Mon, 4 June 2012
Megan McMahon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The changing face of the legal industry is having a profound affect on one group in particular: the paralegal. As noted in a recent article by The Hildebrandt Institute, while the outlook for lawyers in the coming years is bleak, the rank of paralegals is expected to increase by 18% over the next decade. The economic downturn of the past few years has forced firms to consider whether every component of a legal matter must be addressed by highly paid attorneys, or if another legal professional can handle the job. The projected trend toward increased paralegal hiring seems to suggest that firms may be exploring the latter.
The role of the paralegal is changing as well, which we have dubbed here at The Cowen Group as The Rise of the Paratechnical. As traditional paralegal tasks such as legal research, cite checking, and document review are becoming increasingly automated, paralegals are being forced to adapt to stay relevant. As we heard on one of our recent New New Leaders' virtual discussion, a leading AmLaw 100 firm follows the rule of thumb with regards to their paralegals, "[if] it was your responsibility when it was done on paper, it is your responsibility now in the digital form."
Technological changes are blurring the line between paralegals and litigation support. In TCG's latest critical trends survey, 28% of law firm litigation support departments report that they are currently utilizing or managing paralegals and another 7% are considering doing so. This number jumps to 67% of litigation support teams currently utilizing paralegals in the corporate sector. As many firms struggle with the notion of reworking their eDiscovery model and organizational structure, nearly all agree that paralegals represent an important gateway. Given their integrated place within the case team, paralegals can advocate on behalf of litigation support's service offerings and help bridge the gap many are experiencing between litigation support and firm attorneys.
As technological advancements continue to change the face of litigation, paralegals sit on the forefront of this new frontier. Nearly all our clients agree that a paralegal's good communication and organization skills often lead to strong project management. As the need for talent within the industry continues to grow, strong project management continues to be one of the most commonly sought of skills. The ability to translate their responsibilities to the digital age allows paralegals to add significant value to their organizations in terms of efficiency and cost savings. While it is clear that the traditional paralegal career path is changing, it is perhaps a more exciting time to enter the field than ever before.