Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Working Girl Wednesday: Stuff They Never Told Us We'd Have to Do in Paralegal School

Like many working paralegals, I completed a two-year associate degree in paralegal studies, which included courses in civil litigation, bankruptcy, real estate and wills, but sometimes over the span of a 20-plus year legal career, I’ve wondered if the program should have included another class, “Realities of Working in a Law Firm 101”. I’ve found myself doing things they never told me about in paralegal school, both good (helping a paraplegic client try out a standing electric wheelchair) and not-so-good (getting estimates for a funeral – not mine).

So I asked some of my paralegal buddies on Twitter what things they’d done that weren’t mentioned in paralegal school, and here are the responses:

Good

@KiaJG: "I never imagined I would actually be arguing/[negotiating] settlements against attorneys but it's my [favorite] part of the job now!"

I, too, love a spirited (if not heated) discourse with opposing parties via telephone.

@JoshChaikin: "I got to help the network guys install and setup new switches."

Anyone who does that at our small firm gets labeled “IT Go-to-Guy” (not always a good thing).

@melihi: "Heading over to clean the office aquarium. It's needed it for about four months now. eep."

@lglduck: "That's a good one, I have to clean our fish tank too."

I am not good with the fishes, and am glad our firm doesn’t have any, so I don’t have to worry about any career-ending belly-side-ups.

Not-So-Good

@SrParalegal:"…Chaffeur!"

This includes detailed knowledge of your local airport and hauling luggage – and no tips.

@CathieCummings: "Babysitting client's children while the client's deposition is being taken!" Then Cathie added, “plus I got to change a very dirty diaper. Eeww!!”

I’ve taken screaming children out of conference rooms, and then outside, if the howling continued unabated and echoed all the way to the senior partners' offices.

@lglduck: "Babysit! (as in the attorney, the associate, the clients)"

We like to call it hand-holding, and get ready to do a lot of it. Free practice tip: always have a box of Kleenex nearby.

@BabFab: "Watching over the partner's wine collection in the server room."

I can see how you might not want to leave wine unattended in a high-stress profession.

@jyscale: "I have 2 - waiting at boss's house for TV delivery so he could be in court & taking him home from hospital after heart surgery."

Seriously, in this case, she has a great relationship with her boss, and is happy to do it. But I’ve known paralegals whose responsibilities included everything from personal bill-paying to picking up dry-cleaning to purchasing family gifts.

@MargaretAgius: "Weird duty: Putting up w/office mgr who insists that extravagant gift gving is [right for] every occasion & forces participation."

I’ve often thought that delicate interoffice relations, including "to give or not to give", should be included in that “Realities of Working in a Law Firm 101”.

@legalninjaKris: "make coffee, buy your own desk (& then get reimbursed), go-to person when copier is jammed"

There is nothing worse than staring at the bowels of a copier that is bigger than your car, with a piece of paper jammed for all 26 letters of the alphabet lit up on the display.

Early in my career, when I didn’t drink coffee, I was politely asked to stop making it, possibly because I could never get the grounds to water ratio right - usually creating some kind of expresso-type mud with legs.

In summary, in the real world, a resourceful paralegal may wear a lot of hats not discussed in formal education programs: Captain of the Legal Debate Team, Unofficial IT Guy, Fish Whisperer, Super-Nanny, Taxi Driver, Gofer, Copier Internist, and Barista (again, no tips).

What have you had to do during the course of your employment as a paralegal that wasn’t mentioned in paralegal school? Please comment and share your valuable experience with the newbies!

Paralegals Hit Hard by the Economy

While there are indicators that the economy is showing small signs of recovery, the reality is that many of our fellow paralegals are still out of work and suffering severe hardships due to the loss of income and key benefits, such as health insurance. Showing our support for paralegals who are struggling to find work, and helping them if we are in a position to do so, is part of being a member of the larger paralegal community.

The National Law Journal includes Phoenix paralegal Theresa Prater in a feature story about how the economy has affected legal professionals. Prater is finding that her 27 years of legal experience may be hindering her job search, with some potential employers intimidated by her knowledge and her former salary. She is teaching an introductory class to paralegal students but is honest with them about the scarce paralegal opportunities in the Phoenix area right now.

The Tennessean is reporting that North Dakota paralegal Cindy Shawcross lost her job and health benefits in July after a motor vehicle accident. A thyroid cancer survivor who exhausted her retirement savings trying to maintain group health insurance, she’s now unable to pay for follow-up care for that condition, and hoping to qualify for a free mammogram needed to further examine a new lump in her breast.

Karen Prows, a California paralegal employed by the Solano County District Attorney’s Office, was informed last week, along with fellow office assistant Judy Smart, that their jobs are ending October 10, as reported by the Contra Costa Times. Not only is she worried about the people she serves in the Crime Victims Assistance Department, but she is also wondering why she is one of only two employees laid off, out of 156 employees eligible for early retirement.

Finally, Michelle Singletary, a financial columnist for the Washington Post, has been featuring Maryland paralegal Bobbie Wilson and her husband, Juan, in this year’s "Color of Money Challenge". Wilson lost her job in January, following her husband’s job loss in 2008. The couple has five children. Although she has located temporary work which has been extended from October to December 31, the couple received a foreclosure notice for their home.

These stories remind me not only to appreciate the simple act of showing up to work, but also that we’re a community of intelligent and resourceful legal professionals. It’s been inspiring to see many individuals and groups stepping up to the plate to support others struggling to find work, with job banks and leads, resume assistance, food drives and even just plain encouragement and a sympathetic ear, but sometimes it makes me wonder - could we be doing more?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Professional Profile: Michele Flowers Brooks, Senior Paralegal & Swim Mom

Job Title: Senior Paralegal

Employer: Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool - Austin, Texas

Years of Paralegal Experience: 12

Specialty Areas: Workers’ Compensation, Subrogation, Litigation

Career Highlights: My career started in general practice and quickly moved into workers’ compensation insurance defense. I have worked in all areas of workers’ compensation, from the administrative level all the way through the Texas Court of Appeals. Since moving to TML-IRP, my concentration has been solely on workers’ compensation subrogation.

I have volunteered in our local paralegal association, Capital Area Paralegal Association (CAPA), since 1999; and our state association, Texas State Bar Paralegal Division (TXPD), since 2001. I have held numerous chair positions and served on the Board for each association in the following ways:

CAPA Treasurer 2003 – 2005
CAPA President-Elect 2006 – 2007
CAPA President 2006 – 2008
TXPD Director, District 4 2008 – Present

Paralegal Practice Tip: Organize, Organize, Organize! You may spend some time upfront organizing, be it your address book, a document file, or your calendar; but the time you will save in the long run is immeasurable.

Favorite Internet Resource: Accurint

Favorite Legal Software: Time Map

Fun Fact: I am a Swim Mom. Most weekend Saturdays you can find me dragging to the pool at 6:00 a.m. to watch my kids swim. The two that swim are on high school teams so many weekends during the school year are also dedicated to sitting poolside watching. They amaze me constantly!

