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PROFILE

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

teaching.

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

law.

Mr. Melhuish would like to see more firms

litigation practice. He said managing parale-

of all sizes hire legal assistant managers to

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PROFILE

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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Legal Assistant Becomes First Man To Head Association  

Mr. Melhuish is a new president of the Legal Assistant Management Association. He would like to see more firms hire Legal Assistant Manager...

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