Posts Tagged ‘value’

Pew PR: Paralegal Promoted

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Many things have to come together for the paralegal profession to gain a solid identity. One area of which we are seeing more recently is law firms publicly recognizing the role and value of paralegals in their firms. The Pew Law Center in Phoenix, Arizona, clearly sees the value of a newly promoted paralegal, but also sees the PR value to the firm as well as the value of educating the public as to what a paralegal’s role is on the legal team. This lead-in from a recent PR release from The Pew Law Center illustrates the point:

http://www.prleap.com/ MESA, ARIZONA, February 21, 2011 — The Pew Law Center, PLLC has named Jane Cauthen lead paralegal for the firm’s Phoenix office. Cauthen, who has been with the Pew Law Center as a staff paralegal since 2009, works with the firm’s attorneys in assisting clients who are filing for bankruptcy in Arizona, including chapter 7 and chapter 11 bankruptcies, chapter 13 protection, foreclosures, car repossession, credit issues, tax problems and all issues involving Arizona bankruptcy law.

Cauthen is a native of Pima, Arizona and moved to Phoenix in 2003.

Lawrence “D” Pew Esq., managing bankruptcy attorney at the Pew Law Center, says Cauthen is a valuable member of the Phoenix office team.

“Her energy and dedication to her work earned Ms. Cauthen this promotion,” Pew said. “We are fortunate to have her as a member of our team.”

Cauthen’s responsibilities include research, drafting documents and legal reports, and assisting Pew’s bankruptcy and debt relief attorneys in trial preparation.

The legal profession in general, the paralegal portion of that profession,  the law firms publicly recognizing the value of paralegals in their firm and the public will all benefit from doing so. I look forward to more.

Court Finds Added Value of Paralegal Work

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

From time to time the paralegal profession receives a boost from the recognition it receives from a court and I’m always pleased to post about those boosts. Today’s example is the matter of STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY v. EDGE FAMILY CHIROPRACTIC, P.A. et. als., Case No. 1D10-0565 from the First District Court of Appeal in Florida as reported by leagle.com. The primary issue in this case was whether it is proper for a court to apply a “multiplier” to paralegal fees as well as attorney fees when awarding fees to a party.

As the court notes, “the purpose of the multiplier is to enhance the fee calculated under the lodestar methodology to take into account the fact that an attorney working on a contingent fee contract is generally not compensated for any of the services provided to a client when the client does not prevail. See Fla. Patient’s Comp. Fund v. Rowe, 472 So. 2d 1145, 1151 (Fla. 1985) (“Because the attorney working under a contingent fee contract receives no compensation when his client does not prevail, he must charge a client more than the attorney who is guaranteed remuneration for his services.”), reaffirmed in pertinent part by, Standard Guarantee Ins. Co. v. Quanstrom, 555 So. 2d 828, 834 (Fla. 1990). Because the potentially uncompensated legal services provided to the client include not only the attorney’s work, but also the paralegal’s work, it is appropriate to apply the multiplier to the paralegal fees included in the award. Stated another way, because the paralegal’s work is part of the legal services provided to the client, there is no principled reason to treat paralegal fees any different from attorney’s fees in regards to the application of the multiplier.”

The court relied a great deal on section 57.104, Florida Statutes, which provides:

In any action in which attorney’s fees are to be determined or awarded by the court, the court shall consider, among other things, time and labor of any legal assistants who contributed nonclerical, meaningful legal support to the matter involved and who are working under the supervision of an attorney.

It also relied on U. S. Supreme Court decisions:

In Missouri v. Jenkins, 491 U.S. 274 (1989), for example, the Court held that the term “reasonable attorney’s fee” in 42 U.S.C. § 1988 encompasses not only the work of the attorney, but also that of paralegals whose labor contributes to the attorney’s ultimate work product. Id. at 285 (“We thus take as our starting point the self-evident proposition that the `reasonable attorney’s fee’ provided for by statute should compensate the work of paralegals, as well as that of attorneys.”). The Court also observed that the use of lower cost paralegals rather than attorneys encourages cost-effective delivery of legal services and reduces the cost of litigation because, if paralegal fees were not recoverable as part of the attorney’s fee award “it would not be surprising to see a greater amount of such work performed by attorneys themselves, thus increasing the overall cost of litigation.” Id. at 288 n.10.

The Court recently reaffirmed Jenkins in Richlin Security Service Co. v. Chertoff, 128 S. Ct. 2007 (2008), where it held the term “attorney’s fees” in another federal statute included fees for paralegal services as well as compensation for the attorney’s own labor. As in Jenkins, the Court declared that it was “self-evident” that the statute embraced not only attorney’s fees, but also paralegal fees. Id. at 2014-15.

Thus, it appears that both the Florida Legislature and this Florida court have a firm grasp on the role and value of paralegals to the lawyers they assist and the legal system as a whole. This recognition can only help resolve some of the confusion in this regard still held by much of the public and many members of the bar.

Do Attorneys Underestimate the Value of Talented Paralegals?

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Pennsylvania paralegals recently celebrated “Paralegal Week” by virtue of a proclamation by Pennsylvania Governor Rendell, apparently at the urging of the Keystone Alliance of Paralegal Associations. The proclamation states,

WHEREAS, The practice of law is a demanding, challenging, and complex endeavor – one in which the rights, liberties, and safety of our citizens have been protected and preserved for centuries; and

WHEREAS, member of the bar require knowledgeable and reliable assistance to fulfill the duties of their profession. Paralegals have become an invaluable source of support in law offices, providing lawyers with a variety of skilled professional services throughout their practice; and

WHERES, paralegals are highly educated, trained, and experienced professionals with expertise in legal and case research, interviewing clients and witnesses, legal and correspondence writing, and other critical areas of successful and efficient law practices; and

WHEREAS, the value of talented paralegals is often overlooked by the general public, but their worth is never underestimated by the lawyers and firms for which they work; and

WHEREAS, the Keystone Alliance of Paralegal Associations, along with other associations, is dedicated to the advancement of the paralegal profession through education, a network of support, and raising public awareness and appreciation.

THEREFORE, I, Edward G. Rendell, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, do hereby profclaim July 20-24, 2009, PARALEGAL WEEK,  and July 24, 2009, PARALEGAL DAY throughout our Commonwealth.

This sort of recognition is good for the profession and well deserved. I wonder, though, how many paralegals agree with the statement,

WHEREAS, the value of talented paralegals is often overlooked by the general public, but their worth is never underestimated by the lawyers and firms for which they work. (Emphasis added)

Certainly, my email suggests that lawyers and firms do at time, perhaps with some frequency underestimate the value of talented paralegals. As discussed in a previous post, this is due in part to a lack of understanding as to exactly what that value is.