Is a Buxom Paralegal at Counsel Table an Unfair Tactic?

A Chicago lawyer says his opponent in a small claims case is using an unfair tactic by sitting a buxom paralegal next to him at counsel’s table.

Attorney Thomas Gooch says the woman’s sole purpose “is to draw the attention of the jury away from the relevant proceedings”.

This case involves a dispute over a used car. Attorney Gooch has asked Cook County Circuit Judge Anita Rivkin-Carothers to order the paralegal to sit in the gallery with other spectators.

In responding to the pretrial motion, attorney Dmitry N. Feofanov contends Gooch cites no “good faith legal argument” why the paralegal can’t sit at counsel’s table. He then asked the Judge to impose sanctions on Gooch for his motion.
Gooch told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin he wasn’t objecting to the woman because she is buxom, but because he doesn’t think she is a paralegal.

“Personally, I like large breasts,” he said. “However, I object to somebody I don’t think is a qualified paralegal sitting at the counsel table — when there’s already two lawyers there — dressed in such a fashion as to call attention to herself.”

There is a simple solution to this issue: does the paralegal meet the definition of a paralegal set forth in  Illinois Senate Bill 995, passed and signed by the governor on July 7, 1995? The bill, effective January 1, 1996, amended the Statute on Statutes by adding Section 1.35 as follows:

Sec. 1.35. Paralegal. “Paralegal” means a person who is qualified through education, training, or work experience and is employed by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency, or other entity to work under the direction of an attorney in a capacity that involves the performance of substantive legal work that usually requires a sufficient knowledge of legal concepts and would be performed by the attorney in the absence of the paralegal. A reference in an Act to attorney fees includes paralegal fees, recoverable at market rates.

According to Feofanov, the paralegalhas been paid as a paralegal in two court orders by Cook County judges. Both times, the rate for the paralegal was $115 an hour.

“That’s not a qualification,” Gooch said. “That means Dmitry handed up a bill to a judge that said paralegal on it. I don’t believe it’s a legitimate thing. It’s a sham.”

No fee petition containing fees for paralegal time should be approved unless the paralegal’s qualifications are set forth. This would include reference to the paralegal’s education, experience, and any certifications. Note that bust size is not a qualification.
 
One other thing to consider is the American Bar Association’s
The case, Song and Maria Sayavongsa v. Exotic Motors Inc., is scheduled for trial June 2.