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Lindsay Valek

By: Lindsay Valek (Guest Blogger)

Welcome back, TPSers!

Disclaimer: If you’re looking for fluff and no stuff, you came to the wrong place! Today, Lindsay is back to share her candid and humorous wisdom on the fascinating topic of paralegaling. As she so eloquently stated in the title, “Guiding Light Couldn’t Make This Stuff Up!” You gotta love it.

We certainly do…

I’m Lindsay Valek – paralegal of seven years, potter, hoarder of historical biographies, and frequenter of thrift stores to the point that local proprietors know me by name. I have written pieces abhorring the Bar for not implementing a paralegal certification program and proclaiming to the legal world that unless your paper-cut fingers have bled all over a document production, it shouldn’t be considered litigation.

I’ve worked on everything from class actions to legal malpractice to workers’ compensation. My favorite? Trust disputes. There is nothing juicier, racier or sexier than cousins, paramours, trustees and third ex-wives removed fighting amongst one another like toddlers in a sandpit. “Guiding Light” couldn’t make this stuff up. My experience in trust disputes has provided many of my career’s most memorable moments. I’ve had a lumberjack client sob on my shoulder, my fanny smacked (twice) and was once locked in my office and commanded to transcribe a client’s verbal stream of thought.

The legal world has taught me more than I have ever wanted to know. Paralegals have the privilege of seeing, touching and feeling the most intimate parts of our clients’ lives. Let’s be honest – we’re not selling sweaters here. This profession wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the harsh reality that conflict exists everywhere. No matter what area of law you work in, be it family, contract, probate or personal injury, clients come to us to solve problems. We owe it to them to give a damn. Sure, we could scan those interrogatories and lazily conjure up some lame objection that it’s “unduly burdensome,” but don’t we have a responsibility to give our clients more than that?

Which leads me to a pet peeve. I’ll preface it by admitting I am by no means perfect. I have many, many flaws, among them the inability to communicate effectively with IT personnel, a defiance against justifying why I need a three-ring binder (just give it to me) and a certain loathing for efforts to protect the environment when I know good and well our clients don’t care how many trees I kill if I can save them a million dollars. That said, ladies and gents, let’s take a little ownership in our work. I’ll concede that Bates labeling is a mind-numbing task that a monkey could do, but when we index those little numbers and put them into a fun chart that describes the document, it allows us to find a very specific e-mail in a pinch.

Picture it: You’re in a courtroom when your boss whispers, “I need that January, ‘96 email from Bob.” There are a myriad of responses I could insert here:

“Who’s Bob?”

“I gave it to you last night.”

“Which document production was that?”

“It’s in front of your face.”

All accurate responses, none of which actually solve the problem. Frantically you begin searching, feeling the weight of your boss’s glare and knowing it is merely moments before he rises to argue his objection. Seconds feel like minutes. This problem can be avoided. Know the documents. Know the case. Take the time to learn who Bob is and why he’s important. In short: Take ownership.

Nothing gets me more fired up than 12 bankers boxes of documents that opposing counsel blew a fan through. I know smarty pants attorney “A” assumed that no human being in their right mind would actually lay their eyes upon each and every piece of paper. Oh, how very wrong they would be. If you send documents to my boss, be afraid. Be very afraid. Not only will I stick little stickers on each and every one, but I will tirelessly find each piece of the e-mail string proving once and for all that not only did you have a joint venture agreement but that your client’s wife drafted it and then forwarded it to our client. If it’s in there, I will find it. I consider it a personal mission.

With that, I will step off my soapbox.

This paralegal gig has also afforded me some of most rewarding moments of my life. I’ve seen the kindness of an attorney who helped me change a flat tire in the parking lot of the Spartanburg county courthouse in August (he was the opposing counsel). I’ve seen the weight removed from a CEO’s shoulders when his case was settled after nine grueling days of trial. I’ve received a thank-you letter from an injured worker whose claim was clinchered out and I received the biggest compliment of my professional career from a former boss who told me I was the best paralegal he ever hired. This, from a man of very few words, was a pinnacle moment in my career.

I hope my guest posts will provide perspective and a little humor about this profession which we love to hate and hate to love. What you won’t find here is fluff. It’s not who I am and it’s not what I’m capable of writing about. Don’t expect a piece about paralegals’ role in witness preparation. I received a CLE notification on this very topic the other day and laughed so hard I nearly fell off the chair.

What you will read is an honest account that at times may be funny, other times down-right sad but, hopefully, always entertaining. Let’s face it – this job is nothing if not glamorous (insert eye roll here). Until “Vogue” calls me back about the “Working Women” spread, I’ll be here, writing on everything from the delicate dance we perform with the IT department, the most effective method of law clerk communication and our affinity for staplers that don’t jam.

I’m thrilled to be writing and I hope you’ll be thrilled to read, although I’ll settle for perversely drawn to what I’ll say next.

Lindsay Valek is a Litigation Technology Specialist for the McNair Law Firm, in Columbia, South Carolina. She can be reached at lindsayvalek@hotmail.com.

Lindsay’s exchange about “Bob” totally cracks me up! Ha ha. Just imagine it. I know I can. (Well, not actually doing it, but how funny it would be for an oh so momentary, split second before you were issued the soul penetrating, laser beam, death stare from the esquire). We agree that taking ownership is absolutely critical.

We’re very excited to share the upcoming posts we have planned for you! We think [strike that] we know you’re gonna love ’em! Be sure to stop by the TPS sanity station on Monday, when we’ll be sharing one of my favorite posts of all time. No lie. It’s that good. It wasn’t even written for paralegals, but you’ll certainly think it was. You can go ahead and tender that mental, TPS R.S.V.P. right now because you’re not gonna want to miss it!

Embrace the weekend. Seize the freedom. RUN!!!

See you Monday.