Defense paralegals typically work on lawsuits involving issues of automobile and homeowners insurance, legal and medical malpractice, products liability and personal injury. Their specific duties depend upon the type of law the case entails and how expansive a paralegal role their employer allows. Like other paralegals, defense paralegals work under attorney supervision and follow the codes of conduct codes of the legal profession and state in which they work.
Education and Training
Though job requirements vary by employer, most defense paralegals have standard verbal and written communication paralegal skills and prior work experience. Most complete formal paralegal education programs and have worked at private law firms, corporate legal departments or government agencies. Seasoned paralegals typically have had extensive experience in litigation support, case management and trial preparation. Like other paralegals, defense paralegals can enhance their market appeal by completing a bachelor’s degree in a field of their choice, broadening their skills by obtaining additional certifications, and mastering state-of-the-art legal software.
Practicing law requires chasing paper even if the paper is scanned into computer files. Defense paralegals spend hours transferring information from court documents onto computer databases to keep track of hundreds or thousands of lawsuits. The information usually includes the parties’ names and allegations, facts surrounding the incident at issue, and damage claims. The paralegals then sort the data and prepare reports based upon attorney preference. For example, attorneys defending a drug maker in a nationwide class action lawsuit may ask the paralegal to generate a report showing how many claimants purchased the drug at a particular pharmacy.
Defense paralegals chase down facts to undercut the allegations against their clients. This fact-gathering process often begins with a client interview. For example, a defense paralegal working on a dog bite case will ask if the client had past complaints about the dog’s behavior and how the client followed local laws to restrain the dog. Investigation continues as the paralegal subpoenas medical records to confirm the extent of the claimant’s injuries. The paralegal might even contact eyewitnesses to see if the claimant’s story is accurate.
When cases do not settle, defense paralegals swing into trial preparation mode. They scour the file for incriminating evidence against the claimant and then turn the evidence into trial exhibits. They create notebooks with summaries of testimony given by all parties who were questioned before trial, expert reports, and medical or other fact records the claimant is relying on. Paralegals also help clients and other witnesses prepare to testify at trial. Some paralegals even draft voir dire, which are questions a judge asks potential jurors to determine their ability to serve on a jury.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Paralegals and Legal Assistants
- Arthur, Chapman, Kettering, Smetak & Pikala, P.A.: Paralegals
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations: Paralegal Responsibilities
- National Association of Legal Assistants: Typical Paralegal Duties
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations: Basics Still Matter in Job Search
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations: Paralegal Education – Entering the Profession
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