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Civil Litigation Paralegal Duties and Responsibilities
The duties of civil litigation paralegals differ based on their employer, but after analyzing online job listings, we identified the following core responsibilities:
Conduct Research Civil litigation paralegals conduct extensive research about the case and then present their findings to attorneys. This is a thorough process that entails studying relevant laws, assessing the accuracy of case facts, and interviewing key persons involved. Since the result is a huge amount of information that isn't always consistent, they must analyze and integrate this data to form a cohesive summary.
Prepare Legal Documents Civil litigation paralegals regularly draft legal documents such as motions, pleadings, discovery requests and responses, interrogatories, and briefs. Since litigations require significant paperwork, it's up to civil litigation paralegals to organize these, usually through a digital database where they can upload and retrieve documents easily.
Assist Clients A civil litigation paralegal assists clients throughout the entire process. Those in this role work with clients to learn more about the case and to relay possible courses of action, in addition to sending frequent status updates. In general, they take care of client concerns, booking attorney meetings as requested and processing documents for them.
Handle Logistics Administrative tasks are part of a civil litigation paralegal's job, as they are the attorney's main point of contact with clients, opposing counsel, and others involved in the case. They coordinate the attorney's schedule, finalizing dates for mediation or settlement meetings and more informal appointments. In addition, they handle logistics such as filing court papers and reserving venues for meetings.
Provide Trial Support In the rare instances that a civil case is brought to trial, civil litigation paralegals help attorneys prepare. They procure the necessary documents, including deposition transcripts and medical records, and arrange trial notebooks, from witness lists to exhibits. They also orient witnesses about case strategy and court protocol.
Civil Litigation Paralegal Skills and QualificationsCivil litigation paralegals have a knack for collecting and handling information, whether they're searching through databases, asking direct questions, or sorting paperwork. They are organized and mindful of details, and have significant knowledge of law and litigation. In addition to a college degree or certificate in paralegal studies, employers typically look for candidates with the following skills and qualifications:
- Legal knowledge - most of a civil litigation paralegal's tasks depend on having a good grasp of both legal jargon and the trial process, as they must perform investigations, write legal documents, and guide clients and witnesses
- Organization skills - civil litigation paralegals juggle several tasks on any given day, so it's important for them to stay organized, especially since accuracy of detail is fundamental to successful litigation
- Research - attorneys, who focus on analysis, rely on civil litigation paralegals to perform the bulk of pre-trial research. Those with this job must be adept at gathering crucial data from a variety of sources while ensuring accuracy
- Critical thinking - civil litigation paralegals assess investigation results with a critical eye and contribute their own assessment of the case to attorneys, solving their way through apparent inconsistencies and making astute, evidence-based deductions
- Communication skills - it's vital for civil litigation paralegals to communicate well. In their interactions with different kinds of people, they must relay information clearly and exhibit good interviewing skills
Civil Litigation Paralegal Education and TrainingThere are many educational paths to becoming a civil litigation paralegal. The most straightforward is earning a bachelor's or associate's degree related to paralegal studies. Those with other degrees may obtain certification through an accredited paralegal program, which lasts several months at most, or attend one year of law school. In addition, most employers require previous work experience of one year or more, depending on the complexity of the job.
Civil Litigation Paralegal Salary and OutlookAccording to PayScale, the median annual salary for civil litigation paralegals is nearly $54,000. Those in the 10th percentile make less than $38,000 per year, while the highest paid earn more than $73,000. Medical benefits are less common compared to other jobs, with one-fifth of these paralegals receiving none. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects paralegals and legal assistants (a sector that includes civil litigation paralegals) will experience 15 percent job growth through 2026. Large corporations may hire in-house paralegals to lower costs, and law firms seeking to expand their services also add to the demand.
Many resources are available online for those interested in the career path of civil litigation paralegals. The following curated links include books and organizations:
National Association of Legal Assistants - NALA is the premier community in the US for paralegals. It specializes in education and professional development, and its certification program is one of the most highly regarded in the industry
The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style - civil litigation paralegals must be well-versed at legal writing. This book is a useful tool that's been called the bible of legal style, covering both grammar rules and prose style alongside detailed explanations and illustrations
American Bar Association - a global organization with more than 400,000 members, ABA is geared toward law professionals, including attorneys, legal assistants, law students, and paralegals. It offers a wide range of learning material, along with practical listings such as accredited law schools and continuing legal education (CLE) requirements by state
Paralegal Today: The Essentials - this book, which caters to aspiring paralegals with its sweeping overview of the career, doubles as a practical guide for landing a position as well as learning fundamental legal concepts
Legal Talk Network - one way of keeping up with industry trends and benefiting from the insights of top professionals is listening to podcasts. Civil litigation paralegals can visit this leading legal-centric podcast network, which features more than 20 podcast series and releases several episodes every week
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