Paralegal Consultants, LLC
Kelly J. Eckel, C.P., M.Ed.

Utilization of Paralegals                                                            260.273.9389
                                  The Utilization of Paralegals

As we continue our progression into the 21st century, it is very important for attorneys and the public to recognize that paralegals (also known as legal assistants) can be utilized on an independent/consulting basis. The abilities and professionalism of paralegals are becoming better known as local and state bar associations attempt to clarify the functions and tasks a qualified paralegal can perform. The distinction between secretarial and paralegal duties can be blurred until attorneys recognize and begin to take advantage of the true potential of paralegal capabilities. Recognizing the monetary benefits of retaining independent paralegal services can have a positive effect on attorney productivity and "billable hours".

American Bar Association Opinion 316 states: "A lawyer... may employ nonlawyers to do any task for him except to counsel clients about law matters, engage directly in the practice of law, appear in court or appear in formal proceedings as part of the judicial process, so long as it is he who takes the work and vouches for it to the client and becomes responsible for it to the client."

The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) indicates that "legal assistants 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 paralegal and the paralegal works under the supervision of the attorney.

    * Locate and interview witnesses.

    * Conduct investigation and statistical and documentary research.

    * Conduct legal research.

    * Draft legal documents, correspondence and pleadings.

    * Summarize depositions, interrogatories and testimonies.

    * Attend executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court or administrative hearings, and trials with the attorney.

    * Author and sign correspondence provided the paralegal 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."

The American Bar Association sets and approves particular educational programs throughout the country to assist attorneys in the recognition of highly capable paralegals via their training and education. 

Unfortunately, paralegals have historically tended to perform  ancillary secretarial duties, rather than the paralegal functions. As law firms and attorneys begin to understand the true potential of independent paralegals, they can be retained to perform the functions consistent with their education.

For more information on paralegals and ethical standards, please click on the links below:

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