Typical duties of a paralegal include but are not limited to the following:
Conduct client interviews and maintain general contact with the client.
Locate and interview witnesses.
Conduct investigations, statistical and documentary research.
Conduct legal research.
Draft legal documents, correspondence, and pleadings.
Summarize depositions, interrogatories, and testimony.
Attend executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court or administrative hearings and trials with the attorney.
Author and sign correspondence provided the paralegal status is clearly indicated and the correspondence does not contain independent legal opinions or legal advice.
Within a law firm setting, a paralegal's time for substantive legal work (not clerical or administrative work) is billed to clients much the same way as an attorney's time but at a lower hourly rate.
While the paralegal profession has its beginnings in law firms, today, paralegals work in most corporations and business organizations such as banks, insurance companies, and health organizations. The government is also a big employer of paralegals.
For more information about paralegals...
NALA Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility
NALA Model Standards and Guidelines for Utilization of Paralegals
Government in a Nutshell
The purpose of legal research is to find "authority" to add persuasion to your position in a legal challenge. Primary authorities are the rules of law that are binding upon the courts, government, and individuals. Examples are statutes, regulations, court orders, and court decisions. By using "Government in a Nutshell" the Pro Pro or Pro Se litigant has full access to all federal and state branches of California government and their officials.
Democracy isn't a state of perfection. It has to be improved, and that means constant vigilance.
Antonin Scalia Law School
California Law Research
Most People can not afford a Lawyer
More often than ever before, people are using paralegals to assist in their less complicated matters. Paralegals can offer many benefits, such as price.
Technically, a 'paralegal' is a trained legal assistant supervised by an attorney. A 'paralegal' who works on their own is called an 'independent paralegal' because they are not supervised by a lawyer.
Statistics show in some states about 75% of divorces and 60% of bankruptcies are done without lawyers. Many of these do-it-yourselfers have chosen independent paralegals instead.
What can an independent paralegal do for you? A paralegal is more than a clerical person. S/he is familiar with local forms, local rules, and has knowledge about local processes.
An independent paralegal can NOT give you legal advice, represent you in court, or choose your forms for you. Many paralegals also do not file your forms at the court for you or "prepare" your paperwork. Paralegals may avoid these activities in order to protect themselves from being charged with the crime "unauthorized practice of law" (UPL).
In some states, independent paralegals can become licensed and registered. This shows, once again, the popularity of their services. For example, in California, independent paralegals 1 or 'Legal Document Assistants' must be registered with the county and possess a bond.
"Paralegal" Defined by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations: Choose a paralegal who
"As defined by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, a Paralegal is a person, qualified
An independent paralegal is not employed by a law firm or supervised by an attorney. An independent paralegal does not give legal advice' or practice law.'
In our country, lawyers and judges regulate their own markets. The upshot is that getting legal help is enormously expensive and out of reach for the vast majority of Americans. Anyone faced with a contract dispute, family crisis, foreclosure or eviction must pay a lawyer with a JD degree to provide service one-on-one in the same way lawyers have done business for hundreds of years.
Increasingly, the only "persons" with access to legal help are "artificial persons" -- corporations, organizations and governments. No wonder that in a 2010 New York study, it was shown 95% of people in housing court are unrepresented. The same is true in consumer credit and child support cases; 44% of people in foreclosures are representing themselves—against a well-represented bank, no small number of whom engaged in robo-signing and sued people based on faulty information.
These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. For every person who is unrepresented in court, there are probably tens of thousands who didn't have any legal advice when they did the things that landed them in hot water in the first place. Who can afford $200 to $300 an hour to get advice on local small business regulations, the fine print in a mortgage document, or how not to make mistakes that will cost you in court when fighting over kids and money with your soon-to-be ex-spouse?
Some legal professionals have called for more public money for legal aid clinics and courts to provide free legal help and for lawyers to do more pro bono work. But the demand for ordinary legal help is simply too massive to meet with increased court funding, legal aid or pro bono work.
I believe there is no way to help ordinary people with their legal problems without fundamentally changing the way lawyers and judges regulate the practice of law.
What we need are more efficient ways of delivering legal help and less expensive nonlawyers who can provide legal assistance. Supreme court judges in every state have the authority to accomplish this with the stroke of a pen... (read more)
Competency to Represent Yourself
The case that established that defendants have a right to represent themselves in criminal proceedings was Faretta v. California, U.S. Sup. Ct. 1975. The Faretta case said that a judge must allow self-representation if a defendant is competent to understand and participate in the court proceedings.
To determine competency, the judge often weighs factors such as:
the defendant’s age
the defendant’s level of education
the defendant’s familiarity with English, and
the seriousness of the crime with which the defendant is charged.
No single factor determines the result, and a defendant doesn’t need the legal skills of a professional lawyer to qualify for self-representation. As long as a defendant is competent, knowingly gives up the right to an attorney, and understands court proceedings, the defendant is entitled to self-represent.
In Propria Persona
A Latin Phrase which means "in the person of yourself.”. "In Pro Per" is a short form of the Latin phrase, "In Propria Persona”. The full term of "In Propria Persona" is hardly ever used in court. A person who is acting In Pro Per is called a Pro Per. The terms Pro Per and Pro Se are equivalent in court. “Pro-Se” refers to representing yourself in any type of legal matter without the benefit of legal counsel.
A petitioner in pro per is a person who appears before a Court without a legal representative or lawyer. Every state in the United States allows individuals to represent themselves inside the courtroom or handle their own legal issues without the help of a lawyer.