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Why You Need A Paralegal Subject Matter Expert

The deadline of a large international closing is looming, and you realize you have a dilemma. This closing involves several parties scattered across the globe, as well as some unusual intricacies you seldom encounter with these transactions. You can meet the challenge, yet realize that your staff paralegal has not handled this type of project before, and may not be able to provide the level of support you’re counting on.

Has the scenario above happened to you? It’s not uncommon to see staff paralegals with general legal knowledge thrust into a situation where they are required to perform specialized tasks that are unfamiliar, or possibly even intimidating to them.

It’s no surprise that using someone not ready to meet the challenges of a project can hinder more than help in its completion and lead to undesirable results. Fallout from the project can include additional time spent to complete it, increased mistakes and having to pull personnel from other tasks to meet the deadline.

In many instances, using a general knowledge paralegal for routine tasks is just fine. But when a difficult project comes along that requires specialized knowledge, you would benefit greatly by utilizing a paralegal who is a subject matter expert, someone who is experienced in the same area of the law that you are.

Subject matter experts, or SMEs, are professionals who have spent a large portion of their career achieving excellence in one area (or several) of their chosen field. Typically, they’re characterized by the following qualities:

  1. Experience. Paralegal SMEs are veterans of their respective specialty, and have performed every task you would ask of them countless times, from the most mundane to the highly challenging.
  2. Knowledge. Paralegal SMEs don’t need to research processes, they know exactly what to do and when to do it, developing best practices along the way.
  3. Insight. Depending on the project and parameters involved, the fluidity of law can present unexpected challenges that can easily get out of hand. Paralegal SMEs know to expect the unexpected, and take the necessary steps to solve these challenges before they occur.
  4. Tenacity. Attorneys often put in long hours on a project to see it through to deadline. In order to provide optimum support, Paralegal SMEs understand that they too may have to make sacrifices to achieve the project’s desired results, no matter how long it takes.
  5. Frugality. Utilizing the qualities above, Paralegal SMEs will save time and cut costs by their ability to streamline tasks based on knowledge and insight, and will take the project as far as the attorneys involved need them to.

Outsourcing project support to Paralegal SMEs is a win-win for attorneys who, without high level support, may need to spend their own billable hours on tasks below their pay grade. The end result will be a completed project on time and budget, with little involvement by the attorneys in lower level tasks, as it should be.

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