Thursday, July 30, 2009

Virtual Attorney Profile: Stephanie L. Kimbro, Legal Services Innovator & Bibliophile

Company Name: Kimbro Legal Services, LLC ( and Virtual Law Office Technology (VLOTech) (

Licensed to Practice in: North Carolina

Specialty Areas: Estate Planning, Small Business Law, other unbundled legal services online

Career Highlight: Winning the 2009 ABA Keane Award for Excellence in ELawyering

Practice Tip for Virtual Paralegals: When using mobile devices to work remotely, understand the security of those devices and the wireless connections you are using. For example, do not use free wifi when working online with confidential information.

Favorite Internet Resource: Cornell’s American Legal Ethics Library

Fun Fact: I’m a bibliophile. My husband and I collect old & rare books including a collection of French Théâtre Ouvert from the 60s. I also do book binding and book repair.

Do you Twitter? Yes. Twitter handle: @StephKimbro

Favorite Quote: Currently, it’s from my 3 year old daughter: “Mom, I’m not loud; I’m exuberant.” It reminds me to find joy in life like a child does on a daily basis.

Professional Links:


Stephanie is one of the guest experts in virtual law practice featured on The Paralegal Voice's next podcast about virtual paralegals on Legal Talk Network.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Few Free E-Discovery Resources for Newbies

The days of sending the other party in a lawsuit written discovery requests for correspondence and conveniently receiving a tidy (and, in discovery Utopia, fully disclosed) stack of paper complying with your requests have gone the way of vinyl albums, fountain pens and even actual letters, as more people turn almost exclusively to electronic means, including e-mail and social media sites, to communicate.

Ergo, we have the need for the current era of “electronic discovery” or “e-discovery”. As The Paralegal Mentor, Vicki Voisin, emphasizes in a recent post, “Will Your Lack of E-Discovery Expertise Affect Firm’s Fee Recovery?”, “Even in small cases, electronic discovery can be a significant element of discovery for both parties.”

If you’re thinking, “AAAAAAAAAACK, 'E-DISCOVERY'???!!! What the heck is it and how do I get some?” (but silently because that looks ever so much more intelligent) then here are a few essential and free Internet resources that you can use to not only quietly “bone up” on the basics (and impress your boss), but to keep up with the ever-evolving developments in this area:

Discovery (sponsored by Fios, Inc.) provides “the most up-to-date information, resources and news available about electronic discovery.” The site has links to e-discovery blogs and news, as well as a library with glossaries.

Electronic Data Discovery at provides articles, a blog, daily updates and even an easy to read road map explaining the basic principles.

Fios (Electronic Discovery Management Services) has links to case law and rules, and multiple electronic webcasts available on demand, including “Electronic Discovery 101 for Litigation Support and Paralegals”.

Whatever you do, embrace e-discovery and learn to love it with the same passion that you welcomed its precursor, e-mail.

Got a favorite e-discovery website for newbies? Please share it, and I’ll add it to the list.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What Does the Future Hold for Ex-Offenders with Paralegal Degrees?

14 Philadelphia ex-offenders graduated from The Center for Community Education at Eastern University with diplomas from a new 9-month paralegal program designed to help them find employment.
The graduates were: Bernadette Brandie, Faith C. Burrell, Ellen B. Crawford, Keith D. Ellis, Yvette K. Kamimura, Tammy J. Keitt, April L. Kelly, Mercedes A. Powers, Ronald E. Rivers, Phaedra Saunders, Irma C. Smith, Robert M. Smith, Kimberly Truitt, Tameka M. Upshaw.

The title of the news story is “14 ex-offenders become certified paralegals” which is misleading, because while they did earn diplomas for completion of a paralegal program, they did not receive one of the voluntary paralegal certifications offered by some states or national certification programs such as NALA or NFPA.

While the story itself is a feel-good tale of hard work and hope, with a city investing significant resources to give much-needed marketable skills to a difficult-to-employ population, I want to know how the story ends. Did the graduates find work in the legal industry or a related field, using the skills they gained in the paralegal program?

The program’s founder and director, Philadelphia Municipal Judge Jimmie Moore, said at the commencement ceremony:
When I look at these graduates, I don’t see re-entry. Because these individuals never left our community. Do we really believe they were cut off from their families? Do we really believe they had no communications? They never left our community. And I don’t see ex-offenders because who among us has not violated a moral and or social law. What I see is individuals who have been sent to designated time out units — when you misbehave, you get sent to time-out, that’s what I see.
But what will Philadelphia employers see? And will they give these new graduates a chance to work in the community as paralegals?

Paralegal News Clips

Michael Nelson received a Certificate in Advanced Professional Studies degree in Paralegal Studies from Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. (Warwick Beacon)

Melanie Harkey, employed by Wake Forest University’s Legal Department, has been promoted to Coordinator of Board Support. Harkey had been a legal secretary at Wake Forest since 2007. Previously, she worked as a legal assistant for Maynard & Harris, Attorneys at Law and other law firms in Winston-Salem. Harkey has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wake Forest and a paralegal certificate from the American Institute of Paralegal Studies. (Window on Wake Forest)

Megan Ayers Bridges recently joined Merritt & Merritt & Moulton in Vermont as a paralegal. She attended Mount Holyoke and graduated from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., in 2003 with a degree in history. She previously served as Assistant Director of Admissions at Champlain College and at Furman University. (Burlington Free Press)

Monday, July 27, 2009

After Son’s Death, Legal Assistant Helps Create “Jacob’s Law”

Texas legal assistant Avonda Fox has experienced a parent’s worst nightmare: the death of her young son, Jacob Ray-Shaun Fox, by heatstroke, after he was left unattended in a day-care van on July 20, 2006.

Fox tells her story firsthand at the site of the foundation she created in her son's memory:
At the age of 25 I found myself in the untenable position of being a single mother with two small boys, one of whom was now dead. There are no words in the English language to adequately describe the degree of devastation I experienced at the realization that: 1.) my son was lost forever: 2 ) I had no idea how to plan a funeral: 3.)I had no life insurance on my children: and 4.)no money for funeral expenses.
But she turned the unimaginable trauma of losing a child under horrific circumstances into the creation of a new Texas childcare law, Jacob’s Law, which goes into effect in September and will require day-care workers that transport children to undergo two hours of transportation safety training each year.

On average, 37 children die each year across the country from vehicle-related hyperthermia whether left behind by day-care workers or parents, according to data compiled by Jan Null, a professor at San Francisco State University. There were nine deaths in Texas last year.

State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, authored the bill after Fox met with her and shared her story. Shapiro said she has been outraged when she hears about Jacob and other children left in vehicles.

As a parent myself, this story elicits deep sadness for Fox and her family, as well as outrage and anger at the former day-care owner, Blynithia Washington, who upon learning of the child’s death ordered her employees to leave his body at a park instead of calling 911. Two years of prison time seems inadequate punishment for someone who did that to a small child entrusted to her care.

