Sunday, May 31, 2009

Twitterbox Update: Why Twitter?

I know I’ve blogged at least 14 times about the social and professional benefits of Twitter, but after reading “all atwitter”, an article which appeared in my local paper this week, and trying to explain Twitter to my mama, I thought I should do a Twitter 101 column for those of you still wondering why anyone would want to do such a newfangled and just plain weird thing as “twitter”.

First, I recently experienced some intense joy when I was able to “one-up” my super-opinionated mama while attempting to convince her that the internet is easy to access and she should at least read email. After all, my 80-year old uncle is a prolific and loquacious, all caps-using, email aficionado.


Her tart response was, “Why should I use the internet? John McCain doesn’t use a computer or the internet.”


I’d waited 40 years to announce, “Mama, Senator McCain does in fact use the internet. Why if you’d read the local paper a bit more carefully, you’d know that the great man is tweeting from the Senate floor.”


Her response was initially dead silence, followed by something akin to, “You are just flat lying.”


Oh, the wild elation I experienced as I pulled up John McCain’s (@SenJohnMcCain) Twitter page on my computer and started reading his tweets out loud to her, which included, "Having breakfast with secretary gates @ the pentagon".


My mama was so flabbergasted that she asked me to show her how to use her email (again) the next time I visit.

Second, if I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times. “Twitter just seems stupid”, my otherwise smart, technologically savvy and way cooler friends announce.

Twitter is anything but stupid. For legal professionals, it’s a rapid-fire way to share information and keep up with the latest news, technology, marketing and job-seeking strategies. Not to mention that it’s an excellent way to make friends with a lot of people who know a lot of things that we all need to know in order to stay on top of a rapidly changing legal landscape.

Local reporter Tim Clodfelter (@reportertim on Twitter) breaks down the concept of Twitter in basic terms and even quotes a few people who initially had reservations about the usefulness of Twitter, but now that they use it correctly, admit it has value, including David Mullen, who works in marketing.



"You pick up a lot of knowledge from Twitter and from the links that people are sharing," Mullen said. "Some marketers post about case studies, some have links to blog posts…. The Internet is chock full of information, and there's no way I could find even 10 percent of the information on a given day. It's great to be pointed to it."

Here are a few highlights from the helpful glossary that Tim provides with the article:


Twitter users -- or, as they're called "Twitterers" (not "Twits," thank you very much) -- have come up with various phrases to describe aspects of using Twitter. Here are a few:


Tweets: Posts made by Twitterers.

Follow: To subscribe to a particular Twitterer.

Unfollow: To unsubscribe from a particular Twitterer.

Retweet (or RT): Tweeting content that was posted by someone else so others can see it.

Tweetup: Meeting other Twitter users in person.

Tweeps: Friends on Twitter.

Tweople: People who tweet.

Twirting: Flirting with someone on Twitter.

Twitterhea: The inability to stop using Twitter

Tweetjacking: Copying and pasting someone else's link without giving them credit. It's the rude version of retweeting.


I know my mama, like me, reads the same local paper at 5:30 a.m. every morning. I’m waiting for her to pick up the phone and ask me how she can start following John McCain on Twitter.

The Paralegal Picture: Best Internet Quotes of the Week Ending 05/31/09

A paralegal student reminds us of the importance of being an organ donor:


“Everyone pretty much takes their health for granted. I know I did. I still have friends who don’t want to be organ donors and I do understand that everyone has a right to make their own decision. But waiting for a transplant might change their minds.” ~ Wisconsin paralegal student Kelly Clough, recipient of a heart transplant. (Oshkosh Northwestern)


Are you an organ donor? I am. It’s easy to designate the decision on your driver’s license. For more information, see OrganDonor.gov.

A paralegal receives the following layoff notice in the worst “Dear John” fashion:


“Regretfully, the firm has to engage in some significant spending cuts. This now must include laying you off, effective immediately. I have enjoyed working with you and have appreciated your help. If you have personal items in the office, you are more than welcome to collect them at your convenience.” ~ April 6, 2009 email received by Texas paralegal Sydnie Taylor at 6:00 a.m. – as she was preparing to leave for work. The email was the first notice she received that she was terminated by her employer. (Christian Science Monitor)


A plucky legal assistant, laid off for almost a year, takes her job search to the streets.


"A lot of people honk and a lot of people wave to me, which is kind of nice, makes me feel like I’m not an idiot. It’s been a long year and I need a job, badly." ~ Florida legal assistant Tina Mauldin discusses her efforts to locate a job, including standing at a busy intersection in a suit holding a “needs employment” sign. (Tallahassee.com)


Another paralegal decided that a dramatic career change was in order.


“I followed my wife, Michele, to Colorado for her to pursue a career as a paralegal, which she hated and now works with me at my dog training school…” ~ Dr. Robert Forto, training director and owner of Denver Dog Works in Colorado. (The Gangline)

Finally, for those of you who have long awaited the cookie diet, this one’s for you -- but it may not be quite what you have in mind when you think of cookies…


“They do curb your appetite. But they ain’t no chocolate chip cookie.” ~ Canadian legal assistant Anett Pincus talks about Hollywood’s latest diet trend, Dr. Siegal’s Cookie Diet, to get ready for bikini season.

Of course, the cookies are not the home-baked high-sugar variety, and the prescribed dinner amounts to little more than a plain chicken breast and some steamed veggies. (Vancouver Sun)


This is a complete non sequitur, but I didn't know Canadians said "ain't", too.

Primo Paralegal Shoutouts

Massachusetts resident Patricia M. Liessner received a certificate in paralegal studies with high honors from Northern Essex Community College. (Georgetown Record)

Texan Kara Frazier, a single working mother, has been awarded the AAUW Tyler Branch Virginia Skeen Clark Scholarship. Kara works full time while attending Tyler Junior College, majoring in paralegal studies.

She has worked with her employer helping with Tyler's Brick Street Committee and is involved with her son's sports activities. Kara manages to maintain a 4.0 GPA. (Tyler Morning Telegraph)


Wisconsin high school salutatorian Jericha Stolar is the recipient of a $1,200 Arthur Albertz Scholarship, and will attend Madison Area Technical College Truax Campus to pursue a degree in the paralegal program. (Watertown Daily News)


Practical Paralegalism would love to share your good news, including but not limited to: graduations, certifications, job announcements, awards, publications and presentations. Send your news to lynne.devenny@gmail.com.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Paralegal Charged with Kidnapping Hoax Under Investigation for Theft

Philadelphia paralegal Bonnie Sweeten has made national news headlines for claiming that she and her daughter were carjacked, setting off a “law enforcement and media frenzy” earlier this week, and now faces further legal woes as accusations surface of alleged thefts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from her former employer and a children’s charity organization.

