Thursday, December 29, 2011

Forgery is not an option

The other day, one of the newby paralegals came to me and asked how to send something out. I noticed it wasn't drafted correctly, so I mentioned it to her and told her she would need to get the client to re-sign the document. She told me JD filled it out incorrectly. She told me that when she mentioned the mistakes to JD, he asked her to change the document and forge the client's signature.  Paralegal refused and told JD he could forge it, but she wasn't going to. He got angry at her, yelled at her and she changed a couple things on the already signed document.

This is an absolute No No. Do not ever do this. JD was absolutely wrong.

I bring this up because I'm sure there are other new paralegals out there who have or may encounter this situation.  If you do, encounter this, you should follow the following steps (which is exactly what I told new paralegal to do):

  1. Tell the wrong-doing requester that you are uncomfortable with their request because it calls your ethics into question (Never let someone else's ethics override your own).
  2. Immediately send an email in excruciating detail to your supervisor and to the requester's supervisor outlining the request and your reason for refusal.
  3. Print the email and immediately meet with your direct supervisor. If your supervisor brushes you off, stress the importance that they give you two minutes to read your email. Impose on them.
  4. Wait in your supervisor's office while s/he reads the email. They will either do something about the issue, or nothing. Either way, you've done what you can do and you're covered.
  5. Email yourself the notes from your conversation with your supervisor.
  6. Print the emails and put copies in the personnel file you keep at home (not at the office). 
Here are some other tips for dealing with ethical dilemmas:
  • You should also follow the steps above if someone asks you to keep something a secret that clearly should be communicated to a supervisor or if someone asks you to hold back something that should be produced in discovery. 
  • Do not do anyone a "favor just this once" either. It's not worth it. Screw-ups are easier to deal with if you don't have to get around a botched cover-up.
  • Come clean fast about any mistakes you make. Everyone makes mistakes. Your boss has even made mistakes. S/he will help you resolve the issue. You may be in the doghouse for a while, but at least you'll be employed in the doghouse. If you hide it, however, you will be fired.
  • If one of the partners is doing something wrong, inform another partner in-person. 
  • Remember, if ethics were easy all the time, there wouldn't be training for it.  You should do the right thing even when it's the hard choice.


  1. Well put!!! Trickier when its a small in between person to go to.

  2. This is an excellent post with great advice. I can not imagine how difficult it must be for a paralegal, especially a new paralegal, to give in to the pressure you outlined above and engage in forgery.