Paralegal service is the assistance to the attorney in rendering the legal services. Paralegal services could be considered as indispensable part of a law firm. It helps the attorneys to engage in more serious matters and disputes, giving all the supplementary work to paralegals. It also helps the attorneys to free their minds from the management of the office.
What is a paralegal
According to the American Bar Association (1997), “A legal assistant or paralegal is a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.”
The requirements for a paralegal are:
- Capacity to manage a wide range of duties ranging from organizing the records to managing and handling a client.
- Have got specialized training through education and experience.
- In Missouri v Jenkins (491 U S 274, S.Ct. At 2471-2472(1989) it was held that in the lower courts paralegals are capable of carrying out many tasks under the supervision of an attorney which otherwise may be performed by a lawyer who may charge a higher rate.
- Should be prompt in all the activities.
- Should have knowledge about the latest technology.
What does a Paralegal do ?
The paralegals have to perform a wide range of duties like:
- Legal research
- Legal writing
- Legal Drafting
- Managing the firm
- Arranging the cases
- Investigating the facts
- Searching for precedents
- Help the lawyers in conducting the case
Types of Paralegals
Depending upon the subject matter of the case and type of cases the firm deals with, the paralegals can also be classified into the following:
ü Insurance paralegal– Here the paralegal should be aware of the insurance sector and the latest trends in the insurance industry.
ü Corporate Paralegal – A corporate paralegal is a person who is having sufficient knowledge and experience with regard to stock exchange, market fluctuation share marketing and the legal aspects dealing with corporate sector.
ü Patent paralegal – Patent paralegal should have up-to-date knowledge regarding patent laws and should be thorough with the procedures relating to intellectual property laws.
ü Real Estate paralegal – Real estate paralegal assists the lawyers in settling the matters relating to the selling and purchase of the property. They have to be more careful in checking the authenticity of the documents.
ü Cyber paralegal – This group gained importance with the emergence of cyber crimes and cyber laws. The cyber paralegal should be persons who have got sufficient skill in using computer and the latest technologies.
The differences in the job of paralegals arise when the firm deals with only specific cases. But most of the firms deals with almost all the fields in law whether it be intellectual property rights, insurance, cyber laws, corporate laws etc.
Paralegals usually have their basic formal education and the rest is what they acquire by experience. Experience is what makes the job of a paralegal easy and accurate. Paralegal studies aims to provide training to paralegals to familiarize them with the legal procedures, training them to develop the skills of research, to familiarize with the substantive and procedural laws and to make them aware of the ethics and code of conduct. Universities US offer certain certificate courses and programs approved by the American Bar Association. As per the statistics shown by the American Bar Association over 1,000 institutes offer degree and certificate courses in US. Apart from these several countries in the world offer degree courses and placements where the students can even select the streams of their choice.
In India with the sanction of the National Legal Services Authority, the Rajasthan Legal Services Authority had initiated a new program in which certain paralegals are trained to volunteer the legal aid. This emerging role of paralegals has now labeled them as assistants of justice to the weaker and downtrodden class rather than assistants to attorneys. Let us hope for a new change in delivering justice by paralegals in the era where the lawyers themselves forget their role of social engineering.