The alleged thefts may have involved clients of the law firm where she worked, family members, or both. According to a police detective with knowledge of the investigation, one or more of the accounts were in the names of Sweeten's parents.

Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry said a decision on filing felony theft charges was not imminent. Henry said that the investigation into possible theft charges "will take some time," and that there certainly would be no charges brought immedately.

"You're talking about going through a lot of financial records," she said. She would not comment on whether investigators were focused on thefts from current or former family members, or clients of the law firm where Sweeten worked.

Sweeten, a paralegal married to a state Department of Transportation worker who runs a landscaping service on the side, appeared to be living beyond her means. The couple took out a 30-year, $403,729 mortgage in 2006 to buy their four-bedroom, two-bath house.

The GMC Yukon Denali she allegedly ditched in Center City en route to Florida would have cost around $50,000 new.

Police investigators have also told reporters that Sweeten had been spending tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments.

Sweeten had worked for many years for suspended personal-injury lawyer Debbie A. Carlitz, who has accused Sweeten of stealing from her law firm. The firm closed last year after Carlitz's license to practice law was suspended for one year and one day for practicing law while ineligible to do so, having failed to keep up with continuing legal-education requirements.

A lawyer for Carlitz has said that the district attorney's probe also was looking into Sweeten's conduct with the Carlitz Foundation, formed in October to support children's charities. Lawyer Ellen C. Brotman has described Carlitz as "shocked and devastated" by Sweeten's alleged actions.


Philadelphia Inquirer



In an earlier story published by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ms. Sweeten is described as a “paralegal and notary public. Both jobs - state records list Sweeten as the foundation's contact and "tax responsible party" - appear to have given her unusual access to the management and finances of the two business entities.”

Numerous individuals have been quoted in the news this week as raising concerns about Ms. Sweeten’s questionable financial transactions, including a former co-worker of 9 years, Jillian Jenkinson, whose driver’s license was used to buy the embattled mother’s tickets to Disney World and whose $4,000.00 retirement account went missing. (phillyBurbs.com)

Also, personal injury claimant Lydia Demetro says that she “hit a brick wall” trying to find out what happened to a $50,000.00 settlement Ms. Sweeten told her that she would receive earlier this year. (6abc.com)

Finally, Ms. Sweeten’s husband, Todd, is claiming that he is the most mystified by his wife’s financial transactions, despite the fact that the couple purchased a new home for $425,000.00 in 2006.

Defense attorney quote of the week: Ms. Sweeten's lawyer, Louis R. Busico, says, "It's not a crime to take your kid to Disney World."

Paralegal Wins Award for Child Advocacy

Paralegal and client advocate Jennifer Tlumak, employed by the Tennessee Justice Center, has been given the 2009 Young Leader Award by the Tennessee Alliance for Progress, in recognition for her advocacy for children’s health services.


Tlumak has been associated with the Tennessee Justice Center since 2006. Her work is focused on working with individual clients, particularly the families of young children, and on proof development and investigation in complex class-action cases. In addition, she has worked collaboratively with disability and advocacy groups across the state to organize more than 100 screenings of the film Collateral Damage, about the health-care crisis in the U.S. Under her management, the Tennessee Justice Center Web site has become a valuable public education resource. In addition, Tlumak works on grant applications and spearheads the annual Mothers of the Year statewide recognition program of Tennessee Justice Center.

"Jennifer's work is truly extraordinary," said Michele Johnson, managing attorney of the Tennessee Justice Center. "Her unique mix of intelligence, passion, vision and compassion mean great results for the families of this state. Jennifer is the embodiment of advocacy that is affirmative, energetic and effective."


The Tennessean

Ms. Tlumak, a Nashville native, has a bachelor's degree in history from Darmouth College, and "enjoys singing with Nashville in Harmony, contra dancing, playing ultimate Frisbee, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Associate Discusses Communicating with Legal Assistants

Nelia Robbi, a Texas attorney, gives the following advice about interacting with legal assistants in a recent article posted at Law.com, Communicating as an Associate: Remain Authentic:

A little respect makes a big difference in office relationships. I know this from personal experience, having been an assistant before. I spent nearly two years at a publishing house in New York City, making copies and searching through a pile of manuscripts for that elusive next great American novel. I know how frustrating it is to get a call at 2:30 a.m. from the boss asking if her room really was nonsmoking because -- sniff, sniff -- it sure did smell like someone might have smoked in there ... once ... back in 1989.


Legal assistants are there to -- surprise, surprise -- assist lawyers, so new associates should not be afraid to ask for help. That was my problem as a new associate. I suffered from a common syndrome of the self-reliant: "It will only take me a minute" to make copies, clear this paper jam, figure out how all these certified mail stickers are supposed to fit on this envelope, etc. Self-sufficient and polite? Sure. A fantastic waste of the client's money? Quite possibly. Knowing what to do oneself and what to delegate is something most law schools don't teach, but it is key to performing effectively as an attorney.


That said, new associates should remember that many attorneys need something copied, e-filed, proofread or transcribed. Assistants appreciate lawyers who understand the competing demands on their time. Remember, no one is too busy for "please" and "thank you."



(Law.com)


It’s always a positive to see legal professionals promoting mutual respect, common courtesy and working together as a team. For anyone new to the practice of law, an experienced paralegal, legal assistant or legal secretary can be an invaluable source of information and hands-on training – not only about the intricacies of the firm copier and the U.S. Postal Service, but about the daily and essential practice of law as well, including identifying court resources, preparing documents and using specialized software.

Step Up Your Game - Breaking into Today’s Paralegal Profession

by Christina L. Koch, ACP

Layoffs and the down economy seem to be affecting every occupation these days, and the legal profession is no exception. The number of paralegal jobs available has decreased, while the number of qualified applicants has increased. Today’s job market is highly competitive, as are the paralegals applying for each open position.

