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Final Project Intro To Legal Systems becoming a paralegal in North Carolina

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Final Project Intro To Legal Systems becoming a paralegal in North Carolina

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Project for Introduction to Legal Systems covering topics such as: employment opportunities, roles of the paralegal, requirements to become a certified paralegal, the paralegal\'s day-to-day activities.

Project for Introduction to Legal Systems covering topics such as: employment opportunities, roles of the paralegal, requirements to become a certified paralegal, the paralegal\'s day-to-day activities.

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Final Project Intro To Legal Systems becoming a paralegal in North Carolina

  1. 1. A paralegal is a person, not admitted to the practice of law, who uses his or her education, training, and work experience to assist the lawyer in delivering legal services to the lawyer’s client. Paralegals perform substantive legal work that is customarily, but not exclusively, performed by a lawyer.
  2. 2. Lawyers began using paralegals when their clients, attentive to their profits and losses, demanded lower legal costs while still receiving the same quality service.
  3. 3. In order to be a successful paralegal, a person must not only possess a common core of legal knowledge, but s/he must also have skills that are the defining characteristics of the most successful paralegal practitioners.
  4. 4. First of all, there are three core attributes: Professionalism Confidentiality Self-confidence
  5. 5. Professionalism includes not only your behavior and your polished and poised appearance but also preventing external personal events or dislike for a client from affecting your service to the client. This is so important that there is an ethical rule requiring paralegals to advise their employers if personal feelings might interfere with the quality of service to the client.
  6. 6. Confidentiality is tantamount in the legal setting. Mislaid papers, overheard telephone conversations, or simple gossip are breeches of confidentiality in every situation and violating confidentiality causes employers to doubt an employee’s credibility.
  7. 7. Self-confidence is the ability to work unsupervised and gets all projects completed accurately and in a timely manner and it is vital for the success of any project.
  8. 8. Without these three core attributes, a paralegal’s skills can become ethically or qualitatively compromised.
  9. 9. There are many skills that the successful paralegal requires that fall under these broad categories: Critical thinking skills Legal research skills Organizational skills Legal writing skills Communication skills Computer skills Interpersonal skills Interviewing and investigation skills
  10. 10. Critical thinking skills include: Analyzing problems by identifying and evaluating alternative solutions. Identify interrelationships among cases, statutes, regulations, and other legal authorities. Applying recognized legal authority to a specific factual situation.
  11. 11. Then, there are organizational skills that include: Categorizing information Prioritizing information Organizing information Utilizing time efficiently
  12. 12. General communication skills require: Reading with comprehension. Writing and speaking in clear, concise, and grammatically correct English. Listening effectively and accurately to interpret nonverbal communication. Using language to persuade. Tailoring the nature of the communication to maximize understanding in the intended audience, including those with different levels of education and cultural backgrounds.
  13. 13. Interpersonal skills are necessary for: Establishing rapport and interacting with lawyers, clients, witnesses, court personnel, co-workers, and other business professionals. Being diplomatic, tactful, and assertive without being aggressive. Working effectively as a team to perform quality work in a timely fashion without being offensively competitive.
  14. 14. Then, there are legal research skills requiring: Using resources available in a standard law library, including computer assisted legal research programs like Lexis and West Law, to locate applicable statutes, administrative regulations, constitutional provisions, and other primary source materials.
  15. 15. Along with legal research skills, legal writing skills are needed to: Report legal research findings in a standard interoffice memo or other appropriate format. Use the proper format and appropriate content in drafting client correspondence and legal documents. Modify standardized forms found in form books, pleadings files, or a computer data bank. Use appropriate citations for sources.
  16. 16. Computer skills include: Using the basic features of a computer assisted legal research program and other electronic resources. Using the basic features on one commonly used word processing program, database program, and spreadsheet program.
  17. 17. Finally, a paralegal needs interviewing and investigation skills involving: Conducting an effective interview and recording appropriate, accurate statements. Gaining access to information commonly kept by government agencies. Preparing releases and requests to gain access to medical and corporate records.
  18. 18. With these skills the paralegal can successfully perform the typical day- to-day activities the lawyer needs to serve the interests of his or her client. Typical day-to-day paralegal activities include:
  19. 19. Client contact Most paralegals assist lawyers by serving as the first line of communication with the client, thus freeing the lawyer to perform other functions.
  20. 20. Client Interviews The lawyer needs to know the facts of the client’s legal problems in order to provide good legal service. Therefore, paralegals have specific skills in client interviewing and fact identification.
  21. 21. Docket control Nearly every legal task has a deadline. A document must be filed with the court, a contract must be signed, or a response to a request for information is due. In the office, the paralegal is responsible for tracking deadlines and other important dates for lawyers.
