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Question
Posted by: aquarius | 2004/01/28

problem with employer expecting me to work as an attorney - not qualified - paralega

I have been in the employ of an attorney for approximate 26 years and have known him for about 32. I was his secretary for many years and then he decided to let me handle my own department doing mostly third party word. Whenever I have a problem case I feel I cannot discuss the matter with my boss because before Ive even finished my first sentence he has already jumped down my throat and tried to make me feel small. I have on one occasion told him how I feel and his response was that if I didnt like what he was saying well then tough luck. I tried to explain that it was not what he was saying but the way he was saying it. There are no clear rules and I am constantly being emotionally bullied by innuedos and suble threats. I try my best and work very long hours. When I ask my employer to honour his promises about paying me for the work done he constantly changes the goal post. I have tried finding other employment but it seems that my age is against me. How should I handle my employer?

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Our expert says:
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Dear aquarius,
Eeeeh, your employer sounds awfully like the sort of person most people think of, when they think of a lawyer !
It's a shame that the Law Societies seem to have no real interest in the curious business practices of so many lawyers, who have much of the work done by underpaid and over-worked secretaries, and yet charge to client for their own time, which wasn't spent on the matter at all. Surely that should be seen as highly unprofessional conduct.
I remember, for instance, that the SABC used to have ( I hope the problem is in the past tense ) a highly faulty system dealing with license payments, and for 10 years after my father died, kept sending him threatening letters, from the secretary of a lawyer, for not paying his license fee ( though they had been repeatedly informed that he was dead, and that recent research shows conclusively that the dead do not watch TV ). They were unconcerned, presumably collecting a standard fe from the SABS for every threatening letter they sent out, and reluctant to remove anyone from that mailing list. After mentioning it previously in this Forum, I heard from numerous other people with the same problem.
I'm not sure whether such a paralegal status is recognized in SA law. If your employer acted severely against you, it would be worth thinking of making a formal complaint to the Law Society about using someone without legal qualifications to do work supposedly restricted to qualified lawyers. In the mean time, I'm not sure what you could do, apart from looking for another job. What do other readers think ?

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