Being a paralegal is a demanding, highly skilled and stressful job, and one in which you must perform to a level where you will stand out from the masses. As the economy has turned, so have the expectations in the legal arena. Some firms are cutting jobs in order to deal with the financial pressures of the recession. Others have used the economy as a chance to "clean house" and ensure that their paralegal staff is the very best in the market. The paralegal profession has exploded, and it simply takes more than a paralegal degree or certificate and a desire to work in the legal field to break into this profession.

Ten years ago, when the economy was in an upswing and attorneys had really started to understand the value of paralegals, experience and a desire to work in the field may have allowed you to get your foot in the door. A paralegal certificate was a plus, but not necessarily a requirement. During those years, our biggest challenge as paralegals was getting the job title, individual work appreciation and recognition for the profession that was so deserved. Many firms were still calling paralegals “legal secretaries”, even if the job responsibilities had moved beyond clerical and into “substantive legal work”.

As time passed, firms began to realize the true economic and service value of paralegals, and it became much more apparent there really exists a significant difference between a “legal secretary” and a “paralegal”. Once you earned and were awarded the “paralegal” title, it became a matter of salary and job duty negotiation. Those with the best education, experience and credentials essentially could write their own ticket regarding which job they would choose for themselves.

The employment climate has changed with time and the economy, and with that the paralegal profession has not only evolved, it has a developed a life of its own. Some firms have even replaced associate attorneys with paralegals to keep overhead down and billable hours up, largely due to the efforts of NALA and other associations in recognizing and promoting the need, in full agreement and cooperation with Supreme Court rulings, for the ability and necessity to bill for paralegal hours as legal fees.

This was not only a huge accomplishment for the paralegal profession; it increased the recognition of paralegal work in law firms and corporations across the country. Not only was the quality of our work valuable, but now it was recognized as a valuable contribution to firm revenue as well. This offered additional value to the profession and increased not only the need for paralegals, but the number of people who chose to enter the profession. Though all of this is progress, the job market has tightened considerably.

In order to even break into the paralegal business these days, experience and education are almost a must. It is the same double-edged sword we have dealt with for years. You need the experience to get the job, but you need the job to get the experience. Additionally, a new obstacle has appeared in that many graduates expect to be able to find a paralegal job immediately upon graduation. Many of these new graduates are frustrated with having completed their education successfully, whether it is a paralegal certificate, or an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in paralegal studies or law, and yet are not able to find that first paralegal job.

Unfortunately for recent graduates, this is no longer an entry level profession. If you want a paralegal position, you may have to be willing to start somewhere else, such as a clerk, receptionist or legal secretary. You should be prepared to accept one of these types of jobs, although not the ideal that you may have envisioned in school, as necessary to provide you with valuable experience and business contacts. You also must be aware that in competing for the limited number of paralegal jobs, you will have to develop and be able to show that “something extra” you can bring to the table. Remember when you interview, employers are searching for what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.

As the competition has become fierce for every paralegal opening, networking also has become essential. What sets one paralegal apart from the pack might be experience, education, certification, or even his or her former associates. Active paralegal association membership, seminar attendance, networking, and participating in professional list serves and social networking websites have all become valuable tools of the job search.

Experienced paralegals also take advantage of every opportunity to participate in educating other paralegals, writing for legal publications or books, teaching seminars or classes at paralegal schools, and mentoring younger paralegals. You will find these are wonderful additions to a basic résumé and will give you a nice icebreaker for the interview process.

Employers are impressed with people who go above and beyond in their careers, as they believe these are the same people that will go above and beyond for their business. Volunteerism and community service have become another excellent way to further your business contacts. You never know if your next job might come from any of these sources. There is a level of pride in being involved in this profession and in being not just a paralegal, but an outstanding paralegal. Today’s firms expect more of paralegals as the job has transitioned from a trade into a profession.

It is nearly impossible to be overqualified as a paralegal these days. Each opportunity to become a better paralegal should be grasped and cherished, whether that opportunity presents itself as education, experience, networking, certification or advanced certifications.

Do not limit your education to only legal issues. Learn as much as you can as often as you can. You never know when a seminar or a single class can offer you that crucial step up in an interview. Learn to think outside the box and to find your experience where the opportunity presents.

Grasp the opportunity to get involved with the court system, either as a clerk, runner, or participant in the juvenile court. Participate in organizations such as the Domestic Violence Coalition, Project Innocence, CASA, or Legal Aid. Not only are these very worthwhile charities, they will teach you compassion for your future clients and provide valuable networking opportunities.

Offer to work as an intern or summer runner in a law firm while you are in school or even after graduation. The firm may be so impressed with your work they ask you to stay with them in a more permanent capacity. Register with the paralegal temporary agencies as this is a great opportunity to be able to try different types of paralegal work and get some valuable legal experience without coloring your resume with a spotty job history.

Be open to moving into new areas of the law or even moving to a different city for the right position. Take pride in your career and in the paralegal profession and work toward your goals. The professional paralegal is always moving forward and desires the profession, as a whole, to move forward as well. Embrace the competition that has developed within the profession and use it to become a better paralegal. Enjoy the intellectual challenges that come with being a paralegal. Finally, take time to enjoy your job and/or your studies, and cultivate your career-building activities into your ultimate career position.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Legal Assistant Searches for a Job – On the Streets

Florida legal assistant Tina Maudlin, laid off last June, put on her classic interview suit on Tuesday, May 26, 2009, and then stood at a busy intersection in Tallahassee with a neatly printed large sign reading, “Legislative/Legal Assistant Needs Employment”.

Motorists honked and waved, some smiling or calling out a word of encouragement, as [she] began another day of looking for a job early Tuesday.

"People will think I’m either crazy or resourceful," she said as she stood on a pedestrian island at the corner of Capital Circle and Mahan Drive. The morning rush hour was at its peak and few drivers could miss the sign she held, touting her 25 years of experience in secretarial work, along with her phone number.

Since losing her job at a local law firm June 15, Mauldin said she has "searched diligently" for a job, in person and online. Almost everywhere, she said, it’s the same story: Employers can’t interview new applicants, if they’re laying off current employees — or think they might be, soon.

(Tallahassee.com)


Even I have to say, “Girlfriend, you look wonderfully enthusiastic and professional in a Miss-America-Wave-Kind-of-Way standing on that street corner. Great interview suit and hair!”

Someone in Tallahassee hire this experienced, resourceful woman.