  22. 22. Legal Drafting A paralegal is able to prepare legal documents under the supervision of a lawyer, including drafts of pleadings, contracts, deeds, or wills for review by the lawyer, as well as routine legal correspondence and inter-office memoranda.
  23. 23. Additionally, paralegals also have an economic role – courts have validated the role of the paralegal as a viable member of the legal services delivery team by allowing paralegal to carry out many of the tasks, under the supervision of an attorney that might otherwise be performed by a lawyer and billed at a higher rate.
  24. 24. These other duties include: •Assistance with depositions, interrogatories, and document production. •Summarizing depositions, interrogatories, and testimony for review by the attorney. •Drafting correspondence. •Appearing in court for uncontested matters and small probate hearings. •Signing form pleadings. •Handling personal bankruptcies. •Attending executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court or administrative hearings and trials with attorneys.
  25. 25. Atypical paralegal activities depend on: •The needs of the lawyer and the client, •The type of legal services provided within the legal environment, •The credentials of the paralegal, •The personnel involved in the delegation decision, and •How the paralegal is utilized.
  26. 26. For example, the typical duties of paralegals in the criminal defense field and litigation field are similar while their other duties vary vastly according to what duties are required in that field. • Criminal Defense Litigation • I. Pre-Trial Commencement of Action • A. Initial Interviews Discovery • B. Investigation Settlement and related matters • C. Legal Research for Pretrial Motions Pretrial Preparation • and Trial Trial • D. Assist in Development of Defenses, • Theory of Case and Trial Strategy • E. Pretrial Motions and Discovery • Responses • F. Plea Negotiations • G. Assemble File • H. Subpoena Preparation • I. Venire Investigation • J. Draft proposed direct and cross examination • questions for client and witnesses. • K. Assist attorney in preparation of defendant • and witnesses for trial testimony. • L. Attend pretrial conference with attorney. • M. Draft proposed jury instructions. • N. Coordinate appearance of witnesses • at trial. • II. Trial • Prepare trial file/notebook, including: • Second Chair Trial • III. Post-Trial • IV. Appeal
  27. 27. There is much required of a paralegal as he or she assists the lawyer. However, there are some tasks that a paralegal can never do. A paralegal must not perform any of the duties that only attorneys may perform nor take any actions that attorneys may not take.
  28. 28. Generally, most descriptions of the kinds of activities that constitute the practice of law are divided into four broad categories:
  29. 29. Establishing the attorney-client relationship The paralegal cannot suggest to the client that an attorney will or will not represent that client because the paralegal then inadvertently creates an unauthorized attorney-client relationship.
  30. 30. The giving of legal advice The ABA defines the practice of law as the exercise of professional judgment on the specific legal problems of a client. Clients expect that the advice they receive comes from someone with the training and expertise to provide that legal advice. A client who is aware of the relationship between the paralegal and the lawyer may assume that the advice coming from the paralegal has been substantiated by the lawyer and therefore that advice is proper, legal, and competent.
  31. 31. Independent Document Drafting For example, preparing and filing bankruptcy petitions, statements, and schedules. In this example the paralegal could only fill the bankruptcy form with whatever information the client furnished them.
  32. 32. Setting legal fees The paralegal cannot agree to charge a client a specific fee as he or she does not have the experience required to consider all of the factors that comprise legal fees. The cost of legal fees is a discussion between the attorney and his or her client prior to the attorney agreeing to represent the client.
  33. 33. In court representation Only a lawyer with his or her years of specific training in the rules of procedure and evidence that apply to court proceedings can represent another person in court whereas any authorized role the paralegal has in court is comparatively microscopic.
  34. 34. Akin to the unauthorized practice of law are ethical issues. A paralegal can be unethical in many different ways:
  35. 35. When a paralegal is not yet competent enough assist a client in a task delegated by a lawyer, but to try and save face, he or she executes that task anyway. The paralegal must inform the lawyer of his or her inexperience in a legal task before engaging in it.
  36. 36. A lawyer compensates a paralegal based on the quantity and quality of the paralegal’s work and the value of that work to the law firm. The paralegal’s compensation may not be contingent, by advance agreement, upon the profitability of the lawyer’s work. There is no ethical prohibition against allowing paralegals to share in the overall financial good fortune of the firm. However, when the paralegal desires a portion of the fees the lawyer collects from the client then an ethical concern arises. Now, the paralegal’s focus is not on impartially gathering information for the lawyer but rather doing whatever it takes to make certain that the paralegal collects his or her bounty from the attorney’s collected fees.
  37. 37. When the interests of one client supersede the interests of another client then this is an ethical issue. A paralegal must avoid any situation where the paralegal cannot devote all of his or her loyalty to one client rather than between two current clients or one current client and a past client.
  38. 38. Whenever a paralegal breeches the confidentiality of the client an ethical concern arises. Possible breeches of confidentiality include sending an email intended for the client to another person accidentally carbon copied on the message, operating any type of phone with the speaker phone activated, and informing friends or relatives about client matters.
