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weeveeship's avatar

Would you be willing to have a licensed paralegal handle your family law or probate case?

Asked by weeveeship (4632points) February 21st, 2017

Currently, only attorneys are allowed to give people legal advice and to represent people in court. However, consider this hypothetical:

Suppose that your state/province allows licensed paralegals to give legal advice, draft legal documents, and represent people in court for family law (e.g. divorces, custody cases, etc.) and probates (e.g. wills/trusts/estates) without necessarily having attorney supervision. Suppose further that you are in the market for family law or probate services.


1. Assuming a “licensed paralegal” would charge half of what an attorney in the same field would charge, would you be willing to have the “licensed paralegal” handle your family law or probate case instead? Why or why not?

2. When choosing between either having a “licensed paralegal” or an attorney handle your family law or probate case, what factors would you consider?

Many thanks for your replies.

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12 Answers

Zaku's avatar

1. I’d ask a lawyer their opinion about what difference it would make, if any, in the particular case.

2. Lawyer’s opinion on risks and limitations of doing so. And, what was at stake in the case.

JLeslie's avatar

I think I’d prefer they have an attorney overseeing the paralegal, similar to Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants have to work under an MD or DO. With that in place I think I’d be comfortable with straight forward probate, divorce, and custody cases being handled by a paralegal, or maybe some other designation that has a little more education for the specialty, but still short of being a lawyer.

jca's avatar

I wouldn’t. I’d prefer to pay more money and have the reassurance that it’s done by someone with the education of an attorney and the responsibility of an attorney. To me, some things are worth the cost.

elbanditoroso's avatar

No. I want the expertise of a lawyer.

cazzie's avatar

Most people already are. I laugh when people who use professional services think the lawyer or accountant partner is the one doing the actual work. There are exceptions but the ‘cookie cutter’ work is handled by their employees that are not necessarily qualified lawyers or accountants themselves.

weeveeship's avatar

@cazzie. Maybe so, but the scenario described goes beyond that. In the scenario, paralegals are practicing certain areas of law with or without attorney supervision and can even make court arguments.

jca's avatar

I used to work for a probate attorney. He had others type and do office work, but the “sitting and thinking” and looking for a legal loophole and all that stuff was done by him and him alone.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I work with a lawyer and I draft a lot of legal documents and I research laws and previous cases. But wouldn’t know how to do it if I hadn’t worked alongside him for a few years.

The attorney has accountability that I don’t. The state licensing commission has a disciplinary process. A dissatisfied client can submit a complaint and penalties range from reprimand to suspension to complete disbarment.

Because the law license is an immensely valuable thing, that’s a big hammer hanging over an attorney, keeping them in line.

But this is kind of a moot question, because for things that are routine enough, attorneys are getting replaced by software, not paralegals. Just like for the vast majority of people, an accountant can’t do your taxes any better than inexpensive software.

tinyfaery's avatar

Well, in the state of CA you have to get certified as a paralegal, so it’s not just some person off the street. People have to have taken classes, etc. I’ve worked with lawyers for over 10 years and paralegals in CA do about 80% of the real work.

If a paralegal works in that area I would trust their advise.

jca's avatar

I just googled it and there are many articles explaining the difference and what paralegals can and cannot do (for example, they cannot represent clients in court).

weeveeship's avatar

@jca I understand. This question concerns a hypothetical scenario, proposed in some states.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Absolutely not.

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