“Paralegal” Stumps National Spelling Bee Contender

There are those days when I have trouble spelling “paralegal” myself, along with simpler words like “blue” and my name. So I have nothing but the utmost admiration for those stellar baby spellers who make it all the way to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. After all, I was the kid who got knocked out of my elementary school’s spelling bee by the word “ugh”. Ugh.

An 11-year-old Beavercreek boy misspelled the word “paralegal” during the second round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee Wednesday morning, May 27.

Sawyer Krueger, son of Donna and Todd Krueger and a home-schooled fifth-grader, was one of 293 spellers at the bee — the largest number in bee history. During his turn at the podium, he added an “i” to the word, spelling it “parilegal.”

The word means, “a trained aide who assists a lawyer.”

The results of his first turn at the podium, however, may be irrelevant — he’ll combine those results with the results of a 50-word written test that he took Tuesday and a second turn on stage Wednesday to determine whether he’ll proceed to the second day of the bee. Sawyer, a home-schooled fifth grader, is sponsored by the Dayton Daily News.

Dayton Daily News

Sawyer gets another chance, which makes this former spelling geek happy. (I weep with joy every single time I watch Akeelah and the Bee.) Because there’s simply no justice when a child’s spelling dreams are ended by the word “ugh”.

Primo Paralegal Shoutouts



Lynn Lisk, program director and assistant professor in the Legal Assistance/Paralegal program at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, has been reappointed for a fourth term to the Mock Trial Committee of the Arkansas Bar Association.

Lisk will also serve as the regional coordinator for the Mock Trial Competition in February 2010, scheduled to be held on the UA Fort Smith campus for the third time. (UA Fort Smith News)

Colorado resident Cheryl R. Rios, employed by The Law Office of Jonathan M. Ward in Denver, has been promoted to senior paralegal. (Denver Post)

Illinois attorney Ronald Kowalczyk, adjunct paralegal faculty at Elgin Community College, was one of six faculty members recently recognized by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development for their teaching and leadership. (Chicago Daily Herald)

Massachusetts resident Derek M. Devito graduated from Northern Essex Community College with an associate’s degree in science (paralegal studies transfer option) with Honors.

Massachusetts resident Jennifer E. Vail graduated from Northern Essex Community College with an associate’s degree in science (paralegal studies career option). (Wilmington Advocate)



The Western New York Paralegal Association named Michelle M. Coxford, a paralegal from Phillips Lytle, president and second vice president, director of membership. Other officers: First vice president, director of programming and bar liaison director, Laura A. Szychowski, paralegal, Phillips Lytle; secretary and student liaison/scholarship coordinator, Linda Wiederick, paralegal, Cole Sorrentino, Hurley, Hewner and Gambino; treasurer and ESAPA representative, Edith Maggiotto, paralegal, Phillips Lytle; director of marketing and public relations and NFPA primary representative, Beth Bialis, paralegal from Hodgon Russ; director of sponsorship, Lynda M.Wilcox, paralegal from Burden, Gulisano and Hickey; director of fundraising, Jaclyn Todaro, paralegal, the Law Office of Dan Tiede; newsletter editor, Denise S. Murphy, paralegal, Goldberg Segalla; and NFPA secondary representative, Jodie Zolnowksi. (Buffalo News)

Got Reading Glasses?

I confess. I collect reading glasses. And I lose reading glasses. And then I buy more.

I love reading glasses. The more colorful, the better. The more they embarrass my children, the more likely I am to love them. But red's my favorite.

And I'm not afraid to admit that 2.0 magnification is my preferred strength, even if I do look like a myopic owl.

Paralegals depend on their eyes, because no matter how much technology facilitates document storage and review -- real people still have to read them.

My favorite documents are medical records. I love to wheedle the story out of the abbreviations, hen-scratchings and numbers, but wheedling all day is real hard on the aging eyes.

Reading glasses are a soothing balm for burning, exhausted eyes. All of a sudden, those abbreviations, hen-scratchings and numbers look eight feet high.

So I have reading glasses EVERYWHERE: in my purse, in the car, on my night stand, in my laptop case, in the loo, on the kitchen table, in the kitchen drawers, on the coffee table and often, on top of my head.

And, yes, before my kids rat me out, I've been known to wear reading glasses on top of my regular glasses - but only in the privacy of my home.

Some people like earbobs. I like "eyebobs". I really like the pair pictured with this post, courtesy of Eyebobs.com, aptly called "No Doubt", as in no doubt my children would not be seen with me if I were wearing them. (They are a bit pricier than the Walmart deals I usually buy.)

Got reading glasses?

Paying it forward

by Diana Smith, Managing Editor, Carolina Paralegal News

Paralegals are paragons of service, yet efforts sometimes go unnoticed

When the American Bar Association's annual Law Week took place earlier this month, headlines popped in both Carolinas with stories and photos showing lawyers accomplishing good deeds for their communities.

On May 2, The Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina published an article recounting the tale of 50 lawyers and judges from Cumberland County and Fort Bragg who dropped their case books and gavels for a day in order to help repair a resident's aging home.

And the May 4 issue of South Carolina Lawyers Weekly (a sister publication of Carolina Paralegal News) detailed the variety of service projects Bar members completed during that same period speaking at schools, conducting food drives and renovating a playroom for the state Department of Social Services, among others.

Without a doubt, all were laudable and newsworthy efforts.

But what often goes unpublicized are the vast amount of community service projects completed by N.C. and S.C. paralegals not only during Law Week, but all year long.

"It doesn't get recognized. That's why I blog about it," said Winston-Salem, N.C., paralegal Lynne DeVenny, who operates http://www.practicalparalegalism.com/.

Regularly, DeVenny posts "Primo Paralegal Shoutouts" to applaud paralegals' accomplishments, both in the Carolinas and nationally.

She also monitors social networking sites and media outlets for any praise for paralegals.

"Legal professionals are using Twitter a great deal and every single time a lawyer tweets a compliment about his paralegal staff, I re-tweet it so that hundreds of other paralegals can see it," she said. "I think it's important."

Indeed, paralegals are crucial worker bees for attorneys and clients, but they also buzz energetically in their local communities to provide outreach for agencies with little or no law-related needs.

In 2006, the National Federation of Paralegal Association delegates amended Canon 1.4 of its Model Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and Guidelines for Enforcement to create an "aspirational goal" for paralegals to complete at least 24 hours of community service each year.

The guideline further defines community service as volunteer activities that do not meet the criteria for pro bono work.

