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Looking to Hire? Carefully Search for the Right Position to Grow Your Team

Suppose you, as an attorney, decide to start your own law firm. You put in the hard work to recruit new clients and serve them well. You develop a good reputation and begin to attract more and more clients – until one day, you feel like you can’t possibly manage to stay on top of all of your case work. Your firm has grown rapidly and you just cannot keep up.

If this is you, you might have a “growth problem” on your hands!

Growth problems may offer evidence of your hard work, but they also can present challenges. Once your law practice is constantly running at capacity, it might be time to add a new position that could free up some of your time performing non-lawyer work and allow you to focus more time on higher-level tasks that you’re uniquely qualified to do.

Often, when attorneys are ready to add a new position, they’re debating between hiring a paralegal vs. legal assistant. Make sure you know the difference between these two roles before you decide to hire.

Four Traits of a Paralegal

A paralegal often works alongside an attorney to provide support for legal-related tasks. Depending on their strengths and your context, they may bring these key characteristics to the table:

  1. Paralegals are often educated or certified. One significant difference between a paralegal vs. legal assistant is the level of education. Paralegals often have some college education (or a combination of education, training, and experience). Meanwhile, certified paralegals may have a deeper depth of knowledge or specialization. Paralegals often are able to do a deeper level of analysis than a legal assistant.

  2. Paralegals may participate in casework. Paralegals can keep a case moving in several ways, such as researching laws and cases, interviewing witnesses, compiling evidence, preparing statements to use in trial, and communicating with clients.

  3. Paralegals can perform billable work. Given their potential scope of work, it may not be surprising that you may be able to bill your client for a paralegal’s work. Of course, a paralegal’s billable rate will likely be less than an attorney’s, but can help you pay for some of the cost of the paralegal by billing for his or her time.

  4. Paralegals can help draft legal documents. Paralegals are often skilled researchers and gifted in composing a variety of different legal documents. Whether composing a document, communication, or pleading, their initial work can give attorneys a great place to start, saving your very valuable attorney time.

It’s important to clarify that a paralegal is not qualified to conduct activities that could be construed as practicing law, such as representing or offering legal advice to a client. Still, they can bring a lot of value to a firm. A paralegal could be an excellent addition to the firm for an attorney looking for help with maintaining a heavy caseload.

Four Traits of a Legal Assistant

Legal assistants often take care of a firm’s administrative needs. They often share these characteristics:

  1. Legal assistants may not have a college degree or certification. Depending on the firm and position, field-specific training may not be a prerequisite for a legal assistant role. You may decide to hire someone with excellent administrative and people skills and bring them up-to-speed on the job's technical requirements.

  2. Legal assistants often help with day-to-day tasks. When evaluating a paralegal vs. legal assistant, the latter will often spend time on day-to-day tasks and administrative matters. This may include responsibilities such as sending invoices, scheduling meetings for attorneys, handling other logistical issues, and other customer service tasks.

  3. Legal assistants’ work is not often billable. In many situations, you may find a legal assistant’s work cannot be billed to the client.

  4. Legal assistants can help keep cases organized. A legal assistant may be well-equipped to organize documents or evidence for further reviews. You may also ask them to keep a paper or electronic filing system up-to-date and organized.

If you’re looking for someone to manage your firm’s day-to-day operations, a legal assistant may be able to provide you with the support you need.

Free Up More of Your Time with Document Automation

When comparing a paralegal vs. legal assistant, making the right choice for your team is essential. Still, either can help an attorney devote more of their own time to the complex work that’s best suited for them to complete.

If you’re not ready to add to your team, there are still steps you can take to save time and increase efficiency – such as automating your document drafting process.

If you want to find out more, contact AccessioDocs for more information. Document automation can increase your quality of services for your clients and decrease both costs to you and costs to your clients.

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