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July 6, 2021

A Paralegal Discusses Her Paralegal Duties

candidate handed paper in interview setting

In this Article

Interview with Andrea G.
Subpoena Paralegal in the Insurance Industry
Seattle, WA
Over 7 Years in Field

Subpoena Paralegal: A Non-litigation Paralegal Job

After being a Customer Service Specialist / Claims Service Rep for an insurance company, Andrea G. wanted a new challenge, so she was logically interested in becoming a paralegal. Now she’s responded to literally thousands of subpoenas for her insurance company, and she’s ready to tell us about the duties of a paralegal who specializes in subpoenas.

We met Andrea in her downtown Seattle office, and this is what she had to say about the duties of a paralegal.

What are the duties of a paralegal doing subpoena work?

The duties of a paralegal may be different based on the area of law or the type of company you work for. For instance, I work for an insurance company in their corporate legal department. My paralegal duties consist of handling records requests and subpoenas that are served upon the company.

We are served with about 2,000 subpoenas a year from all 50 states. Therefore I must have knowledge of civil procedure and administrative rules at the state and federal levels.

Subpoenas are court orders so a response is required by law. My company is served with subpoenas in civil lawsuits, criminal cases, and other kinds of legal proceedings.

The duties of a paralegal working on subpoenas include:

  • Record production
  • Coordination of personal appearance
  • Deposition requests of employees

The Details of Subpoena Tasks

First, the duties of a subpoena paralegal are to review all subpoenas to verify that the right entity was addressed (i.e., that they actually used the correct name of my company) and service was valid.

  • I accept subpoenas if service and entity are valid.
  • I reject subpoenas if the proper elements are not met.
  • I escalate subpoenas to an attorney if a more cautionary review is needed.
  • I object to a subpoena if it requests documents that fall within the work-product and/or attorney-client privilege doctrines.

The duties of a paralegal are very important in the subpoena process:

  • If a subpoena is valid, I will produce the requested documents, but will redact any confidential company information.
  • If the requesting party wants to depose an employee, I contact them to determine what type of testimony they are seeking.
  • I negotiate to limit the amount of time of the deposition so there is a low impact on the employee and our company.
  • I meet with employees to strategize and prep for depositions.
  • I arrange for counsel to assist, and to attend if a deposition is required.

When do lawyers get involved in the subpoena process?

I work under the supervision of an attorney. However, I typically will only escalate a subpoena to an attorney when I am unable to come to an agreement with an opposing party, to determine when we should object, or when there are other threats such as a motion to compel discovery.

In some cases, I will hire outside counsel to represent the company in a subpoena-related matter.

What duties of a paralegal do you like most (and least)?

The duties of a paralegal that I enjoy most are when I negotiate with opposing parties to determine what will be produced, or to limit the scope of testimony for an employee. At times this can be quite adversarial, but I enjoy the conflict.

Unfortunately, I must keep track of billable hours. This is one of the duties of a paralegal that I like the least.

Are there any other paralegal duties that you’d like to take on?

I would love to take on the duties of a litigation paralegal. I like investigative work. If I worked in litigation, my paralegal duties would include drafting pleadings, interviewing witnesses, reviewing subpoenaed records, attending trials, and doing legal research.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to go to paralegal school?

If you already have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree then you should take a 9 month course to obtain a paralegal certificate. If you have no—or only some—college education, I would suggest taking a 2-year paralegal course that is accredited by the American Bar Association. This will increase your chances of getting hired by having the appropriate paralegal education.

Any additional advice for someone wanting to get an entry-level paralegal job?

Get a paralegal certificate and study hard. You will learn a great deal while in school, but there are many things you will learn while on the job that are not covered in class. Your paralegal studies will help you understand the legal process and you will be a step ahead of people who have no formal paralegal training. But most important, do not give up!

Additionally, I would suggest working for a small law firm to start. Paralegals are probably afforded more on-the-job training by their supervising attorney in small law offices. Paralegals at small firms will be cross-trained in other duties of a paralegal which the attorney can delegate to them.

On the other hand, if you first work for a large firm, you’ll tend to find that paralegals are often not cross-trained. This is partly because you will most likely be hired to do one type of function. It is imperative to work with a good attorney who will take the time to provide guidance and in-depth paralegal training.