Posts Tagged ‘Cause of Action Handbook’

Not Doing Nothing -The Paralegal Voice on Ethics and Professionalism.

Monday, June 13th, 2011

It’s been awhile, I know. But I’ve not been doing nothing. Two children graduated (one in Providence and one from grad school at NYU – both summa!). So we drove from Mississippi to Providence, then to NYC, then back to Providence, then up to Maine where I’ve been holed up in a cottage re-charging while indexing and doing final edits on The Empowered Paralegal Professionalism Anthology, editing a student’s Masters thesis, conducting an online course, working on The Empowered Paralegal Cause of Action Handbook,etc. What I have not been doing (obviously) is posting here. However, with the Anthology behind me, I’m likely to get back to regular posting.

In the meantime there are a whole lot of people who really have not been doing nothing and I’m just catching up with what they’ve been doing. As usual Vicki Voisin, The Paralegal Mentor, and Lynne Devenny of Practical Paralegalism top the “active” list with blog posts, newletters, speaking engagement, etc. However, the item you should catch if you haven’t already, is the latest edition of their The Paralegal Voice:

Ethics and professionalism are essential to becoming a successful paralegal. On this edition of The Paralegal Voice, co-hosts Lynne DeVenny and Vicki Voisin welcome paralegal, Camille Stell, Director of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual, who provides ethics tips for paralegals, talks about how paralegals can assist attorneys in the area of client communications and what paralegals can do every day to maintain the highest level of professionalism.

This is an important topic and Lynne and Vicki handle it well!


Professional Preparedness

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

In a recent post I ran a humorous and fictional example of legal reasoning taken from Judge Larry Primeaux’s blog noting, “I recommend that every paralegal and lawyer put the Mississippi 12th Chancery District’s Judge’s blog on their RSS feed because of his great checklist and commentary on topics from probating lost wills to final decision making authority in joint custody situations (both of which appear in the last week.) While the focus is on Mississippi law, the concepts are applicable everywhere.” Today I’ll give an example. The judge today posts, “CORROBORATION PROBLEMS = DIVORCE PROBLEMS

While the corroboration problems of which he speaks relate to the need for a particular type of proof needed in divorce actions in Mississippi, he ends by noting, “The easiest thing in the world is to tell your client, “Be sure to bring a witness to court who can back up your testimony about how he mistreated you.” That’s a ticket to failure, though. You need to investigate and identify who are the witnesses and what is the competent evidence that will make your client’s claim. It is no less important than discovering the value of that securities account or uncovering that hidden bank account.” For me this illustrates two major problems that frequently lead to poor performance by the legal team and go well beyond application of particular laws of any state.

First, professionalism requires that every member of the legal team be prepared. For any matter that must be brought to court that preparation must be centered around the requirements of the statute or case law that establishes the cause of action or defense. I am presently working on The Empowered Paralegal Cause of Action Handbook, which focuses on the need to analyze a cause of action or defense into its basic elements and use those elements as the framework for preparing an investigation, a complaint, a defense, discovery, both direct and cross-examination – the entire process of obtaining a favorable result for a client. This form of preparation is introduced in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient and Professional especially in the chapter on organizing a trial notebook and evidence tree around the pertinent elements. One point being made by the judge is that some legal teams are unsuccessful simply because they do not fully analyze and understand what is required of a particular cause of action or statute. (Hence his frequent and well-done litigation checklists.)

Second, simply telling a client to bring a witness for any purpose, is likely to lead to disaster. It assumes that a client understands the issues at stake, the nature of a witness testifying, etc. Assuming such understanding is often disastrous for the legal team. Assuring such understanding is, to a great degree, the role of the paralegal. Especially, when the attorney expects the client to perform functions that pertain to the success of the legal team, the client must actually be made part of that team. Paralegals are uniquely suited to obtaining the requisite cooperation from a client.