Paralegals Aren’t Inexpensive Substitutes for Lawyers

January 28, 2013

Oh for the love of Pete!! (Seriously, who is Pete”) Not 1, but 2 calls in one morning to  StarrParalegals from women wanting me, AS A PARALEGAL, to provide them with legal advice about divorce.

Paralegals are not lawyers. PERIOD. We are not permitted to give legal advice, EVER!

In a few states, paralegals are permitted to provide limited services directly to the general public; however, the rest of us work directly under the supervision of attorneys.

Furthermore, legal professionals specialize for a reason – it is impractical (an unwise) to do it all. Just because one of use understands an area of law as it is practiced in one state, it doesn’t follow that we can apply that knowledge to the laws of another state. Sort of apples & apples, where some apples are Granny Smiths and others are Galas … Even if an attorney specializes in family/divorce law, that knowledge would be biased by the laws of the state in which (s)he is licensed.

Me, I know bankruptcy – and I know it well! I am blessed to work with very talented attorneys all over the US. Bankruptcy is a federal practice, so it is easy for me to adapt to the quirks of the different jurisdictions in which my clients are licensed. Family law is state law and not part of my paralegal toolbox.

I understand the desire to maximize the value of every dollar – heck, it’s my business slogan: “making your billable dollars worth every penny“©  Paralegals are NOT inexpensive substitutes for lawyers. Sadly, the two callers didn’t quite appreciate the distinction …

1st call (from California)

Phone rings, I answer, “StarrParalegals, this is Pamela Starr, how may I help you?”
Caller: “Um, yeah, I need information about your services. My …”
Me: “Are you a lawyer?”
Caller: “Well, no. I was told that paralegals can do divorces and …”
Me: “In some states perhaps, but I don’t know anything about family law and I don’t work with the the general public.”
Caller: “But, you can help me, right?”
Me: “Again, I only work with lawyers … and, in some ways, law is like medicine; you need to speak with a specialist.”
Caller: “oh … grumble…<click>”

2nd call (local)

Phone rings, I answer, “StarrParalegals, this is Pamela Starr, how may I help you?”
Caller: “I’d like to talk to you about the services you provide.”
Me: “Are you an attorney?”
Caller: “No; but I just found out my fiance is married…” [emphasis added – oy veysmir!]
Me: “Ma’am, I only work with attorneys and
Caller: “I was told that paralegals can …”
Me: “Ma’am, you should probably contact a lawyer…”
Caller: “Well! Can you tell me who could help me get a divorce?”
Me: “An attorney …”
Caller: <says not so nice things about me under her breath>
Me: <click>



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