Posts Tagged ‘cost’

Reduce the State Budget: Hire Paralegals

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Every state and local government is looking for ways to reduce costs while maintaining services. None needs to do so more than California. In today’s Capitol Weekly: The Newspaper of California Government and Politics,” Malcom Maclachlan asks “Should AG hire more paralegals?” and pretty much answer the question affirmatively in an article that makes a good case for the effectiveness and efficiency of professional paralegals.

Maclachlan notes,

But there appears to be one cost-cutting trend in the legal industry that the AG’s office has not kept up with: hiring more paralegals. These are lower-cost employees who can do much of the support work for attorneys, including some tasks that are often carried out by attorneys.

“There has been a push, and clients have forced the push, starting in the early or mid ’90s to lower the costs of their legal bills and use as many lower-level, inexpensive people as they can,” said Tom Chase, owner of Chase Legal Professionals Inc. in Folsom.

“Paralegals are definitely part of that process,” added Chase, who is not an attorney but has managed four different law firms. He also taught a course on law firm management at the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge Law School from 1989 to 2004.

Maclachlan also addresses explanations (excuses) given by AG spokespersons, e.g., “The spokesperson for the AG also said that the litigation-heavy nature of their work limits the numbers of paralegals they can use. Many law firms do most of their work outside of court—filing real estate or tax documents, or other work that does not involved the inside of a court room.   But Chase says the law firms that hire a lot of paralegals are often the same ones that do a lot of litigation. Paralegals often sit in on depositions and summarize them, or organize exhibits for trial.”

It is a good sign for the paralegal profession that reporters like Maclachlan recognize and report on the role paralegal can play in the delivery of legal services regardless of the sector in which that service is delivered – something that you, I, Dupont, and the ABA have known all along!

Paralegal Gateway: Paralegals May Be Replacing First Year Associates

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

According to a press release, Jeannie S. Johnston of Paralegalgateway.com is finding that

[T]he inside word from some of the nation’s top law firms is that they actual lose money on first year associates. These firms spend big money on recruiting top candidates and offer large starting salaries only to have them begin work without any applicable experience.

“It takes about another year to train the first year associates. Secondary to this, they are not able to bill out as much time and the firms are actually losing profits.” Johnston goes on to say, “The existing paralegals, on the other hand, can do the exact same work much more efficiently and end up billing almost three times as much in the same day. It just makes more sense to increase the hourly rate of the paralegals and reduce the first year salary of the incoming associates.”

Johnston believes that if this trend catches on, paralegals should see an increase in their paychecks.

This comes on the heels of a post by Melissa H. at Paralegalese noting

Over the past several years, paralegals specifically have been carving out a niche for ourselves in the legal community. We grew out of a need for cost control and efficiency as law firms began competing as businesses. We grew out of a need to bridge the gap between the high and mighty lawyer and the lay people he serves. We stem from the legal secretary, a highly efficient and organized specimen who learned procedural law to perfection until one day someone decided her skills should be billable. We sprung forth from professionals of every field who enjoy the challenges in the law yet choose not to pursue a license. And we are becoming ever more necessary in a legal world fraught with runaway costs, inflated salaries, and increasing overhead. (Emphasis added)

And it certainly seems to address the claim that motivated Melissa to write the post, “This topic stems from a discussion I had this evening regarding paralegals and attorneys. I was told that paralegals are becoming less necessary today because young associates are willing and able to do all their own work.”

There is no doubt that financial considerations have been, are, and will be a major factor in the development of the paralegal profession. However, I would not let this factor blind the legal profession to other factors such as that mentioned by Melissa, “We grew out of a need to bridge the gap between the high and mighty lawyer and the lay people he serves.” If the only factor is cost, then it is possible young attorneys could serve as paralegals if they are willing to take the pay. However, as argued in previous posts, attorneys and paralegals differ in training, experience and skill sets, not just cost. It may be possible for a talented and skilled paralegal to take on many of the tasks of young attorneys since those tasks, e.g., research, are part of the paralegal skill set. The same is not as likely to be true the other way as most young attorneys are ill equipped to “bridge the gap between the high and mighty lawyer and the lay people he serves.” In the end quality legal service requires a legal team with each member of that team trained and competent in filling their role on that team.