If you do not think there is much to the paralegal profession, you would be surprised by the number of crucial services that paralegals are asked to provide for their attorneys. Good paralegal services can make or break an attorney and his practice.
Paralegals are responsible for researching case law as well as facts of a case; organizing information and keeping it organized in a way that is readily accessible; drafting pleadings such as briefs, motions, and other court documents; understanding legal terminology and style guidelines; preparing documents such as corporate minutes, deeds, leases, wills, etc.; conducting title searches and due diligence exercises on businesses acquired by clients or companies with whom contracts are being negotiated; reviewing contracts drafted by lawyers to spot errors and omissions; and many other functions.
Paralegal services can also act as a resource for attorneys by helping them in areas where their own expertise is lacking, such as witness preparation and client representation. In summary, paralegals provide support services that help to enhance an attorney’s ability to do her job more efficiently and professionally. Here are some paralegal services that are highly useful to attorneys today.
Conducting Legal Research
Legal research is a critical part of the paralegal’s role, which entails finding case law and statutes, identifying legal issues in cases, summarizing facts, and drafting legal briefs to support the attorney’s arguments. Effective legal research is vital to an effective argument or defense that is necessary for a good outcome in court. Paralegals who are experts at conducting proper legal research provide accurate analysis and work much faster than lawyers do. In fact, some attorneys use paralegal services as primary researchers on difficult cases so that they can focus on writing briefs or pleadings while their paralegals conduct the research required for the case.
Drafting and Revising Pleadings, Motions, Briefs, and Other Documents
The pleadings process comprises of drafting memos that contain legal arguments for motions or requests made by the attorney to the court. Some common types of pleas are answers, demurrers, dispositive motions, special appearances, etc. This is another function that requires sound knowledge of legal terminology and style guides so as to ensure documents are drafted to have a professional appeal. Paralegals also regularly prepare briefs that summarize oral arguments in a manner that can be understood by judges with no legal background. In addition to this, they also review contracts drafted by lawyers before such documents are submitted to clients or companies they are negotiating with.
Conducting Due Diligence Exercises
Paralegals often work together with lawyers during the due diligence phase of a case to conduct research on businesses and companies that clients wish to acquire or merge with. Reviews of title deeds, leases, mortgages, and other legal documents by paralegals help to ensure that proper research has been conducted before pushing ahead with an acquisition process. During this exercise, it is also common for them to meet and interview employees in order to understand their role in the business as well as get a feel for how the company works. This information can later be used by both parties during the negotiation process.
One of the most important paralegal services is drafting agreements, which are common in many aspects of legal practice from acquisitions to business negotiations. Drafting a good agreement requires knowledge of the subject matter and familiarity with standard clauses and terminology in order to ensure that what has been agreed upon is enforceable if breakdowns occur.
Conducting Due Diligence Exercises
Paralegals often work together with lawyers during the due diligence phase of a case to conduct research on businesses and companies that clients wish to acquire or merge with. Reviews of title deeds, leases, mortgages, and other legal documents by paralegals help to ensure that proper research has been conducted before pushing ahead with the acquisition process. During this exercise, it is also common for them to meet and interview employees in order to understand their role in the business as well as get a feel for how the company works. This information can later be used by both parties during the negotiation process.
Analyzing Legal Documents
One of the most important services paralegals provide is analyzing legal documents, which are common in many aspects of legal practice from acquisitions to business negotiations. The analysis entails examining facts and figures passed on by clients together with background information so that attorneys can make informed decisions on possible outcomes. While lawyers often argue that they alone should conduct this exercise, paralegals who have mastered the knowledge of reading financial statements may go ahead and do it.
The exercise requires the paralegal to be able to read between the lines in order to determine whether the figures given are accurate or not. In case a discrepancy is discovered, this information can either help lawyers negotiate better deals for their clients or lead them in the direction of taking on more thorough investigations.
While some paralegals work exclusively with one attorney throughout their career and do not have litigation experience, those who find themselves in big law firms may at some point be called upon to handle cases for their attorneys which require representation before courts. This requires a great deal of preparation and knowledge of courtroom procedures by both parties involved so that they stand a fighting chance against experienced lawyers representing parties. Paralegal services also ensure that relevant documents and evidence are ready to be submitted before a trial.
In today’s legal environment, it is no longer part of the paralegal’s job to just take dictation from an attorney. Paralegals are highly trained professionals who can do much more than simply type documents. Without these paralegal services, many attorneys would have difficulty doing their jobs properly. For example, a good paralegal can identify relevant information within a large volume of documents for an attorney. This can save the attorney time by enabling her to focus only on the items that are important.