Ode To the Office. Importance of Experienced Paralegals
WHY EXPERIENCED PARALEGALS MATTER
When you are watching TV or enjoying a movie, there are always dramatic scenes where the case is won by tear-jerking testimony, expert witnesses that prove innocence or guilt, or maybe an emotionally charged attorney?s closing argument that sways the jury?s verdict one way or the other. It is unfortunate, but very rarely do events play out to the stereotypical scenarios depicted on screen. In family law, where real life drama thrives, most cases are settled behind closed door via negotiation. How does this happen? A good attorney has great paralegals.
Experienced paralegals are involved with a case from open to close. Attorneys rely on their paralegals for professionalism, accuracy, organization, diligence, efficiency and productivity. No law firm is the same as another, and responsibilities for paralegal work vary from firm to firm.
They are the first line of defense and frequently have a better understanding of all of the facts up until final trial preparation. They often make the first pass at drafting documents from motions to discovery. Paralegals work hand and hand under the supervision of their attorneys who ultimately have the final authority and say on what is presented to the court. If a paralegal crosses the line into any tasks or capacities that they are not qualified for, that is considered the unauthorized practice of law. Because licensed attorneys are responsible for a paralegal?s work, they can be sanctioned by their state bar association for the paralegal?s actions. Under no circumstance is a paralegal allowed to give what is considered legal advice.
One of the responsibilities of a lawyer that is universally considered to be exclusive to licensed attorneys is the representation of a client in court proceedings, since appearing in court on a client?s behalf requires the highest use of an attorney?s education, professional judgment and skills.
Case management is an extremely important aspect of family law. Frequently, the paralegal becomes the initial point of contact for clients. By lending a compassionate ear, an experienced paralegal can identify client goals and needs, answer many questions and escalate others that require providing legal advice to the attorneys working on the case.
Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork and Helping Keep Cost Down
The legal process is just that, a process. Each step moves the case closer to the end. These steps are in the form of documents filed with the court, subpoenas, depositions, mediation, discovery and motions. Some of these documents must be filed within a specific time frame or have specific deadlines. If anything is incorrect or not on time, it is potentially damaging to both the client and attorney, including such things as sanctions against a party, fines and even dismissal of a party?s pleadings in the most egregious of situations.
Whether an attorney charges an hourly rate or a flat fee, time is money. An experienced paralegal can draft the necessary legal documents efficiently, accurately, and in the correct order. If these documents are done correctly the first time, and approved by their attorney, it can help reduce costs for the client. The less time a lawyer has to spend correcting and amending these drafted documents, the more time they will have to focus on the needs of the client and the strategy needed to get the best possible outcome.
Not only do they draft the numerous documents that are required, experienced paralegals file the attorney approved version with the correct office or court. Different documents get filed in different places. What is required differs from county to county. If documents are not filed in the correct office at the appropriate time and in the proper format for that court, they can possibly be rejected, causing the need for correction and re-filing. Getting it right the first-time matters, especially on time sensitive matters. Not only is this frustrating to the attorney and client but having to re-submit documents will cost time and money. With experience and professional courtesy, a paralegal should have created an excellent working relationship with all county court clerks, court coordinators and court reporters where the attorney practices. Having this type of rapport is extremely advantageous and can be used to effectively and correctly navigate that particular courts process in the most timely and economical way.
Attorneys are faced with deadlines, frequent meetings, and court room proceedings from multiple clients at the same time. They always have a lot going on. Time is always running out, and they have to be attentive to each case individually. They possess an uncommon skill set, are consistently strategizing the next move, and trying to move forward. Organization is one of the many key characteristics of an exceptional paralegal. Attorneys with experienced paralegals trust that documents have been created, approved by the attorney, and filed correctly on time. All necessary information needs to be readily available and accessible. Proper procedure must be followed in each case step by step. If a lawyer is unorganized, they will make mistakes which negatively impacts their clients. Making sure all documents filed are organized, correct, on time, and accurate is paramount. Drafting, filing documents and setting the lawyers schedule for court dates, deadlines, and meetings is what good paralegals do. Keeping the attorney organized, on task and on schedule is what great paralegals do.
Scroggins Law Group is a boutique family law firm with offices in both Dallas and Collin Counties. Mr. Scroggins has over 25 years of legal expertise and is certified specialist in Family Law by The Texas Board of Legal Specialization. The legal support team at Scroggins Law Group has over 30 years of combined experience in the legal field. Call today to speak with our compassionate and knowledgeable staff at 214-469-3100. Or you can find us at www.slgstagingdev.wpengine.com
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*Mark L. Scroggins is *board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Unless otherwise noted, other attorneys are not *board-certified.
**Super Lawyers (a Thomson Reuters service, awarded to Mark Scroggins 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021)
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