Paralegal job description

Paralegals are given a lot of responsibility in drafting important legal documents for their employers, ranging from legal pleadings to contracts. Normally, these documents come from a more standard form, but sometimes they also require free thought and creation when preparing them. However, for the vast majority of documents paralegals produce, they do not need to “reinvent the wheel” and can go off of document templates. However, because of the importance of these documents and the consequences of making even the most minor mistake it is vital that they be completed precisely and with care.
Paralegals in smaller or general practice firms are often given the task of producing wills for clients. These documents express what the client want property and personal possession distribution upon death and more importantly, custody of any minor children left after death. Wills can be simple with ones that just leave everything to your spouse, or they can be extremely complex in situations of family conflict or high assets. Oftentimes the attorney will meet with the client once, having the paralegal take notes at this meeting, and then will leave the task of creating the will and any accompanying documents to the paralegal. These documents are reviewed by the attorney prior to signing, but a great deal of trust is put in the paralegal to prepare this document properly.
Like a will, paralegals also create trust documents which is an arrangement in which a third party (trustee) holds assets, money or property, for beneficiaries. Many trusts are created along with wills as a way to avoid probate. Like wills, these documents can usually be created off of a template with adjustments for the client’s needs and desires.
Litigation documents make up the majority of work product produced by paralegals in personal injury firms, as well as in family law. Anytime two or more parties have a civil disagreement is considered litigation. Paralegals are expected to prepare complaints, which are the claim filed with the court that begins the law suit, interrogatories, which are questions and answers to and from parties in the case, and evidence materials.
Paralegals in a non-litigation role are asked to prepare contracts for their attorneys, which are agreements between two or more parties to exchange goods or services for some type of benefit. Certain terms and conditions must be included in each contract for it to be valid, which include an offer, acceptance of the offer, promise to perform, promise of payment, milestone set for performance, and terms and conditions for the performance. If anything is incorrect or not included could nullify the contract.
Lastly, paralegals are expected to prepare communication and correspondence between client and attorney and attorney and opposing counsel, as well as letters to witnesses, experts and investigators for cases. These documents should clearly express what the attorney is wanting to convey and should be created with utmost professionalism.
As a paralegal student, be sure to take classes in document preparation so you have a general idea of what to expect, but once in a position, be sure to work closely with attorneys in your office to make sure you are following firm technique and form. Each office is different, and it is imperative that you follow office procedure as best as possible.
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