I also love to watch True Blood on HBO!

Do you Twitter? Of course! Twitter handle: @ymfbrooks

Favorite Quote: “Full Hands In; Full Hands Out” To me, it applies equally at home and at work. It stresses efficiency.

Professional Links: http://www.linkedin.com/in/ymfbrooks; http://txpd.org/board_of_directors.asp

Monday, September 28, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Become a Paralegal

by Michelle Fabio

One of the hottest careers in America right now is that of the paralegal, a legal professional who assists lawyers in many aspects of practice except for those restricted by law solely to attorneys. You can become a paralegal by education, work experience, or a combination of the two, but employers are increasingly seeking paralegals who are certified, usually gained by passing an exam after obtaining a paralegal certificate or degree.


But why would you want to become a paralegal in the first place? Here are the:


Top 10 Reasons to Become a Paralegal


  1. Paralegals are in one of the fastest growing professions in the country. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for paralegals is expected to grow by 22% through 2016, much faster than the average for all professions. Those who specialize in areas such as bankruptcy, community legal services, elder law, medical malpractice, product liability, and real estate will be especially in demand.

  2. You can test the legal waters without going to law school. Of course you can choose to become a paralegal as a lifetime career, but for those of you with law school in the back of your mind, working as a paralegal can give you a unique insight into the legal system and help you decide whether law school is really your calling. Plus, if you do decide to go, you'll already have a lot of the research and writing skills your fellow students will still have to learn.

  3. You can work in interesting areas of the law, and even specialize. Although you don't have to choose a specialty area when you become a paralegal, if one particular area of law interests you, you can focus on it and become an even more valuable employee to firms who also specialize in that area. Paralegals work in every legal field you can imagine, so no matter what you're interest, you're sure to find a place in the paralegal profession.

  4. You can choose your working environment. The working environments of paralegals vary greatly with opportunities in large, medium, and small law firms; government agencies; corporate legal departments; real estate agencies; insurance agencies; and more. Some paralegals also work from home as consultants and independent contractors.

  5. You can be well-compensated. According to the BLS, paralegals had median annual earnings, including bonuses, of $43,040 as of May 2006; the top 10% earned more than $67,540 and those working for the federal government earned $56,080. Not surprisingly, those with higher levels of education and experience are usually at the upper end of the salary scale.

  6. There is much room for advancement--and higher salaries. Paralegals can gain promotions quite rapidly with training, experience, and especially expertise in a chosen field.

  7. Boredom is not likely. Working as a paralegal virtually guarantees that you'll be confronting new issues and situations every day; not only will you be asked to perform various tasks from interviewing witnesses to researching and writing memoranda, you'll also delve into new legal questions all the time as no two cases are ever the same.

  8. You'll be learning every day. As you'll be doing different tasks and encountering different facts and laws every day, you'll also be learning as well. If you're the kind of person who loves the challenge of learning new things, becoming a paralegal could be the right career choice for you.

  9. You'll be helping people. Above all, paralegals are in a service profession, helping the clients of supervising attorneys resolve their legal problems, many of which are quite serious.

  10. You'll love your job. OK, there's never any guarantee you'll *love* your job, but CNN Money Magazine ranks paralegal as the 14th best job in America based on job growth and salary figures, and those two things can definitely make you *like* your job a whole lot more.

______________________


Michelle Fabio is an American writer and attorney who left the Anthracite Coal Region of Pennsylvania for her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy in 2003. She is the About.com Guide to Law School, a frequent contributor to LegalZoom.com, and also blogs about her life in the toe of the boot at Bleeding Espresso. You can follow her on Twitter: @michellefabio or @lawschoolguide.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Paralegal Students Benefit from Good Relationships with Faculty & Staff

Getting ready for a paralegal career starts the first day a new student enters a paralegal program, whether it be on-campus, online or a combination of both. Some of the most important contacts a student will make are at school, including instructors, career counselors and advisers. In a story reported by Amarillo College’s newspaper, paralegal studies major Esmerelda Pando has benefited greatly from working closely with her adviser and instructor, Bruce Mosely.

By keeping in touch through e-mail and phone, they orchestrate her curriculum and schedule it to fit her life. "

He'll tell me, 'Hey, this is what we need to do, and if it doesn't work, we'll figure it out,'" Pando said.

Moseley also secured an internship for Pando at the district attorney's office.


Start building those crucial academic relationships from Day One:
  • Get to know your instructors, advisers, career placement counselors and other faculty and staff.
  • Always interact civilly and courteously with them, even if you are having a disagreement.
  • Establish a reputation for an excellent work ethic, reliability and professionalism through class participation, completion of assigned work and interaction with your fellow students.
  • Ask them for guidance and advice; that’s what they are there for.

Your academic contacts may also be your first references for employment, so conduct yourself accordingly at all times, the same as you would at a real job.

Grammar tip (and non sequitur): I wrestled over “advisor” vs. “adviser”, but both spellings are correct and interchangeable, according to my go-to Grammar Girl.

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 good news in the paralegal profession.

Paralegal Associations & Programs

Dr. Mary Ellen Keith has joined the full-time faculty at New Mexico State University–Alamogordo as an assistant professor of criminal justice and paralegal studies. Keith earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Texas, and a doctor of jurisprudence from the University of Houston's Bates College of Law. (Daily News)

The Northeast Florida Paralegal Association celebrated its 25th anniversary this month with a party at the Hyatt. (Jacksonville Daily Record)

One of the highlights of the 25th anniversary celebration at the Hyatt was uncorking the time capsule that was created when the NEFPA was founded. Items inside the tube included old photographs, newsletters, professional surveys, business cards of former presidents and an old banner.

New Hires

Linda D. Waldner has joined the law firm of Todd A. Stewart, P.A. in Charlotte, North Carolina, as a paralegal. She has over 25 years of experience in estate planning and business representation, and holds a B.B.A. in Accounting and a J.D. from the University of Cincinnati. (Carolina Newswire)

Dawn Thrasher, a recent graduate of the Paralegal Studies Program at Duke University, has been hired as a legal assistant at Wolf & Hogan, P.C. in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Recognition

Supervisory Paralegal Mary Downing, employed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., was recognized as part of a support team whose work resulted in the arrest and indictment of a drug ring. (Federal Bureau of Investigation)

Jill Francisco, a paralegal at Huddleston Bolen in Huntington, West Virginia, has been named to the Marshall University Alumni Association Board of Directors. She "received her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Legal Studies from Marshall University in 1994. In 2005, she successfully completed the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) Certified Legal Assistant examination and obtained the Advanced Certified Legal Assistant designation in 2006." (The West Virginia Record)

Practical Paralegalism would love to share your individual or association news. You can send your announcement to lynne.devenny@gmail.com.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Paralegal Intern's Sharp Eye Gets Criminal Case Dismissed

Mary Russell, a paralegal student at the Minnesota School of Business - Brooklyn Center, has an unusual paralegal internship story, according to the Globe University/Minnesota School of Business Campus News Blog. Her dedication and excellent powers of observation resulted in the dismissal of a criminal case against her supervising attorney's client.


