Did you know that there are more Paralegals in California than in any other state in the country? And they have a lot of responsibility. California Paralegals interview clients, gather facts about cases, and conduct legal research. This lightens the workload for the attorneys they work for and builds a foundation for strong court cases. But paralegals are not lawyers, so they are limited to specific duties within the State of California:
California Paralegals Can Manage Cases
As a Paralegal, one of your main duties is to manage the cases that come into the office. Depending on the size of the law firm, you may need to handle 10, 20, or 30 cases for the attorneys you work for. You need organization and efficiency. Luckily, there are lots of tools you can use to track and maintain important documents, bills, memos, emails, invoices, and witness lists. There is software for billing, case management, research, and even tools that provide boilerplate legal documents. And you may use other tools to communicate electronically with staff members and clients.
California Paralegals Gather Facts
For each case, the lawyer needs a basic set of facts before they strategize. Your job is to collect and lay out those facts so the lawyer can build their case. Your fact list may include the names of all parties involved, the chronological order of events, and the location, time, and date of the incidents of the case. To hunt down these facts, you might need to look through police reports, witness testimonies, or court affidavits. You may also work closely with private investigators. And this initial fact-gathering lays the foundation for the necessary legal research you conduct next.
Paralegals Conduct Legal Research in California
The facts of the case may be collected, but it’s not time to remove your detective hat yet! With the facts in mind, you can start to conduct research on legal precedents or state and federal statutes that could apply to the case. You can start your research through a search engine, but you should also use indexes like LexisNexis and Westlaw to find the legal information you need. Don’t forget to look through the books in your law office which should have California statutes; they can provide information on different legal procedures, rulings, and interpretations.
Paralegals Interview Clients in California
An important part of the research and fact-gathering process is client and witness interviews. You are responsible for scheduling the interviews, compiling the questions, and researching the facts of the case prior to the interviews. Along with your attorneys, you will consider the types of questions to ask, and how they should be asked. Consider the person’s state of mind and how they might react to some of the questions. You want the person—whether witness or defendant—to feel comfortable so they can open up to you about even the toughest details of the case.
Paralegals Draft Legal Documents in California
When it’s time to create a legal brief, court petition, or a contract, you are the person a lawyer will turn to. You draft these documents with the aid of court paperwork, client interviews, your legal research, emails, audio recordings, and tools that make the process more efficient. Depending on the type of law your firm practices, you might also be asked to organize shareholder agreements, litigation documents, patents, and discovery motions. After the lawyer reviews your draft, you may be asked to redraft the documentation according to their feedback.
What California Paralegals Can’t Do
Although you can help with a variety of tasks, there are still many responsibilities that you cannot assist with as a paralegal in California. You cannot:
- Provide legal advice
- Represent a client
- Engage in unlawful activity
- Induce a person to make a financial transaction you benefit from
- Perform paralegal duties for anyone other than a lawyer
- Establish client fees
It’s important to know what you can and cannot do so you don’t unknowingly create trouble for yourself or your law firm.
Join a Growing Paralegal Field in California
The work that paralegals do is important, and the need for them is expected to grow over the next decade. Are you ready to begin a career in the legal profession? At Charter College, we offer an online Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal that can prepare you for entry-level work at a law firm in as few as 15 months. Call 888-200-9942 or fill out the form to learn more.