Monday, August 31, 2009

The Empowered Paralegal: New Book and Blog

You have to enable and empower people to make decisions independent of you. As I've learned, each person on a team is an extension of your leadership; if they feel empowered by you they will magnify your power to lead. ~ Tom Ridge

Robert Mongue, an attorney and assistant professor in the Legal Studies program at the University of Mississipi, is one of the newest members of the paralegal blogosphere, with his blog, The Empowered Paralegal, as well as the author of a new book with the same title published by Carolina Academic Press.

Mongue’s book, The Empowered Paralegal, is an informative read, especially for individuals new to the paralegal profession. His perspective as an attorney with 30 years of litigation experience, as well as a paralegal educator, is interesting and encouraging as he shares his recommendations for successfully navigating the day-to-day workings of private law firms. The book’s focus is on successful management of essential paralegal duties, including interacting successfully with clients and attorneys.

My favorite chapter in the book is “Managing Your Attorney” – which has greater weight coming from an experienced attorney. Mongue gives some excellent suggestions for professional interaction in a law office, even if you’re dealing with more challenging lawyer personalities, including:

  • “Do not become engaged in control battles with your attorney.” This is key advice. You’re not going to emerge as a winner in a battle of wills with your supervising attorney, who will ultimately determine both your job duties and your continued employment.

  • “Document clearly with friendly confirming emails your discussions with the attorney.” I sometimes work with a brilliant litigator who has a habit of forgetting who was assigned to do what as he occasionally gives rapid-fire instructions on the way through the office to other engagements in a jam-packed schedule. Instead of disputing who would do what later (or who didn’t do what later), I simply send him an email (immediately) along these lines: “Per our discussion of this morning, I will pull proposed exhibits in the Smith case for your review, as well as see if our discovery responses need to be supplemented.”

  • “React unemotionally.” Mongue doesn’t specifically mention not crying, which is an involuntary reaction that many of my female colleagues complain occurs in extremely stressful or confrontational situations, but he does say “refuse to engage”. I’ll add “refuse to cry” – at least until you can be alone. I know how hard it can be not to cry in some emotionally-charged situations, but focus on maintaining as much of a professional demeanor as you can – even if the attorney is not.
If you are in a relationship with a challenging attorney that isn't likely to change any time soon, you might want to photocopy page 106 of The Empowered Paralegal and keep it in a place where you can refer to it frequently for excellent ideas for calm professional responses, such as "I do not work well when I am yelled at." (You might even want to sneak it into difficult meetings in between the pages of your legal pad.)

So add The Empowered Paralegal, the book and the blog, to your professional paralegal reading list. Mongue is a real fan of the paralegal profession and promotes paralegals as a valued and essential part of the legal team. With his daily updates at his blog, he provides a welcome attorney perspective in the paralegal blogosphere.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Power of Twitter Helps Raise Journalist’s Bail

“I don’t like jail, they got the wrong kind of bars in there.” ~ Charles Bukowski

Earlier this year, I blogged about wanting to be Ron Sylvester, Wichita Eagle journalist and “courtroom Twitterer”. I still think he’s one of the coolest reporters on the planet. When he tweeted that he was in jail on Friday and needed help raising bail, I couldn’t wait to help the now coolest incarcerated reporter on the planet.

Okay, I’m pretty sure Ron wasn’t in a real jail, just figuratively locked up at the Society of Professional Journalists Conference in Indianapolis, raising money for the SPJ Legal Defense Fund. The charge? “Tweeting mid program.”

Ron tweeted, “I am in jail at #spj100. My bond is to raise $100 for SPJ's legal defense fund to keep journalists out of jail. Help!”

I would’ve sent Ron the whole $100 bucks because I think that much of him, but being on more of a peanut butter and jelly budget, I had to content myself with pledging $10 and re-tweeting his plea for help.

But I hadn’t even hit send on my tweet, when Ron tweeted, “I am out. Thanks to @bobbyrozzell @soyjournalista @ExpertParalegal @stephbarnard @hollyedgell and the Kansas Pro Chapter of SPJ.” and “The power of Twitter helped raise $100 bail in record time. #spj100.”

Ron continues his groundbreaking use of technology in courtroom journalism, with his new Common Law Video Series covering Wichita’s courts at his blog, What the Judge Ate for Breakfast. This is an excellent resource for legal professionals and students interested in the criminal justice system.

And Ron? Nice use of your Twitter "get out of jail free" card.

Legal Assistant Charged with Arranging Gang Hit

Maintaining a blog for paralegals is a little like opening a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get when you pull up the most recent news stories. I’ll admit that both eyebrows touched my hairline when I saw the Associated Press news article, “Legal Assistant Accused of Plotting Gang Hit.”

Margaret Alvarado, employed as a legal assistant by the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office since 2007, “was charged with a count each of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, solicitation of first-degree murder, telecommunication fraud and two counts of assisting a criminal street gang.”

The allegations arise from an undercover investigation during which authorities recorded telephone conversations between Alvarado and an informant. She is accused of trying to kill a gang member who had cooperated with police and was getting ready to be released from prison. (She is also accused of joking about “the hit” during the phone conversations).
Court documents also show that Alvarado was aiding and facilitating gang members from the Public Defender's Office where she works as a legal assistant.

Alvarado would accept collect calls from Arizona Mexican Mafia members currently in prison, then look up information for them on her computer.

Detectives say after Alvarado was arrested, she admitted to accepting calls from known gang members as well as meeting with the undercover officer.

Alvarado is currently incarcerated in lieu of a $300,000.00 bond, and faces life in prison if convicted. The Public Defender’s office is listing her as being on administrative leave while it conducts its own investigation. But I suspect, for you Phoenix legal professionals interested in getting on with the Public Defender’s office, there will be a job posting for a legal assistant in the near future.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Paralegal Filed Petition to Stay Convicted Serial Killer’s Execution

The El Paso Times is reporting that Georgia paralegal and law student Erica Haywood has taken it upon herself to offer legal assistance to convicted serial killer David L. Wood, and took the unusual step of attempting to provide legal assistance by filing a petition (included in his appeals file) to stay his execution. Wood was not executed on August 20 as scheduled - but because his actual defense attorneys “saved him from execution last week by arguing that he is so mentally retarded that he can’t read.”

Haywood, who, according to the El Paso Times, has served her own time behind bars for attempted assault on a public servant, has also requested that she be appointed “his guardian and advocate so she can help with his appeal.”

"I've never met Wood or talked to him," Haywood said in a telephone interview.

"I am a concerned citizen who wants him to have a fair trial."
The El Paso Times reporter added that Haywood sent Wood a copy of her pleadings, plus $20 to use at the commissary, but has not heard back from him.