And as Carolina Paralegal News discovered, paralegal associations in the Carolinas are putting in plenty of hours to participate in volunteer activities of both kinds.

For example, stuffing school supplies in backpacks for A Child's Haven in Greenville, S.C., is one of the most popular projects for the S.C. Upstate Paralegal Association as summer winds down, said Dorothy Huskey, who chairs the association's Charity and Pro Bono Committee.

"It's one of the most anticipated events of the year," said Huskey. "I have people in July asking, 'When's the school supply drive going to start? I'm already saving.'"

SCUPA also just completed its annual March of Dimes campaign, raising $2,077 and manning a mile-marker station to provide water to participants during the charity's walk/run.

Similarly, 20 members of the Raleigh-Wake Paralegal Association turned out in staggered shifts to help with the Triangle Heart Ball for the American Heart Association in February, said Jennifer Nelson and Donna Wall, co-chairs of the group's Civic and Community Events Committee.

In celebration of its 30th anniversary this year, RWPA has committed to serving more charities than it has before, Nelson said.

Members are collecting donations for Dress for Success, a program that provides clothing to women who need outfits for job interviews. This summer, they'll move on to help the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

Pro bono paralegals

Paralegals can also play a huge role in the pro bono realm by volunteering in Wills for Heroes, elder clinics, Legal Aid and guardian ad litem programs, DeVenny said.

That's the direction the N.C. Paralegal Association wants to take this year, said Patti Clapper, the organization's president.

Clapper is working with the N.C. Equal Access to Justice Commission to determine how its members might be able to assist in disability hearings, a job that doesn't require an attorneys' supervision.

"That's what being a paralegal is all about," said Huskey. "It is the ability to help provide legal services within the community and help keep the costs low."

Last year, NCPA also joined the Research Triangle Paralegal Association's fundraising effort to benefit Interact, a nonprofit that provides assistance and shelter for battered women.

RWPA and the Paralegal Division of the N.C. Bar Association added to the joint effort.

Ultimately, the groups raised $8,500 for Interact and received a plaque in the women's shelter dedicated to North Carolina paralegals, said Lillian Glenn, RTPA president.

In an e-mail to Carolina Paralegal News, Glenn said paralegals, by virtue of their own job descriptions, are perfect candidates to achieve that kind of success.

"I don't mean to imply that paralegals are more generous than other professions or groups," she wrote. "It seems like the closer to the poverty line you are, the more you recognize the need.
"That's not to say paralegals are impoverished, but they (and other staff-level employees) do have a different perspective from, say, doctors, lawyers, etc.

"In these troublesome times, economically speaking, I think we are all a little more cognizant of need."

What goes around comes around

Plus, the benefits of volunteerism can show up in unexpected ways.

In 2003, DeVenny of Winston-Salem began volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters and was paired with a young girl with sickle cell disease, a child DeVenny later adopted when she was removed from her caregivers.

"I'm quick to remind people BBBS is an incredible mentoring organization, but definitely not an adoption service," DeVenny said. "I like to say God is like UPS. Sometimes he delivers your children to the wrong address."

But there are less-unusual examples of how charitable work can be an asset, experts say.

Paralegals may not realize they can reap professional benefits by helping with pro bono work skills that have become increasingly important given the economic collapse and increasingly competitive job market.

Certain programs, like guardian ad litem, directly draw on a paralegal's knowledge of the courts and court procedure to provide a much-needed service while simultaneously furthering a paralegal's professional experience, DeVenny told Carolina Paralegal News.

"You have to use your investigative and interviewing skills. You have to write a report, and then you have to attend the hearing and then a lot of times you have to testify," she explained. "It's brilliant volunteer work for paralegals."

And non-legal outreach, such as participating in food or clothing drives, has also supported paralegals in these tough times, DeVenny noted.

"There have been national stories about paralegals being laid off and entering food banks for the first time," she said. "It's an important social issue and there are all kinds of ways paralegals can continue to give back using their training and skills."

Exactly, Huskey said.

"I think that volunteerism is important no matter what you do for a living. Helping somebody else always benefits more than just the person you're helping."

Re-printed with Permission © 2009 Lawyers Weekly Inc., All Rights Reserved.

Monday, May 25, 2009

On Missing @lilyhill

The thing is, I had my eye on Twitterer @lilyhill for a professional profile for Practical Paralegalism. I just hadn’t worked up the nerve to ask my Twitter “rock star” for it. She was one of the first half dozen or so people that I followed on Twitter, attracted to her description on J.D. Twitt’s 145 legal Tweeps to follow on Twitter (which has since grown A LOT) as a “paralegal, social media evangelist, consultant”.

@lilyhill (for Lilyhill Consulting) immediately became one of my favorite Twitterers. When she tweeted, I smiled at her wit, was delighted by her sense of humor and marveled at her ability to find and share relevant, cutting-edge but sometimes ever so slightly delightfully off-kilter legal and professional news. She was my irreverent but knowledgeable Twitter goddess who tweeted the Tweets I wish I’d tweeted first.

So I was shocked to my toes to see this Tweet on Friday:

This is lilyhills daughter. She passed away on wednesday due to a stroke.
9:05 AM May 22nd from txt


And that’s how I found out that one of my bright stars in the Twitterverse, Roberta “Ro” Frazier, a/k/a @lilyhill on Twitter, was extinguished.

When I finally stopped crying, I knew I’d have to write about her but wondered if I could. But I discovered I didn’t have to write about her, because she did it best herself, via Twitter.

Her Twitter bio always makes me smile, no matter how many times I read it:


Paralegal, SOHO Consultant, Digital Coach, Trail Guide for the Techno-Paranoid. Ok, Office Goddess. My coffee mug says so.


@lilyhill tweeted good stuff in a witty fashion for legal professionals and social media enthusiasts, and lot of other Tweeps who were following her. I loved her Tweets because she didn’t take herself (or the legal profession) overly seriously, which in my eyes made her an on point, timely and outstanding source of news, advice and direction.

Some of her May 2009 Tweets included:


Is There Sisterhood in the Legal Profession? http://tinyurl.com/qflhwy

42 Million U.S. Women Use Social Media: Blogs Most Influential http://bit.ly/S2Lzx

How To Get Your Lawyers To Let You Do What You Want http://bit.ly/83t4v

Woman killed by her laptop http://bit.ly/14MhjY

Associate Job Losses May Mean Paralegal Job Gains http://bit.ly/WqXbp

Virtual Assistants-7 Red Flags That Say You’re in Over Your Head http://bit.ly/vMMGi Excellent points.

