Paralegal's Role During Trial Preparation

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February 02, 2022
Author: Lorman Education

Paralegals are vital support for the daily functions of their firms. Common functions include legal and non-legal research, interviewing clients, filing and drafting cases, and certain functions of trial preparation. Learn key functions of paralegals before and during the trial and best practices.

Getting Ready for the Trial

Paralegals must be systematic and organized when preparing documents and assisting their attorney in trial preparation. With proper documents and paper works, preparation for trials can be minimized.

A paralegal may have to transport witnesses and entertain them, draft trial briefs, investigate 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 and 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. Daily action plans and a calendar system or software program of deadlines combine to function as a ‘to do’ list and serve as an early indicator of overburden. Overburdened paralegals grow less efficient, which means they must be prepared to delegate work to other paralegals in the team. 

Paralegals can't afford to procrastinate. Often, the temptation is to work on administrative or other easier tasks first which usually delays the billable jobs. The right strategy is to work on what should be done first according to the priority.

A key to successful task accomplishment is communication, especially if there are any confusions. Immediate discussion ensures progress is being made rather than stagnation. 

For more information

To learn more about paralegal responsibilities or to obtain NALA or NFPA training, browse hundreds of live and ondemand courses in the Lorman course library.

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