Ok, so this is just my humble opinion but it’s based on facts which as a paralegal, I am trained to do. So what are the fact? Why are paralegals your greatest asset?
What are the facts?
Fact – Paralegals cannot represent clients in court. Yes, that is true. We cannot go to court with the client and represent them by ourselves, that is. I have been to plenty of courts with my attorneys and sat right next to them through the entire proceeding. We can and do assist during a trial by providing research on the spot and since most of the time we know the file inside and out we can pull out discovery while the attorney is on his feet and make his/her life easier by having all the documents marked and ready for review by the witness. Makes the attorney’s life so much easier. At least that’s what I’m told. Another fact, we do all this at a lesser cost than a first year associate. That is welcomed news for the client. Imagine, having a helping hand in court who is knowledgeable about court proceedings and the file for half the cost, most of the time. Trained properly a paralegal can provide more help than a first year associate when she/he sits next to the attorney in court.
Myth – Paralegals can be more costly because I’ll still have to use a lawyer to sign the paperwork prepared by the paralegal – You’re right, an attorney has to supervise the activities of the paralegal. However, the paralegal prepares the documents. I’ve prepared complaints, answers to complaints, requests for productions, motions of all kinds, trial notices, subpoenas, briefs……you name it, I’ve prepared it. Some of this documents can take hours and sometimes days to prepare and are billed out at a paralegal rate…. again, half of what the first year associate’s rate. The attorney will then take an hour to review and sign and the rest is history. The paralegal prepares the cover letter, makes the copies files the documents away and all this has taken an hour of the attorney time. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other things the attorney can busy himself/herself with. Paralegals are never going to take the place of the lawyer and we don’t want to, let’s just be clear here. Most of us do not …. let me repeat that…. DO NOT want to be attorneys. We are perfectly happy being paralegals. Can you imagine getting to the end of the month and sending your client a bill for half of what it would have cost him if you didn’t have a paralegal working on the file? Yeah, I’ll give you a little bit of time to think about that. Let me illustrate:
Bill to client for an initial meeting and filing a complaint in Superior Court in New Jersey:
Lawyer only bill $600 per hour:
Phone call or meeting with client 1 hour billed at $600
Draft Complaint 3 hours $600 X 3 = $1,800
Cost for filing the complaint $200
Grand total = $2,600
Lawyer with one paralegal, lawyer billed at $600 and paralegal billed at $300
Phone call or meeting with client for initial intake 1 hour Paralegal Time – $300
Draft Complaint 4 hours (let’s say it takes the paralegal longer) $1,200
Attorney review and sign complaint 30 minutes $300
Cost for filing the complaint $200.00
Grand Total = $2,000
So, as you can see you have saved your client $600 and in the process you, the lawyer, have been able to do something else while your paralegal is taking care of the work in the office. Instead of spending 5 or 6 hours handling this case, it has taken you only 30 minutes to review the complaint, give your paralegal instructions for filing the complaint and the client has saved $600, which to me looks like a happy ending.
Fact – Training paralegals is less expensive in the long run than training lawyers how so, you may be asking. Well, it’s normal for a first year associate to be looking to make partner at some point. What does this mean? it means that the associate eventually will be making almost as much per hour as you are billing him/her out. Adding partners to your practice can be costly and if you decide that you are not going to make them partner they will go and find that partnership somewhere else. This means that you have spent time and resources training that first year associate only to watch him/her leave your firm and go somewhere else with the knowledge you have given them. Paralegals? We don’t want to be partners. It’s a fact that most of us stay at our jobs longer than attorneys do. As long as the work is challenging and we are treated well we will stay and continue to provide you with 100% of our dedication. The longer we stay and the more time you invest in us the better we become and those 4 hours that it took us to draft that complaint up there…. eventually it will only take us 2 or 3 hours. We are resourceful and our goal is to make you look good. Training a paralegal to be the best she can be can only benefit you. We also develop great relationships with your/our clients. If you notice, we are the ones on the phone with them most often, more often than not we get to know their families, medical histories and we become the first people they call when they feel they need a lawyer. It costs them less money to speak with us so why not? So what’s a client going to do when they need a lawyer? They are going to call someone they know and trust and most of the time it’s your paralegal whom they have gotten to know and trust.
So, have I given you enough reasons to hire a paralegal or more in your practice? I can tell you that you should have one or two paralegals per lawyer in your office and if you do that you would come out on top. A well set up paralegal department, even if it’s only two paralegal with a well organized and divided work load can be the….. actually will be the greatest investment you can make today in your firm and set yourself up for the future. Don’t take my word for it…… work out the figures yourself or if you prefer, contact me for more information.