Paralegal's Role during Trial PreparationThe Paralegal Resource
October 18, 2013 — 2,092 views
Paralegals are specially trained assistants who assist attorneys or lawyers in their job. Typically, they handle routine jobs on a day to day basis including legal and non-legal research, interviewing clients, and filing and drafting of cases. They also look for precedents in course of research. Paralegals can work with a private attorney, a legal firm, banks, hospitals, and other organizations.
Getting Ready for the Trial
Paralegals prepare documents and assist their attorney in trial preparation. They need to be systematic and organized. With proper documents and paper works, preparation for trials can be minimized. A paralegal may have to transport witnesses and entertain them. In addition, they may have to draft trial briefs, look into the pending tasks and manage clients. They may be given instruction by the attorney which must be performed in advance.
If they are required to second chair the trial, their duties might include handing exhibits as and when required by the attorney at the time of the testification of the witnesses. They will need to anticipate certain documents when pleading, and line up witnesses each day for testimony. They must prepare and be ready with subpoenas.
In other words, they must organize their work efficiently so that the trial is conducted smoothly which includes efficient preparation of papers and documents and their handling.
Responsibilities During the Trial
After the trial preparation, a paralegal assists during the actual trial. The first day of the morning trial, the paralegal must bring the necessary files to the court. Once in the courtroom, they place the files appropriately. In addition, they must be careful of their conduct and the image being projected to the jury. At the time of voir dire, he is expected to make notes to help attorneys. He pulls files and exhibits at the time of testimonies. He has to ensure that the witnesses to be called are present, and he must contact them if they are not present.
After the first day’s trial, the paralegal meets the client and attorneys to discuss what might be needed the next day. He must contact the witnesses needed the next day. He must make a printed copy of notes taken during the first day’s trial. Each day the paralegal functions in pretty much similar manner until the trial is complete.
Best Practices for Paralegals
A meticulous trial preparation by a paralegal ensures that the attorney can perform efficiently during the actual trial. They must have a daily action plan which highlights their ‘to do’ list. They must not be overburdened so that they become inefficient. So, they must learn to delegate work to other paralegals in the team. They must make use of calendar system or software programs to manage their deadlines. It will increase their efficiency and they will not forget some important pending tasks.
They must avoid procrastination. Often, the temptation is to work on administrative or other easier tasks first which usually delay the billable jobs. So, the right strategy is to work on what should be done first according to the priority. A key to successful task accomplishment is communication. If they do not understand something they must discuss and thrash out the issue immediately instead of pondering over them.