Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Legal Specialty Areas in Demand for 2010

According to Robert Half Legal's 2010 Salary Guide, the hot legal specialty areas for 2010 are:

  • Litigation - A surge in litigation is generating work for experienced attorneys who can represent corporate clients in areas such as insurance defense and commercial litigation, among others.
  • Regulatory and compliance - The global financial crisis is expected to result in greater government regulation, increasing demand for attorneys with regulatory backgrounds.
  • Energy/environmental law - As "green" initiatives make gains, attorneys with expertise in these areas will remain marketable.
  • Bankruptcy/foreclosure - The economic downturn has heightened the need for lawyers with experience handling complex bankruptcy and foreclosure matters, including restructuring and litigation.
  • Healthcare - The healthcare sector is expected to remain active, due in part to new reform legislation, generating demand for attorneys and paralegals with biotechnology and pharmaceutical expertise.
  • Corporate transactional - As legal departments reduce their spending on outside counsel, there is an increased need for attorneys and paralegals with transactional, litigation and regulatory law experience.
Charles "Chad" Volkert, the Executive Director of Robert Half Legal, is the guest expert on The Paralegal Voice's first podcast, "New Hiring Trends in the Paralegal World", available at LegalTalkNetwork. In addition to identifying hot specialty areas for paralegals, Volkert discusses how paralegals can prepare for these jobs.

Source: PR Newswire

Related Post: Legal Secretaries Bearing Brunt of Recession

Monday, December 28, 2009

Paralegal Posting of the Week: Paper Restocker Needed

Were all those hours of paralegal training in order to provide substantive assistance to an attorney for naught?

We might think so if we read one Manhattan law firm's advertisement for a legal assistant/paralegal.

We understand that whoever's closest to the telephone in a small firm has to answer it, as well as deal with the public (including that cute FedEx guy), but did we miss the class on "stationary replenishment"?

Wait. Are we responsible for toilet paper replenishment, too?

(Can we even afford to live in New York City on $30,000 per year?)

According to this attorney-paralegal exchange posted by Legal Antics, we appear to have a bright future focused on paper.

But As a Paralegal? No.

Lawyer: Ben*, if I e-mail you something, can you figure out how to print it on legal-size paper?

Paralegal: Ummm, sure. [Later brings back printed text.]

Lawyer: Oh, great! You know, you have a future as a printer!

Ugh. I hate paper.

Legal Assistant Part of AGA Medical Success Story

At 24 years of age, Alaskan legal assistant Amber Hydak was told that if she didn't have surgery to repair a hole in her heart, she wouldn't live to see age 35.

But fear of open-heart surgery kept her from undergoing it.

...About a year later, she stumbled on a Discovery Channel program describing a "patch-like thing" that could repair her heart in a minimally invasive procedure.

It was kismet. In March 2002, Hydak's heart was repaired using the device she had spotted on TV -- a wire disc made by AGA Medical. Today, she runs 5K races, hikes on mountaintops, and is studying for a nursing degree.

Today, despite a down economy and a rocky history that includes litigation over control of the company, AGA Medical is a corporate success story, "leading the way in structural heart disease treatment and new solutions for vascular conditions."

The future looks good for both Hydak and AGA Medical.

And who doesn't love the Discovery Channel?

Source: StarTribune.com

Paralegal Runs a Marathon in Every State

I was feeling pretty ambitious after resolving to run in a 5k race in 2010, but I have to admit that some of the air left my sails when I read that in October 2009, Terri O'Leary, a marketing paralegal at Coca-Cola in Atlanta, met her goal of running a marathon in every state.

Even Alaska.

The idea to run marathons across America wasn't born overnight, said O'Leary, of Tucker. After running a marathon in Washington, D.C., she came across the 50 States Marathon Club for people who had achieved that goal.

(This club is real, readers - but they won't even look at your application until you've completed marathons in 10 states.)

O'Leary inspires me when she says she's realistic about her abilities and isn't fast - but runs to finish.

Paralegals are the best at finishing what they start. I'm going to remember that when that first 3.1 mile race feels like Forrest Gump running across America for "3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours."

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Legal Assistant Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $400,000 from Law Firm

I'm still working on Practical Paralegalism's "Top 10 Cautionary Tales of the Year" but maybe I should re-title it "Top 10 Biggest Illegal Hauls of the Year"...

A Kentucky legal assistant, Jody Wills, plead guilty to stealing approximately $400,000 between 1999 and 2003 from the Dean Law Office in Shelbyville.

As part of the plea deal, Jody Wills was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution.


I couldn't find much information online about either Jody Wills or Dean Law Office, but according to Wikipedia, Shelbyville, Kentucky, with a population of about 10,000, is a very small town, albeit the "Saddlebred Capital of the World" and holder of an annual horse show visited by William Shatner.

Still, I'm wondering how a law firm in a town this size managed to stay afloat after the loss of $400,000 over a four-year period.

Paralegal Raises Money for Food Bank by Purging Household Items

Friends and family laughed when I got married this fall but insisted, "No wedding gifts!" Instead of registering for gifts, I suggested that we "unregister" and just have people come over to our house and take anything they wanted.

But I was serious. Living in a very small space with two teenagers makes me long to rent a dumpster and purge what feels like a claustrophobic excess of material goods.

Reading about Boise paralegal Kathie Brack's (employed by the Idaho Attorney General's Office according to its Employee Directory and her public LinkedIn profile) purging of her home - and invitation to her friends to come over and take any of the excess items they wanted in exchange for a donation to the Idaho Food Bank - renewed my resolution to clean out my own small space in 2010.

Brack told The Idaho Statesman why she opted not to have a yard sale:

I moved everything out of the first floor - closets, china cupboards, even the pantry - which has been my New Year's resolution since George HW Bush was president. It was clear that I collected too much stuff for one household - well, maybe for three or four. I have so many nice things, but really, does anyone need this many sets of dishes?

Once I got everything in the garage, I was disinclined to bring it all back in. I can't bear garage sales; besides, if people paid me for these things, I might be inclined to buy more. The point of this exercise is to reform my acquisitive ways, after all.

Simplify my life. Ya'll come get my stuff :)

Source: IdahoStatesman.com

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Military Paralegal Gets 22,000 Pounds of Chocolate Sent to Troops

In October 2009, Senior Master Sgt. Kimberlee Keller, an Air Force paralegal stationed at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, wondered how her counterparts located at remote military bases satisfied their chocolate cravings, when she was having a hard time satisfying hers even with access to the base exchange.

