Sunday, January 31, 2010

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

One of the many reasons I blog for paralegals is to share information they may find helpful for professional development (or for a much needed laugh during a hectic week working with lawyers). Once a week I share links to a 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:

"Google Reader Lets You Subscribe to Any Page on the Web" (Mashable!) - This is golden. Google rocks!

"WestlawNext - A Study in Applying Knowledge Management & Crowdsourcing" (3 Geeks and a Law Blog) - This informative post contains links to a number of helpful posts about the new WLN.

"Free eSeminars: Learn Acrobat Online" (Acrobat for Legal Professionals)

"Bates Numbering in Adobe Acrobat Professional" (Mid-Missouri Paralegals)

"How Your Online Reputation Can Kill Your Job Chances" (Business Hacks) - Best quote from this post: "And if you're connected to friends or relatives who might make you look bad to a potential employer, cut 'em loose."

"Requests for Admissions: Admitting or Denying Part of a Request" (The Trial Practice Tips Weblog) - Great drafting tips, especially for those new to preparing discovery responses.

File Under "How to Burn Your Bridges Spectacularly": "The Revenge of Justice's Assistant" (Above the Law)

File Under "Stuff You Probably Already Know": "Jell-O Shots Are 'Alcoholic Beverages,' Judge Rules" (Lowering the Bar)

Most Desired Tech for My Dawg: Puppy Tweets. 'Nuff said. (Engadget)

Finally, did you know that Apple launched the iPad? Really? You didn't?

Seriously, I thought if one more post showed up about it in my RSS Reader that I'd shriek. Move on, folks! (Although I still kinda want one.)

But the brand name itself has become the butt of much hilarity. It amused me greatly to see that MadTV came up with its own "iPad" concept years earlier, and that this comedy sketch (um, don't hit play if you generally hate MadTV or jokes about feminine hygiene products) went viral last week:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Get Your Legal Maid Degree from Food Court College University

I can't believe I've never seen this video lampooning legal "one stop degree shops" before.

Thinking about becoming a corporate puppet or just street legal?

You better get cracking, because according to FCCU, you "don't got much time."

Anyone else craving an Orange Julius?

Independent Paralegal Goes Another Round in Longtime UPL Dispute

For many years, independent paralegal and former Montana state senator, Jerry O'Neil, has been embroiled in ongoing disputes with the State Bar of Montana and the Montana Supreme Court Commission on the Unauthorized Practice of Law (the "Commission") over his business advertising and allegations that he has engaged in UPL.

According to information available online, O'Neil is a controversial figure in the Montana legal community - and one whom members of various Montana paralegal associations have told the media they do not feel is representative of the paralegal profession.

But the Daily Inter Lake reports that O'Neil has won the latest round, after Helena District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock denied the Attorney General's Office summary judgment motion asking the court to find that O'Neil "violated the state's Unfair Trade and Consumer Protection Act."

Now these charges against O'Neil will proceed to a jury trial.

O’Neil’s legal tangles over his status as an “independent paralegal” go back several years, resulting in Polson District Judge Kim Christopher affirming an injunction that prohibited him from practicing law or advertising that he is capable of doing so.

That resulted in O’Neil making some changes to his business cards and advertisements and in his business practices.

“O’Neil claims he has complied with the permanent injunction and is not violating MCPA, as he is not providing services that only a lawyer can perform and is now working under the auspices of an attorney,” Sherlock’s ruling states. “O’Neil claims he only prepares forms for individuals seeking dissolutions or step-parent adoptions. Those forms are then reviewed by an attorney before they are filed with the respective court.”

It is also noted that O’Neil pays his supervising attorneys.

My search for a current business website for O'Neil was unsuccessful, but a Google search yielded two business listings: O'Neil Jerry Independent Paralegal located at 985 Walsh Road, Columbia Falls, MT and Jerry O'Neil Law Office, also located at 985 Walsh Road, Columbia Falls, MT.

Legal Assistant Today (now Paralegal Today) published an article in 2005, discussing O'Neil's run-ins with the state bar and the Commission. In 2004 "he was cited for contempt of court...for the unauthorized practice of law. He is the first one to be tried in Montana for UPL."

