By: Lori Snead
It is tempting to think most courts conduct business in similar ways. However, individual court rules and practices for paralegals can regulate many functional aspects of the case. Failing to adhere to these requirements can result in significant errors and lead to unfavorable consequences. Courts adopting these requirements have been known to deny all unsatisfactorily filed motions, for example.
Court rules, also called local rules and rules of the court, govern the procedures of a court and how various matters pending before court are handled and processed. Where a case is filed will determine which court rules govern your case. A paralegal may be tasked with legal research and compiling information to assist the attorney, who is responsible for determining what specific rules apply to a case. Researching and knowing court rules and practices, for paralegals, is a big part of contributing to the success of the whole legal team.
Managing the timeline in light of court rules as a paralegal
Court rules also impose controlling timelines and certain requirements to ensure the case moves judiciously. Paralegals are responsible for recording and tracking imposed timelines, notating any requirements and generating adequate prompts to alert the attorney of all upcoming deadlines and special requirements. The most conscientious and skilled paralegals make sure to inquire whether the courts or judges in your jurisdiction have specific local rules, including chamber-specific rules.
Nowadays a paralegal can easily obtain a copy of a court’s local rules through visiting the court’s website and downloading the rules from their website. You may have to contact the local clerk’s office if the local rules are not found online. The court or division clerk will usually have a copy of the local rules applicable to their jurisdiction. Occasionally it may require a trip to the courthouse to obtain a physical copy of the rules in a more rural area.
It goes without saying, a paralegal’s sustenance knowledge of court procedures will be a vital part of the paralegal role. In addition to making sure everyone on the team knows everything about the court rules that will impact their work, there are many best practices that will be critical to success in any court room.
Best practices for paralegals
Below are a few practices every paralegal needs to demonstrate in their work:
Exceptional Organizational Skills: Let your organizational skills speak volumes, not your attorney. Organization for a paralegal means continuously updating, reviewing and organizing file materials throughout the life of the file, along with well thought-out plans and well-maintained checklists.
Effective Communication: The ability to communicate clearly and effectively is an essential paralegal practice. When delegating tasks, assure each team member any delegated tasks remain the responsibility of the paralegal. The paralegal sees each task through to completion. Be available for questions. Provide thorough instructions and confirm there is a mutual understanding of the task.
Writing: A paralegal’s writing skills are essential to almost every aspect of the job. Paralegals draft correspondence, pleadings, discovery, motions, and other documents on a daily basis.
Research and Investigation: Research is another core paralegal practice. Proficiency in various research databases, legal research software, and internet searches will be invaluable.Investigative skills are also necessary for tracking down information, evidence, witnesses, and documents.
Technological Abilities: Technology has progressed and can now be found in every aspect of practicing law. Paralegals skilled in advanced technology will be much more advantageous and in-demand in their work.
Multi-Tasking: Simultaneously displaying flexibility, prioritizing tasks, all while balance work life balance is highly important.
Teamwork: Paralegals are part of a team. Paralegals are responsible for facilitating processes and the lawyers. Master the art of saying yes. Say yes as often as possible, and follow through. Be the facilitator. Be available. Remind deadlines. A lawyer’s calendar is their lifeline. Lawyers manage cases and need a team to keep them aware of the major happenings in order to plan around everything.
Continuing Legal Education: Keep current with trending topics and attending paralegal continuing legal education courses. Regularly review the ethical responsibilities and practices for paralegals.