Batman. And Robin. Sherlock Holmes. And Dr. Watson. The Tick. And Arthur. Or more simply, a doctor and a nurse. Every great achiever has someone nearby, helping out. A legal team for any Virginia family law matter is better for having an extra pair of skilled hands, an extra set of trained eyes, and extra pair of attentive ears. Your Virginia family law issue — domestic violence, divorce, child custody, whatever issue you face — is better solved when your attorney has a paralegal as the proverbial sidekick.
What Does My Lawyer Do?
A Virginia family law attorney handles cases involving family matters:
- Child custody and support
- Spousal support
- Property Settlement Agreements
- Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
To complete any of those legal tasks, your attorney will work with the Virginia Court system (Circuit Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Appeals Court) to get legal remedies to your dilemma. None of that occurs without paperwork. Mountains and mountains of paperwork.
While computers have expedited the flow of legal documentation, they have not replaced the physical papers entirely. Significant work is done, still, on legal pads, in printed documents, and in filed court papers.
Pretty, Pinched Penny
Consider what work is: a societal contract for you to perform a service in return for money. If you have a special skill or talent, you get paid more. If the work does not require a particular skill, you get paid less.
Attorneys have special skills, and within their skill set they have specialties, like Virginia family law. Their time is worth a lot; do you want to pay your attorney for the time needed to seal and stamp an envelope? No, you want your attorney thinking strategically about your case. Do you want your attorney spending hours traveling back and forth to the court clerk’s office to file petitions? No, you want your attorney in the courtroom, proving your case.
To address the many tasks a law office must complete in even the simplest cases, while still respecting the client’s budget, lawyers have paralegals to handle substantial amounts of the workload.
We in the law field recognize that our clients do not want to pay hundreds of dollars an hour for work than can be done more efficiently by a paralegal at a hourly rate. We know how to pinch pennies, even when they are not our own!
What Does a Paralegal Do?
A paralegal, says no less an authority than the American Bar Association, is:
“a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.”
A paralegal does not often have the same level of education as an attorney and generally has a more limited set of marketable skills than an attorney. Yet a paralegal is not just a random hire, taken off Virginia Beach streets and shoved into a law office.
Substantive legal work rises much above the level of office work an administrative assistant or receptionist would do. Paralegals provide the foundation for a lot of what the attorney will complete. Many legal documents require similar clauses, details, sections and features that will be used over and over; the paralegal can frame these generalized documents and help the attorney refine all relevant, case-specific details.
Paralegals can perform the important work of filing petitions, getting court dates, discussing issues with court clerks, and informing witnesses of trial appearances.
An important benefit to clients is the paralegal’s ability to cover a lot of ground, literally getting around to all the places the case may lead. Discovery, the process by which both sides of a case share information, is a lot faster when paralegals can assemble, organize, inventory and trade information.
Though our legal system is adversarial, it is not a blood-sport. Both sides offer their evidence to the other side, so everyone knows what arguments are being offered. The paralegal makes the process of discovery much faster and efficient. Here are just some examples:
- Interrogatories — Written questions for the opposing side that must be answered under oath
- Requests for production of documents — Here the paralegal shines, able to produce documents and provide the opposing side what is requested, quickly and less expensively than if the lawyer had to do it
- Depositions — In-person interviews with both parties, both attorneys, and a court reporter
What Does the Law Say?
Paralegals are also very useful (and less expensive) for conducting the volumes of tedious research needed on some cases. We speak often of the Code of Virginia, but it is by no means the only source of law for attorneys to turn to:
- Case Law
- Virginia Constitution
- Federal Law
- Virginia Administrative Code
The paralegal may need to exhaust each avenue to find precedent to argue your case.
A common misconception is that a paralegal is a glorified administrative assistant. This is certainly not the case. Most paralegals have post-secondary education — usually a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, though an Associate’s Degree, or even many years of experience, is sufficient in basic legal work. By the time a paralegal enters the focused world of family law, she or he will have experience in many legal matters:
- Collecting witness statements
- Interviewing experts and clients
- Cataloging evidence
- Examining financial records, medical histories, school reports, and other relevant family law paperwork
Paralegals sometimes work with private investigators in law offices, so they develop a strong understanding of criminal and civil law. They know how to work with officers of the court, including court clerks, police officers, and judges as well.
Lawyers do generally have significantly more education than the paralegals who assist them. To earn a JD degree, a lawyer will typically earn an undergraduate degree and then attend three years of law school. By contrast, a paralegal will often earn a degree or spend many years in legal training and find meaningful work in a law office, assisting family law attorneys.
At the core of the legal experience, any Virginia family law firm wants clients to feel they were well served. This means a thorough, accurate, and efficient legal process. It means attention to detail.
The paralegal brings a lot to the client experience. From being able to listen (at a lower rate than the attorney’s time) to all the background of a case, to providing much-needed research and assistance to the attorney, the paralegal is vital part of the professional team working for you. Paralegals are not superheroes, but they are no mere sidekicks, either.
If your Virginia family law attorney says a paralegal will be part of your team, be happy. You will be getting more work, with greater efficiency, at a lower cost than if your attorney handled every detail alone. You will get superior personal service when a paralegal is on your side.
We may not be Aquaman and Aqualad, or even Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, but the lawyers and paralegals of The Firm For Men are ready to serve you, Virginia’s men, as best as humanly possible. Contact us online or call our offices at 757-383-9184 today!