Paralegal Scenarios

  1. You are a new paralegal and have worked for a medium-sized law office for three months. It has been a tremendous experience for you, as you learned how the office does business; its policies and procedures; what type of service you are expected to give to clients; where resources are; and how to use resources, such as the office’s computer systems, law library, copy machines, and form files. Although it has taken time for you to learn these things, you have also been productive and have received several compliments on the quality of your work.One day, you read in the office’s staff manual that all paralegals are required to bill 1,500 hours annually or face possible discipline. You immediately contact your supervisor and ask whether, as a new paralegal, you will be expected to bill this amount. Your supervisor responds, “Of course. You were told that when you were hired.” You immediately begin gathering copies of your timesheets to compile your total. You also request that the billing department send you the total numbers of hours you have billed to date. When you get the report from billing, you panic; you have billed only 300 hours. What do you do now, and how could you have avoided this unfortunate situation?
  2. On June 30, a billing goes out to Susan Simon, one of the clients whose cases you have been working on. Ms. Simon calls you a few days later and complains about the amount of time shown on the bill. She is extremely rude and discourteous. Ms. Simon flatly states that she thinks she is being overbilled. How do you handle the phone call?
  3. You are interviewing a new client. The client wants to hire your office to help negotiate the purchase of a small business. The seller has proposed $20,000. The new client would be willing to pay this amount, although she thinks it is a bit high, but she does not feel comfortable negotiating with the seller and would rather have an attorney involved in the deal for her protection. However, she is suspicious of paralegals and attorneys and is especially concerned about how much it will cost to get the representation she needs. You inform the client that the attorney will be the one who actually talks to her about the fee issue, but that typically this type of case is taken on an hourly basis and that the attorney will be able to give her only a very broad estimate of what the total matter will cost. The client states that this would be unacceptable to her because she “does not have a lot of money to pay overpriced attorneys.” The client also states that she would like this matter settled as soon as possible. You must prepare a memorandum to the attorney outlining the issue and possible solutions. What type of fee arrangement would you suggest to the attorney? Please keep in mind the client’s anxieties and her particular needs.
  4. Recently, your office has found a niche in representing spouses collecting on past-due child support. In most cases, your clients have little money to pay you with and are financially strapped, because they no longer have the income of their former spouses to support their children and have not been receiving the child support. In some cases, large amounts of money are owed, but finding the former spouses has proven difficult. Your supervising attorney decides that the best way to handle these types of cases is on a one-third contingency basis. Your supervising attorney asks for your comments. How do you respond?
  5. Yesterday was a hectic day. Although you wanted to record your time earlier, you just could not get to it. Record your time now, using a spreadsheet. Build the spreadsheet so it has columns for the date, client/case name, timekeeper, services rendered, billable time, and nonbillable time. For each activity listed, decide whether it is billable or not billable. Record your time, first using tenths of hours.You should also fill out expense slips for items that should be charged back to clients. Build the spreadsheet to include date, client/case name, type of expense, and cost. The firm charges 25 cents each for copies and 50 cents per page to send a fax. Assume that long-distance phone calls cost 25 cents a minute. Total the cost of each expense slip. As best you can recall, this is how your day went: 8:00 a.m.–8:12 a.m.: Got a cup of coffee, talked to other law office staff members, reviewed your schedule/things-to-do sheet for the day, and reviewed the email in your inbox, 8:13 a.m.–8:25 a.m.: Talked to your supervising attorney (Lisa Mitchell) about some research she needs done on the grounds to support a motion to dismiss Johnson v. Cuttingham Steel. Ms. Mitchell also asked you to find a bankruptcy statute she needs for Halvert v. Shawnee Savings & Loan, 8:26 a.m.–8:37 a.m.: A paralegal from another office calls to remind you that the paralegal association you belong to is having a meeting at noon and that you are running the meeting, 8:38 a.m.–8:40 a.m.: One of your least favorite clients, John Hamilton, calls to ask you when he is supposed to be at your office to prepare for his deposition tomorrow. You access the weekly schedule electronically and read him the information he needs, 8:40 a.m.–8:50 a.m.: You find the information you need for the motion to dismiss in Johnson v. Cuttingham Steel in a motion in another case you helped to prepare last month. The research is still current, and Ms. Mitchell is pleased that you found it so fast. You note that it took you two hours to research this issue when you did it the first time. You copy the material Ms. Mitchell needs (five pages) and put it on her desk, and also send it to her electronically, 8:55 a.m.–9:30 a.m.: You speak with a witness you have been trying to contact in Menly v. Menly. The call is long-distance. The call lasts 15 minutes and writing the memo to the file documenting the call takes 15 minutes, 9:30 a.m.–9:54 a.m.: Ms. Mitchell asks you to contact the attorney in Glass v. Huron regarding a discovery question. You spend 10 minutes on hold. The call is long-distance but you get an answer to Ms. Mitchell’s question, 10:00 a.m.–10:15 a.m.: Coffee break and talk with attorney about the ballgame, 10:15 a.m.–10:45 a.m.: One of the secretaries informs you that you must interview a new client, Richard Sherman. The person who was supposed to see Mr. Sherman got delayed. Mr. Sherman comes to your office regarding a simple adoption. However, in talking to Mr. Sherman you find out that he also needs someone to incorporate a small business that he is getting ready to open. You gladly tell him that your office has a department that handles this type of matter. You take down the basic information regarding both matters. You tell the client that you will prepare a memo regarding these matters to the appropriate attorney and that one of the office’s attorneys will contact him within two days to further discuss the matter. You also copy 10 pages of information that Mr. Sherman brought, 10:45 a.m.–10:54 a.m.: One of the secretaries asks you to cover her phone for her while she takes a quick break. Because the secretary always helps you when you ask for it, you gladly cover the phone for a few minutes. Ms. Mitchell asks you to send a fax regarding Stewart v. Layhorn Glass, so you use this time to send the six-page fax, 10:55 a.m.–12:00 noon: Yesterday Ms. Mitchell asked you to organize some exhibits in Ranking v. Siefkin. The deadline was noon today. You finally have some free time to organize the exhibits, 12:00 noon–1:00 p.m.: Lunch, 1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.: You work on a pro bono criminal case for a client whom Ms. Mitchell is representing on appeal. In an effort to become familiar with the case, you read some of the transcripts from the trial, 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m.: Ms. Mitchell hands you a new case and says that your firm will be representing the defendant, Maude Pinchum. She asks you to read the petition and client file, analyze the case, and draft interrogatories to send to the plaintiff. You spend the rest of the day working on this case, 3:30 p.m.–3:45 p.m.: Make personal phone calls, 3:45 p.m.–5:00 p.m.: Continue working on Pinchum case.
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