But she did more than have a brief moment of empathy. She started a chocolate drive that has resulted in almost 22,000 pounds of chocolate sent to troops in Afghanistan.

Her initial plea to veterans' groups in the U.S. was the subject of a local newspaper article, and inspired a wide variety of readers to answer the call for chocolate.

The bingo club at a Smithfield assisted-living facility donated a month's worth of prize candy bars. A 7-year-old boy in Oklahoma had friends bring chocolate to his birthday party instead of presents. In Pittsburgh, former Marines boxed up 800 pounds of bite-size Kit Kats, Milky Ways and Snickers bars.

Never underestimate the power of a paralegal and her craving for M&Ms.

If you want to help, you can send chocolate shipments to: SMSgt. Kimberlee Keller, 455 AEW/JA, APO AE 09354

Friday, December 25, 2009

When You Get a Raw Deal in the Holiday Gift Exchange

Or, What's Worse Than a Bag of Live Newts?

Just ask my mom's dachshund, Brubaker, "What's the worst thing you can get in a holiday round-robin gift exchange?"

He'll answer, "a pink Snuggie, and for the love of Oscar Myer Wieners, get this thing off me!"

I ended up with a matching pink Snuggie.

There will be no pictures of me wearing it ;)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays from Practical Paralegalism ~ and the Godiva Thief

Or Don't Leave Chocolate on the Floor

It's a good thing that my boss didn't give me Godiva chocolates this year, like that nice attorney over at Above the Law's holiday gift thread, who was gifting his secretary with cash and a "good size box of Godiva."

A good-sized box of Godiva might have killed my personal assistant, Phoebe.

But my oldest daughter intended to give me some Godiva truffles as a Christmas present.

Luckily, she's a graduate student and can't afford a good-sized box.

When we got home tonight after the Christmas Eve service, we discovered our dogs ate the four Godiva raspberry truffles (my favorite) that my daughter left in her suitcase on the floor.

So it looks like at least one other legal staffer received Godivas after all.

I wish all of you safe and relaxing holidays with family and friends - and I hope that your beloved pets don't get any holiday chocolate!

UPDATE: "The Corginator" continued to enjoy my oldest daughter's college break by ransacking her purse (again on the floor) and scoring a package of peppermint gum, cardboard box and all. Good times :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Working Girl Wednesday: What Secretaries Really, Really Want

Or, R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I promise this is the last post (this year) on holiday gift-giving, but I couldn't not address Above the Law's second post on the issue, "What Secretaries Want".

I think (hope) that Marin is simply trying to be outrageously witty and wildly entertaining when she includes Precious Moments angel figurines, "Footprints in the Sand" plaques and Dunkin Donuts cards on the list of gifts that every secretary must be dreaming of.

(Oh, wait, I do love me some Dunkin Donuts...)

But honestly, the lists just come across as kind of mean. Especially the part about not wanting Kindles.

I'd sell my mama for a Kindle. (If I hadn't already sold her for dual monitors....)

But what secretaries and administrative staff really want, every day, and certainly in lieu of a gift card to a clothing store well known for its loud colors and in-your-face prints (stereotype anybody lately?), is a little respect and a lot less patronization.

More Recommended Legal Research Links from Bill Statsky

William "Bill" Statsky is one of the foremost experts on paralegals in the country, the author of numerous paralegal and legal writing textbooks, including the one used in introductory paralegal courses nationwide, Introduction to Paralegalism: Perspectives, Problems and Skills (Delmar Cengage Learning) now in its 7th edition.

He is also very generous with his knowledge on some of the national paralegal listservs, and will often answer the legal research questions. Even though he's busy with various projects, every now and then Bill emails me links of interest to the paralegal profession, which I'll continue to share with you, and will also list at Practical Paralegalism's left sidebar under "Bill Statsky's Recommended Links for Paralegals".

Here are Bill's latest links of interest to legal professionals:

LEAGLE, Case and Statute Search Engine (in beta)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Gift Giving: Round Robin and Newts

Holiday gift-giving at the law office is a sensitive subject. Not only does the question of holiday gifts from supervising attorneys to staff seem to bring out the worst in people at blawgs, but some people are even complaining about receiving useless knickknacks from co-workers.

I always thought that my co-workers giving me knickknacks meant they liked me. I'm guilty of giving my co-workers what some would consider possibly useless knickknacks because I liked them, but had a limited budget.

I've gotten some cool knickknacks over the years, but I can understand why that's not everyone's cup of tea.

What is everyone's cup of tea?

I'm still pretty clueless, but all this hoopla brings to mind a holiday when someone at work decided the way to handle the thorny issue of gift-giving between co-workers was to organize a round-robin gift exchange at the firm Christmas party, with a $20 spending limit.

Everyone was included, even the attorneys.

The gift-exchanging group was large, loud and enthusiastic. Great gifts were opened and almost immediately stolen, the most popular being a bookstore gift card and a set of ice cream sundae dishes.

But no one could have anticipated one of the legal secretaries reaching into a tantalizingly large gift bag, the final gift in the exchange, and pulling out a plastic bag full of water - and two newts.

Yup, live ones.

The legal secretary shrieked. (Lucky for the newts, she didn't drop the bag.)

I could tell from the look on her face that newts weren't on her wish list, and never would be - and that she probably would have stepped on them if she'd seen them outside on the sidewalk.

A Christmas miracle then occurred, because the co-worker with the ice cream sundae dishes desperately wanted the newts. The gifts rapidly changed hands, and everyone was thrilled.

I sort of lost track of the moral of this story, except maybe that gift-giving is nicest when you do it because you want to and not for any other reason.

And you know it was an attorney who brought newts to a round-robin gift exchange.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Grandma Didn't Get Run Over by a Reindeer - She Earned a Paralegal Certificate!

"Will without action is an impossibility and that's what I'm passing on to you ladies out there. You can do it. If I can do it, you can do it. Just don't wait as long as I did." ~ Anne M. Costrini

For those of you that are holding down jobs, plus working on college degrees and trying to get through the holidays without having a meltdown - or for those of you that think you're too old to get a degree - here's a holiday story that hopefully will bring you good cheer and inspiration to keep following your dreams.

Georgia resident Anne M. Costrini is 91 years old, a great-grandmother and the proud recipient of a new paralegal certificate from Armstrong Atlantic State University.