The issue of Wood’s alleged mental retardation is interesting. In 1976, he told the court that he can read and write the English language. A 1980 psychiatric evaluation indicates that Wood said his favorite subject was English, and at his 1992 trial, his defense lawyers asked that he be given a felt-tip pen and access to the law library. Wood's attorneys filed statements with their motion for stay of execution, allegedly showing a low I.Q. and poor school performance.
To escape the death penalty, Wood must be able to prove he is mentally impaired. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Wood's scheduled execution on Aug. 20 so a hearing can be held to determine whether he meets U.S. Supreme Court guidelines for mental retardation.

Paralegal Filed Bar Complaint in Disbarred Attorney Case

A realistic blog about paralegals is going to include posts about negative legal professional activities, even though it is not my favorite subject to write about. In an ideal world, every legal professional would always do the right thing and abide by the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. But working paralegals and paralegal students need to be aware of all major legal news stories, even the ones that make us angry, both for their cautionary and educational value.

This is an update of Practical Paralegalism’s March 25, 2009 blog post about Florida attorney, A. Clark Cone, who was temporarily disbarred at that time due to allegations that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients. The South Florida Business Journal is now reporting that he was arrested last week on charges of “first-degree grand theft and continuing criminal enterprise.”

The investigation found that Cone was depositing settlement money he received on behalf of his clients into his trust account, then transferring the money into his personal account. Investigators were tipped off to the illegal activity after the Florida Bar subpoenaed Cone’s bank records and conducted an audit on his accounts.
Cone entered a Guilty Plea and Consent to Immediate Disbarment in May 2009, which the Florida Supreme Court accepted. One of the sworn complaints filed with The Florida Bar was by his former paralegal, Melody Ashling, who alleged that Cone missed the statute of limitations in two cases, and "in one of those cases forged the client's name...on an unauthorized notice of voluntary dismissal." The Florida Supreme Court also received affidavits from some of his clients and victims which indicate that many of them have not received all of their settlement proceeds sent to Cone.

Cone at one point in his career enjoyed a stellar reputation as a litigator. His defense attorney stated that he has suffered “devastating personal problems” in the last few years.

One of the worst situations that an honest and competent paralegal can find herself in is working for an attorney that is engaging in incompetent, unethical and/or illegal activities, including failing to meet court deadlines, especially if the attorney has had a successful career and been recognized by his peers for excellence in the legal profession. Not only may a paralegal find herself in the unenviable position of reporting her own employer to the firm's managing partners and/or the state bar, she may find herself forced out of a job and having to answer questions about the situation in future job interviews.

In her book Paralegal Ethics (Delmar Cengage Learning, 2000), Angela Schneeman discusses "reporting attorney misconduct":

One of the most difficult ethical dilemmas paralegals may encounter is discovering unethical behavior by the attorneys they work for. Suppose you witness one of the attorneys you work for shredding documents that have been requested by the opposing counsel in a lawsuit, or that you discover him or her borrowing money from a client trust account. Reporting unethical behavior could mean the loss of status or employment with the firm. Is it unethical to remain silent? Yes. Paralegals have an ethical duty to report misconduct of attorneys. The code of ethics for attorneys in nearly every jurisdiction requires attorneys to report misconduct by other attorneys, and this duty then extends to paralegals.

I hope that Ashling has been able to move forward with her life and her career after what has to have been a traumatic employment experience, but in a case alleging this much in client damages, I fear that she may be spending more time testifying as a witness in some of Cone's former clients' legal malpractice cases.

Paralegal News Clips

Since the purpose of this paralegal blog is to celebrate the achievements of paralegals, working and student, all over the country, I’m pleased to share the latest round of accomplishments by many talented and hardworking individuals and groups representing the paralegal profession well.

Paralegal Program & Association News

Bucks County Community College paralegal students recently formed the Bucks County Paralegal Association. Kara McClenahan, a current student, has been appointed interim president, and Holly Frey, a graduate of the program, has been appointed as the interim vice president. The group formed during program director and professor Tracy Timby’s legal technology class. (

■Wilmington University’s legal studies program, offered at its New Castle and Dover, Delaware locations, has been granted approval by the American Bar Association. The program offers a bachelor's degree in legal studies, as well as a “24-credit post-baccalaureate certificate in legal studies.” (Sussex Countian)

Chrysten Hinze, an associate at Lind, Lawrence & Ottenhoff, has been promoted to full-time paralegal instructor for the Institute of Business and Medical Careers. She earned her juris doctor degree at Notre Dame University in Indiana. (Northern Colorado Connection)

New Hires

■Barbara Humes recently joined the Geiger Law Office, an estate and business planning firm based in Carlsbad, California, as its director of client services. She will be responsible for prospective client outreach, client retention efforts and appointment scheduling. A notary public and a trained paralegal, she attended Chapman University and UC San Diego. (North County Times)

Recognition & Certifications

■Todd Beatse, a paralegal with the Davis County Attorney’s Office in Farmington, Utah, was recognized by the Davis County Commissioners, for his work on the trial team that earned a conviction of Ed Owens in the murder of Karin Strom.

Beatse holds a juris doctor degree and was hired as a paralegal in February, “as we were ramping up for production (in the trial),” the county attorney said. “As the trial tech he helps the attorneys get ready and strategize. There were 60 exhibits, photos, recordings and a Power Point.” It was Beatse who spotted glue around Ed Owens’ finger in a photo – a key point, [County Attorney Troy] Rawlings said.
(Davis County Clipper)

■Teri Bowling, a commercial real estate paralegal employed by Manning, Fulton & Skinner, P.A. in Raleigh, North Carolina, recently received the North Carolina Bar Association Paralegal Division’s inaugural Distinguished Paralegal Award.

The award recognizes Bowling’s contributions to the profession in calendar year 2008 during which she served as Vice Chair and then Chair of the Paralegal Division, adjunct instructor in the Meredith College Paralegal Program, frequent CPE (continuing paralegal education) planner and speaker, and NCBA Wills for Heroes volunteer.

Bowling’s tenure as chair of the division was marked by numerous accomplishments including the implementation of an enormously successful statewide CPE program as well as the transformation of the Paralegal Division under its new name formerly, the Legal Assistants Division).

Bowling is a commercial real estate paralegal in the firm and works with senior partner Barry Mann. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a graduate of the Meredith College Paralegal Program where she has served as an adjunct instructor since 1992.

