Saturday, October 31, 2009

Practical Paralegalism’s Recommended Reading This Week

One of the many reasons that I blog for paralegals is to share information relevant to our profession. There are hundreds of terrific new articles posted every week on the Internet, but once a week I'll try to break them down into a half dozen or so “don’t miss” articles focusing on legal news, practice tips and technology - and a good laugh or two.

Here’s this week’s recommended reading:

“Social Media: What’s in it for You?” from Home Office Warrior. Tina Marie Hilton summarizes three great reasons to utilize social media for business: connecting, learning and saving money.

“Free Exhibit Stamps from Adobe Acrobat” from Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips Blog. With the increase in e-filing, electronic exhibit stamps are a must. This post includes instructions on how to use them.

Metadata Ethics Opinion Abound” from ABA Legal Technology Resource Center. Maintaining confidentiality becomes more complicated with the inclusion of issues involving metadata. The ABA has assembled a helpful chart summarizing ethics opinions from around the country to date regarding metadata.

“Is Gmail Making the Leap from the ‘Unacceptable?’” from Legal Blog Watch. Gmail has traditionally not been recommended for law firms to use for business email purposes, but the City of Los Angeles is moving its entire system to Gmail.

“Droid v. Iphone: The Comparison Chart [PIC]” from Mashable. The Droid is rumored to be a serious contender on the smartphone market. I love the simple chart from Billshrink which evaluates the most popular smartphones’ capabilities.

For every paralegal who’s ever had to handle a high volume of intake calls for personal injury and medical malpractice firms - and understands that not every call is a winner: “Upon which I have a conversation with an opponent of tort reform” from The Namby Pamby, Attorney-at-Law.

In honor of Halloween, here’s a recipe your kids will love: “Meat Hand” from not martha.

Did you read an article this week that you think paralegals should see? I’d love it if you would share the link with us.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Reporter by Any Other Name Is Not Really a Legal Assistant

And the Kansas Department of Corrections is none too pleased about it.

A Kansas lawyer denies smuggling a newspaper reporter disguised as his "legal assistant" into a state women's prison for the purpose of investigating illegal sexual relationships - although he does not deny taking the reporter with him on a visit to the prison.

But the Kansas DOC is investigating an ethics complaint alleging that "attorney Keen Umbehr misrepresented the occupation of Topeka Capital-Journal reporter Tim Carpenter when the two entered the Topeka Correctional Facility in August to interview two inmates."

According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, Umbehr says he didn't have to tell prison authorities who Carpenter was, as long as he didn't misrepresent who he was (or wasn't - the finer points are starting to lose me in this story...)

(We may be talk slower and therefore appear to be less sophisticated here in the South, but my mama raised me to believe that a deliberate omission can be a subcategory of not telling the truth.)

But the bottom line is, under any of the appellations Umbehr might have used to describe Carpenter, apparently "reporter" wasn't one of them.

TCF employee Christine Brooks said in an affidavit that Umbehr called on Aug. 7 and requested an attorney-client visit with the inmates. She said the attorney identified Carpenter as his "legal assistant."

"Mr. Umbehr stated that Mr. Carpenter knew far more about each inmate's criminal case than he did, and therefore he needed his assistance in the meetings," Brooks' affidavit reads.

Kansas rules of professional conduct for attorneys state a lawyer "shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person."

Umbehr said that is exactly why he didn't lie. He said he is sure he called Carpenter his "assistant," not "legal assistant," when requesting time with the inmates and pointed to another section of the conduct rules that states a lawyer "has no affirmative duty to inform an opposing person of relevant facts."

"I felt no need to give them info which they didn't request," Umbehr said.

The Department of Corrections disagrees, because legal assistants and plain old assistants get to skip its protocol for media inquiries - created especially for reporters.

If my mama read this story, she'd make Umbehr go outside and get his own switch.

Source: Topeka Capital-Journal

Non sequitur: Right before I hit publish, I decided to make sure that "Keen" wasn't really a "Ken" and checked out his website which says he "was a trashman for seventeen years before deciding to sell his business and return to college."

Community College Challenges Ivy League in Mock Trial Competition

I love, love, love a good underdog, as well as a solid community college education – and a lively courtroom drama.

So when I read the Chicago Daily Herald's article about Elgin Community College's American Bar Association approved paralegal program being the only community college competing in Harvard's Crimson Classic mock trial tournament in Boston next week, my first thought was:

"Yes! Bring it ON!"

The team will compete against some of the most prestigious Ivy League schools - Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton and Cornell.

"This is remarkable for these students," team adviser and ECC paralegal professor Ronald Kowalczyk said. "These are nontraditional students who have full-time jobs and families to care for, yet they put in a tremendous amount of work."

Two years ago, ECC didn't even have a mock trial team. In the fall of 2007, Kowalczyk was approached by a student who had participated in mock trial in high school, and was hoping to join one in college.

Kowalczyk started the group, and in the first year students competed in just one tournament. Last year was the first full season.

"We've definitely grown since that first year," said ECC student and team President Anastasia "Asia" Toufexis of Elgin.

Nine of the team's 40 students were selected to compete in the upcoming Harvard tournament, Kowalczyk said. They will debate a murder case that each school received this summer.

This is a huge achievement for Elgin Community College's program, as well as national recognition of an outstanding paralegal training program. I am wishing them the best of success in the mock trial experience of a lifetime – and of course, rooting for the underdog.

Related Post: Paralegal Student Appointed to College Board of Trustees

Wills on Wheels Paralegal Volunteer Receives NFPA Pro Bono Award

When I saw this feature article about Denver, Colorado paralegal Beth Wilkins receiving the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) Pro Bono award this year, I was enormously proud of her representation of the paralegal profession – and very impressed that her sister, Ruth Heide, turned out to be the author of the excellent piece.

