Working under the supervision of an attorney, the paralegal’s work product is merged with and becomes part of the attorney work product for a client. In communications with clients and the public, the paralegal's non-lawyer status must be clear. Paralegals cannot give legal advice or perform any duty specifically reserved for licensed attorneys.
The NALA Professional Development Committee published a compilation of job descriptions in a former Career Chronicle edition of Facts & Findings. If you are looking for a variety of job descriptions, this is a great start.
Typical duties of a paralegal include but are not limited to the following:
- Conduct client interviews and maintain general contact with the client.
- Locate and interview witnesses.
- Conduct investigations, statistical and documentary research.
- Conduct legal research.
- Draft legal documents, correspondence and pleadings.
- Summarize depositions, interrogatories and testimony.
- Attend executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court or administrative hearings and trials with the attorney.
- Author and sign correspondence provided the paralegal status is clearly indicated and the correspondence does not contain independent legal opinions or legal advice.
Within a law firm setting, a paralegal's time for substantive legal work (not clerical or administrative work) is billed to clients much the same way as an attorney's time, but at a lower hourly rate.
While the paralegal profession has its beginnings in law firms, today, paralegals work in most corporations and business organizations such as banks, insurance companies and health organizations. The government is also a big employer of paralegals.