As I have become consumed in the preparation of a Bankruptcy Court trial, I have come to realize how exponentially important it is to utilize paralegals and their skills to their potential.
I work in a firm with a traditional view of the paralegal's role: a glorified secretary. However, along comes me and a massively complicated and messy exception from discharge case. I'm not going to gouge the details, but it involves a lot of bad record keeping and a mess of financial documents not well organized.
So, you ask, what is my role supposed to be by firm standards? Oh, you know, put together the exhibits the attorney asks for, make edits on the documents the attorney writes, and transcribe anything necessary. Yes, this is very much glorified secretarial work.
In retrospect, I realistically may have preferred that role to the role I took. I started by analyzing and creating spreadsheet summaries of all of the messy financial documents. Then, wrote a factual summary that will later be a part of the trial memorandum (in Bankruptcy Court this is kind of like the Attorney's opening statement). From the factual summary, I plugged in all of the documents and deposition testimony needed to support the allegations. Then, I've spent the last week in a war room with the attorney, on several conference calls, filling in holes - holes in the factual summary, holes in the attorneys' (yes, this includes opposing counsel) understanding of the facts, and holes in the testimony needed from our witnesses. I don't have a clue how many hours I've got into this file, but I know its basically an insurmountable number that the client may not be very happy about if they loose.
Now, I sit here, on this beautiful Saturday afternoon, reading through case law and answering e-mails while the attorney continues to work up the trial memorandum. On the plus side of this, I have been authorized to work from home and work overtime, so its all billable, and I get to enjoy the October record highs, fall breeze, and smell of freshly raked leaves (thanks to the boyfriend).
How does your firm treat its paralegals? What are some tips on coming into the 21st century when it comes to utilizing paralegals? If anybody has anything to share, I'd love to hear about it!