How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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Eh Nonymous

Man, ain't that the truth.


were this a post on eleven things, i'd add: "the firm provides a shower/changing room, a catered thursday night meal, and drycleaning pick-up as a convenience. we want to make you feel at home, because frankly this is where you will be living now."


So, dumb question: What does a legal assistant do?

How do I know when I should ask them to do something, and when I should do it myself?


Great post, Stan. These heretofor unwritten rules of the road are key.

As to the question about how to know what to give a legal assistant, there are two ways to look at it: (a) everything he can handle and/or (b) anything you, personally, would be irritated to pay $200+ an hour for someone to do. For the most part, these two tests come to the same result. As much as possible, one should ask a legal assistant to perform the tasks that do not require legal training and/or legal judgement.

In other words, filing, copying, printing/addressing/sending letters (be sure to proof, though!), entering time, calendaring/docketing, formatting documents like pleadings, if within the assistant's normal experience, even (depending on the assistant) retrieving cases or Shepards reports by citation off of Lexis/Westlaw (not really legal searching, just "could you get me 234 U.S. 123, please?"). If you can find an assistant who is good at proofing, heap piles of gold at her feet.

A much harder call, it seems to me, is when to use a (non-billable) legal assistant vs. a (billable) paralegal. I don't work much with paralegals, so I'll defer to someone else on that.


Stan -- Good advice on when to use your legal assistant. I was one at a big firm before I went to law school. We didn't differentiate between legal assistants and paralegals; everyone billed out, and a fairly high rate ( the lower end was around $125.) Most legal assistants/paralegals at the larger firms can definitely handle pulling cases off Lexis or Westlaw. Don't underestimate them; a lot of them are straight out of college, like I was, and biding their time before moving on to something bigger and better. And definitely, definitely be really nice to them, because they can sabotage you big time if they don't like you or you are a pain in the *ss, especially if they also work for more senior people as well. Your work can easily end up on the bottom of a huge pile if you don't make them like you.


Rule #1 is pretty funny. At my old firm, junior associates were encouraged to be copy machine jockeys precisely _because_ they could bill more than paralegals. You just couldn't call it "making copies." One week I actually billed something like 20 hours for making copies, and wrote it up that way as a desperate cry for help. The partner never said a word. Presumably my description was edited before the bill was sent to the client.

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