Paralegal Career for Dummies

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2019-04-30
  • Publisher: For Dummies

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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


Your career as a top-notch paralegal starts here

The demand for paralegal professionals is exploding, and Paralegal Career For Dummies, 2nd Edition explains the skills and requirements needed to pursue this rewarding career. Inside, you’ll discover the ins and outs of paralegal skills, from preparing documents and performing legal research to obtaining certification, job hunting, and understanding legal concepts.

Use this hands-on guide to help in your career considerations, bolster your paralegal training, or as an everyday on-the-job reference. Paralegal Career For Dummies will be your trusty assistant through all phases of your life as a paralegal, taking you forward with tips on networking and joining professional organizations that will enhance your career.

  • Discover the job skills required for success as a paralegal
  • Learn important legal concepts you’ll need on the job
  • Access forms, templates, and examples on the companion website
  • Develop strategies to manage time and advance your career

Complete with a companion website containing a wealth of valuable information, this book covers everything you need to become a top-notch paralegal.

Author Biography

Scott and Lisa Hatch are founders of The Center for Legal Studies and developed their award-winning paralegal curriculum in 1980, offering it through 600 colleges nationwide. They continue to instruct legal career and standardized test preparation courses through Hatch Education and College Primers.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

About This Book 2

Foolish Assumptions 2

Icons Used in This Book 3

Where to Go from Here 4

Part 1: A Snapshot of the Exciting And Lucrative Paralegal Profession 5

Chapter 1: Discovering the Paralegal Profession 7

Almost a Lawyer: What a Paralegal Does 7

Researching and analyzing the law 8

Playing Sherlock: Interviewing and investigating 8

Convening with clients 9

Administrating the legal environment 9

On the Job: Where Paralegals Work 11

The six-figure paralegal: Working for the big firm 11

Jack- or Jill-of-all-trades: Working for the small firm 12

Spreading the love: The pro bono paralegal 12

Working for the government 12

Doing it your way: The paralegal as independent contractor 13

What it Takes: The Skills, Knowledge, and Training You Need 13

The paralegal personality 14

Paralegal know-how 15

Education and experience: Two ways to train 16

Chapter 2: Membership Has its Privileges: Paralegal Associations and Their Certification Exams 19

To Join or Not to Join 19

Characterizing the types of associations 20

Weighing in on whether or not to join an association 21

Deciding Whether to Get Certified 22

Choosing a certification exam 22

Weighing the pros and cons of paralegal certification 24

Chapter 3: The Hunt is On: Securing a Paralegal Position 25

Finding the Perfect Job 25

Traditional sources: Scanning the job boards and turning to placement services 26

