Can a paralegal’s job result in legal malpractice?

As you do your research on attorneys when you need representation, you may notice statements such as, “Each case is handled personally by an attorney and not a paralegal.” Paralegals have an important job in the industry, but statements such as these can give the impression that their assistance is unnecessary, impersonal or unprofessional. It is important that you and other California residents understand the job of a paralegal, as well as the factors that may contribute to professional malpractice.

What is a paralegal, you may wonder? The Houston Chronicle breaks down the typical paralegal’s job as follows:

  • Gathering evidence and facts for a case
  • Drafting legal documents and managing files
  • Assisting lawyers in organizing trials and coordinating with the trial team in court
  • Filing important paperwork with the court before deadlines
  • Helping with appeals and settlements after a trial
  • Communicating between clients and attorneys

It goes without saying that paralegals need extensive training and legal knowledge to be effective at their jobs. As you can imagine, a paralegal’s assistance can be invaluable to busy attorneys, freeing up more of their time to focus on the details of a case. However, it can be easy for those with less experience in the legal industry to make a mistake. If a serious misstep, such as not following an attorney’s instructions to keep you updated on your case or missing filing deadlines, results in you losing your case, this may be considered legal malpractice. This information is not meant to replace the advice of a lawyer.