But Costrini's college career is far from over. With an eye on law school, she'll be working on her pre-law degree when the January 2010 semester starts.

I love this picture of her holding her paralegal certificate. I don't think I've ever seen a bigger, more beautiful smile, not even on Julia Roberts.

Anne Costrini, you ROCK!

Sources: WTOC 11, News 3

Paralegal to Serve Time for Embezzling from Law Firm

I've been working on Practical Paralegalism's "Top 10 Cautionary Tales for 2009" and just assumed that the field was closed this late in the year. But Connecticut paralegal Rosette Sankner is going to make the cut, albeit just under the wire.

Employed by attorney William D. Grady from 1999 to 2006, Sankner pleaded guilty last week - as well as entering one Alford plea - to multiple charges of larceny and forgery, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison to be "suspended after 14 months served." She allegedly embezzled almost $170,000 from Grady, a sole practitioner, by "altering legal documents, deposits and computer files, and by forging checks."

Sankner funneled money she stole from the law office of William D. Grady into credit-card accounts and used it to buy jewelry, clothing, liquor, gifts, Godiva chocolates and a Las Vegas vacation, among other things, an East Hampton police report states. Her Cromwell home also underwent extensive renovations during the time money was disappearing from an office trust account, documents state.

Grady filed, but later withdrew, a civil suit against Sankner. He says he has been fully reimbursed for the stolen funds. Sankner's family and friends were present in court, hoping she'd be spared jail time after having paid restitution, but Judge Patrick Clifford "felt that some jail time was necessary."

Are Godiva chocolates and a trip to Las Vegas worth giving up your freedom, integrity and career?

The Heroic Paralegal

The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington recently asked its online readers, "What is a hero or heroine?" after throwing out the theory (which I can live with) that perhaps well-paid athletic stars aren't the heroic ideal.

One commenter identified as "Roger Young" shared his everyday heroes, including paralegals:

The Paralegal whose chasing all around getting statements, typing up the briefs IAW Court rules, dealing with stressed clients, getting the forms, driving to the courthouse at 4:50 pm to file them with an ornery overpaid court clerk. W/O insurance/retirement/parking spot making $17/hr is a hero. The slimebag attorney getting the above cops off, who shows up at 9 and leaves at 3, charges you $175/hr isnt a hero.

In addition to attorneys and cops, Roger also isn't real big on school district administrators, plastic surgeons, and newspaper editors.

Paralegal Is Medina Sun Person of the Week

Ohio paralegal Terry Bingham has been recognized by the Medina Sun as "Person of the Week" and is the subject of an excellent feature story which can be read here.

Bingham was chosen to speak as the student responder at the University of Akron's graduation ceremonies this week, an honor awarded to only one student per graduation ceremony. She completed a bachelor's degree in post-secondary technical education, and is also finishing an internship at the university, where she "co-developed an introduction to legal writing" and taught the class solo. She already holds an associate degree in paralegal studies.

Bingham graduated with a 3.986 GPA and earned four scholarships: Oelschlager Oak Leaf, College of Education Dean’s Scholarships (both Vincinzella Cianciola and C.D. Evans and C.S. Evans) and Phi Theta Kappa.

She is employed by Medina attorney, Cameron Pedro, and is a member of the Cleveland Association of Paralegals and the National Association for Legal Professionals (NALS).

Congratulations to Terry Bingham not only for her completion of her bachelor's degree, but for her outstanding academic achievements.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Practical Paralegalism's Holiday Party Outfit of the Year

There've been a few posts at various blawgs about poor, poor BigLaw cutting back on its famed holiday blowouts due to the economy this year, but my friend, Tina Hughes, the Assistant Director of CLE for the N.C. Bar Association shows that you can make your own fun at the employer's annual holiday party - whether it's at The Ritz or in the office conference room.

Tina (@tmhughes on Twitter) tweeted this photo of her festive attire at the staff Christmas luncheon. It made me smile, and she graciously gave me permission to share it.

I thought about titling this post "Elton John meets Elf" :)

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

Or, I'm An Anteater!

One of the many reasons I blog for paralegals is to share information that I hope you'll find useful. Once a week I try to share links to half dozen or so articles focusing on legal news, practice tips and technology - plus a good laugh or two.

Here's this week's recommended reading:

"'Twas The Week Before Christmas...Five Strategies for a Peaceful Holiday" from The Paralegal Mentor. Vicki Voisin shares some tips for minimizing holiday chaos, including trying to relax and prioritize what has to get done. For me, that includes gracefully admitting what isn't going to get done, no matter how good my intentions are. Erma Bombeck offers a helpful perspective, too: "Thanksgiving dinners take 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Half-times take 12 minutes. This is not coincidence."

"Online Legal Practice Management Predictions for 2010" from Law Practice Today. Practice management in the "cloud" is here to stay. Larry Port shares five ways that it will change and grow in 2010.

"VA Survival Series" from Clerical Advantage. Tina Marie Hilton has shared an excellent series of posts that anyone thinking about working as a freelance or virtual paralegal will want to read and keep.

"What you can't ask in a job interview" from KRNTV News 4 (thanks, Adjunct Law Prof Blog). Since many of you are making the rounds of interviews, this is good information to have. It won't stop some interviewers from asking these questions anyway, but at least you'll be prepared with a diplomatic response.

"Make Your Emails More Productive" from Lawyerist. The best advice for effective email? "Keep it simple."

"LogMeIn Express" from Futurelawyer. "This free little app from LogMeIn permits anyone with web access and a browser to share their screen with anyone else." I love the increasing availability of good collaborative tools.

"Little Girl Types Really Fast, Makes Everyone Feel Inadquate" from Mashable. Can you type faster than a fifth grader? It's not fair that little MacKenzie types 119 wpm. Actually, I don't know how fast I type. Do you know how fast you type?

Last minute gift purchase that will completely take the recipient by surprise: "LOLMart Shirt of the Day: I'm an Anteater" from Fail Blog. Shoot, it's completely sold out. I can see why. Click on the photo or this link to vote to bring 'em back!

Did you see a great online article that you think paralegals should see? Email the link to me at lynne.devenny@gmail.com, and I'll share it next week.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

ATL Open Thread: Holiday Gifts for Legal Secretaries & Assistants

You know how I'm always urging ya'll to be part of the virtual legal community by leaving comments at blogs? Maybe you've been a bit shy, or just haven't felt inspired - or ticked off - enough to comment on a blog post.

