Hiring a Paralegal - Your a-z Guide
A paralegal is not a licensed attorney, but they may be a budget-friendly solution if you need help with certain legal matters. Every so often, attorneys who are overbooked hire paralegals to take care of the clients.
What to check when hiring a paralegal
The paralegal should have one or some of the following certifications:
- A paralegal practice award, certificate, diploma or higher diploma
- A legal secretary certificate or diploma
- An award in legal studies
- An HNC/HND or foundation degree in law, legal studies or paralegal practice A law degree
What's an independent paralegal?
A paralegal, which is also called a contract expert, is a non-attorney professional who offers file services without being under the supervision of a certified lawyer. If a paralegal is not operating under an attorney, there are a few strict limitations for what they're lawfully allowed to do.
What offerings are unbiased paralegals allowed to offer the public?
A Paralegal must avoid the unauthorized practice of law, but they can offer the following services:
- Review & organize the client files
- Conduct fact checking
- Perform legal research
- Prepare the documents for transactions
- Draft pleadings
- Take discovery notices
- Interview clients and witnesses
- Assist at closings and trials.
Why should you hire a paralegal?
Lawyers often hesitate to bring on paralegals because they are uncertain of a paralegal’s competencies and qualifications. Some may also be reluctant to invest time into training a person who they believe will leave as soon as they are given a better position with higher pay.
There are lots of reasons you may want to bring a paralegal onto your legal team.
They enhance the efficiency of your legal team
Having a paralegal on your team can free up your attorneys’ time so they can focus on more complex and difficult legal matters or client meetings. If the attorneys in your firm are overworked or distracted by low priority tasks, they won’t be able to put hours toward the real issues of a matter or on bringing in new clients to generate more revenue. With a paralegal on board, you can delegate some of the less complex and more time-intensive tasks.
Many paralegals are qualified
Not all paralegals are law students looking for a part-time summer job. Most choose to pursue a paralegal job as a career, and they are subject to rigorous accreditation procedures.
Course materials at most training programs are reviewed by legal professionals and designed to produce graduates with knowledge of the legal system in general, as well as a field of law in particular (e.g corporate law, banking and finance, and IP).
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A paralegal can be billed out to the client at a low cost
Keeping your clients satisfied and taken care of is critical to a law firm’s success. Clients want to work with a well-organized law firm that prioritizes their case.
By delegating administrative and research-based tasks to a paralegal, the work may get addressed sooner than if it were sitting on an attorney’s desk. Plus, the hourly rate will be lower for a paralegal’s time, resulting in a smaller bill for the client.
Paralegals are cost efficient
The services of a paralegal cost significantly less per hour than the services of a licensed attorney. It is inefficient and a poor use of the client’s money to have a costly attorney do work that a paralegal can do for more than half the cost.
Paralegals can handle administrative work & substantive legal tasks
Paralegals can do more than operate the printer & make coffee or tea. The paralegal training program teaches paralegals how to conduct legal research as well as draft legal and business documents. They are also educated — to some extent — on substantive law or filing procedures. Some paralegals are also trained to interview clients face to face.
Additionally, paralegals can provide assistance in powers of attorney, filing for bankruptcy, probate filings, and estate planning.
Paralegals often have specialized knowledge in a field of law
A lot of the paralegal training or education programs require that students specialize in a particular area of law. Lawyers don’t necessarily need to worry that bringing on a paralegal will require them to provide extra training.
Experienced paralegals have a full and detailed knowledge of legal procedures, legal matters, and the substantive law. They generally choose their specialization, and they can provide advice on how to file forms and record documents specific to that area of law.
Paralegals have professional and ethical boundaries
The National Association of Legal Assistants is a leading paralegal association in the United States that administers a certified paralegal examination.
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) members and the certified paralegals are bound by NALA Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, which further requires paralegals to adhere to the bar association's codes of professional responsibility and rules of conduct.
Paralegals are flexible
If a legal firm is hiring a full-time paralegal but doesn't want to commit to that position, they may consider bringing in a freelance paralegal.
Freelance paralegals may be able to offer an excellent hourly rate, as well as the experience or knowledge in a certain area of law. If you need a certain procedure completed or help with a specific matter, it can be helpful to bring on an extra pair of hands for just a few days, weeks, or months.
Paralegals are effective legal researchers
Many paralegals are trained in conducting legal research. They can help lawyers find and analyze precedents that will be useful in a particular matter, or they can conduct broader research across the statutes, case laws, and commentary on a particular topic or matter.
A paralegal who specializes in criminal law may be able to research and find police records as well.
Paralegals can conduct law firm administrative tasks
Some law firms will simply hire or find a paralegal to take care of administrative tasks and assist lawyers with legal research. They can file client information, contact clients, maintain the calendars of their attorney, organize events, take calls, handle travel, and schedule the interviews with witnesses, clients, and experts in that matter.
Hiring a paralegal is an economical and smartway to improve productivity at your practice and allow your team to focus on completing substantive legal work and prioritizing the needs of your clients.