The majority of paralegals today work in a litigation paralegal job. This article will review litigation paralegal job description, litigation paralegal salary and litigation paralegal duties.
- 1 Litigation Paralegal Job Description
- 2 Litigation Paralegal Salary
- 3 Litigation Paralegal Job Duties
Litigation Paralegal Job Description
While the job description of a litigation paralegal can vary depending on the size and type of firm, the type of litigation and the experience and talents of the paralegal, in general, litigation paralegals support attorneys by drafting routine documents, reviewing, analyzing and summarizing documents, scheduling, organizing documents or files and preparing files for trial.
Litigation Paralegal Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median paralegal salary in the United States in 2015 was $48,810. The lowest 10% earned less than $30,670 and the top ten percent earned more than $79,010. Since the majority of paralegals are litigation paralegals, the litigation paralegal salary will not be far from the norm. A search for litigation paralegal salary shows that the salary range is between $47000 and $66000. Entry level pay can be low and often paralegals will have to change jobs to get substantial pay raises. While paralegal pay is usually quoted as a yearly salary, most paralegals are non-exempt and must be paid overtime if they work more than forty hours per week. For some paralegals, this can increase their pay substantially. Most law firms offer standard benefits including health insurance and paid vacation.
Litigation Paralegal Job Duties
The duties of a litigation paralegal can vary greatly depending on the type of litigation and the paralegal’s experience and expertise. The following are typical:
Litigation Paralegal Duties in a Plaintiff Attorney Office for a Car Accident Case:
The paralegal will often attend the initial meeting with the client to take notes and become familiar with the case. The paralegal will then make sure all medical authorizations are completed and send them to the providers to obtain copies of medical records. If the client does not have the ability to pay for medical care, the paralegal may refer him or her to physicians who work with the attorney and make contact with the physician’s office. He or she will maintain contact with the client as the client undergoes medical treatment to make sure the client is making progress and seeing the doctor. The litigation paralegal will maintain a current list of medical expenses and inform the attorney if the doctor is recommending expensive testing or surgery.
If the time limit for filing suit draws near, the paralegal may prepare the first draft of the lawsuit. Once it has been approved by the attorney, the paralegal may either take it to court and file it or arrange to have that done. When the defendant sends over written discovery, the paralegal usually confers with the client and responds. Next, the paralegal will interface with the defense attorney’s paralegal to schedule depositions, inspections, medical examinations or hearings. When trial is set, the paralegal will organize the records for trial, contact witnesses and prepare trial exhibits. Finally, the paralegal will assist at trial by taking notes, assisting with records, keeping the client calm and interfacing with witnesses.
Litigation Paralegal Duties in a Defense Office for a Car Accident Case:
The paralegal may review and summarize the file material, including medical records, that come from the insurance company and determine if additional medical records are needed. Often the paralegal will check court records on the plaintiff and contact other defense attorneys for any other cases in which the plaintiff has been involved. The litigation paralegal will often speak to the insured and tell him about the lawsuit process, and, after conferring with the insurance, prepare answers to written questions sent by plaintiff’s counsel. The paralegal will schedule depositions, inspections, medical examinations or court hearings. He or she will review and summarize medical records, employment records or other documents produced in the case. Some paralegals will prepare periodic reports to the insurance company regarding the status of the case. Paralegals often draft witness and exhibit list as cases get ready for trial and assemble trial notebooks which contain the documents the attorney needs to try the case. While paralegals may assist at trial, most cases do not go to trial.
Litigation Paralegal Duties in a Document Intensive Business Case:
In contrast to a car accident case which normally follows a predictable path and is worth a limited amount (generally no more than the amount of the applicable insurance policy), these cases can go on for years and involve the exchange of rooms (or in today’s world, flash drives) full of documents. The litigation paralegal will be part of the team that reviews the document requests from other parties and confers with the client to determine what files are responsive. The paralegal will often be in charge of arranging to have the documents copied and numbered. At that point a very preliminary index is often made. Experienced paralegals may review these documents for privilege (which means there is a reason they do not have to be given to the other side). Depending on the case budget, the number of documents and the time allowed, paralegals may enter basic information about the documents into a database, though this is often a job for temporary paralegals or interns. Paralegals use the databases to prepare timelines, and witness outlines. They are generally responsible for being able to find the documents attorneys need when the attorney wants them. Cases like this often involve numerous written motions, which are requests for the judge to rule regarding a point of law or evidence. These briefs quote other cases and paralegals may be involved in proofreading the briefs, gathering documents the attorneys want to attach to the brief and checking to make sure they accurately quoted other cases. The paralegal may also be in charge of creating any charts of tables the attorneys want to make part of the brief. If the case goes to trial the paralegal (or a team of paralegals) will often accompany the attorneys. Paralegals will often be in charge of creating the graphics to be used at trial and running the trial presentation system during trial. It is their job to make sure the attorneys have what they need when they need it.
If the case is appealed, the paralegal will have much the same duties as when filing pre-trial motions.
Other Types of Cases:
Of course there are cases that do not fit in any of these categories. The basic division of labor in most law firms is that lawyer set the path and make the decisions. Paralegals deal with the documents and the information in those documents. Paralegals review, summarize, and report. They prepare initial drafts. They organize and classify.
A litigation paralegal job is a rewarding career choice for those who want to be a part of the legal system but who do not want to go to law school.