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Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Small town paralegal in the city. Once ran a law office, now being run by one. Med mal defense litigation. I think it's growing on me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Paralegal with Many Faces

The Boss recently surprised me with brand new, uber professional business cards. They look just like his, but with my name and designation as a certified paralegal NALA-style. I have worked for him for nearly two years, but this moment spoke to me in an I-am-here-to-stay kind of way. I definitely can't leave before using all of those business cards, at any rate.

As I read my card, with my title printed so clearly, I began thinking of all the things I do as the paralegal at our tiny firm. I am the clerical staff, the mail room, the coffee maker, the filer, the runner, the paralegal (of course), the notary public, and the receptionist. I take on all of these roles as the need arises, just like most people who work in small offices. The Boss, also, is not too proud to pour his own coffee, or to answer the phone when necessary. I've even caught him making copies before. This is the nature of a small office. When the population of the workplace constitutes the owner and his one employee, both are pretty self-sufficient.

Apparently the big firms require less effort from their attorneys when it comes to tasks that don't require a license. Our new neighbor, we'll call him Newbie, who just left a big firm and now works in the office above us, has convinced me of this. He had been with the big guys just long enough to forget how to function without the full support staff- paralegals, secretaries, IT professionals, etc. His current staff consists of his wife on a part-time basis until they learn that working together will result in one of their untimely deaths (very likely his own). But when she is not there, he relies from time to time on my expertise in certain areas, such as "where things go" when they are scanned into a computer.

It all began with a phone call last week asking me how to save a document as a PDF. I explained that we use CutePDFWriter. He ended up emailing me the documents so that I could save, convert, and email them back to him as PDFs. The next call came hours later, asking what kind of scanner the Boss has. The Boss and I both have all-in-one printer/copier/fax/scanners. I think they are fabulous. Newbie informed me that he already had a printer, so an all-in-one machine could get redundant. A few hours later, he returned with an all-in-one machine.

It was not long before another call came in.
"Do you have any extra USB cords down there?"
I checked. We didn't.
"My scanner didn't come a USB cord."

I went upstairs to examine the situation. He was right. His machine did not come with a USB cord. I think that's the way it is these days. The companies just expect you to have your own cord. "You'll have to buy one," I shrugged. But he needed to scan something that very moment. I asked if he had any USB cords hooked to something else that he could afford to go without for a bit. "Well," he hesitated, "I suppose I could unplug my printer's USB cord, at least for awhile." I tried not to smirk then as I asked, "Is there a reason you don't want to use your new all-in-one as your printer, too?"

But this is not where it ends, Reader. Once we had him up and running, I returned to my desk downstairs. I was right in the middle of recording an entry in my notary journal when the phone rang again. "When you scan something, where does it go?" I marched up the wooded stairs in my heels one more time to show him how to name a file and direct where it is to be saved. I'm sure this information was somewhere in a manual that came with the machine, but he did not appear to have time to look. I'm not sure the thought of a manual ever crossed his mind, actually. I suppose in big firms, IT is but a phone call away, and the secretary scans all of your documents for you.

The Boss just shook his head when I returned to our office. He was smirking, and I think I heard him mutter something about "fancy lawyers" when I walked past his door. As for me, I have one more title to add to my rather long list: IT Extraordinaire!


  1. I hope you're sending him a bill for your services! What a dork.

  2. Agreed. That expertise doesn't come free, and given the staffing of your firm you probably missed some calls in the mean time or could have done something else more useful.