Use of Paralegal Services at Norris Family Law

We at Norris Family Law use a team approach to our cases.  We believe that this best serves the client-- substantively, procedurally, and financially.

Here is some information regarding paralegals and how we utilize the services of a paralegal in our office.

What is a Paralegal?   Under California law, a paralegal is defined as a non-lawyer who performs legal work under the supervision of an attorney, who has met educational requirements, and who participates in mandatory continuing legal education on an ongoing basis.

What is a Certified Paralegal?   A certified paralegal has met the educational requirements needed to become a paralegal and has successfully completed a comprehensive examination.

Can a Paralegal give legal advice?  No!  While a paralegal works under the supervision of an attorney, he or she is not permitted to give legal advice or represent a client in court.

Many firms, in all fields of the law, find that the paralegal position is an invaluable part of their structure. Attorneys’ time is freed up, as the paralegal can perform quality legal services, resulting in lower cost to the client.  Paralegals may:

Engage in case planning, development and management,

Conduct legal research,

Interview clients,

Draft and analyze legal documents,

Collect, compile, and utilize information.

The practice of Family Law is heavily weighted with a maze of legal forms required as part of the marital dissolution process.  These forms can be confusing and overwhelming to clients.  At Norris Family Law clients meet with our paralegal, who explains the forms, advises the client of the documents that must accompany the forms, and completes the first drafts for attorney review.  For example, the Disclosure Documents include a four page “Income and Expense Declaration” and a four page “Schedule of Assets and Debts.”  Each form requires detailed information and documentation.  Here the assistance of a paralegal is invaluable and can help to demystify the process.  For example, while working with the client the paralegal can advise clients where and how to locate documents at various governmental and private agencies.   Many documents, including public records, can be accessed by the paralegal, or client, on line without the hassle of trying to locate the records in home files.  When seeking information on bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and investment accounts, a paralegal assists the client in obtaining the documents or, when necessary, prepares a Subpoena for the production of the records.

The Paralegal at Norris Family Law, Carol Zweifel, received her Paralegal Certificate in 1986, successfully passed the certification examination in 2000, and has taught classes to persons training to become paralegals.  Carol is fully involved in our cases from start to finish, first meeting with the client shortly after the attorney interview.  During this time Carol collects factual background information, including financial data that will impact issues such as child and spousal support.  She drafts pleadings for attorney review, and follows through on filing the pleadings with the court and serving them on the other party in the case. 

Working closely with the attorney, Carol also arranges for experts such as accountants, appraisers, actuaries, and vocational counselors.  Once the report of the expert is received, Carol is frequently the first to review and summarize the report, making note of any significant findings or points.  Again, this is a cost saving to the client and provides the attorney with an overview of the report, thereby streamlining the attorney’s review and analysis.

At Norris Family Law the role of the paralegal continues up to the drafting and preparation of final documents.  Carol’s wealth of experience and knowledge  contribute to the efficient and cost-effective handling of the case from the initial interview to conclusion.

Clients are encouraged to contact Carol directly regarding any issues, questions, or problems that may arise. If a question or concern requires legal advice, Carol will forward the issue to the attorney who will respond.  However, many questions or concerns involve subjects that do not require giving legal advice.  For example, a client may have questions regarding a court procedure, or about information required for the many Family Law forms, or regarding the computer child and spousal support calculations, or about the status of the case.   We encourage our clients to utilize Carol’s services.