Paralegals provide many valuable services at a cost lower than your attorney. If you're operating in a Pro Se status with the court, a paralegal can assist you with drafting documents in the correct format, etc.
What is a Paralegal?
As per NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants) Legal assistants or paralegals (interchangeable terms) are individuals who assist lawyers in the delivery of legal services. The following definition was adopted by the NALA membership in 1986:
Definition: Legal assistants, also known as paralegals, are a distinguishable group of persons who assist attorneys in the delivery of legal services. Through formal education, training and experience, legal assistants have knowledge and expertise regarding the legal system and substantive and procedural law which qualify them to do work of a legal nature under the supervision of an attorney.
The paralegal concept began in the late 1960's when law firms and attorneys sought ways to improve the efficient and cost effective delivery of legal services. Paralegals cannot give legal advice, represent a client in court, set a fee, or accept a case, which functions are generally considered the practice of law. Working under the supervision of an attorney, the legal assistant's work product is merged with and becomes part of the attorney work product. In communications with clients and the public, the legal assistant' s non-lawyer status must be clear. A legal assistant may perform any function delegated by an attorney, including but not limited to the following:
- Conduct client interviews and maintain general contact with the client, so long as the client is aware of the status and function of the legal assistant, and the legal assistant works under the supervision of the attorney.
- Locate and interview witnesses.
- Conduct investigations and 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 legal assistant status is clearly indicated and the correspondence does not contain independent legal opinions or legal advice.
- Professionally, a paralegal's time for substantive legal work (as opposed to clerical or administrative work) is billed to clients much the same way as an attorney's time, but at a lower hourly rate.
For more information, please see Model Standards and Guidelines for Utilization of Legal Assistants-Paralegals.