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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.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Russian Phone Roulette

One of the trickiest parts of my job is knowing when to stop a conversation. This challenge arises because of the UPL line, ethical issues, and sometimes plain common sense. Of course, with most people, clients, opposing counsel, and the like, this is usually a complete non-issue. Most people I talk to understand my role as explained to them by the Boss and myself.

But even though clients may understand my role, some of them still find ways to push the envelope. Sometimes the envelope is addressed to "Ethics Dept.," and I avoid it like sin. Other times, the envelope is labeled "irrational" or "stubborn" and I have to find a delicate way to pry myself away from the situation so that I can pass the buzz-kill of a conversation to the Boss to deal with. (Hey, that's why they pay him the big bucks.) In these conversations, clients say things like, "Go ahead and probate the will. I don't want to have to go through the court to do this." Or they might try convincing me that the Boss and I don't understand what a Waiver and Consent form does. Or they tell us to "take the next step" in a process without really knowing (or asking) what that next step is.

In these instances, my role has been to let the Boss explain the situation in detail. However, when the Boss is unavailable, these become some of the most difficult conversations to end. When I say, "I will have the Boss call you back to explain this matter," the callers seem to immediately sense that they are getting something wrong. Of course, in order to compensate, they continue trying to convince me they are right. It's a vicious cycle that can eat up precious minutes in the day. Then again, upon reflection, it's a silly cycle, too. It makes the routine act of picking up a phone feel a little like Russian Roulette (without the danger of bodily harm... usually).


  1. You're right. No danger of bodily harm, but sometimes great risk of being the recipient of some "language" :o

    In these circumstances, I just keep gently reminding callers that I'm a paralegal and not a lawyer - and that I am writing down all their questions and concerns to immediately email to the attorney for consideration and response. But this process can take a while when it's not the response they want!

  2. I have found that when you're giving someone an answer he does not want to hear, he will often ignore you. :^) Yet another reason I like my job - it lends to a good study of human nature.