Paralegals may seem like background players on fictional courtroom dramas, but the jobs they do are critical to the modern legal system. And unlike Rachel Zane, aka Meghan Markel, of Suits, they’re not all hoping to pass their entrance exams and make it into law school. Skilled Paralegals know the work they do is important, and the services they provide to attorneys and clients are often invaluable. But what is it they do?
As a Paralegal, you would have a long list of responsibilities. But depending on the type of law practiced by your firm, your tasks will vary. For example, if you work in real estate, you help prepare documents like purchase offers, mortgages, closing statements, title insurance, and property disclosures. In corporate law, you might be involved in mergers and acquisitions, and the legal disputes of businesses and organizations. And as a Paralegal in the criminal justice system, you work with plaintiff and defendant teams, helping to prepare for investigations, depositions, hearings, and trials. Whichever path you choose, your day-to-day may have some similarities. Take a look at a day in the life of a Paralegal:
8:30 AM—Handle Administrative Duties
Since most Paralegals work full-time, 40-hour weeks, much of your schedule with be pretty consistent. Unless you’re on a big case! Then, because you’re such an important part of the legal team, you might come in early and stay late. But let’s say your office opens at 9:00. You get there early and get to work. Check emails, phone messages, and faxes that may have come in overnight. Check the day’s schedule. You may need to prepare for appointments, hearings, and document deadlines. Calendar management and communication is one of your most important roles as you need to schedule appointments with clients, manage court dates, follow deadlines, and relay this information to your team. You may also be required to maintain contact with a client regarding past or upcoming proceedings.
9:00 AM –Work With Clients and Investigators
Another important part of your day can be taking affidavits from clients and witnesses. These written statements are critical components to all types of cases. Or you may work directly with investigators, gathering the evidence they have complied for a case. You need to pass on what you learn to the lawyers and take accurate notes from verbal statements.
10:30 AM –Conduct Research
You will often be asked to research legal precedent, laws, and regulations. It’s important that you know how to access relevant websites and documents and that you have your detective cap on when you dive in. If you want to find good answers, you need to ask the right questions. First consider what the lawyer you work for has asked of you. What are they trying to do for the client and what legal topics are relevant to what they’re trying to achieve? Note the facts of the case and who has jurisdiction over it. Then consider where to begin your search. Public records and even Google may be a good place to start but LexisNexis is also a common resource for lawyers and their paralegals.
12:30 PM –Take a Lunch Break
Your breaks need to be communicated to your supervisor, but you definitely want to refuel your body and your brain with a healthy lunch. Take some time to grab a bite, get some fresh air, or connect with other members of your team.
1:00 PM – Draft Case Materials
It’s a lot of responsibility, but once you’ve proven your skills, you may be asked to draft documents for attorney review. Often using templates, you fill in pertinent facts and information. You may help prepare contracts, wills and trusts, and other agreements between parties. After you create the first drafts, you undergo a detailed review process with other law professionals to make sure the information is precise. If there are any inconsistencies in your documents, you may need to conduct additional research or make changes. As part of the process, you may also create summaries of your work so complex points are boiled down to the most basic facts.
2:00 PM –Review and Proofread Documents
Do you have good attention to detail? That skill will come in handy for every task of every day. You often review documents that others have created. This requires some basic legal knowledge, case understanding, and the ability to fact check and find typos. When it comes to the law, a simple mistake—such as having the wrong middle initial—can be costly to clients and your firm.
3:00 PM – Organize Court Assets and Prepare for Proceedings
Even if you never set foot in an actual courtroom, you may need to prepare court documents and get them ready for proceedings. Everything must conform to very exact standards, and they always need to be submitted by their deadline. While the lawyer reviews documents and prepares for the trial, you help with the organization of evidence and exhibits and preparing witnesses. Once a trial begins, you take notes and help keep the legal team on task by organizing documents. You play an integral role in ensuring the trial stays on task and that there is no missed information from your team.
5:00 PM –Closing Up
Toward the end of the day, you need to prepare for the next. That may mean taking one more look at tomorrow’s schedule or double-checking calendars and messages. Or maybe you’re working on a really big case and it’s time to hunker down, call out for pizza, and stay a little late.
Your position as a paralegal may not look like this every single day, but it’s important that you hone your legal, organizational, and time management skills to become an integral part of your legal team. The Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal degree at Charter College can provide you with the foundational knowledge you need to have a successful entry-level career at a law firm or in a legal department. The program is offered online for your convenience and flexibility. Call 888-200-9942 or fill out the form to learn more.