Professors Lisa S. Hutton and Juliet R. Jonas on

The Effective Use of Paralegals

In the October 2017 issue of Contra Costa Lawyer, Lisa S. Hutton, Chair of the Legal Studies program at JFK University and Juliet R. Jonas, core faculty member in the program, contribute to the redefinition of the role of the paralegal in the field of law. Giving the paralegal more sophisticated, substantial tasks than they have traditionally been charged with not only takes advantage of the full range of their skills, it also allows attorneys and firms to provide high quality legal services at a price point that keeps clients happy. “Making the most efficient use of a paralegal’s skill set is one of the best ways to decrease overall legal expenses, while still maintaining a high level of legal support to clients,” explain Hutton and Jonas. The article provides descriptions of a range of practical examples of things that paralegals graduating from programs approved by the American Bar Association can do. These examples include pre-litigation tasks such as client intake interviews and informal discovery, analyzing an opposing party’s pleading, and even serving as a case manager in the discovery phase, a time during which the use of a paralegal’s skills may save the client the most amount of money. Paralegals can also provide substantial assistance with trial preparation and even trial presentation. In some cases, the paralegal may in fact be more uniquely equipped than anyone on the team for certain tasks, especially considering they may end up having the most developed relationship with the client. After providing a list of detailed examples of where and how a paralegal can fit more substantially into the legal process, Hutton and Jonas conclude by urging their peers in the legal field to consider a more practical distribution of resources by empowering paralegals to use the full range of their skills.