■Sabine Francisco, paralegal with the law firm of Bolanos Truxton in Miami Florida, has achieved the designation of Florida Registered Paralegal by The Florida Bar. Francisco began her career as a paralegal in 1985 and has been with the law firm of Bolanos Truxton since 2003. (Naples Daily News)

■Amy C. Genszler, a legal assistant employed by Hersh Law Offices, LLC in Mequon, Wisconsin, “has been recognized by Cambridge Who's Who for demonstrating dedication, leadership and excellence in legal services.” In 2008, she received an associate degree in paralegal studies from Westwood College. (Cambridge Who’s Who)

■Melissa Hamilton, a paralegal with the North Dakota Department of Transportation, has been awarded the advanced certified paralegal designation by the National Association of Legal Assistants/Paralegals. She was certified in the area of contracts administration/contracts management. Hamilton is also the Professional Development Committee Chair for NALA's 2009-2010 Board of Directors. She has worked in the NDDOT legal division for five years. (Bismarck Tribune)

New Graduates

■Julia Balestrieri graduated with president’s honors from the specialized associate degree-paralegal program at Empire College in Santa Rosa, California and is now employed as a legal assistant in Southern California. (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

■Leland Davis, of Racine, Wisconsin, was awarded a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from Kaplan University. (Journal Times)

■Donald Didden Jr. of Chester, Maryland was awarded a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies from Kaplan University. (The Capital)

Deborah Hickman received an associate degree in Paralegal Technology, with High Honors, from Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

■Jennie Noble of Ankeny, Iowa, graduated July 25 from Kaplan University with an associate degree in paralegal studies. (

Joelene Parnell of Apollo, Pennsylvania, was awarded a bachelor of science in paralegal studies from Kaplan University. (Leader Times)

■Jennifer Stafford of Hewitt, New Jersey was awarded an associate degree of applied science in paralegal studies from Kaplan University, which celebrated the graduation of its summer 2009 class on July 25 in Chicago. (Straus News)

■Cecilia Truesdale-Little of Cameron, North Carolina, recently graduated with an associate degree in paralegal studies from Kaplan University in Chicago. (The Fayetteville Observer)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The New Frontier for Sexual Harassment at Work: Sexting

As a paralegal working for an attorney who handles employment law cases, I’ve done enough intakes and worked on enough sexual harassment cases to know there are never any winners when all is said and done. I’d like to think that with many employers enforcing zero-tolerance policies (even if it is with an eye to avoid liability exposure) and with public awareness at an all time high, that sexual harassment is on the decline, but it looks like sexual harassers have discovered a whole new frontier to explore, through the use of personal electronic devices, including cell phones and computers.

The Miami Herald is reporting in its article “Personal devices pose new sexual harassment issues at work” that “sexting”, the sending of sexually explicit text and email messages to co-workers, is on the rise.

Jay Zweig, a partner with Bryan Cave , told The Herald that:

Employees who receive an inappropriate message should report it to their supervisor or human resources department. But often, Zweig says, telling the person who sent the e-mail that you prefer not to receive those kind of messages, "usually ends it.''

"Employees need to stop and think. What they believe may be funny or a cute remark may not be well-received or misinterpreted by a co-worker,'' he says.

If it is repeated behavior, it's important to report it. "If the person is harassing you, the likelihood is the person is harassing others as well,'' Zweig says.

The Herald article also emphasizes an important consideration for any employee who does not want to risk the loss of his or her job – even if the intent is not to harass but simply amuse co-workers. Sending those inappropriate electronic messages could result in the employee being disciplined or terminated, regardless of intent.

More Statsky Links for Paralegals: Evaluating Reliability on the Internet

I know you know this, but it’s worth repeating. Not everything you read on the Internet is true. But some of the information that turns up in a Google search looks pretty darn scholarly at times, so how do you know which sites are reputable sources of information, and which sites are not?

Paralegal author and expert Bill Statsky sent me some of his favorite links for evaluating reliability on the Internet, which are well worth a careful review by any legal professional who uses the Internet for formal or informal research. These articles and pages, created by university librarians, also provide additional helpful links for evaluating and finding reliable information on the web:

“Evaluating Information on the Internet Selected Sources” ~ Marquette University,

“Evaluating Information Found on the Internet” ~ John Hopkins University,

“Evaluating Quality on the Net” ~ Babson College,

Speaking of not everything that's circulated on the Internet being true, North Carolina Certified Paralegal Patti Clapper features as today's useful website at her blog, Patti's Paralegal Page. Whenever someone sends me a missing child email, I head straight to Snopes to see if the child is actually missing - or never existed.

As a case in point, the longest "living" missing child, the mythical Penny Brown, has been the source of enough emails pleading for her return to crash the Internet. Even knowing she's not missing, I can still drive myself nuts wondering, "This is a picture of someone's red-headed kid, probably an adult by now. Whose kid is she?"

Related Post: Bill Statsky's Links of Interest for Paralegals

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Virtual Paralegal Denise Annunciata is a Legal Rebel with a Cause

Congratulations to Denise Annunciata, owner of Virtual Paralegal Services and creator of LeapLaw, for her inclusion in the ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels Remaking the Profession. Her Legal Rebel profile “Paralegal Power” is a testament to how a creative and intelligent legal professional saw a virtual need and met it, creating a highly successful business model along the way.

Annunciata launched her compa­ny in June 2006. Her firm drafts corporate resolutions, license agreements and Uniform Commercial Code state­­ments for solos and small law firms across the country. She responds to e-mails within minutes—sometimes seconds—and often turns assignments around within 24 hours.

In its first six months, VPS earned nearly $45,000, half her former law firm salary. In 2007, revenue topped $350,000 with the addition of one paralegal. Today VPS is a full-service, seven-member paralegal firm—including litigation, probate, patent and securities specialists—and is on target to earn about $750,000.

A mover and a shaker in the virtual paralegal world, Vicki Voisin and I were extremely fortunate to have Annunciata as a recent guest on Legal Talk Network's The Paralegal Voice podcast about virtual paralegals. Annunciata, along with virtual attorney Stephanie Kimbro, shared their expertise about working virtually.

Coincidentally, I just shared my view of the burgeoning virtual paralegal field with my guest post “Virtual Paralegals: It’s a Good Thing” for virtual assistant Tina Marie Hilton’s blog at Clerical Advantage.

Working Girl Wednesday: Bag Lunches & Fashion Knockoffs

I’m not ashamed to be a card-carrying member of the "Bag Lunch Bunch." The combination of being head of household and crunched for time during the work day makes bringing my lunch an attractive alternative to dining out frequently. Not only can I save money, but I can pack healthier choices than those Sonic cheese fries I like to eat when really stressed out.

