A senior paralegal position normally exists either within larger legal practices or the legal department of large corporations. It is distinguished from entry-level paralegal work by the amount of expertise within the field necessary to hold the position, as well as a proven ability to manage a wide variety of tasks beyond those present at the entry level. Senior paralegals are often trusted with highly sensitive documentation, research and reporting, and are expected to maintain high levels of confidentiality as a result. In larger firms, senior paralegals fill a supervisory position, and may have a staff of legal assistants working under them. The job of hiring these assistants, or at minimum, giving their initial interviews and screenings may fall to the senior paralegals.
The education requirements for senior paralegal positions are also more extensive than that of entry-level legal assistants. Most firms or legal departments within corporate operations will require their senior paralegals to have a college degree from a four year institution. Additionally, it is normally a requirement that an individual possess at least 3-5 years as a legal assistant, and sometimes even experience beyond that as an office administrator.
Senior paralegals handle much drafting of binding legal documentation for the attorneys in a practice, and will need a strong working knowledge of the formatting of affidavits, pleadings and discovery documentation drafting. They will need excellent correspondence skills as well, as they will be responsible for handling this aspect of the practice. They will also normally be tasked with a great deal of higher-level research work as directed by the attorneys in the practice, and as such, will need excellent computer fluency.
Senior paralegals normally work normal business or office hours during the week. However, they may be called upon to work irregular hours as casework demands in certain companies or practices.
Senior Paralegal Tasks
- Gather and analyze research data, such as statutes, decisions and legal articles, codes and documents.
- Prepare affidavits or other documents, maintain document file and file pleadings with court clerk.
- Prepare legal documents, including briefs, pleadings, appeals, wills, contracts and real estate closing statements.
- Assist lawyers by researching legal precedent, investigating facts or preparing legal documents.
- Call upon witnesses to testify at hearing.