What does a family law legal assistant or paralegal do?
Chyanne Sharma, family law paralegal
What exactly is the role of a legal assistant or paralegal in a family law firm? They only deal with scheduling meetings and answering phone calls, right?
If you have retained the services of a family lawyer, you have likely communicated frequently with the lawyer’s legal assistant or paralegal. In fact, you have probably built a great working relationship with them in your family law matter – they have become your first point of contact before you schedule a meeting with your lawyer, but their roles within a family law firm is much more than just scheduling and sending follow up emails. Legal assistants and paralegals are the backbone of every law firm, they provide support to not only the lawyers but to their clients too. Their roles break down into 4 general categories: legal work, general office administration, organization, and communications.
Family lawyers rely heavily on their legal assistants or paralegals to assist with their cases and keep them up to speed on their files. They are responsible for communicating with clients, the courts, and scheduling meetings. Lawyers and assistants work together as a team on each file so effective communication between them is crucial. As a client, it is encouraged to build a rapport with the legal assistant or paralegal because often lawyers can get caught up in lengthy mediations or court matters and are not available to check their inboxes and voicemails in a timely manner. Their assistant or paralegal, however, takes note of any phone calls or emails that the client sends and prioritizes any urgency – they also have a special way in tracking down their lawyers in case this happens. It is important that you communicate with the assistants just as much as you communicate with your lawyer. So even if your lawyer is busy and might be dealing with other urgent matters rest assured that your file is being monitored by their trusty sidekick!
You might not know this but while lawyers are experts in the law, legal assistants and paralegals are experts in the procedural side of law. Family law legal assistants and paralegals are proficient in the Supreme Court Family Rules and Provincial Court Family Rules and know the rules for filing documents with the registries, deadlines for replies, commissioning affidavits, obtaining court transcripts, etc. – the list is never ending! It is often the responsibility of the assistants to begin family law documents such as Notice of Family Claims, desk order divorce packages, financial statements, affidavits, and preparing the supporting materials for applications and trial.
While it is important to note that legal assistants and paralegals cannot represent clients in their matters and cannot provide clients with legal advice, they can provide you with guidance and answer procedural questions that you may have.
Legal assistants and paralegals know your file inside and out, their role is to ensure that your file is organized and up to date. Before starting their day, legal assistants and paralegals organize and prioritize the important tasks of each file; then the files get reviewed by the lawyers. Together, the assistant and lawyer, determine what work needs to be done on each file. You might frequently get emails from assistants requesting financial disclosure, evidence for your application, and general emails for updates. When legal assistants and paralegals do this, it is to make sure that they are getting all relevant information for when it’s time to exchange disclosure or prepare your matter for court. So, don’t ignore these emails! The assistant is making sure that everything in your file is ready to go for your lawyer to go to mediation or court.
General Office Administration:
While legal assistants and paralegals have many roles that they balance, they also manage general office administration which includes scanning, printing, billing, handling phone calls, receiving and sending mail/packages, and organizing office meetings and events. When a client drops off boxes of their material that needs to be uploaded to the system, the assistant spends their time scanning and saving the documents. They also often work as a team with other assistants to help with any court preparation. The assistants make sure that while the lawyers are working on their client files, things are functioning smoothly in the office.
Legal assistants and paralegals are dedicated team members to any family law firm and care about the work and their clients as much as the lawyers. If you’re going through a family law matter, don’t be afraid to reach out to the assistant or paralegal with any questions or concerns that you may have! If you’re interested in booking a consultation with one of our family lawyers at Crossroads Law, feel free to reach out to our office and an assistant will be in touch to schedule a free consultation.