Paralegal or Secretarial Tasks
Let it be known: the functions that a paralegal performs are different from those of a legal secretary. To give you an idea of the type of tasks that a paralegal performs on the job that may be billed out to a client at a paralegal’s billing rate, I reference an article written by Indiana attorney John Conton entitled, “Attorneys Performing Paralegal or Secretarial Tasks.” The article is useful for addressing the typical tasks that a paralegal performs.
A paralegal, under attorney supervision:
• coordinates: the service of delivery of a lawsuit on a party, known as service of process, as well as hearing dates and other case events;
• drafts simple legal documents using sample forms;
• investigates to discover facts and identify parties and witnesses;
• obtains, assembles, and analyzes documents and information from parties, known as discovery;
• conducts legal research and assures that the law relied upon is current; and
• organizes exhibits, and summaries of court opinions from similar cases, for use in hearings and at trial.
While an entry-level paralegal is being trained on-the-job by a seasoned paralegal, she may have to perform some legal secretarial tasks. A firm cannot ethically bill out to clients for those tasks. Rather, as author Condon states, “. . . the attorney is already being compensated for the secretary’s time when you pay the attorney’s hourly fee. This is because secretarial costs are considered to be part of the attorney’s overhead.”
A valuable paralegal will help her supervising attorney identify what tasks she can perform which are non-clerical in nature, so that the firm call bill out for a majority of the paralegal’s time spent on a matter. Also, a conscientious paralegal will help her supervising attorney see that she can do many of the tasks that an attorney does and free up the attorney to attend to more complex matters for clients that require an in-depth knowledge of the law.