But bag lunches have a down side for weak-willed nibblers like me. That too handy bag is right there at my desk, easily accessible when I’m involved in a project that leans more to the monotonous side, like summarizing hundreds of pages of medical records. To alleviate the tedium, I sometimes give myself little motivational rewards, like a bite to eat every 10 pages. (Okay, maybe I stretched the truth a bit - every FIVE pages...) Next thing you know, I discover I’ve eaten all my lunch by 10:30 a.m. (Maybe I should consider asking our office manager to lock up my lunch in the firm safe?)

Substituting a non-food treat at the conclusion of another completed to-do, like a quick peek at my favorite business fashion blog Corporette, is probably a better choice. But I’ve already pointed out the disadvantage of Corporette for the Bag Lunch Bunch – The Personal Shopper’s (TPS) daily recommendations are usually a bit out of reach price-wise.

But being a briefcase freak and frequent carrier of legal documents, I can’t help but long for one (or two) of the Faux Lizard File Totes showcased in today’s TPS report. Not only were no real lizards killed in the making of these document carriers, but they look like a way more sophisticated and chic option for transporting legal documents than my usual empty copier paper box. Plus, they have handles. But clearly, if I have to bring my lunch in a Humane Society insulated tote that my mother got for free after making a donation, I’m not in the crowd that can afford to pay over $80.00 to replace a free copier paper box.

However, a quick search for a knockoff document bag shows that these puppies aren’t cheap and usually (please pardon my use of a grammatically incorrect redneck phrase but you've got to write what you know) look like they got beat with an ugly stick. $80.00 for a good quality, durable AND attractive document carrier is probably a steal.

I did find these plastic expandable document bags, in letter and legal size, at Print Globe, which – if 120 of us get together and submit an order – would be about $4.00 apiece. We can even get them personalized with something cool, our own neat brand name, like “Working Girl Knockoff”, "I Bag It for Lunch" or “One Step Up from a Free Copier Box”…

Just for fun, I've added a new Working Girl Survey at the sidebar.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

5 New Technologies that Paralegals Need to Learn Now

By Tina Marie Hilton

Do you remember when conference calls were a newfangled technology? How about e-mail and computers? Once upon a time in order to talk with more than one person at a time you had to schedule an in-person meeting. And paralegals sat at electric typewriters creating letters to be mailed via the USPS. Now conference calling, computers and e-mail are all required knowledge for any paralegal.

Technology is constantly changing the face of the way things are done in business. And although sometimes it seems like law offices are the last ones to adopt the latest trends, rest assured that there are some things that will become as commonplace in the legal office as e-mail has become.

With so much new stuff out there, how are paralegals supposed to know which technologies to pursue to keep them on the top of their profession and which ones are just a flash in the pan, never to be adopted by lawyers?

I don’t claim to be Bullwinkle’s Mr. Know It All, but I do believe that in the not-so-distant future the following five technologies will be things that all paralegals will be required to know something about:

  • Online Calendaring: Online calendaring is more than just keeping track of appointments online rather than a paper calendar. These days there are programs out there that actually assist you in the scheduling process by allowing clients or meeting participants to choose the best times and days for their appointments. One of my favorites is a simple little application called When Is Good ( that allows you to send a link to all of the meeting participants and they can log in and choose time slots that work for them. Then all you have to do is coordinate using the information. Of course, having a calendar online that everyone in the office can access is important, too - that way you can all keep track of everything that is scheduled or when certain individuals are unavailable.
  • Remote Login Technology: This allows you to install a very small program on your (or your boss') work computer, set an ID name and password, and voila, you now have access to that computer from any other computer with Internet access. There are several choices when it comes to remote computer sharing. I like LogMeIn (, which has free and paid versions of the service.

  • Social Media – Did you know "social media" recently passed "porn" as the top search category? No wonder so many people are hailing it as a necessity for reaching clients and potential clients. There is a lot I could say about the wisdom of social media, but I think that would be considered hi-jacking Lynne's blog. Just suffice it to say that social media isn't going away any time soon, and the smart paralegal will learn how to use it professionally. Popular social media sites include Twitter (, LinkedIn (, Facebook (, and specifically for legal professionals, Justia ( and AVVO (

  • Blogging - If you're reading this you certainly know what a blog is. But do you know how to use a blog to help market a law practice? Do you know how to add a post to a blog? Insert pictures into a post? Add a podcast? Blog marketing is quickly becoming an indispensable way to reach new clients. Chances are in the not-too-distant future paralegals are going to be called upon to add blog posts and the like. There are blogs hosted on the free and low cost services like ( not to be confused with, which is free software to build your own Wordpress blog on your own website), TypePad ( and Blogger ( Then there are premium blogs which are set up on a company website. Familiarize yourself now, and you'll be glad you did.

  • Web Conferencing/Online Meetings- Who says you have to have meetings in an office? These days all you need is a webcam and an Internet connection and voila, instant conference room. The education world has already adopted webinars to teach students anywhere and at anytime. It’s only a matter of time before the convenience to both attorney and clients makes web conferencing and online meetings standard fare in law offices. I've used both DimDim ( and GoToMeeting (, but there are others out there like Fuze Meeting ( Imagine attending a meeting from your iPhone or Blackberry. With some of these services it's entirely possible. Can you see why it is bound to become the conference room of the future?

Now that you have this list, what should you do about it? Spend some time familiarizing yourself with it. Start a Twitter account and join social media sites like LinkedIn to start making networking connections now. Create a blog, even if it’s just a personal one. It will allow you to get a feel for how it’s done, and definitely read, read, read blogs, especially those in the legal industry like this one. (Lynne's got a great blog list to start with in her sidebar here)

Live in snow country? Install a remote login application on your work computer and you'll be prepared for the next blizzard. Consider playing around with a webinar or online calendaring when you can, too. For example, instead of sending out a company memo asking for the best date for the Christmas party, send them all to When is Good. It allows you to test drive the application in a low stress scenario.

Although learning new technology may seem like just another 'to-do' on your ever growing list, taking the time to familiarize yourself with these five applications will be worth the added effort.


Tina, you can hijack my blog any time. Where did I meet someone as cool as Tina? Twitter, of course. Turns out she is a North Carolina gal, just like me, and we're close enough to do something as shocking as meeting for lunch in person. Tina is the owner of Clerical Advantage Virtual Assistance Services, as well as one of the newest faculty members at Solo Practice University. She has a wonderful blog at add it to your Google reader!

Paralegal Leaves Job, Gives Up Law School Admission – And Is Fired

I just did a blog post about quitting your paralegal job without having another job in hand, but what do you do when you leave your paralegal job - and give up your space in law school - to accept a job making $125,000.00 per year, and then get fired after four months? Most introduction-to-paralegal and career textbooks don’t address this situation.

