First, what is a Paralegal and what do they do?
The American Bar Association (ABA) defines a paralegal as: “A person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.” Paralegals are also sometimes known as legal assistants. They play a crucial role in the legal field assisting the attorney, like skilled Arlington family lawyers, and completing many tasks on your case. A paralegal can draft legal documents, file documents with the court, perform legal research, collect data, assist with discovery, and communicate with other parties in your case, including opposing counsel and court clerks. Attorneys often hire paralegals to work for them to be able to handle a higher number of cases and even keep costs down. They provide a wide variety of essential support services. What a paralegal can’t do is give legal advice. Only an attorney licensed to practice law may do that.
When you hire an attorney, you are most likely hiring a paralegal as well. An attorney’s schedule is sometimes so busy and unpredictable, that they may not always be available the the moment you call. A paralegal often specializes in a specific field of law and will have a thorough understanding of it. Although paralegals cannot give any legal advice, they can probably answer many of your questions and will often give you updates on your case. This is a good thing. Mostly because a paralegal’s hourly rate is significantly lower than that of the attorney. Unless an attorney has taken on the case under a contingency fee agreement or a flat fee, an attorney will usually bill in six-minute increments, or 1/10th of an hour.
For example: If the attorney’s hourly rate is $250 and the paralegal’s rate is $125, a 6 minute call will cost $25 for the attorney to make, instead of $12.50 if made by the paralegal. If a document needs to be drafted and it takes 40 minutes to draft, it will cost $175 if drafted by attorney instead of $87.50 if drafted by the paralegal.
This is a significant difference especially if you want to save money of legal fees. Paralegals work directly under an attorney’s supervision and do a lot to help your case move forward. They are also usually in charge of keeping your file up-to-date and organized. This gives the attorney time to focus on the more complex and important tasks on your case. If you have information for your attorney, don’t hesitate to provide this information to the paralegal instead. Your paralegal, just like your attorney, want the best outcome for you.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Brandy Austin Law Firm PLLC for their insight into paralegals.