The career of a paralegal involves assisting lawyers in their legal work. The role of paralegals is important, since although lawyers are ultimately responsible for all the legal work, they often delegate a great number of tasks to paralegals.
Paralegals are therefore a vital component of any legal team, and are relied upon for their knowledge and experience in performing substantive legal tasks. Hence, they must strive for professional excellence, since the work they perform is often indistinguishable from the work of solicitors who hire them.
Legal research is a core skill which paralegals are expected to possess in order to properly perform their duties. They are expected to investigate and research the facts of the case to ensure that all relevant information has been considered. To fulfil this role, paralegals must be thoroughly skilled in conducting research, which involves looking up laws and past cases in legal books, as well as other databases.
These databases include computer software packages, computer databases, as well as online databases, all of which store legal literature. They are expected to identify appropriate laws, judicial decisions, and legal material that might be relevant to the case.
Paralegals should know how to retrieve, organize and index all the information they research for their legal team. The information is then included in reports which are used by attorneys in making the case.
For instance, if attorneys decide to file a lawsuit on the behalf of a client, paralegals are the ones generally charged with conducting research in order to prepare legal arguments, draft pleadings, and motions which are to be filed with the court.
During the trial itself, they are further required to obtain all relevant information to assist the attorneys with the trial. The files and legal documents which contain this information are organized and tracked by paralegals so that they are available and easily accessible to attorneys.
The type of information paralegals may be expected to research depends on the organization they work for. Corporate paralegals are more concerned with researching information about government regulations. This is necessary in order to ensure that the corporation is aware of new requirements and is working within the boundaries set out by the law.
Paralegals working in the public sector, on the other hand, are assigned with different duties depending upon the agency. Litigation paralegals conduct research for attorneys and for agency hearings, while those employed in community-legal service projects carry out legal research in order to help the poor, the elderly, and others who are in need of legal assistance.