You should check out Above the Law's annual "Making the Holidays Happy for Secretary/Administrative Staff" open thread.

I think this is a subject you'll definitely find to be of interest, although I doubt it'll make anyone happy.

If language offends you, you might want to skip the comments, but you can tell the subject touches a nerve. Based on comments to date, administrative legal staff can expect anything - a Wendy's Frosty card, dinner for two at Red Lobster, cash - or nothing at all.

Speaking of Frosties, it looks like relations between most of these attorneys and their administrative staff might be a little frosty.

I'm pretty sure Commenters #28, #67 and #76 are real legal staffers.

But I hope Commenter #112 is a real attorney:

This thread is doing more harm to lawyer-secretary relations than a month of flowers and bonuses could ever erase.

$150 cash & good size box of Godiva.

Don't be shy. Go on over to one of the most popular blawgs on the planet and tell them what the staff really thinks about holiday gifts.

Iowa Association of Legal Assistants Announces 2009-10 Officers

The Des Moines Register reports that the Iowa Association of Legal Assistants (IALA) has announced its 2009-10 Board of Directors, including members from central Iowa:

  • Rhonda Henning, Buckmeier & Daane Lawyers, PC ~ President

  • Melissa Wickerath, ACP, Casey's General Stores ~ First Vice-President, Seminar Committee Chair

  • Sherry Darnielle, Wells Fargo Law Department ~ Second Vice-President, Membership Committee Chair

  • Karen Martens, CP, Petosa Petosa & Boecker ~ Secretary, Elections and Nominations Chair

  • Janine Plettner-Glodt, CP, American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company ~ Treasurer, Budget and Finance Chair

  • Mark Brooks, Nationwide Insurance ~ Iowa Bar Liaison, New Laws and Legislation Chair

  • Marilyn Harms, CLA, Hardin County Attorney's Office ~ NALA Liaison, Certified Legal Assistant Chair, Past President

  • Patty Nearmyer, Anderson & Tully ~ Public Relations Liaison

  • Nikki Thompson, Miller, Pearson, Gloe, Burns, Beatty & Cowie, PLC ~ Region I Director

  • Becky Lohrbach, ABCM Corporation ~ Region II Director

  • Laurie Bolloyt, Sioux County Attorney's Office ~ Region III Director

  • Bethany Hempel, Iowa Legal Aid ~ Region V Director

  • Denise M. Wall, CP ~ Region VI Director, Technology and Placement Committee Chair

  • Peggy L. Patters, Brady & O'Shea, P.C. ~ Scholarship Co-Chair

  • Jill Jamieson ~ Scholarship Co-Chair

  • Jacque Wilbur, CLA, Wells Fargo Law Department ~ Ethics Committee Chair, Historian

  • Rosie Starr ~ Audit Committee Chair
Congratulations to these hard-working legal professionals. Service on a paralegal association executive board or committee requires dedication, organization and a generous commitment of time. But it's a great way to advance the paralegal profession, and to meet and work with a very diverse group of smart and talented people, as shown by the wide variety of legal employers listed above.

Follow this link for more biographical information about this year's IALA officrs.

Related Post: Paralegal Profile: Melissa M. Wickerath, ACP, Real Estate Paralegal and Full-time College Student

Paralegal Serves as Florida State Representative

Sometimes paralegals strike me as some of the busiest people on the planet, working long hours in fast-paced legal environments, raising families and working on advanced education and certification, but Florida resident Audrey Gibson may be the busiest of us all, as she finds time to both work as a paralegal for Jacksonville law firm Terrell Hogan and represent District 15 in the Florida House of Representatives.

The Daily Record has published a comprehensive and interesting interview with Gibson. It's clear that she's used her legal background to serve her state when she discusses her favorite bill:

Any one piece of legislation you are most proud of?

My one bill I really believe is helpful is the Caroline Cody Act. (Cody was a student at the University of Florida who was murdered.) The defendant’s family could talk about his childhood in front of the jury in a death-penalty case. Mrs. Cody (Caroline’s mother) could not read to the jury things about her daughter. I thought that was a travesty.

I carried the bill in the House and Senate that said the victim’s family can talk about the victim in front of the jury in a death penalty case.

Gibson's future goals include running for State Senate in 2012 - and getting some much needed R&R over the holidays while planning and planting her flower beds.

Click on the photo to follow the link to Gibson's biographical information for the Florida House of Representatives.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Early Christmas Card from Practical Paralegalism

To all the paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, administrative assistants, receptionists, couriers, virtual assistants, mail room clerks, office managers, human resource personnel, investigators, billing specialists, IT guys, court reporters, legal nurse consultants, process servers, medical illustrators and exhibit providers, as well as all the other legal professionals that make their supervising attorneys look terrific every day -"the fat guy in the suit", er, Santa Claus, that is - couldn't do it without you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Legal Assistant Charged with Witchcraft

When my supervising attorney says, "Wow, I can't believe that you got that project done so quickly - you must have magical powers!" - I take it as a compliment.

But Toronto legal assistant Vishwantee Persuad isn't getting compliments for allegedly possessing magical powers. She's been charged with practicing witchcraft.

The woman allegedly gained the confidence of long-time criminal lawyer Noel Daley, who told the Law Times he gave the woman nearly $150,000 in salary as a legal assistant, for business ventures that never materialized and cancer treatments.

Persaud also faces two fraud charges in connection with some of those ventures, but the witchcraft charge stemmed from an incident in which she allegedly read Tarot cards for Daley and told him she was the embodiment of his dead sister, the report said.

According to the Toronto Star, Daley met Persaud in January 2009. She claimed to be a financially-strained law student, and he gave her a job working in his law firm.

But something in the working relationship went badly awry when she allegedly told Daley that she was a "good witch", started doing Tarot card readings for him, and convinced him she was channeling his dead sister, "whose spirit would guide him to financial success."

It looks like Persaud was the only one that enjoyed financial success, if only briefly.

At least we no longer burn witches at the stake.

If you're tired of the same old boring legal tomes, click on the link to the photo above to check out Good Witch Bad Witch, a "beguiling set of 52 cards" which will help you "revel in delicious devilment against your enemies, or weave good white magic against you and your loved ones...All you need is this charming kit and a little hocus-pocus."

Sounds like this might be useful stuff in a legal environment...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Paralegal Student Warns Unsecured TVs Pose Danger to Children

In 1986, when my oldest daughter was a little over a year old, I was folding clothes in the living room while she played nearby.

