Whether in-house or within a law firm, a corporate legal department moves like a clock––all cogs moving and completing separate functions to create a streamlined and efficient system. While the lawyers ostensibly handle client relationships and deals, beside them are a team of corporate paralegals (or, sometimes just one) working to ensure client success while performing revenue generating work. For a legal team to present as high-functioning, all compliance work and transactions must be handled swiftly and adeptly, with expert knowledge and resolute enthusiasm. Though not always client-facing, paralegals play a critical role in maintaining client relationships, internal data accuracy, and a firm’s profitability.
Corporate Paralegals in Law Firms
Many are tasked with compliance work, registering companies, and EPL/foreign qualification tasks at the start of their career as a corporate paralegal. And while these are often seen as some of the more fundamental responsibilities, they serve as the primary source of sustaining income within the firm and play an integral role in the accurate upkeep of a client’s record.
With proper compliance maintenance, legal teams need not rectify their minute books when presented with a deal, making the client-firm relationship smoother and more efficient. Access to data is quick, and collaboration is seamless. With the time saved by efficient workflows, law firms save time on admin and can bill more hours, boost revenue and spark the rapid growth desired by partners.
As a corporate paralegal progresses in their career, there begins a shift toward transactional work. At this stage, a corporate paralegal is now included in transactions from their infancy, starting with the drafting of the closing agenda through preparation of sophisticated documents. They are expected to meet with clients while performing a project management role.
Corporate paralegals also serve as teachers and mentors. Many associates and articling students depend upon a paralegal’s operational skills to carry out their duties as the strategic transaction knowledge lives with those who practice it day-to-day.
In-House Corporate Paralegals
An in-house paralegal’s job duties often stretch even further than their law firm counterparts as they are company employees, and generally engage in interdepartmental collaboration. There is less need for transactional work, as it is most often outsourced to a law firm partner. Instead, a project management, department workflow, and database maintenance are a key component to their daily job responsibilities. An in-house paralegal has significant internal knowledge of their organization and often liaises with external counsel; all the while holding responsibility for the legal department’s alignment with the entire organization. Because of this, it is not uncommon for an in-house legal team to be composed of more corporate paralegals than in-house counsel.
The Inherent Value
Within a firm, paralegals are the continuity for the client. It best serves a client when they have direct communication with a corporate paralegal who is accountable for the maintenance of their corporate records. A lawyer’s job requires movement––creating and structuring deals, developing new clients––while a paralegal offers consistency and dependability when it comes to firm-client relationships.
In the changing legal landscape, clients expect forthright transparency–asking who is on their team? What access will they have to their corporate records? And what billing rates or fixed fees will be charged? Today’s sophisticated clients expect firms to manage their files efficiently––leveraging paralegals with their wealth of knowledge and lower hourly rate.
Supporting a Paralegals Value
Paralegals are integral to successful business function and revenue generation both in-house and within a law firm. Consequently, it is advantageous for an organization to support their paralegal team’s operations by offering them the solutions they need to work most efficiently. Corporate paralegals rely on different software systems for their day-to-day work, but none are as important as an entity management system.
Paralegals spend most of their day in their entity management system, as it serves as the source of truth for all maintained corporate records. Organization’s are scaling quickly, and the expectation is that data should be at-your-fingertips accessible. A cloud-based entity management system is the most logical solution for the modern law firm and in-house team.
Paralegals face the risk of overwhelm when dealing with spreadsheets and inefficient software; Without the proper entity management system, data is poorly managed, the risk of error escalates exponentially, and for large organizations with multiple offices, data is siloed within different servers and systems.
With a cloud-based entity management solution, legal teams can access data securely from anywhere. With touch-of-a-button accessibility, client’s excite at how quickly their questions are answered. Not only does this save time from having to physically find a minute book, flip through pages of data to find the answer to a client’s question, but it boosts revenue by automating the compliance and maintenance function, freeing up the paralegal’s time to do work that maintains the higher billable rate. With an entity management system like Athennian, user permissions allow clients and lawyers to access corporate records, creating the highly desired transparency and efficiency.
Corporate paralegals play an integral role within a firm or in-house legal department. They have rapidly evolved to become technology ambassadors, custodians of client relationships, and mentors to the new generation of legal professionals. The skillset that they offer is strategic to the mature operations of any law firm or in-house legal department.
This article was written based on the knowledge of Nicole Burch, Director of Community Engagement at Athennian, and Karen Tuschak, Founder and CEO of Spider Silk Solutions.