Paralegals & Legal Secretaries Teamwork

Most legal clients do not recognize how much effort  goes into preparing and litigating civil cases. The itemized bill for professional services (other than the attorney’s) may be the only reminder they have that there is an entire team involved.

Some matters include documents suspected of potential unauthorized changes or fraudulent signatures. Such documents can be easily overlooked or set aside for later evaluation until the case develops further. Often, the attorney makes this decision to save the client from what seems to be unnecessary professional services at the time. Meanwhile,the document(s) could old meaningful information that could lead to a more rapid outcome or to a change in the attorney’s strategy.

Most attorneys know that Forensic Document Examiners are usually handwriting experts also. As such we analyze signatures and other writing for its authenticity or for writer identity. While handwriting encompasses the majority of the cases that come to us, we also provide a number of other services that pertain to document examination.

One of my personal favorites is developing indented writing on original documents. I am often surprised at what I find. Consider a case where a document provided by an administrator from his archives was dated a certain year, but has the impressions of a notation that is dated three years later. This scenario begs the question, “how did the paper on which the document was produced end up under another one from so long afterward?” A hypothesis would be that the document in question was not produced as dated; it was created three years later. Or, that the documents were not archived as reported. Knowing that could surely change the complexion of a case.

Other aspects of a document examination can reveal answers to

  • whether there were additions made to the original text or printout
  • what is covered up by white-out or overwriting
  • what is the possible “mechanical” source(s) of the document
  • was the document produced when purported
  • was more than one writing instrument used to produce the inked writing
  • have pages been introduced to the document after its original production
    …and these are just highlights

As a legal adjunct, consultant and expert, it is important to me that the entire legal team is familiar with my services and comfortable asking the important questions about their cases. I enjoy providing seminars to everyone on the legal team in all types of venues – meetings, conferences, MCLE classes. And, most important, I find it a challenge to present the evidence and opinions in trial to help the Trier of Fact understand the significance of my findings.

This winter I look forward to presenting to the LSI – Legal Secretaries, Inc. quarterly educational conference in Palm Springs (November 16-18)  where I will expand on the topic of how the document examiner fits into case planning and what a legal secretary can do to expedite a document examination.

I also want to thank the Inland Counties Association of Paralegals (ICAP)  for offering me the opportunity to come to their conference this month and share in the great presentations by some very interesting speakers.