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The Paralegal: An Essential Cog in the Legal Practice

By Judy Pippin, J.D. | March 6, 2017

Paralegal Cog Header

Paralegals are essential in the practice of law. They really are! I have been practicing law for over twenty years and have witnessed many occasions where a paralegal saved the day. In general, paralegals are Smart, Organized, and Savvy (SOS). It is true, paralegals routinely answer the SOS call made by the attorneys and clients they interact with.
 
Light blue cogSmart. Paralegals are smart and typically have an associate or bachelor degree from an accredited university. Mixed in with their law related classes, they may take courses in writing, research, business, or science. These classes help paralegals sharpen their skills and depending on the area of law they chose to work in, these classes can provide an enormous advantage. For instance, if the paralegal wants to work with a medical malpractice firm, coursework that includes science may help with the legal concepts. A common task for a litigation paralegal is to identify the issues of a new case and prepare a memorandum to the attorney to facilitate a plan of action. Paralegals are able to tackle these types of assignments as they have likely written many memorandums during their writing courses.
 
Vertical LineIn addition to their classes, paralegals usually participate in an internship, where they incorporate their course work with hands on experience. The program director and faculty work to place students in unique internships of interest that pertain to their future career goals. Consideration is given to the student’s preferred environment and specialization. While it can be challenging to work around full time jobs, there is an internship opportunity for everyone. Individual attorneys and paralegals have led internships with special assigned projects, working with students on an independent study basis, allowing student to work on assignments in the evening and on weekends. There are also traditional internships in local law offices and internships and job shadowing in the courts and various government agencies. Individual needs and preferences are considered and valued, and there is an opportunity for everyone.
 
Dark blue cogOrganization is a common trait with paralegals. There are many attorneys who are brilliant legal scholars and have great passion for the law. However, some seem to lack the ability to keep their files in order. Well, some attorneys also have trouble keeping their schedules in order. Okay, some attorneys would be lost without their paralegals, who literally meet with them on a daily basis to go over documents that must be filed and clients who must be called. Paralegals keep the case on track. In litigation, there are many deadlines, some of which could be fatal to the case if not followed. Thankfully, paralegals are organized.
 
Med blue cogSavvy. Paralegals are Savvy. Many times, paralegals will somehow figure out whatever the problem is with a case and fix it. A few years ago, we needed an expert witness for a very specific function of an elevator. Our paralegal, who understood the qualifications for an expert witness, searched for this witness and found her in another state. Once we made contact with the witness, a key fact could now be proved and the case could go on.
 
If you would like to answer the “SOS” being sent out by the legal field, check out the paralegal degree at Marian University at www.marian.edu.  
 
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