Impressing Your Boss with Time Management 2.0 http://bit.ly/170MS1

And @lilyhill was helpful to others, patiently guiding the newbies:


@Helen_Gordon 2- Character limit is a killer. Forget grammar, learn shortcuts. 3- Good tools here: http://bit.ly/11YMmC

@Helen_Gordon #1 Remembr tweets go everywhere. I fnd u becuz I monitr word paralegal. Unless u send a direct msg, anyone kn rd what u say.


And I think @lilyhill liked me as much as I liked her:


@Helen_Gordon Welcome to Twitter! Suggest you follow @ExpertParalegal and @VickiVoisin for starters. A lot of great paralegals on Twitter.


In one of our last DM (direct message) exchanges @lilyhill and I joked about those archaic telephones sitting on our desks collecting dust. Now many of us "twitter" instead of using the phone, and get to know a whole new world full of amazing people who are generous with their time and knowledge – and who leave a huge hole in our lives when they are suddenly gone.

I’m still surprised to not see her frequent Tweets and still missing the person that I considered my friend (and irreverent Twitter legal soulmate). For a beautiful tribute to @lilyhill by another Twitterer, @gloriabell, who said exactly what I feel, only much better, see Who says Twitter Relationships are not real?”:


The bits and pieces of our lives that we daily share with each other on Twitter are the building blocks for those relationships. The times that we laugh together, support each other, educate one another, just chat, share virtual hugs, share wisdom & insight and on days like today, cry together. This is what builds those relationships.

Primo Paralegal Shoutouts

As always, it's an honor and a pleasure to share the achievements of paralegals and paralegal students all over the country. Special thanks to those of you who contacted me directly with your news.

Want to share your good news, including degrees, scholarships, job announcements and special recognition via Practical Paralegalism? Email me at lynne.devenny@gmail.com.

One reader recently emailed me and said, "I hate to toot my own horn!" I responded that it's important for us to share our good news, especially in these tough times. Your horn plays music to our ears and gives us a chance to do a little happy dance (even if it's at our overloaded desks). The paralegal community is here to support its members in good times as well as bad ones.

Arizona paralegal Pamela Anders has passed the CLA/CP exam, and is now designated as a Certified Paralegal. Ms. Anders, who earned her associate of paralegal studies from National Paralegal College, is a contract paralegal in Phoenix, specializing in bankruptcy, creditors’ rights, and business. She can be found at www.paralegal4hire.net.

Arizona paralegal Laura Taggart has joined Pro-Link GLOBAL, Inc. She has nine years of paralegal experience and a paralegal certificate from Arizona Paralegal Training Program, in addition to a bachelor’s degree in French from San Francisco State University. (PR Web)

Illinois resident Carol Nelson graduated with honors from Illinois Central College with her post-degree certificate in paralegal studies. Ms. Nelson is currently employed as a paralegal with Cassidy & Mueller in Peoria.

Illinois paralegal student Shenetra Franklin, won third place and a $200 book scholarship in the 10-week 2009 Saluki’s Healthiest Loser program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. (The Southern)

Southwestern Illinois College Paralegal Studies students answered the national call to service recently during a recent fund-raiser in Belleville.

Jennifer Cruise and Meghan Biggs of Granite City and Susan Boester, Erin Dix and Patty Taylor of Belleville were among 13 SWIC students who served as volunteer race guides at the eighth annual Law Day Run on May 1.

SWIC Assistant Professor of Business Law/Paralegal Studies Christie Highlander helped the cause as well, running the 5K race.

The St. Clair County Bar Association hosts the annual event to raise funds for the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income individuals and senior citizens in 65 counties in central and southern Illinois.
(Madison County Record)

Maryland resident Dina Leonso obtained an associate of applied science in paralegal studies from Kaplan University. (Annapolis Capital)

Massachusetts resident Jennifer N. Linscott graduated from Northern Essex Community College with an associate’s degree in science (paralegal studies career option) with honors.

Massachusetts resident Diana D. Roix graduated from Northern Essex Community College with an associate’s degree in science (paralegal studies career option) with high honors. (North Andover Citizen)


The following have been have been elected officers of Tulsa, Okla.-based NALS, the Association of Legal Professionals: Beverly Bishop, president-elect of NALS of Michigan, and Kathleen Amirante, national secretary/treasurer. In addition, the following have been elected NALS of Lansing officers: Michele David, president; Rhonda Mask, vice president; Deborah Sipperly, secretary; Brandy Kline, treasurer; Deborah Surls, governor; and Jeannette Ransom, parliamentarian. (Lansing State Journal)



Tennessee paralegal Linda Jones, employed by Milligan & Coleman, successfully completed the two-day Certified Paralegal examination, the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. She has an associate of applied science degree in paralegal studies from Walters State Community College and a bachelor's degree in psychology from East Tennessee State University. (The Greenville Sun)


Tennessee paralegal Jennifer Tlumak received the 2009 Young Leader Award from the Tennessee Alliance for Progress for her efforts as an advocate for children's health services. She is a paralegal and client advocate at the Tennessee Justice Center. (The Tennessean)

Virginian Michelle C. Wilson has earned her CLA/CP designation from the National Association of Legal Assistants. She is the paralegal studies subject area coordinator at Bryant & Stratton College. (Richmond Times Dispatch)

Lawyer Blames Paralegal for Erroneous Application

Texas lawyer Andrew Schirrmeister responded to a motion for sanctions by former appellate judge Gordon Maag, admitting that his application to practice in an Illinois benzene suit without an Illinois license omitted information about prior sanctions – due to the fault of the paralegal that prepared it.

Gordon Maag represents the plaintiff, The Estate of Kent Herzog, in a civil action against DuPont for alleged negligent exposure to benzene. Mr. Shirrmeister represents Du Pont.

Gordon Maag advised Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth that while googling Mr. Shirrmeister in April 2007, he discovered that he had been sanctioned in Texas in 1995. Mr. Shirrmeister testified before Judge Ruth that “a paralegal prepared his application and he didn't examine it.”


"What happened in this case was, I failed to carefully read the application," Schirrmeister said.

He apologized to the court and Maag.

