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Are there limits to what good paralegals can do?

Let me be provocative.  Given equal intelligence and work ethic between someone admitted to the bar after law school and a paralegal, both working the same time in a law department, what is the practical difference between them?  Both will have to learn the vast majority of law and practice they apply through on-the-job training, since law school offers mostly theory, history, and concepts.  Both will display whatever client relationship skills they have; both will develop themselves professionally as is their wont.  I don’t really think that adherence to the professional code of lawyer conduct makes that much difference when compared to the ethics and sense of what’s right of a well-balanced paralegal.

My point is that the line blurs between the two positions if you hold ability and drive constant.  Knowledge, toughness, creativity, client savvy, and professional objectivity must come to them both or pre-exist in them both.

If I am right, then why don’t law departments have more than one paralegal for every four lawyers, which is the benchmark ratio?  Maybe because, if you are interested in the law and have the ability, you go to law school.  The pool of comparable paralegals is shallow compared to that of lawyers.  Maybe it’s because business unit managers want to be counseled by “a lawyer,” not simply someone smart who knows the law and can apply it.

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3 responses to “Are there limits to what good paralegals can do?”

  1. … or maybe its because lawyers can charge twice as much for the same hour of time. Seriously, how many law firms think hard about saving their client money by making sure the easiest tasks are handled by the lowest billing rate? How many firms have business models devoted to saving clients money and adding value to the deliverables?

  2. ‘Fess up, paralegals: What’s the real difference between you and associates?

    Need a reality-check on your office’s hierarchy and hiring mojo? You should read Rees Morrison’s post,

  3. Good point you have there.. 🙂