"I think it would be wonderful if the paralegal community could help people without access to attorneys," O'Neil told Legal Assistant Today.

During O'Neil's senate term, he sponsored a bill to to have Montana's legislature and not its Supreme Court "oversee court practices." A fellow senator at the time wondered "why a person who wants to act as a lawyer can't get a law degree."

Matt Singer, who blogs at Left in the West, quipped (after O'Neil lost a round with the Montana Supreme Court, which upheld the district court's ruling he was in civil contempt and permanently enjoined him from practicing law):

The paralawyer lost again. If when he filed his papers for Supreme Court, he had applied for law school instead, this might not be a problem. Of course, he may not have made it through.

The opinion itself contains fact findings that illustrate what not to do if you are a freelance or independent paralegal, and includes examples of what can happen when people who are not experienced lawyers handle their own cases, including incorrectly designating pleadings and missing key deadlines.

O'Neil does have the dubious distinction of having his case included in the citations to "What Is The Unauthorized Practice of Law?" issued by the Commission on Unauthorized Practice of the Supreme Court of the State of Montana.

With the stiff penalties he could face if found guilty of the latest allegations, including a $10,000 fine for each violation and forfeiture of any payment earned by UPL, I hope he's not representing himself again.

But can he find counsel willing to take on his counterclaims? O'Neil told the Daily Inter Lake that he is "countersuing the state for 'interfering in my business,' a pursuit he claims is motivated by resistance to any threat to the state’s lawyer 'monopoly.'"

Sources: Daily Inter Lake, Whitefish Pilot, HALT

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Quote of the Day: You Really Are Going Off The Deep End

If You're a First Year Associate Yelling at the Paralegals

You know I've been a little fixated on ABC's new legal dramedy "The Deep End," mainly because of the portrayal of Katie the paralegal as cute, um, "easy" - and generally clueless.

(By "fixated" I don't mean enough to actually watch it...)

So I was very happy to see first year associate Jessica Hall Janicek's response to Texas Lawyer's question, "What was the most unrealistic part of the show?"

All of it? No, let's see — probably the fact that all of the first-years seemed completely on their own the entire time without any mentors and no one helping them. Is there a book called "Everything You Need to Know That Law School Doesn't Teach You So You Can Seem Really Smart at Your First Law Job"? Because I think they all read it, and I want to read it. And the first-years yelling at the paralegals? Uh, no.

Thank you, Jessica.

Hey, there's a rumor circulating that in this week's episode she gets transferred from the show's Los Angeles offices - to Montana.

Poor clueless Katie the paralegal.

"Unique" Funding of Paralegal Staff Gets DA in Trouble

The Denver Post has published an interesting story about 18th Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers' alleged irregular funding of "her prosecution of a high-profile murder case."

When facing questions about her spending in the case, which is still pending, Chambers told the court that one of the paralegals working on the case was "a unique employee paid in a unique way."

District Judge Stanley Brinkley took issue with her choice of adjectives, instead describing the payment arrangement as illegal.

In prosecuting Perez and Bueno, she billed the Department of Corrections for all expenses and reimbursed her own office for at least $91,648 in staffing and office costs in 2007 that should have been reimbursed to Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties, where by law she gets her funding.

Chambers plans to appeal the court's finding that "she broke state law by creating a new funding source and sidestepping counties' budget approval."

I'd like to hear more about the job duties and employment arrangement of that "unique" paralegal employee - and his or her employment status with Chambers' office.

Student Documents Challenges Facing Kenyan Nonprofit Paralegals

The next time I feel frustrated at work with my older model Dell desktop, with its clunky CRT monitor, I'm going to look at this picture. And then I'm going to count my blessings, and treasure my access to email and e-filing.

This is a photograph taken by Tufts University student Ian MacLellan, who won the student division of the PhotoPhilanthropy Activist Award "for his look at nonprofit paralegal help in Kenyan prisons."

