While I was composing this blog piece, I counted how many years I have been working as a paralegal, and I couldn’t believe the number: 15! Wow, time flies fast! Throughout my career, a few attorneys have asked me why I had decided to get a paralegal degree. Why didn’t I go to law school? Wouldn’t it have made sense seeing how a lawyer’s degree would have just taken an additional one or two more years? Many paralegals use a paralegal degree and experience as stepping stones to their real goal: becoming a lawyer. Why not me too?
I understand where the lawyers and the aspiring lawyers are coming from. The definition of a paralegal is described by Law.com as:
n. a non-lawyer who
performs routine tasks requiring some knowledge of the law and procedures and
who is employed by a law office or works free-lance as an independent for
various lawyers. Usually paralegals have taken a prescribed series of courses
in law and legal processes, which is much less demanding than those required
for a licensed attorney. Paralegals are increasingly popular, often handling
much of the paperwork in probates of estates, divorce actions, bankruptcies,
investigations, analyzing depositions, preparing and answering interrogatories
and procedural motions and other specialized jobs…
The definition is correct, but is missing the true essence of the paralegal’s role. The paralegal works quietly behind the scenes to help draft and proofread legal documents, conduct research, run files back and forth, make sure that legal documents are filed on time, organize and maintain the case files, and liaise between the departments and
other organizations. These are just a few of the tasks that paralegals are trusted to complete. During my time on one international criminal case, a lawyer that I worked with aptly stated that a case manager (that’s what my title was at the time) is to be seen and not heard. This lawyer is a wise woman and I believe that these same words can also apply to paralegals. Paralegals are a breed of strong multitaskers with a knowledge of the law that are the silent and continual back-bone to the attorneys they assist.
The Parallel World has been written for my colleagues, the paralegals. Our job can be a thankless one at times, but nonetheless an important and necessary one. My hat goes
off to all of you!