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What can Paralegals do?

legal

So, I’m two weeks into my Paralegal program in Denver. Hooray! Here are some of the key things that the paralegal does(especially if she wants to avoid UPL!):

 

  • Interview Clients
  • Work under attorney supervision
  • Draft pleadings and other documents
  • Legal Research
  • Research Public Records and Social Media Records
  • Customer Service
  • Communicate with judge, opposing counsel, client docs, expert witnesses.
  • Trial Preparation
  • Trial notebooks, Interviewing witnesses
  • Prepare docs: contracts, wills, leases, deeds, docs
  • Manage office documents
  • Scheduling, filing, maintaining records and accounts

In pink, I’ve highlighted the things I’m super excited about doing. I’m nosy so naturally I love digging for information.

Did I miss anything? What else do paralegals do? Hit me up in the comments!

-DENIA PARALEGAL

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areas of law · BLAWGS · career · law firms · legal · Legal humor · Student

Can having your dreams crushed help you? Why yes, yes it can.

 

I read Above The Law everyday at my paralegal internship. It really helps me get focused on legal issues while simultaneously giving me my worldly gossip fix. Yep, I said it.

I was completely intrigued this morning when I read the title, “Having your Dreams Crushed can Work for You.”  My initial reaction was: “Yes! Please let this be true!”

The paragraph below hit the nail on the head and really communicated to me how I am sometimes my own worst enemy. It all stems from the mind and the things you choose to allow it to believe.

In the quote below, the writer is commenting on the lessons she learned while trying to discover her path in the legal profession.

So here’s the super-long-block-quote:

I now realize that I made two huge mistakes back then.

The first, was not really understanding why I wanted to be a prosecutor. In retrospect, what attracted me most to being a prosecutor was that I would have the opportunity to help and serve people. I had a very narrow view of “service” at this point in my life. If I had been really clear on my “why” (as Simon Sinek would put it), I would have understood my real reason for wanting to do the job. This would have allowed me to be rigid about my goals, helping and serving, but flexible about how to get there, job choice.

The second, was tying my personal self-worth to the outcome of getting a specific job. This concept is so crucial to surviving in the legal profession. The fact is, it wasn’t personal. I was qualified for that job, and I would have been great at it. There were a lot of applications and many factors to consider. The important take away was that their personal needs and opinions were not an actual reflection on my abilities or self-worth.

For the record, my story isn’t unique. One 2011 grad, who is happily employed at a small firm, says:  “You’ll get rejected for most things. I applied to 50 big firms, 300 clerkships. I got rejected from most, I’m still waiting to hear from a few, safe to say I probably didn’t get them.”

SOURCE: Above the Law

Here is what I take away from Kerriann Stout’s story. She mentions two scenarios that I myself am guilty of. If you’ve read this far on the post, you too are probably guilty.

So what are we doing and how can we remedy it?

DREAM KILLER #1: Not Defining and Understanding your WHY.

This is so freakin’ crucial.  As an educator, I pride myself on telling students why they should care about learning English and strive to become better communicators. (If only I would practice what I preach in my own life.  We need a WHY in order to keep us going when things get hard.  Look at life itself. Take a moment and think about why you do vertain things. It’s almost always unconscious. For instance, I like to drink coffee in the morning because it’s comforting and I believe it will bring me energy.  The key word here is believe. I could achieve a feeling of comfort in a number of ways. Coffee is simply ONE WAY. What does this mean?  Once you define the WHY as far as what you want to do, you won’t limit yourself to one particular role at a certain company.  You will be able to meet that need in a more general way, and you’ll take less offense to job declines because you know there are many more ways to skin this hairy cat that is joblessness.

The REMEDY? GET CLEAR on your why.

  • This isn’t always an easy process. It requires a bit of digging into your deep passions. You can ask yourself questions like:
  • What gets me excited?
  • How do I serve people, naturally?
  • What puts a smile on my face? How can I use that to serve other people?
  • What do I really care about?
  • What do I think I could improve upon in our world?
  • What are my strengths? What do people say I do well?
  • How do people say I make them feel?
  • Like the writer above, I’m still working this out as far as my desire to become a paralegal. I know that I love people, I love researching, analyzing situations and people, and I’m really good with helping people feel supported and heard. However, on a deeper level I know that I am drawn to family law specifically because I have a passion for family.  As a product of a broken home I realize the importance of harmony and restoration within domestic situations.  The happier and more understanding families we have in out world, the better off we’ll all be. I’ve helped families in my role as an educator, and now I’ll be able to do it again in my next gig.

DREAM KILLER #2: EQUATING YOUR INNATE VALUE TO JOB SEARCH OUTCOMES

Counseling is great and all, but this sort of thinking will definitely increase your need for it. DO NOT EVER lower your belief in yourself because of external circumstances. WHY? Your belief is literally one of the strongest super powers you have as a human. What do you think will happen if you start to actually believe you are worthless just because you aren’t receiving call backs? If you consider a few facts, which should be easy for legal minds to practice, you’ll soon realize that losses are gains depending on the vantage point you choose. Here are a few things to consider when you’re feeling worthless in the job hunt:

THE REMEDY? Poke holes in the idea that you are scum because a possible employer did not hire you!