MacLellan's caption reads:

A Kenyan Prison Officer sits behind his typewriter amidst piles of hand-written appeals that he must type. Most of the appeals for the prison go through this one typewriter. Trouble started when the typewriter in the back broke down and the appeal process was paralyzed for this prison.

This photo unsettles me because these typewriters look like the one I typed my high school term papers on in the 1980s. But it emphasizes the challenge that Christian Legal Education Aid and Research (CLEAR) faces as it tries to provide paralegal training, with a $5,000 grant, to inmates and prison guards "so they can participate in the appeal process and represent themselves."

The image works because it's beautiful, yet also conveys a complicated social issue in a small, symbolic moment - that "justice is so close yet frozen by something we take for granted like a laptop and a working printer," MacLellan said.

Sources: San Francisco Chronicle;

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Biggest Paralegal Coffee Mug Ever

Only the Word "Paralegal" Is Nowhere on It

But this is better. Namby (we're on a first name basis - he told me so in a blog post) is offering a mug that's bigger than a demitasse for those lawyers under the impression that they're bigger than a demigod.

Or for those people who work for those lawyers under the impression that they're bigger than a demigod.

Or maybe for those peeps who just want to keep it real.

Click on the photo to get yours - or your supervising attorney's, depending on his or her ability to take a joke (or not).

Hey, I wonder if Richard Prickman or his sociopathic legal secretary will order one?

Quote Source: "I'm surrounded by assholes!" from The Namby Pamby, Attorney-at-Law

P.S. Dear FTC, Namby did not give me a sampler to see if my bosses think this is as funny as I do, or a mayonnaise jar full of loose change, mostly pennies, to plug his mug. I did it purely as a service to legal professionals everywhere.

Paralegal Profile: Stephanie Elliott-Park, NCCP & Instructor at UNCC

Job Title: Litigation Paralegal

Employer: Gray, Layton, Kersh, Solomon, Furr & Smith, P.A., Gastonia, NC

Years of Paralegal Experience: 13

Specialty Areas & Bio:

Litigation, and her experience also encompasses employment litigation, personal injury, insurance defense, trust and estates, and corporate and complex business litigation. She has experience with filings in the North Carolina Complex Business Court; State Court filings in counties across North Carolina; Federal Filings in the Western, Eastern and Middle districts of North Carolina, the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the Federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (Richmond, VA). Ms. Elliott-Park is a faculty member of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Continuing Education’s Paralegal Certification Program, where she teaches Paralegal Profession and Legal Technology, and is also a member of the Academic Advisory Board.

Ms. Elliott-Park is a member of various paralegal associations, including National Association of Legal Assistants, North Carolina Paralegal Association (where she is an executive committee member and serves as the Vice President of Education), Metrolina Paralegal Association, North Carolina Bar Association Paralegal Division, and the North Carolina Advocates for Justice Legal Assistant Division. She is a featured speaker for the Institute for Paralegal Education and the National Business Institute, where she lectures on various litigation topics live and by webinar format.

She received her B.S. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1998 and is a Paralegal Technology Post-Baccalaureate Diploma Graduate from Central Piedmont Community College. Ms. Elliott-Park obtained her North Carolina State Bar Paralegal Certification in 2005. Ms. Elliott-Park was awarded the Gaston County Paralegal of the Year in 2007.

Career Highlight: Two actually – being featured along with my attorney, Bill Moore, in the “Legal Teams” column of Legal Assistant Today (now Paralegal Today) and becoming a faculty member of the Paralegal Certificate Program for UNCC.

Paralegal Practice Tip: How about a life tip? Treat people how you want to be treated. Being nice to someone just makes you feel good, and more importantly, being rude to someone ALWAYS finds it way back to you.

As a paralegal instructor for UNC-Charlotte's Paralegal Certificate program, what do you recommend that new paralegal students do to prepare for graduation and finding that first job in the legal field?

I think they need to establish what they want in a job. I tell them each session that they may not land their dream position right out of school, but they should take each opportunity as a learning experience. Some of the best learning experiences I have had as a paralegal were hard and frustrating. I wasn’t particularly happy about them at the time, but now I can see the value in each experience.

