Paralegals: An Asset to Your Team

The North Carolina Bar Association Paralegal Division has produced a nifty brochure entitled, “Paralegals: An Asset to Your Team.” In essence itemized some of the many tasks paralegals can perform as a member of the legal team. The tasks are listed separately for each area of law. For example, its Criminal Law section includes:

• Communicate with clients, court officials, attorneys, private
investigators, law enforcement officials
• Interview witnesses
• Investigate facts related to case
• Identify and interview expert witnesses
• Obtain accident reports, police reports, arrest records, SBI
reports, AIR reports, CCBI reports, driving records, tax
records, medical records and insurance information
• Draft documents and pleadings
• Schedule appointments, mediations, arbitrations and substance
abuse assessments
• Prepare subpoenas for witnesses
• Assist in preparations for trial, including preparation of exhibits
• Prepare for depositions and mediations
• Assist at trial
• Gather information for plea bargain
• Assist with post-trial briefs, motions and appeal documents
• Communicate with Parole Board and Work with parole officers

The brochure does not purport to be a complete listing, but it does make a general introductory statement that recognizes the importance of paralegals to the legal profession:

Since it began in the 1960’s, the paralegal profession has evolved into much more than a step to law school. Paralegals continue to assume a more comprehensive role in providing legal services to clients by performing a wide range of tasks that contribute to cost-effective, high-quality legal services for clients. The professional relationship  between an attorney and a paralegal can be an asset to a law firm of any size.

This brochure is not intended to be an exhaustive list of tasks a paralegal is capable of performing. Rather, it is intended to guide lawyers and paralegals in designing and implementing a team concept for providing legal services to clients more efficiently, thus increasing productivity and profit for the firm.

This is important for a couple of reasons. One is the focus on the attorney and paralegal as a team rather than just an attorney and staff. (I argue elsewhere that in order for the legal team to be complete it must include the client.) The second is the phrase “thus increasing productivity and profit for the firm. Many times both the lawyers and the paralegals lose track of the real economic contribution of the paralegal.  That contribution increases as the paralegal learns to manage time, files, dockets and clients efficiently and effectively. That contribution can also be measured and quantified. Finally the economic reality can be used to convince attorneys to treat their paralegals as professionals and to maximize the opportunities for the paralegal to do what they do best.

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