, "When people say 'litigation,' they're not talking about practice areas are they? .They're talking about the process of settling the dispute, whatever that dispute is. . . . Right?"

Yes. The litigation paralegal is a paralegal who assists attorneys in the formalized settling of a controversy between two or more parties. Civil litigation involves many subject areas. The issues could be contracts, a car wreck, an abandoned commercial development, a bankruptcy and foreclosure, a contractual dispute between an agent and a rock band, a commercial conflict between several parties, medical malpractice, torts of all kinds, and any other dispute that is settled in the courtroom.
Litigation Paralegal: The Paralegal of All Trades

You can safely assume that as a paralegal, you will encounter litigation in your career. To know what lawyers are seeking in a paralegal, you can just look at what happens in the litigation process and find important clues. This is why we will delve into the litigation process.

Observations about the litigation process

Litigation includes every practice area, and specialty practice areas, such as Bankruptcy, Real Estate and numerous other categories, share some common elements. That is why many of the observations made about the litigation paralegal can and do apply to all paralegals. The issue of time is ubiquitous in the law. A paralegal who neglects issues of time in any practice area will suffer. Organization and scheduling and document retrieval are also universally applicable to all paralegals. Further discussions about paralegal positions in various specialty areas and practices will focus more on the specifics of that job, but keep in mind that all paralegal jobs are concerned with schedules, filing dates, and due dates; that all paralegal jobs focus on documentation (its acquisition, labeling, organization, indexing, and quick retrieval). This may sound too obvious, but many graduates of paralegal programs get focused on grades, legal theory, issue argumentation, and the hustle and bustle of a busy job-and forget the basics. This they do at their peril.

The Traditional Setting Still Employs Seven Out of Ten Paralegals

This fact should tell us that there are lots of different paralegals out there in law firms who do not fall under Litigation, Real Estate, and Bankruptcy practice areas. These were chosen simply to paint a picture of complex activity done by thoroughly qualified and fully occupied professional paralegals. Thousands of paralegals work under various practice area specialty names.

Perhaps the first one, which in many ways is more challenging than any other, is the general practice. This means that you must be prepared to study up on areas you have not handled before. Once these specialty areas are fully absorbed into the conscious and subconscious they can get much easier man they might first appear, but the generalist paralegal hath a continual challenge": facing what comes through the door next. Most general practice areas are simply short ways of saying, "We handle about five practice areas, plus, Mr. Client, if you get a D.U.I., we will represent you."

There are also numerous other practice areas: Antitrust Paralegals, Domestic Paralegals, Bilingual Generalist Paralegals, Workers' Comp Paralegals, Personal Injury Paralegals, Insurance Defense Paralegals, Water Law Paralegals, Immigration and Naturalization Paralegals, Entertainment Law Paralegals, Civil Rights Paralegals, Employment Law Paralegals, Environmental Paralegals, Product Liability Paralegals, Lender Liability Paralegals, Securities Paralegals, Corporate Paralegals, Criminal Paralegals, Commercial Paralegals

The list goes on. If there is an area of law, there can be a paralegal attached to that area who is deeply involved to the full occupation of that paralegal's time. Paralegals practice in several areas over a period of time and do tend toward specialization as opportunity pushes one toward one practice or another. While you are developing a breadth of practice area experience in your progress from entry-level status, various chances to focus on a specialty area will most likely present themselves to you. The beauty of the paralegal world is that you are never completely pigeonholed unless you desire to focus in on a special practice area. Whether by choice or circumstance a specialty can gain you more pay, a sense of authority, and a higher perceived value among your peers and coworkers. The best pay in the largest cities goes to the paralegals who are virtual "authorities" in their practice area.

An overall career formula may be to get wide experience as you begin and also work toward a specialty as opportunities arise.

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.

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