The Hidden Value Of a Paralegal

Yes, paralegals assist attorneys during the day to day operation of a law practice.  But there are many hidden value-added services  that a paralegal can add to a law firm. 

Paralegals are front and center in many law firms. As these valuable employees handle many routine duties freeing attorneys to pursue more involved issues, they interact with clients, conduct interviews, draft documents and file legal papers. These law specialists work hand-in-hand with other professionals to get the job done.

Many times paralegals choose an area of the law to specialize in. This increases their value to the company, their knowledge and their paycheck. They may choose bankruptcy, corporate or business law, collections, family law, foreclosures, immigrations, securities or real estate. The duties performed depend on the level of employee's expertise, training and what is needed at that firm.

In bankruptcy and corporate or business areas, almost anyone can interview clients, gather information and fill out the required documents. With training, paralegals can assist in bankruptcy adversary proceedings, drafting employment contracts for businesses and prepare tax planning strategies and tax returns for corporations. Investigations into assets, liens and judgments are exciting ventures into detective work.

When working collections or family procedure, paralegals often draft motions to the court requesting or objecting to summary judgments. Becoming familiar with the laws in these areas makes the job easier and more profitable for the client. Family law especially requires a soft touch, willing ear and gentle guidance as people in the throes of divorce or contested custody battles are emotional.

In today's economy, millions of people are losing their homes to foreclosures and illegal immigrants face deportation. Probate, real estate, and immigration law are popular fields for paralegals.  Working with the lender on foreclosures requires paying close attention to filing dates, delinquency amounts and time frames. Communicating with distressed homeowners and attempting to work out a deed in lieu of foreclosure saves lenders time and money. Immigrants under pressure to leave the United States require special handling, investigative procedures, knowledge of alternative visas and the ability to work with the INS, Department of Labor, attorneys and foreign agencies. Being able to converse with the immigrants in their native language is extremely helpful.

With the ups and downs of the stock markets and dropping home values, securities and real estate law are interesting and profitable specialties for paralegals. Law firms help corporations meet all filing requirements; paralegals organize statements, write up agreements and various quarterly and annual forms and reports. Specialists will review and prepare official documents for filing and verify accuracy of figures and statements. For real estate preparing routine purchase and sale documents, reviewing titles to properties and recording mortgages are standard duties. A higher level of service involves understanding and explaining capital gains consequences, mineral rights and zoning issues.

One of the most valuable contributions paralegals make to any law firm is being able to meet with clients. Collecting information and educating clients on the legal process is involved and time-consuming. Entering routine information into the computer system, drafting simple documents and filing legal forms save attorneys from hundreds of hours of mundane work. 

As paralegals are paid  less per hour than attorneys, everyone benefits. The client pays less money and still receives excellent service, attorneys can focus on important issues and paralegals work in this exciting, expanding profession.

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