But Fox is channeling her anger and her pain into saving other children from experiencing her son’s fate. She said:

I wanted to try to save another life. It happens too often in Texas. This is reoccurring. It's so preventable.

It just shouldn't happen.

Fox also started the Jacob Fox Foundation, which provides services to families in similar circumstances, including help with funeral expenses and counseling.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

So-Called Paralegal Hustles Millions

Who can resist a story that includes the statement, “At 32, Brian Neiman has seen more success, more scandal, more money earned and lost than most people can expect in a lifetime.” Not me. But this quote was from a 2002 Miami Herald story. Brian Neiman, self-described paralegal, at age 39, is still accused of living the high life through high dollar hustles.

According to the Miami Herald, Neiman has been a state bar’s nightmare from an early age. While most teenage delinquents are buying beer with fake IDs, Neiman was thinking way bigger and staged a fake automobile accident to obtain the insurance proceeds.

Continuing his merry, litigious and unlicensed ways (which seem to run in the family), “[h]e was busted in 1994 for pulling slip-and-fall lawsuit scams on South Florida retailers with his mother.” Moving on to much bigger fish, in 2002, the Florida Bar found the “so-called paralegal” made over a million dollars filing “baseless racial discrimination suits” and keeping most of the settlement proceeds while his clients, who thought they had a real lawyer, received the equivalent of peanuts.

In May 2002, the Supreme Court of Florida enjoined Neiman from the unlicensed practice of law. The opinion itself provides a thorough account of Neiman’s brazen activities running a law office (and allegedly bossing around an actual attorney), which (as he reported to his probation officers) netted him a not too shabby income of over $50,000.00 per month at one point.

Neiman argued that participating in settlement negotiations did not constitute UPL, but the Court wryly disagreed and pronounced that he had flunked that non-legal 4-pronged (looks, walks, talks, acts) standard: The Duck Test.

In common parlance, Neiman’s activities fail the “duck test”. That is, in common parlance, one would expect that if it looks like a duck, and walks, talks, and acts like a duck, one can usually safely assume it is a duck. Unfortunately, while Neiman at all times acted like an educated and licensed lawyer, he was not.

The Miami Herald at that point thought his hustling career was over in South Florida and that a simple Google search would protect the very gullible public from Neiman, only to learn that last week the SEC reported the apparently still wildly successful Florida businessman had agreed to pay a "$40,000 civil penalty for running an unregistered, fraudulent securities racket between 2002 and 2007” – a scheme that allegedly involved 330 even more gullible investors throwing their money at Neiman to the tune of $68 million. On the bright side, over $65 million in funds has been returned to investors.

The SEC's complaint noted that would-be investors received promotional materials from Neiman bragging that "by age 22, he was probably the only paralegal in the country making over a million dollars a year.'' That may have been the most truthful statement in the materials.

According to his MySpace page for the Neiman Family Foundation, Neiman is an unabashed Renaissance Man, not only creating a “break-through concept for purchasing real estate” (the SEC is calling it something else), but dabbling in art, showing Paso Fino horses and attending society fundraisers.

I don’t think the Miami Herald – or the public – has seen the last of Brian Neiman.

The Paralegal Picture: Best Internet Quotes for the Week Ending 07/26/09

This week I’m featuring quotes from the helpful paralegal community on Twitter.

Cathy Ribble, a freelance paralegal, is always a great source of information, including this reminder that utilizing social media, especially that all-important LinkedIn profile, is crucial.

Tweet away, but don't forget your LinkedIn network also! ~ @CathyRibble

Vicki Perry Barker, a virtual paralegal, shares the thoughts of her “go green” child who, like many of us, is thinking of ways to save paper!

My 10 yr old thinks I'm "old school" b/c I still print some of my ebooks. She's probably right LOL ~ @ATLParalegal

Yuriko “Judi” Almonte, a paralegal student, celebrates good grades and the end of another term.

Made an "A" on my last Family Law Quiz for this term. A few days off & then back at it again August 5th. 3 more terms to go!! :) @yalmonte12legal

Finally, Michelle Flowers Brooks, a Senior Paralegal Manager, expresses how many of us feel at the end of a work day – tired but lucky to be paralegals.

Long, stressful day today. But, I still love the job! How was your day? ~ @ymfbrooks

Not Twittering yet? It’s a great way to keep up with the latest in legal news and meet other paralegals all over the country.

Legal Nurse Consultant Profile: Victoria Powell, RN, CCM, LNCC, CNLCP, MSCC, CEAS

Job Titles: CEO/President of VP Medical Consulting; Nurse Case Manager; Nurse Life Care Planner; Medical Set Aside Allocator; Legal Nurse Consultant; Ergonomic Assessment Specialist

Employer: Self-employed,VP Medical Consulting in Benton, Arkansas (suburb of Little Rock)

Years of Legal Nurse Consultant Experience: I have been working in some form of Legal Nurse Consulting since 2002. I began in the area of workers compensation and continue to work in the area of workers compensation as well as medical malpractice, personal injury, product liability and toxic tort. Through the years I added other services such as ergonomic assessments and safety training. Then, at the request of some of my referring attorneys, I have expanded my education into other areas such as life care planning. I currently hold five certifications.

Specialty Areas: I have a special interest in amputation, orthopedic and head injuries, and life care planning. I also have a background that includes dental and orthodontics as well as medical office work.

Career Highlight: My journey of self-employment has been the highlight of my career. It took guts to leave the comforts of a national company and all the perks and benefits to try something on my own. Best of all, I actually did it! It is the hardest job in the world, but also the most rewarding as everything I have done is because of the work I did and nothing more. What I get back is what I put in. I love what I do. All entrepreneurs should be passionate about their business.

Another career highlight has been working on a case from Australia. It has been very interesting to learn about the Australian legal system. The case is still pending and I am anxious to see the outcome and the twists and turns it takes to get there.

Practice Tip for Paralegals Working with LNCs: Paralegals are great! They make me look good! The paralegal knows just how the attorney prefers things which can be a great help for those of us in litigation support. The paralegal is usually the one on top of the cases.

If you are a paralegal and are stuck trying to locate an expert or to determine how to obtain a particular record or other such thing, my tip is to contact a legal nurse consultant such as myself. You never know…we might be able to help you too.

Favorite Internet Resource: I have many, many favorite resources. Many resources are posted on my blog. You can go to the link (http://vp-medical.wordpress/) and use the search box and simply search “resources” to find tons and more are added each week.

Fun Fact: I am a movie critic, avid reader (yea Kindle!), Twitter addict, and pretend photographer. My husband is an artist and the two of us love to travel. The furthest we have traveled is Misaw, Japan. My favorite trips are the spur of the moment kind. We have four children and four grandchildren along with two four-legged babies. I am a proud owner of a new motorcycle (Can Am Spyder) and have geek tendencies.

