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Law Interns Who Work in Law Library, Conference Room and Other Places

published February 21, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
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( 5 votes, average: 3.6 out of 5)
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A solo practitioner sometimes keeps a collection of law books in his or her own office, but most often, the law library is in a separate room, used by all the attorneys and paralegals in the office. Large firms may have a librarian who keeps the volumes updated, maintains books in their proper order, assists researchers, schedules special use of the room and perhaps schedules use of the library's computer-assisted legal research terminals. Smaller firms assign some of these responsibilities to a legal secretary or paralegal.
Law Interns Who Work in Law Library, Conference Room and Other Places

In office suite arrangements in which certain facilities are shared by numerous (usually solo) law firms, the law library may be used by people from outside your office. Sometimes the law library doubles as a conference room. Consequently, interns whose jobs include legal research sometimes find themselves competing with others for access to certain books, space at the library worktable, or even entrance to the room itself. Meeting your project deadlines while others are also trying to meet theirs can suddenly become complicated.

To help your research go smoothly while not interfering with the work of others, a few guidelines should be kept in mind:
  • If your office has a librarian, get to know this person early on. He or she can be a great help to you.
  • Ask your supervisor to explain any rules regarding use of the office's law library.
  • If your library is sometimes used for conferences, check the conference schedule when you first arrive each day so you can plan your research around it.
  • Do not remove books from the library unless you know that is permitted; follow any customary sign-out procedures and return the books as soon as possible for others' use.
  • When working in the library, have with you only the papers you actually need; leave space at the worktable for others who may come in to do research as well.
  • Be gentle with books you are photocopying. Do not break a book's binding or spine.
  • Before leaving the library, return books to their proper sequence on the shelves so that others can find them.
  • Take all papers and files with you when you leave.

The Conference Room

An intern will not usually have much involvement with conference rooms except perhaps to assist the supervising attorney at a meeting. However, when you have a big project involving many files and papers, the conference table can be a great place to spread things out. Before doing so, make sure that the room has not been booked for a meeting during the time you will be working.

Computers and Office Equipment

Most paralegal interns have already had some experience with computers, copiers, answering machines, and perhaps fax machines. Nevertheless, interns may find that office versions are more complex and sophisticated than what they have used in the past. New operating methods always have to be learned. If you did not receive instruction on using the office's computers and other equipment during your initial orientation, then you need to do so right away. Practice and become comfortable with your office's computer system before using it for serious work. Never eat or drink around computer equipment.

Regarding computer usage, some issues to clarify include:
  • Which computer(s) are you permitted to use?
  • If you are sharing a computer with someone else, what schedule can be worked out for predictable access?
  • If your office's computers are networked, what is your password and how do you log on?
  • If the office's word processor is new to you, can someone instruct you on using it? Is a manual available?
  • From whom can you get instruction on other computer programs you may need to use, such as for timekeeping, calendaring deadlines, and e-mail? Are manuals or written instructions available for these programs?
  • If you have access to computer-assisted legal research (CALR), who authorizes its use and what time constraints apply?
  • Must the use of CALR facilities be scheduled in advance? What about research by CD-ROM-must this also be scheduled in advance? If so, what is the scheduling procedure?

During their first days at the office, interns should also get instruction on using the office's copier and fax machine. Some offices require users to record certain information each time these machines are used. When sending a fax transmission, for example, certain information may have to be recorded in a fax log kept by the machine. Such information typically includes the date, the user's name, the client's name or file number, the fax number being called, a description of the document being faxed, and the number of pages faxed. In other offices, data may be punched into the machine itself and a record is printed by the machine. The printout may be added to a client's file or sent to the bookkeeping office, or both. Eventually the fax transmission is included in the client's bill as a reimbursable expense.

In some offices, computer-drafted documents are faxed by modem. If an intern is permitted to do this, instruction will be needed on using the office's particular system.

Copies are also a billable expense in many law offices, so similar records may be made each time someone makes copies. Again, the record may be prepared by the copy machine itself (using data the user punches into the machine) or handwritten into a nearby logbook.

The intern may be assigned a personal code number for using the copier and will probably need a few minutes of instruction on how to operate it. Alternatively, an instruction manual may be kept right near the machine and this can be consulted.

In a busy office, interns may sometimes find themselves waiting in line for access to the copier or fax machine. Saving your faxes or copying chores for when the machine is free helps use your time to best advantage. Otherwise, patience is the only recourse-along with courtesy to those who are waiting behind you. An offer to assist the current user may make things go faster.

Scrupulous honesty and care are required whenever one person is responsible for another person's money or property. Students learn this basic ethics principle as a part of their paralegal education. Putting the principle into practice may be a bit more difficult, however, when faced with the complexities and fast pace of office life.

The following sections address this issue in the context of:
  1. client funds and client trust accounts, and
  2. expenses for which clients are billed or for which interns may be reimbursed.

Some interns - particularly those in small offices - may be involved in depositing or writing checks on the job. The following guidelines should help avoid even the accidental breach of the office's fiduciary responsibilities regarding client trust funds:
  • When depositing a check written by a client, get clear instructions about which account it goes to.
  • When writing a check for filing fees or other litigation expenses/ ask what account it should be written against -the client's or the office's? Be sure to follow instructions exactly.
  • When writing a check for any office expense, always be sure you are writing it against the office's operating account, unless specifically directed otherwise.
  • Never write a check for bar dues, continuing legal education seminars, or professional liability insurance against a client trust account! As obvious a breach as this seems, it has happened in some offices-perhaps inadvertently. It can result in immediate disciplinary action and other serious consequences.

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Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

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published February 21, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 5 votes, average: 3.6 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.