Paralegals Expand Their Functions as Legal Technology Use Increases

According to an article in the ABA Journal, paralegals are becoming the “go-to staffers for technology.” While many paralegals and legal secretaries face issues of job creep, the biggest change may be their transition to becoming experts in technology.

In fact, many firms specifically seek paralegals with e-discovery skills, including familiarity with databases like LexisNexis and how to search them. In addition, legal firms need paralegals who know the lingo so they can speak with vendors… do the databases load in native or use TIFFs … Anyone?

The need for intensive technology skills can garner higher incomes for paralegals who are knowledgeable enough about technology to function as litigation specialists. Specialists who possess this level of knowledge make sure that the legal firms obtain all relevant discoveries from clients, including information residing on phones and laptops.

The ABA cited comments made by NALS (National Association of Legal Professionals) president Karen McElroy who said she feels her job is “morphing backwards” (in a good way) to a time when paralegals were involved in every aspect of a law firm’s business and the cases they handle.

The comparison appears to be apt as paralegal roles morph to span a variety of business functions. Today’s paralegals may have roles in accounting, billing, marketing, finance, and HR according to McElroy. Paralegals at smaller firms in particularly are likely to encounter a high level of job creep as these jobs become “hybrid positions.”

With such rapid changes in job functions, the future of paralegal and legal secretary positions remains uncharted. However, one thing is clear. Obtaining an in-depth knowledge of legal technology and continually enhancing that knowledge will help paralegals stay relevant in a rapidly changing job market.