Case Assessment StrategiesThe Paralegal Resource
February 3, 2014 — 1,013 views
If you are a paralegal, chances are you help clients or lawyers with legal issues such as an eviction or completion of some documents before filing them in the courthouse. As a paralegal, you will no doubt need soft skills such as the ability to communicate, draft error-free documents, and manage your time well.
You will also be required to take up case assessment tasks like client and witness interviews, gathering facts, carrying out research, and getting documents in place.
Witness interviews are important, and tools such as note-taking, making eye contact, and creating a summary of the interview are crucial during case management.
Clients and Disclosures
It is important that paralegals make their role very clear to the clients because the latter needs to know that their revelations in front of a lawyer and a paralegal are not treated the same way.
When helping lawyers or attorneys for a trial, paralegals have to take up case management in a very organized manner. Witnesses will have to be entertained and spoken to; briefs ahead of the trial need to be drafted, and all documents should be prepared and organized ahead of the trial.
Make sure there are no conflicts of interest, and put a system in place to detect any early on – this is a key case assessment strategy. Also, an important aspect of case management is not to discuss issues relating to the client outside the purview of the specific case. All your conversations with clients need to be documented; don’t allow any speculation either on your--or the client’s part.
Case management strategies ahead of trial involve pre-trial memorandum, which is a document that has on its record every bit of paper that has changed hands during the case, and also mentions all witnesses who figure in the specific case.
The trial exhibit list is a document which has to be prepared in advance and should be done in a simple, easy-to-access manner, to be used within the firm. The trial witness list also follows the same pattern of the exhibit list, only it will note the specific days and witnesses who testified on those days. The witness notebook is a key document and carries information of your witnesses, with their contact information, and updates of their performance in court, or when they are available.
Files for a trial need to be organized right from the very beginning and must be constantly updated with correspondence, pleadings, invoices bills, witness lists, etc.
Dealing with the Experts
It is important to know when to bring in experts and not pushing it for too late. An important case assessment strategy is to do background checks of these experts and to keep all documentation about them handy. Sending materials in simple, organized formats so that the experts could review them properly is also vital.
Getting a hold of the documents your firm already has and understanding how they have been drafted, and what systems are in place is a key factor to learn early on in your career; and plays a role in efficient case management.