I’m sure you've probably read an article at one time or another using an iceberg as an analogy. Today, I share with you my iceberg analogy from the standpoint of a Civil Litigation Paralegal. No, I'm not saying that 10% is on top and 90% is below. I'm talking about the shear magnitude of an iceberg (or Law Firm) and what it takes to keep it all together to create this ship-crushing (jury convincing) force.
When making the comparison of an iceberg to a law firm, one could consider the attorneys as the surface of the iceberg - what is on the surface. The attorneys are the face of the firm - the name on the letterhead, the voice in the courtroom and in depositions. They argue the points, have website bios, and LinkedIn networks. This means that opposing counsel, Defendants, and insurance companies alike already think they know what's coming. After all, the moment an attorney enters an appearance on a case (or soon thereafter), the homework begins - Did this Attorney file a Motion to Dismiss on a particular case and why, or what was the last verdict this Attorney received in a certain jurisdiction. If you know where to look, and Attorneys (and their staff) do, then it's easy to find what's on the surface.
...... but, finding what lies beneath can be much harder
Paralegals, on the other hand, represent everything under the surface. They are the rumble underneath and the busy bees building the foundation. If you're a Paralegal reading this and working for a small boutique practice, then you already know what I'm talking about because you're probably one of the hardest working people in your office. Paralegals are the unsung heroes of a law firm because they are largely responsible for the driving force moving the case and law firm in the right direction. Most importantly, Paralegals are what the other side doesn't see coming. True, some Paralegals have bio and a well networked LinkedIn page, but in the end, it's the Paralegal's hard work that comes through in the pages of the Attorney's briefs, the opening statement in a trial, the OBJECTION moment in a cross-examination, and perhaps even the cause of the "Eureka" moment a juror had when you placed that exhibit on the courtroom projection screen. Nope, opposing counsel is likely to never see you coming.
Next To Every Great Lawyer Is An Amazing Paralegal
If we take a trial for example. The Attorneys have prepared their arguments - they've identified critical aspects of the case to present to the jury, identified witnesses to put on the stand, exhibits to enter, etc. Think of it this way, the Attorneys aren't just putting on a case, they're attempting to manifest a visual dialog with the jury. It's the Paralegal's job to transform what the Attorneys have identified as evidence for trial, and use technology or other unique ways to create visual exhibits for the jury to remember. Let's face it, the jury doesn't want to be there, and statistically, they're only listening to about 80% of what the Attorneys have to say. So what happens the other 20% of the time? Give them something to look at.
The end result is simple. The combination of the Attorney's arguments and the Paralegal's abilities to transform evidence into visually striking exhibits that the jury remembers, will turn out to be the winning verdict you've been waiting to hear - the Iceberg they never saw coming.
In conclusion, the Titanic wasn't taken down merely by what the ship's crew saw on the surface of the ocean, and it isn't only the Attorney's work and voice that help to convince a jury, but rather a combination of the entire force of the iceberg - the Team. As Paralegals, it's our job to strive to create the solid foundation under the surface which helps to build the power for what's on the surface, the Attorney, the arguments, the case. The better we are at our jobs, the best the Attorneys are at their jobs.
Misty Murray, Founder
Paralegal Career & Freelance Coach
Follow Me On Instagram @ParalegalCoach_Misty