Types of Trial Assistance

The paralegal trial assistant can assist the trial lawyer in a number of ways. Depending on the needs of the case or the requirements of the client, the paralegal trial assistant may be present in the courtroom or provide support from the lawyer's office. Each form of assistance has its own challenges.


The role the paralegal plays at trial depends on the impression the trial lawyer wants to make with the jury. It is a fact of life that a jury often forms its impression of the client from its impression of the client's lawyer. Rich clients have many lawyers and paralegals; less wealthy clients make do with a single lawyer without any obvious paralegal assistance. The decision to have the paralegal present at trial could be a tactical decision.

Some lawyers have their paralegals close at hand to assist with locating a document or an exhibit. These lawyers may have the paralegal take notes throughout the trial and refer to these notes when questions arise. The paralegal trial assistant may be asked to keep track of important points the lawyer wants to cover in the trial to make sure they are not overlooked. In this role, the paralegal trial assistant must have an excellent grasp of the strategy of the client's case. The paralegal may be asked to anticipate the needs of the attorney by locating a document or assuring the presence of a witness.

Effective trial assistance does not always require the actual presence of the paralegal trial assistant in the courtroom. In some cases, the paralegal trial assistant provides the best assistance by working from the lawyer's office. This type of assistance can involve arranging the appearance of witnesses, talking with experts, researching points of law or evidence that arise in the course of a trial, or passing along progress reports to an interested party such as an insurance company paying for the defense of an insured.

Whichever role the paralegal trial assistant takes, there are several main areas of trial assistance. The need for paralegals in these areas will vary with the needs of the case, but every trial requires preparation in each of these areas:

  • Witness preparation

  • Exhibits and documents

  • Pretrial conference

  • Jury selection

  • Trial motions

  • Posttrial matters

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