Paralegal News Clips

▪Army Spc. Raven Holland-Weber, currently stationed at Camp Atterbury in Columbus, Indiana, is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, where she will serve as a paralegal with the Judge Advocate General's Office. (Henderson Gleaner)

Bruce Hamm, director of legal studies and recruitment and outreach at Syracuse University College, was recently appointed by the American Bar Association to a one-year term as a member of the Standing Committee on Paralegals Approval Commission. (Central New York Business Journal)

Jayme Jones and Christine Wittenbach have joined the Kalamazoo, Michigan office of Willis & Willis PLC, Attorneys and Counselors at Law. Jones is a paralegal for the estate-planning, estate/trust administration and litigation-practice groups. She brings more than 15 years of experience to the firm. Wittenbach is a legal assistant for the litigation and real-estate-law practice groups. She has 25 years of real-estate experience. (Kalamazoo Gazette)

▪Two legal assistants at David R. Bliss LLC in Bismarck, North Dakota have been admitted to law school. Micheal Mulloy, a 2008 summa cum laude graduate of the University of Mary, will begin studies this fall at the University of Kansas School of Law in Lawrence, Kan. Jenna Cieslak, also a 2008 summa cum laude graduate of U-Mary, will begin studies this fall at the University of Minnesota School of Law in Minneapolis. (Bismark Tribune)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Paralegal Recalls First Job: Working for Walter Cronkite

Peggy Occhipinti, a paralegal since 1983 for Lionel Sawyer & Collins in Las Vegas, has an unusual right-out-of-college job experience: she worked as a production assistant for Walter Cronkite on the “CBS Evening News” in the early 70s.

While she recalls her idol Cronkite startling her by using a rare expletive her first night on the job, she describes him as a generous mentor who “taught me that no matter how important you are, no matter how famous you might be, if you love what you do, you get your hands dirty in the trenches."

Jane Morrison’s column “Respectful, hard-working -- that's the way Cronkite was, Las Vegan recalls” is a great read, not only giving readers an insider's description of a great American journalist, but sharing the interesting story of a Nevada legal professional who was a part of journalism history and sampled an eclectic mix of vocations before settling into a successful long term career as a paralegal. Occhipinti currently works in the litigation department of Lionel Sawyer & Collins.

Paralegal Profile: Amy Bernardino, Corporate Specialist & Facebook Aficionado

Job Title: Paralegal

Employer: Lewitt, Hackman, Shapiro, Marshall & Harlan; Encino, CA

Years of Paralegal Experience: I’ve been working under the “Paralegal” title since 2006, when I received my Paralegal Certificate, Corporations Specialty from the University of West Los Angeles, School of Paralegal Studies. However, I’ve been doing paralegal-level work since 2003.

Specialty Areas: I currently specialize in Mergers and Acquisitions, Corporate Maintenance and Corporate Finance/Securities. I’m also Co-Chair of the San Fernando Valley section of the Los Angeles Paralegal Association.

Career Highlight: Last year I overcame my fear of public speaking by co-presenting “The Red Flag Rules and other Privacy and Identity Theft Issues – Health Care Organization Compliance” to members of the Healthcare Financial Management Association in Riverside, California. Since then, I have become the resident go-to person for issues related to medical and other identity theft and security breach notification requirements.

Paralegal Practice Tip: Whether you work in-house or for a law firm, make sure the attorneys with whom you work are aware of your abilities and use you to the fullest of your potential. For me, there is nothing worse than hearing, often after the fact, “Oh, I didn’t know you could do that.” As intelligent as they are, attorneys often have no clue that there are some tasks that can be delegated to competent and resourceful paralegals. Paralegal underutilization is one of my biggest professional pet-peeves.

Favorite Internet Resource: As a corporate paralegal often dealing with legal entities in multiple states, I frequent “State and Local Government on the Net” ( It provides, at no cost, links to official state, county and city government websites – all on one easy-to-use page.

Fun Fact: I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a book comprising essays on various topics (mostly autobiographical) for the past 10 years. The only thing holding me back is that when I actually do have the time to sit down and write, I have nothing interesting to say.

Do you Twitter? No. Facebook has already taken over my life, and if I add Twitter to the mix, I’m afraid I’ll forget to shower in the morning.

Favorite Quote: “Never let it be said that your anal-retentive attention to detail never yielded positive results.” – Dogma. I’ve always loved this quote because, generally speaking, being anal-retentive is mocked. I wholeheartedly disagree. I’ve always found it to be an asset. Annoying, yes. But an asset nonetheless.

LinkedIn Profile:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Paralegal Posting of the Week: Come Turn on Your PC & Sit a Spell

I couldn’t not touch this particular job posting, because it’s generated almost as much of a kerfluffle in the legal field as Sarah Palin’s position on ethics. The deliciously irreverent blog Above the Law broke the brouhaha first in its July 21, 2009 post, "Can’t Find Work? Paralegal for Weil Gotshal."

The legal job market is a little dicey right now, leading some law grads to question the worth of their shiny new J.D. degree. Suffolk Law grads -- and not just the ones who can’t get dates – are really questioning the value of their degrees, after an ill-timed job advertisement from Weil Gotshal & Manges went out on their career services list-serv:
An extremely bummed law student shared the advertisement with ATL, grumbling, “Many of my classmates are frustrated about this email sent two weeks before the bar exam advertising a paralegal position for a recent graduate.” Law and More reacted by suggesting that this indicates the job market is so bad for lawyers that they might want to vie for work in a television reality show format, "Six Lawyers in Search of a Job."

Here's part of the now infamous job advertisement sent to the law school:

-Assist with all stages of transactions, including various closing and post closing tasks

-Organize and review diligence materials, maintain data rooms, maintain corporate records.

-Conduct basic research using various resources including databases and the Internet.

-Manage databases.

-Review, draft and prepare corporate formation/organizational documents.

-Prepare, file and/or order corporate documents with/for various service companies, the SEC and other regulatory bodies.

-Prepare audit response letters.

-Provide attorneys with general organizational support and other administrative duties.

This position involves sitting at a desk for long periods of time, and operating a PC and other office equipment in the course of regular duties. Involves some light lifting/moving of documents and document boxes - approx. 20lbs. Position reports to Office Administrator. Weil Gotshal requires a two year commitment for this position.

Personally, I think there may also be an opening in the HR department at Weil Gotshal soon, ‘cause job advertisements for successful law firms should make you really, really want to work there, not giggle. It goes without saying that your garden variety paralegal better know how to turn on a PC and sit at a desk (in a cubicle with no window) all day, as well as lug around boxes of documents. I'm sure it was well-intended to enlighten the newly graduated dewy-eyed newbies as to the less glamorous aspects of the paralegal profession. But you don't have to rub it in.

As far as a two-year commitment – is that a two-way street? Because that equals job security in today's economy.

The Paralegal Voice: Finding Employment After Graduation

Following the first episode of The Paralegal Voice on Legal Talk Network, we were very pleased to hear from one of our new listeners, Hardin, who has a question about finding his first paralegal job:

I am a retired 51-year old male. I have an associate degree and may participate in a 17-week Paralegal Certificate Program. Once I've attained my certificate, what would be the best source for help in finding employment?

