Posted in Law, Medical Malpractice, Motor Vehicle Incidents, Personal Injury, Products Liability, Workers' Comp, Wrongful Death

Seek Counsel or Wing It? When to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney

When a person becomes hurt or injured, whether by a defective product, a motor vehicle crash, etcetera, the decision to seek qualified counsel is rarely a simple one to make. Despite the negative perspective commonly shared between defense attorneys, insurance companies and legal system spectators; oftentimes, most people have no interest in becoming a party to a potential lawsuit. Some injured plaintiffs suffer from guilt and uncertainty which can create potentially damaging time delays relative to their claim. 

As creatures of habit, it is human nature for us to grimace at anything that could potentially inconvenience or inhibit our life routines in anyway. The mere thought of continuous medical appointments, insurance company negotiations, recorded statements and legal proceedings is enough to persuade most potential plaintiffs that their injury “isn’t serious enough” to substantiate the necessity of seeking qualified counsel. These types of thoughts have and continue to promote an unfair advantage that benefits guilty parties and insurers nationwide. 

Guilt, Uncertainty and Negative Stigma 

Feelings of guilt and uncertainty are common obstacles faced by the injured and non-represented. Questions and statements such as, “do I even have a case?”; “did I somehow contribute to my injury?” or “I wasn’t injured that bad… it will get better” are examples of plaintiff’s guilt. The injured individual may shame themselves into thinking the injury was in some way or entirely their own fault. Even if that was not the case. 

On the contrary, the negative stigma surrounding plaintiff personal injury attorneys has created a clear contradiction as to the importance of professional specialization. Questions and statements such as, “Is hiring an attorney even worth the time and money?”; or, “I can resolve this claim on my own for free” are examples of a common uncertainty/skepticism relative to the necessity of hiring representation. Attorneys are hired because they possess a thorough understanding of the laws, rules and elements associated with an injured person’s claim. 

Say for example, a child contracts a mysterious illness overnight. Would it be wise for a parent to spend time educating themselves on the illness for free? Or would it be wiser to save time by taking the child to a medical professional who specializes in pediatric infectious disease?  

In the Legal World, Time Truly Waits for No One 

The bottom line is that you simply may not have the time to answer those questions on your own. Dependent upon the type of injury/claim, each state has a statute of limitations which sets maximum limits on the amount of time following an event within which legal proceedings may be pursued. A prime example would be Texas medical malpractice claims which are governed by strict noticing requirements and deadlines. 

Though most of us over-achieving common folk typically consider ourselves skilled at any and all things – including legal procedure and statutes of limitations – it may be best that we trust an attorney who already specializes in personal injury law. 

What Do You Have to Lose?  

Most attorneys provide free consultations and will often work on a contingency fee basis. These attorneys will investigate your claim at no upfront cost to you. The risk factor for the plaintiff is very minimal considering there is no charge if the attorney doesn’t make any money.  

Personal Injury Attorneys and Motor Vehicle Crashes 

Take motor vehicle crashes for example. Though not mandatory, it is critical that the injured party hire an attorney who specializes in personal injury/motor vehicle crashes immediately following the incident. You simply cannot afford to be without counsel at any stage of the claim process.  

Personal injury attorneys who specialize in motor vehicle incidents specialize in handling all (but not limited to) the following: 

  1. Insurance company communications; 
  1. Medical treatment and future medical needs; and 
  1. Record retention and review. 

Insurance Company Communications 

The U.S. insurance industry is worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually as per the S&P Global Market Intelligence, Insurance Information Institute. The primary business model shared across this industry revolves around minimal pay-outs to their policy holders to boost company profitability.  

These companies have entire legal departments staffed with slippery defense attorneys who have far more experience handling insurance claim cases than the average consumer. This makes the retention of specialized counsel even more imperative to obtaining fair resolution on behalf of the injured. There is a reason that both yours and the tortfeasor’s insurers have specialized attorneys in their corners, and you can bet that reason is not benefiting you.  

Medical Treatment 

Depending on the type of injury suffered, continued medical treatment is critical in order to detail, address and hopefully correct the injury sustained during the subject incident. Your attorney’s support staff can assist you with determining which providers to see for immediate treatment and for the evaluation of any and all future medical needs and expected costs. 