I didn't see her near the entertainment center, and I didn't know that anything was amiss - until I heard a loud crash.

I whirled around to see our heavy old TV set lying in pieces on the floor. My daughter was surrounded by broken glass and screaming like a banshee.

By some miracle, she wasn't even scratched, but I've never forgotten how close she came to serious injury, or worse.

Connecticutt paralegal student Sylvia Santiago wasn't so lucky. Her two and a half year old daughter, Janiyah Powe-Santiago, was killed in July after a friend's heavy television set fell on her.

Santiago, now studying to be a paralegal, said she never thought about the danger posed by a heavy television set on a low stand. She said she struggled through Janiyah's birthday last month and that the approaching holidays feel like "round two."

"People think 'It will never happen to me; I'll have my child forever; something like this will never happen to my child,'" she said. "Well, it did happen to me, so I don't want anyone to think twice about securing their furniture."

I'm sharing this story to help raise consumer awareness of the dangers of unsecured television sets.

Also, Sylvia Santiago has my deepest sympathy for the loss of her daughter, Janiyah. I admire her for working to help other parents avoid the same dangerous circumstances.

Related Post from momlogic with link to Consumer Product Safety Commission's website: "Falling TV Kills 3-Year-Old Girl"

Props to Paralegal CLE Planners

Practical Paralegalism is about recognizing the behind-the-scenes movers and shakers in the legal world - the paralegals, legal assistants and other legal staffers that do so much to make their supervising attorneys, employers and professional organizations look good.

I'd like to recognize Elisabeth S. Lewis, Nicole F. Murray and Heather D. Kinrade (from left to right), the paralegal planners that organized the excellent CLE/CPE seminar, Workers' Compensation for Paralegals: A Method to the Madness, for the North Carolina Bar Association on Friday, December 11, 2009.

Elisabeth and Nicole are employed by Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLC in Raleigh, NC, and Heather is employed by Young Moore and Henderson PA, also in Raleigh.

This was one of the best CLEs that I've attended in a long time (except maybe for the part where I had to deliver a speech about compensation issues in medical records right after lunch). The attendees were smart, lively and engaged, even playing a game of Gossip with Sallie.

The presenters were as follows:
  • Tracey H. Weaver, Executive Secretary of the N.C. Industrial Commission: "Administrative Rulings"

  • Sallie C. Mercer, CPCU, AIC, ARM, Director of Claims for Stonewood Insurance Company in Raleigh, NC: "Working Together...Workers' Comp is a Small World"

  • H. Randolph Sumer, Attorney, Mullen Hollan & Cooper P.A., Gastonia, NC: "Ethics for Lawyers, 'If I Wanted to be a Lawyer, I Would Have Gone to Law School'"

  • Lynne DeVenny, Senior Paralegal, Elliot Pishko Morgan P.A.: "Medical Records and Evidence: Key Issues for Compensation Issues"

  • Samuel A. Scudder, Attorney, Scudder & Hedrick, PLLC, Raleigh, NC: "Mediation Perspectives and Paralegals in the Bilingual Office"

  • Jonathan C. Anders, Attorney, Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog: "2009 Case Law Update"

I'll be writing a short post about each speaker's presentation, sharing a few highlights that not only North Carolina paralegals, but any paralegal working in the area of litigation may find useful or interesting.

(The speakers were all very gracious, despite me chasing them down after each presentation to get a headshot.)

I also got to meet one of my Twitter buddies, Tina Hughes (@tmhughes), the Assistant Director of CLE for the N.C. Bar Association.

Erin Brockovich Joins The Paralegal Voice

by Vicki Voisin and Lynne DeVenny

Is there any paralegal that isn't fascinated and inspired by Erin Brockovich's story, made famous by the movie of the same name?

Erin Brockovich was nominated for five Academy Awards, and Julia Roberts won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Erin's perseverance and courage in her pursuit of the now famous environmental class action against Pacific Gas and Electric. That case resulted in a landmark settlement (and maybe the biggest paralegal bonus ever).

We were understandably excited when Erin Brockovich - perhaps the most famous and visible paralegal on the planet - accepted Legal Talk Network's invitation to be our guest on a recent episode of The Paralegal Voice.

In Erin’s own words, the movie’s depiction of her is "spot on". We agree that Julia Roberts captured her indomitable spirit of activism: her passion and enthusiasm for all things environmental rang loud and clear as she answered our questions and discussed her current environmental causes.

Even after the case against PG&E was settled and she achieved international fame from the movie, Erin didn’t rest on her laurels. Instead, she became a consultant on other environmental law cases, as well as a global speaker, appearing in television series and news programs. She remains a tireless crusader for the environment.

It's clear from the podcast that Erin recognizes the value, as well as the unique abilities, of paralegals. She urges paralegals to dig into files and ask a question when something doesn’t look right. She says never be afraid to use your "paralegal sixth sense".

We're grateful to Erin, not only for graciously sharing her time with us, but also for her continued work to make a better world for all of us.

The following are links to web sites of interest regarding Erin’s work that were mentioned during the interview:

Brockovich Research and Consulting, including her blog: http://www.brockovich.com/

Girardi and Keese http://www.girardikeese.com/ (the law firm Erin consults with on the West Coast)

Weitz & Luxenberg http://www.weitzlux.com/ (the law firm Erin consults with on the East Coast)

Shine Lawyers http://www.shine.com.au/ (the law firm Erin consults with in Australia)

Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA): Provides the EPA with authority to require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements, and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures. Certain substances are generally excluded from TSCA, including, among others, food, drugs, cosmetics and pesticides.

Kid-Safe Chemicals Act: Would help protect the health of the American children by placing the burden of proof on the chemical industry, requiring manufacturers to first prove a chemical is actually safe before it's allowed into a consumer product. Currently, all of these chemicals are allowed into the marketplace until they are proven dangerous.

Million Baby Crawl: Babies everywhere are crawling to Washington and saying “no” to toxic chemicals found in household products.

Law Buzz Famous Trials: Provides insight into the movie Erin Brockovich.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Degree Awarded Posthumously to Paralegal

Buxie Keels, III, a paralegal employed by Cranfill Sumer & Hartzog in Raleigh, NC, died unexpectedly on October 26, 2009 of a pulmonary embolism - but was awarded the bachelor's degree in criminal justice that he had worked six years toward and had nearly completed, during N.C. Central University's 2009 winter commencement.