The Denver resident was nominated for the award because of her extensive volunteer work with the Wills on Wheels program. Every year she devotes many hours of her own time to assist senior citizens and others who cannot afford legal services.

“Beth is a generous and committed paralegal who provides a valuable service to the low-income elderly population in the metro area,” wrote Karen Lundgrin, Benson & Case. “I am very proud of her devotion and commitment to Wills on Wheels.”

Wilkins currently works for The Harris Law Firm in Denver, and specializes in family law. She also received The Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association Pro Bono Paralegal of the Year award.

Through Wills on Wheels, Beth Wilkins has visited many homebound seniors whose incomes were at the federal poverty level and would not have been able to afford estate planning (wills and medical directives) assistance otherwise. Traveling well beyond the Denver metro area, she has logged literally hundreds of miles at her own expense to visit the elderly in nursing care facilities and low-income apartment complexes. She has also presented educational programs in many senior facilities.

The NFPA pro bono award includes a $1,000 donation to the charity of her choice.

Congratulations - and many thanks - to Beth Wilkins for her outstanding professionalism and service to her community.

Source: The Valley Courier

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Paralegals and Dental Hygienists Keep Clients Happy

When I commit to a dental practice, it’s usually not because of the five minutes I spent exposing my squeaky clean molars to the dentist – but due to the previous half hour I spent with his sweet, reassuring dental hygienist, who almost managed to make me forget it felt like she was trying to yank my teeth out of my mouth in the interest of gum health.

In her post “What Lawyers Can Learn from Dentists About Solo Practice”, lawyer and practice management consultant Beverly Michaelis compares a lawyer’s delegation of tasks that can and should be performed by competent paralegals and other legal staffers to a dentist’s delegation of essential practice duties, including teeth cleaning and client relations, to his hygienist.

Beyond the numbers, dentists have also learned the intangible benefits of hiring friendly, competent employees. At a time when poor customer service seems to be the norm, clients can’t help but be impressed when they are personally greeted and put at ease. When you’re in conference or out of the office, staff add to your professionalism. Instead of accumulating messages in voicemail, a real, live person can help your clients by relaying and taking information. If you were a client, what would you prefer?

A lot of our firm’s clients aren’t shy about saying they prefer talking to me, or to my supervising attorney’s warm and helpful administrative assistant, Sharon.

This is a great post to email to your supervising attorney and remind him or her how much your competency and excellent client relations contribute to the practice.

But try to not to look like the cat that ate the canary when your boss gets to the part where Michaelis recommends taking Fridays off…

Paralegal Creates a “World of Hurt”

By day, he’s a full-time paralegal, but by night, Jay Potts is the creator of the “Internet’s #1 Blaxploitation Webcomic,” WORLD OF HURT.

In his interview at, the Columbia, South Carolina resident shares his passion for the black action films of the 70s, his insecurities about his artistic goals and the motivations of his main character, Isaiah “Pastor” Hurt.

Pastor seems to have some qualities in common with successful paralegals. He’s a “fixer”, a “man of action who brings a unique set of skills to help people in impossible situations" - and “he can solve any problem you might have.”

I think Potts’ framed inspirational motto, a quote from another webcomic creator, Karl Kerschl, is worth sharing:

Don’t wait to start the things that you’re passionate about. You’ll never be as ready as you want to be, so just get on with it and learn as you go. Above all, don’t be afraid of anything.

Potts’ creative energy and focus give the impression that he’s a “badass” person of action, like the 70s film characters he admires – and like a lot of paralegals I know.

But I don’t know any other paralegals that claim to have eaten a scorpion or wrestled a rattlesnake.

Clearly, he’s also found a very effective outlet to relieve work stress at the end of the day.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Working Girl Wednesday: Designer Shopping Spree at Shmotter

And I Am Introduced to the Concept of "Toe Cleavage"

I hope those folks over at Corporette, the fashion and lifestyle blog for female lawyers and peeps who don't have "assistant" in their job titles, don't think I'm trying to steal their thunder, but I just shopped for and assembled a designer ensemble fit for any Corporette wannabe, at the insane price of way over $2,000.00.

That Prada-wearing Devil made me do it.

Seriously, it was a dream (uh, literally) designer label shopping excursion at Shmotter, inspired by Mashable's post, "Fashionistas: Be the next Anna Wintour with Shmotter."

I gave my personal shopper the night off and virtually clicked and dragged any item I liked (without regard to trivial details like the price) into a convenient viewer.

I saved my outfit as "Working Girl Works It" and describe it as, "Classy with a touch of faux lizard just to show I mean business."

Then I got the outrageous grand total, after converting Euros to dollars, around $2,400.00 pre-tax, even with the freakin' "killa" shoes on sale. In an effort to economize, I will sacrifice the "rock crystal" pendant. (Shouldn't I at least get a diamonelle for $600?)

Uh, Huma Rashid, Oh Ye of the Business Casual Superstar, can ya do it for $100 - or less?

Beloved Corporette, about that "toe cleavage" you introduced me to earlier this week, sometimes showing off my French pedicure in a pair of modest peep toe pumps from Payless is my sole motivation to get dressed for work in the morning.

And not once (to my knowledge) has anyone ever looked under a conference room table to see if I was giving my li'l piggies a bit o' a breather.

UPDATE: I threw down the gauntlet, and Huma magnificently rose to the challenge with "Business Casual Superstar #58: A Challenge! Pistols at Dawn!" She put together a version of this insanely priced outfit, with a way cuter necklace, for under $100. Huma single-handedly saved my marriage!

Secretary's Mistake Blamed for $1.26 Billion Dollar Judgment

The Business Insider headline screams, "Pepsi Nailed With $1.26 Billion Judgment After Secretary's Mistake" - causing any of us who've ever worked as a secretary or administrative assistant to quake in our boots, and to quickly scan the article to find out how to avoid making a $1.26 billion dollar mistake.

