Courts and Their Procedures - What Every Paralegal Needs to Know

Ashley R. Gordon
April 12, 2011 — 1,729 views  
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Together with a general knowledge of the law, you as a paralegal will need to have a better-than-average working knowledge of the courts and how they operate. You should know the location, jurisdiction, and venue of all the courts in the city, county, and federal district where the attorney or firm practices law. You should also have some knowledge of both the state and federal appellate courts to which cases arising out of and tried in your area may be appealed.

You should be familiar with the rules of procedure for all the courts in which your law office practices law. The rules vary for criminal and civil cases so depending on your practices you may need to know both. There are usually special rules for probate and guardianship and summary procedure. Every law office must have and use a copy of the appropriate court rules of procedure. Courts also have what are known as "local" rules of court. These rules apply to a particular court or a judge and should also be reviewed.

The names and addresses of the courthouses, the judges and the court officials are usually available in local bar association publications or directories and typically are also now available online.

Knowledge of the courts and their official rules can be a timesaver in preparing, filing, amending, and obtaining copies of court documents. Often those court rules can be obtained at the court's website. If unsure regarding a particular rule, a phone call to the court to clarify can be critical in getting your document approved and filed.

Most courts have set filing fees which you'll need to review prior to filing or recording your document to determine the cost. Again, if it is not clear a phone call to the court for clarification is recommended.

Delays in filing of time sensitive pleadings or documents due to lack of knowledge or understanding of the court rules and procedures can lead to malpractice. A careful review of the rules can avoid many problems.


The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed to give any legal advice. I've been a practicing paralegal for over 25 years and am interested in providing information based on my training and experience in various aspects of the law.

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Ashley R. Gordon