As an intern with attorney Marilyn Knudsen, Mary worked on a case in which a client had been accused of a crime. Mary’s role was to watch surveillance video tapes from the crime scene to determine if the client had been present.

“Mary spent unknown hours, apparently with great professional interest, poring over three views of poor quality surveillance video tape, doing second-by-second analysis and then writing in a synchronized account,” Knudsen says. “It must have been incredibly boring and tedious, but she always exhibited enthusiasm.”


Read the entire post for an inspiring story about a hardworking paralegal intern, an extremely impressed attorney and an exceptional result for a client.

Also, check out the school's Paralegal Programs Blog (which has been included in Practical Paralegalism's Blog Roll at the sidebar for some time, thanks to a "heads up" from Robert Mongue at The Empowered Paralegal). The most recent post, "Tips for Great Legal Writing" includes clear and relevant advice, including the increasing use of one space after a period, instead of two. The post also addresses my pet grammar peeve - incorrect use of "it's" and "its"!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Working Girl Wednesday: Is It Okay to Dump Business Lunch Leftovers into Your Purse?

This answer to this question is likely “no” – unless no one sees you do it. Actually, this is not the literal question and answer given at Corporette’s post earlier this week, “Reader Mail: Can I take the leftovers from my business lunch?” I perked right up at the sight of a question that even a legal professional who will never be on a partnership track and usually bags it really needs to know the answer to.

Corporette recommends “precision-ordering”, a process that requires Sherlock Holmes-like powers of observation and deduction, to avoid leftovers - and no requesting a doggy bag. (Even I know not to say “doggy bag” at a professional lunch, and to politely request a “to-go box” in the event my precision-ordering is off.)

The topic touched a nerve among Corporette readers, and the comments range from mandating that to ask for your leftovers is a huge career faux pas from which you will never recover, to it is politically correct and reflects a healthy self-esteem to get a to-go box. While a couple of readers indicate that in their firms only administrative assistants take leftover food, I am delighted to see at least one reader say the partners in her firm do, too, a prudent idea in these uncertain economic times. I want to hug those readers that say who cares if you ask for a box or not, regardless of where you are on the law firm ladder, as well as the reader that recommends taking the box and giving it to a homeless person (although most of the ones I’ve run into said they'd rather have cash).

Despite the advice from some Corporette readers to “go with the flow” at a business lunch and do what everyone else is doing, here’s how I decide what to do with the leftovers. If I like my lunch, I take the rest of it home with me.

I thought I’d share a few more helpful business lunch tips from an About.com article “Mind Your Table Manners – Especially for Business”:

Don't talk with food in your mouth. It makes it difficult to understand what you're saying, and it's not pleasant to see your food being masticated. Further, you don't want to risk a torpedo flying out of your mouth onto your companion's plate.

Don't burp. It's not cute and it's not a compliment in most parts of the world, no matter what your father told you. If a burp or hiccup escapes, just quietly say, "excuse me."

Never lift your soup bowl to drink the final drops. Tilt it away from you and scoop the final amount with the spoon pushing away from you. Don't try to get every last drop.

And absolutely do not tip your soup bowl into your mouth and then burp. After that, whether you ask for a box or not will be a moot point.

Paralegal Practice Tips: Evaluation & Acceptance of Workers' Compensation Cases

A knowledgeable workers’ compensation paralegal should be able to gather sufficient information for a plaintiffs’ firm to evaluate a potential claim and to open a new file if the firm decides to accept the case. In order to fully understand the case, as well as assist the client, a paralegal should:

  • Meet the client to establish a comfortable working relationship.

  • Use pre-prepared intake forms and releases to avoid missing key information.

  • Obtain and review all documentation the client has regarding the claim, injury and employment.

  • Gather as many details as possible about how the injury or occupational disease occurred.

  • Obtain sufficient information to thoroughly understand the injured worker’s job duties.

  • Obtain complete background information about the injured worker, including a medical and employment history, criminal record (if any) and prior injury claims and pre-existing conditions (if any).

  • Verify the legal name of the employer by reviewing paychecks, paycheck stubs, IRS wage-earning report forms, other employment documents and Secretary of State and Department of Labor websites.

  • Return client telephone calls as promptly as possible.

  • Decline to give clients legal advice. Instead, refer questions regarding legal issues to the attorney.

  • Keep copies (paper or digital image) of frequently contacted medical providers’ required release forms.

  • Carefully draft and review the contents of all correspondence, including E-mail, prior to sending it, as it may be seen by unintended parties.

  • If the paralegal works for a plaintiffs’ firm, keep contact information for local agencies which assist individuals and families in crisis.

_______________________________________


Excerpt from Chapter 3, "Evaluation and Acceptance of Case" from Workers' Compensation Practice for Paralegals (Carolina Academic Press, 2008) by Lynne J. DeVenny and J. Griffin Morgan, available at Carolina Academic Press and Amazon. Each chapter of the book starts with a list of "Paralegal Practice Tips" containing practical advice for daily tasks related to workers' compensation law (many of which also pertain to other types of injury cases).

Related Posts: Paralegal Practice Tips: Medical Records; The Bigger Picture Legal Team Column from Legal Assistant Today

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Paralegal Students, Want to Use Local Law Library? Just Ask.

Sometimes I hear paralegal students complain about the lack of comprehensive and up-to-date law resources in their school libraries, especially in smaller programs. I've been lucky enough to have access to a major law school library both as a paralegal student and a working paralegal. If you have a local law library within driving distance, try asking for access, as recommended by Campbell Law School Dean Melissa Essary in an interview with WRAL.COM:


I am a student in the paralegal program at Meredith College. Will you welcome Meredith students to use your law library for research and study? Mary Schindo, Raleigh

Mary, we want our facilities to be available for practicing members of the North Carolina Bar, and we equally want to be a good partner to our friends enrolled at Meredith and other local programs. I would recommend that you schedule an appointment with our library staff to use our resources.

With more than 400 individuals enrolled at Campbell Law School, our library professionals must first focus on the study and research needs of our students. However, if you were to schedule time with our library staff to utilize certain resources, we should be able to accommodate your request.

Essary's interview also contains some excellent practical advice for anyone considering applying to law school.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Paralegal Allegedly Shoved Out Door by Attorney Pursues Comp Claim

This post has it all: a former lawyer working as a paralegal (although not a very good one according to his boss), a termination allegedly involving a literal shove out the door, and his workers’ compensation claim resulting in one hot legal mess for his former employer. Reporter Katie Mulvaney’s article for The Providence Journal, “Complaint against lawyer McKenna winding through R.I. courts while penalties mushroom”, is an interesting read about a case that sounds like a combination of those two timeless reality show dramas hosted by Jerry Springer and Judge Wapner.