If you could give someone who is thinking about enrolling in a paralegal program one piece of advice, what would it be?

Learn all you can and take every opportunity you come across to network. Be realistic. A good paralegal/attorney relationship takes time to establish. The law changes every day and with that change brings new challenges for us as paraprofessionals, but also new opportunities.

Favorite Internet Resources: I use the North Carolina Secretary of State’s website almost daily. I also love the reverse look up feature on You can run, but you can’t hide (IF, I have your phone number!)

Favorite Legal Software: My newest is West’s Case Notebook

Fun Facts: I sing and am learning to play the violin along with my seven year old son.

Do you Twitter? No!!

Favorite Quote: "Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm." ~ Abraham Lincoln

Professional Profile: LinkedIn

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quote of the Day: Tell Us What You Really Think

I had to laugh at the Toronto Sun's description of bad boy Sandy Hutchens (also known as "Moishe" - don't ask):

As reported here on Sunday, Sandy Hutchens first appeared as a Baptist-raised, drug-dealing, scam-running bogus paralegal with a criminal record spanning 20 years when he was finally arrested by Toronto fraud cops back in 2002.
I'm not sure how Baptists will feel about their inclusion in this hair-raising description, but for a rip-roaring tale of two would-be paralegals' run-ins with the law, check out "A tale of two con artists".

Do you think that Tanya/Tatiana should be granted a paralegal license?

I'll Get You My Pretty - And Your Little Dog Too!

For my blog, folks, for my blog. It's no secret that we love dogs here (and other four-leggeds, too).

So when I saw Georgia freelance paralegal Kristina Bynum's adorable Twitter profile picture, I had to get the scooper, I mean, the scoop.

Kristina is @ParalegalServ on Twitter. When I first noticed her thumbnail-sized profile picture rolling merrily by in the Twitter stream, I thought she was extraordinarily short and blond, and then I put my reading glasses on and started (virtually) chasing her dog.

The little dog in question is Bach, Kristina's 7-year old Pekingese.

"He is a big help at attempting to get me new clients. Unfortunately, they are stuffed animals, and I have to pick them all up and put them away," she said.

She added, "He is a great assistant, and I wouldn't have anyone else."

As all ya'll know, the only assistant I can afford is my Welsh Corgi, Phoebe.

Related Posts: Introducing the Staff of Practical Paralegalism, A Blog for Paralegals; Why Every Legal Professional Needs a Dog

Monday, January 25, 2010

Psssst, TV Writers, Most Paralegals Have Never Flunked a Bar Exam

Okay, I admit that I didn't watch Katie the paralegal toss her "pre-Raphaelite" curls on ABC's first episode of "The Deep End," even though I had a pretty good time blogging about her based on TV reviewers' online articles.

Alabama paralegal, Melissa Hinote, who blogs at Paralegalese, took the plunge for me (sorry 'bout that, couldn't resist) and watched it, sharing her very thoughtful and detailed notes in her post, "Splash!".

I was eager to get the lowdown on Katie from Melissa ('cause I'd rather eat straight pins than watch it myself) until I read, "Apparently she has failed the bar exam...multiple times."

Which was bad enough, until I recalled seeing this recent quote about another television paralegal in The Japan Times:

Kenichiro's female cognate is the protagonist of "Magerarenai Onna" (The Woman Who Can't Be Bent; Nihon TV, Wed., 10 p.m.), whose own scrupulousness is manifested as a stubborn refusal to listen to others' opinions.

Saki (Miho Kanno) is a 32-year-old paralegal who has taken the bar exam every year for nine years and still hasn't passed. Everyone tells her she should just give up and get married.

I say, "Girlfriend, go ahead with your bad self, and flunk that bar exam as many times as you want."

Did anyone watch Julia Ormond in "The Wronged Man," Lifetime's new movie?

Please tell me that her character, Louisiana paralegal Janet "Prissy" Gregory, never flunked a bar exam.

(We'll talk about that whole "Prissy" thang later.)

