Paralegals are becoming a more common sight in any judicial system around the world. While not vested with the same authority and responsibility as an actual lawyer, their role is still significant when it comes to the judicial proceedings, particularly the work needed behind the scenes.
They’re also a lucrative market: it’s now easier to get a paralegal degree online, and many jurisdictions around the world have regulated the duties and measures that paralegals are supposed to take. This gives any paralegal (or those who employ them) more flexibility when it comes to handling cases, which can often spell the difference between a poor and well-backed defense.
So, what can a paralegal do?
It’s important to state that paralegals are not attorneys or lawyers. While there are more familiar with the legal rules and by-laws than legal secretaries, their knowledge of the law does not give them the authority to enact or defend their clients in a court. Their responsibilities are more delegatory than the actual important work of representation.
That’s not to say that their efforts aren’t invaluable. In preparing a case, a lawyer will often need to consult or cross-reference dozens of documents and precedents, do research, and file forms on behalf of their client. These can take up valuable time and resources, so some law offices have started outsourcing these duties to paralegals.
However, since their interactions often require in-depth knowledge of the law, paralegals are often rigorously trained and screened before being issued a license to operate with a firm. While jurisdictions around the world have different definitions as to what a paralegal is capable of, all of them follow the same regulatory code that governs their industry.
Support for the case
In this regard, the easiest way to view a paralegal’s duties is to frame them as gathering support for the case. They’re in charge of doing research, cross-referencing existing information, verifying sources and running paperwork—all which can normally interfere in the lawyer’s or attorney’s time in formulating a defense.
Paralegals fill in that gap between the raw information and work required to build a defense and the polished version that is used in court. While they are not allowed representation on behalf of their client, they are still an important part of a legal team and their work is crucial to the success of the case.
A stepping stone
It’s not uncommon for those who want to pursue a career in law to start out as paralegals. While there are specific courses and education programs that create paralegals, many of them often learn on the job about the intricacies of the law and the processes the judicial system requires. This is a more direct way of learning the things they normally would’ve needed a class for, though the efficacy of such a learning method may still be up to debate.
While their duties can be limited, paralegals can be counted on as essential personnel to any well-built case in court. Their efforts into making sure the small things are just right are the bricks to the final case that the lawyer or attorney will present.