In Praise of the Paralegals - Their Work Has Evolved, and It's Now Vital to the Success of Any Firm

February 2, 2009

MCCThe paralegal is hardly a recent phenomenon in the operation of a law firm, but these trained professionals are becoming an evermore-important factor in the success and growth of many companies. By handling a variety of functions, they help provide cost-efficient service to the client, while freeing up lawyers to generate more business and handle those matters corresponding to their level of expertise.

Steve Krevalin remembers a time -- near the start if his career roughly 30 years ago -- when law offices didn't have paralegals.

"At least they didn't call them that," said Krevalin, managing partner for the Springfield-based firm Bacon Wilson, who, upon exercising his memory, added, "and they couldn't do half the things paralegals can do today." He was referring to the legal secretaries or assistants with various titles who performed mostly simple tasks for those licensed to practice law. Which meant that if a lawyer needed most anything done, he or she would have to do it.

But operations in the law office have evolved, he continued, and the emergence of the paralegal has played a key role in this changing environment. Paralegals now assume a host of tasks -- from most details involved with a residential or commercial real-estate closing to many of the specifics within a will, to researching matters for litigation. In so doing, they provide a lower-cost option for those seeking legal services and, perhaps more importantly, free up attorneys' time for matters that specifically require their expertise.

"They allow lawyers to do more lawyerly things," Krevalin said, acknowledging that he was using somewhat clumsy terminology, but also getting his point across. "They're an integral part of the firm and the practice of law."

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by: George O'Brien

BusinessWest
February 2, 2009

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