When it comes to working as a paralegal, there is often some misunderstandings. Although these professionals work closely within the legal system, their scope of practice is quite different than a lawyer. If you’re interested in becoming a paralegal, then it’s essential that you understand what you are legally allowed to do in a workplace. Even if you’re already working as a paralegal, this knowledge can help keep you out of legal trouble should your employer wish you to perform a duty that’s unacceptable.
Legally Accepted Paralegal Job Duties
The following are legally accepted paralegal job duties as outlined by the American Bar Association. It’s important to understand the complete list of job functions. Therefore, it’s suggested to contact the American Bar Association or your state bar association for a list of paralegal job duties.
Factual Investigation/Research | Under the supervision of a licensed attorney, a paralegal is allowed to undertake factual investigative techniques. This may include utilizing digital and hardcopy reference materials or interviewing clients and other professionals. However, if you must interact with clients you are subject to specific rules as to what extent your relationship may be.
Preparing Legal Letters | As a paralegal, you’ll be responsible for drafting and reviewing a wide variety of legal letters. This job function is allowed under the direct supervision of an attorney. Of course, you may not alter any legal document without the written consent of your lawyer.
Client Relations | It’s generally accepted that a paralegal may be responsible for cultivating a healthy relationship between a law firm and a client. The attorney-client relationship is essential to ensure clear communication. However, in large legal firms, it’s not uncommon to be the primary point of contact between the firm and the client. You’ll be responsible for gathering information and answering questions.
Clerical Duties | Part of the job as a paralegal is to keep the law firm organized and flowing as needed. Because of this, the primary job function of a paralegal may be more of an administrative or clerical role. This is generally assigned to new paralegals who are fresh out of training. If you wish to hold a greater role within the law office, continuing education and earning certifications is typically the best pathway.
Considerations | It’s important to note that a paralegal cannot actually practice law or behave as an attorney. Doing so is illegal and can land you in some serious trouble. However, your employer is primarily responsible for ensuring your job functions do not extend beyond the legal limits.