Not Quite Speechless . . . “Paralegals an Embarrassment”

August 26, 2015
Image: www.ForCounsel.com

Image: www.ForCounsel.com

Y’all know me – ‘speechless’ and ‘without words’ rarely apply to me. It usually happens when I am too stunned by the comment(s) to respond immediately.

Imagine my reaction to a blog post titled: “Your Paralegals are an Embarrassment“. I clicked the link. My hope was to read ‘. . . of riches’.  (It pains me to post the back link, but I’m no ’embarrassment’.)

Hope.dashed.

The author gleefully states, “Today, I’m going to really annoy the paralegals.”

ANNOY?
Oh, bless his heart.

In short, the author (and several commentators) think our profession is overrated; we should and can be replaced by technology; and/or entry level associates provide more value to a practice than we do.

REALLY???

My comment, awaiting moderation as of 10:45 a.m.:

“Wow. Just, wow. You really have zero, zilch, nada, no appreciation for our profession.

“Paralegals have largely been replaced by technology.” Well, using that logic, so have many attorneys. Tell me, when was the last time tech checked the local rules and forms to confirm that all was indeed in order? Oh, right, ‘my software/service vendor does that automatically.’ Not so much. I have a client in California who relies on his vendor to provide all the latest local rules’ forms updates. All it took was ONE rejected filing for him to realize that the vendor was not updating the forms and that it was more cost effective to have a paralegal take a few extra minutes to make sure the forms in use are, and remain, current.

“Is client communication better handled by the paralegal or by the attorney managing the matter? What about simple tasks like preparing documents for trial?” Let’s look at this from the client’s point of view – does your client want to pay your hourly rate or a paralegal’s?

And if you think paralegals don’t specialize and create niches, you should recheck your sources. 99% of us are – Brad, what did you call it? – oh, right, ‘hybrids’. Our titles may not reflect the jobs we actually do, but, and trust me on this, we’ve always been hybrids.

All of you seem to think the only way to ’employ’ a paralegal is to hire one as a full time staff member. Most solos/small firms don’t have the budget for full-time, salaried employees – especially when those employees’ services aren’t required full time. You want paralegals who are ‘tech-driven’? Open your eyes! There’s an entire subset of trained, experienced, certified/certificated, practice-specific virtual paralegals. We, yes, ‘we’, provide as needed services. That means ‘pay as you go’. You want to improve your bottom line, increase productivity, and keep your clients happy? Think virtual.”

On another note … I wonder if it ever occurred to the author to post credit for his use of the image?

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“The Internet Will Eat Your Email”

August 12, 2015

Yesterday, I received a call from a non-attorney who claimed he was helping ‘his’ attorney locate someone who could e-file appellate pleadings. Well, heck yeah! I can do that. The conversation quickly devolved and I found I had crossed over into the Twilight Zone:

  1. “The attorney withdrew from the case because he didn’t have the capacity to e-file.”
  2. “‘We’ need to hire you to e-file for the attorney because ‘we’ don’t have access to email.”
  3. “Um, I think he has a computer.”
  4. “‘We’ want you to receive the notices and call the attorney to tell him what to do next.”

There was much more to the conversation – oy veysmir! – but I’ll skip to the end because today’s installment is so much more entertaining.

I kept asking him about email, to which he responded:

“The Internet will eat your email / email account if you don’t use the account regularly. I know because my email account is gone.” “Well, no, I don’t actually remember my email address.”

OMG! The crazy actually got crazier –

The Internet challenged non-attorney just called back. He read me a letter ‘drafted by his attorney’ authorizing me to be the paralegal on the case and giving me permission to take direction directly from the client.

OH, HELL NO!

‘Sir, that’s not how it works. Your attorney needs to contact me; we’ll discuss his needs; I’ll prepare a contract and he’ll execute and return it.’

‘Well, how does your contract differ from this letter?’

‘Aside from the fact that it isn’t a contract and it’s written to circumvent the requirement that any work I do must be supervised by an attorney, well, pretty much everything.’

‘Then you need to MAIL me a copy of your contract so I can review the terms to see if I approve them.’

‘No sir, that isn’t how it works.’

‘Well, yes it is – I’ll be hiring you and I’m hiring the attorney. I’ll pay each of you directly.’