  • Maybe there is another job that would be a better fit for me.
  • Maybe I haven’t come across the job that is most compatible with my WHY.
  • Maybe I’m not even clear on my why. I’m just out here tired of bring broke. (If this is the case, I’m sure a Target near you is hiring.)
  • What specific skills are listed in the job description that I can develop?
  • What would someone who believed in themselves do in this situation?
  • How can I increase my credibility and online presence? Remember, we’re living in the 21st Century folks! Get to tweetin’!
  • The hiring team is most likely not conspiring against me, does anyone who is truly successful have time for that? Nah.

So the key here is really simple:

  1. Define your WHY. Also, be okay with this evolving. It may change as you continue to grow and develop your values and skills.
  2. Never EXTERNALIZE your value. Your value is not something that can be taken away from you. HOWEVER, if you let it, your mind can make it seem that way. So get your thoughts in line with what you truly want! You got this.

Let’s Chat:

Do you believe setbacks can be teachers in disguise? Share some of your stories!

-DENIA PARALEGAL

 

career · family law · law · law firms · Legal assistant · paralegal

The Legal Client-Intake Interview: What vibe are you creating?

She laughed. Her eyes were glowing.  And although I could sense the pain beneath the surface, I could feel her hope and it fueled me. It reminded me of my job as a legal assistant.

I’m talking about one of the clients I got the privilege to meet last week on my first day as a legal intern.  I definitely did not know how the client-intake interview would unfold, but if I could do it again, there are somethings I would focus on.

This post will highlight a few of these things.

First of all, as a person working in a service industry (yes, the law is service), you should be able to explain how you want the client to feel. 

Law is largely about advocacy. So typically, legal clients are in need of support.

Often your client will walk in feeling the way the young woman below looks:

deniaparalegalargument

 

…and  you know the end game may be that you come up with something that looks like this:

contract

Yes. The paper trail. The pleadings, motions, and countless other documents that you have to deal with create enthusiastically as a legal advocate. However–is this all your client needs right now? Really?

Do you think the girl in the picture above really wants a sheet of stack of papers you’ve cooked up? Is this really all she needs when she walks through your door?

Sure, on some level. Namely the surface one.

But on a deeper level, she needs your understanding and compassion right now. Screw your documents.

So how does this come back to creating a vibe? Simple. Instead of immediately focusing on extracting information from your client, focus on meeting their immediate needs through your environment first.

When it comes to determining the vibe you want to create for your client, you must see your client as yourself, as human. In this way, you seek out ways to give the client what he needs on a deeper level. This makes all of the legal talk a lot easier later.

Here are a few of the adjectives I came up with as far as what I believe a client may need to feel on any given day: 

Comfortable and Safe

Understood

Special

Important

Connected

Supported

Heard

Let’s say you agree with me on the above list. If these terms describe how we want the client to feel…how can we tangibly create this through the environment? The great thing about this is that there are no finite solutions. You know your clients, so you can modify this list to suit them.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Provide beverages/snacks and offer them right at the start of the interview.-I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love being offered food and drinks. Even if I don’t want it, feels great to know it’s there. Nails salons across America get this. 😉
  2. Nod from time to time. Validate. Clients need this.– I don’t know many people who feel heard when the person he is confiding in has a blank expression.  There is no need to be overtly emotional, but let’s try to be more human and less robot.
  3. Express condolences when appropriate.- Empathize with the situation the client is in.  This helps to establish trust and your client will feel safe with you.  Safety is needed for your client to share her story.
  4. Maintain neutral expression.– I know this seems contradictory to the aforementioned piece of advice, but you need to balance your reactions.  What I mean by this is too much expression of consolation will make you(and inevitably, the client) feel more apt to dive into the client’s problem instead of being more focused on the solutions.
  5. Use the client’s name. EVERYONE loves to hear their name, especially when it is pronounced correctly.  Shoot, I even like just seeing my name on a Starbucks cup. My name is Denia. (Sidenote: My first orthodontist wrote my name as “Duh-Knee-Ah” on my folder to help him remember how to say it. This was brilliant. Thanks to this, he was also my last orthodontist.)  Believe it or not I am highly experienced in the arena of people mucking up my name. But guess what? I still like the fact that the person tried to say it.  Experiment with saying your client’s name more often and see if you notice a difference.
  6. Have toys available in case children are in attendance. This may vary depending on your clientele, so you can analyze and see if this would be worth it.  In family law cases, there will more than likely be instances in which small children will be in attendance.  Anticipate their presence and help them feel welcome with stuffed animals and toys.
  7. Place a box of tissue on the table in case the client is sick, or if things get heavy. Contrary to our patriarchal society’s beliefs, crying is healthy. Readily available tissue may assist your client in being comfortable letting her more charged emotions fly out when they need to. More than likely he will have to recount situations that don’t bring out the brightest of emotions, and it is your job to support the client in getting this information out of their mind and into your client intake data sheet.

So there you have it. A lowly intern’s take on ways to inspire a vibe your client needs during the intake process. How do you help clients feel welcomed? Leave a comment below!

-Denia