Thanks. I really enjoyed your first show.

Lynne: I recently answered a similar question on the Paralegal Gateway listserv for a former journalist that is changing careers and is currently enrolled in a paralegal program. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough, but if possible, all paralegal students should work in the legal field while they are in school to start gaining that all-important experience required by most employers. I’m assuming that you have strong communication, keyboarding and software skills and are well-versed in all Microsoft Office applications.

If you cannot get your foot in the door in any paid entry-level capacity, such as receptionist, courier, legal secretary or administrative assistant, even part-time, I'd try offering your services as an unpaid intern, at least for a short period to get that crucial experience on your resume before you graduate. You might also want to investigate the possibility of temporary or contract work. Consider volunteering with a legal non-profit agency and joining your closest paralegal association to network and make area legal contacts. If you already know any area legal professionals from your previous career, call them!

Now is a good time to prepare a solid one-page "functional skills" resume, emphasizing your current skills that are transferable to the legal industry. Also develop a writing portfolio with your best work from your current paralegal program.

Vicki: Lynne’s suggestions are right on, Hardin! There are only a couple of things I would add. First, do join paralegal associations that offer student memberships so that you receive their publications and can participate in educational events. Usually those programs are offered at a reduced cost to students. This is an excellent avenue for networking with paralegals already working in the field.

Second, it’s essential that you begin social networking now. Set up your profile on LinkedIn showcasing your experience and education. Then begin adding connections and joining paralegal groups. When you’re ready for employment, you can include that in your profile. The networking you do on LinkedIn (and also on other social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook) may help you land your first job. For more information on social media sites, see my articles ‘Why Tweet’ and ‘Are You Sabotaging Your Career’ in the article archives at

Listening to Podcasts such as The Paralegal Voice is a great start, Hardin. I would also suggest that you participate in forums such as Paralegal Gateway and LAT. Many students post comments and receive valuable career tips.

We wish you the best, Hardin. Do let us know if you have any further questions!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Paralegal Student Can’t Graduate Due to Poor Economy

When I read about Canadian paralegal student Brent Jackson’s inability to graduate on time due to the poor economy, I thought his program’s requirement to complete 490 hours of paid work in order to be allowed to continue in the program seemed a bit unreasonable. That’s over 12 weeks of full-time salaried employment, not an easy summer gig to land even in a booming economy.
Brent Jackson thought he did everything right.

The Aurora student started looking for a summer job in December. In his third year of a four-year paralegal program at community college, he needs 490 hours in paid career placement to return to class in the fall.

The economy, however, isn't co-operating.

After sending out 150 to 200 resumes, he ended up with four interviews, but only offers of unpaid work. No summer hiring because of the bad economy, he was told.

He asked college administrators to change the requirements, to let students who couldn't find a placement hold off until next summer when, with luck, the economy improves. But no go.

It isn't fair, says his dad, Jim.

"If you don't land a paid position, you can't come back in September. So what are you going to do, become a dropout? You see yourself with the clock ticking and you've invested $45,000 (in college fees) and now it's going to go down the drain. It's alienating for kids and discouraging."


I agree with Brent’s dad. At least allow the students to satisfy the work requirement with an unpaid apprenticeship if they cannot locate a paid position. While anyone would prefer a salary, sometimes a nonsalaried internship is the only way to get desperately-needed experience.

First Time a Paralegal Is Mentioned in Song?

I don’t know about you, but it’s not often (if ever) that I hear a song about a paralegal or a former paralegal, or even the word “paralegal” used in a tune, so I thought it was way cool to run across Charlotte, North Carolina crooner Benji Hughes’ lyrics to “Tight Tee Shirt”:

Buddy I've known that girl for a while
She used to be a paralegal
She wants to be a doctor or maybe train horses
She bounces back and forth between them.
Hey, “used-to-be a paralegal” and "a real sweet girl" is better than nothing, right?

Check out "Tight Tee Shirt" on YouTube, but I'll warn you: Benji is not wearing a shirt in the video. But I'm diggin' Benji's music, and Rolling Stone likes him, too.

10 Tips for Maximizing Your Vendor Relationships

by Lynn Connor

Most people wait until the new year to make their resolutions, to which I say “hogwash!” It’s never too late to start evaluating our daily routines and habits in an attempt to improve our lives. Why not start by developing some work habits that can save you time and relieve stress? Parasec, a nationwide document filing and retrieval company, has developed 10 tips for cultivating your vendor relationships. We suggest that you use this guide to help you maintain a happy, beneficial relationship with all your vendors – no matter what time of the year it is.

  1. Understand That Service is Not “Selling” – Don’t fall into the trap of vendors who are obviously just trying to sell you more services than you need. Take the time to communicate your needs and expectations – a truly service-oriented vendor will be genuinely interested in understanding your needs so he or she can successfully address them in an appropriate manner.

  2. Establish a Partnership - Talk about your basic expectations and educate your vendor about your firm’s culture and your own work process. This will help establish clarity in your working relationship. Get any questions or concerns addressed up front, and communicate that teamwork between the two of you is key in getting the job done.

  3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Legal professionals must provide vendors sufficient information to get the job done adequately. Share information with your vendor so they will understand how they can best serve you, even if you don’t think a particular detail will make a difference. Ask your vendor to re-iterate your request back to you to make sure what you have said has been heard correctly.

  4. Be Honest, and Expect Honesty in Return - Provide honest details in establishing true, accurate deadlines whenever possible and giving precise details as to what the finished product or solution should look like. This will ensure that your vendors can assess whether they can help and under what terms. By the same token, you’ll want your vendor to be honest enough with you to bring up possible problems, limitations, or alternatives – even if it means referring you to another resource if necessary to meet your parameters.

  5. Plan Ahead - Either out of skepticism, lack of time or inexperience, many legal professionals don’t get their vendors involved early enough in the process. Planning ahead can help ensure that your project goes smoothly and that important deadlines can be met.

  6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions - Some legal professionals don’t realize that as much experience as they might have, vendors often have more experience and knowledge in their specific specialized areas. Vendors’ knowledge can be invaluable because they deal with certain situations daily that some legal professionals encounter much less frequently – say only once a week, once a month or even once a year.

  7. Demand Quality Control – Your vendor should have a quality-control process in place. Even the slightest error on documents submitted to agencies may result in delays and unexpected results. Inquire as to what kind of quality assurance your vendor offers.

  8. Expect Pro-Active Error Resolution – Even with systems in place to ensure a job well done, mistakes occasionally do happen. Any vendor that says otherwise is being unrealistic, and is unprepared or reluctant to be flexible when an error occurs. It’s important that your vendor handles the situation properly. A vendor should practice pro-active problem solving with clients, and have procedures in place that allow its staff to make amends for any problem resulting from a mistake.

  9. Rely on Your Vendor For New Resources - Ask your vendors to remind you of their other services that you might not need as frequently, or that you currently fulfill via a different vendor. If you have established trust with them, and they know how you like to work, it’s easier for you to work with fewer vendors. Often times if your vendor can’t provide the service themselves, they will happily suggest another resource who can. If you trust your vendor, chances are good that you can trust their recommendations.

