Paralegal: Highly trained specialist or mostly clerical support? Join The Conversation>>

Posted on 06-05-2014 by
Tags: new rules , Latst Headlines & Stories , law firm trends , new lawyers , legal profession

As the legal industry evolves, more attorneys and organizations are researching effective cost-saving measures to grow their practice or business, and provide optimized legal services to their clients. These continuing changes have sparked an increase in the role of paralegals within firms and organizations. While it has been noted that paralegals once performed mostly clerical tasks including filing, pulling cases off shelves and photocopying; today, paralegals often engage in tasks involving more sophisticated legal skills.

When posing the question to seasoned, legal practitioners about a paralegal’s job role in their organization, the overwhelming majority responded that paralegals are sophisticated professionals who perform highly valuable services to their organization.

We use paralegals as sophisticated professionals. My practice is markedly advanced when I have an experienced paralegal working with me since I can delegate critical tasks and utilize his/her analysis and input to obtain additional discovery items or information.

We have several paralegals who do more than administrative work. They perform specialized research and then draft motions based on their research. That allows the attorneys to focus on more important functions, and make Court appearances.

When diving a little deeper about the true responsibilities of a paralegal and how an attorney or organization would replace the position should a paralegal exit, most contributors suggested refilling the position the position by hiring a paralegal over an associate or junior attorney.

We are a corporate legal department and have a very experienced paralegal who maintains our legal entities, maintains the minute books, files form 4s for Section 16 transactions and completes bankruptcy proof of claims. If she left, I would likely have to replace her with a junior attorney. 

As my organization grows (or as issues dictate), I would recommend this position over an associate.

For most, the value add of a paralegal in their organization is priceless. According to those surveyed, paralegals help to shape an organization by performing highly valuable services that allows attorneys to provide greater value to clients.

The paralegals at my firm do much more than just clerical support.  We have an intellectual property practice and the paralegals do a substantial portion of the U.S. and foreign trademark application preparation and filing and investigate and solve issues regarding U.S. and PCT patent applications by working directly with the United States Patent and Trademark office.  I would find it very difficult to be efficient and provide value to my clients without our paralegals.

We use paralegals as professionals and would be lost without them. They perform highly valuable services that help us as attorneys to add more value by allowing us to delegate appropriate work to them.

Lastly, without paralegals the contributing attorneys summed up their thoughts in one sentence:

I would be lost without my paralegal.

To other members of LexTalk, what do you think? If your firm/organization employs paralegals, what is their role and what would your life be like without them?

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