THE LAW FROM A PARALEGAL’S POINT OF VIEW
DISCLAIMER: Altiorem Legal Services (hereinafter referred to as “Altiorem”) cannot and does not provide legal advice. Altiorem is not a law firm; Altiorem’s staff are not attorneys, cannot act as attorneys, and do not act as attorneys; and any information provided by Altiorem in this article or otherwise is not a substitute for legal advice from an attorney. The information contained in this article should not be construed as legal advice, as it is not intended to be legal advice; the information in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Again, none of the information provided in this article should be construed as legal advice, and one should not rely on or use the information contained in this article in one’s legal case.
WHAT IS A PARALEGAL?
A paralegal is professionally trained to assist attorneys in various legal capacities. While a paralegal can sometimes perform clerical work such as filing or calendaring, that is not a paralegal’s main duty. A paralegal differs from a legal assistant in that they are trained to draft legal documents, conduct legal research, work with clients, and manage cases.
Paralegals can work with a large variety of people daily, including attorneys, clients, witnesses, court personnel, administrative assistants, etc. Paralegals form strong relationships with the legal professionals in their community, as they can sometimes be required to work with them on an almost daily basis. A paralegal is a professional, reliable, and hard-working individual.
It is important to note that paralegals cannot provide legal advice as they are not attorneys and not regulated by the state bar association. Legal advice constitutes giving a client any information that would lead them to make a legal decision for their case. A paralegal can be sued for providing legal advice and face large fines. See the articles below to see instances where paralegals were found guilty of providing legal advice.
- Paralegal fined for unauthorized practice of law.
- A Paralegal is Guilty of the Unauthorized practice of law by preparing a document for a litigation and providing legal advice without supervision of a licensed attorney.
- Senior Paralegal engaged in unauthorized practice of law.
Another thing that paralegals cannot do is practice law. The American Bar Association (hereinafter referred to as the “ABA”) in their publication, Definition of the Practice of Law, published on September 18, 2002, defines the “practice of law” as “the application of legal principles and judgment with regard to the circumstances or objectives of a person that require the knowledge and skill of a person trained in law.” To abstain from potentially practicing law, one should not apply “legal principles and judgment” to a client’s case; one could provide self-help services to pro se litigants seeking to represent themselves in their legal matters, and at no point should one apply “legal principles and judgment” to a client’s case; it is the client themselves who applies “legal principles and judgment” to their own case. That is how one can provide legal services without it constituting the practice of law.
Furthermore, continuing with the provisions of the ABA’s Definition of the Practice of Law, one should not ever give to a client “advice or counsel . . . as to their legal rights or responsibilities or to those of others”—indeed, one may make the client aware of certain legal facts or circumstances in their case, but at no point should one give advice or counsel as to a client’s “legal rights and responsibilities”; at no point should one, without the guidance and input of the client, ever “select, draft, or complet[e] legal documents or agreements that affect the legal rights of a [client]”—indeed, it is important that it be solely the client who selects the legal document(s) to be drafted, that it be the client who drafts the portions of the legal document(s) pertinent to the application of “legal principles and judgment” (i.e., it is the client who applies legal principles and reaches legal conclusions), it is essentially the client who completes legal documents, and it is the client who comes up with the terms of agreements (if any); at no point should one ever “[r]epresent a [client] before an adjudicative body, including, but not limited to, preparing or filings documents or conducting discovery”—indeed, one should not ever refer to oneself as any client’s representative, whether before an adjudicative body or not, and, even though one may help a client prepare legal documents for filing (which, as aforementioned, it is the client who applies the law to their case), it should be the client who files the documents pro se, and, in terms of conducting discovery, it should be the client who conducts discovery themselves as a pro se litigant; and at no point should one ever “[n]egotiat[e] legal rights or responsibilities on behalf of a [client]”—indeed, 0ne should never put oneself in a position to negotiate the legal rights of any client under any circumstance. With the foregoing satisfied, once can provide clients legal services without it constituting the practice of law.
While paralegals cannot provide legal advice or practice law like an attorney, they nevertheless are well versed in the legal field and know the ins and outs of court cases. A paralegal has knowledge of what documents need to be filed, when they need to be filed, and how they need to be filed. A knowledgeable paralegal can be an extremely valuable asset to a law firm or solo practicing attorney.
A paralegal should have excellent oral and written communication skills. Paralegals should also be organized, efficient, and computer savvy. It is impossible for an attorney to draft all the legal documents required, and simultaneously speak to their clients, when the attorney has, for example, a full day of court hearings. This is where paralegals come in. Paralegals become well versed in the cases they are handling; paralegals can create exhibits for trials, prepare witnesses, and even prepare questions for the attorneys to ask a witness.
Legal research is a big part of being a paralegal. Knowing how to efficiently look up caselaw, cite the caselaw, and include caselaw that is relevant in a case, sets paralegals apart from legal assistants. A good paralegal is able to look at caselaw and know what caselaw is relevant to the case they are working on. Paralegals validate sources of law, find relevant legal documents for an attorney, and even prepare case memorandums so that the attorney can become familiar with all the important aspects of a case.
A paralegal can be familiar with different types of law. Just like an attorney, a paralegal can, through experience, specialize in, for example, real estate, family law, criminal law, and even trusts and estates, among other areas of law. While paralegals can specialize in different aspects of the legal field, it is more common for them to have a wide range of knowledge regarding a wide range of law. If an attorney does not know how to do something, they can ask the paralegal to do research and discover how to do it. Attorneys routinely rely on paralegals in this capacity.
A paralegal cannot provide legal advice, but they are knowledgeable in many areas of law and can draft many different pleadings to be filed in the court system. It is important for paralegals to not miss deadlines, to be efficient in their work, and to avoid errors in, for example, their legal writing as well as in their work generally. An error in a court document could cause the case to be lost. Fact checking, billing, organizing exhibits, drafting pleadings, speaking with clients, and working with other legal professionals are all things that a paralegal needs to be prepared to do—sometimes at a moment’s notice.
Paralegals are an important part of the legal field; they keep things running smoothly; and they are an indispensable part of a law firm. Behind every good attorney is an equally good and knowledgeable paralegal.
Are you in need of affordable and top-quality legal services from a paralegal? Let Altiorem Legal Services help you today. We provide top-quality legal services at a fraction of the cost that you would pay with an attorney. We provide a premium experience. We are knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced in drafting all manner of legal documents, pleadings, motions, memoranda, letters, etc. If you need a top-quality, professional, well-written, well researched, and compelling legal documents drafted, then let us help you! We go above and beyond the average legal industry writing quality that you would receive with most attorneys and law firms; we produce top-quality, properly written legal documents with impeccable grammar, punctuation, spelling, structure, flow, information, compelling legal arguments, and persuasive legal conclusions. Let our team of professional paralegals help you today!
If you are interested in retaining our services, we can be contacted at (801) 855-6541 (text or call) and at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a project in mind that you would like us to work on, please click here to send us a project request and get a quote; alternatively, you can send us an email detailing the work you need performed.
 American Bar Association, Definition of the Practice of Law, Task Force on the Model Definition of the Practice of Law, Model Definition Definition (September 18, 2002), https://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/task_force_model_definition_practice_law/model_definition_definition/, at (b)(1).
 Id. at (c)(1).
 Id. at (c)(2).
 Id. at (b)(1).
 Id. at (c)(3).
 American Bar Association, Definition of the Practice of Law, Task Force on the Model Definition of the Practice of Law, Model Definition Definition (September 18, 2002), https://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/task_force_model_definition_practice_law/model_definition_definition/, at (c)(4).