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Virtual Paralegalism

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Two Paralegals Face Off in Court

In an unusual trial setting, two paralegals faced each other in Minnesota’s 4th District Conciliation Court (also known as “Small Claims Court”): Linda Zinter, as the plaintiff, and Mary Ford, as the legal representative of the defendant, the University of Minnesota. No, this isn’t a misprint. Ford handled the hearing in one of the rare situations where a paralegal can appear in court on behalf of a client.

Ford, who has worked as a paralegal for the University since 2003, said she was prepared for the case.

“These cases happen fairly often,” Ford said. “I’ve definitely done this before.”

Paralegals, who aren’t licensed to practice law, are able to provide representation in conciliation court cases when a party — in this case the University — grants them power of attorney, University Deputy General Counsel Bill Donohue said.

Minnesota Daily, the campus newspaper has the details of the unusual case, in which Zinter sued the university for “$6,775 in tuition damages after she alleges she was coerced to take unnecessary classes in the spring semesters of 2003 and 2004.”

Stay tuned for the Court’s decision next week.

Related post at Paralegalese: Spotlight on Minnesota (What do you think about paralegals appearing in court in certain situations?)

3 Responses to Two Paralegals Face Off in Court

  1. This is very interesting, not only because of Minnesota's allowance for limited paralegal representation, but because such a large entity as the University did not demand attorney representation in court (even if it is small claims).

  2. I agree with ParaMel, I am surprised that a University would not demand the best representation. However, I am happy to see that the abilities of Paralegals is being recognized in the form of letting them appear in certain proceedings. Sometimes the paralegal knows the case better than the attorney.

  3. I added the link to Melissa's post at Paralegalese for the benefit of readers that might not have seen it yet.

    Mary Ford told me that there are three other litigation paralegals in her department that also rotate appearances on behalf of the University, and that she loves her job. It sounds like the university sends experienced paralegals to handle its small claims court cases routinely and is very satisfied with this option afforded under the state's small claims courts rules.

    I think that this is an extremely interesting issue – and likely one that would result in a heated debate between legal professionals, some of whom believe that paralegals should never appear in court in any venue, and others who believe that there are situations where a paralegal can and does provide excellent representation, such as in some small claims courts across the country and in Social Security disability hearings.

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]gmail.com

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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