It’s a lengthy article, so I'll briefly summarize it as follows:

Sumner Stone, a former attorney working as a personal injury paralegal at the time, alleges that attorney Keven McKenna, a longtime outspoken critic of Rhode Island's courts, not only immediately fired him when he asked for $15 in gas money to get a subpoena signed, but then forcibly shoved him out the door, injuring his back and neck. (Stone also alleged that McKenna owed him $2,700 in back pay.)

McKenna isn’t denying that he terminated Stone because he had “limited skills and spent most of his time selling antiques over the Internet.” But in his version of showing Stone to the door, it was a gentle guiding – not a manhandling. An earlier Journal article quotes McKenna as saying he had an arm around him “like a grandfather might”.

State prosecutors dropped Stone’s simple assault charge but the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Court issued a pretrial order directing McKenna to pay Stone $400.00 per week, plus medical expenses and legal fees, while his claim is pending - which McKenna refuses to do. The case is being litigated vigorously, including McKenna’s repeated requests to have the judge recused for holding “personal animus” against him, and the court’s enforcement of its pretrial order. As the case drags on, and the rulings go against McKenna, he is racking up thousands of dollars in back benefits owed, sanctions and late fees.

To add to McKenna’s legal pot boiler, now the Department of Labor and Training has filed a complaint against him, alleging that he “knowingly failed to secure workers’ compensation insurance for his employees.” A ruling against McKenna could result in more than $137,500.00 in penalties, according to the Journal.

There are so many life lessons here, including comply with your state’s laws requiring workers’ compensation coverage for your business, and keep your hands, grandfatherly or otherwise, to yourself when showing employees the door. As for Stone, described by the Journal as “occasionally grimacing and stretching his neck” at the most recent hearing in September, it’s possible that he may end up getting paid a whole lot more than that $15 in gas money he initially requested.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Paralegal’s Recognition of Jury Foreman Leads to Mistrial

According to The Village Voice, a New York news blog, the jury foreman in a Brooklyn criminal case, Rayshawn Davis, allegedly failed to disclose at least two key pieces of key information: he knew the defendant, Corey Hinds, and he had a previous felony conviction. A paralegal with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office made the connection when she stopped by the courtroom and recognized both Davis and Hinds from her own neighborhood.
During jury selection, while under oath, Davis claimed that he had no prior felony convictions. In fact, he did. He was convicted of felony gun possession a few years ago, and served a year in jail. But that fact wasn't picked up until the DA's paralegal made the alleged connection between Davis and Hinds.

The paralegal was in the courtroom one day toward the end of August. The judge in the case was handling miscellaneous motions at the time. While the paralegal was there, the jury sent out a note asking for a read back of the testimony. The jury and the defendant were brought into the room. When she saw the defendant and the jury foreman, she immediately recognized them and concluded they had to know each other.

The New York Post provided additional information about the alleged link between Davis and Hinds:
Davis, who also goes by the name Raymond Williams, frequently hung out with Hinds on the basketball courts near the Ocean Hill Houses, according to the woman who recognized them.

Davis may face perjury charges. As for the paralegal who recognized the men, as they say in baseball, “Good eye.”

Legal Aid Paralegal Says Make Dying Wishes Known

I was talking with a friend this morning about her dad’s very serious decline in health and his extreme reluctance to acknowledge or talk about it – or to make plans in the event he can no longer make his own decisions, or dies. His longtime spouse, struggling with her own health issues, hasn’t wanted to talk about the worst case scenario either, but has finally admitted, “I can’t do this anymore.” Worried about her own ability to manage her parents’ affairs without their input, my friend is resolved to have this critical discussion with them very soon, a course of action that Gay Joyner, a paralegal with Legal Aid of North Carolina in Rocky Mount recommends in the excellent Rocky Mountain Telegram article, “Duties Before Dying”.
“It puts a lot of burden on the family trying to decide what did they want. They are stuck with a lot of decisions that maybe families haven’t talked about before. Do they want organ donation? Do they want to be put on machines? Even simple things like, do they want to be put on kidney dialysis if they can’t make that decision themselves?” Joyner said.
It’s not a comfortable subject, but we do have a duty to our families to prepare for worst case scenarios, especially to our family members who are likely to manage our affairs if we can’t, including our health care. The article emphasizes the importance of preparing a will, durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney and a living will, as well as discussing end-of-life wishes and decisions with the individuals named in the documents.

If you’re avoiding documenting your own final wishes or talking with immediate family members about theirs, don’t put off these conversations any longer. It’s a duty of love.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Paralegal’s Family Reunion Crashed by Cockroaches

Part of the reason I blog for paralegals is to show support for fellow professionals, but sometimes, it’s to share my sympathy, such as in the case of California paralegal Kirsten Cicairos, whose family reunion at Woodward Reservoir in Stanislaus County was crashed by a plague of roaches.

The Modesto Bee is reporting that the Cicairos family filed a claim against the county after being forced to flee the campground when their “food, tents and cars” were swarmed by the pests.

So everyone agreed to meet for four days in August, they said. The first was uneventful. But something went down Kirsten Cicairos' shirt around dusk the next day, wriggling toward her belly.

"I'm trying to flick it off and I'm flashing my goods at my in-laws," she said.

Everyone laughed, others said, and went back to barbecuing a roast. But then, "all hell broke loose," said Albert Cicairos, the group's 68-year-old patriarch.

"All of a sudden, thousands came swarming us everywhere, in our food and cars and tents," Kirsten Cicairos said. "You know a swarm of locusts? That's what it was like. They were everywhere."

In this litigious society, a claim for $107.00 to reimburse the family for food, pesticides, fumigators “and $7 for having Waterford's Big Bear Carwash clean underneath his vehicle” barely makes a blip on the compensatory damages radar. Whether the county is liable for the uninvited horde of roaches is a legal issue, but campground employees laughing at the family's futile battle with the marauding bugs didn't help.

As for the agricultural inspector’s identification of the creepy crawlies as “field roaches”, that doesn’t change the fact that they’re cockroaches, plain and simple. I was amused by the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management description of the field roach as “not really a pest. It is usually found outdoors, but sometimes comes indoors when it is hot or dry and is often mistaken for the German cockroach.”

Hmmm. I’m with you, Kirsten. Anything that is a subcategory of cockroach and comes inside – ever – is a pest in my book.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Working Girl Wednesday: The Budget Fashionista

I keep sneaking over to Corporette even though I’m not a lawyer and I’ll never be able to convince myself that this "Monday’s Splurge", a gorgeous red Cole Haan Genevieve Small Carpet Bag is actually worth the cost of a small area rug: $431.00. I couldn't resist playing "The Working Girl Knockoff Game" and found this fashion-forward red Andiamo handbag in a "croco-print", described as "capacious" (an outstanding adjective for a paralegal's purse) for $59.95 at ShoeMall.com. (Regular readers know I have a weakness for faux lizards.)

