“Whatever Is Going To Be Adopted by Paralegals Will Be Adopted by the Legal Industry” — Adam R. Karasch
This interview is part of Loio series of interviews with legal enthusiasts about the ins and outs of the legal industry.
The following is the interview with Adam R. Karasch, a serial entrepreneur and the CEO at Karasch & Associates, a family-owned business that has been providing award-winning Accessibility Services and Litigation Support Services for 40 years.
Let’s dive in!
Hi, Adam! Nice to have you here! Let’s start with our traditional question: how did you get where you are now professionally?
Well, I guess I was a born business owner. I grew up helping out in the office, watching my parents grow their business. I was able to appreciate and value how people in the community respected my parents for their professionalism and for the standards that they kept.
For me, it was inspiring as a child. Since then, I have been growing and managing businesses for about twenty years or so, most of my adult life. Most recently, as you might have seen on LinkedIn, I sold an established renewable energy business that I had started in Central Europe over a decade ago. I was its founder and then its president for over a decade. My team and I achieved really great things. I was very proud of it and I still am. Before that, I played important roles in planning, developing, and managing several large both renewable energy and real estate investments.
Several years ago, I decided to take on what you may call a rebirth of Karasch & Associates, which is my family’s business. It has its headquarters in the Greater Philadelphia area. It also has got a 40-year tradition, which is very unique. So I embarked on the restructuring of the firm, with the real mission to bring it to its full potential.
It has been an exciting journey so far for two things: elevating the best of our family’s business traditions and, on the other side, standardizing and automating the execution of the excellent service line. The purpose of all of that is to serve the community more efficiently and to bring guaranteed quality standards every time we conduct this service.
Currently, Karasch & Associates is providing services in all 50 states and internationally. We have come a long long way and we still have a long way to go.
What’s the story behind Karasch? What’s the idea behind it?
The story behind it is that my father was a champion court reporter. He started back in the 70s as a certified court reporter for the courts. He worked in a federal court in several different states. Then, when I was a child, he wound up moving from New York where he is originally from down to Pennsylvania with my brothers and my mother.
I grew up there watching my parents turning his court reporting talents and the trust that the community had for him into a separate business. He started providing court reporting services, while my mother was providing videography services. They grew the business to a certain point and it existed 30 more years when I took it over.
Today we serve hundreds of sessions every week around the country. It’s hard to say how many clients we have per se, but it’s close to thousands. We have a huge database all over the United States and around the world. Although, the majority of our business is domestic.
What does Karasch do?
We are an agency that works in two specific divisions. As part of the first division, we help attorneys and paralegals with court reporting and litigation support. And the other division is accessibility. That is CART captioning, broadcast captioning, American Sign Language, and a number of other services like notetaking and other services that are related to text or voice interpretation services that are ADA (the Americans With Disabilities Act) compliance accommodations. We help individuals in institutions of all sorts like corporations, municipalities, universities, etc.
You can access us by phone, on a chat, by email or social media. You can access this any way you want. Once you’re a client, you have access to a portal. You can use this portal in various ways: as a repository, a communication function, or to upload your exhibits for trial or presentation purposes.
In terms of the type of clients we help, we do have quite a number of larger corporate firms and insurance companies that we work with. We also work for competing agencies that are looking to fill jobs.
We support a lot of agencies in different states and we value all of those larger clients. But our sweet spot is these smaller practices of up to 10 attorneys, sole practitioners, and the paralegals that support them. We like helping them. We value the personal connection with the smaller firms and a chance to be there for them and be of value to them. That’s what we’re best at.
What makes Karasch stand out from its competitors?
I would say there are four key features that differentiate Karasch from other actors in the market where we’re active in.
The first is that our online portal is simple and friendly. It gives you access to all of your schedules, case files, exhibits, services, chat support, invoicing, and everything else that you might need from the notice to the transcript — all in one spot. For many clients, that is huge ease of doing business. They don’t have to think about it or worry about it. They just let us handle it. If they need access, they don’t actually have to interact with anybody if they don’t want to. It’s all there in one friendly, attractive place.
The second item is robust tech support. A lot of firms like us don’t have a robust tech support offering or infrastructure. This is kind of the other end to the automated online portal function — that you have chat and phone support in all U.S. time zones. You can have access to personal assistance whenever you need it. That’s especially helpful for remote depositions which are important to paralegals and to our litigation support clients.
The third one I would talk about is guaranteed price transparency. You’ll find a lot of firms are not very transparent about their pricing, whether that’s on purpose or by accident. But we’ve tried to stay consistent over these 40 years and we’ve really put a lot of effort into communicating that to our clients: it is that we always stick to the NCRA standard formats. So you never get any tricks or manipulations with characters on a page or characters on a line within a number of pages. It’s always the same product, every time you get a job from us. We guarantee that. So even if you’ve decided to work with another agency, it’s worth considering whether you’re really getting transparency on your pricing, the number of characters on the page, etc, and whether you’re getting a guarantee for it.
