Are “7” and “6+1” the same?

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently honor a prosecution team including a paralegal for work done convicting a former Ukrainian prime minister for money laundering. On a previous occasion I noted the significance of the paralegal being honored in his capacity as a paralegal rather than the award going to an attorney and staff. It recognized his contribution as a separate professional and member of the legal team.

The Justice Department appears to have a firm grasp of this concept. But the same is not true for those who report on this honor. Compare, for example, the report in the Contra Costa Times with that posted by CBS Channel 5 in its “Crime Watch” section.

The Times piece is short. Here’s how, in part,  it cast the honor:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder honored six federal prosecutors and a paralegal for their work convicting Pavel Lazarenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister who moved to Marin County.The seven received the Attorney General’s Award for distinguished service during a ceremony Wednesday in Washington, D.C. The award, in its 57th year, was given to 286 honorees this year.

Note that the paralegal is both mentioned separately here recognizing her separate role but included as a member of the seven member team.

The Channel 5 post is much longer and has a significantly different approach:

Six federal prosecutors from San Francisco have been honored by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for pursuing a money laundering case against a former Ukrainian prime minister.

The six prosecutors won a jury conviction of former Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko in federal court in San Francisco in 2004 for using U.S. banks to launder $21.7 million extorted from a businessman in Ukraine in the 1990s.

It is only at the end of a 335 word story that we learn, “Paralegal Specialist Christine Ying Tian also received an award for her work on the case.” Clearly this report does not convey the perception of the role in, and the contribution to, the legal team held by the Justice Department.  In an operation like this, the paralegal is not just an afterthought.

Hats off to the Contra Costa Times for getting it right. Eventually, with the help of reports like theirs, as the paralegal profession gains in professionalism and identity, the public will have a better understanding of the role of the paralegal in the legal team.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply