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Who Is A Paralegal? Paralegal services are some of the best sources of fast efficient legal work.
But who is a paralegal? By definition, the American Bar Association terms a paralegal as an individual who is “qualified by education, training or work experience, who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.”
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Who Is A Paralegal?
In simple terms, a paralegal is a lawyer’s protégée, who learns under a qualified and authorized lawyer and only works under instructions from their senior lawyer. This means that they cannot do anything outside the instructions given by the lawyer whom they work under, because the lawyer is directly accountable for anything the paralegal does.
However, it should be clear that they only do what a licensed lawyer would do; clerical work does not require the attention of a licensed attorney and so a paralegal should not be expected to do it.
What does a paralegal do?
The “delegated work” that a paralegal does in their day-to-day is defined by the company they work for and who they represent. As such, their work is as diverse as there are law firms and branches of the law. Common duties include”
- Reviewing contract documents
- Parsing out case law details
- Holding meetings with clients who need paperwork drafted
- Evaluating potential personal injury cases
- Assisting in court litigation
- Helping with court case paperwork
- Conduct research that is factual and legal
- Prepare paperwork for legal transactions
- Preparing discovery notices
- Holding interviews for potential witnesses in a case
In essence, a paralegal works as a handy helper for the law firm; they are legal aids who handle the details of most of the cases the law firm or organization they are under has to handle. They comb-out all the details that certified lawyers may not have time to do and help come up with ways of correcting any issues.
What can’t a paralegal do?
Much as they are legal, paralegals are not certified, lawyers. As such, there are roles that they cannot play, even under the cover of certified lawyers. These include:
- Cannot use illegal sources to obtain information for a case
- A paralegal cannot establish a relationship with a client on behalf of an attorney
- A paralegal cannot discuss the fees to be charged for legal representation by the attorney
- A paralegal cannot give legal advice to a client
- A paralegal cannot represent clients in court
- A paralegal cannot take depositions or even sign pleadings
The use of paralegals is becoming more and more popular because they can offer some legal service at a cheaper fee than would a licensed attorney. Some of the services that a paralegal can legally offer and charge you for include:
- Preparing legal documents like agreements, contacts and briefs
- Representing you in an administrative hearing
- Explaining law procedures
- They can also provide legal information to a general open audience.
All that a paralegal does falls under the certified attorney under whom they work. This means that any illegal act they perform puts the attorney(s) at risk of losing their license. As such, it is paramount that the paralegals stick to the rules like the gospel!
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