The fourth differentiator is the “one-stop-shop”. It’s a possibility or feature for depositions and events as really a back office. So what I mean by that is that we provide scheduling, all different types of tech support, accessibility accommodations, interpreting, and a whole lot of professionalism throughout that path or that series of support services.
I think that we differ from the smaller firms in the sense that we have all of these solutions under one roof. We differ from the larger corporations in that we have two divisions that are complementary to each other.
In a sense, you’ve got these added benefits that you don’t have in a lot of places. You could work with a big-box corporation like a corporate agency, but why? This is the approach that we’re trying to communicate to people. With us, you’re getting the benefits of a family business, you’re getting support locally, but you’re also getting the benefits of the quality and support of what you might expect in a corporate shop, where in a sense you’re just a number. But for us, for a little bit of a smaller firm, that’s not the case.
Let’s focus on a specific type of clients that Karasch serves — paralegals. What do you think the main challenges of being a paralegal and what ways to overcome them are?
The thing about paralegals is that they are almost always conscientious, hard-working, and focused. But the other thing they have in common is they almost all are overworked. They most value efficiency and efficacy and being able to control their schedules.
A common challenge among paralegals, as a result of these character traits, is that they’re overloaded with mundane tasks that really absorb a lot of their valuable time. All of this leads to personal sacrifices that are not always justified.
“Paralegals really are irreplaceable in a sense. They are often this cog in the office that they work in that can’t be replaced. Their time, in my opinion, should be spent doing what matters most.”
They should be spending their time doing legal analysis, legal research, and preparing for the trial. They should be supporting their bosses in any way they can. But they do wind up spending hours every week on extraneous tasks that should be designated or delegated to professionals that they can count on. So that the paralegals themselves can focus on priority tasks. Things like Bates stamping, scheduling a depo, tech support issues, glitches, and setting things up, passwords, remote depo links, etc., — all of that should be delegated in my opinion, to people like us.
Oftentimes paralegals wind up being in fact glorified secretaries, where they wind up helping all of the team members, like a litigation team with all of these technical nuances. And they shouldn’t have to do that, because, at Karasch, we do all of that for you.
So the high-efficiency low-stress paralegal campaign Karasch has launched recently is about promoting a method of delegation. What we do is we spend 15 minutes walking paralegals through a survey of questions. Based on the results of the survey we make a series of free recommendations, that generate time efficiencies and efficacy in the work they do.
“In the end, our goal is to generate more billable hours for their bosses, for their attorneys, so we look at that as a win-win proposal. And we hope the ultimate goal for this all is to lead to less personal sacrifice on behalf of paralegals and more personal and professional satisfaction.”
Let’s talk about surveys. I gather that you have surveyed 300 paralegals, am I right?
Well, we sent out the survey to more than 300 paralegals, yet not everybody returned it or answered all those questions, but that’s typical for a survey.
So, the survey. I’d like to tell you about it. I consider our firm uniquely invested in the success of paralegals, especially the ones that we already work with and have worked with, in some cases, for decades. The survey resulted in a more true understanding of what paralegals want and what we think they need, or what they say they need.
Could you share some key findings?
Yes, sure! Almost all the paralegals that responded to our survey spoke about the most important goals for them, efficiency and efficacy, and getting the most done in the fastest period of time under a lot of stress.
The biggest challenge for them was a couple of things. One was that they were overloaded with tasks. The second was that they didn’t have full control over their actual schedules. They were being surprised by tasks at the last minute and therefore they didn’t have the time to actually be as efficient or effective as they would like to be. The result of all of that is sometimes a feeling of frustration. Not a lack of satisfaction, but a feeling of frustration. So they’re looking for ways to ease that frustration.
Could you please specify what you mean by “Not a lack of satisfaction, but a feeling of frustration”?
“When we took the survey, I was expecting that frustration would actually result in a lack of job satisfaction. But in fact, what we found is that paralegals are typically satisfied with their jobs. They love their jobs, they love what they do, they love the fact that they’re in the position they’re in, they love their responsibility, the fact that they’re counted on. They don’t want to change their job.”
But what they do want to do is to avoid the frustration of the overload and the last-minute mundane tasks that are taking up their time. And that’s the idea behind the solution that we’re trying to propose here. It is that they don’t take on mundane tasks, but they hand those off to somebody less qualified than themselves, and they focus on what they’ve spent years learning how to do. I mean things like legal research, writing legal letters, and other really highly specialized tasks that only they can do. It’s not the attorney that’s going to do it, and it’s not an ally or secretary that’s going to do it, it’s only them who can do it. So why don’t they hand off the manual labor over to us or to somebody else for that matter?
Do you think it is possible to hand off some of these tasks to technology?
Yes, it’s definitely possible. Some of these tasks can be delegated to technology. Some of them can’t be done by technology, or for some of them technology has to be assisted by a human. For example, we are proponents of trial directors, which is technology. It’s a form of presenting your exhibits during the trial and organizing the information you need to present during the trial. But we allow them to purchase that software cheaper, and then we give them the instruction on how to use it, and then we can actually administer it during the trial for them.