So what’s a savvy professional to do if she wants to be both trendy and thrifty? Add The Budget Fashionista to her blog reader. Recent posts for this economy’s “depressionistas” include:

"Tiffany’s Has Nothing on Walmart" (I confess that I bought a favorite pair of classic gold earrings for work at “Wally World”.)

"Top 5 for Fall: Plaid" (I’m old enough to know that you should never, ever give away well-tailored classic plaid skirts, because they always come back in style.)


Will I stop sneaking over to Corporette even though I’m not a lawyer? No. I like knowing that my Mary Jane purchase of a few months ago was fashion-savvy, even though mine only cost $20.00 on the Kohl’s clearance rack. But then I’ll get my reality check at The Budget Fashionista, so I can feel really cool when I’m shopping at the “hot new store” - Walmart.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Legal Assistant Is Readers’ Choice for Best Dressed Racegoer

I think tomorrow is a "Say Something" hat day. ~ Miss Vida Boheme (Patrick Swayze) in To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995)




This post is about a legal assistant and high fashion – if you’re visiting the horse racing track. Australian legal assistant Holly Wakefield won the Readers’ Choice award for best-dressed racegoer at the Cairns Amateurs Carnival this year.

What constitutes high fashion at a racing carnival? Here’s the recommendations for “Fashions on the Fields” from the Cairns Amateurs Carnival site:




What to wear

As the Cairns Amateurs is a Spring Racing Carnival, the judges will be looking for elegant and stylish race wear to suit the season as well as the latest fashion trends.

A few tips from our glamorous judges:

Entrants should express style and originality
A co-ordinated outfit, including accessories, and attention to detail
Outfits that reflect current fashion trends
Couples whose outfits compliment each other and reflect style and fashion sense
Hats and fascinators that enhance an outfit and show imagination and creativity
Attire that is appropriate for the race course and season
High standards of grooming and deportment




I had to look up “fascinators”, which turns out is a fancy name for a fancy headpiece. I found this informative post from The Budget Fashionista “European Trend: Fascinators” which includes a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker’s, er, “fascinator” that she wore to the opening of the Sex and the City movie. TBF includes the warning, “Be careful not to go overboard or else you’ll end up looking like you have a peacock on your head.”



TBF helpfully adds that you can get a fascinator for about $20 on eBay or make your own. I almost didn't finish this post looking at all of the fascinators available on eBay and elsewhere on the 'net. And if you want to buy a peacock to wear on your head - on purpose - you can.

I’m thinking that American fashionistas Clinton and Stacy of TLC’s What Not to Wear would say that a fascinator is not something a modern day working girl needs to have in her closet or on her head – unless she’s celebrating Mardi Gras or visiting a European race track.

Wakefield attended Ladies Day at the Cairns Amateurs Carnival as part of a work function, and had her hat made to match the frill on her dress.

I think Miss Vida would have voted for Wakefield, too.

Paralegal Pleads Guilty to Giving False Statement to Government

In an update to Practical Paralegalism's June 15, 2009 post, ABC15.com is reporting that Arizona resident Nora Liliana Skinner-Reyes, a former Paralegal Specialist employed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, has entered a plea of guilty to “providing a false document to a government agency.” In June 2009, she was indicted in U.S. District Court in Tuscon for allegedly making false statements during an employee security interview.

The Arizona Daily Star provided the following summary of the charges and the plea agreement:
In May 2004 Reyes, who worked as a paralegal for the U.S. Customs office in Nogales, checked "no" on a Department of Homeland Security form when answering a question regarding whether she'd been fired from or left through mutual agreement any job in the previous five years, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Spaven told U.S. Magistrate Judge Hector Estrada.

Reyes had left her job at a Bank of America in Nogales in November 2004 as part of a mutual agreement to leave, Spaven said.

Under her plea agreement, Reyes will be put on supervised probation for one year and will be banned from applying for any federal positions for five years. She is set to be formally sentenced by U.S. District Judge John M. Roll on Feb. 2.

Assuming Reyes’ plea agreement is accepted by Judge Roll, she will avoid the maximum penalties associated with this charge, including a five-year federal prison sentence and/or a $250,000.00 fine. But it is unlikely that she will be a serious candidate for re-employment by the federal government, even after five years.

For individuals not employed by the federal government, falsifying an employment application, personnel document or even a resume, can also have serious repercussions, including immediate dismissal from your job if the fraud is uncovered.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Top 10 Social Media Tips for Paralegals

If you’re asking, “What’s social media?” we need to have a serious chat. Social media (simply defined as Internet tools for sharing information) is key to building your network of legal and related professionals who know what is happening now, and who are smart enough to forecast the future of the legal field.

The ways that law firms manage documents, exchange information, advertise for clients and hire new employees are evolving at a pace faster than the speed of light. Paralegals, including new paralegal graduates, are expected to stay abreast of the latest technological, practice, marketing and hiring trends – including the use of social media.

I know. It’s like learning to swim and not wanting to get your hair wet. But once you realize that water is buoyant, and floating is relaxing, you’ll love it!

Here are 10 social media tips to get you started:

  1. Start using it. More employers are adding social media skills to their job requirements. Today’s technologically-savvy paralegal might have to contribute to the firm’s blog or Twitter stream.


  2. Create a free LinkedIn profile. If you already have one that has only your name, job title and current employer, you're not finished. You need a complete profile that reflects your education, experience and professional expertise. More employers than ever are utilizing LinkedIn to vet applicants.


  3. Post a headshot with your LinkedIn profile. Your contacts need to see your face. You wouldn’t wear a paper bag over your head if you were attending a legal conference, professional meeting or job fair, would you?


  4. Connect with other professionals on LinkedIn. In addition to searching for people in your community that you do know, connect with other legal professionals that have similar interests. Even if you’re happily employed, work on building your network before you need it.


  5. Join at least one national paralegal listserv, such as LAT-Listserv, Paralegal Gateway (Yahoo! Group) or Paralegals (Yahoo! Group). Don’t let the volume of list posts deter you. You can review posts in digest format and only read what interests you. Listservs are a great way to have a resource to post detailed questions and get responses from very knowledgeable paralegals all over the country.


  6. Follow reputable blogs to keep up with the latest news regarding legal technology, social media and your specialty areas. The ABA Journal has an excellent Blawg Directory to get you started (http://abajournal.com/blawgs/ ).


  7. Join Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/ ). I know that this step is often the most frightening, but oddly, it’s actually the simplest. It’s free, and in terms of keeping up with today’s legal professionals, it’s cutting-edge. Your next employer may very well want a skilled Twitterer on staff.


