What is the Difference Between a Paralegal, Case Manager, Attorney, and Lawyer?

law firm attorney vs lawyer

When hiring a law firm to handle your personal injury case, you will be hiring an entire legal team to make your claim. Each member of that team has an important role to play in making sure that your case is handled in a timely and professional manner. If you are wondering which role each person plays in your case and what the differences are in their job titles, it can be helpful to understand what each of these terms means going into your case.

What is the Difference Between a Case Manager and a Paralegal?

When communicating with a law firm, your first point of contact will usually be a case manager or a paralegal. So which person will you be working with? Depending on the size of the firm and its organizational structure, the roles of the paralegal and case manager may vary. In a smaller firm, the paralegals will take on a combined role and assume the responsibilities of both positions. The following reflect the standard responsibilities of these positions across the legal profession.

Case Manager

A Case Manager is one of the first team members to work on your case. If the firm has a dedicated intake department, the case manager will take over your file once the initial intake is completed and you have signed a contract. Otherwise, a case manager will complete the intake with you and begin organizing the case file once your signature is obtained. They will contact you to set up an initial meeting for you to meet your attorney and discuss your case.

Once the case manager has begun work on your file, they will be in charge of managing the stage of the case in the firm’s Case Management System and will handle the case through the pre-litigation stage. They will serve as your first point of contact, and act as a liaison between you, the firm, and the medical providers. They will reach out to you and your medical providers to gather detailed information on the facts of the case and treatment received in relation to your case. They will also order your employment records in order to request payment for any time that you miss due to your accident. It is important to be honest and upfront with your case manager in order to move your case forward quickly.

A Case Manager works closely with your attorney to draft legal documents. In the case that you do not have health insurance, they will draft a Letter of Protection to medical providers, promising that they will be paid out of the final settlement in the case. They also draft Letters of Representation to your insurance company and that of the defendant, informing them that an attorney is representing you in the matter, and any communication regarding this accident should go directly through the firm. Working with your attorney, the case manager will also draft your settlement demand.

attorney vs lawyer

Paralegal

If a lawsuit needs to be filed for your case, the intake manager or attorney will assign a litigation team to the case, which will include a paralegal. Paralegals are usually more educated than case managers, as there are certification courses or college programs offered to become a paralegal. However, bear in mind that some law firms may not require this.

Upon reaching this stage in the case, the paralegal will draft a formal complaint against the defendant and/or their insurance company which they will send to the attorney for review. The paralegal will then track any deadlines associated with the case and file all necessary paperwork with the Court.

Once the complaint has been filed, the paralegal will work with the attorney assigned to your case to gather discovery. Discovery includes:

  • Interrogatory questions to the opposing party
  • Document production from the opposing party
  • Testimony under oath of key witnesses

The paralegal also handles interrogatories and documents from the defendant’s representation.

When your case comes to the point of taking depositions, the paralegals for both the plaintiff and defendant will coordinate and schedule a deposition with each client and the two attorneys based on the availability of all parties, including the court. A deposition is sworn out of Court testimony and is an important step to build a case. The paralegal on your case will schedule a time for you to meet with your attorney prior to the scheduled deposition so they can explain the process, discuss your expectations, and answer any questions you may have ahead of time.

Once depositions have been taken, the paralegals on both sides will coordinate to schedule a mediation between the two parties to give the best chance of settling the case before it gets to trial. Mediation is overseen by a mediating attorney, who is a Court-appointed specialist that will bring unbiased knowledge and techniques in the settlement of complex cases. If a case can be settled in mediation, this will provide substantial cost savings to both parties.

If your case must go to trial, the paralegal will work closely with the attorney to prep it for trial. This includes:

  • Lining up witnesses
  • Issuing subpoenas
  • Coordinating expert testimony
  • Preparing trial exhibits

Both paralegals and case managers work closely with the attorneys assigned to a case and remain in constant communication on case details.

Paralegal Versus Lawyer

You may be wondering the difference between a paralegal versus a lawyer. This is a distinction of education. A lawyer is a licensed professional who has attended an ABA-accredited law school and passes the bar exam to receive their license in the state they chose to practice law. While there are now several excellent college programs for paralegal training, a degree is not required to enter this profession. Rigorous training and attention to detail are key attributes of a top paralegal. These are the differences between a paralegal versus a lawyer.

Attorney vs Lawyer: The Titles Seem to be Used Interchangeably. Is There a Difference?

While both terms refer to an individual who is educated and trained in the practice of law, there are technical differences between an attorney vs lawyer. These differences point to how each professional uses their education and training to assist clients. It is important to note that both attorneys and lawyers are bound by a professional code of ethics in their practice of law.

Lawyer

The word “Lawyer” has Middle English origins and describes an individual who is educated and trained in the practice of law. A lawyer is someone who has graduated from an American Bar Association accredited law school, passed their certifying Bar examination and character and fitness test, and is a qualified practitioner of law. Though they possess the knowledge and training to practice law, they choose not to practice in Court.

Lawyers make a career of providing legal advice to clients. They tend to specialize in areas of the law such as wills and trusts, estate planning, immigration, or tax law which involve providing advice and filing paperwork on behalf of clients. When trying to decide whether to contact an attorney vs. a lawyer, consider whether the matter of concern falls into one of these categories. Should a client contact their firm for a case that will require litigation services, a lawyer will refer them to a litigating attorney.

Attorney

The word “Attorney” has French origins, and roughly translates to “act on behalf of others.” As the translation suggests, attorneys are not only educated and trained in the practice of law, but also represent clients at trial. They are practitioners in a court of law, who are also qualified to give legal advice and file documents on behalf of clients in the scope of their employment.

The State in which an attorney and a lawyer pass the Bar exam determines the jurisdiction where they are allowed to practice law. These are the important issues to consider when deciding whether to hire an attorney vs. a lawyer.

What is a Personal Injury Attorney?

You may be wondering what type of lawyer to hire for your case. If you have been injured in an accident, bitten by a dog, or have been a victim of medical malpractice, you will need to hire a personal injury attorney. What is a personal injury attorney, you may ask? A personal injury attorney is an attorney who specializes in representing clients who have been the victim of another person’s negligent actions. They will have the skills and knowledge specifically catered to representing you in your time of need.

What Does it Mean for an Attorney to be Board Certified in Civil Trial Law?

In the State of Florida, The Florida Bar offers Board Certification as a way to recognize attorneys’ specialized knowledge, skills, and proficiency in their chosen area of practice. It also highlights their professionalism and ethics in the practice of law. The minimum standards that the Florida Bar requires in order to apply for Board Certification include:

  • The practice of law for at least five years
  • Showing specialization in Civil Trial Law with 50% or more of trials contested during the three years preceding the application
  • Handling at least 15 contested civil trials to verdict
  • 50 hours of approved civil trial law continuing legal education opportunities in the three years preceding the application
  • Peer review
  • A written examination

Attorneys must re-certify every five years, proving that they still meet the requirements for certification.

This process is meant to distinguish the finest attorneys in each field of law. Our Board Certified attorneys at Carey Leisure & Neal stand out as experts in the field of personal injury law.

Hire Carey, Leisure & Neal For An Expert Legal Team

When hiring a law firm to handle your personal injury case, you want an expert legal team on your side. We will make sure you have everyone you need to help fight your case.

At Carey, Leisure & Neal, we have more than three decades of combined experience successfully representing clients involved in car accidents. All of our attorneys are accessible and Board Certified in civil trial law. Contact us online or call us at (727) 756-8554 to schedule a free consultation.

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