Records Retention and Review 

Medical records are the primary source of evidence in a personal injury claim. Your attorney’s support staff will request and review your medical records in order to summarize your injuries as they relate to the subject incident. 

There are many other tasks involved in resolving personal injury cases. The medical treatment and records are used to build strong demand letters that will lead to settled claims pre-trial. The strategies used to execute these tasks will vary greatly depending on the attorney and their specialized area of practice.  

Conclusion 

The decision to hire a personal injury attorney is difficult due to obstacles such as plaintiff guilt, uncertainty and negative stigmas surrounding the legal profession. Plaintiffs receive many helpful benefits upon retaining qualified counsel. With free consultations and a low up-front risk factor, injured plaintiffs have nothing to lose! 

So, seek counsel or wing it? When should a potential plaintiff hire a personal injury attorney? Seek qualified counsel as soon as possible! There is no specific timeframe for hiring an attorney. However, it is imperative you understand that in the legal world, time is literally of the essence!  

If you or your loved one have been injured, do not attempt to determine whether you have a compensable case.  Contact Patrick Daniel Law for a free case evaluation and let us help you! Schedule a consultation in person, over the phone or online immediately. 

Posted in CLE, Ethics, Houston Events, Networking, Paralegal, Paralegal Zone

Paralegal Zone Event Review: HMPA’s November CLE Luncheon

The Houston Metropolitan Paralegal Association (HMPA) is one of the largest paralegal associations in the United States. It is no wonder they are well known for frequently hosting successful networking and CLE events for professional Houston area paralegals.

The HMPA November 2019 CLE Luncheon took place at The Houston Center Club. The food was excellent and the room was full! Just the sort of environment to which inquisitive and social paralegals are attracted. The speaker was Michael “Tate” Barkley of Bain & Barkley. Let me tell you, this man was extremely entertaining, intelligent and knew exactly how to keep the crowd engaged in his discussion about ethical decision making.

I attend these events to remain sharp within the legal field while connecting with similar professionals in pursuit of that same mastery. For the paralegals of Patrick Daniel Law, these events have become a part of our team routine. Whether you attend as a member or as a guest of a member, HMPA Luncheons have proven to be fun, social, entertaining and extremely informative.

For information about the next event, visit houstonparalegals.org.

Contact:
Your Fellow Professionals at HMPA
Houston Metropolitan Paralegal Association
855-614-HMPA
hmpa-aa@houstonparalegals.org

Posted in Personal Injury, Privacy, Security Settings

Protecting your privacy during a personal injury case

www.patrickdaniellaw.com

The way we communicate with each other every day has revolutionized social media. We can share our thoughts, behaviors, places, desires, and feelings with everyone every minute of the day by clicking a button. While such connections can be helpful, duplication is a common problem. Not only can sharing too much information about yourself have serious implications for your personal and professional life, it can also have a negative impact on your application for personal injury. Ensure that you are protecting your privacy to avoid complications.

Who can view posts, pictures, and videos on your social media?

Each web-based life stage has an element called privacy settings, in which clients can restrain who can see their profile, posts, and photographs. As a rule, these settings are concealed, hard to get to, and can change at regular intervals. Numerous clients are ignorant that they exist in any case. Past securing the respectability of your damage guarantee, fixing your privacy settings can shield you from outsiders who you don’t need jabbing around in your business in any case.

Something imperative to recollect is even secretly posted data on interpersonal organizations might be utilized in individual damage cases. Don’t simply depend on a firmly private, secured online life account. When changing your privacy settings, make certain to deny access to your substance by individuals outside of your associations and don’t enable your connections to impart your substance to their companions or family. After a mishap or recording of individual damage guarantee, abstain from “friending” or including extra connections, as these could be agents from the insurance agency or contradicting counsel.

