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Virtual Paralegalism

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Written Discovery 101: You Get What You Ask For

Next week I’m presenting “Powerful Discovery Techniques” at an IPE civil litigation seminar for basic-to-intermediate paralegals. One of the bullets in my PowerPoint for drafting interrogatories says the questions “should be well-stated, clear and written to elicit desired information.” In other words, the opposite of this interrogatory shared in The Namby-Pamby, Attorney-at-Law’s post, “Stupid Interrogatory gets a Snarky Answer”:

State whether the plaintiff(s) or plaintiff(s) attorney have the means of possessing any writing, document, statement, letter, record, or other pertinent information that relates to the alleged debris or foreign object which precipitated the plaintiff(s) fall. If so, identify the item, the date of its acquisition, the source of its acquisition and the means of its acquisition.

I know. “Huh?” Is the question asking how we propose to get what we obviously don’t have? Is it a taunt? I mean, sure, we have “means”. We’re allowed to serve weird nonsensical discovery requests, too, you know. Maybe the post should be titled, “You Get Exactly What You Ask For”, which is a good discovery drafting lesson for new paralegals. Who among more experienced paralegals hasn’t (at least once in his or her career) wanted to answer those all too common form interrogatories that didn’t make sense when they were created 15 years ago, and are still being churned out without a careful review today, with a super-snarky reply like NP’s:

Counsel believes that documents or other items are stored under lock and key in the corporate headquarters of the Defendant. Plaintiff’s counsel is looking to retain the services of Howard Hunt, Gordon Liddy and James McCord to properly assess the most exacting and efficient way to ‘have the means of possessing’ said items. As to if and when Plaintiff’s counsel (or our agents) obtain said items, Plaintiff objects on the grounds that it would call for disclosure of attorney work product and that it would violate the constitutional right to be free from self-incrimination. That said, Investigation continues.

I like it. I wonder if The Namby-Pamby Attorney needs a Namby-Pamby Paralegal?One tip I share with new paralegals: don’t draft responses giving the other side what they meant to ask for – but didn’t.

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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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