Litigation Paralegal - The Law Office Workhorse


The litigation paralegal is a jack-of-all-trades. This legal assistant performs a variety of tasks, many of which will be on strict deadlines.

Your interpersonal skills, focus and ability to stay on task while remaining calm will serve you well.

The duties, personal attributes and software knowledge provided below are merely a guide to the nature of the work you may do.

Don't take this as absolute...

You may work in a small office where you'll do everything. On the hand, if you're working in a large firm you'll have more assistance.

The outline below is gives an understanding of the tasks you'll perform as a litigation paralegal. A good deal of these responsibilities assume an experience level beyond an entry level paralegal.

Therefore you may find in this position you'll...

  • draft all forms of litigation documents, including pleadings, discovery and related correspondence;
  • assist with service and filing of pleadings as needed;
  • locate and print cases and authorities as required;
  • shepardize and cite-check legal briefs and memoranda;
  • review documents for privilege;
  • prepare document indices, case chronologies and timelines;
  • communicate with state and federal courts;
  • remain current on court rules and procedures in federal, state and appellate courts;
  • conduct research to locate parties and witnesses, and to obtain information;
  • assist with all aspects of trial preparation;
  • create databases for documents and evidence;
  • prepare motions in limine and jury instructions;
  • assist with trial using trial support software;
  • prepare exhibits for trial;
  • manage assigned caseload under attorney supervision from commencement through trial preparation;
  • perform legal research;
  • proofread everything;
  • prepare and maintain trial, exhibit and motion binders; and
  • enter and track critical dates.

A larger firm may look for an independent superstar who can handle all aspects of a case. Well, you won't have the glory of trying the case, but you'll pretty much do everything else.

You'll hone your skills to...

  • Provide organizational and project based support to litigation attorneys from case inception through fact investigation, discovery, motion practice, trial preparation and support, and case closure.

  • Maintain, organize and/or manage case documents and materials such as correspondence, pleadings, discovery, research, document production and client documents.

  • Support attorneys through the discovery process including assisting with requests and responses; document production including preparation, review, processing, and tracking; and depositions including drafting and serving notices or subpoenas, pre-deposition research and document review, and exhibit preparation.

  • Support attorneys through motion practice including researching rules, preparing documents and exhibits, drafting declarations and other documents, proof reading, legal and fact cite checking, editing/word processing, and distribution and service of copies.

  • Participate in due diligence, privilege and other reviews of client records and files.

  • Conduct statutory, regulatory or factual research with respect to client matters. Such research might include investigation of federal or state laws and regulations, relevant markets, corporate participants and industry standards and practices.

  • Obtain services from outside contractors, including court reporters, research services, exhibit preparation services, filing services and printers. Process billing and disbursement paperwork in connection with those services.

  • Act as liaison for the project team with support staff departments and other offices of the Firm, anticipating and assuming responsibility for special staffing needs, such as overtime, clerical and/or notary assistance.

While there are a ton of duties to consider, no paralegal can succeed without some key personal qualities. These set you apart from your competition and will open many doors while steadily increasing you earnings.

Notable personal attributes include a...

  • team-player with a strong work ethic;
  • self-starter who is proactive in soliciting and taking on projects;
  • well organized and familiar with legal filing systems;
  • personable and professional when communicating with clients, colleagues and the courts;
  • flexible with the ability to multi-task and prioritize projects;
  • possess a working balance of both efficiency and detail-orientation;
  • exhibit grace under pressure;
  • exceptional analytical and organizational skills;
  • strong written and oral communication skills;
  • strong computer skills, including knowledge of litigation support applications;
  • ability to work independently with limited supervision; and
  • have a sense of humor.

Lastly, in today's tech-driven society, a litigation paralegal can't avoid software proficiency. You must continually upgrade your skills as you are largely responsible for keeping current on new programs.

You'll shine if you offer knowledge and experience with...

  • Microsoft Outlook;
  • Microsoft Word;
  • Microsoft Excel;
  • Microsoft PowerPoint;
  • Adobe Acrobat;
  • WestLaw;
  • Compulaw;
  • iManage;
  • Interaction;
  • Summation;
  • Workshare/DeltaView; and
  • Martin Dean (Judicial Council forms).

The California litigation paralegal must have a Bachelor's degree and a Paralegal certificate. Some firms will forgo the ABA certified certificate if you've got experience to back up your skill-set.

California firms may also require a declaration that meets the state's Business and Professions Code requirements in the absence of ABA certification.

If you're looking for a challenge, you'll find the litigation paralegal is a dynamic role. You'll juggle a lot of responsibilities almost as much as attorneys do. The litigation paralegal is a critical role. These legal assistants make affordable legal services possible. You can excel in this career field with a keen desire to learn and ongoing improvement of your skills.

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