TV shows like Suits might have given you a glimpse into the work of paralegals, with their late nights and challenging projects.
However, it’s important to understand how closely these TV shows match the daily reality of legal professionals.
If you’re curious about the roles and responsibilities of paralegals, their typical working hours, and the skills required for the job, we’ve gathered insights from experienced paralegals to answer these questions in this article.
Read: What is a Paralegal
What is a day in the life of a paralegal like?
Paralegals are mostly expected to prepare reports, schedule interviews, draft documents, and much more on a daily. The everyday tasks of paralegals vary based on the area of law they are specialized in, or the law firm they work for.
“I typically work eight hours a day, and the environment is fast-paced and constantly changing,” says Kayla Basenese, personal injury paralegal at The Lovely Law Firm Injury Lawyers®.
To give you better insights into what a day for a paralegal looks like, we’ve mentioned different types of paralegals to analyze what duties they deliver.
Also see: Paralegal Interview Questions
Day in the Life of a Family Law Paralegal
You’ll find a lot of paralegals in family law, and paralegals are mostly seen working on cases related to parental rights, adoption, child custody, and divorce.
Lucia White, the mediator at Another Way Mediation, worked as a paralegal and administrator in family law.
In this position, she had different tasks, involving:
- Making discovery requests and responses
- Preparing exhibits for upcoming trials
- Filing and drafting pleadings
- Attending the trials
- Tracking deadlines
- Doing client intake
- Answering phone calls
- Organizing the schedule of an attorney
- Obtaining discovery documents from clients
- Day in the Life as a Personal Injury Paralegal
Personal injury paralegals primarily help people who have been harmed by another party. Other than research, writing, or proofreading, personal injury paralegals are also found to comfort their clients.
Being a personal injury paralegal, Basenese spends a lot of time doing client service with concerned clients.
“I often play the role of therapist and sometimes even a shoulder to cry on,” she says. “Our representation is often the client’s first interaction with a lawyer, and we help ease their stress.”
Day in the Life of a Government Paralegal
A prevalent myth is that paralegals and lawyers are seen working in the private sector.
As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12% of paralegals and legal assistants are seen working for local, state, or federal government.
The first job ‘White’ was at a government wherein she worked on child protection issues, and she said: “Days could be relatively routine if they involved preparing for status hearings or crazy busy when trials were on the horizon or a lot of discovery responses were due.”
Most of her duties involved:-
- Working on creating administrative and organizational systems to help attorneys
- Follow up with the deadlines, as trials needed to happen within one year
- Making discovery requests and responses
- Helping with jury selection
- She often got busy when trials were around the corner, also pushing her to do overtime, as she was expected to go through case materials having thousands of pages and making summaries.
Day in the Life of a Freelance Paralegal
Paralegals having some experience can be actively found working as freelancers. Being a freelance paralegal, their days can vary significantly, and it gives them flexibility.
Presently ‘White’ works as a freelance paralegal and is mainly expected to do substantive legal work instead of clerical work.
Her day-to-day tasks included:-
- Making record summaries
- Preparing discovery response drafts
- Collection of discovery documents from clients
What’s Fulfilling About Being a Paralegal?
A paralegal’s job adds a positive mark on many people’s lives, which is amazing. Lawyers rely on paralegals for many crucial tasks. Clients look up to paralegals in a friendly way in tough times. In the absence of quality paralegals helping attorneys with their caseloads, the legal world can be affected badly.
This particularly does not describe the role of paralegals in helping people get justice. “I am fulfilled when we can get our clients the medical treatment they need,” says Basenese, “It’s also fulfilling when our lawyers negotiate top-dollar settlements to compensate the client for his or her injury.”
Read: Work from Home Paralegal
What Skills Does a Paralegal Need?
With the type of duties different paralegals entail, you might be thinking about what skills legal professionals would require. Apart from legal knowledge and hard skills, paralegals also need foundational skills.
Let us take a look at some of them:
As you might have noticed, a paralegal is expected for a lot of organizational tasks be it gathering files, researching, or just simply multi-tasking, they need to be organized.
As White says, “Being an effective paralegal involves…being able to organize materials … [and] being able to prioritize and not lose sight of the lower priority tasks.”
As there are different types of tasks that a paralegal is accountable for, they need to have high adaptability skills. Any fixed plans can be affected in case there is a shift in the deadline, new clients, or any type of evidence is recently discovered.
“Someone can be successful in this environment by being able to adapt to change, being empathetic, and being detail-oriented,” says Basenese.
- An eye for detail
According to White, to be a great paralegal, you must have a strong eye for detail. You must watch out for legal codes, proofread important documents, or research court materials for essential information, they need to be catchy enough for the things that others might miss.
See more: Paralegal Skills
Is the paralegal life for you?
Finally, now that you’re aware of what a day in the paralegal’s life looks like, you might be thinking if this is the career you’ve been waiting for.
Paralegals have a crucial job within the justice system, and if you have the required skills for this job, this career can work well for you.
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