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Legal Assistant Becomes First Man To Head Association [by Regan Morris] In many ﬁrms, attorneys administer the work of legal assistants. Gary Melhuish would like to see more ﬁrms hire Legal Assistant Managers. LawCrossing speaks with Mr. Melhuish about the niche profession and his role as the new president of the Legal Assistant Management Association - the ﬁrst man to head the organization.
When Gary Melhuish became president of
“Having a legal assistant manager is useful
fulfillment, he said, comes from networking
the Legal Assistant Management Associa-
rather than having attorneys doing all this
organizations such as LAMA and through
tion, or LAMA, last week, he ventured where
administrative work on supervising legal
no man had gone before. The profession has
assistants,” he said. “I just think from an
long been dominated by women. But Mr.
economics point of view it would make more
“I think that was the peace I had to make
Melhuish has broken the glass ceiling. On
sense to have somebody at a lesser billing
with myself about being a paralegal was yes
Friday, he became the first man to head the
rate doing the work.”
you only get to be at a certain level at a law firm, but do you really want to be at that next
organization in its twenty year history. One of the first items on his agenda is to change the
Mr. Melhuish was always interested in the
level? I knew by looking at the attorneys I
organization’s name. Mr. Melhuish, 45, said
law, but said his early years in the profession
didn’t want to do what they were doing,” he
many believe the term “legal assistant” has
were frustrating. He graduated from the Uni-
said. “I’m a very good employee. I don’t have
been diluted. So LAMA’s 550 members are
versity of Maryland with a degree in history
that entrepreneurial bent to hunt down busi-
voting to change the name to the Internation-
and could not find a job because of the reces-
ness. It’s just not who I am.”
al Paralegal Management Association.
sion. He decided to become a paralegal in
The problem with the title legal assistant, he
1981 and attended the Institute for Paralegal
But teaching and training new paralegals is
Training in Philadelphia.
something he loves. As an adjunct professor at the Georgetown Legal Assistant program,
said, is secretaries are using it. He got his 14-week paralegal certificate over
Mr. Melhuish teaches legal ethics and legal
“From LAMA’s perspective we want people
the summer and joined a Philadelphia law
technology. He is also a frequent speaker
to have a four year degree, what we think is
firm in the fall.
at legal conferences, such as the Paralegal Super Conferences.
a minimum educational standard,” he said. “Now all of a sudden the term legal assistant
“I absolutely hated it,” he said, adding that in
is going to be applied to a legal secretary
retrospect the job was challenging, but just
Mr. Melhuish, who also renovates and sells
that may have years of experience but no
not fulfilling at that time in his life.
houses in his spare time, said the conferences help him keep up with the latest
college.” So Mr. Melhuish quit and went to graduate
trends in the legal field and implement them
LAMA is quite a small organization, because
school at Michigan State and earned a Mas-
at his firm.
the field is still relatively young. Typically,
ters in College and University Administration.
only bigger firms hire legal assistant manag-
He manages a team of 19 paralegals in the
ers, such as Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver &
“I spent two years at Michigan State running
Jacobson where Mr. Melhuish has worked for
dormitories and decided that wasn’t a real
gals from different departments, such as tax
more than twenty years.
good future either,” he said. So he returned
and corporate, makes sense because he can
to the paralegal profession and was hired by
transfer people around easily since he knows
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson.
who is busy and who has free time.
oversee paralegal operations within firms.
Although he has been there for twenty
It is better for the paralegals too, he added,
He thinks managers with paralegal back-
years, Mr. Melhuish said it took him about
because they get varied experience and are
grounds are uniquely qualified to do the job.
five years to realize he liked working in the
not pigeon holed in one particular area of
paralegal field. A big part of his professional
Mr. Melhuish would like to see more firms
litigation practice. He said managing parale-
of all sizes hire legal assistant managers to
continued on back
He said many paralegals are concerned about debates on overtime pay and the outsourcing of legal work to India and other countries. Firms will continue to pay overtime, he said, even if Congress and the Department of Labor decide paralegals should or should not pay them overtime. “At the end of the day it’s a market decision of who we want to pay overtime to,” he said. Cutting overtime pay would result in the need to hire more paralegals, which doesn’t make economic sense, he said. As for fears of outsourcing legal work, Mr. Melhuish thinks people are overreacting. “My attorneys don’t like to work with a paralegal half way across the building. I can’t imagine them wanting their work being done in India,” he said. “The things that I’m reading about how this is growing so much tend to be from the people who own the companies that are trying to sell this product.” Another trend Mr. Melhuish sees for paralegals is good news for gadget lovers. He thinks the legal profession will become more and more connected and that paralegals will be given laptops and Blackberry’s. “I think that we’re going to see more electronic ties to the office,” he said. “I used to have to go back to the hotel at the end of the day and review all my emails. Now I can handle things as they’re coming up and I don’t feel, well I feel much less stressed being on the road now that I have a Blackberry.”
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Mr. Melhuish is a new president of the Legal Assistant Management Association. He would like to see more firms hire Legal Assistant Manager...