Staffing is important to the success of a law firm. While the top priority should be to recruit top legal talent, it’s also essential to hire a strong support staff. When the right paralegals join a firm or practice, both productivity and client satisfaction can increase.
What Paralegals Do
Paralegals support attorneys by performing a variety of tasks, including legal research, document preparation, and case investigation. Many paralegals also perform administrative duties such as filing and setting appointments.
In the United States, paralegals are not licensed, though many choose to earn a professional certification through organizations such as The Association for Legal Professionals. The lack of licensure makes paralegal education an issue of significant concern.
While licensure is not required to be a paralegal in any of the 50 states, many paralegals choose to complete an educational program. Some complete a two-year degree, while college graduates may opt for a post-bachelor’s degree certificate in paralegal studies. There are also graduate-level paralegal degrees online. Attorneys that practice in very specialized areas of law may feel more comfortable hiring a paralegal who holds a master’s degree or graduate-level certificate.
How Paralegals Impact a Law Firm
Law firms that hire highly-qualified paralegals often find that their attorneys are better able to focus on their cases and clients. This can be particularly true in a solo or small practice, where attorneys without paralegal support may be expected to handle time-consuming administrative tasks.
Larger firms also benefit from having highly qualified paralegals on staff. A paralegal who is intimately acquainted with a specialized area of legal practice such as free speech can provide unique insights to the legal team. In addition, that paralegal is better equipped to perform in-depth research that can help attorneys win their cases.
Finding the Right Paralegal
Finding the right paralegal for a practice can be a challenge, although straightforward human resources principles are often helpful. Investigating the paralegal’s work background, including experience in law firms of similar size and composition, is a must. Other things to examine include the paralegal’s training. While some paralegals are trained on the job, the completion of specialized coursework that coincides with the firm’s areas of practice can be a strong indicator that the paralegal is a good fit.
Over the years, attorneys have realized the importance of investing in quality administrative and paraprofessional team members. Quality support for legal professionals equals long-term profitability.
This article is from Lizzie Weakley, a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. She enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her four-year-old husky Snowball.