The gargantuan judgment arose out of Pepsi's alleged failure to file a timely response to a lawsuit from two fellows claiming that Pepsi stole the idea to sell bottled water - several decades ago. Pepsi is appealing the default judgment and claiming it was not properly served.

The secretary's role in the terribly embarrassing affair is as follows:

A letter from a co-defendant was sent to a Pepsi deputy general counsel on September 15, but his secretary was "so busy preparing for a board meeting," she just put it aside.

And that was all that happened until October 5, when the same secretary received a copy of the plaintiff's motion for default judgment. The secretary then sent the letter to the relevant legal assistant, remembering the other letter and sending it along the next day. A company attorney "immediately" called for the complaint.

Wow, talk about throwing a secretary under a bus. This seems like a lot of blame heaped on one clerical staffer.

The WSJLaw Blog sheds some additional light on what may have been a "series of unfortunate events" and corporate miscommunication, including Pepsi's inability to explain why counsel for its own distributors, who made court appearances in the case, didn't bring the case to its attention.

And what about the issue of the time to respond to the complaint running out? Apparently, Pepsi's agent in North Carolina had notice of the lawsuit for "months and months" before finally notifying its legal department in September.

Regardless of how it happens, missing a deadline to respond to a lawsuit is one of the most serious mistakes that can occur in litigation. Possible horrifying consequences include having a default judgment entered (although likely smaller than this one) or being sued for malpractice.

(Or getting fired, or getting Googled and finding your name in dozens of articles almost identically titled, "Secretary Responsible for $1.26 Billion Dollar Mistake!!!!!")

This news story, while certainly a worst case scenario involving more money than most of us can write out the zeros for, is a reminder that even the best deadline tracking systems are subject to human error.

So for those of us who handle important mail, the morals of this story are:

  • Don't put business correspondence aside - or in drawers.
  • Immediately scan and save a copy if your office has that capability, in case it gets lost.
  • Read all correspondence. If it's important, not only put it in the responsible party's in-box but email a copy and personally bring it to his or her attention as well
  • Deliver it immediately to the addressee, likely your boss or supervising attorney, or any other suitable person as directed by your company's chain of command. (When in doubt, send a copy to everybody on your team.)
  • Keep your workspace organized and clean to prevent items from being lost or misplaced in the area that you control.
  • Repeat - do not put business correspondence aside - or in drawers.

UPDATE: My sympathies to the much maligned secretary who made Above the Law's Legal Secretary of the Day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hey, Paralegals, What’s in Your RSS Reader?

Or Social Media 101: Follow Blogs for Professional Development

On October 17, 2009, I presented “Networking and Career Building with Social Media” at the Los Angeles Paralegal Association’s 33rd Annual October Conference. As part of my usual recommendations for using social media for professional development, I strongly urged paralegals to follow reputable professional blogs (and not just because I’m a blogger).

Why follow professional blogs?

  • Print magazines often have months old news; blogs have minutes old news from some of the best legal minds in the country.

  • Stay up-to-date on the latest legal, technology and specialty area news.

  • Join the conversations in the comment sections of blog posts to network, ask questions and share your own expertise.

  • Set up a free RSS reader to keep up with your favorite blogs.

I hear too many paralegals say they don’t utilize various types of social media because they don’t have time. I agree that checking in with a half dozen or so of your favorite blogs can be time-consuming if you’ve just saved them as favorites in your browser, and separately visit each site when you want updates.

Utilizing a RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed reader, such as Google Reader, is an incredible time saver for a busy professional. An RSS reader provides posts and articles from your favorite blogs and news sites as they are updated, in an easy web feed format. You select, add or “subscribe” to the web pages that you want to follow, and your RSS reader does the rest for you.

There are many RSS readers to choose from, but here’s a list of “Top 10 Free Windows RSS Feed Readers/News Aggregators” from for a quick overview.

Find a free RSS reader that you like and start small, with a half dozen or so legal, technology and practice blogs (including at least one in your specialty area). If you’re understandably overwhelmed by the thousands of legal professional blogs currently available, ask for recommendations or check out the blog directories at ABA Journal or

What’s in my RSS reader? Here's a sampling of the blogs I follow:

Now, what’s in your RSS reader?

Addendum: I wrote this post this weekend, but in a not unusual fit of insecurity, asked my husband, "The King of Technology", if it was a silly topic, "'cause you know, everybody knows what a RSS Reader is, right?"

I mean, I kind of got the impression from some of the blank looks I received during that part of my social media presentation that maybe everyone in the room had not discovered the wonders of their own RSS feed, but then I usually get a lot of blank looks when I'm singing the praises of social media.

My husband said, "It's great, they'll love it," but you know, he's married to me and somewhere in the vows it might've said he has to tell me I'm a genius once a day.

But when I saw this post from Social Media Law Student, "Google: The Mightier Gets Mighty," in my RSS reader today - with the following quote - I knew that I was singing the right tune:

Despite the plethora of law-related software, blogs, and newsfeeds that exist online, too many students and professionals have no clue what an RSS feed is or about its immense potential.

And this is how much I treasure my Google Reader: I love it so much and it keeps me so entertained, and up-to-date, that I gave up my 25-year subscription to People magazine. There were periods in my life when I ate Ramen noodles to keep that particular over-priced and sort of embarrassing print vice coming.

Really. 'Sides, it was old news by the time I received it, anyway.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Professional Profile: Jay Moore, Communications Manager for NALS & Social Media Enthusiast

Job Title: Communications Manager

Employer: NALS…the association for legal professionals (Tulsa, OK)

Years of Legal Marketing Experience: 8

Career Highlight: I started working for NALS right out of college. My highlight is the fact that I was able to find such a great fit so early in my career.

Networking/Marketing Tip for Paralegals: Don’t be afraid to try something new.

