Is There Tension Between Paralegal Lifers And Future Lawyers?

Illinois attorney Mary Flynn told us:

“The career paralegals were very dedicated, and had excellent work skills. The younger ones regret not going to law school but do nothing about it other than blame their mothers for steering them to the paralegal fields. Most of them have a very poor work ethic, which led me to employ law clerks rather than paralegals when I was in private practice.”

This could definitely lead to some tension. But some younger paralegals or paralegals on their way to law school do actually work quite hard but they may not do it in the style old school paralegals are used to. They may have a more intimate relationship with the lawyer they are working for or work on a different schedule. They may prefer to work all nighters to get those billable hours in. On the blog Superlegal Fun about one woman’s personal work adventures as a paralegal, she broke down how the billable hours work at her firm:

“My law firm requires huge billables. Here is the math:


Yearly: 1800 hours
Monthly: 150 hours
Daily: 7.5 hours

Now, those requirements don’t seem terribly difficult to achieve, except you need to also consider the following:

About 15% of my cases are contingent cases, so those do not count. I spend about 20 hours per month on those cases.

Administrative tasks end up costing me about 20 hours per month. Which include 2 hour case review meetings every week or every other week.

So now, I really have to bill 190 hours per month (2280 per year, or 9.5 per day).

My salary is based on 8 hours per day, meaning that the firm needs to pay me, and I have to work 1.5 hours extra every day to meet the minimum requirements (which is approximately 16.5 hours extra per pay period).

Now, if I were to exceed the requirements, I would increase my bonus that much more. If I cut back on 0.2 administrative hours each day (12 minutes), I could increase my billable hours by 4 hours each month or take a half day off each month without cutting into my billables.”

It is well known that pressure to produce billable hours increases the temptation to keep hours or income up by overworking files, overstating the amount of work actually performed, or failing to complete work in the most efficient manner. That is why paralegal associations have created strong codes of ethics addressing these issues. For example, NFPA Ethical Consideration 1.2(c) requires paralegals to “ensure that all timekeeping and billing records prepared by the paralegal are thorough, accurate, honest and complete.” But how paralegals compile these hours may provide a whole set of problems.

We are not accusing younger paralegals of being rule breakers to get ahead but that they may have a different work style completely then people who are paralegals as their chosen profession.

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    • Chere Estrin

      Great article! Thanks so much for the quote! It’s good to see paralegals get so much positive press.

    • Chere Estrin

      Great article! Thanks so much for the quote! It’s good to see paralegals get so much positive press.

    • Jake Rowe

      It is often seen in some firms that paralegals have more duties and responsibilities than a lawyer itself. He performs almost all the tasks of a lawyer.