Organizing Your Family Law Practice - Support Staff Responsibilities

Support Staff Responsibilities

Support staff act only under the supervision of a lawyer. Chapter 6 of the Code of Professional Conduct for BC sets out rules for what legal assistants are permitted and not permitted to do. An assistant may interview clients and witnesses to gather information.  He or she may not provide legal advice or handle substantive legal issues.

Subject always to the lawyer's review, the legal assistant may do the following:

  • organize documents and files;
  • schedule appointments, including coordination of discovery and trial dates;
  • maintain bring-forward systems;
  • draft correspondence related to routine administration;
  • prepare lists of documents, pleadings and other court documents;
  • research law;
  • prepare memoranda of law;
  • attend to document filings; and
  • draft statements of account.

Be prepared for a high volume of documents to be exchanged between parties.  It is crucial that you maintain a system to keep the documents organized and accessible. It is often most useful to organize documents in binders, sorted by date and by subject matter.  Be sure to maintain an ongoing index of the documents.  Your assistant should be responsible for keeping the documents organized.  You should maintain a separate pleadings binder and your assistant should ensure the binder is kept up to date at all times with an index.

As with any file, ensure that your support staff sends copies of all correspondence, including emails, to your client.  This keeps your client informed regarding the status of his or her file and prevents misunderstandings as the file progresses.

Community Discussion

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My legal assistant is responsible for organizing documents and files; scheduling appointments, Judicial Case Conferences, Case Management Conferences, compiling Books of Documents and Authorities.

In our firm paralegals are responsible for preparing Lists of Documents and organizing documents in files.  The also prepare draft pleadings and Form 8 Financial Statements based on a Memorandum, which are then reviewed by me and sent to the client for review.  The paralegals gather together all of the documents required to be attached to the Form 8 pursuant to the Supreme Court Family Rules. I meet with the client when the Form 8 Financial Statement is to be sworn and affirmed, and carefully review and if necessary amend the document before it is sworn or affirmed. 

If I have a specific legal research or a request for a memorandum of law assignment,it is assigned either to an articling student or a junior lawyer.  Paralegals are not responsible for this work.  Two junior lawyers are responsible for reviewing all Family Law Act cases, which are then reviewed at a firm family law seminar.  I personally review family cases, using the BC Courthouse website about every two weeks.

When a client brings a new document it is placed in a particular file designated to him or her and Supplementary Lists of Documents are regularly undertaken.

Separate pleadings binders are maintained for each client and the Index is regularly updated.

my legal assistant (and sometimes me) forwards emails to clients.  If the legal assistant fowards a letter or other document a notation is made on the document as to when it was sent by email, and a copy of the email is kept in the correspondence file.