  10. No-Surprise Pricing – There should never be surprises when it comes to what services you’re getting for the price you are paying. Make sure your vendor is providing you with an itemized invoice, so it’s clear what you (and ultimately your client) are paying for – including document fees and service charges. A breakdown approach to invoicing can save you from paying for services you may not have used.

Lynn Conner has been with Parasec, a public records research company, for more than 20 years, and has been the president for 16 years. Her background includes a Bachelor of Science in Botany and a Masters in Business Administration.

As president, Lynn oversees the direction and growth of Parasec. Her philosophy has always been that outstanding service wins customers for life, and Parasec works hard to adhere to that philosophy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Is Practical Paralegalism an Exception to the Short-Lived Rule?

When I tried to find a great quote about exceptions, I got stuck on this one attributed to oft-quoted (but oddly lacking in Internet biographical data) U.S. humorist Olin Miller: “Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators”.

Maybe I should consider wrestling alligators, since I don’t actually support myself as a writer. A lot of people ask me if Practical Paralegalism is my job, which amuses me, because blogging provides no source of income for me whatsoever. I’m a full-time working stiff like most of my readers, and a single mom to boot. Why do I do this when I could be relaxing in my recliner after work watching TMZ TV? Because some of the stuff I get to blog about is so unbelievable that Perez Hilton couldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole?

Seriously, I blog for the paralegal profession because I believe that paralegals are an integral but often unsung part of the practice of law. I genuinely enjoy recognizing paralegals and discussing issues that are important to them. Besides, I always wanted to be a writer and have obviously been heavily influenced by the advice, “Write what you know.” When I add up all the minutes, hours and days I’ve invested in being a paralegal, I’m pretty certain it’s what, if not all, I know.

So as a relatively new blogger, recognition of my efforts by other legal professionals is a real honor, and makes me feel like Practical Paralegalism isn’t a complete wallflower in the legal blogosphere. Finding out today that Tom Mighell, attorney and blogger at Inter Alia, listed Practical Paralegalism as the Blawg of the Day” on July 16, 2009, was a little like voiceover artist and usually-masked actor Ron Perlman finally getting an “Attaboy” from Roger Ebert for his performance in the movie Hellboy.

In his Inter Alia post, Mighell kindly wrote, “One thing I have noticed in monitoring weblogs the past seven years is that many paralegal blogs do not have a long life in the legal blogosphere. Let's hope this one, Practical Paralegalism, is an exception.” Of course, it's hard not to notice that of the 2500-plus blawgs listed at the ABA Journal, only 14 of them are described as paralegal-themed, which makes this blog almost a novelty in the legal field. But I too hope it’s not a short-lived fad, because I’m not going to take up alligator wrestling!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Follow “Lawyer” Richard Prickman on Twitter

If you want to make rain, or maybe just wet your pants from laughing at the legal profession, don’t miss the acerbic tweets of Richard Prickman and his partner "scared clients into hiring me" Beatrice Bitcher, venerable (fictional) attorneys at Prickman & Bitcher and alter egos of attorney Charles Pugsley Fincher, Esq., acclaimed legal and political wit, cartoonist and artist at LawComix (source of the coolest legal gifts ever).

Not only are Dick and Bea hilarious (I feel like we’re on a first name basis as long as I pay my bills on time), but unlike the more innocuous cartoon characters in your morning paper, they will actually deign to converse with you – as long as they can send you a bill for it. In real life, you’d hide under your desk if you saw them first.

Dick in particular is a real sensitive guy with a fondness for his underlings, especially intrepid associates Natalie and Edward. His June 17 tweet is spot-on and reflective of the tough economic climate for young lawyers: “Damn associates…don’t want pay cuts.” On July 17, he generously tweeted to the JD Journal, "We're willing to accept all deferred summer associates willing to pay us for doing so."

And he has a genuine concern for his staff’s holiday time, as he tweeted on July 3, “Just got a warm feeling. I thought of some discovery due Monday that I can get my associate Natalie to work on over the weekend.”

He also has a heartfelt concern for the public’s enjoyment of the holiday, “Damn. I even had my investigator shoot Roman candles at people and no one got injured. So much for Fourth lawsuits for me.”

Still, the concern for his staff’s well-being never stops, as indicated by Dick's July 10 tweet, “Not easy being out on the bay sailing knowing associates are back at the office working on Saturday. Hope for more of both Sunday.” (Don’t miss his series of tweets about squishing Edward with his boat.)

Best of all, Dick adores paralegals and tweets about them frequently, although I suspect he has staff issues (he has a sociopathic legal secretary). He also tweeted on July 3, “Re: Palin resignation. Yesterday, my disgruntled paralegal sent copies of romantic e-mails between Sarah and me to WaPo. Damage control time.” He doesn’t seem like the bonus type so I’ve kept a close eye on The Washington Post for a Prickman expose.

I guess because he didn’t give her a hush bonus, on July 14 Dick’s paralegal wondered “why she makes less than first year associate.” He advised her that “'para-' means ‘assistant’ and ‘subsidiary.’ It's what you call yourself.” Being a feisty gal and guaranteed a job for life due to the Palin scoop, she “countered with other meaning of 'para-': ‘beyond’ as in paranormal." Dick mused, "Impressed me. Not enough for raise, though.”

Last week, Dick had kind of a rough rainmaking episode, because his lunch guests didn’t disclose they were interviewing other firms until after he’d already paid the bill. In a funk, he tweeted, “Back at the firm. Blue over not making rain at lunch. Need to rag on associates, paralegals to regain ego balance.” I tried to boost his spirits by getting him some more Twitter followers, tweeting, “Associates and paralegals, follow @RichardPrickman and rag on him to help retain ego!” (So I mixed up one consonant – oops.)

He grumbled, “If I were paying your para-salary, you'd show some para-sensitivity to my para-blues.” Then he said, “Oh, God. Now you’re forming a para-posse.”

That is the most awesome term ever, and I am wrestling with renaming this blog “The Para-Posse” but I’m pretty sure if I do, Dick will sue me.

When I asked Dick if I could swipe his mug shot for this post, he acquiesced but tweeted, “I knew you were gonna mug me.” See, he really loves paralegals.

Paralegal News Clips

Tomeka Hester joined the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo in Charlotte, North Carolina as a litigation paralegal. Kelli Smith and Crystal Snow joined as workers' compensation paralegals. (The Charlotte Observer)

Susan Clarke, an attorney and full-time paralegal instructor at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina, has announced her candidacy for a seat on the Wilmington City Council. (

Pam Lillie, a paralegal for Schottenstein Stores corporate offices in Ohio, has announced her candidacy for a seat on Big Walnut Local School District Board of Education. She is a former board of education member.

“As a corporate paralegal for my company, I have to be organized and keep my eye on the big picture so accurate decisions can be made. As a board of education member you have to be just as organized and just as accurate; but as a board member you have to raise the bar.”