Protecting your privacy during a personal injury case

Before you post something on the web, recall that it can’t be totally evacuated regardless of whether you have erased it from your own record. Notwithstanding, this rapidly advancing piece of the law may enable legitimate access to any online life activities that can be utilized as allowable proof against you for the situation, including an image of you getting a charge out of an evening in the recreation center with family or companions. The contention behind these disclosures can be as straightforward as how might you be having a ton of fun on the off chance that you are in so much agony? How are you getting a charge out of the majority of life’s normal exercises on the off chance that you are too harmed to even consider working?

Raise Your Security Settings

Raise your security settings to the most significant level yet don’t allow your to protect down. The insurance agency could at present discover a route into your posts. The courts may even give them consent to get to your record disregarding your earnest attempts. Your way to deal with utilizing online networking ought to be a blend of preventive measures. Continuously consider the most dire outcome imaginable and what it could cost you.

Internet based life is one spot where appearances matter more than truth. Despite the fact that you realize that your wounds are as serious as you asserted, no one can tell when something you state or do will give the presence of extortion. When a mix-up is made, there is little your own damage lawyer can do to turn your case around. Aversion is consistently the better way to deal with ensuring your case until your case is settled.

Alter your privacy settings.

Ensure the majority of your social media presents are determined to “companions just” or “private” and not “open.” This will shield your posts from being seen by anybody and everybody that finds you. Once in a while even the private posts can be gotten to and utilized, yet modifying the settings will limit the probability.

Set your privacy settings to “private.”

Check your privacy settings. Your social media records should all be set to “Private.” Set your record to require your endorsement in the event that anybody labels you or attempts to put something on your “divider.” In the wake of recording individual damage guarantee, think about turning on your account’s privacy settings, in the event that you have not done so as of now.

By changing your account’s privacy settings, you will have the option to control who can get to your social media profiles. This will empower you to limit who sees the substance you post, including your photos and recordings.

Despite the fact that this may keep a great many people from freely seeing your social media profile, it doesn’t totally counteract access to your record. A back up plan may demand that its agents or lawyers approach your record and view the data you have posted, paying little heed to whether your privacy settings are turned on.

Please do not attempt to determine if you have a compensable case. You must consult a relevant liability attorney who has the expertise and extensive knowledge necessary to determine who ultimately caused the harm and injuries you or a loved one suffered. Contact us for a free case evaluation here.

Posted in Houston Events, Paralegal Day, Paralegal Division State Bar of Texas, Paralegal Zone, Texas Paralegal

Happy Texas Paralegal Day!!!

The Paralegal Division of the Texas State Bar was founded on October 23, 1981. In 2009, The Texas State Senate adopted Proclamation 1144. This proclamation annually recognizes this day as Paralegal Day in appreciation for their many contributions to the Texas legal system. You may read Proclamation 1144 in its entirety below.

Happy Paralegal Day to all those of us dedicated to the advancement of the paralegal profession!

Posted in Law, Maritime, Medical Malpractice, Motor Vehicle Incidents, Personal Injury, Premises Liability, Products Liability, Workers' Comp, Wrongful Death

Personal Injury Lawsuits

Personal injury claims – or tort lawsuits – arise whenever a plaintiff has suffered injury to their body or mind as opposed to damages relative to their property. Tort law allows a plaintiff to seek legal remedies in civil court for all damages caused because of a particular incident.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice claims arise when a health care provider, such as a nurse or doctor, fails to provide the appropriate level of care to a patient. In the legal context, this is often referred to as violating the standard of care—what the doctor or nurse is expected to do under the same or similar circumstances. Laws relative to medical malpractice claims vary from state to state.

Wrongful Death

When a person is killed because of someone else’s negligence or carelessness, wrongful death lawsuits are filed. These claims allow plaintiffs to seek remedies and recover damages that are different from those sought for non-fatal injuries. Most wrongful death suits stem from incidents such as medical malpractice, motor vehicle crashes, construction/commercial incidents or the use of a defective product.

Motor Vehicle Incidents

Car crashes are a major public health concern in the United States. On average, about six million car accidents occur every single year in the USA as per the CDC. Half of those individuals involved in car accidents become injured as a result. The insurance companies have teams of attorneys and adjusters on their sides with the sole mission of paying injured plaintiff’s as little as possible. Therefore, it is common for injured plaintiffs to hire a well-informed personal injury attorney to be in their corner.