As a user of social media to promote legal support staffers and NALS, how do you think paralegals most benefit from using social media?
They will be able to truly see that they are not alone in their challenges. Social media gives them a way to connect to people that they may not otherwise be able to, giving them a whole new world of resources.

For paralegals new to social media, how do you suggest they get started?
Dive right in! No, I understand there is reluctance to using some of these new mediums and many of them are valid. I would say to get your feet wet and just be a spectator and ease into the full participation. You should do what is comfortable to you, but you also need to see the benefits before chalking the win up to the risks.

What is your favorite social media site for paralegals?
Great question, I am not sure that there is a favorite. I think that there are many that offer you a lot, and I say "the more the merrier," so check them all out and see how each one can benefit you.

What is your favorite blog for legal professionals? I am going to assume you meant other than yours…I think Vicki over at the Paralegal Mentor offers a great variety of topics. (

Twitter handle: @NALStweet (also @Letter10 is my personal handle but not much said about paralegal issues)

Who are your top five recommended Twitter follows for paralegals?
Again, I am assuming other than @ExpertParalegal…I would say @legalninjaKris, @VickiVoisin, @DigiParalegal, @ParaGate, and @melihi.

I also recently set up a list of ParalegalTweets that you can find and follow all at once here:

How do you see paralegal associations using social media in the future?
We are actually taking a close look at this. NALS turned 80 years old this year and we have tried to stay ahead of the curve as best we can. I think there is always going to be a certain group of the workforce that will want to belong to an association that can provide them with education and networking opportunities that they simply can’t get any other way.

Our hope is to leverage the use of social media and networking to be present at all the locations our members are comfortable so that they have access to this education and networking without having to work at it. I still feel that associations offer professionals the best way to come together and learn from one another, even if the venue used for this learning is changing.

Favorite Internet Resource for Paralegals:
Well since I work for NALS, of course I think that our site offers a lot of resources! ( That said, I think there are a lot of great resources for paralegals out there, and it greatly depends on what you are looking for. I think that by utilizing associations such as NALS, along with social media and networking, it is easier for you to find those resources.

Fun Fact: I am addicted to beaches! My wife and I try to travel as much as we can and the beach is our only prerequisite! I also have a freelance marketing and graphic design business that has given me the opportunity to work with clients around the country on many projects,

Linkedin Profile:


I met Jay via Twitter, where he does a great job of tweeting on behalf of NALS and legal professionals. He is one of my recommended Twitter follows for paralegals. His Twitter feed is an excellent way to keep up with NALS activities, and he is an enthusiastic supporter of paralegals, legal assistants and legal secretaries, as well as social media use by legal professionals.

After Paralegal's Death, Law Firm Offers 10k Reward

The Philadelphia Inquirer has published a story confirming that Andre Steed, a paralegal employed for more than a decade by Caesar, Rivise, Bernstein, Cohen & Pokotilow in Center City, died on Saturday after allegedly being struck by a cyclist, while walking not far from his office.

Steed's employer "has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who struck Steed, said attorney Sal Guerriero." The law firm also took the initiative to investigate the cause of Steed's injuries, and located witnesses who then provided further information to the police about the incident.

Initially, police reported the incident as a transport to the hospital. They later learned that several people in the area heard a loud noise, then saw two men on the ground, one of whom had been riding a bicycle and apparently crashed into Steed. The cyclist then fled the scene, witnesses said.

Andre Steed's family, friends and co-workers have my deepest sympathy for their terrible loss, but what they really need now is the still unknown cyclist to come forward and tell them what happened.

UPDATE: In a new article published on October 27, 2009 by the Philadelphia Business Journal, Steed's employer discusses his long career at the same law firm, starting in the mail room, and how much he meant to his co-workers:

“Andre was such a fine young man,” Stein said. “We have had so many people from around town drop by the office to say they knew him and tell us how tragic his loss was. He was as decent, sweet and caring of an individual as you will ever meet. And he just had a spark about him. Everyone loved him.”

Stein said the walls of Steed’s office were covered with inspirational messages, poetry that he regularly wrote and pictures of heroes such as Arthur Ashe and Thurgood Marshall.

Related Post: Injured Paralegal's Co-Workers Go Extra Mile to Investigate Accident

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Judge Proudest of Case Recognizing Paralegals as Professionals

The paralegal profession has made huge strides in the past few decades. We all have a great deal to be proud of and numerous legal professionals to thank, including Judge Linda Thomas, who is retiring as the Chief Justice of the Fifth District Court of Appeals at Dallas.

Like many paralegals in the 70s and 80s, Thomas started her legal career as a secretary in a law firm. An attorney not only encouraged her to earn her bachelor’s degree while working during the day, but even tutored her in algebra during lunch. Thomas went on to law school and a stellar judicial career.

Of all the cases she's handled, Thomas is proudest of one that recognized paralegals as professionals, setting out when lawyers could charge separately for their work.

"It is still the law in the state," the former legal assistant said. Lawyers save time, clients save money and "it establishes legal assistant paralegals as professionals."

"To me, that's beneficial to everybody."

Thank you, Judge Thomas, for your contributions to the paralegal profession.

Source: The Dallas Morning News

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Judge Puts Kibosh on Ghostwriting Paralegal Felon

A Nevada defendant in a federal lawsuit has been firmly reprimanded by U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley for allegedly having a “ghostwriter” with no law license prepare some of his court documents, which constitutes the unauthorized practice of law.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the ghostwriter in question, James Kimsey, is a self-described paralegal for “high-powered lawyers” in Las Vegas. Like the defendant, Rick Rizzolo, he’s also a convicted felon. Kimsey’s prior convictions include the unauthorized practice of law, so he appears to have some experience in this area.

