By: Jacqueline King
On a daily basis, paralegals are tasked with an endless amount of work. Remember Mount
Correspondenceville? A whole chain of work mountains awaits you each day. One nervous
breakdown at a time. Calendars, tasks, and deadlines, oh my! Not only do paralegals climb
mountains, but we perform miracles too. Like finding that one random document with the
snap of a finger. You know, that one document from opposing counsel two years ago buried
in the midst of 20,000 plus documents. Now, not tomorrow. No problem! Ten years ago I
would have said taking a picture of air would be easier. But alas, we live in the 21st century.
Although it isn’t quite like Marty McFly predicted, we are now light years ahead in the
Technology in the legal field has changed. Dramatically. In the not so distant past, all you
had to work with was the chicken scratch your boss calls writing or a twangy dictation you
had to translate. That’s fun. Ever worked for a southerner? Ever tried to decipher what
they say? I know, I am one. Most people cannot understand me. I cannot understand myself
half the time. In addition, file management was done by a paralegal’s bestie, the Post-it note.
Everything went on Post-it notes: appointments, tasks, deadlines, phone messages, lunch orders,
and random thoughts. We loved the Post-it note! Some still do. Every desk had a paper calendar
with Post-its littered throughout the calendar. How else were you to know what date the
complaint had to be filed, when the answer was due or who had court and where? More
importantly, you could count down the days to vacation. Lucky for you (and your boss) we now
have far superior ways to keep your supervisors organized. But more importantly, technology
keeps you sane and employed.
Let me preface this by saying: Go paperless! Now. It is important to your well-being and
your job. Achieving a paperless office will be hard. Convincing your boss, harder. It will test
every ounce of patience you have and you will question your sanity. You may look around
and think it is not possible, but I have lived to tell the tale. It really is possible. See, easy.
Now that I’ve convinced you of that, here are my choices of top programs you need to
manage your rock star paralegal life. Tell your boss to hand you the credit card. While they
are at it, give you that raise for being a paralegal genius.
I. File Management
Worldox. Remember that name. It is the best thing since the invention of the World Wide
Web. Two short years ago I had everything on a shared drive that the entire firm could
access. You thought you loved Post-it notes. My love for a folder on the shared drive knew
no bounds. I had folders for everything. Pleadings, discovery and depositions. I broke these
folders down by party, date, witness, favorite color, etc. Okay, maybe not that bad, but you
get the picture. When I look back I cannot for the life of me understand how I found
Worldox prides itself on being an effortless document and email management system. Yes,
you read that right, a two for one deal. Email is now our primary form of communication.
Remember when no one but you could see your emails. Now, imagine you can see every
email in a particular file. You no longer have to wonder if your attorney sent an email or if
that same email received a response. It’s there. All at the tips of your perfectly manicured
nails. The file management Gods have shined upon us with Worldox. A file is meticulously
maintained, categorized to your liking, and searchable. Oh, the search feature. The search
feature is something dreams are made of. Ladies and gentlemen, you really can find a
document in 2.5 seconds. I am able to spend more time working or filing my nails
according to my boss, and less time hunting for a mythical document. If you do nothing
else I say, convince your boss you both need Worldox in your life.
Worldox is your document management and Amicus is your file management. There are
several programs on the market, but Amicus so far has given our firm the most bang for
our buck. Amicus gives your firm calendaring, timekeeping, contacts, file assignments, and
task management all in one. The key to Amicus is utilizing all of its features. Since our firm
implemented the use of all features our workflow is easy like Sunday morning. The most
important feature you will use is your tasks. One of the worst things we could ever hear as
a paralegal is that we missed a statute of limitation. Someone has to take the fall and who
do you think that someone will be. You may as well volunteer as a tribute. May the odds be
ever in your favor. I promise missing a deadline won’t be pretty. Amicus has several ways
to make sure this doesn’t happen, but using the task feature and learning how to set
precedents to each file will make sure you don’t miss a statute, ever.
II. General Software
Now that you can manage your files, you will need to have the proper programs to generate
the work. First and foremost, get an updated version of Microsoft Office. Although you can
still use your old version, each version has a life cycle. There will be no new updates and if
you start having problems with it, who are you gonna call? Not Microsoft.
Next, spend the extra money and get Adobe Pro. The extra features pay for themselves.
Remember, you’re paperless. Why should you print a letter, have your boss sign it, scan it
and then email it? I’m a huge proponent of working smarter, not harder. Plus, we can save
a few trees along the way. With Adobe Pro, you can draft your letter, convert it, and have
your boss digitally sign it. You just saved two steps and ten minutes of work. Also, how happy
will your client be when you start saving them money.
Speaking of working smarter. Remember when we had to Bates number documents with a
stamp? I would rather watch Frozen on repeat, for days, than hear the sound of the Bates
stamper on thousands of documents. Step away from the stamp and let it go, let it go!
Adobe Pro allows you to Bates number in seconds. Also, when your boss decides to
rearrange the production at the last minute (because does that ever not happen?), you can
change the Bates number without feeling like you are in the movie Groundhog Day.
The programs above are essential for any law firm to be well run and well maintained. Our
clients pay us to get them through traumatic times in their lives. They should not be paying
us to manage their files in an archaic manner. The North Carolina Rules of Professional
Conduct requires attorneys to maintain competence, including in the technology field.
Technology isn’t going anywhere. You can either get on board or get left behind. So, take
the lead and help relieve some of that added pressure from your boss’ everyday workload.
And while you’re at it, raise your glass for being the rock star paralegal that you are.
Jacqueline “Jackie” King is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal for Rose Harrison
& Gilreath, P.C., in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Jackie is a 2005 graduate of Halifax
Community College with an Associate of Paralegal Technology, a 2014 graduate of
Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Law & Society and a current student at West
Virginia University where she is working to earn her Masters in Legal Studies. Jackie’s current
workload includes federal and state litigation, estate planning and estate administration.