The Sunbury News

It’s an honor and a privilege to share news about the paralegal profession from all over the country. If you’ve accepted a new job or been promoted, started a business or a blog, published an article or a book, been appointed to a position with your professional association, graduated from college, or received an award or other recognition, I'd love to help celebrate and share your news at Practical Paralegalism.

Please send your news announcements to

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Paralegal Posting of the Week: Litigation Trial Paralegal

Everett Kelley Associates, Inc., a recruiting firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is seeking a Litigation Trial Paralegal to join a Catastrophic Injury Team for a "top-notch" local firm. The job posting emphasizes that the firm “has not suffered any downsizing or lay offs.”

Responsibilities will include:

▪Draft routine or complex legal documents for review and use by attorneys
▪Review, organize, and summarize case materials.
▪Draft pleadings, subpoenas, discovery requests and response, general correspondence, interrogatories/answers, other legal documents, etc.
▪Categorize and interpret data; review and analyze reports, responses and records
▪Conduct legal research and investigations as needed and directed.
▪Coordinate requests between multiple parties involved in litigation by way of consistent communication with all parties.
▪Assist in deposition preparation, pre-trial investigations, trial preparation, including assistance with preparation of witnesses for deposition and/or trial.
▪Prepare exhibits and other demonstrative evidence for use at trial.
▪Provide assistance at trial.

Job Requirements:

Degree: College degree and/or paralegal certificate preferred
Experience: 4+ years in litigation and 2+ years in personal injury law
Skills: Solid understanding of legal/medical terminology; excellent verbal/written communication; strong critical thinking, problem-solving and attention to detail
Software: Not stated

To apply, email a resume in MS Word to

Benefits include a comprehensive benefits package and “exciting and challenging work in a business casual working environment.” This position was included in the paralegal jobs posted at this week.

This litigation paralegal job description is well-written and illustrates not only the typical duties that a paralegal will perform in a fast-paced litigation environment, from pre-litigation case management to support at trial, but also illustrates the qualities that many firms seek in a paralegal employee, including an extremely professional demeanor and the ability to contribute significantly to case development from start to finish.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Reader Email: What Kind of Degree Should I Get?

A reader already working in the legal field wrote me about her degree dilemma:

Hi, Lynne. I found your blog while doing some research on the paralegal profession. I am wondering if you would mind giving me some feedback. I have been considering going back to school for about six years – I don’t have a degree at all. I have cold feet because I am not sure what I want I want to major in, human resources, health services management or paralegal studies, but something keeps pulling me back to the paralegal profession. I’m over 40 years old and I currently work for the courts, with great benefits and pretty good pay. But I feel like I am just a glorified clerical worker. I am looking for more of a challenge, but am struggling with what type of education to obtain, an online certificate or an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Thank you so much for reading my blog and contacting me. It sounds like you have a stable job already, which is good. You and I are close in age, and I don't think it's uncommon to be thinking about career changes in your 40s, especially if you'd like more of a professional challenge. The nice aspects of your situation are that you already have a job and legal experience, and can explore your career interests with the security of a paycheck.

You're right -- law firm hiring requirements vary greatly. If you haven't done it already, I'd research paralegal job openings within driving distance, and get a feel for what kinds of jobs are available and what is required. Many employers require four-year degrees, not surprising given the amount of writing and analysis required to perform paralegal jobs in popular specialty areas, including litigation. Over the years, I’ve worked with a large number of injured clients participating in vocational rehabilitation, and have observed that many human resources and health services jobs require four-year degrees, too.

I believe that a degree can never hurt you, and often opens doors that would otherwise remain closed. I earned my bachelor’s degree in English Literature later in life, but I can't tell you how rewarding it feels every time I look at that sheepskin. But I also have an associate degree in Paralegal Technology from the local community college. If a four-year degree seems intimidating right now, setting your sights on a two-year degree may seem more attainable. If you love your two-year degree program, you can always continue your education.

Online classes, at least initially, can be intimidating to new students that might benefit from the support of live instructors and similarly-situated classmates. Until you determine what kind of student you are, the structure of a real-time classroom can be helpful. If it were me, I'd try a course or two (part-time) at the local community college, at least at first. If you find that you are extremely self-disciplined and computer-savvy, then an online education may well suit your needs.

Ultimately, I'd look at further education as an enrichment opportunity. Maybe you'll decide you love your current job, but also love being a student. Maybe you'll end up using a degree to transition to a more rewarding and challenging position. Maybe you'll decide that college isn't for you, and that you'd rather throw pottery or take up weight-lifting in your spare time -- but you won't know until you explore it a bit further.

Undercover Ethics Probe Okayed by Virginia State Bar

A June 16 Virginia State Bar ethics opinion says it’s okay for an undercover lay investigator to conduct an investigation into the unauthorized practice of law – as long as the investigator is supervised by ethics counsel.

The hypothetical in Legal Ethics Opinion 1845 is the perfect example of the unauthorized practice of law by a paralegal and clearly illustrates what a paralegal should NOT do in any state, no matter how proficient in legal document preparation he or she may be:

In this hypothetical, “A” is a paralegal who worked for “Lawyer B” for twenty years until “Lawyer B’s” death. Lawyer B, a solo practitioner, limits his practice to trust and estate work. Through the years, under Lawyer B’s supervision, “A” became quite proficient in preparing wills and powers of attorney for clients. In the process of assisting in the closing of the practice, “A” collected and took with her forms that “Lawyer B” had used for preparing wills, advanced medical directives and powers of attorney (“POAs”). “Lawyer B” practiced in a relatively small community and both “Lawyer B” and “A” were known and highly regarded. “A” did not seek new employment after “Lawyer B’s” practice was closed. Instead, over the ensuing years “A,” through word of mouth, offered legal services to people she knew and to others who were referred to her, by providing assistance in preparing wills, POAs, and advanced medical directives—using the forms she had kept from “Lawyer B’s” practice. “A” did not, however, advertise or publicly hold herself out as providing such services.

West Virginia Legal Assistant Earns CLA

Congratulations to West Virginia legal assistant Lacy A. Stamper, employed by Huddleston Bolen in Huntington, for obtaining the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) designation through NALA. Her employer deserves props, too, for recognizing the magnitude of her achievement and publicizing it in a well-done press release.

"We encourage all of our professionals to advance their careers through continuing education," said Tom Gilpin, chairman of the firm's Management Committee. "The CLA designation demonstrates a commitment by Lacy to her profession and to the firm's clients. Everyone at the firm joins in celebration of this milestone."

A legal assistant at Huddleston Bolen since 2006, Stamper graduated from Marshall University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice and an Associate of Applied Science in Legal Assisting. She is an active member of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), Legal Assistants/Paralegals of Southern West Virginia (LAPSWV), and a paralegal member of the Defense Trial Counsel of West Virginia.

Stamper also is Team Captain of The Replacements in the American Cancer Society's Cabell County Relay for Life, and served on the First Priority Federal Credit Union J.P. Hutchinson Memorial Scholarship Committee.