Workers’ Compensation

Injuries that occur while under the scope of employment are filed as workers’ compensation claims as opposed to bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the employer. The laws relative to workers’ comp claims vary from state to state.

Premises Liability

Premises liability cases arise when dangerous conditions on someone’s property results in an injury to someone else. A common example would be a customer slipping in a store that failed to display a “wet floor” sign. Any injury caused by an owner’s carelessness or failure to maintain their property could result in a premises liability lawsuit.

Products Liability

Any individual, business or government entity who sold, designed, marketed or distributed a dangerous or defective product that causes injury could be held liable in a court of law. The four elements a plaintiff must prove are defect, causation, injury and duty. The three theories for which a plaintiff is entitled to sue are negligence – whether the manufacturer has a duty to provide a safe product; strict liability – plaintiff can sue regardless of whether the seller was negligent or not; and breach of warranty – when products have warranties that fail or cause injury.

Maritime

There are two types of maritime workers: those who meet the legal definition of “seamen” and those who work on or near the water. Unlike their non-maritime peers, seamen are not afforded workers’ compensation benefits under state or federal law. Instead, a seamen is able to pursue other remedies, including suing their employer under the Jones Act for the injuries sustained while at work. Additionally, a seaman is allowed to pursue damages against the owner of the vessel on which he was injured, as well as receive maintenance and cure.

The Jones Act, the federal law that allows a seaman to sue his employer, requires maritime employers to provide a seaman with a reasonably safe place to work and use ordinary care to maintain and keep the vessel on which the seaman works in a reasonably safe condition. Unlike most negligence cases, the legal burden an injured seaman must prove to recover under the Jones Act is much lower. That is, an injured seaman, under the Jones Act, must only demonstrate that the employer’s negligence played a part, no matter how small, in the seaman’s injuries.

If you or a loved one suspects you may have a personal injury claim, it is vital that you hire a personal injury attorney who has a history of representing clients in this area. The attorneys at Patrick Daniel Law provide the expertise you need to evaluate your potential case. Our attorneys are ready to get justice for you, so visit http://www.patrickdaniellaw.com.

Posted in Career Advice, Employment Trends, Job Duties, Paralegal, Paralegal Zone

Paralegal Profession: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

By Sheena Foley, PHP

The paralegal profession can be highly stressful and fast paced. The entire court system operates on strict deadlines and schedules that are mandatory in order for legal disputes to reach timely resolution. It is therefore no surprise that paralegals must possess the ability to control their time and work loads. This legal “calendar climate” is only one of many triggers that lead to a paralegal’s high level of career related stress.

Being a paralegal is not for everyone and it is certainly not for those who may be sensitive or unable to receive constructive criticism. Depending on the type of law firm a paralegal works for, there are many contributing factors with the potential to create a stressful work environment.

I have compiled a list of some of the most common contributing factors that often deter entry-level legal assistants or add stress upon experienced paralegals. I am not the type of person to only have complaints without solutions; so, I hope my list either encourages an “on-edge” legal assistant to keep pushing or educates an experienced paralegal to seek resolution to their work stress.

1. Job Titles and Job Duties

The paralegal title is used very loosely in the legal industry. While one attorney may hire a paralegal to handle both pre-litigation and litigation work, another may hire a legal secretary to handle the pre-litigation work and a paralegal to handle litigation. Often times, the title or position a paralegal/legal assistant applies for may not match their actual assigned daily job duties.  Given this flexible sphere of legal titles and duties, a paralegal trained in litigation, pre-litigation and appeal may feel a way about receiving a legal secretary title.

Solution:             Be clear with your employer about your job-title requirements and concerns. Be clear about your capabilities and provide clear facts and reasoning behind your request for a change to your duties or title.

2. Resume Fluffers Beware

A common mistake entry-level paralegals make is the “resume fluff.” Some people have a tendency to over-embellish their strengths on their resume to unsuspecting employers. However, in the legal industry, a hiring attorney can spot you coming from a mile away! If you have never drafted discovery or you have never drafted a legal pleading but your resume says you have trial experience, you will be found out sooner than later. This is not a “fake-it-til-you-make-it” industry. Either you have the juice or you don’t. Pretending to have experience will usually lead to a stressful work environment.