So yeah, that’s technology, but on the other hand, there’s a little bit of a human component as well. Our clients shouldn’t be doing this either, they should be focused on the content of the exhibits and the trial itself, and not on the technicalities around the presentation and uploading exhibits.
Another is legal writing. I think it’s something that Loio does or helps paralegals do. So they should be focusing on using your technology to write better legal letters and preparing a better contract, and not spending hours on scheduling a remote deposition, or sending out encryption passwords for a remote depo to make sure it’s secure. They shouldn’t have to be on deposition with their boss to make sure that there are no technical glitches during the deposition. They shouldn’t have to think about it. They should be busy writing the legal letters.
What would be your top three tips to paralegals and, by extension, law firms willing to adopt technology?
The first would be to delegate, the second would be to consolidate, and the third would be to confront.
So first, “to delegate”. As I said before in this interview, I would have them focus on delegating menial tasks, so that you as a paralegal could focus your time and your energy on what is more valuable about you. What you love to do, and what you’re trained to do, and not on scheduling and uploading exhibits and Bates stamping and a bunch of other menial things that waste your time.
The idea behind “to consolidate” is to consolidate time-consuming tasks to one vendor. Oftentimes we see paralegals are delegating, but they are delegating to multiple vendors. Court reporting to one vendor, scheduling to another or not at all, language interpreting to yet another vendor, accessibility requirements to another, etc. Selecting multiple vendors for separate tasks and negotiating terms and building trust with each of them takes time. So the idea is to consolidate as many of those tasks to one vendor or one provider, all the solutions under one roof as possible. That’s our goal as a company, to provide that professionalism for multiple solutions under one roof.
Finally, “to confront”. What I mean by confronting is to confront your vendors about pricing. Your vendors should be transparent about their pricing, and they should be transparent about solving all of your problems, not just one of them. You should let them know what your needs are. You should understand how they are charging for their solutions. You should be sure that they have the credentials to solve your problems consistently.
Do you see paralegals as a driving force behind innovation in the legal industry? Why?
Paralegals, at least the ones that we interact with, tend to be a force of nature. They are competent, they’re responsible, they are energetic, and what resonates really deeply with them, is that their bosses rely on them immensely.
“Despite their busy schedules and their workloads, paralegals do seem to amazingly find time to stay abreast of technological advances and to make themselves even more efficient as time passes.”
That’s impressive, and attorneys really lean on them oftentimes. They’re just as important as the attorney in a lot of cases. They definitely are a driving factor.
“Whatever is going to be adopted by paralegals will be adopted by the legal industry.”
At the same time, they and their bosses should not waste time on tech support and tech logistics. There is a tendency I’m seeing: they take on so much, they want to solve every problem. But why execute when you can automate? Or delegate, for that matter. I guess it’s the question.
We solve these problems and we try to do that prior to, during, and after deposition, for example. That means scheduling participants, uploading and organizing exhibits, overseeing the presentation during a trial, securing interpreters or translators, ADA compliance accommodations, all of that. That’s a waste of their time, they shouldn’t have to deal with that.
What has changed in the legal industry since the 1980s when Karasch was founded? What do you think will change in the next 10 years?
Well, one thing has changed over the past 12 to 18 months. That is the remote revolution. I think that the remote revolution has made impacts that are not going anywhere fast. It has affected the courtroom, it has affected many courts and court procedures around the country and internationally, it has affected the way corporations work and the way they sue each other, and the way they reach settlements, it has affected employment law significantly. The remote revolution has had a ripple effect throughout the legal industry and in our industry as well. I believe that it is going to last.
“Another thing is that the remote revolution has caused efficiencies. It’s created efficiencies for attorneys, paralegals, and their clients that people I think have come to love.”
The fact that they don’t have to drive an hour to get to deposition, and that they just have to log on and then end it without parking anywhere, without paying for parking, without having to worry about the travel time, is amazing! I think that’s a huge convenience that people are not going to give up too quickly. That’s the first one, the remote revolution.
The second is that there are new apps, solutions, and automation that come out every week. The amount of innovation that’s happening right now both due to AI and just due to people constantly creating new solutions is mind-boggling. I think that this automation is changing every industry including ours and the legal industry for sure. So, task delegation and automation, assistance with tasks, all of these are things that are going to affect us.
Another thing is that there is a trend in service areas like ours which affects the legal industry, of course, and that trend is consolidation. There are these large investment funds that are consolidating firms like ours, and they’re creating these big-box agencies or big-box corporations that provide any solution for attorneys and paralegals.
“What you’re going to have to focus on as a paralegal or attorney in the upcoming years as this industry consolidates is what matters to you.”
That means finding providers that offer you guidance, personalized service, and transparency which is not always something you’re going to get from a huge corporation. That’s just trying to get your business along with four hundred other companies at the same time.
Thank you very much, Adam!
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