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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.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Spotlight on Minnesota

I normally leave the paralegal news commentary to Mr. Mongue over at the Empowered Paralegal Blog or Lynne DeVenney at Practical Paralegalism. However, tonight I stumbled upon an interesting story at the Minnesota Daily online. The story is not particularly significant to the greater world outside of Minnesota, but I always enjoy reading how other states approach the practice of law.

The story here, entitled Former Student Sues U For Poor Advice, describes a suit pressing forward in "Concliation Court," which is known in my state as Small Claims Court. A former student is suing the University for poor advice regarding class selection and is seeking a reimbursement of tuition fees. The case seems pretty straightforward - small claims cases usually are. Perhaps this is why the University is being represented in the matter by a paralegal rather than an attorney.

The story explains: "Paralegals, who aren’t licensed to practice law, are able to provide representation in conciliation court cases when a party — in this case the University — grants them power of attorney, University Deputy General Counsel Bill Donohue said."

Apparently Minnesota is one of those special places that has carved out a niche for paralegal representation. Though the article does not go into detail, I imagine that the paralegal is still working under the supervision, albeit flexible supervision, of an attorney.

I have to say that I do like this idea. It keeps the attorneys free to focus on more complex legal issues with higher stakes. If the paralegal is skilled and experienced, and if she keeps a supervising lawyer up to date on the progress of the case, this type of situation could work well for everyone.

The plaintiff in this case is also a certified paralegal, and though the article does not address her representation, I assume she is pro se. I imagine that if she had retained an attorney, the University also would have wanted attorney representation.

Sometimes I get the feeling that the Boss would send me to small claims court if he legally could. It would free him up to hide out in his office and get work done. We would be ultra productive. We would be, like, the super team of law. Ah, if only.

So read the story, and let me know what you think. Does your state have a Minnesota-style exception for representation by paralegals or other non-lawyer legal professionals?

1 comment:

  1. The exception to the rule lies within the unauthorized practice of law statute wherein anyone (paralegals included) in a business office (law firms included)can represent the firm/company in conciliation court. Its considered the office manager exception by some--here in MN anyway. Typically these are collection-type matters or smaller monetary requests from plaintiff. Here in MN, anything over $7,500.00 must be in district court and then the attorney would need to take over. Minn. Stat. 481.02 Subd.3(12), in case anyone is interested.