Q: What’s the difference between a lawyer and a paralegal?
A paralegal is basically someone who assists in the preparation of legal documents.
We assist clients in the planning, strategizing and management of their cases and guide them in how to represent themselves in court.
We cannot give legal advice but we answer questions about court procedures and paperwork.
The main distinction between a paralegal and an attorney is that a lawyer can represent a client in court. A paralegal, while still preparing the paperwork, guides the client in self representation before the court. The fee charged by a paralegal is also substantially lower than the retainer fee to hire a lawyer. Also an attorney is able to answer legal questions and give legal advice. Paralegals are only permitted to answer procedural questions.
Q: So you went to law school?
Yes, I went to law school. I graduated from Cal Northern School of Law in May of 2006. A Juris Doctorate in not required to practice as a paralegal but the skills I learned in law school have helped me tremendously.
Q: Do you have a specialty?
I specialize in family law and have worked as a family law paralegal for almost 10 years. I started working under a family law attorney in 1999 and this year started Arrowsmith Legal Services which is focused on family law.
Q: What is it about family law that appeals to you?
I wouldn’t say that there is anything “appealing” about family law. It is a devastating and dark time for almost every client who walks through our office door. Having to deal with the legal issues in a divorce can be like having to plan funeral arrangements while you are grieving a loss. It is such an emotional and overwhelming time that issues that would otherwise be simple become confusing and stressful and seemingly hopeless for the parties involved.
As a disinterested third party, a paralegal can look at the issues objectively and with her legal knowledge can iron out some of the seemingly difficult things.
Most of the time the issues are not complicated. It is just having to deal with an unknown procedure during a very emotionally difficult time.
The part that appeals to me is to be able to be that third party that can help to make a way through the court process. It really encourages me when I see people realize that they are not going to be in that dark valley forever.
Q: What’s the most common mistake people make when dealing with their own legal issues?
I would say that the most common mistake people make when dealing with their own legal issues is not being able to distinguish between the relevant and irrelevant issues in their case. When you are passionate about something, everything is relevant and every detail is important to that individual. The judge reading or listening to your declaration may not agree.
It is important to have a legal professional guide you in focusing on the facts and issues that are going to accomplish your objective.
Also, failing to file the proper paperwork at the required times can really set you back in your case. Having to refile paperwork because it was not prepared up to the court’s standards is just a waste of time, and added frustration.
Dea Arrowsmith is a graduate of Cal Northern School of Law. She specializes in Family Law, and has worked in that field for 10 years as an assistant to a family law attorney. This year she started her own business, Arrowsmith Legal Services, at 1388 Court Street, Suite G, Redding, 96001. She may be reached via phone at 530.244.4610, fax 530.244.4685, email email@example.com, or via her website at arrowsmithlegal.com.