He had a grade-point average of 3.8 and would have graduated summa cum laude, and was just a few credits shy of completing a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice. So, by unanimous vote of the faculty in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Keels was granted a degree posthumously.

Remembered by his instructors as a truly outstanding student, always wearing a suit and tie, and never missing a class, Keels wanted to go to law school and specialize in civil rights law.

My heartfelt condolences go out to the family, friends and colleagues of Buxie Keels, III. I'm glad that N.C. Central University formally acknowledged his academic and personal accomplishments in such a meaningful way.

Source: The Herald-Sun

Dual Monitors Are Goin' to th' Dogs

After I got to the N.C. Bar Center on Friday, December 11, 2009, with my PowerPoint presentation in hand - and not emailed the day before as instructed, Carole Oliver, the Assistant to the Assistant Director of CLE for Distance Learning, didn't yell at me. Instead, she graciously took me back to her office to upload it from my thumb drive.

When I saw her desk, I started drooling like a Labrador Retriever left alone in the dining room with the 12-pound holiday ham. And not just because I am a fool for a dog.

Carole has the dual monitor setup that I'd sell my mama for. Seriously, I'll exchange her for two 22" flat screen monitors. (I'm middle-aged and in denial about needing bifocals.) At home I work with a second monitor attached to my laptop, but not at work.

Dear Boss, see this beautiful picture? You know how a man's best friend is his dog?

Dual monitors are going to be the best friends of every paralegal that does extensive writing and document review.

**If you're a paralegal using a dual monitor setup at work, feel free to brag about it in the comments section.**

Don't Drink & Tweet, Or I Told You So

Twitter sometimes seems like a really fun cocktail party.

Without the cocktails.

At least for some of us.

So don't let your friends drink too much and tweet:

Wait. We haven't actually physically met many of our Twitter friends. It's not like we can take away their virtual car keys or shut down the virtual mini-bar.

If you're still working on your Christmas shopping and have Twitter-addicted friends (a subject for another post), check out Mashable's "Twitter Gift Guide: 15 Ways to Shop for the Twitter Obsessed".

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Are Paralegals Getting Their Own National Anthem?

Probably not, but that unreal attorney (really, I mean "unreal" as in "not real" but I guess the slang meaning of being outrageous is also applicable) Richard Prickman tweeted this on December 1, 2009:

Wow, that's eerie. Every morning I get up and solemnly say, "God save the Queen. And the paralegals."

Not really.

Uh, thanks, Mr. Prickman.

Lest we all get big heads and think that Mr. Prickman loves him some paralegals, he also tweeted "God save the court reporters" and "God save the lawyers" on the same day.

Related Posts: Follow "Lawyer" Richard Prickman on Twitter; This Paralegal Aint Snookered by Cartoon Lawyers

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 articles posted every week on the Internet, but once a week I try to share a half dozen or so "don't miss" articles focusing on legal news, practice tips and technology - plus a good laugh or two.

Because in a high stress profession like the practice of law, if I have a choice between laughing and crying, I pick laughter every time. Sometimes one good belly laugh makes the difference between fantasizing about bagging groceries for a living next week - or believing that if I stay positive and just tackle one challenge at a time, I can do anything.

Here's this week's recommended reading:

"Don't Mess With the Help" from Paralegalese. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Melissa Hinote is an incredibly talented essayist about every day life as a paralegal. In this post, she discusses a dilemma that all of us can relate to - the client who becomes verbally abusive during a telephone conversation. Kudos to Melissa's boss for insisting that his staff be treated with respect.

"The 2009 Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers" from Reid My Blog! Still haven't thought of a great gift for the lawyer who has everything? This gift guide is both amusing and helpful, with a few reasonably priced gift options listed - although I'm bemused by the inclusion of an $1,800 underwater cellular phone system...

"The 3 Best Netbooks Right Now" from Gizmodo. When I was the only paralegal that whipped out her honkin' Dell laptop at a recent seminar, I wished (again) for something a little less obtrusive. A wee netbook that fits in my honkin' paralegal purse has been at the top of my technology wish list for some time. I'm glad to see the HP mini I've been eyeing included on this list. (For all you very nice readers that keep urging me to get a smartphone - with two teenagers incurring expenses for braces, triple car insurance premiums for new drivers and college, the monthly service charges for multiple smartphones for the grownups aren't in our family's budget.)

"SnapHaven Keeps Your Photos Safe for Life" from Mashable. This service is included in Mashable's "Spark of Genius" series. SnapHaven looks like it's pulling out all the stops to keep our digital photos stored permanently, including holding the images in four different data centers.

"Email Notes to Yourself with Scribbly" from Business Hacks. A free Adobe Air app, Scribbly looks like a good option to speed up the process of emailing notes to yourself, from one PC to another.

"Essential Year-End Money Moves" from Lifehacker. The economy's been hard on the legal profession - and our salaries. This post shares essential financial tips we can all use, including establishing an automatic savings plan and requesting our annual free credit report.

"Don't Mess with Texas Blokes" from Above the Law. Never seen a motion to compel a lawyer to drop his Limey accent and wear cowboy boots? Then this here's your lucky day!

"Discovery of Phone, Laptop Records Permitted in Vehicle Injury Suit" from Law.com. I should say so. It's too bad that a photograph of the three cell phones the defendant allegedly had in his car, along with a laptop computer bolted to a computer desk near the steering wheel, wasn't included with the article. But I bet it would make one heck of an extra-large exhibit poster.

"look!" from The Blog of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. I'm not sure what we're not supposed to flush down the "toliet" here - but I hope Ricky doesn't have to write for a living.

Little Gadget of the Week: Sparkle Labs' Papertronics (thanks, Engadget). These are so cute (see photo above), but for some reason bring to mind that slang phrase meaning to really adore somebody, i.e., you "think the sun shines out of his _____," er, rear end.

Big Gadget of the Week: Onkyo's DX dual-screen laptop (thanks again, Engadget). Wow, as much as I love dual monitors, this thing looks like it can FLY!

Did you see a great online article last week that you think paralegals should see? Email the link to me at lynne.devenny@gmail.com, and I'll add it to the list.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Paralegal Adds Video Cover Letter to Job Search Arsenal

If you think you've gone high-tech in your job search by using LinkedIn, Chicago paralegal Tara Kowalke's higher-tech approach might make you wonder if you're just doing the equivalent of banging out your resume on an IBM electric typewriter.

