How should a paralegal be treated?

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You would think a blog entry post entitled, “How should a paralegal be treated?” would be unnecessary since we are dealing with adults. Think again.

Whether it is arrogance or immaturity, too often paralegals must deal with nonsense throughout their day. Follow these three suggestions if you want to stay on the good side of paralegals.

1) Follow Instructions

Nine out of 10 clients are completely unable to follow instructions– even the most simple, basic instructions. And again . . . these are adults. There are many instances throughout a case when we need a client’s assistance in gathering documents, evidence, witnesses, declarations, etc., and we have specific instructions for each task. For example, when we are seeking an order for child support there are certain financial documents the court requires to be exchanged with the other party in the case (and filed with the court) before a support award is considered. Those documents include two years of tax returns, 12 months of bank statements, and 6 months of pay-stubs. We tell clients specifically what documents we need and how we must receive them. “I need the full statement for every checking and savings account you’re a signatory on for October 2020 – October 2021 emailed to me in a PDF format.” Invariably, the client will either send us one page of the bank statement, a cell phone picture of the statement, only include one account when we know they have multiple accounts, or they’ll miss several months in the date range given. Besides raising our frustrations, this lack of focus also raises the client’s bill because of the extra work it creates for us. Something that should take at most two hours to complete now takes four hours. Save your money (and save us aggravation). Pay attention and follow instructions.

2) Keep it Professional

A law office is not a studio for “The Dating Game,” and paralegals do not use Tinder as a communications channel to contact the firm’s clients. Respect boundaries. You will spend a lot of time with your paralegal, and at some points in the case you may talk to them more than you talk to your attorney. Don’t ask your female paralegal out on a date, don’t cuss at me, don’t use my personal number unless you have permission to do so, don’t request to follow me on social media, don’t bombard me with questions about your case when you see me out in public with my family. This happens more often than you think. It is very uncomfortable. Don’t do it.

3) Respect our Time . . . and our Responsibilities

We are usually faster and cheaper at certain tasks than the attorney. That being said, we juggle a million different things at once and fight to find the right balance between efficiency, speed, and providing the personal care clients deserve. Our days are often full of time-sensitive, deadline driven tasks and we need time and space to complete those tasks so please be understanding when we cannot pick up the phone or return your email right away. Do not take it as a personal affront.

Paralegal’s really do a little bit of everything–from scheduling appointments, making coffee, taking out the trash, being a shoulder to cry on, holding a client’s baby so they can make their appointment with the attorney, to writing 15,000-word briefs, researching case law, and drafting discovery. Some days we work on 20 or more different cases, so please be patient with us.

P.S. don’t yell at us when we ask for financial disclosures. We do not like asking for them any more than you like providing them. They are mandatory in CA (and many other states) so they are a necessary evil.

How should a paralegal be treated? Treat us well and you will see how helpful we can be.  

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Article by Nicolette Reeves and Kristin Black
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