By: Jamie Collins
I recently came across a rather…how shall I say it, um…interesting article regarding paralegals and technology. And when I say interesting, it was a slanted piece authored by an attorney in North Carolina; one who has apparently carved out a blogging niche by making it his words on a screen mission to take a shot at paralegals. The title of this captivating online missive (captivating like you can’t believe you’re actually reading these words on a screen written by an alleged colleague and not someone holding himself out to be the omnipotent predictor of the damned) was “Your Paralegals Are an Embarrassment.” The gist of it was that robots and technology will undoubtedly take over our jobs, attorneys who have a lot of paralegals should be embarrassed, and if you work as a paralegal—you’re doomed. Some of you may have already read this gripping post which promises the death of your career.
** You really MUST click the link to read it for yourself, prior to reading my post today. Link to follow shortly. **
One paralegal sent me a link; another shared snippets of ethical material from North Carolina regarding attorney conduct; and one told me not to take the bait. But today’s post is not so much directed at the writer of the post promising the total annihilation of the paralegal field and all of the useless “future Uber drivers” working within it (his words, not mine). Rather, a certain blogging someone was driven out of the darkness to write, since she works as a paralegal and is not currently making swift preparations to sell her home on a short sale to move into a cardboard box, subsist on a diet of Saltine crackers, while begging technologically-superior-esquired-passersby for a nickel. So to those newbies getting ready to fill out those “drop” slips for your paralegal programs or clamoring to Uber to fill out applications—stand down. I repeat: stand down.
If you haven’t already read the aforementioned Proclamation of Doom (my words, not his), I highly recommend you do so. And to Mr. Rosen: (1) You’re welcome for the scorned paralegal traffic—I know you really wanted it.; and (2) As a writer, I can actually appreciate your willingness to draw a hard line and take a stand on a particular topic, even if I don’t agree with you, and even if it is at the expense of my entire profession. Your desire to spark interest and create controversy by taking 2,496 steps outside the traditional lawyer’s box is not entirely lost on me. You do make some salient points regarding technology, the underutilization of resources, old school mind-sets, and inner-office workings. But the rest is exactly what it was intended to be: a fervent effort to paint a small sampling of highly-tech savvy attorneys (the exception to the rule) with a condescendingly broad brush across the Internet to further the position that you are technologically superior to all other human beings, especially other attorneys, and paralegals live beneath one’s shoe.
No, a robot is not going to take over your job—at least not entirely.
Yes, times have changed. They will continue to. Let’s be real—these days you can rent a car off of the side of the road at a convenience kiosk. You can pay for that public parking spot curbside by swiping your charge card. You needn’t walk too far in public (say, 3 steps) to observe nearly every passerby’s eyes diverted downward, glazed over, peering at various i-screens to read the message of the moment, not the hour. There are apps galore for cell phones now in the form of watches. You can visit Google from your television set. And with a shift in new technology, certain aspects of legal jobs have gradually begun to die out, with new trends replacing them. I’ve seen dictation and transcription take a hard right along the ditch of the damned. (Can’t say I’ll miss it.) The duties of legal secretaries have morphed more into that of paralegals. And one needn’t look too far in the land of legal to hear terms like “litigation support” and “e-Discovery.” In certain parts of the country, freelance paralegals are all the rage. Paralegal certification is becoming more prominent with many turning a focused eye upon the potential regulation of the profession.
Have things changed? Absolutely. Will they continue to? You better believe it. The roles of paralegals will continue to evolve based upon firms’ and societal needs, more advanced skillsets and education, occupational trends, and yes, with the rise of technology and its continued immersion in our daily work lives. We will be doing far more with less.
But does that equate to the death of the paralegal? No. (Trust me, if the stress, deadlines, workload, and attorneys haven’t killed us yet, nothing will.) The role may change. The tasks may evolve. You may get new software or better systems. You may learn how to do things faster or better. Heck, one day, your attorney may even learn how to locate his own files or properly format a legal document—it could happen. One day, they may even potentially call us by an alternate title. But don’t go picking out your career tombstone just yet…
Here at The Paralegal Society, we’re all about offering support to our fellow paralegals. In fact, so much so, we decided to launch a support group for those paralegals who will miss the following tasks which may be taken from you: creating labels for file folders and redwells, doing manual filing, basic data entry, fetching coffee, transcription duties, ordering supplies/medical records/documents, tasks which do not involve much by way of substantive skill or analytical ability, and other menial tasks. The members of this distinguished support group are as follows:
Ahem, this is where the list would be if any paralegal on the planet would actually miss those menial tasks. Note: This is a complete list and there is no one on it.
The day the robot can actually field phone calls like a living, breathing, caring human being, act as a liaison to clients, work on trial strategy, prepare clients for depositions and trial, make clients over for trial purposes which includes a hell of a lot of shopping, read an esquire’s mind, find inconsistencies in case-related matters, make the attorney look damn good, and fetch all those missing files/documents, along with my sanity—do send it immediately. I’m all in. I will seriously begin to contemplate my severance package and cabana rental at that time.
Lastly, at Mr. Rosen, I’d love to interview a few of your former and/or current paralegals. I mean, in the event you actually have one or two. Yes, you can even pick them. They may have some really nice things to say about you. It’s entirely possible. In the event you’re down, I’m pretty sure you know where to find me.
(It’s not beneath your shoe.)
And if you should ever feel inclined to give to charity, I’m pretty sure I can arrange your presence in a dunk tank at a paralegal event anywhere in the country.
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