Felons aren’t supposed to fraternize with each other without the permission of their probation officers, but Rizzolo’s new attorney says he had permission to associate with Kimsey. Just to make sure, the Court is sending a copy of its order to the U.S. Parole and Probation department.

It looks like Rizzolo’s decision to try a ghostwriter instead of a licensed attorney might have cost him more money in the long run, since the Court ordered him to pay the plaintiffs' “reasonable attorney fees and costs” – which the plaintiffs' attorneys claim are in the neighborhood of $260,000.00 to respond to “frivolous motions” filed by Rizzolo and Kimsey.

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

One of the many reasons that I blog for paralegals is to share information relevant to our profession. There are dozens of excellent news articles and blog posts published every day on the Internet, but once a week I'll try to break them down into a half dozen or so “don’t miss” articles focusing on legal news, practice tips and technology.

Here’s this week’s recommended reading:

“10 Terrific Law Practice Management Blogs” from Wisconsin Law Journal shares links to top bloggers in the area of practice management. “Just about everything they focus on is free or low-cost.”

“Paralegals Take a Walk on the Cloud” from Kim Walker’s article was especially timely for me, since I included cloud computing in my comparison of old and new technology in my opening speech at the Los Angeles Paralegal Association’s 33rd Annual October Conference. At minimum, paralegals need to know what it is.

I’m including two articles about booking appointments online, “Book Appointments Online” from Lawyerist and “Digital Doodad – Appointment Setting” from The Legal Connection, since they discuss different online scheduling software. I’d love to hear how many of your offices are scheduling appointments and meetings via the Internet, and which services you like best.

“Higher Education” from Paralegalese reminds us that our local community colleges have a wealth of low-cost, easily accessible classes (including online offerings) to help keep our skills up-to-date, especially in the fast-changing area of technology.

“Nook is Coming: Barnes & Noble’s Kindle Killer” from Mashable makes me wonder if our grandchildren will know what a book or a newspaper looks like, but doesn’t keep me from lusting after an e-reader anyway. I’d be happy to curl up with a Nook. Hello, Santa?

Finally, the two legal news stories that tied for made-me-laugh-out-loud this week illustrate the triumph of one man’s unchecked ego and another man’s bizarre mechanical ingenuity over good old-fashioned common sense.

“JD/MBA of the Day: Jonathan Eakman, With a Big FU to SMU” from Above the Law shares a series of emails from Eakman, a SMU law student, to the admissions office at SMU Cox School of Business that unequivocally demonstrates how not to start a successful career in business.

"La-Z-Boying While Intoxicated” from Legal Blog Watch is about an innovative fellow who pimped his recliner, “powering it with a converted lawnmower engine and adding headlights, a small steering wheel, a stereo and cup” and drove it straight from a bar into a parked car.

Did you read an article this week that you think paralegals should see? I’d love it if you would share the link with us.

Friday, October 23, 2009

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 Programs & Associations

Tonya Morse, Institute of Business and Medical Career’s (IBMC) Business & Paralegal Instructor Specialist, won the Faculty Member of the Year award from the Colorado Association of Career Colleges and Schools, posthumously. Ms. Morse's family accepted the award in her memory. (The Coloradoan)

J. Kennerly Davis Jr. has been named an adjunct assistant professor of paralegal studies at the University of Richmond School of Continuing Studies. He earned his law degree from Harvard Law School. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

■The International Paralegal Management Association appointed Brian Bernhard, legal-services manager for Stern Elkind Curray & Alterman, to the board of directors as vice president of membership. (Denver Post)

■The paralegal program at Delaware Technical & Community College, Owens Campus has been approved by the American Bar Association. (

Recognition & Awards

■U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Romeo Belunta, a paralegal assistant and Tampa Bay, FL native with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Mountain Warrior, became the first paralegal from the task force to receive a Combat Action Badge. (DVIDS)

■Paralegal Specialist Christine Ying Tian, employed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, received the Attorney General's Award for distinguished service during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder honored her, along with six federal prosecutors, for their work convicting Pavel Lazarenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister who moved to Marin County. (Contra Costa Times)

Pam Hemphill, a certified paralegal and private attorney involvement coordinator at Legal Aid in Morganton, NC was named “Woman of the Year” by Morganton’s Business Professional Women. (The News Herald)

New Hires

Jennifer Taylor has been hired as a Senior Paralegal by Texas Regional Entity in Austin. She has 14 years of paralegal experience and a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies from the College of Mount St. Joseph.

■Remley & Sensenbrenner S.C., in Neenah, WI, has hired Jenny Stobb as a paralegal. Stobb is a graduate of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and brings more than seven years of experience in supporting a law practice.” (Appleton Post Crescent)

Giselle Lamar joined the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo in Charlotte, NC as a legal assistant. Lisa Lorello joined as a medical records specialist. Silvia Monroig joined as a property damage specialist. Timora Wilkerson joined as a litigation paralegal.” (
Katherine Ballard and William DeMartine joined the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo in Charlotte, NC as workers' compensation case managers. Stephanie Proano joined as litigation paralegal. (

Linda Waldner joined the law firm of Todd A. Stewart in Charlotte, NC as a paralegal. (

Erica Traskos was hired as a Paralegal/Legal Assistant by Assets International LLC in Southfield, MI. A graduate of Madonna University’s Legal Assistant Training Program, she will concentrate on conducting research in various courts to legally connect Assets International’s clients to the funds it has located for them and assist with the preparation of related legal papers and documents. (

■Jolley Urga Wirth Woodbury & Standish Attorneys at Law, with offices in Las Vegas and Boulder City, hired Tracy Gallagher as a paralegal. (Las Vegas Business Press)

Got news? Practical Paralegalism would love to share it. Please send your news to

Injured Paralegal’s Co-Workers Go Extra Mile to Investigate Accident

If I were found in the street, alone and severely injured, I’d want the police to make investigating the cause a priority. But if the police were not actively investigating the incident, then I’d count on the support, curiosity and experience of my co-workers at the law firm where I work, as happened in the case of Philadelphia paralegal Andre Steed.

