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By: Susan D. Bizzell, J.D.-M.H.A. (Guest Blogger)
Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman, P.C.

Greetings, TPS Paralegals! Today, successful attorney, Susan Bizzell is here to share some terrific career tips with all of us at The Paralegal Society on how to effectively assist an attorney in the area of transactional health law and the transactional realm, in general. We hope you enjoy this fantastic attorney-authored article! 

My practice is in the area of health care in which I advise client health care providers and suppliers about how to comply with the myriad of health laws that affect their business relationships and virtually everything they do. Hall Render’s goal is to advise our clients in a manner that will decrease the risk of litigation and government scrutiny as much as possible. When litigation needs do arise, my colleagues in our litigation section serve those needs well.

I feel honored to have the opportunity to write this article from the standpoint of a transactional health law practice. I have listed a few random thoughts below about how a paralegal can be most helpful to me.

1. Writing. I will start with a general comment that probably states the obvious… Pay attention to detail and write well. Lawyers constantly work to improve their writing and I recommend you do the same. Review your writing for grammatical errors, awkward clauses, passive writing, etc. When appropriate, follow IRAC (issue, rule, analysis, and conclusion). Practical take-away: Never be completely satisfied with your writing skills.

2. Communication. Generally. Communication, both written and verbal, is one of the most important factors in the paralegal-lawyer relationship. I completely understand that lawyers can vary greatly on this point. Some want a lot of communication about various tasks. Others just expect you to run with an assignment, and they do not want to hear back very much from their paralegals. Practical take-away: Try to accommodate each lawyer’s preference on this and if you find that your style and your lawyer’s style differ greatly (for example, the lawyer does not want to hear reports from you very often, but that makes you uncomfortable), it would be prudent to discuss this concern with the lawyer and try to find a compromise.

3. Data. In my practice, I sometimes need paralegal assistance when I have a large amount of data, usually in a spreadsheet. For example, we might have a project that involves a large number of individual health care claims over a period of time. In those instances, I need a paralegal who understands his or her way around a spreadsheet, knows how to manipulate the data in a variety of ways, and can summarize the vast amount of information in a way that is understandable and accurate. Most importantly, the paralegal needs to understand what the end goal is so that he or she can achieve it. A paralegal with these skills is a huge asset to me. Practical take-away: Hone your spreadsheet skills and ensure you understand the ultimate goal for the data.

4. Project Management. Another area in which it is helpful to have the assistance of a paralegal is when there is a large project that requires someone to serve as a project manager. For example, maybe a large client is performing a compliance audit or there is a due diligence project. In both instances, there is often an enormous amount of data (for example, hundreds or thousands of contracts and years worth of meeting minutes). For a variety of reasons, there is always a very short deadline for my colleagues and I to review these and other materials, perhaps do follow-up interviews with individuals for additional information, and then write a report that is accurate and user-friendly for the ultimate reader. In order to accomplish this, it is necessary to identify key steps that need to be taken, set deadlines for such steps, and then professionally, but firmly, push the project along. Practical take-away: Hone your project management skills. Make sure you understand the start and end points and the types of tasks in between that need to be taken to reach the ultimate goal.

5. Client. I have a couple of thoughts that fall into this category. First, in a transactional setting, most everyone with whom a paralegal (and lawyer for that matter) works should be treated as a client, regardless of whether they are other paralegals, legal secretaries, various attorneys within the firm, etc. Second, although you might be doing work to most immediately help the lawyer, always remember that the work you are doing is to further the needs/wants of the paying client. If everyone, regardless of job title, keeps this in mind as a common goal, I think it facilitates getting the work done, done well, and before the deadline.

Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to make some comments. I hope that this is helpful.

Susan is a shareholder with Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman, P.C. Hall Render provides health care organizations with full service legal representation. Established in 1967, Hall Render focuses its practice in health law and is now recognized as one of the nation’s preeminent health law firms.

More than 160 Hall Render attorneys represent 500-plus organizations in a range of health care-related issues from fraud and abuse to real estate contracts to HIPAA and tax regulations.

To see Susan’s full bio, go to: http://www.hallrender.com/our_people/attorneys/susan_bizzell/

Hall Render Killian Heath and Lyman 

To learn more, visit us at hallrender.com.

We’d like to say a special thanks to Susan for taking the time to write this article for us. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!  Please feel free to leave a comment, share a thought or ask a question via the comment bar. 

Be sure to watch for Part II of “A Shout Out to Paralegals Who Plan,” which will offer specific tips on how to deal with a random crisis while gripping that to-do list tightly in your paralegal clutches, as you attempt to remain calm and sane under pressure. Look for it later this week, TPS readers!

See you soon!