<Insert Scooby Doo “Huh?” here.>

‘No sir, you hire the attorney who then subcontracts to me. The attorney will direct my involvement in the case. I’ll bill him for my time and he’ll include that in his bill to you. I will not accept payment from you.’

‘But I’m the one hiring you.’

‘No. You don’t seem to understand the dynamic. Your attorney has to hire me. And, frankly, I’m still baffled by your comment that your attorney doesn’t have Internet access.’

‘Why should he have Internet access? That’s why I want to hire you. You’ll e-file according to the court guidelines and be cc’d on all emails. When those emails come in, you’ll call the attorney and tell him that something has come in and MAIL him a copy.’

‘Sir, it doesn’t work that way. The e-filing account has to be created using the ATTORNEY’S email address and bar number. The bar number and registration serve as his signature on the filings. He’ll be receiving the same email that I receive as a ‘cc’ recipient. ‘

‘Fine, I will get you his bar number and you can create the account.’

<Wait! What?>

‘You really don’t understand how this works, do you? The attorney MUST have his own, LEGITIMATE, email account. There is no universe in which I will create an email address for yourattorney@starrparalegals.com. For any of this to work, your attorney must have an active email account and Internet access.’

‘Why would we need YOU then??? If the attorney is going to do the work …’

<Seriously, Allen Funt can step out of the shadows any time now.>

‘Let me try to explain this again from my perspective – I work for attorneys. Period. An attorney must execute my contract before I’ll do any work for him/her on any project. The attorney tells me what needs to be done and I do it. You need someone who knows how to e-file – that would be me. The attorney drafts and signs pleadings then emails them to me. I vet the pleadings for formatting and confirm it all pages and attachments are included; then log into the system – using the attorney’s login information – and e-file the document(s). Once filed, I download the e-filing confirmation and file-stamped copy and email them to the attorney.’

‘Why can’t you just MAIL it to him??’

‘BECAUSE THE MOST BASIC REQUIREMENT FOR ANY OF THIS TO WORK IS THAT THE ATTORNEY HAS INTERNET ACCESS AND AN EMAIL ADDRESS.’

‘I don’t understand why you find this so objectionable. How hard is it for you to call the attorney and tell him that something was filed and then MAIL him a copy??’

<Lawd, help me!>

‘Well, let’s see – you’re trying to put me in a position where I’m working for you, not the attorney. At the very least, it is an ethical conundrum for me. I’m not a lawyer –’

‘I know that.’

‘<audible sigh> I’m not a lawyer, I do not practice law, nor do I work for non-attorneys. To do so puts my entire career in jeopardy. Furthermore, it is impossible for me to wrap my head around the concept of an attorney without Internet access or an email address.’

‘But the court says that it recommends that a paralegal or secretary be cc’d –’

‘Do you even understand what a ‘cc’ is?’

‘Yes, a carbon copy. You receive the email, call the attorney, print and MAIL him a copy.’

<The lump on my head is now the size of a pomegranate.>

‘No. The attorney receives the SAME EMAIL with the same attachment. It’s up to him to monitor his email account and be responsible for the case.’

‘Again, I ask, why would we need you if he’s expected to do all the work?’

<Did I say pomegranate? Cantaloupe . . . >

‘Well, because it’s his job to practice law and represent you? I don’t understand why you want the added expense* of my time to open and print a document that he’ll receive as the primary on the e-filing account, and then MAIL the email attachment to him for review. This is a paperless system. The only reason the court recommends a cc is if there’s a technical failure or the attorney is out of the office for a prolonged period of time.’

‘Well, he is out of the office all the time and he would need you to call him to tell him about the email and take care of everything.’

<Malpractice? UPL? Anyone? Bueller . . .>

‘It really doesn’t work that way. He needs to have an email account that he monitors. He is the responsible party . . . not me.’

‘So I guess I need to meet with him tomorrow and have him contact you to see if this will even work.’

‘That would be the best place to start.’

‘How do I get a copy of your contract?’

‘I’ll draft it AFTER I speak with the attorney and email it to him to review and execute.’

<You know where this is going now, right?>

‘Why can’t you just MAIL it to me??’

‘I’ll be available late tomorrow. Have your attorney call me.’

*I will happily part a fool from his money …

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