  39. 39. Moving on, you should not view your current paralegal education as only one step in your legal education. Consider other education opportunities because continuing education is tantamount to the ongoing success of any paralegal.
  40. 40. After a student at Miller-Motte acquires his or her associate’s degree, their next goal should be becoming a certified legal assistant offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants and Paralegals or NALA.
  41. 41. Occasionally, paralegals call themselves “certified” by virtue of completing a paralegal training course, or another type of paralegal education. However, although a school may award a certificate of completion, this is not the same as earning professional certification by an entity such as NALA. In this instance, the school’s certificate is designation of a training program. I’m not certified!?!
  42. 42. To be eligible to take the CLA, a paralegal must meet one of the following conditions:
  43. 43. Proven graduation from a paralegal program that meets NALA requirements. Have a bachelor’s degree plus one year experience as a paralegal. Have a high school diploma or equivalent plus seven years experience as a paralegal plus a minimum of 20 hours of continuing legal education completed within two years prior to application to take the test.
  44. 44. Certification means passing the certified paralegal exam which is divided into 5 sections: •Communications •Ethics •Legal research •Judgment & analytical ability, and •Substantive law.
  45. 45. The CLA designation is important because it assures a hiring lawyer that he or she is dealing with an experienced legal assistant who performs to a high standard and can immediately bring experience and capability to the practice.
  46. 46. NALA claims that courts have awarded higher fees to paralegals with the CLA designation, and also receive higher salaries nationwide.
  47. 47. NALA also offers continuing education with the CLA specialty credential for those who have “demonstrated advanced knowledge and skills in a specialty area of practice:”
  48. 48. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations offers a competing certification: the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE).
  49. 49. Tier One of the exam tests critical-thinking skills and problem-solving abilities, and includes general legal questions and incorporates ethics throughout the exam. Tier Two tests knowledge of specific legal practice areas. To be eligible to take the PACE exam, the paralegal must also have a four-year degree.
  50. 50. Continuing education demonstrates a paralegal’s commitment to professional excellence. Nearly all of the organizations available to help paralegals have continuing education opportunities including NALA which has its Campus Self Study Program covering these topics:
  51. 51. Alternative methods of dispute resolution American Legal system Civil litigation Contract law Judgment and legal analysis Legal ethics Legal research Real estate Written communications
  52. 52. The NALA is just one of the many associations that exist to assist paralegals. Membership in paralegal organizations carries distinct advantages for practicing paralegals, including support, professional networks, job banks, continuing legal education, access to seminars, and social opportunities. Professional organizations can serve as a resource for information and news about the paralegal profession and often publish newsletters and journals. Paralegal organizations offer scholarships and discounted memberships for students.
  53. 53. Almost every state in the country boasts a statewide professional organization for legal assistants, as well as one or more local organizations. Usually the statewide organization will be located in the state’s capital city and the local organizations are located in the larger metropolitan areas. These organizations may not be affiliated with the state or local bar associations.
  54. 54. Bar association advantages and benefits: • Paralegals have a vote in decisions that affect them. • Paralegals are permitted to join bar association committees, sections, and divisions. • Paralegals have same or equivalent benefits of membership that are provided to other members of the bar association. • Paralegals are encouraged to write for publications that promote the cost-efficient utilization of paralegal services, and those publications are supported and/or published by the bar association. • Paralegal’s opinions pertaining to the role of paralegals are valued by members of the bar.
  55. 55. The traditional employers of paralegals are private law firms. Roughly 3 of 4 working paralegals are employed by law firms of widely varying sizes. However, over the years, pressure for efficient and low-cost legal services has opened opportunities for paralegals in:
  56. 56. • Corporate legal department • Banks and Insurance companies • Government (local, state, Federal) • Title and mortgage companies • Healthcare
  57. 57. In the private law firm, the paralegal’s role is to be an income producer by bringing money into the firm through billable hour production. These are the tasks that would, without the paralegal, be performed by an attorney within the law firm.
  58. 58. The private law firm expects the paralegal to bring in more money through their billable hours than the law firm pays them in salary, thus allowing the law firm to realize a net profit from their effort. Therefore, most law firms expect the paralegal to bring in, through billable hours, three times their gross salary.
  59. 59. Employer law firms range from a single lawyer to several hundred lawyers in several cities. The vast majority of paralegals work for law firms with ≤ 10 lawyers. The size of the paralegal staff within a private law firm will generally bear some relationship to the numbers of lawyers working within the firm. The average ratio of attorneys to paralegals is about 2-to-1.

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