Practicing anywhere in the world, a lawyer’s time is money. When a client hires a lawyer he is paying for two things : time and knowledge. But it is not only the lawyer who creates the service that a law office provides.
A famous American newsman once said "If you want to make certain a job gets done, give it to somebody who is really busy. They’ll have their secretary do it." Behind a busy lawyer you will always find an efficient team. A law office cannot survive without its staff (support employees). Let’s step inside a fictional law firm and meet some of the team.
It’s Monday morning and our fictional lawyer, Ben Forthwright walks into his law office ready for a new week of advising clients and generating billable hours. Since lawyers often determine their fee (bill) according to how much time is spent on their case, lawyers refer to the time that they can charge to a client as “billable hours”.
As an associate who hopes to become a partner in the firm, Ben should bill between 1800 and 2000 hours a year. He has heard stories from his grandfather’s time that lawyers used to determine the price of their services based on a fee schedule (a list of prices for different legal services) produced by the Bar Association. But that was a long time ago and now fee schedules are considered to be illegal in the US and a form of anti-competitive price fixing.
Ben takes a look at his schedule for the day. First thing this morning he has a meeting with his staff.
Maria is his secretary but prefers to be called a legal assistant. She really does a lot more than type and answer his phone. She is probably the most critical member of his staff and often knows more than Ben does about how things really work in the legal world.
Alan is Ben’s paralegal. He has a degree from a two year university and has taken a certification examination. He drafts contracts and does a lot of every day work of a lawyer but cannot give advice to clients.
Allison is Ben’s law clerk. She is a third year law student who is doing an internship at the firm. A clerk does legal research and can draft documents for the lawyer. But a paralegal like a law clerk cannot independently practice law.
Notary Public - Unlike most other countries in the world, in the USA a notary is not a specially trained lawyer. Except in Louisiana, a notary public is a person who is licensed by the State to be a witness for a person signing a document. Most banks have a Notary and many legal secretaries are notaries.
Test your legal English now !