The West Virginia Record

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Paralegal Is Part of Human Rights Commission Delegation

In May 2009, Illinois paralegal and law student-to-be Cynthia Mazariegos traveled to Guatemala with a Human Rights Commission Delegation, meeting 150 deportees from Iowa, following U.S. Immigration and Customs’ meatpacking plant raid last year.

Mazariegos and the rest of the commission went to study the economic reasons on why migration occurs from Guatemala to the U.S., and why the deportees were criminalized and deported.

“I wanted to experience the real Guatemala that is out there, such as the poverty, injustice, not [the] vacation spot. I wanted to help,” Mazariegos said.

Mazariegos said many of the deportees shared their personal stories. She said many of them were criminalized and faced prison sentences because they worked with false papers. She also said many of them had questions about their rights such as their children’s status and home property.

After the meeting, Mazariegos and the group met with the U.S. Embassy in Honduras and discussed the reasons why people migrate and how people should not be criminalized. As a result, there will be information sessions from both the U.S. and Guatemala to educate the people on their rights.

Extra News

A volunteer with Chicago’s refugee population and organizer of a march for immigrants in Chicaco, Mazariegos is employed by Nash Disability Law in Chicago but is headed to law school at DePaul University this fall and plans to become an immigration attorney.

With her passion for human rights and immigration issues, I'm looking forward to hearing more great things about this dedicated legal professional in the future.

2009 NALA Convention in Beautiful San Diego: Two Thumbs Up!

by Julie Weinkauf
(Photo Courtesy of Jessica Erickson)

How can you not love the weather in San Diego? This beautiful city was the site of the 2009 National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) Convention.

I participated as a vendor and was pleased to see the variety of people who attended from throughout the country. As the NALA Convention has not been held on the west coast in a number of years, it provided a unique opportunity for paralegals from that area to experience the convention for themselves. I was pleased to see how many first time attendees took advantage of this opportunity!

While many hours went into providing valuable information during the ‘working hours’, there were also a number of social events planned to create networking time for the attendees. Some of these events included an early bird reception (hosted by ten California and Nevada paralegal associations) and an opening night reception featuring Polynesian dancers. Some of the attendees even got in on the act!

Many of the local association members also shared their expertise with their fellow paralegals by presenting a session during the Affiliated Associations Annual Meeting or hosting a booth at the Affiliate exhibits. It was exciting to see all of the hard work and dedication offered by these associations throughout the year.

One of the highlights of my convention experience was meeting Jane Terhune, CLAS, who was one of NALA’s charter members and founders. She continues to be passionate about advancements being made by paralegals and the future of the paralegal profession as a whole.

If you have never been to a NALA Convention, make plans to join them in Jacksonville, FL for the 2010 Convention!

Julie Weinkauf is the Senior Paralegal Marketing Specialist with Institute for Paralegal Education (IPE). She has 11 years experience working with the paralegal market building IPE into a full-service company dedicated to the needs of paralegal nationwide. She is a member of NFPA, NALA and AAfPE.

From Working Paralegal to Full-time Law Student

by Rhonda Bailey, NCCP

I love the legal field! I chose many years ago to pursue my dream of working in the legal field by traversing the stepping stones of study, dedication and perseverance of and to all that was legal. I obtained my paralegal degree, worked for many years in various fields, fought for what I believed was right no matter what others thought of my decisions, and continued to pursue my larger dream of becoming a lawyer by keeping it atop of my “do someday” pile.

During my many years as a paralegal, I have had wonderful experiences that have increased my desire and motivation to become a lawyer and to serve my community. Regardless of whether my sense of justice is “right” or “wrong” to others, I know I am serving in a field that can make a difference – by researching a specific topic for a particular client, by listening intently when the stress of a law suit or situation takes its toll on a client (or coworker), by becoming an advocate for something I believe in, by raising my voice to change a law which I believe hurts rather than helps, and the list can go on forever. All of these experiences, whether through easily won or more difficultly forged successes, fanned the embers of my dream and commitment to going to law school and becoming a lawyer.

As my children have graduated from high school, it is now my time to turn the embers of a dream into flames of reality. What a great time to return to school! Thomas Edison could not have put it better when he said, “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” I am ready to be astounded!
Rhonda is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal who has been accepted to law school, starting this fall. She last worked for Lennon & Camak in Raleigh, NC, specializing in workers' compensation law. She’s been married for over 20 years and has two daughters also going to college this year. Rhonda loves music, art, reading, hiking, and traveling. She plays the piano, flute, kazoo and the banjo and if time allows, hopes to get really good at the banjo while in law school! She wants to be a criminal prosecutor with the eventual goal of becoming a judge and possibly the first-ever banjo-playing Supreme Court Justice.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Paralegal Used as Human Prop in Astor Trial

In its article “Recreating a Crucial Signing at the Astor Trial,” The New York Times is reporting that Xhiljola Ruci, a Trial Preparation Assistant for the New York County District Attorney, was used as “human prop” last week during critical testimony which occurred during the Manhattan Supreme Court trial of socialite Brooke Astor’s son, Anthony D. Marshall. Marshall and estate attorney, Francis X. Morrissey, are on trial for allegedly taking advantage of Astor’s diminished mental capacity to change her will, leaving millions to Marshall that was intended for charity.

Pearline Noble, one of Astor’s nurses, testified that she was with Astor the day that she was asked to bring her to library of her home to sign the codicil which bequeathed the bulk of her fortune to Marshall. Using Ruci as a stand-in for Astor, Noble showed the court how she physically supported the frail 101-year old Astor to help her to the library. Noble testified that when she got there, Marshall and Morrisey grabbed both of the recalcitrant Astor’s hands and pulled her into the library, “dragging her legs”.

While supporting attorneys at trial is often an invisible role for paralegals, Ruci can definitely tell her grandchildren about being used as a demonstrative exhibit during explosive testimony in the high profile Astor trial.

Law School Launches First Undergraduate Degree Program

The Sandra O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is launching an online-only undergraduate degree program this fall.

The Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies (BSLS), available only to first-time freshman at ASU, is the first such program to be developed and delivered by a law school in the United States. The program is well-suited for individuals seeking a rigorous course of study outside the traditional classroom that will train them as paralegals, legal assistants, and for other careers in the dynamic field of law.

For individuals interested in pursuing a variety of careers in the legal field, this undergraduate degree program may be a good way to immerse themselves in an intensive online legal education, preferably while working at least part-time in the legal field to get the much-desired combination of education and experience.

For more information about Arizona State University’s Bachelor of Science in Legal studies, go to

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Paralegal Picture: Best Internet Quotes for the Week Ending 07/12/09

Not only has business lawyer Stanley Jackiewicz written an excellent article about clearing rights for content, but he acknowledges both the expertise and contributions of his knowledgeable legal assistant:

Cheryl Kreiner, the expert legal assistant in my office responsible for the often mechanical tasks of clearing rights, warns that it can frequently take a long time just to find the right person to ask, much less pose the correct question.

