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Published On: Tue, Sep 18th, 2018

The Evolution of Legal Support Services

Paralegals and other legal support professionals have become a vital part of our legal system, but it hasn’t always been that way. Up until the 1960’s, lawyers worked alone with little apart from pen and paper. When, why, and how did that change?

The evolution of legal support services will help you appreciate just how valuable they can be for your business. Here’s a brief history of how the profession has grown and changed over the last few decades.

photo/ jessica45

Laws became more complex

As laws became more complex, lawyers needed help preparing for cases. Litigation support services became necessary as the amount of work required to handle a case grew. Suddenly, there was too much work involved in each case for one lawyer to handle everything alone.

Paralegals started handling tasks like filing paperwork, preparing clients for trials, and gathering evidence so lawyers had more time to focus on the complexities of the case and understanding every detail of applicable laws. This also allowed law firms to bill lower rates for services not handled by lawyers, which created a better value for the clients.

Law firms grew

According to Steelcase, “As of 2008, 43.2% of all law firm jobs were with firms of more than a hundred lawyers.” These large companies often have clients around the world with a diverse array of needs. Rather than working with one lawyer, each client now typically works with a team of lawyers, paralegals, and other legal support services.

Utilizing a team of professionals allows the lawyers to focus on important details that are crucial in international law while legal support services help take care of smaller client needs. This ensures each client gets everything managed for the lowest cost.

Universities started adding legal professional courses

More than 1,000 universities now offer coursework for legal professionals. These courses range from one-year certifications to master’s degrees. The American Bar Association has approved around 250 courses, meaning plenty of people are being trained to help give clients of law firms the best service.

With more people receiving proper training, legal support services are able to offer clients the security of knowing that their cases will be professionally handled by every person on their team. While paralegals and other legal support professionals can’t try cases or advise clients, they can handle many other services for the clients of a law firm, freeing up the lawyers to focus on litigation rather than paperwork.

Legal support services help keep costs down

Lawyers have very specialized knowledge that is worth their high billing rate. However, paralegals and other legal support professionals can do much of the same work at lower billing rates. Why pay a lawyer hundreds of dollars an hour for research that somebody else can do for a fraction of the cost?

Businesses need many legal tasks accomplished, and using legal support services can make a big difference in the bottom line when the majority of the work can be performed by legal professionals without the high billing rate of lawyers. Every dollar is important to the bottom line of a business, so legal support systems are a crucial way to make every dollar count.

Legal support professionals can do a wide variety of tasks

More than just handling filing, legal support services can manage a wide variety of tasks. Among other things, legal support professionals can handle legal research, the discovery process, gathering relevant information from lawyers, litigation support, legal transcription, and writing briefs.

Niche specialties have been created

With niche specialties, legal support services can provide exactly the service a client needs without paying for anything extra. Examples of niche specialties include administration, contract supervision, management, investigation, litigation support, and database administration.

In the end, legal support services have grown from file clerks to legal professionals in their own right who can help with a wide variety of tasks. They help give clients the best service to fit a business’s needs for a more manageable cost than would be possible if lawyers did all the work for every case. Legal support services have grown to become a crucial part of today’s legal system, and their roles are likely to continue growing as technology moves forward.

Author: Jose Perez

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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