Put on your “Junior Paralegal Hat?”
Last Thursday’s Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald includes “4 tips to make your divorce easier for your divorce attorney, yourself‘
By Nancy Perry of divorce360.com. The advice is all pretty good, but I was struck by tip four:
4. And lastly, put on your junior paralegal hat.
There are many things you can do rather than pay your attorney’s paralegal to do it. By helping with the workload, it will not only keep you involved in your case, but it will save you money. The best example is preparing discovery responses and marital asset inventories. You should gather the documents, copy and organize them and have them ready to go to the paralegal well before the due date. This will save the paralegal a lot of time rather than you handing over a pile of mixed up papers and expecting her to sort through them and make heads or tails of them. Also, spreadsheets are a great way to list and organize the marital assets.
Now those of you who have read either of The Empowered Paralegal books know that I am a big advocate of making the client an integral part of the legal team. Also, I agree that the client, as part of the legal team, should do the things suggested in this “tip,” but not as a junior paralegal. This is the role of a client who has been integrated into the legal team as a fully functioning and well managed member of that team in order to allow the paralegal to utilize his or her valuable time in the way that he or she can most effectively utilize that time in his or her role as a member of that legal team. We need not, and ought not, to blur the distinction role of each member of the them. Rather, as discussed extensively in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient and Professional, the paralegal ought to manage the client in a way that make the distinctive roles of each member clear, but integrates them into an effective team. After all, it makes little sense to advise a client “You should gather the documents, copy and organize them and have them ready to go to the paralegal well before the due date.” If the client does not understand what discovery is, what documents are required, how the documents will be utilized, etc. It is not uncommon for attorneys and paralegals to simply assume such understanding on the part of client. As discussed in TEP and previously here it is a mistake that hinders client management to make that assumption.