The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that Steed, a paralegal employed for more than a decade at Caesar, Rivise, Bernstein, Cohen & Pokotilow, a law firm specializing in intellectual property law and litigation, was found unconscious last week on a busy Center City street, not far from his office. The police were unable to locate any witnesses to the incident, and Steed has been in a medically-induced coma since being found.

Luckily for Steed, he is an employee of a law firm whose members personally undertook the investigation.

His coworkers went to 16th and Locust Streets, where Steed was hurt, and started asking around. They printed fliers with Steed's photograph.

Within days, they had two eyewitnesses ready to tell the police that they heard a loud crash, then saw two men on the ground, one of whom had been riding a bicycle. The bicyclist, according to those witnesses, indicated that he had hit Steed, then vanished from the scene.

With those accounts, Steed's colleagues went to the police this week and requested an investigation. The case is now being probed by the department's accident-investigation division, police said yesterday.

"All of us are devastated by this," said Sal Guerriero, a lawyer at the firm. "We have a family mentality here, and Andre is a big part of this place."

I'm sending best wishes Steed's way for a full recovery, and hoping that the police use the information obtained by his co-workers to locate the cyclist allegedly involved in this hit-and-run incident.

ADDENDUM: Although I have not been able to confirm it yet, according to comments left at the Inquirer article and here, Andre Steed did not survive his severe injuries. My heart goes out to his family, friends and co-workers during this extremely tragic and difficult time.

As for the cyclist allegedly involved in the incident, if he or she hasn't already come forward, voluntarily meeting with the police is the right thing - the only thing - to do. This individual needs to help Andre's family and friends determine what happened to him shortly after he left work and never made it safely home.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lawyer’s Ad for a Legal Assistant Results in Bar Complaint

Or If There’s Such a Thing as Pre-Employment Sexual Harassment, This Is It

My readers know I love an entertaining Craigslist want ad for a legal staffer, but honestly, I never thought to check under “Adult Gigs”. However, The Legal Profession Blog reports that section is where one Chicago-based attorney, Samir Chowhan, allegedly posted an ad for a legal assistant/secretary - who was expected to do a whole lot more than just word-process and schedule depositions.

If the section of the Craigslist classifieds where the ad was posted wasn’t warning enough, maybe the request for a “current resume and a few pictures along with a description of your physical features, including measurements” should have raised the hackles of potential applicants.

But one determined applicant, having convinced herself that this firm was simply seeking a really pretty secretary, sent the requested resume and photo, only to receive an email response from "Samir" which dangles an outstanding compensation package (“the range will be from $50,000 to $75,000”) but then leaves no doubt that the position includes some serious quid pro quo sexual harassment right off the bat.

As this is posted in the "adult gigs" section, in addition to the legal work, you would be required to have sexual interaction with me and my partner, sometimes together sometimes separate. This part of the job would require sexy dressing and flirtatious interaction with me and my partner, as well as sexual interaction. You will have to be comfortable doing this with us.

Worse, he goes on to explain that the position requires an audition (like a keyboarding test isn’t bad enough).

So then "Samir" chirpily concludes his email with, “If you’re still okay with everything, let me know what you’re availability is and we can figure out a time for you to come in and interview.” (The grammatical error is his.)

The applicant was so not okay with everything that she reported him to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. You GO, girl!

According to the Bar complaint, Chowhan initially tried the flimsy “it wasn’t me” defense, and earned himself not only a charge of “bringing disrepute to the legal profession” but also a charge of filing a false statement. Additional allegations of negligence in the complaint give the impression that he isn’t an especially talented immigration attorney either.

Is Chowhan ashamed of his treatment of the poor applicant and totally embarrassed about being busted? Not according to The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog:

We got in touch with Chowhan on Thursday afternoon and sure enough, he copped to it. “I did do that,” he said. Chowhan explained that he was winding up his immigration practice, and “curiosity” got the better of him. “I wasn’t intending to hire anyone,” he added. “I was just screwing around, just curious to know if anyone would respond. Unfortunately, someone did.”

Chowhan says he’s now living in Indiana, is unemployed, and has no intention of practicing law ever again. “I came to that decision months before this happened, though.” At this point, he told us, he’s looking forward to putting it behind him. “I’ll take the punishment.”

Somehow, I don’t think that even disbarment is punishment enough for this jerk. He better hope that he doesn't encounter the applicant's significant other or her father in a dark alley...


Practical Paralegalism Tips Its Hat to Legal Blog Watch

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Paralegal Coordinates Career Closet

Indiana paralegal Sherry Myers has a successful career, but in her spare time volunteers at her church's clothing closet to help low income individuals get started on their own careers.

The News Sentinel's feature story about Myers is a great example of a paralegal giving back to her community and helping others succeed in the tough economy.

Myers, a paralegal, coordinates the Career Closet, along with director Marcia Holmes. Together with a team of volunteers from their church in northwestern Allen County, they strive to provide office wear to low-income people.

“We try to give two nice interview outfits and some casual office coordinates,” says Myers.

From clothing donations offered by people in the church and community, clients may choose components for an entire ensemble: scarves, makeup, jewelry, ties, belts, shoes.

“We try to offer neutral colors that are not flashy,” says Myers.

A number of paralegal associations have undertaken the collection of career clothing to donate to local clothing closets and Dress for Success.

Most of us have office-appropriate clothing that we no longer wear pushed in the back of our closets. Donating it to an organization that works with people trying to get back in the workforce is a great personal or association project.

