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Observations About The Litigation Process

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Litigation includes every practice area, and specialty practice areas, such as Bankruptcy, Real Estate and numerous other categories, share some common elements. That is why many of the observations made about the litigation paralegal can and do apply to all paralegals. The issue of time is ubiquitous in the law. A paralegal who neglects issues of time in any practice area will suffer. Organization and scheduling and document retrieval are also universally applicable to all paralegals. Further discussions about paralegal positions in various specialty areas and practices will focus more on the specifics of that job, but keep in mind that all paralegal jobs are concerned with schedules, filing dates, and due dates; that all paralegal jobs focus on documentation (its acquisition, labeling, organization, indexing, and quick retrieval). This may sound too obvious, but many graduates of paralegal programs get focused on grades, legal theory, issue argumentation, and the hustle and bustle of a busy job-and forget the basics. This they do at their peril.

Observations About The Litigation Process


Let us look at some basic paralegal job descriptions from other areas of discipline to observe their differences and similarities.

The Bankruptcy Paralegal

Working for the debtor A good representative entry-level paralegal job could be in the office of a sole practitioner who deals with bankruptcy law and domestic law.

Fifty to ninety percent of such a practice could be in bankruptcy. Many advertise in the Yellow Pages and take in mostly Chapter 7's (debtor). In this position a paralegal in such an office will do virtually everything that a support person can do. In larger firms that do a greater volume of business, the job is more narrowly described, but in both cases, there will be some constants.
  1. You will participate in client interviews.


  2. You will meet with clients to complete petitions and schedules.


  3. You will be assigned the drafting of routine motions, filing and organizing of case files, and preparing of a "tickler system" and/or docketing schedule.


  4. You will be on the phone quite a bit with creditors and you will take trips to the court to attend hearings and file petitions.
There is a personal component that should not be overlooked. Strong emotions surround this experience for your clients, so you must be a calm force in the middle of a hurricane of tension, questions, and a deep desire to just "get all this done and finished." Master the filing deadlines and U.S. Bankruptcy Rules. It also does not hurt to befriend the court clerks at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in your area. Your attorney will rely upon you to be on top of the cases with which you are entrusted. You should be able to give a quick report to the attorney asking about the status of a case.

Working for the creditor

Paralegals who work for creditors are working for clients who are business concerns, banks, or other such entities. Larger firms often have such clients, and thus the bankruptcy work sometimes naturally falls to them. This work usually involves Chapter ll's more than Chapter 7's.

There is a greater emphasis therefore on cases with hundreds and even thousands of documents involving the potential demise of a business or corporation. Document control, computer and word processing skills, and big-case management come into play. In fact, the work differs vastly for a creditor- and a debtor-orientation, yet you are dealing with the same court and rules.

With creditor bankruptcy law you will:
  1. File documents and prepare motions
  2. Review case files and motions and be the "fact expert" on those cases (There are lots of numbers and calculations in this area; be ready for numbers.)
  3. Do docketing, attend hearings
  4. Review court files
Working for the Chapter 7 trustee

A woman who works for a Chapter 7 trustee exclaims that she enjoys the work because she "meets all the players" and gets to know lots of people. She works on a database for the bankruptcy system. She feels as if she is in the very middle of the process and enjoys bringing things to a resolution. This paralegal job requires staying on top of other people's business. "There is a relief," she says, "in not worrying about whether everything is correct before filing, and there is a sense of control in working for the trustee."

The Real Estate Paralegal

This kind of paralegal works with fixed forms and among the many moving parts of the world of real estate law. This world can encompass foreclosures, closings, quiet title actions, and the realm of title companies. (By the way, title companies are hiring more and more paralegals because of their excellent awareness of the basic issues involved. Pay is increasing in some areas of the country and paralegals are being promoted up into management at title companies.)

The closing

The main tension-producing moment in this practice area is the closing. It is a moment in time at which everyone concerned must be in attendance, everyone in attendance must be of complete agreement, and everyone in attendance must have documents that agree with everyone else's. It is the climax of agreement coming from parties who may have been at odds with each other for days (or weeks or months).

The real estate paralegal has to have an eye for detail and an ability to bring comprehension, consistency, and accuracy to literally hundreds of documents. This process can be both dreaded and addictive. Understand that real estate class can in no way imitate what the closing is. One woman who owns a successful agency marketing temporary paralegals to a large metropolitan area once declared,

Never say you'll never go into a certain practice area. Keep your options open. I swore I would never go into Real Estate based upon my classroom experience. Five years later, I had five years of experience in Real Estate. I became addicted to that practice area.

Your firm may represent the buyer or the seller in a closing, and might also represent the borrower/lender. The documents, checklists, and pre-closing steps differ depending on whom you are helping. The process is a constant interrelating of all the parties involved. Contracts must be drafted, as well as addendums and counterproposals, and all the while each must coordinate with the other to be sure there is agreement. Title work will have to be done while you are ordering special coverage and a tax certificate. There will be a surveyor, who may have changes and corrections on his work. Loan pay-off documents must be prepared, assumable loans and new loans will all have to have the proper documentation, and leases must be reviewed and checked in case they might affect the closing. And all the while, you must be taking care that any docu-merits that are not viable do not get mixed up with the new corrected versions. It always falls to the paralegal to double- and triple-check that all the documents are current and correct.

Work toward the closing must be done with one eye toward complete accuracy and the other on the clock. Inaccuracy can kill a closing, but mostly it can cost time, which is crucial at closings. Check the Deeds and Bill of Sale and all the pertinent loan documents. Remember you will be obtaining the canceled notes, releases, and new title policies. And don't forget those originals. With just a brief snapshot of what goes on at a closing, you can see the "adrenaline rush" that participants enjoy as they mount their efforts and watch something come to a resolved conclusion.

If you are working with a bank as borrower, you will be involved with corporate law too. There will be U.C.C. searches, certificates of good standing for corporations or certificates of registration for limited partnerships. There will be lien waivers and certificates of completion if a construction project is involved. There will be zoning questions and ordinances to be followed. In these situations paralegals are relied upon for the initial acquisition and verification of many of these documents. They must be thorough and have great amounts of what many applicants call "follow through."



Popular tags

Bankruptcy Paralegal      Chapter 7      Real Estate Paralegal     

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