After Thanksgiving last year we had a crazy snow storm and got 13 inches of snow in one day or as those of us who have lived most of our lives in Chicago call it, a Tuesday.
It was a mess for sure, but nothing you haven’t seen before. It was later that week when I got contacted by a pissed off injured worker. His case was supposed to go to trial, but he received a call that due to the snow, the paralegal had lost power at his office and was not able to prepare for the trial. As a result it would have to be postponed.
I had a two thoughts after I heard this. First, it sounded like a made up excuse. Second and way more importantly, why should the availability of a paralegal impact your case in any way?!?!??
When you hire a law firm, you are hiring a lawyer. They might have a paralegal or clerk or secretary that they rely on and those are important people to any successful law office. Those people might communicate with you from time to time about your case (although I personally believe any relevant info should come from the lawyer, that’s why my direct line is on this site). But when it comes to legal advice and preparing for trial is legal advice, it should all come from a lawyer.
A paralegal may have seen trials and they might even know some things, but they will not be asking questions at the trial, won’t be presenting motions, raising objections, talking to the Arbitrator, etc. In fact they most likely won’t even be there. Your attorney should go over how the day will work, what questions they will ask, what to do when you hear an objection, who else the witnesses will be, what the defense attorney will ask you and anything else that’s relevant to the trial.
If they aren’t doing this you’ve quite frankly hired a bad law firm. The paralegal shouldn’t be doing anything related to the trial beyond gathering and sorting medical records and perhaps calling you to schedule a time for you to come in and meet. Most work comp law firms in Illinois don’t even have paralegals. While I respect them and their training, they aren’t really necessary for this line of work. Sadly you do see this in some firms, often one man shops where they are over worked but won’t pay another attorney to help or in the firms that advertise a ton and take every case that comes through the door so their attorneys are overwhelmed.
All of this is one huge red flag and when the injured worker asked if they should get a new law firm I answered honestly which was yes they should. Your attorney fees are going to be 20% no matter what firm you have. Why would you give that 20% to someone who is punting on their basic responsibilities.