What a paralegal does on a day to day basis can vary largely depending on the place of employment. As a paralegal attain more experience and receive more training, their responsibilities can range from clerical tasks to drafting court documents. However, some of the common tasks that you often find paralegal performing include:
Lawyers require legal research in many areas of their service including providing legal advice and forming legal arguments. Therefore, legal research forms a significant part of legal services and is one that paralegal can offer greater assistance to. Legal research involves being able to define and identify the legal issue and being familiar with reading and analysing legislations, case laws, law journals and law reports. Knowledge on navigating the various government websites and law databases is therefore of great importance.
Before a matter is brought to a conclusion, a large amount of work goes into preparing and progressing a matter. Paralegals may be responsible for handling and organising exhibits, documents and evidence, ordering and reviewing transcripts, and transporting and setting up files in the courtroom, amongst other tasks.
The discovery phase of a proceeding can involve thousands, if not tens of thousands of documents. Therefore, assisting in reviewing and organising case files may form a large part of a paralegal’s role, and this is especially the case for paralegals specialising in litigation. This may involve identifying what documents fall within the scope of discovery, creating and maintaining indexes and organising voluminous documents in both hard copies and electronically.
A barrister brief is often one of the first document that a barrister would peruse when retained for a matter and therefore must be up to date, well organised and clear. Depending on the type of matter, a brief would generally provide information on the facts of the matter and the history of the proceedings. Paralegals may assist in organising the documents in chronological order, creating an index, bookmarking and tabbing documents, identifying what is outstanding and updating the brief.
Whilst paralegals are not expected to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to prepare legal submissions and form opinions, they should be familiar with the various court documents. This may include subpoenas, appearance and notices to produce. Paralegals are also likely to be responsible for filing court documents electronically, by post or in person. Therefore, it is crucial paralegal are familiar with or are able to identify the different filing rules applicable to the various courts in Australia and for the different court documents.