Clients and paralegals often build a strong and friendly relationship during the course of a case. The assistants act as intermediaries between the client and the lawyer, obtaining and transmitting information about the case for both. While we exist to make a case run smoothly for both the client and the attorney, discussing the case directly with a client sometimes becomes complicated for us. Legally, we cannot provide you with legal advice. It REALLY is a crime that we can be charged with personally. So we usually pass it on to the attorney when you enter those waters.
However, clients quickly learn that speaking with a paralegal is less painful on their pocket than discussing their case with the attorney, and as a result, some clients will go to great lengths to avoid what they consider to be unnecessary interaction with their attorney. Some clients will go to the extreme of refusing to let their attorney know, insisting instead that you agree with them if we answer their questions, which is often accompanied by the client’s attempt to flatter the assistant with a comment. Saying they understand it the paralegal does most of the work. This comment is sometimes true, but what they don’t understand is that assistants complete their work under the supervision of an attorney. Ultimately, the legal work will carry the name of the attorney and it will be on your head if something is deemed wrong.
To further muddy the waters, it is also appropriate for an attorney to consult with their assistant so that the assistant conveys legal advice and / or opinions to the client directly. In this situation, we are passing advice directly from the attorney to the client and we do not practice law without a license.
Most of us try to do our best for our clients and appreciate when they understand and respect the limitations of our roles. There is not much that aggravates a paralegal more than blatant disrespect. So the next time you consider trying to pressure your attorney’s paralegal into committing a crime just so you can save a few bucks, I suggest you think twice.
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