  8. Complete your Twitter profile. You only have 160 characters to describe yourself, and one of the phrases should be your job title. Let other legal professionals know that you are one of them.


  9. Follow other legal Twitterers. Twellow (http://www.twellow.com/) and Justia Legal Birds ( http://legalbirds.justia.com/ ) are great places to start.


  10. Now tweet. That’s what Twitterers do. If you’re shy, start by replying to other tweets that interest you, or re-tweet a link to a helpful article that you think others will find interesting.

_______________________

This article originally appeared in the Institute for Paralegal Education's September 2009 newsletter. Take advantage of IPE's excellent continuing legal education opportunities, many of which can be accessed without ever leaving your desk.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

For a Good Time, Read Paralegal Want Ads on Craigslist

Ya’ll know I don’t get paid for writing a paralegal blog, right? So why do I do it? Because it’s FUN. Besides, it’s led me to my new nerdy hobby: collecting amusing Craigslist legal ads. Some of these guys ought to consider standup comedy.

A San Francisco attorney is desperately seeking Susan, I mean, looking for a temporary paralegal, and does not mince words about his situation: “I am being papered to death. I'll pay for someone to help me through this maze.” No salary stated, but I bet the applicant who finds him under that crush of paper can name her price.

A Rockville, Maryland attorney starts his ad with a literal cry for help, “My secretary broke her leg!” Her understudy, I mean, temporary replacement, can start yesterday at triple the going rate.

Talk about glorified job titles, a Maryland law firm is seeking a “Director of First Impressions". For us regular Joes, that’s a receptionist. But the firm gets bonus points for offering “invaluable training/involvement/experience for someone who may aspire to become a legal assistant or paralegal.”

A Washington, DC firm seeking a Legal Administrative Assistant describes The Boss as follows: “The partner is extremely busy and is looking for an assistant that can thrive while working for a demanding partner.” For those of you new to translating legal want ads, when a partner is described as demanding from the get-go, his non smiling professional headshot is right beside the word “demanding” in the dictionary. Don't be distracted by the use of the word "fabulous" to describe benefits later in the ad. He is not the warm and fuzzy type. Consider yourself doubly forewarned by the phrase "flexibility for overtime needed".

But I bet that Washington, DC “demanding” partner has nothing on THIS demanding employer. A New York “boutique” law firm is looking for someone VERY special (typos left "as is"):


Small, boutique law firm looking for a smart, hardworking, driven, personable, and motivated intern to work 15 hours a week. Must be entering third year of law school or recent law grad. Skills required are excellent writing, organization, and good adminstrative skills. Intern will assist managing partner in brief writting, client meetings, court appearances, the drafting of newsletters, articles, lectures, presentations, and the planning of events. Experience in marketing, public relations, and knowledge of inner workings of social networking sites (Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube) a plus. Must have a PDA (i.e., blackberry, Iphone, etc.) and can work, for the most part, remotely.

This position is available immediately. Must be in top 1/3 of class; top law school and law review/journal experience a plus. Please forward all resumes.

I thought maybe the number of hours required per week might've been accidentally transposed, and it's supposed to be 51 hours per week, not 15. Somehow the list of job duties and the requirement for smartphone access make me suspect that the intern that takes this job might be lucky if he or she has 15 hours a week left to sleep…

“Is Law Boring?” Be a Paralegal and Find Out

At least that’s the advice of Larchmont Gazette psychologist and “Career Doctor”, Jacqueline Homor Plumez, in her answer to this week’s request for career advice:


IS LAW BORING?
Dear Career Doctor: I think I would like to become a lawyer, because I always fight for what I believe in. My problem is that I know a couple people who happen to know lawyers and they say it is really boring. I'm the kind of person who always likes to talk, and hates being bored. Should I become a lawyer? ~ Kristie

Even though Plumez is not a legal professional, she does a nice job of explaining the demands of a legal career from a layman’s perspective. She points out that law school is expensive, the attrition rate is high, a great deal of research and writing is required, and television provides a distorted view of trial work. I’ve always thought that the general public believes that complex civil disputes can be resolved in less than 45 minutes, including commercials.

Plumez advises Kristie to “figure out what area of the law would most interest” her and “get a job as a paralegal in a law firm that specializes in your area of interest.” To help Kristie figure out areas of legal specialization that might appeal to her, I suggest that she talk to some area legal professionals, including attorneys and paralegals. If she is not ready to make a long term commitment to a job in the legal field and is not already employed, she could try temping or interning at different law firms to see if she finds the environment and the daily activities appealing.

She could also do some intensive online research, and read legal blogs in different specialty areas to learn what attorneys do and how they feel about their work. And there’s no better way than attending a real civil trial at the local courthouse to find out that it takes a lot longer than an hour to try a case and there will be no Denny Crane “reasonable doubt for a reasonable fee” pyrotechnics.

But I’d also tell Kristie that even more important for legal professionals than the ability to talk effectively, is the ability to listen well. If she finds constantly listening to others’ legal (and non-legal) problems mind-numbing, and wading through a sea of facts, paper and case law to help find solutions to these problems tedious, then, yes, she’d likely find working in the legal field boring.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Social Media 101: Mojitos and Mourning Don't Mix on Facebook

Prior to the existence of social media sites to share (okay, maybe over share) our everyday lives with the world, a family funeral was a valid excuse to get out of just about anything - work, oral surgery, and for some lawyers, court. When we asked for a few days off to attend our beloved Great-Aunt Verna's funeral four states away, those in charge expressed their sympathy, and no one asked too many questions out of respect for our loss - although as a paralegal instructor I had to start asking for copies of obituaries after one memorable student had five grandmothers die in one semester.

But today, our society's desire to enthusiastically share our daily activities, passing thoughts and alleged expertise with the world via the many social media venues available to us, including blogging and Facebook, can make mourning a double-edged sword - especially if we were never all that close to Great-Aunt Verna, or she's started and ended more lives than a cat. The New York Times has published an article, "Legal Battle Plays Out: Online Attitude vs. Rules of the Bar" that everyone using social media to share personal information (not just legal professionals) needs to read.

If you're a lawyer who uses your Facebook profile to broadcast details of your personal life, then it's not the most prudent course of action to add as a Facebook friend a judge that you appear in front of in court, as illustrated by a story that Texas District Court Judge Susan Criss shared at an American Bar Association conference. A young lawyer asked her for a trial continuance due to a death in the family, which she granted, only to learn through his subsequent Facebook updates that the continuance freed him up to motorbike and down mojitos, instead of engaging in a subdued mourning period or assisting in settling the estate. Maybe his deceased relative specifically requested that his survivors party hard in his memory, but the Court generally takes a dim view of having cases on its overloaded docket postponed, without serious cause and an appropriate air of gravitas when a continuance is granted.

