A paralegal to a lawyer is much like a physician’s assistant is to a doctor. They not only add to the efficiency to the practice, but help keep costs down without a sacrifice to quality. Lawyers don’t really “need” paralegals, unless they want their business to have a competitive advantage and a little more time to spend on the more demanding lawyerly tasks.
Serve More Clients
Attorneys are notoriously busy. Besides being in and out of courtrooms on a regular basis, complex cases can eat up huge chunks of their time. A paralegal can free up some of that time by handling research, case preparation and even client meetings when the attorney’s presence is not necessary. Plus, it’s a lot faster to get an appointment with a paralegal to handle routine business. Client’s love that!
Lower the Cost to Clients
Imagine you had to pay a doctor’s hourly rate every time you needed your weight and blood pressure taken. It would only take once before you would invest in your own scale and BP monitor and avoid the doctor’s office for routine visits. A paralegal is trained to handle quality legal services at a lower cost to the client. And, just like a PA, a paralegal can do much higher level tasks than just taking someone’s blood pressure or answering basic questions.
Continuing education requirements for attorney’s can really disrupt the flow of the practice if no one is there to keep things running. While the boss is out learning about new laws and reported cases, the ongoing caseload work can be kept in motion by a skilled paralegal.
Use It as a Marketing Tool
Old school attorneys have a reputation for being stuffy, too busy for the small clients and unaffordable. A paralegal change that perception by making the attention of the firm more attainable for clients. Adding a paralegal instantly makes it a team. Clients will feel more connected to what is happening with their case, and their view of the firm will likely change to progressive and efficient.
So, about the question of who needs a paralegal, I would say that any firm that wants to remain competitive in today’s environment should seriously consider one. Truly, an attorney has enough on their plate without trying to handle the tasks that someone highly educated and trained can do more cost-effectively. That is how any business grows, by making choices that keep it efficient. It also helps if you are a fantastic lawyer, of course!