Paralegals - in more detail
Litigation paralegals provide an invaluable aid to the legal profession and the litigation process.
Litigation paralegals are the backbone of the pre-litigation and trial teams, coordinating the thousands of details that must be accomplished before, during and after the trial. Below is a delineate of the major duties and household tasks of the litigation paralegal from investigation through to a high court appeal.
Litigation paralegals often take the lead in the pre-claim investigation.
The paralegal’s role may involve locating and interviewing witnesses, taking witness statements, gathering documents and evidence, creating case investigation notebooks, organising documents and creating a chronology of facts. Litigation paralegals on the claimant's side may conduct initial client interviews and perform initial case assessments.
Litigation paralegals on the claimant's side may also assist in drafting pleadings/prayers including the summons, pre-action hearings and supporting affidavits/statements. Paralegals on the defence side may collaborate with the client to investigate the allegations and formulate responses. Litigation paralegals are often charged with the task of creating and maintaining pleadings indexes and filing pleadings with the court. Paralegals also calendar hearing dates and filing deadlines.
The majority of aparalegal’s time is spent in disclosure. Paralegals aid in drafting interrogatories, requests for production and requests for admissions and other discovery.
Paralegals on the defence side may track down knowledgeable persons within the client organisation to help develop responses to interrogatories and other discovery requests.
Paralegals also create and maintain discovery indexes; organise voluminous case files; calendar discovery deadlines; organise, review and analyse documents for production; prepare witnesses summaries; organise, summarise and analyse complex records and assist with e-discovery.
They often conduct legal research, analyse issues and craft legal research memos. Also conducting factual research, gathering relevant information from a variety of resources, such as newspapers, libraries, police and resorts, trade associations and the media.
The paralegal’s communication and organisation skills are invaluable in the pre-trial stage of the litigation. Litigation paralegals organise and index exhibits; prepare trial binders and manage document-intensive files. They also serve as a liaison between the trial lead barristers and third parties such as witnesses, clients, vendors, experts and courtroom personnel. If the trial will take place out of town, paralegals often coordinate the logistics such as setting up the conference rooms, reserving hotel and office space and acquiring equipment.
At trial, litigation paralegals are the barrister's right hand. Paralegals organise exhibits, documents and evidence; arrange for transporting and setting up files and exhibits in the courtroom; prepare and issue subpoenas; assist in preparing witnesses; research and evaluate prospective jurors; and serve as a liaison between clients, witnesses, experts, vendors and the trial team.
In the courtroom, litigation paralegals assist with ‘voir dire’ and jury selection; handle exhibits; pull needed documents; assisting witnesses; preparing witness files; detecting trends; taking notes on behalf of the advocates; order and reviewing trial transcripts; and interact with clients, vendors, experts and courtroom personnel. Paralegals may also help prepare conduct post-trial interviews of the jurors.
Litigation paralegals often assist the legal profession with case settlement. Their role may include gathering and organising data and information needed for settlement; creating settlement terms, distribution statements or negotiations checklists; drafting settlement agreements and releases and assisting at pre-trial conferences.
Litigation paralegals assist with identifying issues for appeal; gathering and organising documents for a record on appeal and/or a joint appendix; indexing cases for a table of authorities; assisting in the research and drafting of appellate documents and filing documents with the court.