"Make sure you have enough time to get the license; you can't make this happen overnight, in a week or a month," Kreiner says. "Too many people are involved, i.e., the songwriter(s), the artist, the record label, etc. Someone could be on vacation, on tour, or the responsibility for issuing the license could be delegated to someone new who doesn't know about you or your request. Keep in constant contact with everyone from whom you requested a license. And last, but not least, always keep your clients continuously informed regarding your progress" (or the lack of it, because of the very real possibility that when so many parties are involved, something will inevitably go askew).

Legal Technology

Wisconsin legal assistant Clarissa Ramos has also worked for eight years inside of a root beer barrel, and not just any barrel, but the “stinky one” next to the porta-potties. Yes, you read that right.

"This is a fun, low-stress job," says Ramos. "And you can drink all the free soda you want." (

Finally, the illusive Nancy W. Kappes (Paralegal) not only made a recent Heeb’s “Comment Superlatives from across the Web” but she said something that I can actually quote in its entirety. Plus, I can entirely relate to her feelings about recent media rumblings that the FDA is thinking about restricting acetaminophen usage.

The Greatest Don’t Touch My Drugs Comment comes from Nancy W. Kappes, Paralegal on The Bloggess


Dealing with Micromanagement: Don’t Become a Zombie

“Thinking, responsible employees need autonomy to keep their brains from dying,” is the unequivocal first sentence in’s July 10, 2009 article, Micromanagement of Staff Doesn’t Help Anyone” by “The Assistant-at-Law” (hereinafter “the Assistant”). Micromanagement by supervising attorneys can be a crushing experience for competent legal staffers, and generally interferes with rather than facilitates production of a quality work product.

The Assistant states:

For legal assistants, the pitfalls of being micromanaged are twofold. Not only do a secretary's decision-making muscles atrophy when a lawyer dictates every task in minute detail; in some cases, the secretary actually must cultivate detachment from her job as a self-defensive measure.

Currently working as a legal secretary, the Assistant says that working for a prior employer that did not treat her as a competent team member resulted in her feeling like “an ‘only do what I’m told’ zombie.”

The Assistant shares some good advice for attorneys to facilitate successful working relationships with staff, including explaining new assignments thoroughly, keeping the staff informed, and clearly stating expectations.

The article reminded me of a micromanagement situation at its worst which occurred shortly after I started working as a legal assistant. A brilliant litigation attorney had a motion due in federal court, but didn’t fully trust the office assistant to copy his exhibits correctly. He came to my office in a bit of a panic, and asked if I would watch her copy the exhibits, because the motion was so crucial.

This would probably have worked out fine in this unusual circumstance, except that he was so anxious that he followed me to the copier and watched me watch her copy the exhibits. It was an isolated incident and we laughed about it later, but the point is that in a fast-paced litigation practice, it wasn’t the most efficient use of everyone’s time.

So what do you do when you find yourself the victim of micromanagement? Assuming that you are well-trained and competent, and that your supervising attorney has either had bad experiences with prior staffers or has a hard time delegating responsibility, I suggest talking to your supervising attorney before allowing yourself to reach a zombie state.

  1. Schedule a time to talk to your supervising attorney about the situation, in a professional manner. If he likes your work but is having a hard time letting go of tasks that you perform well (without him standing right behind you), make a list of specific duties that you both agree you will either perform independently, if appropriate, or take greater responsibility for, such as preparing initial drafts of documents for his review.
  2. Try to schedule regular “plan of action” meetings with your supervising attorney, at minimum on a weekly basis, to discuss priority assignments and delegate the tasks that everyone will be responsible to complete.
  3. After each meeting, prepare written plans of action which include the initials for the attorney or staff members that will perform the tasks and the deadlines for completion, as agreed upon.

If you still find yourself in a work situation where your supervising attorney does not trust you or treat you as a valued team member, then carefully evaluate the situation. While there are some people that are very comfortable with supervisors dictating their every move, if you aren’t one of them, it may be time to seek a more conducive work environment. Continue to do your best work and be the consummate professional – while interviewing elsewhere.

Paralegal News Clips

■The Kern County Paralegal Association in Bakersfield, California recently honored several professionals in the field locally.

BARBARA OLDFIELD was named the group’s Paralegal of the Year. She works as a paralegal with Klein, DeNatale, Goldner, Cooper, Rosenlieb and Kimball LLP, in Bakersfield. The law firm nominated her because, it said, she is “a standout among her peers.”

JESSICA STAHL received the association’s Outstanding Member of the Year award. She is a legal assistant and secretary with Klein DeNatale, working in civil litigation, international law, family law, Medi-Cal and estate planning. The award is given to members who contribute to the association’s efforts.

LAURA MEZA was named Volunteer of the Year by the group for her efforts on behalf of the association. She is a secretary and interpreter in Klein DeNatale’s bankruptcy department.

SISSY RUCKER received the group’s Jeannie Conner Memorial Scholarship, which helps pay for paralegal students or professionals to continue their education. Rucker, a paralegal in Klein DeNatale’s bankruptcy department, has been in the legal professional since 1980. She earned an associate’s degree at Bakersfield College, and attended California Pacific School of Law for one year.

Bakersfield Californian

Terrance L. Ryan of Fort Collins, Colorado is the new adjunct instructor in the Paralegal Department at the Institute of Business and Medical Careers. (

Lana Sexton has joined the new law firm Bobilya & Reidy LLP in Fort Wayne, Indiana as an office manager and legal assistant. (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)

Sandra Ann Heinrichs Koehler, Legal Assistant at Iowa Legal Aid, has been recognized by Cambridge Who's Who for showing dedication, leadership and excellence in all aspects of legal services. As a legal assistant at Iowa Legal Aid, Ms. Heinrichs Koehler is responsible for working in foreclosure, bankruptcy and administration law.

Previously, she owned three general stores called Casey's General Store for 25 years as well as a bookstore called Good News Book and Gifts for six years. She attributes her success to her upbringing.Ms. Heinrichs Koehler received her Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts from Des Moines Area Community, where she made the Dean's List twice and the President's List five times. A college certified legal assistant, she is also a volunteer for Amanda the Panda, a support group for grieving children and adults.

Cambridge’s Who’s Who

Marianne Robino Ybarra, an Assessment Clerk and 20 year employee of the Town of Mamaroneck, New York, has been endorsed by the Republican Party to run in the November 3, 2009 election for Mamaroneck Village Board of Trustees. She is a Westchester County Notary Public and a member of the Board of Directors of the Northeast Potters House Church. An active member of the Mamaroneck community with Meals on Wheels and the Harbor Festival she attended the College of New Rochelle and Mercy College where she received a BS degree in Paralegal Studies. (Larchmont Gazette)

Jenny L. Johnson and Heather L. Smeal, students in Pennsylvania College of Technology’s legal assistant/paralegal studies program, were named to the Dean’s List for the Spring 2009 semester. (The Trinity Journal)