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Profile: Dwayne Krager, litigation paralegal, Reinhart, Boerner, Van Deuren, s.c., Milwaukee

published July 25, 2005

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( 31 votes, average: 4.4 out of 5)
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<<Dwayne Krager's career is multi-faceted. As a litigation paralegal with Reinhart, Boerner, Van Deuren, s.c., he handles a heavy caseload, manages the firm's technology training and management and runs the firm's mock courtroom, which he helped create.

That courtroom, the Trial Science Institute, is one of the first of its kind in the nation. The Institute was created to help prepare lawyers and litigants for trials. The courtroom uses computers and monitors and has three jury rooms, which the firm videotapes to observe the mock jurors as they deliberate. The court officially opened in 1999.

As soon as Mr. Krager heard the firm planned to build the courtroom, he volunteered to get involved in the project. He had a strong technology background and had been active in bringing electronic discovery to Reinhart. His initiative paid off. Mr. Krager is director of operations of the institute, which is used by both Reinhart attorneys and various other law firms, consulting companies and mock court competitions.

"That's something that not every paralegal is going to be able to do," Mr. Krager said. "It's kind of an oddity more than a norm. But that doesn't meant they shouldn't know courtrooms, just that they may not be building one."

Mr. Krager was instrumental in designing the courtroom and considers the institute one of his greatest professional achievements. Mr. Krager, who was recently named one of the tope 15 paralegals in the country by legal author Carole Bruno, said it's important for legal staff to be proactive and volunteer for projects outside their normal duties.

"What a lot of paralegals do is they'll get into a job and perform the functions that exist. And what makes me, I guess, unique, is not only do I do those functions, but I also try to find time to learn about what may be the future," he said. "I knew electronic discovery was going to be a big thing, because I spoke to colleagues and people in the industry. And so I learned about it ahead of time so that when it came up, we were prepared."

But paralegals don't have a crystal ball. Anticipating the future and spotting trends comes with experience, Mr. Krager said. But paralegals can help themselves by reading all they can and by actively participating in professional associations.

"There's really no courses out there that teach you to do certain tasks," he said. "There are procedural things you can learn, but the reality of how to get things done and completed, you learn that on the job."

In school, paralegals and attorneys often learn more theory than practice, so finding mentors and asking a lot of questions is key to making it at a law firm, he said.

Mr. Krager, who was raised in Chicago the youngest of 10 children, attended Roosevelt University's paralegal program after earning a BA from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He initially worked in radio broadcasting, but found the field too unpredictable.

He was the first in his family to go to college and he wanted job security. He found that in the legal field.

In 1989, Mr. Krager was selected to participate in a program to develop one of the most widely used litigation support programs and he eventually implemented Summation as the main software program at Reinhart.

He urges new paralegals to be adaptable and to try to think a few steps ahead of the attorneys they support.

"What it really comes down to is you need to adapt to their style and if you can do that you'll be successful," he said. "But if you have your own style and are used to doing things a certain way, it's really not going to work."

Mr. Krager said an example of anticipating attorney needs could be securing and copying important documents long before you're asked to. When the firm takes on a case, it's a good idea to ask right away what documents will be most important. Then you can be ready in advance.

"The only way to survive is to try to prioritize and focus," he said. "You can have ten tasks to do, but those ten tasks aren't necessarily due that very moment. So we get freaked out 'oh I've got these ten things to do'. But if you prioritize and try to figure out what is more important" you and the attorney will have an easier time.

Too many new paralegals, he said, are too intimidated to ask for direct deadlines and further instructions on an assignment. And not all attorneys are great communicators. It can be a recipe for disaster.

"A lot of people get in trouble, especially when they're brand new," he said. "They'll get all these assignments on their desk and they'll work until 1, 2, 3 o'clock in the morning to get everything done. And while that may look like a hard worker, the reality is once you get passed so many hours your work depreciates. The quality of your work depreciates. If you turn in an assignment to somebody that's not good, then they lose confidence in you and they won't work with you."

Clearly Mr. Krager's attorneys have confidence in him. Aside from organizing countless mock trials, he also often gets to play the judge.

published July 25, 2005

( 31 votes, average: 4.4 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.