Illinois resident Thomas G. DeVore is suing his former employer, The Colt Group, in Madison County Circuit Court for terminating him after it allegedly extended, and he accepted, a three-year employment contract “to negotiate with landowners and to acquire coal reserves, subsidence and surface land rights in Bond and Madison counties.” DeVore says not only did he resign from his paralegal job and tell the Washington University School of Law that he would not be part of the 2008 incoming class, but his wife entered a master’s degree program in nursing, relying on his new salary to allow her to finish graduate school.

DeVore alleges that on his first day with The Colt Group, he was told that his primary duty was to convince the Burke County Board to sell its coal rights, a proposal that had not been previously mentioned in his employment negotiations, and which he was unable to achieve. When the board declined the proposal, DeVore was terminated on September 1, 2008, after only four months on the job.

DeVore’s complaint includes the allegation that:
The Defendants knew, but intentionally concealed from DeVore that the material purpose of hiring DeVore would be to use his personal relationships to influence the Bond County Board. Defendants never intended that DeVore's employment would continue if the purchase of coal rights from Bond County was rejected and knew that DeVore's continued employment would hinge on the approval of such transaction, which condition was never disclosed to DeVore at any point prior to his hiring or subsequent thereto.
Whether DeVore had a binding employment contract which was breached by defendants is an issue for the courts, but it’s hard not to sympathize with someone who gave up a stable paralegal job, which he was using to gain legal experience for a career as a lawyer, and a place in law school for a “dream job” that turned out to be a nightmare. Now he’s getting a firsthand experience of the intricacies of employment litigation.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Paralegal Pleads Guilty to Conspiring with Child Molester

In a case that embodies one of the most outrageous abuses of the civil justice system I’ve seen in a long time, The Washington Post is reporting that Ohio resident Peter J. Brandel, Sr., a retired insurance salesman and part-time paralegal, has entered a guilty plea to conspiring with convicted child molester, David Copeland-Jackson, to enmesh one of his victims in a bizarre and fraudulent federal lawsuit. The lawsuit resulted in a defamation judgment which was almost immediately vacated by the court. Copeland-Jackson has entered not-guilty pleas to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

In 2000, Copeland-Jackson pled no contest to two counts of “sexual imposition” against two teenage boys, including Joseph Cutlip, who was an eighth grader at a school where Copeland-Jackson was a teacher. (Cutlip authorized The Washington Post to use his name in connection with the story.) Copeland-Jackson was sentenced to 36 months in prison. During his incarceration, he became friends with Brandel, who took an interest in his case and believed he’d been wrongly accused.

After his release, Copeland-Jackson contacted Brandel in 2006, and plotted to file a federal defamation suit to get Cutlip to recant his allegations. First, to obtain Cutlip’s signature for forgery purposes, Brandel filed a separate frivolous small claims suit against him. Unaware of his connection to Copeland-Jackson, Brandel convinced Cutlip to sign documents, in front of a notary, to have the small claims case dismissed.

In June 2006, Copeland-Jackson filed a $3 million defamation of character lawsuit against Cutlip in federal court. Assisted by Brandel, he then filed subsequent documents with Cutlip’s forged signature, including statements that he’d been served with the lawsuit, that his allegations were false, that he was sorry and that he didn’t want to contest the lawsuit.

"I did not have any kind of sexual contact with David Copeland-Jackson," Cutlip supposedly wrote in one document. "I willfully lied."

U.S. District Court Judge Ellen S. Huvelle was ultimately duped by the machinations of Copeland-Jackson and Brandel (read the Post’s full article and the full indictment against Copeland-Jackson) into granting a $3 million dollar judgment against Cutlip in August 2007. Cutlip, unaware of the litigation until that point, received a court notice that he had lost the case – and alerted prosecutors. Cutlip also wrote Judge Huvelle asking for copies of the case pleadings, resulting in her immediate – and embarrassing - vacation of the judgment.

Peter Brandel, at 71 years of age, is now facing up to 2 ½ years in prison. That he used his experience and specialized knowledge of the legal system to inflict further torment on a young man whose life is already damaged by the experience of sexual molestation is deeply disturbing. No matter how strongly he believed in his friend’s innocence, Brandel has no justification for unlawfully depriving another individual of his rights to due process, or for falsifying multiple pleadings presented to the very court he was trained to respect and serve.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Paralegal Resume Killer: Quitting Your Job – With No New Job in Hand

Who in the paralegal profession hasn’t had days at work when you’ve fantasized for eight solid hours (or more) about loudly announcing, “I QUIT!” and then going home to a quiet low-key life that doesn’t include non-stop deadlines, brand new problems replacing the ones you just solved 15 minutes ago, and attorneys or clients who are sometimes less than appreciative of your efforts? I bet on a really bad day you’ve even convinced yourself that you’d be better off bagging groceries for a living, but a look at your checkbook nixed that half-baked idea pronto.

Most of us take a deep breath and live to see a better day – to realize the deadlines get met, to feel good about being a gifted problem-solver, and to receive an apology and a “thanks” from the attorney or client – but I’ve heard from quite a few paralegals who didn’t take that deep breath and instead created a bigger problem for themselves: trying to find another paralegal job after quitting suddenly, without a plan for re-employment.

People in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Pens

In case you think I’m speaking from an ivory tower here, early in my career I was sitting in an office with another paralegal when an irate attorney threw a pen at us. I know, I was pretty stunned, too. He was yelling – but not about anything we’d done, which was bad enough – and the next thing we knew, an expensive platinum fountain pen hurtled between our chairs and hit the wall behind us.

My initial reaction was going to sound like Johnny’s unforgettable statement in Dirty Dancing, “NOBODY puts Baby in a corner!” Only mine was going to be, “NOBODY throws pens at Lynne!” I didn’t say that, and I also didn’t follow my initial impulse to quit on the spot, but I walked out of the attorney’s office, despite his apologies, with the unshakeable feeling that it was time to move on. Within several months, I located a better employment situation for me, and left without burning any bridges. (I'm pleased to report that no one’s thrown anything at me since.)

Call Me Before You Quit

In all of the instances where a paralegal has contacted me after quitting a full-time job, with or without the requisite two weeks’ notice, I’ve thought, “I wish you’d contacted me BEFORE you quit. I would have suggested that you reconsider – unless you have another job offer on the table, or don’t need to work.” The only circumstances that I can think of where I’d agree that it’s a good idea to walk off a job without another one lined up is if the paralegal is in immediate danger of physical harm and/or severe emotional damage. Otherwise, especially in this economy, I recommend trying to "tough out" most difficult employment situations, while quietly seeking a more suitable job.

