What do Rachel Zane and Canadian Paralegals have in common?
Recently I wrote a piece on how Canadian paralegals with their own practices differ from Rachel Zane (a paralegal in the U.S legal drama Suits). Although there are many differences between Canadian and American paralegals, there are some similarities. Although law firms have different responsibilities for their legal personnel, these are some general points regarding what paralegal work entails in Canada.
1. Paralegals are responsible for a significant amount, if not all, legal research involved in a case. Paralegals are responsible for finding precedent cases that can help support a lawyer’s argument in court. Legal research can take hours and even days depending on the type of case. So when you see Rachel spending late nights in the office researching and reading through cases, paralegals actually do that.
2. Paralegals read, summarize and prepare legal briefs. Paralegals often have to read, summarize and organize materials for lawyers. For instance, paralegals play a large role in preparing a book of documents (exhibits to be presented as evidence) and book of authorities (case law and statutes) for lawyers. Some paralegals prepare both books for multiple lawyers and multiple cases simultaneously.
Remember when Rachel was representing Louis in the matter of his cat? Remember all the binders and papers on her desk while she was presenting her case? Those are materials that legal practitioners use to present their case, kind of like slides for a power point presentation – but much more complicated. Once my colleague and I had to prepare five sets of three binders with over 500 pages in each binder as a book of evidence for a high profile case. Needless to say, it took us the entire day.
3. Paralegals are often required to examine disclosure (ie. evidence) from the opposition and counteract flawed arguments with valid legal points. This is similar to when you see Rachel and Mike work together to tackle a case but, unfortunately, most Canadian paralegals do not have their genius significant other to help them. DARN IT MIKE!
4. Personally, I’ve found that much like Rachel and Donna, in most law firms legal secretaries, paralegals and law clerks form great friendships. Their lunch dates, inside jokes and a sense of “I’ve got your back” attitude help create a bond and keep each other sane through the insanity.
5. Paralegals are responsible for overseeing the completion of legal forms. Paralegals often prepare, overlook and revise legal forms to ensure they follow the legal requirements. They ensure that no errors have gone unnoticed and correct mistakes.
6. Paralegals are often responsible for editing legal arguments and documents for lawyers. Before something is sent to court or the opposing party, paralegals often edit legal materials prepared by the lawyers to ensure it makes sense and correct all grammatical errors.
7. Some paralegals are overworked. Remember the episode where Rachel ended up in the hospital? Well although it may not be as extreme, many paralegals spend countless hours working and playing multiple roles in a law firm. Some paralegals wear multiple hats in a firm including legal assistant, receptionist and paralegal; this is more common in smaller firms. For instance, in Canada paralegals are often also responsible for the firms accounting; preparing invoices, billing clients, keeping track of the lawyers’ billable hours and disbursements.
With all of this legal work, is it really a surprise that many Canadian paralegals have their own successful practices?
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