Just Ask What Your Paralegal Can Do for You (Under
Your Supervision, of Course)
In January 1995, I hired our first paralegal to join the staff at the Attorney
Grievance Commission; a second was added in April 1997. I knew those additions
to our staff would prove invaluable anticipating the areas in which each would
In addition to legal research and maintenance of our own internal disciplinary
research list, one has the responsibility of analyzing trust account records
of an attorney under investigation (which removed that task from an investigator
and an attorney), and has testified in several disciplinary cases concerning
his findings. He also developed a package to send to attorneys explaining the
requirements of an escrow account and the IOLTA program. He is also responsible
for receiving all overdraft notifications and confers with Bar Counsel or Deputy
Bar Counsel on how to handle a response from the attorney subject of the overdraft.
Both paralegals together with one or more attorneys assist when it is necessary
to assume conservatorship over the files of a sanctioned or deceased attorney.
This has required tasks which include picking up those files (often in more
than one location), creating a database for each file and contacting the clients
for their files.
One keeps records of the targeted mails which must be sent to our office
and records of those attorneys who hire disbarred or suspended attorneys to
assure compliance with Maryland Rule of Professional Conduct 5.3(d). Responses
are also prepared to requests from the American Bar Association's discipline
data bank and, as necessary, responses are made to e-mail inquires to our office
when the answer by an attorney is not necessary. He also sees that our data
is both backed-up daily and properly secured, and is sufficiently computer-literate
to solve some problems and consult others when beyond his expertise.
When necessary, either or both make trips to various courts for pleadings
and documents are assigned and on a rare occasion, a witness must be served
with a subpoena.
I am sure that I have not covered all of the valuable contributions these
two have made to the office. I advocate the use of a paralegal as an important
addition to an attorney's office. I again refer to the title of this article,
just ask your paralegal what he/she can do for you.
Melvin Hirshman is Bar Counsel for the Attorney Grievance
Commission of Maryland.