Solution:             Highlight the experience you do have without providing falsehoods to a potential employer. If you are a fast learner, quick study and are eager to learn, express this in your cover letter.  Many firms prefer entry-level paralegals that are trainable as opposed to seasoned paralegals who may be set in their ways.

3. Lack of Upward Mobility

Depending on the size of the law firm and structure of legal staff job roles, a paralegal normally has very little upward growth within a law firm. Outside of moving to firm operations, HR, marketing or becoming an attorney, there is very little growth available to most paralegals.

Solution:             The legal universe consists of a plethora of different industries and specialty areas. There is contract work available for paralegals who may want to perform work outside of their everyday, mundane duties. The career possibilities are endless! Never limit yourself.

4. Tenure and Lack of Recognition

A paralegal’s work is never recognized because our only purpose is to assist the attorney. You could draft an excellent petition for damages but it would go unnoticed because we cannot practice law; so the attorney obviously receives the praise. Therefore, if a paralegal’s work is never recognized or commended within a firm, newer staff members may not be aware or have the appropriate respect level for your work or tenure.

Solution:             When it comes to not receiving recognition for your work; that just comes with the paralegal territory. Our recognition and accolades are dependent upon the level of success reached by the attorneys we work for, period. If that is a deal breaker for you, this is not the industry for you. It is your employer’s responsibility to educate all staff of both successes and failures. This is what promotes your recognition within the legal community as well as your tenure within the firm. If you work for a firm that does not operate in this fashion… you have some decisions to make.

Bottom line, the paralegal profession is not for the weak-at-heart. We face extreme deadlines, heavy workloads and varying job duties. We work long hours and oftentimes find ourselves in difficult situations requiring free-style problem solving capabilities. This life is not for everyone.

Posted in Career Advice, Employment Trends, Legal Technology, Paralegal, Paralegal Zone

Paralegals becoming obsolete? Not a chance!

by: Sheena Foley, PHP

With all the technological advancements in the legal field nowadays, it is no wonder that there exists a growing fear among paralegals and legal assistants. A fear that we will someday be replaced by a computer or some automated process meant to perform some of the mundane job duties currently handled by trained paralegals. Per Marc Davis, a blogger for ABAJournal.com, while the demand for entry level paralegals is declining, the need for trained paralegals is on the rise! Check out the following article by Marc Davis titled, “Technology has not replaced need for paralegals.”

Five years ago, it seemed like the paralegal industry was about to become obsolete. A January 2013 Associated Press report claimed that an increasing number of lawyers were using computer software and technology to do the work paralegals once did.

The report hit the paralegal industry like a sucker punch. The market had been red hot—the Bureau of Labor Statistics had previously predicted an 18 percent growth in paralegal jobs through 2020. In 2014, however, the bureau revised its projections, forecasting an 8 percent growth from 2014 to 2024.

The bureau then adjusted that figure to a 15 percent growth from 2016 to 2026—a decrease of 3 percentage points from its original projection.

So was the AP report about lawyers relying more on technology much ado about nothing? Not necessarily. While solo and small-firm lawyers have increasingly turned to technology, they haven’t completely turned their backs on hiring paralegals.

“In the past, with the big firm I was with, I used paralegals to issue subpoenas for documents, to organize them, file them electronically,” says Deborah G. Cole, a Chicago-based solo practitioner who specializes in commercial litigation and employment law and is among the growing number of lawyers who perform the work paralegals typically do. “Now I do it all myself, including documents searches; I know exactly what I’m looking for.”

Cole doesn’t use a secretary or office administrator either. She uses computer software to handle the usual tasks, including case management. “Still, I have a manageable caseload,” she says.

A major benefit of not using a paralegal, Cole points out, is the significant cost savings for solos and small firms. “Depending on the case, by my using software rather than a paralegal, I can save anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000,” she says.

Despite reports of the slow disappearance, “there will always be a need for paralegals,” says solo attorney Megan Zavieh, who has offices in Alpharetta, Georgia, and the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in defending lawyers who face ethics investigations and state bar prosecution.