She's hired guugos.com to help her prepare a video cover letter, which she hopes will help her stand out from the competition.

For Kowalke's video cover letter, she spent twenty minutes being interviewed by the director -- mostly questions about her personality and background. Then the director edited together the best clips to make a 90-second video.

Now here's the catch, she can attach it as a link to the top of her resume.

Guugos says you can also link the "60-90 second video cover letter...to your emails, or to any of your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other social site pages."

Check out the featured candidate at the company's website. I'm interested to hear what you think. Is a video cover letter worth the $200 investment, and can it really help you - or hurt you?

Do you think that lawyers, human resource personnel and legal recruiters will embrace the concept as a way to "preview" candidates?

Maximizing the Use of Paralegals Podcast

Maximizing the use of paralegals is more important than ever - possibly the most critical it has ever been due to the poor economy and the havoc it has wreaked on law firms.

A well-trained and highly qualified paralegal staff can lessen the effects of associate downsizing and hiring freezes, as well as help satisfy budget-conscious clients asking for alternative fee arrangements, or if paralegals with lower billing rates can perform tasks.

So when I was asked to do a podcast for LexisNexis titled "Maximizing the Use of Paralegals," I leapt at the opportunity, not only because I believe in the power and productivity of a successful attorney/paralegal team, but because I think there are a lot of talented but underutilized paralegals working today. (Some of you may feel over utilized, but that's a topic for a different post).

When I was preparing for the podcast, I thought about what "maximizing the use of paralegals" means to both lawyers and paralegals. Not only do lawyers need to make the best use of their paralegals' skills, but paralegals need to be an active part of the process as well, and show attorneys what they can do.

This podcast isn't just for lawyers looking for ways to see their paralegals in a new light, but for paralegals to think about themselves in a new light, too, and evaluate areas in which they can grow as well.

The podcast covers:
  • Review of tasks currently performed by paralegals
  • Consideration of tasks that aren't being performed by paralegals - but could be
  • Evaluation of the firm's current technology
  • Talking with your paralegals, as well as other firms that utilize paralegals well
  • Investing in your paralegal staff's continuing legal and technological education

Paralegals will play a key role in the rapidly changing legal landscape, as clients demand more economical legal services, and firms have to carefully scrutinize their use of technology and staffing resources to become more efficient and profitable. Maximizing paralegal training and skills is a critical part of the process.

You can find the podcast at the LexisNexis UCC/Commercial Law Center and Litigation Resource Center.

Of course, I got really excited about the topic, and finished the podcast thinking "but I've only covered the tip of the iceburg!" I'd love to hear your thoughts about how law firms can maximize the use of paralegals - and how you can help attorneys best use your skills, too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Paralegal Waits Six Hours at Toys R Us for Mr. Squiggles Hamster

I mostly did this post just to write the headline, and because the phrase "Mr. Squiggles hamster" makes me giggle (same as HIPAA cartoons).

But I couldn't pass up the chance to share the lengths one California paralegal went to score her own Zhu Zhu pet:

Zhu Zhu owners such as Alicen Kovacic, 34, said they felt reassured. The paralegal from La Crescenta, who scored a Mr. Squiggles hamster after waiting for nearly six hours at a Toys R Us on Thanksgiving night, had planned to take the toy back to the store before learning that it was safe.

"I definitely feel relieved and I'm glad that it was looked into really quickly," Kovacic said. "I don't think I'm going to return it now."

Man, am I relieved that Mr. Squiggles has been exonerated from being a toxic menace.

Does anyone else think Mr. Squiggles looks like a guinea pig?

Introducing the Bankruptcy Paralegal Forum

Bankruptcy attorney and blogger at Legal Practice Pro, Jay Fleischman, has created a new online community for consumer bankruptcy paralegals, the Bankruptcy Paralegal Forum.

For years I’ve heard bankruptcy paralegals express a desire to have someplace to meet, exchange ideas, and get information to help them do their jobs better. Frustrated and isolated, paralegals have been searching for a place to call home. After all, the lawyers for whom they work have a ton of opportunities to be educated, mingle with like-minded people, and experience the great community that is the world of the consumer bankruptcy professional.

The site is free, but limited to paralegals working for members of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA).

Jay commented at this post: "To clarify, the forum is open to any paralegal working for (either on-staff or virtually) an attorney who is a member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. Many of our members are virtual bankruptcy assistants."

HIPAA Is Funny. No. Really.

Normally, folks don't think of The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 as cause for giggles.

So imagine my surprise, while searching for visuals to liven up what I am sure will be my wildly entertaining presentation, "Medical Records and Evidence: Key Issues for Compensation Cases" for the North Carolina Bar Association's Workers' Compensation for Paralegals (A Method to the Madness) CLE program, I found HIPAA cartoons.

Yeah, I know, I thought "HIPAA cartoons" was an oxymoron, too.

Thank you, University of Chicago Medical Center Compliance, for saving me from causing a medical records induced siesta right after lunch.

For real though, for more HIPAA cartoons, go to http://hipaa.bsd.uchicago.edu/cartoons.html.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Paralegal Posting of the Week: Decathlete/Comedian Wanted

Or It Goes Without Saying By Now That No Divas Need Apply

I'm thinkin' that not only is it a good idea for lawyers to have someone else proofread their briefs, but they should have an objective pal take a look at their want ads for legal staff as well. Although some of the ads that I blog about are more likely to drive applicants far, far away rather than attracting piles of terrific resumes, they still make my day.

For example, an Oregon attorney is seeking a part-time legal assistant or "legal decathlete" to work in what sounds like a super-fast-paced litigation practice, with some very demanding job duties, including "chasing down assorted white collar scoundrels (and there are a lot of those running around)."

Now I'm wondering if the lucky employee will actually have to chase them on foot.

Just my two cents here, but if you see that a "decathlete" is desired by a law firm, run - in the other direction. A decathlon consists of 10 track and field events held over two consecutive days. This job is not for your average bear.

Of course this ad could be a joke. Boy, I hope so, because the employer confesses, " Attention to detail is a must. It is something I lack. 500 extra points to the applicant who finds every typo in this ad." (Performance in a decathlon is judged on a points system...)

Then the ad just gets plain confusing, because it turns out it'd be great if the erstwhile legal assistant is really a "licensed attorney" dying to do "perfect production typing" (I interpret that as "be a legal secretary") but - "hate to be so blunt" - better not be "high maintenance" or a "lawyer prima donna."

