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Organization of Law Offices and Firms by Mind Map: Organization of Law Offices and Firms
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Organization of Law Offices and Firms

Law firms are organized in as many ways as there are ways to set up a business. The duties of a paralegal will vary based on the size of the office and the location of the office (metro, urban, etc.).

Small Offices

Small offices are made up of individual lawyers with separate practices and clients. The lawyers save on costs by sharing office space, equipment, law library, and staff. Special attention must be paid to conflicts of interest where staff (like the receptionist, secretary, or paralegal) and computer systems (hardware, programs, and files) are shared.

Solo Practice

A solo practice is one lawyer practicing alone. The lawyer owns and runs the business. This type of office will most likely require the skills of a paralegal who can manage the office, including payroll and billing, interface with clients, and assist at trial. The paralegal may perform jobs left to departments or other employees in a large firm.

Partnerships

Partnerships are formed when two or more individuals (persons or corporations) join together to share ownership, profits, and losses. In the legal field, lawyers may not partner with anyone but another lawyer. The paralegal may work for one or more partners, which can create a problem in determining whose work takes priority (every partner is equal, and technically is the "boss"). This issue is commonly resolved by having a supervising attorney through whom all work flows and is prioritized. A partnership can be a small, two-lawyer firm or a large, multi-partner firm.

Large Offices

A large office is a natural outgrowth of a traditional law firm that has added partners and associate attorenys to meet the demand of increasing numbers of clients or increased client needs. Because large offices have specialty areas of practice, paralegals are able to focus on a particular area of the law. The downside for a paralegal is limited client contact, limited exposure to other areas of the law, office politics, and that the opinion or status of the supervising attorney will bleed over to the paralegal.

Large Firms

Large law firms have multiple layers of law and management. There may be departments (rather than single attorneys) that handle different areas of the law. There may even be departments for things like bookkeeping or duplicating documents. Management is handled by Human Resources. The client of a large firm will typically have contact with one attorney in the firm, but the multiple needs of the client will be met by assigning matters to the department working that specialty. In a large firm, the paralegal will become a specialist in the supervising attorney's field of law.

General Practice

A general practice is a law firm that handles all types of cases, from adoption to zoning, and everything in between. A general law practice gives a paralegal the opportunity for broad exposure to different areas of the law. The paralegal will function in many capacities, as well, much like a paralegal in a solo practice. There may be an ethical concern for the paralegal in a general practice about staying current in numerous practice areas in order to provide the best service for the client.

Specialty Practice

A specialty law practice is focused on one specific area of the law. Usually, combining prior education and work experience with a law degree leads to a specialty. Another path to a specialty practice is the desire to serve a particular population (like the elderly or children) or to concentrate on a specific issue (like spousal abuse or discrimination). Some firms are designed around attorneys with specialties. Paralegals in those firms will develop a highly specialized skill set.

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