This may seem obvious to most professionals, but two lawyers featured in this article found out that using your blog to sling mud at the Court or blabbing confidential details about your more irritating clients - or worse, about how you aided their criminal activities - can result in not only disciplinary action by the bar but the loss of your job.

Even President Obama told a group of ninth graders this week to "be careful what you post on Facebook." But The New York Times article illustrates that in this era of more or less taking for granted the sharing (or over sharing) of our daily lives online, we can't hear that advice enough, whether we're just starting high school, or have completed a postgraduate education and ought to know better.

So the next time Great-Aunt Verna passes into the Great Beyond and you ask your boss-dentist-judge for a postponement of that inevitable deadline-root-canal-trial to mourn her appropriately, raise a freshly mixed mohito in her memory - privately.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Lawyer In Hot Water Over Fake Subpoena

It if walks like a subpoena and talks like a subpoena, but it isn’t a valid subpoena, it can get you into a world of trouble, as Walla Walla attorney William McCool has discovered. (Part of the reason I did this post was simply to use the words “Walla Walla” and “McCool” in the same sentence…).

The Walla-Walla Union-Bulletin is reporting that McCool is the subject of a two-day trial on a misdemeanor charge of issuing a false subpoena. The reason that the spurious subpoena was issued in the first place involved a client and former girlfriend, her dispute with a magazine publisher, and his possibly knightly but definitely misguided effort to have the publisher reveal printing information without actually going through the trouble of filing a formal lawsuit.

According to McCool’s testimony at trial, he and a magazine rep, Scott Rowland, agreed that he’d send an subpoena for printing information as an “excuse” to protect Rowland if his employer asked why the numbers were disclosed. McCool’s legal assistant prepared the document, minus a court file number since there wasn’t one, and McCool “glanced at” it and sent it on.
Although the subpoena appeared valid except for the omission of a court case number, "I wasn't trying to represent it as a, quotes, valid subpoena (Rowland) had to honor," McCool said. He added he never attempted to deceive or trick Rowland into believing it was.
The Walla-Walla Union-Bulletin also reported that McCool cried on the stand and likened his lack of familiarity with the finer points of civil procedure to "like missing an issue on a bar exam or legal exam." I guess the main difference is that missing a question on a bar exam isn’t a crime.

Visiting Court Judge Richard W. Miller has not yet issued a verdict following closing arguments. A felony charge arising out of the same incident was dropped.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Paralegal Posting of the Week: Come See the Legal Side of Sears

Sears Holdings Corporation (Sears and Kmart) is looking for a Senior Paralegal to work in its Hoffman Estates, Illinois headquarters.


Job Description


  • Assist business client in responding to discovery

  • Conducts research and analysis on factual issues for discovery and investigations

  • Interface with third party vendors of software applications

  • Maintain and organize historical set of discovery- related documents

  • Assist in preparation and drafting of discovery responses in collaboration with outside counsel

  • Conduct basic legal research as needed under guidance of attorneys

  • Maintain computer databases to organize and store legal information

  • Applies independent judgment to make sound decisions within prescribed authorization level
Degree: Paralegal certificate from accredited school; bachelor’s degree preferred
Experience: 5-7 years of litigation; knowledge of FRCP and e-discovery processes
Skills: Excellent verbal and written communication skills; ability to handle multiple priorities and deadlines; possess strong organization skills
Software: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Lotus Notes, imaging/document database tools

Apply here.

I featured this job posting because it contains very common requirements for many paralegal jobs, including the preferred bachelor’s degree, standard software requirements, legal competencies, and above average communication and organizational skills. When I suggest to job seekers that they carefully study paralegal job postings and prepare functional skills resumes that highlight the kinds of qualifications that legal employers want – these are the types of educational, computer and practice skills that I’m talking about.

Here’s a fun and possibly weird fact about Hoffman Estates, which is a suburb of Chicago. It is home to the Chicago Bliss (if you find the Victoria's Secret catalog offensive, don't click this link), a woman’s lingerie-wearing football team in the aptly named Lingerie Football League. The team plays its games in the Sears Centre. I know, if you’re like me and are all “what-de-heck-is-lingerie-football?”, The Cheap Seats provides enlightenment, “Well, at least now there's something for those of you looking to combine your loves of flipping thru the bra section of The Bay catalog and pigskin,” or yep, it’s pretty much “exactly what it sounds like.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Working Girl Wednesday: Business Casual Superstar by The Reasonably Prudent Law Student

Law students have to watch their wardrobe budgets, too, especially with the reduced employment prospects looming on the horizon. In the new era of BigLaw fiscal conservatism, everybody at the law firm may be trading the contents of their bag lunches and sneaking through the dress department at Target. One Chicago law student unabashedly getting the jump on her peers in the bargain-shopping department is Huma Rashid, who blogs at The Reasonably Prudent Law Student and has a brilliant career fashion series, Business Casual Superstar.

Rashid often takes a great (and expensive) business casual look worn in a famous movie or television series, and then translates it into a terrific ensemble priced in the very reasonable $100 range, including the shoes. I love her take on several ensembles seen on the show, The Office, including this knockoff that came in at under $50 (sans shoes). Rashid even helpfully knocked off a Jennifer Aniston look for Alison, a North Carolina paralegal.

And Rashid is funny, such as her take on panty hose:


Bare legs are verbeuten! The mere thought almost gives me a heart attack. Invest in some stockings. Make sure there aren’t any holes or runs. In fact, keep an extra pair in your drawer at work just to be safe; there is nothing worse than running out to meet with a client and finding a run at the last-minute, and being unable to do anything about it. Oy. (Oh, middle-and-upper-class problems. :) Ha ha. I just realized how entitled that ‘nothing worse’ sentence sounded.)

I’d share my bag lunch with Rashid, any day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Should Convicted Prosecutor’s Redemption Include Working as a Paralegal?

Mark may not be able to practice law, but nothing prevents him from working as a paralegal. What an asset he would be to a firm representing people in trouble. He’s been there. He’s survived. He has a fine mind and legal training. ~ Norm Pattis, Attorney

Norm Pattis, a Connecticut criminal defense and civil rights attorney, takes a passionate, and likely controversial, position in his recent article in the Connecticut Law Tribune, “Imprisoned Prosecutor on the Road to Redemption”, about disbarred attorney Mark Hurley, who was convicted of embezzlement and has served his prison sentence. Pattis expresses his sympathy for Hurley’s uncertain employment future and shares his possible solution: working for Pattis as a paralegal.

The National Legal and Policy Center discussed the story at the time of Hurley’s sentencing. Hurley was a former Connecticut State prosecutor and treasurer of his union, the Connecticut Association of Prosecutors, when he pled guilty to larceny and theft charges arising out of the theft of $80,000.00 in “union and union-sponsored charity funds, the latter earmarked for crime victims.” He was “disbarred immediately after sentencing.”