HELP ON TAP

Zavieh performs the work of paralegals, but on occasion she hires one on a per-need basis. The work, facilitated by technology, that she or a paralegal might do includes scheduling, creating tables of contents and documents, and preparing client intake forms and files.

But technology can’t provide the human touch, Zavieh says. “A large part of my job is being a counselor to my clients. I listen, I understand their stress [and] they can vent on to me,” she says.

Attorney Jill Vereb tells a similar story. Although she never wanted to be overwhelmed by paperwork, she declined to hire a paralegal or a secretary. Vereb, who runs a solo family law practice in Sugar Land, Texas, does all the work a paralegal might do.

“I do all the document research,” she says, by way of example. “When I do that myself, I’m less likely to miss something important that might be missed by a paralegal.”

By using a software program that converts PDFs, emails and other documents into searchable versions, she’s able to bypass much of the tedious work of reviewing what she describes as reams and reams of paper. “I enter a search word and it streamlines the process,” she says. “But when I’m superbusy, I may hire a paralegal on a temporary basis.”

By contrast, paralegals are part of attorney Luis Salazar’s legal team. But he doesn’t use as many as he did before. He is head of a small firm in Coral Gables, Florida, specializing in corporate compliance law, bankruptcy law and complex commercial litigation.

“Paralegals can’t appear in court as representatives of a client, but they’re with me in court when I’m litigating a case,” he says. “They’re familiar with the documents I might need and the exhibits. If I ask for something, they snap it up right away and give it to me.”

At one time, Salazar used nine paralegals. Now, however, he’s got just three.

“Maybe demand for entry-level paralegals is declining,” says Amy McCormack, co-president of Chicago-based McCormack Schreiber Legal Search. “But the market for trained paralegals is strong.” 

Davis, Marc. “Technology has not replaced need for paralegals.” http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/technology_has_not_replaced_need_for_paralegals. Accessed 30 September 2019.


This article was published in the February 2018 issue of the ABA Journal with the title “Holding Steady: Although more lawyers are performing the work of paralegals, job prospects for trained assistants seem good.”

Posted in CLE, Houston Events, Networking, Paralegal, Paralegal Zone, Top Paralegals

Houston Metropolitan Paralegal Association: 2019 October Luncheon and CLE

The Houston Metro Paralegal Association (“HMPA”), is one of the largest paralegal associations in the United States. HMPA’s goal is to promote the professional advancement of paralegals in the Houston metropolitan area. This, of course, is what caught my attention about this association.

I am currently a voting member and I am very impressed by their structure, CLE event offerings and the vast resources available to members! Check out the event flyer below or visit HMPA at http://houstonparalegals.org/ for more information.

Registration is now open! Don’t miss this CLE Luncheon, featuring guest speaker Taylor Gissell of Transocean presenting on “General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).” Attendees will earn 1.0 CLE credit while networking over a delicious lunch buffet, plus a chance to win door prizes provided by this event’s sponsor: Veritext Legal Solutions! Visit TinyURL.com/2019OctoberCLE to secure your seat. Don’t wait, registration ends at 12PM on October 4th!

Posted in Houston Events, Networking

Women in eDiscovery Houston Chapter: 2019 Legal Technology Showcase & Conference

I was recently notified by Jean N. Rivers, CEDS, Director of eDiscovery and Litigation Support about an awesome event taking place next week right here in Houston.

Check out her event message below and visit https://www.wietechhouston.com/ to register.

“Women in eDiscovery Houston Chapter is hosting it’s 3rd Annual eDiscovery Conference and Tech Showcase. This conference is completely FREE so register today because space is limited and seats are going fast–

All industry professionals are welcome so please feel free to share or forward to anyone who you think would be interested.

Date: September 26, 2019

Time: 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Join Us For The Keynote Address: A Judicial Perspective, Judge Kimberly C. Priest Johnson. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Three Educational Panels (CLE):

1) Navigate the New but Perfect the Core: Exploring the Importance of eDiscovery Infrastructure in an Industry of Trends

2) Data Danger: An in depth analysis of handling a data breach and mitigating risk by analyzing real life data breaches and responses

3) Deep Data: Identification and Management of Relevant ESI

Exhibit Hall: Visit with 15 technology vendors,and one to one sessions with industry experts.

