Dorothy Secol, CLA
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Independent Paralegal Services for Attorneys



How many times have you wondered how you can augment your profits; increase your billing. How would like to increase your firmís billable hours by fifteen to twenty-five percent per year? Properly utilize your paralegal staff.

By properly using legal assistants, attorneys will have more time to accomplish work that only they can perform. Value is added to your firm and clients when legal assistants are part of the team.

Perhaps you should start by asking yourselves the following questions:

1. Do you use paralegals on a regular basis? If not, why? If you do, what do you see as their primary function?

2. How do you differentiate between paralegal work and secretarial work?

3. Do you presently use paralegals to reduce costs to your clients?

4. What kind of training will make your paralegal more valuable to you?

You can start the process by identifying each paralegalís level of experience, academic credentials, and specialty skills. Next you would include this information in the permanent records so that the information is made accessible to attorneys and other decision makers in your office as to the best use of each paralegal for appropriate projects. Create a listing of the types of tasks that could be delegated to paralegals generally, and to those in specialty areas. The types of tasks will vary, of course, depending on your practice, purpose, etc. but some examples are: drafting motions and briefs, legal research, preparing exhibits, computerized document preparation as well as drafting wills, preparation of tax returns, and much, much more.

To further ensure success, you must encourage the attorneys in your office to let clients know that they are saving money with the use of legal assistants by billing the paralegal rates. Experienced legal assistants should be urged to make presentations to the attorneys in the office of their expertise in specialty areas. In smaller firms, you might consider inviting an experienced paralegal from a non-adversarial firm to make a presentation to your office, or ask one of your attorneys who appropriately uses paralegals to help make the same type of presentation.

An important part of the training plan includes informing the paralegals that a major responsibility in this process is transferred to them. If there is some task they would like to learn, they should be encouraged to do so and earn the privilege. Paralegals should be taught more complex tasks by asking the attorneys for the opportunity.

Accomplishment always offers great potential to enhance the effectiveness and morale of your paralegal staff. By instituting better use of their skills, they will feel more appreciated and in turn the attorneys will delegate more complex, substantive legal tasks. In addition your turnover percentage will decrease thereby saving additional costs and expenses. The proper utilization of legal assistants will increase your bottom line in every aspect; higher billable hours, less turnover, more time for you to attend to the complex tasks at hand and last but by no means the least, a more content and focused staff.

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