Related Post: Paralegal Donates Business Wardrobe via Craiglist

Legal Love Triangle Leads to Disorderly Conduct Conviction

In an example of how not to conduct your personal affairs in the office, I blogged about the former Roanoke, Virginia bankruptcy firm whose two partners and their paralegal became embroiled in a very messy and very public spat which resulted in criminal charges filed against attorney Ann Marie Miller.

Today The Roanoke Times reports that Miller was convicted of disorderly conduct arising out of her encounters with her former partner Jeffrey Kessler, who married the paralegal, Jennifer Kelley. Miller escaped any additional jail time with a suspended sentence, but is facing the loss of her law license because of her alleged failure to complete bankruptcy work she had been paid for.

Miller's criminal case was heard in Roanoke County General District Court by substitute Judge Frank Greenwalt and prosecuted by Botetourt County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Alexander, both of whom were brought in because Miller is a member of the local bar association.

Greenwalt extended for two years a protective order that bars Miller from having contact with Kessler and his wife Jennifer Kelley. Kessler and Kelley watched the hearing from the courtroom's spectator benches, and Greenwalt said his advice to both them and to Miller was to let go of their antagonism.

"I don't know any of you and I don't know anything about this except what's in the charges ... Whatever is going on, it's best that it stops and life goes on for all of you," Greenwalt said.

Judge Greenwalt's relationship advice is sound. I hope the parties heed it.

Key National Paralegal Association Links

by Bill Statsky

There are four major national paralegal associations in the country:

National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
NALS the Association of Legal Professionals (NALS)
American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI)


Home Page:
Phone: 918-587-6828
Membership by State:
Defining a Paralegal/Legal Assistant:
Certification Awarded: Certified Legal Assistant (CLA); Certified Paralegal (CP); Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP)
Certification Requirements: (, (
Newsletter: Facts and Findings (
Continuing Legal Education:


Phone: 425-967-0045
Certification Awarded: PACE Registered Paralegal (RP)
Certification Requirements: (click "PACE/RP")
Ethics Code: (click "Positions & Issues")
Newsletter: National Paralegal Reporter (
Continuing Legal Education: (click "CLE")
Career Center:
Affiliated Associations: (click "About NFPA" then "Local Member Associations")


Home Page:
Phone: 918-582-5188
Defining a Paralegal:
Certification Awarded: Professional Paralegal (PP)
Certification Requirements:
Ethics Code:
Newsletter: @Law (
Continuing Legal Education:
Career Center:
Affiliated Associations:


Home Page:
Membership Criteria:
Membership by State:
Defining a Paralegal:
Certification Awarded: American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP)
Certification Requirements:
Ethics Code:
Newsletter: Alliance Echo (
Job Bank:
Continuing Legal Education:


Attorney, author, and professor, William "Bill" Statsky is well known for his prolific writing for paralegals and lawyers. Professor Statsky's seminal textbooks include Introduction to Paralegalism: Perspectives, Problems, and Skills (7th ed., Cengage Learning/Delmar, 2010), Essentials of Paralegalism (5th ed., Cengage Learning/Delmar, 2010), and Legal Research and Writing (5th ed., Cengage Learning/Delmar, 1999), and they have been used in paralegal schools, colleges, and universities for many years.

When Bill sent me his professional headshot, he said he much prefers this wonderful photograph of himself with his four gorgeous grandchildren.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is the Work of an "Army of Paralegals" Being Outsourced?

In an article about the need for outsourcing firms in the Phillipines and Asia to diversify, BusinessWorld Online includes the following quote from Alfredo I. Ayala, Chairman of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPA/P):

"The recession is creating a more pronounced change in the mindsets of firms," Mr. Ayala noted.

"An example is law firms. Normally, they do not outsource. But since the beginning of the crisis, firms want to eliminate costs and focus on the $1,000-an-hour lawyers and not an army of paralegals," he noted.

"Many firms are changing their business models, so we have focus on those kinds of businesses and expand our market."

I don't know about the accuracy of your statement, Mr. Ayala. If you read Law Practice Magazine's article, "Outsourcing Legal Services Abroad", the $1,000-an-hour lawyers aren't safe either.

Paralegal Profile: Laura Alvarez, Owner of Off the Clock Legal VA

Job Title: Freelance/Contract Paralegal, Owner of Off The Clock Legal VA

Employer: Off The Clock Legal VA, Mohave Valley, AZ

Years of Paralegal Experience: 3

Specialty Areas: Legal research

Career Highlight: Receiving my Bachelors Degree in Paralegal Studies.

Paralegal Practice Tip: Maintain and diligently follow a higher standard. Know your ethics!

As a new virtual paralegal, what advice do you have for other paralegals considering striking out on their own?
Make sure you have given yourself more time than expected to get the business up and running.

What is your best source of marketing for your business?
Printed color flyers mailed to attorneys and firms.

Favorite Internet Resource: 'Lectric Law Library,

Favorite Legal Software: Billings, and Daylite by Marketcircle Software,

Fun Fact: When I read or am studying something, I focus so hard people have to tap me on the shoulder to get my attention.

Twitter handle: @Legalvalaura

Favorite Quote: Enjoin the virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty and provide the service to match!

Professional Links:


Laura is one of the first paralegals I met virtually after I started blogging and seriously maximizing LinkedIn and Twitter for networking. I highly recommend her as an informative and engaging follow on Twitter, and wish her the best of success with her new freelance business.

Monday, October 19, 2009

21 Places to Look for Paralegal Scholarships

by Michelle Fabio

If you're thinking of becoming a paralegal or currently enrolled in a paralegal course program, you may be eligible for paralegal scholarships that can help fund your education.

Below you'll find 21 places to look for paralegal scholarships; you may notice quite a few local bar associations and paralegal associations on this list, which means you won't be eligible for all of them--you only live in one area, right? But if your local bar or paralegal association isn't listed here, do check out its website or contact someone in its offices to ask about possible scholarships for paralegals.