Judge Ruth apparently takes a dim view of attorneys that fail to carefully review documents for their own signatures, saying, "The court has a problem with attorneys just coming in and saying I didn't read the law and I didn't pay attention to the facts."


"We are lawyers and we are supposed to read the law before you go filing documents, not after you get in trouble or caught, whatever you want to call it," Ruth said.

Judge Ruth has asked for more information pending a ruling.

Madison County Record

This article is a great read for some fine courtroom quotes, including “Have you ever used Google?” and “I just made a mistake. Gee whiz I'm sorry.”

Courthouse Clerk Earns Bachelor’s Degree at Age 72

New Jersey courthouse clerk Elaine Bialow, employed by the Middlesex County Courthouse, graduated this week from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She is 72 years old.

Bialow worked toward her political science degree not for a promotion or more money, but for her own edification.

"I wanted the degree for me," she said. "I'm not leaving (my job). I love my job. I love the work environment. I just did it for myself."


Ms. Bialow previously earned her associate degree in paralegal studies in 2002 and plans to continue to work full-time.

New Brunswick Home News Journal

In a related story, another New Jersey resident Dominick Ruggiero, who has an associate degree in paralegal studies from Pasco-Hernando Community College in Florida, graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. He is 76 years old. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Of course, Mae West’s take on this is, “You’re never too old to become younger.” I myself am a big believer in the power of continuing education, formal or informal, to help keep us young at heart and in spirit.

Paralegal Buys Elderly Lawyer’s Practice for $20

This might be Practical Paralegalism’s criminal activity shocker for the month. California paralegal Mario Abernathy admitted buying an 84-year old lawyer’s practice for $20, after befriending him and then having him sign a power of attorney giving Mr. Abernathy control of his property. The lawyer was in the early stages of dementia.

Mr. Abernathy has been sentenced to two years in prison for defrauding an elderly person and ordered to pay $15,300 in restitution.

What is more shocking? The terrible abuse of an elderly person by the paralegal, or the fact that he paid $20 for an entire law practice when he's not licensed to practice law?


San Jose Mercury News

First Grader Says Legal Assistants Can Earn Lots of Money

A first grader at Middle Ridge Elementary School in Middletown, Ohio shares what she learned about legal assistants at the school's recent career day.

Shelby Williams, 7, said she learned a legal assistant “needs to do whatever the lawyer says."

Shelby said the career is “cool because she can earn lots of money.”

Middletown Journal

I'd love to hear from the legal assistant who spoke to her class. I'd also love to know how much money a first grader considers to be “lots”.

Process Server Signs 200 False Affidavits

Minnesota process server Angus McEachern was charged Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court with 13 counts of perjury. He lied about serving 13 individuals, leaving them facing default judgments for cases they didn't know about, according to criminal charges. The court vacated 186 default judgments in response to the allegations.

McEachern told investigators that he signed about 200 false affidavits during the six months he was employed by Major Legal Professional Process Serving in 2008, the charges said.

In one case, McEachern signed an affidavit saying that he had served a person in Inver Grove Heights on March 29, 2008, when the person had actually died on March 1, according to the charges. In some of the other cases, the people who McEachern claimed he had served were in another state, at work or in prison.

He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000 for each count of perjury.

Minneapolis Star Tribune

This 23-year old clearly did not take the critical role of a process server in civil litigation seriously, disrupting not only the local court system but the lives of the individuals he failed to properly serve as well.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Paralegal Profile: Christina L. Koch, ACP, Freelance Author & Belly Dancer

Job Titles: Litigation Paralegal/Trial Practice Specialist

Employer: Inserra & Kelley, Omaha, NE

Years of Paralegal Experience: 20

Specialty Areas: Personal Injury, FELA, Workers’ Compensation, Social Security

Career Highlights: Paralegal Gateway Superstar March 2008, NALA LEAP Class 2009, and being able to freelance as a legal author, which I have really enjoyed the last few years.

Paralegal Practice Tip: Develop the seed of doubt, and nurture it. If you are not 100% sure something has been done, verify it. If you are not 100% sure of the rule or statute, verify it.

Favorite Internet Resource: University of Washington School of Law – Legal Resources (very comprehensive listing of legal resources!!!)

http://lib.law.washington.edu/research/research.html#usbest

Fun Fact: Three years ago, I took belly dancing classes and lost 60 pounds.

Professional Bio Links: www.thenebraskaparalegal.com, http://www.linkedin.com/in/christinakoch
_______________________________
Christina is a frequent and knowledgeable poster to the national paralegal listservs, including Paralegal Gateway. See Christina's articles, "Successful Techniques for Using Evidence and Exhibits" and "Effective Document Control and Organization" at http://www.inserra.com/articles.asp.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What to Wear to a Paralegal Job Interview

Alison Doyle, a job search expert, book author and prolific career columnist at About.com Careers, recently blogged about “What Not to Wear on an Interview”. She is a great job search follow on Twitter (@alisondoyle), and in addition to regularly blogging with excellent career advice, offers a free weekly email job searching newsletter.

My favorite part of “What Not to Wear on an Interview” is the list of attire to avoid:
  • Flip-flops or sneakers.

  • Underwear (bras, bra straps, briefs, boxers, etc.) that is visible. Don't wear any underwear that shows - even if your bra straps match your top.

  • Shorts.

  • Jeans.

  • Skirts that are too short.

  • Pants that are too low-rise or too tight.

  • Blouses that are too low-cut or too short - don't show your cleavage or your belly.

  • More on underwear and low-rise pants - make sure the top of your thong, if you wear one, doesn't show above your pants.

In summary, avoid looking like Jessica Simpson in The Dukes of Hazzard movie. (Not that she's not lovely, but would you trust "Daisy" to draft a legal document for you?) When in doubt about whether your thong might show, go for uncomplicated cotton briefs. With the stress of an interview itself, who needs to worry about whether his or her thong has somehow escaped the confines of the recommended classic business suit?

And that’s the basic tried and true recommendation by me, Ms. Doyle and anyone else giving career advice who’s worth his or her salt: wear a classic business suit to any professional job interview. In particular, most legal environments are conservative, traditional settings. Even if you’re lucky enough to land at the one law firm in your area where the employees are allowed to bring their dogs to work and wear yoga pants when they don’t have court – you won’t know that as a newbie interviewee.