Several very qualified paralegals with wonderful resumes that have walked away from jobs have told me that they were genuinely surprised when they were not quickly hired by another firm. I’ve reviewed their resumes, been duly impressed, and then pointed out the stickler in an employers’ job market: how are you going to explain the reason you left your last job? Economic layoffs and relocation are easy to address in a cover letter or an interview - and are easily understandable - but walking away from a job in hand, even if your boss is difficult or management is clueless, is much harder to explain.

Bottom Line

If finding another job is best for you but your household relies on your income, don’t simply turn in your notice (or worse, pack up your desk and leave with no notice) and trust that another employer will immediately recognize that you have a value greater than rubies and welcome you into its ranks with no hard questions asked. That difficult-to-explain gap in your employment can be a “resume killer”, especially in a large pile of resumes from just as, if not more qualified, and currently employed applicants.

Instead, continue to be the very best professional that you can be, even in challenging circumstances, and direct your energies into networking and actively seeking another job. The old adage, “It’s easier to find a job when you already have one,” may seem like a cliché, but it’s not. There's even a long line of people these days that want that job bagging groceries.

Former Paralegal Creates Mommy Tags

Former Seattle paralegal Maize Hutton, now a resident of Butte, Montana, turned a six-month medical leave due to Bell’s Palsy into a wildly successful way to work from home. She created Mommytags, Inc., an online jewelry store, which sells personalized jewelry made from recycled silver.

Fellow Butte artist Brian Woodford told the Billings Gazette:

Her business is a great example of what can happen for people connected on the Internet. She is very successful, very talented and highly creative, but she has that great business sense that few artists have.

In addition to Mommy Tags, shoppers can also buy Daddy Tags, Tot Tags, and my favorites, Remembrance Tags and Wagg Tags. You can even wear your child’s original artwork on a Doodle Tag. These cute, personalized tags would make a very special gift, and are a hip way to wear your loved ones – even on your cell phone.

Friday, August 21, 2009

“Lean Legal Technology” for New Virtual Paralegals

Today someone tweeted Law Practice Today’s July 2009 article “Lemons, Lemonade and Lean Legal Technology – A Shoestring Approach to Legal Technology for the Suddenly Solo Lawyer” by information technology lawyer Dennis Kennedy. Not only is his advice applicable to attorneys finding themselves “suddenly solo” but also to paralegals starting up their own virtual businesses on a tight budget. The article recommendations include some of the start-up technology recommended by virtual lawyer Stephanie Kimbro and virtual paralegal Denise Annunciata in The Paralegal Voice’s most recent podcast about virtual paralegals.

In particular, the “bare minimum” list is very helpful:

Here’s the list:

  • A base computer (I’d recommend a notebook, but you could get by with a desktop PC if you don’t do work outside the office). I’m fairly agnostic about the computer choices these days – if you really want a Mac, go for it, but think about what practice-specific software you might need to run. More than likely, what you already own will work at the start.

  • A smartphone (typically, a BlackBerry or iPhone). Handle calls, get email and get Internet access from outside your office. Get an unlimited data plan. You might already have one or be eligible for an upgrade.

  • One or more external USB hard drives for backup and an online backup service, such as, to back that up.

  • A multi-function (scanner/copier/fax/printer) printer. It depends on what your needs are, but probably based on a laser printer unless you have a need for color.

  • An office software suite. Typically, this will be Microsoft Office, but you might prefer something else. Make sure it works well with your clients’ documents if you choose something other than Microsoft Word.

  • A PDF creation tool. There are free PDF creation programs, but I like Adobe Acrobat Professional for any lawyer because of all the extra things it can do for you.

  • Something to handle finances, billing, timekeeping and the like. The choice depends on your needs. You might need a legal accounting program, a standard small business program like QuickBooks, or you might have the type of practice where you could run things off a spreadsheet for a period of time.

  • A website or blog. You have to be locatable on the Internet.

Kennedy’s steps for evaluating your current inventory, and making a plan for evaluating and adding low cost technology are a must-read for anyone thinking about starting a legal business.

For those readers already working independently, do you have additional recommendations for the basics list?

Additional Legal Technology Resources by Dennis Kennedy:; The Kennedy-Mighell Report - Legal Talk Network podcast

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Judge Questions Hourly Rates for Paralegals in Wachovia Case

Judge Albert Diaz heard from angry former Wachovia shareholders in N.C. Business Court today and expressed his own concerns about the amount of attorney fees requested by New York law firm Wolf Popper, which represented the shareholders in a class-action lawsuit regarding the bank’s merger with Wells Fargo. The same firm is now proposing a settlement which will pay Wolf Popper almost $2 million in legal fees – but pay nothing to the shareholders.

Diaz also addressed the concern about the money Wolf Popper is seeking for in fees. A court filing in support of the firm’s bill shows it is charging $1.3 million in labor costs, including attorneys charging more than $700 per hour and paralegals billing at $275 per hour.

“There are good lawyers in Charlotte who don’t make that much,” Diaz said of the paralegal fees.

A partner for Wolf Popper replied "that [its] paralegals are specialized in securities law, and said there might be a lack of North Carolina law firms with similar experience.”

Winston-Salem attorney Norwood Robinson, a former shareholder asked Judge Diaz, “How is it fair for the shareholders to get nothing? The shareholders get nothing while the lawyers get paid. I’m embarrassed by that.”

There’s been an unwritten rule in many law firms that I’ve worked for that lawyers don’t get paid more than clients out of their settlements, even if they have to adjust their fees in some cases - because getting paid more than the client nets generally doesn’t lead to client satisfaction. In this case, I don’t think this particular group of shareholders is going to be singing the praises of Wolf Popper.

Paralegal Posting of the Week: Sensitive Types Need Not Apply

This ad for a family law paralegal was posted on Paralegal Gateway’s listserv today, and was the subject of a great deal of commentary:

Experienced legal assistant needed for small but busy family law office. Excellent people and organizational skills a must. Must think quickly on your feet, be people oriented and have a strong desire to work hard in the most efficient way possible. An open mind and steady hands will serve the ideal candidate well. Sensitive, overly emotional drama queens/kings, and the tender hearted need not apply.
I’m still turning over the “open mind/steady hands” imagery in my mind. What exactly does that mean, and do I even want to know? I also agree that no one likes working with people who wear their emotions on their sleeves and get teary-eyed at the drop of a hat, but I don’t think the particular phrasing of this ad is going to appeal to most experienced paralegal professionals, who’ll likely form an impression, sight unseen, of an attorney with some personality issues of his or her own.

