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Paralegals - views from the coalface, part 3

The view from: Fourth Year law student paralegaling at a large Australian firm; part-time soccer player.

The valuable paralegal

"The role of a paralegal should not be downplayed. They are extremely versatile and play an indispensable role in the success of a firm. Paralegals have to carry out a variety of fast-paced tasks which require careful time-management and organisation. In any given morning, a paralegal may have to proofread documents, manage files, compile briefs and prepare court documents all before their morning coffee.

However, that is by no means the extent of their capacity. A paralegal will often engage in legal research on any given subject, on any given scale. In my experience as a paralegal, I have had to research a handful of exceptionally niche aspects of the law. One such area required knowledge of New York insurance law along with an understanding of the arbitration processes in London. Another dealt with strict liability in tort law, which had been subsumed by the principles of negligence.

More importantly, however, the research was not a pointless exercise in subservience to my boss. It was an explanatory memorandum on which the partner in charge of our team and the rest of my colleagues relied on. Such research is essential in making sure that a client’s case is bulletproof.

A successful firm not only engages a paralegal to carry out a multitude of administrative tasks and legal research, it also effectively communicates with the paralegal. Every firm is unique in the way it operates and in the way it sets and achieves its goals. In the same sense, although paralegals share the common thread of versatility, each one is different in their strengths and weaknesses. Effective communication between a lawyer and a paralegal enables the paralegal to function as the lifeblood of the firm. It allows them to be moulded into a shape that suits the operation of that firm."

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