A Day in the Life of a Paralegal: Your Curiosities Answered
By Will Erstad on 06/06/2023
You’ve seen TV shows like Suits and have heard bits and pieces about the diligent work paralegals do. Late nights and challenging projects seem to characterize paralegal life— but how accurate are these TV shows when it comes to the daily work of a legal professional?
Looking at this job from the outside, you’re probably wondering how many hours paralegals work, what duties paralegals have and what skills paralegals need for these tasks.
To help answer those questions, we spoke with practicing paralegals to gather what a day in the life of a paralegal actually looks like.
What is a day in the life of a paralegal like?
Paralegals spend their days writing, researching, scheduling interviews and much more. Whether they’re going to court or working on administrative projects, their everyday tasks change based on the area of law they’re in or the law firm they work for.
“I typically work eight hours a day, and the environment is fast-paced and constantly changing,” says Kayla Basenese, personal injury paralegal at The Lovely Law Firm Injury Lawyers®.
To get a better idea of what a day as a paralegal looks like, we’ve broken this career down into some different types of paralegals to see how they spend their days.
Day in the life of a family law paralegal
Family law is an area you’ll find a lot of paralegals. In this type of law, paralegals work on cases involving parental rights, adoption, child custody and divorce.
Lucia White, mediator at Another Way Mediation, worked as a paralegal and administrator in family law. In this position, she had a variety of tasks, including:
- Creating discovery requests and responses
- Prepping exhibits for upcoming trials
- Filing and drafting pleadings
- Attending trials
- Tracking deadlines
- Doing client intake
- Taking phone calls
- Organizing the attorney’s schedule
- Acquiring discovery documents from clients
Day in the life as a personal injury paralegal
Personal injury paralegals help people who’ve been injured by another party. In addition to research, writing, proofreading and administrative work, these paralegals often play a role in comforting clients. As a personal injury paralegal, Basenese spends a lot of time doing client service with concerned clients.
“I often play the role of therapist and sometimes even a shoulder to cry on,” she says. “Our representation is often the client’s first interaction with a lawyer, and we help ease their stress.”
Day in the life as a government paralegal
Paralegals and lawyers don’t just work in the private sector. 12 percent of paralegals and legal assistants work for local, state or federal government, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.1
White’s first paralegal job was at a government agency working on child protection issues. She says, “Days could be relatively routine if they involved preparing for status hearings or crazy busy when trials were on the horizon or a lot of discovery responses were due.”
On the more routine days, her duties entailed:
- Creating administrative and organizational systems to assist the attorneys
- Following deadlines, as trials needed to happen within one year
- Writing discovery requests and responses
- Assisting with jury selection
Her days when trials approached got quite busy, often meaning overtime, as she went through case materials in the thousands of pages and created summaries.
Day in the life of a freelance paralegal
With some experience, paralegals can even offer their services as freelancers. Freelance paralegals’ days can vary dramatically, as being self-employed offers them unique flexibility.
White currently works as a freelance paralegal and spends her days doing substantive legal work—as opposed to clerical work. In this job, her daily tasks include:
- Creating record summaries
- Writing discovery response drafts
- Collecting discovery documents from clients
What’s fulfilling about being a paralegal?
Knowing that your job makes a positive difference in so many people’s lives is incredibly gratifying. Lawyers depend on paralegals for critical tasks. Clients see paralegals as a friendly face in stressful times. And the legal world would grind to a halt without quality paralegals assisting attorneys with their caseloads.
And this doesn’t even mention the role paralegals play in getting people justice. “I am fulfilled when we are able to get our clients the medical treatment they need,” says Basenese, “[It’s also fulfilling when] our lawyers negotiate top-dollar settlements to compensate the client for his or her injury.”
What skills does a paralegal need?
With all the different types of duties paralegals can have, you may be wondering what skills these legal professionals need. Aside from hard skills and legal knowledge, all paralegals will flourish with a few foundational skills.
As you saw with paralegals’ day-to-day, they are responsible for a lot of moving parts. Whether it’s gathering files, researching or simply multi-tasking, paralegals need to be organized. As White says, “Being an effective paralegal involves … being able to organize materials … [and] being able to prioritize and not lose sight of the lower priority tasks.”
With the different tasks paralegals can be responsible for, they need to be adaptable. Changing deadlines, new evidence or a new client can throw a wrench in any set of rigid plans. “Someone can be successful in this environment by being able to adapt to change, being empathetic and being detail-oriented,” says Basenese.
An eye for detail
Finally, the best paralegals have an eagle eye for details, according to White. Looking through legal code, proofreading important documents or searching court materials for key information, paralegals have to be able to catch anything that others may have missed.
Is the paralegal life for you?
Now that you know what a day in the life of a paralegal is like, you may be wondering if a career as a paralegal is for you. Paralegals have an important job within the justice system, and if you have the skills for this job, it can be a rewarding career choice.
As you’re thinking about your future career opportunities, our article “ How to Become a Paralegal: 4 Steps to Start Your Legal Career” can answer your questions on how to launch a career as a paralegal.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed September 2022], https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Legal/Paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm.
The Lovely Law Firm Injury Lawyers is a registered trademark of Justin Michael Lovely.