The answer to the preceding enquiry is quite simple. Whatever legal query you may have, a paralegal can assist you in solving the same. Paralegals and legal assistants are an integral part of a law firm and help lawyers in dealing with clients, legal research and other litigations.
With the ever expanding opportunities in law, there are many fields a paralegal may be specially equipped to help you in. From child support and custody to corporate law, a paralegal can assist you in a wide variety of matters. Here are a few questions that most people have regarding what paralegals and legal assistants do and the answer to those queries:
Who is a Paralegal?
According to the Canadian Association of Paralegals (CAP), paralegals are defined as:
‘Professionals who are qualified by virtue of education, training and experience to engage in substantive legal work including managerial or administrative duties, working independently but under the ultimate direction of a lawyer. The work performed by paralegals is generally of a nature that requires sufficient knowledge of legal concepts such that, in the absence of a paralegal, a lawyer would perform those duties.’
A professional paralegal in Alberta usually has a post-secondary degree in the field of law and on-field experience as well. Paralegals work under the instructions of lawyers and don’t participate in any unauthorised legal activities such as representing a client in court, without explicit directives.
What does a Paralegal do?
Although depending on the specialisation, a paralegal can aid you in a number of activities but their key responsibilities include:
- Directing legal research
- Drafting required papers
- Filing documents and contracts
- Conducting registrations
- Coordinating with clients
In addition to these responsibilities and depending on their experience, paralegals can also be an integral part of the management of the firm. They can also help in the recruitment and training of new employees and other administrative duties.
In protracted cases and settlements, paralegals act as a link of communication between the clients and the lawyers and may be present in the settlement hearings. In child custody and support cases, paralegals can be crucial to understanding the familial matters and help lawyers in settling them. In certain states like Ontario, qualified paralegals can also appear before tribunals and manage disability claims and hearings for smaller offences like traffic violations.
Difference between Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Although these designations are used interchangeably, there can be distinct differences between the positions of a paralegal and a legal assistant depending on the state the law firm is based in. For example, in the state of Ontario, licensed paralegals don’t require the supervision of lawyers once they receive their certification. They can also represent clients under certain scenarios. Paralegal certification in Alberta is not standardised and their responsibilities differ greatly from professionals from other states.
Paralegals act as a communication medium between clients and lawyers and can help you understand the legal aspects of your case much better. Consult a professional directly in case you need legal guidance of any kind.