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PRDV301: Introduction to Paralegal Studies

Unit 1: What Is a Paralegal?   So what does a paralegal do, anyway?  You may have heard the term before.  You probably know they work with lawyers.  You may even know someone who works as a paralegal, whose descriptions of the work he or she does make it sound pretty interesting.

This unit will introduce you to the work that paralegals do.  You may be surprised to find that paralegals do a wide range of work that lawyers depend on to put legal cases together and to successfully operate a law office.  For example, a lawyer may rely on a paralegal to research court cases that help the lawyer understand a particular case.  Paralegals often play a key role in putting together key legal documents, such as motions to a judge.  This unit will help you understand how paralegals participate in constructing a legal case as well as the relationship of the paralegal to other staff who work in a law office.

Unit 1 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 3 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 1.1: 0.25 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2: 1.75 hours

☐    Subunit 1.3: 0.25 hours

☐    Subunit 1.4: 0.25 hours

☐    Subunit 1.5: 0.5 hours

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Define what a paralegal is. - Describe what a paralegal does.

1.1 Definition of the Term “Paralegal”   - Reading: American Bar Association’s “Current ABA Definition of Legal Assistant/Paralegal” Link: American Bar Association’s “Current ABA Definition of Legal Assistant/Paralegal” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and review the
American Bar Association’s broad definition of legal
assistant/paralegal.  Note that the definition does not distinguish
between a legal assistant and a paralegal.  While the term paralegal
is becoming the dominant term for paraprofessionals who assist
lawyers with substantive legal work, the terms are often used
interchangeably.  As you review this definition, ask yourself the
following questions: what qualifications this definition requires? 
What is meant by “substantive legal work?”  

 Studying this information and answering the questions above should
take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.2 What Do Paralegals Do?   - Web Media: YouTube: Salary Data’s “A Little about Paralegal Careers” Link: YouTube: Salary Data’s “A Little about Paralegal Careers” (YouTube)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and watch the brief
video.  It will provide further clarification about what paralegals
do and how you can go about becoming a paralegal.  There is also
valuable information about where paralegals work, the average pay,
and the prospects for a career in paralegal practice.   

 Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take
approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.2.1 Legal Research   - Reading: University of Florida Libraries’ “General Legal Research” Link: University of Florida Libraries’ “General Legal Research” (PDF)

 Instructions: This article provides a brief introduction to legal
research.  The goal of legal research is generally to find authority
relating to legal issues that arise in the practice of law.  Note
the division of legal authority into primary and secondary authority
and the types of legal resources that constitute each type of
authority.  The text box titled “How to Begin” provides a brief but
valuable summary of approaches to beginning the legal research
process.  Lastly, be sure to click on the links in the box titled
“What These Guides Cover” to get a flavor of the resources used in
the legal research process.  Rolling your cursor over the links will
produce a description of the resources, while clicking on the links
will provide more detailed information.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 25 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: University of Florida Libraries’ “Legal Research for Non-Law Students” Link: University of Florida Libraries’ “Legal Research for Non-Law Students” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the entire article.  While this article is geared toward the non-law student and resources available at University of Florida libraries, it provides a good overview of the types of resources consulted in conducting legal research.  Based upon the previous article, can you identify what sources would be primary authority and what ones would be secondary?

    Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.2.2 Legal Writing   - Reading: ENGL-110-RESEARCH-PROJECTS: Emily Krinsky’s “Legal Writing” Link: ENGL-110-RESEARCH-PROJECTS: Emily Krinsky’s “Legal Writing” (PDF)

 Instructions: This material is drawn from a college research
project wiki.  The author does a good job of presenting an overview
of the types and processes of legal writing.  Note that some legal
writing is simply functional, such as the kind of legal writing that
produces wills and many court filings.  Other legal writing is
informational, simply providing information, and may include client
letters and statements of facts.  Lastly, legal writing is often
persuasive and includes, for example, arguments within appellate
briefs.  

