Work – the Rift

I will say, I honestly think my paralegals are working more than I am. But the work itself is very different, so it’s not quite equivalent. I am spared (a fair amount) of the weird busywork involved with complying with capricious internal company policies, because it falls on the paralegals. But… I’m going to sound like an elitist here, so go ahead and get good and indignant now… Although they are very good at what they do, many (most) don’t quite understand what we (the attorneys) are writing. There is an education gap which I didn’t fully appreciate until I saw it in action. We often pass off our motions to the paralegals to check over for spelling / grammar / (copy-paste) errors. But in terms of the actual content, it may as well be ancient Greek. Most paralegals have only a high school education and potentially got a paralegal certificate at a community college somewhere. I found this disconcerting when I realized the massive understanding gap when I would be asked if I had misspelled a word, only to explain what I used was a correctly spelled word they had never seen, or when one told me they had no idea what I had written — but it sounded good.

I am an elitist, by philosophy. But in practice, it made me feel very uncomfortable. I really liked talking and joking around with my paralegals, but there really was an invisible yet palpable rift in understanding.

Most attorneys use a paralegal to run the scheduling, call the court, and generally try to keep up with the deadlines which are connected to literally everything we file. There is little doubt that a fair number of them have a better handle on the deadline portion of civil procedure than I may have for years to come. We also use them to copy / paste rote motions which don’t change except for the named individual and the pronouns, notice of depositions, LOPs, and all manner of industry specific paperwork which doesn’t really need the attention of an attorney except for a quick glance and a signature.

There is a line though, as I said above, there is a benefit for going to college and law school which paralegals do not have. Where I work, there are a fair number of senior litigators who have associates, in fact some have multiple associates working for them. But there are also the unfortunate few who have none.

One such unfortunate at my firm assigned out a complicated (research) motion to their paralegal to write. The paralegal rightly told the senior litigator that they had no idea what they were doing and didn’t understand it. The litigator looked at their paralegal and said “Google it” and walked away.

If anyone reading this is ever considering hiring an attorney for a complex issue, ask beforehand how many associates work directly under / for that attorney. If the answer is none, find a different attorney. Otherwise you will probably end up getting the best legal advice google can offer.


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