Yesterday we discussed the topic of “vetting”, and today we are going to see whether a Virtual Litigation Paralegal can assist an attorney in the very first stage of litigation, the filing of the Petition or Complaint.
Depending on the type of litigation and the complexity of the case at hand, the VLP can assist you in preparing an initial draft of the Petition. If you specialize in a particular area, it is likely that you have a favorite form petition. With a little help from your VLP, all of your favorite forms can be organized and streamlined for more efficient document preparation.
The VLP can check with the Secretary of State’s office to determine the Registered Agent for service of process and determine requirements for serving the Secretary of State for an out-of-state defendant. Many jurisdictions now require preparation of a form civil cover sheet which is specific to that jurisdiction. If electronic filing is available for the jurisdiction, your VLP can verify that all requirements have been met and submit the document for filing.
Many attorneys now use private process servers for service of legal documents. The VLP can locate a process server in the required geographical area and coordinate efforts to obtain service on the Defendant as soon as possible. After service has been completed, the VLP will follow-up on getting the Return of Process filed with the Court and payment of appropriate service fees. Most importantly, the VLP will determine and docket the Defendant(s) answer date according to court rules for that jurisdiction. Both you and your VLP will be able to monitor that deadline for immediate action should no answer be filed.
If you represent a Defendant in the new litigation file, the VLP will be especially helpful in checking court records to verify the date the Defendant was served and calculating the answer date. At the same time, the VLP can determine what pleadings have already been filed with the Court and obtain copies of required documents. This is particularly helpful if your client has been added during the middle of a pending litigation.
The VLP will assist you in preparing an initial draft of an Answer, counterclaim, request for change of venue or motion to dismiss. As legal defenses become more specific, the VLP will check local court rules for verification requirements, and she will constantly monitor the deadline to be sure the responsive documents are timely filed, that copies are served on all parties of record and that the client receives copies of all documents.
For the next few days we will look at the VLP’s role in the discovery phase of any litigation file.
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For other posts in this series, visit Virtual Paralegal Series.