Now that you have taken a big step forward and retained an attorney, what comes next? This is when the paralegal assigned to your case will step in. Who or what is a paralegal? A paralegal is a trained professional who provides support to lawyers. They perform tasks that require knowledge of legal concepts but are not licensed as a lawyer. Your paralegal works closely with your attorney on all aspects of your case such as drafting, strategy and case management. They are an extension of your attorney in many ways, but it is important to note that they are unable to provide you with independent legal advice.
What Does Your Paralegal Do?
From the moment you retain your attorney, your paralegal is working on your case. In the beginning, they will meet with your attorney and familiarize themselves with the facts of your case. They will reach out and introduce themself to you and begin asking you for various documentation necessary to work your case. This initial request of documents may seem like a big task (because it is), but it is a necessary and highly important part of the process.
Your paralegal will organize and process the documentation you provide while also preparing initial drafts of legal documents to be filed in your case. Providing comprehensive, complete copies of the documentation requested of you will ensure your initial drafts are also comprehensive and complete, giving your case a solid starting point and aiding in negotiations. It is important to return requested information in an organized fashion, which will reduce your costs and allow your paralegal to spend more time doing substantive work with minimal reorganization.
The work product from your paralegal is meant to be a near-complete product containing all relevant information. This allows your attorney to focus their efforts on refining the legal arguments and strategy needed to support your case. Just as in the beginning, it is important to provide your paralegal with thorough and complete information throughout the duration of the case. This applies when information or circumstances change for you, or after a lapse in time when updated information is relevant.
If your paralegal is requesting certain information or documentation from you, rest assured that all requests serve a purpose and are not made frivolously. Remember, they are there to assist you and are an extension of your attorney when making requests. Providing timely responses will not only save you money in the long run but will also help keep your case moving forward. Your paralegal is usually the frontline person that is in communication with the Court, opposing parties or opposing counsels and their staff.
The management of your case is a big part of their job and ensuring all deadlines are met is a responsibility they take seriously. Your paralegal is usually working a few steps ahead in your case to ensure that all documentation and information is readily available for your attorney when the time comes. Their goal is to keep you informed on your case while also ensuring that your attorney has what they need to work on a resolution for your case.
How to Utilize Your Paralegal
For most clients, conserving the legal fees associated with your representation is important. Your first point of contact should be your paralegal when you have a question or concern about your case. There are many questions your paralegal may be able to answer right away and if they can’t, they are able to briefly confer with your attorney to obtain the answers you need quickly and at a lesser cost to you.
Sending your paralegal an email with a summary of issues or list of questions is the best way to ensure that your get the answers you need in the most cost-effective way. These emails also keep a record that you can refer to in case you need to refresh your memory on a given topic. Most clients are going through a highly emotional and stressful time, and it is normal to not retain the constant influx of information, so emails are a key tool to helping you stay organized.
Of course, this does not mean that you should not call your paralegal! You are always welcome to call and speak with your paralegal to provide updates, check on the status of your case or ask any questions you may have. Each case and each client are unique, and your paralegal understands this. Keeping a good line of communication with your paralegal is the key to ensuring that the facts of your case or any evolving situations are kept up to date in your file and with your attorney.
On Your Side
The best way to look at your relationship with your attorney and paralegal is to realize you are a team. Each “teammate” plays an important role in the success of your case. As with your attorney, your paralegal is on your side and is there to help you. They are available to answer questions and relay any messages when your attorney is not immediately available for you. They know the ins and outs of your case. Your attorney works closely with your paralegal and puts a great deal of trust in them, so that should give you peace of mind in knowing you can place your trust in them too.
–Devonne Lopez, Firm Administrator & Paralegal, November 2022