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Posted September 11th, 2013 in Top Stories

You’ll Be Hearing From My Paralegal

Tech-Savvy Paralegals Data-Crunching Their Way to Integral Legal Services Role

SUBJECT: It’s no secret that law firm clients are looking for more economical configurations from their outside lawyers these days. What may be more surprising, however, is that an important part of how law firms are delivering a better value to their clients does not involve lawyers at all, but rather their paralegal peers. In line with this trend, national employment of legal paralegals is projected to increase 28 percent from 2008 to 2018 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Moreover, the mountains of digital data involved in the modern era of e-discovery make paralegals indispensable. According to Frank Nelson, e-discovery manager for Minneapolis-based Nilan Johnson Lewis, just a decade ago “large” lawsuit typically involved an estimated 500 gigabytes of data. Similarly sized cases today commonly require law firms to vet about 5,000 gigabytes. That translates into an increase from about 5 million pages of documents to 50 million pages, a volume that would make litigation unmanageable or prohibitively expensive without technologically fluent paralegals.

WHO/WHAT: These industry changes play to the strengths of Nilan Johnson Lewis, a Minneapolis law firm that is one of just a few firms to ever win an Association of Corporate Counsel “Value Champion” award for bringing enhanced value to legal service spending. Nilan Johnson Lewis prides itself as providing “total partnership” to its client that includes a forward-thinking approach to developing and leveraging paralegal roles and skills such as the following:

First Responders on the Scene: Carol Newman, a paralegal at Nilan Johnson Lewis with over 30 years of experience, remembers a time when those in her profession were referred to as “glorified secretaries.” Today that perception has radically shifted, as paralegals operate on the front lines, often being the first to investigate claims, and spot “smoking gun” evidence.

E-Discovery Experts: Kelli Rangel, a paralegal at the firm with 18 years of experience, believes the profession has rapidly evolved over the last decade, and sees the advent of e-discovery as a key driver of change. “The days of searching for documents in filing cabinets are behind us,” said Rangel. “Today’s paralegals need specialized software training and expertise to manage the huge amounts of data for which we are responsible. With the advancement of technology, I believe paralegals are able to provide more value than ever before.”

Trial Managers: “Attending trials as part of the legal team used to be a rare thing, but now it’s become much more common,” said Kerri Neitzel, a paralegal with the firm. “We help attorneys manage information, assist with witness selection, note juror reactions during testimony, and present key evidence in a compelling way, among other litigation activities.”

CONTACT: Carol Newman, Kerri Neitzel and Kelli Rangel are paralegals with Nilan Johnson Lewis. They are available for phone or in-person interviews to discuss how the paralegal profession and their roles have evolved over time. Contact Aaron Berstler at or (651) 228-9141 to coordinate.


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