Hurley’s defense attorney, Edward Gavin, described his client as exhibiting long-term obsessive-compulsive behavior that had been manifest, among other things, in a “horrible, horrible gambling problem.” Hurley himself admitted before Judge Patrick J. Clifford that he stole money to disguise gambling losses. “It’s clear we’re all here today because of my own actions and I take full responsibility for them,” he said. According to his attorney, he had made full restitution. As for Hurley, he just wants to get back to his wife and two daughters and put his life back together.

Pattis describes his compassion for Hurley's downfall, as well as his need to earn a living and keep a roof over his family's heads. And Pattis chooses to help by offering Hurley a position as a paralegal in his own practice. He closes the article with, “What tongue-clucking the self-righteous will enjoy. But tell me, truly, who among us is without sin and sorrow?”

I sure do dislike a self-righteous tongue-clucker as much as anybody else. And it's true that I've got my own share of sin and sorrow. However, I am a paralegal, and I have posed the question here in this blog before, “Should a disbarred attorney be allowed to work as a paralegal?”

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations discusses this issue, including the jurisdictions where disbarred attorneys are totally or partially banned from working in law offices, in an article posted at its website, “Off the Team, but Not Out of the Game: Disbarred and Suspended Attorneys Practicing as Paralegals”. The authors take the position that disbarred attorneys should never be allowed to work in law offices, and suggest that suspended attorneys should undergo a period of rehabilitation before being allowed to petition the state bar for permission to work in a law office.

The Ethical Quandary, a blog sponsored by Hinshaw and Culbertson, LLP, has published two posts this year about disbarred attorneys working as paralegals and presents another view of the issue:
It is unfortunate — but true — that lawyers every month are suspended or disbarred for misconduct. Appearing in the “Discipline” section of the bar bulletin is the least of their concerns; these lawyers have big decisions in front of them, having now to determine what to do with their practices and how to support themselves during their suspension (or disbarment).

Because these lawyers may not engage in the practice of law, many consider taking employment as a legal assistant or paralegal. Lawyers are specially trained with practical experience and can often be a valuable asset to a practicing lawyer. The lawyer’s skills may be used to conduct legal research, prepare and draft legal documents, write briefs, and do other preparatory or investigative work for the active lawyer.

For a suspended or disbarred lawyer who wishes to be reinstated, working in a law firm makes a lot of sense. It allows the lawyer to stay active during the period of suspension or disbarment so that the lawyer’s skills do not suffer a noticeable drop. It also may provide the suspended or disbarred lawyer a recommendation from the hiring lawyer when proving rehabilitation, good character and fitness to practice law.

I found a thought-provoking quote about redemption from critically acclaimed author Lin Jensen, " Understanding and tenderness would arise among us no matter how bad things got, and we found redemption in the very places we hurt most." Should Hurley’s road to redemption include working in the very place he hurt most - the law?"

Related Posts: CA Attorney Suspended for Hiring Disbarred Lawyer as Paralegal; Ex-Attorney Working as Paralegal Charged with Theft

The Paralegal Voice: “E-Discovery Trends in the Paralegal World”

The third episode of Legal Talk Network's monthly podcast, The Paralegal Voice, “E-Discovery Trends in the Paralegal World”, co-hosted by "The Paralegal Mentor" Vicki Voisin and me, is now available. This episode, featuring Tom Mighell, legal technology expert and a consultant at Fios, and paralegal Dorothe Howell, a paralegal with extensive experience in gathering electronic data, as the expert guests, explores everything from the basics of e-discovery to what it takes to train for a career in this growing legal specialty area.

In this episode:

■ The basics of e-discovery
■ New trends & technology in e-discovery
■ In-house vs. outside counsel roles
■ Training for a career in e-discovery
■ Tom & Dorothe’s favorite e-discovery resources
■ Practice & social media tips from Vicki & Lynne

In addition, here are several essential Internet resources about e-discovery, including those mentioned in this podcast, that you may find useful:


The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsors: Teris, Clio, NALA, West LiveNote and George Washington University's Online Master's Program in Paralegal Studies (see links at right sidebar).

If you like The Paralegal Voice, we’d appreciate it very much if you will share the link (http://legaltalknetwork.com/about/our-programs/the-paralegal-voice/) with your friends and colleagues. If you have a request for a future show topic or a question for the hosts, please send it to TheParalegalVoice@gmail.com.


Related Posts: A Few Free E-Discovery Resources for Newbies; Free E-Discovery 101 Podcast for Paralegals Available at Fios

Monday, September 7, 2009

“Killer Interview” Advice for Paralegals

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the job search advice out there. It’s also easy to invest a great deal of time and energy in the perfect resume and cover letter that get you the interview – and then freeze during the actual interview. Parade published a short and sweet article today, “How to ace an interview” which includes some timely and simple advice from Frederick Ball, a New York City career coach and author of Killer Interviews (McGraw-Hill, 1996):

  • “Prepare, prepare, prepare.” For a paralegal interview, that means find out everything you can about the firm, its specialty areas, the attorneys, and the specifics of the job that you are seeking.

  • “Keep your answers short.” Unfortunately, Americans are known to have short attention spans (also a challenge when trying to keep a jury’s attention during a trial.) Listen to the question and then provide an informative and on point, but brief response.

  • “When in doubt, overdress.” While you won’t lose points for wearing a classic suit to an interview, you can lose many points for accidentally under-dressing for the proposed job, even if it is entry-level, such as receptionist or word processor.

  • “Be positive.” It’s never an appropriate time to share negative information about past jobs – never. But it’s the “kiss of death” during a job interview.

  • “Say to the interviewer, ‘I really want this job.’” I’ve sat in plenty of interviews for legal support staff jobs where the applicant never once said she wanted the job, or even why she'd like to work for our firm. Not only say that you want the job, but say why you want it – based on your very thorough research about the firm, its specialty areas, the attorneys and the specifics of the job you are seeking.

  • “Follow up promptly.” Sending a written note or email expressing your interest in the job and thanking the interviewer for his or her time is another indicator that you really want the job.

Do you have an interview tip to share? We’d love to hear it!

Study Predicts Increase in Legal Hires by Government

According to the 2009 study “Where the Jobs Are” by the Partnership for Public Service, federal agencies will experience a hiring surge over the next three years, including in the legal sector.



GovernmentExecutive.com summarizes the anticipated increase in legal hires as follows:

Agencies also will be looking for job candidates at law schools. According to the report, they plan to hire 23,596 people for legal positions. And not everyone will be headed to the Justice Department. While Justice plans to hire 4,556 attorneys, paralegals and legal assistants; VA expects to hire 4,277 claims examiners. And the Treasury Department is looking to pick up 6,621 people in the legal field -- mostly contact representatives.

You can find and apply for government jobs at http://www.usajobs.gov/. Most of the paralegal and related jobs currently listed require a combination of experience, undergraduate and/or postgraduate education.


Related Posts: SEC Is Hiring Paralegals; Be a Paralegal Specialist for the Feds