It does not matter if you are a new paralegal or an old pro—we have one of the hardest jobs in the legal field. If we are good, we are the glue that holds everything together. While this can be intimidating, here are a few helpful tips that can make any paralegal’s life a little easier.
1. Take a moment to double-check your work. It’s easy to get comfortable and forget to check the little things. In this business, the little things can cause the biggest issues.
2. When meeting with your attorney, an expert, or client, bring a note pad and take notes. Taking notes will not only help you but could help the team when it comes to remembering details.
3. Meet with your attorneys in advance of filings. What are the attorneys’ expectations of you? Make sure to schedule enough time to complete your part. Larger and more complicated filings (for example, those with many exhibits or those which involve redacted documents) typically require more lead time for you to complete the tasks effectively. Help the lawyers plan so that everyone can succeed. If you are expected to do the actual filing of the final product, whether electronically or by paper, be sure that you have the appropriate training to complete this assignment.
Filings can be frustratingly complicated, including complying with electronic limits on file sizes or following local rules on submitting exhibits. Ask your attorneys if they are aware of any quirks in the local rules that you should know. Double-check the filing deadlines and the hours of operation of your court to ensure that you do not miss a deadline due to an unexpected court closure. Be sure that there is an attorney designated to answer questions through the entirety of the filing. There are many occasions where your filing does not fit into the options you are presented with or may be unusual in some unexpected way.
4. When you make binders, keep in mind how your attorney will use the information provided. For example, if oral arguments are on your calendar, make a binder of the pleadings to be argued along with all the case law cited. Typically, attorneys will want the cases from all pleadings printed out and separated by numbered tabs, in alphabetical order by case name, along with an index listing the cases by their tab number (g., #1 Adams v. Jones, #2 Aetna v. Fisher, #3 Baldwin v. Smith, etc.). If you are uncertain on how your attorneys want their binders, ask for their preferences. A binder with no order is not useful for anyone.
5. Lastly, be a team player. While the onus is on the attorney to manage the file, everyone’s life is made easier if everyone on the team takes a proactive approach to working on a case. Keep calendars, send reminders, and ask questions to ensure that your projects are executed and clients are well served.
About the author:
Alexandra Brilliant, a paralegal at Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein for seven years, has worked on mass tort/personal injury cases, consumer protection cases, and most recently securities cases. She also serves as BASF’s Paralegal Section treasurer.