As a Paralegal, I’m often asked what paralegals do. A Paralegal or Legal Assistant (the terms are used interchangeably) is a paraprofessional whose duties are not really understood by the general public. For this reason, I think it’s worthwhile to explain not only what a paralegal does, but how we are utilized at Sullivan & Ward, P.C., to help serve our clients in the most efficient way.
The American Bar Association defines a paralegal as follows:
A legal assistant or paralegal is a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. www.amaricanbar.org
The Iowa Association of Legal Assistants breaks the role of a paralegal down a little further:
One of the primary purposes of a paralegal/legal assistant is to enable the lawyer to be more efficient in the use of his or her time and more productive in the quality of his or her work. A paralegal/legal assistant can relieve the lawyer of many time-consuming and burdensome tasks that in many instances can be done by a paralegal/legal assistant at less cost. www.ialanet.org/about_history.html
In short, we provide the background work to allow the attorney to be on the front lines. A Paralegal’s duties may include reviewing and organizing volumes of documents for easier review by the attorney; preparing drafts of legal documents and memos; locating and assembling information for attorneys; proofing and editing final drafts for the attorney; being on top of/knowledgeable about legal procedures and requirements of courts and agencies, and various other tasks specific to any given case. These tasks can sometimes take many hours to perform and can be billed to the client at a much lower rate when performed by a paralegal, saving the client money. Examples of things Paralegals are prohibited from doing include: representing clients before courts and giving legal advice. Paralegals are bound by the same ethical rules as attorneys.
At Sullivan & Ward, P.C., our Paralegals, perform all of the tasks outlined above, and many others, in order to assist our attorneys in the proficient management of client case files.