Finally, another chance to win BIG points (1,000!) if you have a "great sense of humor," which every lawyer seems to think is highly desirable in a legal staffer. I think I have a pretty good sense of humor because I found this ad really amusing.

Perhaps paralegal programs that want to turn out highly desirable graduates should seriously consider adding a class for aspiring comedians...

Thanks to my friend, the Digital Paralegal Cathy Ribble, for sharing this ad.

Paralegal Works to Help Prisoners Use Time Well

If you do not like the circumstances of your life, change them. I used a method that anyone could use: I examined my situation, plotted a course of action, and stuck to it, no matter what. Anything that was inconsistent with the direction I was going was not a part of my life. This is something I use to this day, and anyone can use this method. ~ Wilder "Ken" Berry

I blogged about Ken Berry in early October 2009, after he was appointed to the Adult Advisory Board of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). Wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for over eight years for a sexual assault he didn't commit, Berry has since become a highly successful paralegal for Winston & Strawn in Chicago, as well as a passionate inmate advocate, winning awards for his pro bono work on wrongful-conviction cases.

In the Chicago Tribune's December 7, 2009 feature article, Berry talks about the need to help prisoners with illiteracy and mental health issues so that they can succeed once they are released.

"Some people may think I lack objectivity and will always advocate from the 'inmate' perspective," said Berry, 40, a single parent raising a son who lives with him and a daughter who doesn't. "But I want our communities to be safe, and we should not be releasing people without regard for their ability to succeed. Education is the key. I don't want my family or anyone else's to be victimized."

When Berry talks about comparing his former prisoner identification card and his new IDOC identification card, I'm awed by the brutal journey he has survived, the success he has achieved, and his ability to take an experience that understandably might have embittered and diminished many other people and transform it into a life's mission to help others.

Another Paralegal Gets New Home from TV Show

Good things happen in threes, so I'm expecting to do another post about a paralegal getting a new home from a TV show in the very near future. After blogging only yesterday about a paralegal and her family receiving a new home from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, it's a neat coincidence to read that another paralegal and a single mother, Laurie O'Hara from Parsippany, New Jersey, is also getting help after her home was severely damaged by fire in January.

The Jan. 24 fire tore through the three-floor bi-level home on the corner of Doric Avenue and Homer Street, destroying nearly all the family's possessions and ultimately causing the death of one of their two dogs, Iggy a year-old Schnoodle.

"These scenarios run through your head of what could have happened if we were home," O'Hara, a paralegal, said this week. "It's devastating. The hardest part was losing my parents' things, Mother's Day cards made by my kids, little things that with the loss of our dog, I faced a daily battle of crying."

Open House NYC selected O'Hara's house for a complete overhaul; its television debut will air on WNBC on December 20.

Despite losing most of the family's personal possessions and a beloved pet, O'Hara feels blessed by the support of her community, "The help that we got is phenomenal, from people I don't even know. Teams at the high school raised money, I received calls, offers of clothing, it was just amazing."

This will be a very special holiday for O'Hara and her children.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

I'm a little behind on my weekly recommended reading. It's these darned holidays. My normally reasonable family refuses to have Thanksgiving dinner at Cracker Barrel. What is wrong with these people?

But I blog for paralegals in order to share information relevant to our profession and to help circulate some of the terrific information (and the belly laughs) that come my way via my indispensable RSS feed and Twitter.

Here's my latest recommended reading:

"Fishing the Social Media Ocean" from 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. I know I talk a lot about using social media to learn, but I'll say it again, using this post's wonderful metaphor. Go fishing for information!

"Why I Prefer Free, Open-Source Software" from Lawyerist. The key point in this article is that most of us are already using some kind of free software if we use the Internet. Paralegals working for small or solo practices may find this post especially relevant.

"HOW TO: Choose a News Reader for Keeping Tabs on Your Industry" from Mashable. I love the news, legal and otherwise. One of the best aspects of a Mashable post, for the technologically insecure, is that pictures are usually included.

"Five Security Tips for Gmail Users" from Business Hacks. With malware becoming more sophisticated and vicious, be more cautious than ever of attachments from unknown senders - or even friends.

"The Casual Friday Memo re: Being More Casual" from The Namby Pamby, Attorney-at-Law. Uh, it's just "Namby", "the professional bullshit artist in the nice suit." Hey, he said it. I'm all for being more casual.

"Employee Goes Extra Mile for Boss with Bomb Threat" from Lowering the Bar. Dear Boss, I am not calling in any bomb threats for you, but given your history of driving to the airport about seven minutes before your plane is due to take off, I will lie and tell you that your flight time is three hours earlier than it really is.

"Gadget of the Week" goes to Sanyo's Eneloop Kairo hand warmers, although they wouldn't do my usually frigid fingers much good at work, since I need them to keyboard. (Thanks to engadget.)

Margaret Cho Plays "Necessary" Legal Assistant

With so many shows about lawyers on television, you'd think there'd be a few more recognizable paralegal and legal assistant characters - but if you can name five, you know your popular culture much better than I do. (I had to cheat and Google - which isn't really cheating is it? Unless it's Scrabble or crossword puzzles? Not that I would know...Anyhoo, check out this post at Globe University's Paralegal Programs Blog for the identity of a whopping three and a half television paralegals).

So I was very excited to see comedienne and actress Margaret Cho's Q&A with the Manila Bulletin. In the new sitcom Drop Dead Diva, Cho plays a legal assistant to a dead model reincarnated as "size 16" (why the reporter calls this "obese" is fuel for a whole separate post) lawyer.
As for her role, Margaret described it to be “necessary” in Jane’s life. And she loves that her character is very supportive and loving and who has this feminist ideal that women can do it together!

Television finally got it. Paralegals and legal assistants are necessary in lawyers' lives, and in the real world, spend as many hours as the lawyers (sometimes more) getting those cases ready for high profile trials (the ones that take nine minutes on TV).

But my favorite legal support staff member to date, even though she's not a paralegal or a legal assistant, is Alan Shore's secretary for a short period on Boston Legal - Catherine Piper, as played by Betty White.

On one occasion, Piper provides a much needed ego check for Alan when she bluntly advises him, "Most people aren’t able to see that beneath your slick and sensitive exterior, deep down you really are douche bag. I get that, Alan. You’d have no misunderstanding with me."

I guess Piper's quote is too long to make a good coffee mug...