Litigation paralegals provide invaluable aid to attorneys in the litigation process. Litigation paralegals are the backbone of the trial team, coordinating the thousands of details that must be accomplished before, during and after trial. Below is an outline of the major duties and responsibilities of the litigation paralegal from investigation through appeal.
Litigation paralegals often take the lead in pre-claim investigation. The paralegal’s role may involve locating and interviewing witnesses, taking witness statements, gathering documents and evidence, creating case investigation notebooks, organizing documents and creating a chronology of facts. Litigation paralegals on the plaintiff side may conduct initial client interviews and perform initial case assessments.
Litigation paralegals on the plaintiff side may assist in drafting pleadings including the summons, complaint and supporting affidavits. Paralegals on the defense side may collaborate with the client to investigate the allegations and formulate responses. Litigation paralegals are often charged with the task of creating and maintaining pleadings indexes and filing pleadings with the court. Paralegals also calendar hearing dates and filing deadlines.
The majority of the litigation paralegal’s time is spent in discovery. Litigation paralegals aid attorneys in drafting interrogatories, requests for production and requests for admissions and other discovery. Paralegals on the defense side may track down knowledgeable persons within the client organization to help develop responses to interrogatories and other discovery requests.
Paralegals also create and maintain discovery indexes; organize voluminous case files; calendar discovery deadlines; organize, review and analyze documents for production; prepare deposition summaries; organize, summarize and analyze medical records and assist with e-discovery.
Litigation paralegals often conduct legal research, analyze issues and craft legal research memos. Litigation paralegals also conduct factual research, gathering relevant information from a variety of resources, such as newspapers, libraries, police and fire departments, trade associations and the media.
The litigation paralegal’s communication and organization skills are invaluable in the pre-trial stage of litigation. Litigation paralegals organize and index exhibits; prepare trial binders; and manage document-intensive files. Litigation paralegals also serve as a liaison between the trial team and third parties such as witnesses, clients, vendors, experts and courtroom personnel. If the trial will take place out of town, litigation paralegals often coordinate the logistics such as setting up the war room, reserving hotel and office space and acquiring equipment.
At trial, litigation paralegals are the attorney’s right hand. Paralegals organize exhibits, documents and evidence; arrange for transporting and setting up files and exhibits in the courtroom; prepare and issue subpoenas; assist in preparing witnesses; research and evaluate prospective jurors; and serve as a liaison between clients, witnesses, experts, vendors and the trial team.
In the courtroom, litigation paralegals assist with voir dire and jury selection; handle exhibits; pull needed documents; prep witnesses; prepare witness files; observe the jury; take notes on the attorney’s behalf; order and review trial transcripts; and interact with clients, vendors, experts and courtroom personnel. Paralegals may also help prepare jury instructions and conduct post-trial interviews of the jurors.
Litigation paralegals often assist attorneys with case settlement. Their role may include gathering and organizing data and information needed for settlement; creating settlement brochures, distribution statements or negotiations checklists; drafting settlement agreements and releases; and assisting at pretrial conferences.
Litigation paralegals assist with identifying issues for appeal; gathering and organizing documents for a record on appeal and/or a joint appendix; indexing cases for a table of authorities; assisting in the research and drafting of appellate documents; and filing documents with the court.