There are many different career paths within the field of law. One of the most popular areas of law to work in is Personal Injury. However, you do not have to be a lawyer to work in injury law. One of the most important positions within injury law firms is that of the paralegal. While paralegals do not practice law, they play a vital role within the legal team and are valuable assets within any law firm.
We have gathered together some of the key ways paralegals are an indispensable asset to any injury law firm:
Paralegals must be effective communicators to be successful at their jobs. Whether interviewing a new client, contacting an expert, or taking the statement of a witness, the majority of a paralegal’s time is spent communicating with others. In addition, the paralegal serves as the lawyer’s right-hand, and must acts as a liaison between clients, experts, opposing counsel, and their supervising attorney.
In addition, paralegals must have excellent writing skills. Litigation paralegals are responsible for drafting correspondence, pleadings, discovery, motions, briefs, legal memorandums, and other documents. These can range from simple to complex.
Geared Skill Set
Paralegals are required to possess a specific set of skills to be successful in their field. Paralegals must be organized and multi-taskers, who can prioritize and work efficiently in a fast-paced environment. Paralegals have a long list of responsibilities that can be tedious and mundane, while others are high-level tasks that are more important and interesting.
Depending on the size of the injury law firm and how much experience the paralegal possess, he or she could:
- Interview potential clients
- Provide customer service to existing clients
- Communicate on behalf of attorney
- Compile discoveries
- Organize case files
- Draft pleadings and correspondence
- Order medical records
- Review incoming records
- Draft demands
- Review witness lists
Research is another core paralegal skill. There are many different legal research methods, from traditional work done at a law library to Internet research and legal research databases. In addition to conducting effective research, paralegals must learn to analyze case facts and properly cite legal authority.
Like attorneys, paralegals focus on area of the law. Personal injury paralegals often have specialized knowledge within the injury field that sets them apart from other paralegals. Those who work in the injury field should have enough medical knowledge to handle the medical aspects of a case, such as ascertaining which medical records and bills need to be obtained, medical terminology, and how to prepare medical chronologies, medical expense itemizations, deposition summaries and demand packages.
In addition, many injury paralegals are familiar with prescription medications and how they relate to the client’s claim. Many are also familiar with human anatomy and various types of injuries, such as those that pose permanent implications or may necessitate future surgery or lifelong expenses.
Personal injury paralegals must also become well-versed in the trial process. Paralegals play an important role in trial preparation and the actual trial process itself.
Important tasks a paralegal may be called to do include:
- Witness preparation
- Preparing voir dire outlines, opening and closing statements, and witness outlines
- Determine what exhibits will be utilized
- Ensure exhibits are properly prepared and available when needed
Paralegals must be good team players. The delivery of legal services is a complex process that requires a team of individuals with multiple skills. To provide quality and cost-effective service, paralegals are often important members of this team. Paralegals form part of a larger legal team comprised of associates, partners, fellow paralegals, legal secretaries, and more. In addition to working as an effective team member, paralegals must also work collaboratively with outside parties, such as clients, opposing counsel, experts, and witnesses.
The injury law field offers individuals a unique opportunity to help others. Depending on the area a paralegal works in, he or she would help injured plaintiffs receive compensation for their losses. This type of work tends to attract those who care about others and want to help.
The Right Education
In addition to the skills, knowledge, and experience listed above, injury law paralegals often have formal training through an ABA approved paralegal studies program. These specialized programs help students develop proper written and oral communications skills, gain knowledge of conducting research, and even specialize in personal injury or other field of law. In addition to formal education, such as a four-year program, paralegals can earn a certificate. Certification is not required to practice as a paralegal, but many earn this extra certification to have an edge in the job market. Certification establishes an expected level of competency, which sets these earners apart from other paralegals. Paralegals who complete programs approved through the American Bar Association will have the skills needed to be a successful, effective, and indispensable member of any legal team.