21 Places to Look for Paralegal Scholarships

  1. American Association for Paralegal Education Lex Scholarships: Annual awards of $500 for outstanding student-members.
  2. American Institute for Paralegal Studies: Four scholarships available: Merit Scholarship Program, Employer Tuition Credit, Alumni Competitive Scholarship Program, and Alumni Achievement Scholarship Program.

  3. Cal State-Los Angeles Paralegal Studies Program: The Offices of Manuel Hidalgo offers three partial tuition scholarships plus small stipends for books open to Latino students with preference given to Mexican American applicants.

  4. Cheryl Janke Memorial Endowment Scholarship: The Rotary Club of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin offers an annual scholarship of $500 to outstanding students attending Chippewa Valley Technical College.

  5. Chippewa Falls Rotary Club Scholarships: Aside from the Cheryl Janke Memorial Endowment Scholarship, the Rotary Club also offers scholarships of up to $300 each to students pursuing a career in a business field, including paralegal students at Chippewa Valley Technical College.

  6. Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Paralegal Section Scholarship: Scholarship for members of the DMBA and residents of Michigan who are enrolled in a legal assistant degree or certificate program at a post-secondary college or university located in the State of Michigan.

  7. Jamie Bowie Memorial Scholarship: Offered by the Oklahoma Paralegal Association in memory of OPA member Dianna Peters' daughter Jamie Bowie, this is a $250 award based on character, grades, and need.

  8. Joanne Dow Memorial Scholarship: Also through the Rotary Club of Chippewa Falls, this $100 scholarship is for a business, accounting, marketing, or paralegal student at Chippewa Valley Technical College.

  9. Joy King Memorial Scholarship: The Cleveland Association of Paralegals offers a $500 scholarship to a student in a paralegal program at a local school in honor of the memory of a colleague.

  10. Judge Ernest W. Akemann Scholarship: The Elgin Community College in Illinois sponsors this scholarship, awarded to a full-time law student or paralegal carrying at least a 3.0 GPA.

  11. Maricopa County Bar Assocation Paralegal Division Student Scholarships: Given through the MCBA, you can find more information on this scholarship at its website (Arizona).

  12. National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc.: Thomson-West Scholarship awards scholarships of up to $3,500 to eligible members who are currently paralegal students and who have completed essays on a topic related to the practice of paralegals.

  13. Nebraska Paralegal Association: For Nebraska residents enrolled in an accredited paralegal program.

  14. Orange County Paralegal Association: Offers two scholarships of $500 each to paralegals or paralegal students in Orange County, California for reimbursement of paralegal education, seminars, meetings, memberships or fees for certifications; essay required.

  15. Pemberton Paralegal Scholaship at Alexandria Technical College: One $200 scholarship for a current paralegal student with at least a 3.0 GPA (Minnesota).

  16. Roosevelt University Paralegal Studies Program Scholarships: This school in Chicago offers enrolled students the opportunity to win up to $3,000 through the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Awards based on essay responses.

  17. SW Florida Paralegal Association: Available scholarship awards include those for taking the CLA and CLAS exams and range between $100 and $250.

  18. State Bar of New Mexico Scholarships for Paralegals: More information to be announced in September 2009, so check back!

  19. Sullivan University Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies Scholarship: Annual $5000 scholarship for graduates of the Sullivan University (Kentucky) Paralegal A.S. Degree program with a minimum 3.0 GPA and taking a minimum of eight (8) credit hours per quarter based on continuous enrollment in the Paralegal Studies B. S. program.

  20. Tampa Legal Secretaries Association Scholarships: Hillsborough Community College offers full tuition scholarships for those who show academic talent and commitment to the field.

  21. Warner, Norcross and Judd LLP Scholarship for Minority Students: $2000 scholarship for a paralegal/legal assistant minority student in Michigan.

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 Guide to Law School, a frequent contributor to, and also blogs about her life in the toe of the boot at Bleeding Espresso. You can follow her on Twitter: @michellefabio or @lawschoolguide.

Addendum from Practical Paralegalism: Don't forget to do an exhaustive search for scholarships at all of your local and state paralegal and bar associations, as well as area and state business professional organizations and your college's financial aid office. For example, the North Carolina Bar Association Paralegal Division has a scholarship program. If you're aware of additional paralegal-specific scholarship opportunities, please email me at, and let's add to this list.

If your paralegal organization does not already have a scholarship program, what a great project to consider as another way to promote the paralegal profession and assist deserving students.

See also Michelle's wonderful prior guest post for Practical Paralegalism, "10 Reasons to Become a Paralegal".

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It’s My Birthday!

Okay, it’s not really, but it sure felt like it on Saturday, October 17, 2009, when I celebrated Practical Paralegalism’s first birthday in California with the Los Angeles Paralegal Association at its 33rd Annual October Conference, “Powering Up for the Future”.

They even made me my favorite dessert: chocolate mousse.

Well, to be honest, they made it for all the attendees, and some of us ate ours and thought it was so delicious that we seriously considered telling lies to get more of it. But I think the waiters had heard that lame “Hey, I didn’t get any dessert!” more than once already.

And you won’t believe what I found in the hotel entertainment center while searching for the TV remote: a big tray of treats THAT I COULD EAT ANY TIME I WANTED TO. It really was my birthday, except that I had to pay for what I ate if I decided I wanted those Cocktail Jelly Beans. (Despite having lived in the South all my life, I did not fall off the turnip truck yesterday.)

Do you know how hard it is to sleep at 2 a.m. with a super-sized can of peanut M&Ms in your room?

I’m going to be blogging more about my wonderful experience with the terrific Los Angeles Paralegal Association, but I just wanted to tell you, “It’s my birthday!” (even though my Mama would give me the evil eye and say that’s not very good manners.)

Hey, I think over 500 posts deserves another round of chocolate mousse. Just sayin'....

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