 Reading this material should take approximately 10 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.2.3 Investigation   - Reading: Kaplan University’s “Pre-Complaint Investigation” Link: Kaplan University’s “Pre-Complaint Investigation” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the entire
lesson, which provides an introduction and lesson relating to
pre-complaint investigation.  You may click on the “next” or “back”
buttons to navigate through the lesson.  Paralegals assist lawyers
by interviewing clients and witnesses and collecting evidence
related to a case.  Be sure to click on the links to “Introduction”
and “Lesson.”  Note the importance of keeping information and the
process of information-gathering organized to avoid confusion and
duplication of efforts.  

 Reading this lesson should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.2.4 Relationship to Attorneys   - Reading: American Bar Association’s “Information for Lawyers: How Paralegals Can Improve Your Practice” Link: American Bar Association’s “Information for Lawyers: How Paralegals Can Improve Your Practice” (HTML)

 Instructions: While this material is geared toward explaining the
benefits of paralegals to lawyers, it offers considerable insight
into the nature of the relationship between the paralegal and
lawyers.  Note that paralegals may do just about anything a lawyer
can do, so long as they are supervised by a lawyer.  Thus, the
foundation of the relationship of lawyer to paralegal is
supervisory.  However, the relationship goes beyond this, as skilled
paralegals can increase the profitability and flexibility of a law
office.  As you review the ethical responsibilities of attorneys
regarding the use of paralegals, ask yourself the following
question: how does this impact the ethical responsibilities of the
paralegal?  

 Reading this material and answering the question above should take
approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.3 Other Functions within a Law Office   1.3.1 Attorneys   - Web Media: YouTube: CareerRx’s “A Day in the Life – Lawyer” Link: YouTube: CareerRx’s “A Day in the Life – Lawyer” (YouTube)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and watch this brief
video, which highlights the role of a lawyer.  You will notice that
there is an overlap between the duties of a lawyer and the duties of
a paralegal.  The key difference is that lawyers have the ultimate
ethical and legal responsibility to provide legal counsel and
representation to clients.  

 Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take less than
10 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.3.2 Legal Secretaries   - Reading: United States Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics’“Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, 43-6012 Legal Secretaries” Link: United States Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics’“Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, 43-6012 Legal Secretaries” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and review the
information on this webpage.  This United States government page
provides important information about the duties and working
conditions of legal secretaries.  Notice that while legal
secretaries may prepare certain legal documents and conduct some
legal research, their role in doing substantive legal work is much
more limited than it is for paralegals.  

 Reading this material should take approximately 5 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.4 Paralegal Organizations   - Reading: National Federation of Paralegal Associations’ “About NFPA – Introduction,” The Association of Legal Assistants’ “About NALA & Join,” and NALS’s “About NALS” Link: National Federation of Paralegal Associations’ “About NFPA – Introduction” (HTML), The Association of Legal Assistants’ “About NALA & Join” (HTML), and NALS’s “About NALS” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the links above and read the
introductory information about these three organizations.  These are
the leading organizations representing paralegals and the promotion
of paralegal professionalism.  While association with any of these
organizations is not necessarily required, these organizations
provide certifications and continuing education that may be
important to advancement in a paralegal career.  Feel free to
explore further within each organization’s website.  

 Reading this material should take approximately 20 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.5 The Vocabulary of Paralegals and the Legal Professions   - Reading: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 4: Legal Terms” Link: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 4: Legal Terms” (PDF)

 Instructions: This chapter, which begins on page 24, will give you
with the chance to familiarize yourself with the specialized
vocabulary of the law.  Notice the use of Latin phrases, most of
which come down to the American legal system through the common law,
a topic which will be covered in more depth later in the course.
 Please keep in mind that the list of legal terms presented in this
reading is not comprehensive.  You will want access to a legal
dictionary, either online or in hard copy.  

 Reading this chapter should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted by the kind
permission of the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College
Correspondence Program and Keith Nordyke.  Please note that this
material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity
without explicit permission from the copyright holder.