Networking: It’s who you know 27

Creating the Documentation 28

Killer cover letters 28

Ravishing resumes 30

Developing an online profile 33

Setting Up Shop: Starting a Freelance Paralegal Business 34

Part 2: Important Legal Concepts Every Paralegal Should Know 37

Chapter 4: “All Rise”: The American Judicial System 39

Everything Old Is New Again: The Importance of Legal Precedence 40

Checks and Balances: Branches of U.S Government 42

The rule makers: The legislative branch 44

The enforcers: The executive branch 45

The interpreters: The judicial branch 46

Playing Fair: Levels of the U.S Judicial System 46

The federal judicial system 47

State judicial system 50

Local judicial systems 53

Judge and Jury: The U.S Jury System 54

Order in the court: The bench trial 55

Petition to your peers: The jury trial 55

Chapter 5: The Big Three: Categories of Law 57

Cutting Through the Red Tape: Administrative Law 58

Building the bureaucracy: Government agencies 58

Playing by the rules: Administrative law practices 59

Getting your way: Informal and formal advocacy 61

Eliminating Any Reasonable Doubt: The Nature of Criminal Law 63

Building blocks: Elements of criminal liability 64

High crimes and misdemeanors: Classes of crimes 65

Maintaining Polite Society: Civil Law 68

The victor’s spoils: Equitable relief and money damages 68

Beyond dessert: Tort law 69

Sealing and unsealing the deal: Contract law 76

Chapter 6: Taking a Case to Trial: The Litigation Process 79

Constructing the Criminal Case 79

Charging the defendant 79

Pushing through criminal pre-trial procedures 82

Tackling criminal trial procedure 86

Tying loose ends with criminal post-trial procedure 87

Carrying Through a Civil Case 89

Initiating the civil process 90

Proceeding through pre-trial tasks 94

Traveling through the trial 97

Plodding along in the post-trial 98

Chapter 7: How it’s Done: Important Rules of Civil Procedure and Evidence 101

Distinguishing Between Procedural Law and Substantive Law 102

Following the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 102

Beginning an action: Rule 3 103

Serving process: Rule 4 104

Figuring out time limits: Rule 6 105

Drafting pleadings: Rules 8, 11, and 12 105

Uncovering the facts: Rules 26, 27, 30, 33, 36, and 37 107

Requesting a summary judgment: Rule 56 110

Sticking to State Procedural Rules 111

Figuring Out Federal Rules of Evidence 111

The main event: General provisions 112

What matters: Relevancy 113

Something special: Privilege 113

All there?: Competency to testify 114

Thinking logically: Reasonableness of opinion 115

The telephone game: Hearsay 115

The real deal: Authenticity and originality 116

Chapter 8: Because I Said So: The Categories of Legal Authority 117

Déjà Vu All Over Again: Review of Stare Decisis 118

Who’s the Boss? The Premises of Primary and Secondary Authority 119

First chair: Primary authority 120

Second fiddle: Secondary authority 121

Applying the Law: Mandatory and Persuasive Authority 121

Counting on cases and statues: Mandatory authority 121

Getting creative with sources: Persuasive authority 123

Helpful But You Can’t Rely On it: Nonauthority 124

Chapter 9: The Substantive Law Areas Most Commonly Practiced by Paralegals 125

Facing the Family: Domestic Law and Estate Planning 125

Settling the family affair: Domestic law 126

Looking to the future: Estate planning 127

Building the Boom and Blanketing the Bust: Business and Bankruptcy Law 130

Keeping up with capitalism: Business law 131

Providing debt relief: Bankruptcy law 132

Compensating for Pain and Suffering: Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice 133

Placing the blame: Personal injury law 134

Questioning the bedside manner: Medical malpractice 135

Getting it in Writing: Entertainment and Real Estate Law 137

All that glitters: Entertainment law 137

Preserving the American dream: Real estate law 138

Protecting Assets: Tax and Intellectual Property Law 139

Dealing with the IRS: Tax law 140

Clarifying the rightful owner: Intellectual property law 141

Part 3: Putting it Into Practice: The Paralegal in the Civil Litigation Process 143