Normally, the word “sensitive” in a job posting for a law office isn’t, well, quite so insensitive. For example, in another ad for an immigration legal assistant, the job duties include tracking “time-sensitive cases”. An ad for an in-house compliance paralegal says that the position includes owning and driving “sensitive security information program and training”. And finally, an employer seeks a front desk administrative legal assistant with a “sensitive demeanor”.

Actually, you do have to be sensitive to work in a family law environment – sensitive to others experiencing intense personal and financial hardship, and emotions ranging from outrage to despair. The right amount of sensitivity and tender-heartedness is going to go a long way towards giving you the patience and empathy needed to be a good client advocate and family law paralegal.

But sure, I can see where weeping and using up a box of tissues right alongside a distraught client might be off-putting. And who wouldn’t like to include “No Drama Queens need apply” in their want ads?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nancy W. Kappes (Paralegal) Rocks BlogHer

I am not alone in thinking I’d die happy if I got to meet Nancy W. Kappes (Paralegal), whose emails to The Bloggess created a legion of Internet fans eager for more posts featuring Nancy’s no-holds-barred thoughts on dysfunctional families and do-it-yourself anesthetization, and generated rabid rock-star-groupie interest among The Bloggess’ readers regarding Nancy’s much ballyhooed attendance at the July 2009 BlogHer conference in Chicago. Would she come? Was she a figment of Jenny’s imagination? Would she look like an axe-wielding Grandma Moses?

Likely no one got more satisfaction than Jenny did when she proudly announced that Nancy is real and she has witnesses from BlogHer. And Nancy doesn’t look like an axe-wielding Grandma Moses, but more like she should be playing Miley Cyrus’ hot aunt in an episode of Hannah Montana – although she was wielding trucker hats, which when worn side-by-side, say “Raised by Wolverines, Jesus Christ.” Those that were privileged to lay eyes on her and have her lay hands on them wasted no time blogging about the experience, including George G. Smith, Jr., a social media specialist at Crocs, Inc., who crowed that she not only got frisky with him but inspired him to love his blog again, and Anna Viele, who scored Nancy’s “bidness card”.

So imagine me being utterly gobsmacked, when after looking at Nancy’s picture with Jenny for about the 167th time, I get an email from HER, which I don’t say anything about to anyone for a while, because I think it might be a figment of MY imagination, partly because she started it “Paralegal Queen Lynne”, which was kind of mind-altering in itself. She said she admired my “sneaky, tenacious and tiresome efforts to track [her] ass down” which I thought was just good unpaid journalism - or maybe it indicates an unseemly degree of nosiness, like I should get a real hobby.

I know, this is the part where I'm supposed to share some of Nancy’s emails – except I’m not. It’s not that I’m going to keep my figment all to myself while quietly taking my meds, but more that I like her pragmatism, her earthiness and her perspective, both paralegal and personal. (My other figments aren’t nearly as chatty.) She’s got a comedic flair and certainly a talent for an unusual turn of a phrase, plus she may be the most googled paralegal on the planet as of this post, but she’s also just plain ol’ Nancy W. Kappes (Paralegal) who’s inspired me over the past several months (even before the figment email) to push the envelope a little further in my own writing and see where it takes me.

Related Post: Nancy W. Kappes (Paralegal) T-shirts

Reader Email: I Need to Interview a Paralegal for Homework!

Sometimes I have homework, which is unusual for someone not actually enrolled in school. But it’s not my homework. I'm a total sucker for paralegal students, so if asked, I try to make time to complete questionnaires for their class assignments. The questions usually focus on advice for new paralegals.

I thought I’d share an excerpt from a lengthy questionnaire I recently completed to help Barbara with an assignment. I particularly liked her questions because they focused on an essential paralegal skill: writing.

What are the requirements to become a paralegal in your company?
Our firm prefers experience in civil litigation, plus strong oral, written and computer skills. However, occasionally we have hired very bright individuals with no prior legal experience, because they showed an aptitude for learning quickly. An associate degree from a paralegal program is usually a minimum educational requirement.

What qualities do employers look for in a paralegal?
Most employers are seeking bright, efficient go-getters that can learn new software quickly and have strong communication skills. Other desirable qualities include an attention to detail, the ability to multi-task and the ability to work in a fast-paced, deadline-oriented environment.

How is the writing process "on the job" different from the academic writing process?
Writing "on the job" involves real people and real facts, and the case outcome depends on your firm's presentation of the facts and the law. But in the real world, your firm can still write a stellar brief or motion - and not win.

What types of writing does a paralegal need to know or learn?
A paralegal needs business-writing skills, as well as persuasive and argumentative writing skills. The ability to write a complete, yet concise, factual narrative is essential.

What types of deadlines do you face when drafting, writing, and filing documents?
In a fast-paced litigation practice, deadlines are constant and often dictated by the courts. Sometimes they are emergent, depending on clients' needs, usually for medical treatment.

Has this experience changed the way in which you view your chosen vocation?
I'm lucky that I was able to use my bachelor's degree in English to write documents which ultimately have helped people. Sometimes the job is stressful, but it is also rewarding.

As an experienced paralegal do you have any suggestions, tips, and advice?
I recommend brushing up on your written communication skills, especially if they are not your strong suit. Use your word processing software's grammar check for all written content, including email. Try to get a job in a legal environment while you are in school, even if it is an unpaid internship. Also, join your local paralegal association and start networking before you graduate. Finally, use social media, including LinkedIn, Twitter and listservs to both network and learn as much as you can about the profession.

Do you have a question about the paralegal profession? Please free free to email it to If I can't answer it, I will find someone that can!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Curse Boring Tweets! Tweetlejuice! Tweetlejuice! Tweetlejuice!

You’re not telling the truth if you don’t admit to having a Twitter buddy (or two, or three) still doggedly and reliably boring you (and everyone else) with insanely inane tweets about the mind-numbing minutiae of his or her life, such as “Vacuum sealed my sweaters this morning. Hellooooooo, summer!” One solution is to quietly "unfollow" the tedious offender (even if you do feel sort of guilty).

Thanks to PopWatch, I discovered that College Humor has another, more entertaining (and possibly guilt-free) solution: call Tweetlejuice! Tweetlejuice, who majored in computer science at MIT and is freaked out by a clever quip every single time it’s tweeted, offers to take the offenders “out of commission” (or maybe just scare 'em), as soon as you send a tweet with the hashtag “#Tweetlejuice” - plus the offending Twitter handle three times.

