Why should paralegals study the law? They aren't lawyers, after all. Right? True. A paralegal is not a lawyer, but it is important that a potential paralegal study the law. Paralegals use critical thinking skills to perform legal research and analysis of the law. Then they apply the law to the facts of the client's case. By developing this skill, a paralegal helps the attorney keep costs down for a client (a paralegal will bill a lower hourly rate than the lawyer) and keep the work load current.
Critical thinking skills are vital for a paralegal. The attached article, How Critical Thinking Can Help You Solve Problems, states that critical thinking is "a process" in which a person uses reason to analyze information. The author states, "Someone who has good critical thinking skills will look at both sides of an argument, and they will also look at evidence to support the two arguments. In addition to this, they will break down the arguments and looking at the implications which are connected to them. Once they've done this, they will look for contradictions. The side that has the least amount of contradictions will be supported, while the side that has the most contradictions will be discarded." Being able to argue both sides of an argument is important if you want to be able to support your theory of a case.
Applying Law to the Facts
Reporting the Results
As you move through your course of study, you will spend a great deal of time on the law and where it comes from. For now, you should know that there are primary and secondary sources of law. Primary sources are "mandatory." In other words, a court must follow primary law if it applies to the case. Secondary sources of the law are "persuasive." A court may use these sources to help in the decision-making process. Click on the icon for the URL link to read further about primary and secondary sources of the law.
Attorneys are guided by the Rules of Professional Conduct. Each state has its own set of rules. There are suggested rules for Paralegals, but essentially, legal staff is governed under the "umbrella" under which the attorney is covered because every attorney is responsible for the behavior of his or her law office staff. Because of this, a paralegal never sends out a document he or she has drafted without the attorney reviewing it, approving it, and signing it. Ethics and morals are different. You may feel that something is morally wrong, but find that it is perfectly ethical according to the Rules. Legal ethics is explained further in the URL attached to this topic. Click the icon to access the URL. You can find suggested ethical rules for Paralegals on the NALA or NFPA website. These two organizations are national Paralegal organizations.
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