Chapter 10: The Paper Chase: Preparing Documents 145

Communicating in Writing: Types of Legal Documents 145

Getting started: Preliminary documents 146

Taking it to the judge: Trial and post-trial documents 153

Making the Case: Effective Document Drafting 153

Commanding attention: Format of a demand letter 154

Making your case: The complaint 156

Striking back: The answer 160

Presenting a formal analysis: The memorandum of law 162

Exerting your will: Motions 168

Playing detective: Disclosure and discovery 170

Handling trial documents 173

Chapter 11: Elementary My Dear Watson: Legal Investigation 175

Searching for Clues: Gathering Evidence 176

What are you trying to prove? Spotting issues 177

What order will you follow? Creating checklists 177

Who are you going to call? Sources of information 179

Keeping Track: Identifying and Protecting Evidence 183

Leaving your mark: Identifying evidence 184

On guard: Protecting evidence 184

Keeping Order: Organizing the Evidence 184

Setting a time frame: Chronological organization 185

Getting the story straight: Organization by versions 185

Noting discrepancies: Organization by inconsistencies 185

Chapter 12: Chewing the Fat: Legal Interviewing 187

Gauging Whether the Case is Valid: Initial Client Interviews 187

Setting the mood 188

Directing the content 189

Ending the initial interview 194

Completing the Story: Witness Interviews 195

Preparing Clients and Witnesses for Testimony 197

Chapter 13: Burning the Midnight Oil: Legal Research 199

Conducting Legal Research 200

Searching for applicable law in four easy steps 200

Reining in the research process 202

Relying On Tools of the Trade 203

Establishing a foundation with legal encyclopedias 204

Analyzing topics with American Law Reports 205

Digging through digests 206

Rummaging through reporters 208

Keeping current with case citators 208

Opting for other resources 211

Getting Technological: Computerized Legal Research 212

Westlaw 212

Lexis Advance 212

Bloomberg Law 213

The Internet 213

Citing Cases Properly: Citation Format 214

Citing statutes 215

Citing cases 215

Chapter 14: Where the Rubber Hits the Road: Trial Performance 217

Creating the Ultimate Source of Information: The Trial Notebook 217

Selecting the Jury: The Paralegal and Voir Dire 221

Rebelling without a cause: Peremptory challenges 223

Making a good excuse: Challenges for cause 224

Dismissing the kit and caboodle: Challenges to the array 224

Monitoring the pool 224

Keeping Track of Witnesses 226

Weighing Testimony: The Paralegal’s Take on the Jury’s Reaction 227

Preparing Questions for the Attorney 228

Settling Up: Preparing the Cost Bill 229

Blood from a Turnip: Collecting a Difficult Judgment 229

Chapter 15: The Official Word: Ethical Codes for Legal Professionals 231

Doing What’s Right: The Importance of Ethics 232

Defining ethics in the field of law 232

Going too far: The unauthorized practice of law 233

Following the chain of responsibility 234

Abiding by the Rules of Professional Conduct 235

Preserving the client-lawyer relationship 236

Dealing with others in and out of the law office 238

Maintaining the integrity of the profession 240

Sorting through the Codes of Paralegal Associations 240

Applying the standards of the National Association of Legal Assistants 241

Knowing the National Federation of Paralegal Associations code 242

Cracking the codes of other organizations 243

Part 4: Identifying the Skills Paralegals Need to Soar 245

Chapter 16: Presenting a Clear, Concise Legal Writing Style 247

Corresponding Carefully 248

Letters that impact 248

Effortless emails 249

Grammar: Grasping the Foundation of an Effective Writing Style 249

Identifying the eight parts of speech 249

Recognizing the elements of a sentence 254

Sentence Structure: Positioning the Sentence’s Elements 257

Eliminating wordiness 257

Positioning modifiers 259

Using active voice 259

Employing parallel structure 260

Punctuation and Mechanics: Mastering the Rules 260

Rules for proper punctuation 260

Mastering mechanics 265

Organization: Structuring the Finished Product 271

The outline 271

The paragraph 272

Specific documents 272

Proofreading: Polishing the Finished Product 273

Avoiding Plagiarism 274

Chapter 17: Using Technology in Law 275

Operating Computer Hardware and Networks in the Law Office 276

Getting Savvy on Software Applications for the Law Office 277

Sticking with standard office software 277

Navigating special software for law firms 280

Surfing the Net: Online Resources for Legal Professionals 281

Researching the globe 281

Meeting over the miles 283

Carting Computers into the Courtroom 283

Cutting the cords: Wireless technology 284

Recognizing the downside of technology 284

Chapter 18: Law Office Management 101 287

Buying Time: Management Systems 287

Marking the days: The calendar system 288

Setting the alarm: The tickler system 290

Getting it in writing: The to-do list 292

Keeping Account: Billing Systems 294

Recording time 294

Creating invoices 295

A Place for Everything: File Management 296

Maintaining a filing system 296

Organizing documents in a file folder 296

Storing old files 297

Part 5: The Part of Tens 299

Chapter 19: The Ten Most Important Rules of Ethics 301

Avoiding the Unauthorized Practice of Law 301

Maintaining Client Confidentiality 302

Disclosing Your Paralegal Status 302

Reporting Ethics Violations of Other Legal Professionals 302

Disclosing Information to Prevent Death or Serious Bodily Harm 302

Sharing Information with Your Supervising Attorney 303

Avoiding Conflicts of Interest 303

Obeying All Applicable Attorneys’ Ethics Rules 303

Giving Something to the Community: Pro Bono Services 304

Making Your Voice Heard: Supporting Efforts to Improve the Legal System 304

Chapter 20: Ten Things Every Paralegal Should Know 305

How to Ask for Help 305

Your Role 306

How to Communicate Effectively 306

The Value of Being Organized 306

Your Limitations 307

How to Research 307

How to Use Technology 307

The Rules of Professional Responsibility 308

How to Draft Fundamental Legal Documents 308

How to Weigh the Value of Paralegal Organizations 308

Chapter 21: Ten Survival Tips to Thrive in the Legal Environment 309

Continue Your Education 309

Keep a Good Legal Dictionary Nearby 310

Maintain the Integrity of Your Profession 310

Be Polite and Patient with Court Clerks 310

Take a Mind Reading Course 310

Enjoy Problem Solving 311

Refrain from Badmouthing Other Paralegals and Attorneys 311

Never Act as though You’re Irreplaceable 311

Don’t Count on a Normal Work Schedule 312

Resist the Urge to Gossip about Clients 312

Part 6: Appendixes 313

Appendix A: Glossary of Important Legal Terms: A Mini Legal Dictionary 315

Appendix B: What You’ll Find Online 337

Index 345

Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?

The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

The Used, Rental and eBook copies of this book are not guaranteed to include any supplemental materials. Typically, only the book itself is included. This is true even if the title states it includes any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

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