It’d be nice if it went down like that in the real world. A grounded professional is of course going to stick with the less dramatic option of "unfollowing" and living with the guilt. But you can still rock out to the catchy “Tweet tweet tweet Senora” at the end of the parody.

Related Post: Cat Got Your Tweet?

Paralegal Profile: Mianne L. Besser, Litigation Paralegal & RMPA President

Job Title: Senior Paralegal

Employer: Klein Frank, P.C., Boulder, CO

Years of Paralegal Experience: 13

Specialty Areas: Plaintiff’s litigation, specializing in products liability and personal injury.

Career Highlight: Being elected as President of the Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association three times. During my tenure as President (May 2007 to present), I have had the privilege of watching membership increase as follows: Voting Members 49%; Student Members 214%; Associate Members 71%; and Sustaining Members 8%.

Paralegal Practice Tip: Continue to educate yourself in your chosen practice area as well as other areas of interest by attending CLEs (including in-person events and webinars); subscribing to listservs; considering social networking; and scheduling some "face time" with others in your area of expertise as well as other areas of the law which interest you.

Favorite Internet Resource: It’s a tie between Practical Paralegalism and Paralegal Gateway

Fun Fact: Within my extended family, I am one of the youngest cousins, but I have the oldest children (ages 27 and 20).

LinkedIn Profile:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Corporette for Working Girls: Play the Knockoff Game

One of my favorite movies is Working Girl (1988) starring Melanie Griffith as smart administrative assistant, Tess McGill, and one of my favorite fashion blogs is Corporette, “the fashion and lifestyle blog for women lawyers, bankers, MBAs, consultants, and otherwise overachieving chicks who work in conservative offices and need to look professional but want to be fashionable.” If I could marry the two loves, the scrappy up-and-coming professional women who aren't lawyers and consultants, and the high dollar corporate fashion tips, I'd call it "Corporette for Working Girls".

Corporette's “daily TPS report” starts each Monday with a splurge item that usually costs more than my monthly mortgage payment, and ends every Friday with an item that might actually be accessible on a paralegal’s budget, often a blouse. Most of the items recommended earlier in the week exceed my clothing budget for the entire year (which admittedly as a single mom is minuscule to start with). I can definitely relate to Tess much more than Sigourney Weaver’s upper management character, Katherine Parker, who could buy all of the TPS items without blinking.

So what’s an otherwise overachieving chick who does work in the conservative legal industry and loves her fashion but doesn’t have a lawyer’s budget to do? I like to play the self-titled “Corporette Knockoff Game” wherein I try to locate a piece similar to the one that Corporette’s personal shopper recommends, but at a price that up-and-coming professional women on a bag lunch budget might be able to afford (if they take the meat out of their sandwiches…).

Today’s TPS report at Corporette features a cashmere sweater that originally cost $935 but is now (make sure you’re sitting down) sale-priced at $280! (Hello, car payment.) It’s elegant and well-tailored, a timeless piece, and who doesn’t need a great cardigan to provide the final polish for a summer outfit, especially with sleeveless dresses and blouses? But no way is a cream cashmere sweater going to fit in with my business casual/chauffeuring mom lifestyle.

But I do love my cardigans so I found this beautiful DKNY Belted Fine-Gauge Cardigan for $68.99 at, in a light linen blend and soft figure-flattering shape that not only comes in eggshell for those who want an ivory cardigan like the one featured today at Corporette, but also comes in one of my favorite colors ever, expresso – for the klutzy, coffee-spilling professional chicks like me.

Do you ever play the Knockoff Game?

RECAP Allows PACER Users to Contribute to Free Federal Document Archive

The legal industry is abuzz on the Internet about the Princeton Center for Information Technology’s new Firefox add-on, RECAP, which allows PACER users to help build a public archive of federal court records by donating documents they pay for, which are then available at no charge (over a million documents are available to date.) PACER currently charges users .08 per page.

TechCrunch reporter Michael Arrington says in an August 14, 2009 article in the Washington Post:
If the RIAA can't stop music sharing, the U.S. government is going to have an even harder time trying to stop the sharing of federal court documents hidden behind a paywall. Those documents aren't protected by copyright law.
For a simple video explanation of how it all works, see “Watch RECAP in Action”. RECAP’s “About” page also provides a straightforward and clear FAQ, including the answer to the following question:

What Does RECAP Do?
RECAP is an extension (or “add on”) for the Firefox web browser that improves the PACER experience while helping PACER users build a free and open repository of public court records. RECAP users automatically donate the documents they purchase from PACER into a public repository hosted by the Internet Archive. And RECAP saves users money by alerting them when a document they are searching for is already available from this repository. RECAP also makes other enhancements to the PACER experience, including more user-friendly file names.

Have any of you used RECAP yet to donate or access free documents?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Paralegal’s Purse Redux

In January 2009, I virtually dumped out the contents of my purse for all ya’ll to see. I thought I’d located the perfect purse to transport anything a prepared paralegal could possibly ever need, but then as women’s accessories do, my purse had the audacity to both go out of style and start looking like a beat-up diaper bag.

It was time to locate a new purse. Inspired by paralegal Christine Parizo, who commented at the original post, including a picture of her super-cute “travel kit”, I tried hard to cram all my belongings into a much smaller tote, but destroyed two daintier bags in short order, even after sacrificing a few items in my attempt to downsize, like the small pad of paper and the digital camera.

But I discovered that I need a camera on my person at all times, so I can take photos of unanticipated events, like the log that got rammed under my daughter’s car on the interstate, while we were moving her to graduate school. (Yes, I'm furious at the oblivious driver that kept traveling down the interstate, apparently unaware that his unsecured log almost caused a 15-car pile up.)

Then I acquired another critical piece of electronic equipment that I have to have on my person at all times, my GPS navigator. I bought it after getting lost on the way to a N.C. Bar Association Paralegal Division meeting, where I was supposed to give a brief presentation on social media. Now I’m never lost, at least for very long, because I know that I’ve missed my turn when “Gar” starts shrieking “Recalculating! Recalculating!”

Add the netbook I’ve got my eye on, and I’m back to my original paralegal purse requirements – enormous, stylish color, and adjustable handles so it can be worn messenger style when I need my hands free.

After a lengthy online and in-town search, I ended up buying a Simply Vera Wang Cross-Body Bag, which comes in three great colors: red, black and purple. You know I bought the purple one. The exterior pockets are perfect for holding my digital camera, GPS navigator, digital voice recorder, tons of pens, my reading glasses and the soft peppermint candies I’m addicted to. And there’s just enough room left inside for my netbook-to-be.

Have you got the perfect paralegal purse? We'd love to hear about it.