Happy Hour Networking Event: 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Texas hospitality and networking with the conference participants and guests. Hope to see you there!”

Posted in Career Advice, Job Duties, Law, Paralegal, Personal Injury, Top Paralegals

Personal Injury Law: Job Duties of Top Paralegals

By: Sheena Foley, PHP

There are many different avenues of specialty available for paralegals to build solid job experience and strong resumes. This article will focus on the job duties of a personal injury paralegal. Depending on the size of the firm and the actual job duties assigned to a paralegal by the handling attorney, the following responsibilities must be mastered by any top paralegal.

Intake and Client Contact

Paralegals must possess the ability to properly screen and interview potential new clients (PNCs). This means knowing what questions to ask during the initial intake and with which tone to ask them in. A useful paralegal will already have a questionnaire on hand to ensure that no information is omitted. It is the paralegal’s job to be as patient and thorough as possible in order to gain all information required for the attorney to review the claim effectively.

Medical Records

Personal injury paralegals understand the importance of medical and billing records being organized, on file and admissible in court. As a paralegal, you may be required to order, summarize, supplement and produce medical records to opposing counsel, insurance adjusters, experts, etc. throughout the case. A useful paralegal understands what to look for within the medical records and how to determine whether they are insufficient.

Ordering and receiving is only a small portion of the overall goal in reviewing a client’s medical records. Familiarity of medical terminology is critical to a paralegal’s ability to identify various injury types and any long-term effects those injuries may cause. This data is critical in the process of effectively moving personal injury cases along. A paralegal must understand medical jargon and have the ability to follow treatment recommendations and orders from treating physicians. I cannot stress enough the importance of understanding medical terminology in order to determine whether surgery or future medical care and expenses are required.

Non-Medical Records

In addition to mastering the art of ordering medical records, a paralegal must also understand what non-medical records may be required to move a case along. Depending on the initial intake, some of these record types may include employment records, academic records, financial records or a declaration page from an insurance adjuster. Useful paralegals also understand FOIA requests and the importance of performing legal, scientific, technical and medical research relative to the claim.

Legal Drafting

The primary purpose of a paralegal is to make their attorney’s job easier and to assist in the process of effectively moving a case along to resolution. Therefore, it is a paralegal’s job to prepare legal motions/pleadings, demands, settlement proposals and discovery for attorney review. Top paralegals can equally draft discovery and discovery responses, inclusive of all relative objections, for their attorney’s final review and modification. Most importantly, top performing paralegals will have these items already drafted, prepared and saved to the file for the attorney’s review based primarily on staying current with the pleadings thereby staying ahead of the game. Always overachieve.

Docket Control and Calendaring

Regardless of the area of specialty, it is understood that a litigation paralegal is responsible for monitoring all deadlines and calendaring all items of importance. This item was included based only on its general importance to any paralegal’s job duties.

Expert Retention and Medical Scheduling

Upon review of a client’s medical records from treating providers, a paralegal may be required to retain and thoroughly vet a medical expert as assigned by the attorney. This will also involve obtaining dates, scheduling treatment and arranging transportation if required. This will be required for any defendant medical examinations (DMEs) as well.

Trial Preparation and Trial

Paralegals organize exhibits, trial documents and evidence into trial binders to prepare for trial. Many paralegals are responsible for setting up any peripherals and exhibits in the courtroom and they assist attorneys in preparing witnesses, submitting bench books, issuing subpoenas and assisting with voir doir. Top paralegals may also be required to assist the attorney during trial by controlling the flow of exhibits, usually with a trial software like Trial Pad. Trial paralegals are the primary intermediaries between the clients, witnesses, attorneys and court staff throughout trial.

Regardless of your current job duties or responsibilities at this stage in your career, there should never come a time when you stop learning and striving to be a better paralegal. Always utilize your peers and share information that will lead to the growth of your team. I have worked with some amazing paralegals during my career and from them all; I have gained something substantial, inspiring, thought provoking or informative at the very least. Being trainable, approachable, flexible and self-starting are all traits which will lead to a successful paralegal career.