Own at least one flattering and well-fitting, but classic suit in a neutral color, like black, gray, navy blue, or caramel. For women, buying a three-piece suit (jacket, skirt and slacks) is a great way to expand wardrobe options, and buying two mix-and-match suits is an even better way to build a limited wardrobe. Adding a simple, well-tailored sleeveless dress in a neutral color to wear with the suit jacket is another great way to expand the suit’s flexibility. (A suit to interview at a conservative private law firm or corporation is a costly but necessary investment. If you’re a student and your money will be tight for the foreseeable future, start haunting better consignment stores and clearance racks regularly to acquire at least one well-made suit.)

Mixing and matching conservative blouses in bright, flattering colors can give an otherwise traditional suit a bit of individual flair. (Men can incorporate this advice by buying attractive and flattering ties.) Ms. Doyle is right about pantyhose. When in doubt, wear them (you can always take them off as soon as you get back to your car).

Own at least one pair of good shoes with great arch support and a moderate heel. You’ll love them when you’re following that HR recruiter around a large corporate office, grateful that your feet aren’t killing you, and that you’re not in danger of falling off those sexy stiletto heels that you really wanted to wear to liven up that “boring” suit.

As far as interview jewelry, it’s hard to go wrong with a pair of simple, classic (faux or real) diamond studs, but they have to be worn in your ears and not in your nose. A small, classic purse and a leather (faux or real) portfolio for your resume and references will make you look organized and pulled together.

Hair and make-up? Think Michelle Obama and not Jessica Simpson. Less is more when interviewing for legal professional jobs – unless we’re talking about flip-flops, Daisy Duke shorts, or thong underwear.

Sometimes the Fine Print Is Both Frightening and Inspiring

Words to live by for any legal professional (and the general public): "Read the fine print." Today, while drinking my aptly named "rescue" green tea vitaminwater®, I just happened to notice the fine print on the bottle, which says:

is it us or is "maturing" just another word for getting old? and who likes getting old anyway? your ears get hairier than your head, your back goes out more than you do, your late night dinners turn into early bird specials, you go from blonde hair to blue hair, and your little black book contains names that end only in m.d.

that's why this bottle is packed with fancy science stuff (except without the bubbling beakers), like vitamin c & egcg (a natural antioxidant) to help kick your metabolism up a notch and keep you looking good from now until the day that you're so "mature" you can put your teeth in a cup.

First, a disclaimer. I'm not getting paid to promote Glaceau vitaminwater®. I just like it. I'd better like it, since I can no longer drink coffee or soda. But in truth, it's really delicious and the green tea flavor is the bomb-diggety.

Second, the fine print on this bottle initially took me aback, and then it made me laugh with its "home truths". My back does go out more than I do, and while I haven't seen any ear hair yet, I have noticed that women of a certain age (like my age) don't have to shave their legs as often -- but do have to shave their whiskers sometimes.

I do like the word "maturing" better than the phrase "getting old" but both sure beat the alternative. Sometimes I wonder if paralegals age faster due to the demands of a fast-paced, deadline-oriented career. We do need to take very good care of ourselves, because a lot of people rely on us: our lawyers, our clients and our families.

Dennis Miller said, "You've got bad eating habits if you use a grocery cart in 7-Eleven." During my paralegal career, I've been guilty of eating more than a few "meals" from a 7-Eleven in my car or at my desk. But we need to take as good care of ourselves as we take of others (our lawyers, our clients and our families).

So drink some healthy beverages and eat some healthy snacks (those Mini Babybels rock and no, they aren't sponsoring me, either) and try to stay out of the 7-Eleven unless you need gas. And read the fine print for the down-low on maturing well and trying to keep your teeth out of a cup.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Former Paralegal is Receptionist of the United States

Washington, DC resident Darienne Page, an Army veteran and former paralegal who took depositions in Iraq, is now President Barack Obama’s receptionist. He has affectionately nicknamed her “Rotus” - for “Receptionist of the [entire] United States”.

For her $36,000-a-year salary, Ms. Page schedules all the activity in the Roosevelt Room, just steps from the Oval Office, and in the Wardroom Room, which is outside the White House mess hall. Even with a dawn-to-dusk schedule, the meetings often run overtime, creating a logjam that she is left to contend with.

One sign of a busy day? An ever-growing pile of BlackBerrys and cellphones.

The Roosevelt Room is secure, so she must collect all personal electronic devices at the door. She uses yellow Post-it notes to write the last name of the owner on each device before placing it in a wicker basket on her desk, next to a vase of fresh flowers that is rotated at least every three days.


The New York Times article provides a wonderful account of a typical day for the United States’ receptionist, and is a glowing testament to Ms. Page’s utilization of her outstanding paralegal and military skills in continuing service to her country.

Her story makes me think of the Dr. Suess book my daughter received at her own college graduation, Oh! The Places You Will Go! One particular phrase seems to embody Ms. Page’s amazing career opportunity:

Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.


See New York Times.

Paralegal Earns Extra Bucks as a Mystery Shopper

South Carolina paralegal Anita Robertson has a part-time gig as a mystery shopper. She earned about $1,000.00 extra dollars last year, visiting stores and restaurants to evaluate their service – and got some free meals. But she earns those meals, recording the length of time she waits to be served and evaluating the cleanliness of the restrooms.

"I have to check the bathrooms to make sure they're fully stocked, they smell clean and that everything's in working order," Robertson said.


Okay, so maybe Ms. Robertson’s meals aren’t free. (I have enough trouble keeping the bathrooms at home fully stocked…)

Think becoming a mystery shopper might be a great way to combine a paralegal’s penchant for observing minute details and taking good notes to earn a few extra bucks and some free food?

Market Force, based in Boulder, Colorado, offers the following tips on avoiding mystery shopper scams:
  • Never pay to be a shopper. Mystery shopping companies will not charge you to complete an application.
  • Only out-of-pocket cash outlays are small purchases associated with the shop (e.g. buying a burger) which are reimbursed.
  • Although some shopper fees can be higher (e.g. banking shops, higher-end dining, etc.), the typical shopper fee is $10-20 per shop...be cautious of larger amounts.
  • Be wary of unsolicited requests to become a mystery shopper sent through the mail or via e-mail.
  • Avoid companies that require shoppers to be certified -- generally involves a fee which is bad.
  • Avoid the promise of keeping expensive merchandise.
  • Avoid the guarantee of getting jobs -- although there are lots of projects, there are no guarantees.
  • Be wary of the promise it will only take a few minutes.
See WYFF4.com.