Attorneys and Files

For an interesting and amusing take on file location management and dealing with your attorney’s foibles, check out “Why Am I the One Who Has to Find the File??” By Grace Thoreau in this month’s OLP Newsletter.

Grace has done a good job recognizing the attorney’s foible and coming up with a plan to address it. Her plan utilizes her ability to interpret “code” used by both her attorney and the attorney’s secretary. I advocate more open communication between attorneys and paralegals. To the extent each member of the legal team can recognize their weaknesses (in this case one of the attorney’s weaknesses is forgetfulness), plans can be implemented that address the weakness and prevent problems, so I’d prefer that the cleverness be put into that aspect of the problem rather than dealing with the problems that do arise.

I am aware that not all attorneys (or paralegals) are open to recognizing and addressing their weaknesses. However, we can take a proactive rather than reactive approach. In this case, that approach may be to develop a plan for tracking files once they go into any office, then go the the attorney with a “look what I have done for the office” attitude, rather than focus on the attorney himself. Of course, no one approach will work for all attorneys. It may even be that Grace’s approach is the only one that will work with the attorney.

Many attorneys think their paralegals need training when it is actually they that need the training. That is why I like to approach the problem, e.g., files get lost and the paralegal has to spend time looking for it, rather than the personalities. There are many such problems that paralegals and attorneys will mention to a third party, especially if given an opportunity to do so in an anonomous or confidential way. Often both recognize the problem and secretly blame the other for it, rather than taking a team approach to solving the problem.

By the way, I (and I think many attorneys) have a forgetfulness problem. It was often necessary to implement methods to prevent that problem from causing real problems. For example, my paralegals were instructed to never give me an original document of any importance – affidavits, deeds, etc. All originals were to be copied for me (assuming I had some need for them), and the original kept and indexed separately.

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