2010 NFPA Tech Institute

I'm very excited and honored to have received an invitation to present at the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) 2010 Tech Institute, which is taking place from March 26-27 in San Jose, California. For more information, including the brochure and online registration, go to NFPA's "Upcoming Events" link.

During my session, I'm going to discuss the key role that social media and Web 2.0 play in career and case development. I'll share ways that today's paralegals can use interactive Internet resources to stay ahead of the game, gain new technology and practice skills, and advance professionally.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I believe it is critical for paralegal students and paralegals to master the power of social media, skills not normally taught in formal paralegal programs. I'll talk about how to maximize these resources to learn, network - and impress your supervising attorneys, as well as ethical considerations and limitations.

I'm grateful for this opportunity to travel across the country again (thanks to LAPA for inviting me to present at its 2009 October conference) and attend NFPA's annual Tech Institute. I hope to demonstrate some of the principles that I'll be discussing while blogging and tweeting from the conference - and meeting fellow attendees interested in the wonderful ways that technology has changed, and continues to change, our professional lives (I'm old enough to remember the DOS prompt and carbon copies).

I'm also really looking forward to participating in the conference as an attendee, and learning as much as I can about changing technology and its role in the practice of law, as well as its impact on the paralegal profession. In fact, with the terrific roster of speakers and topics that NFPA has lined up, the biggest problem I foresee is trying to choose which concurrent session to attend.

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Legal Community Collects Clothes for the Homeless

It's been a cold winter, so I was pleased to see Washington, D.C.'s legal community continuing its tradition (since 1986) of coming together to provide clothing for the homeless (and to see a legal assistant included in the story):

Want to help? Here's the link to Gifts for the Homeless:

Retiring Police Department Legal Assistant Honored

Illinois legal assistant, Mary Bourdeau, is retiring from the Pekin Police Department, after 25 years of outstanding service.

Bourdeau worked as a legal assistant for the police department, functioning as a liaison between the department and the courthouse.

“Her responsibility is to make sure that the hundreds of tickets and arrests we make each year are prosecuted though the legal system,” said Pekin Police Chief Ted Miller. “Her job will be partly reviewed for restructuring. While her job cannot cease to function, it may be modified and incorporated with other job duties to make the department more efficient.”

Bourdeau will be honored at the Pekin City Council Meeting on Monday.

As far as restructuring, I bet the department will find that its legal assistant did the work of three employees.

Paralegal Wins Photography Contest

South Carolina paralegal Richard Glover's stunning photo of Lake Murray's annual July 4 fireworks show was taken solely to preserve a memorable experience.

But it won this year's Taste of Lake Murray Poster Artwork Contest.

The Chicago native, who moved to South Carolina when he was 8 years old, got involved in photography in high school. He started pursuing the hobby more seriously about five years ago on the heels of the digital age.

He eventually incorporated his hobby into his work through evidentiary photography but said the art form largely remains a pleasurable pastime for him.

In addition to working as a paralegal in Columbia, Glover is a professional fine art photographer, whose work can be viewed at his website Richard M. Glover Photography.

Addendum: My thanks to Richard, who contacted me after seeing this post, and provided the "more representative" image seen here.

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

One of the many reasons I blog for paralegals is to share information they may find helpful for professional development (or simply entertaining during a fast-paced week). Once a week I share links to a 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:

"Authenticating Web Pages as Evidence" from LTN Law Technology News. What do you do once you've found that oh-so-enlightening MySpace page and want to use it as evidence? This very detailed article tells you how to authenticate a screen shot. Also from LTN, check out "How Secure Is Your PDF?"

"Wikipedia in Court: When in Court: When and How Citing Wikipedia and Other Consensus Websites is Appropriate" from Social Science Research Network. (Thanks, Adjunct Law Prof Blog.) This is an interesting essay, including the history of Wikipedia. I was also surprised to learn that the courts have found the Urban Dictionary as helpful as I do.

"Cloud Computing - Another View" from Futurelawyer. The debate over the security of cloud computing rages on, but I'm in the group that believes this is the future. This post suggests some great ways to get comfortable in the cloud.

"Interview Strategies: Handling Mealtime Interviews With Aplomb" from Although this article is written for attorneys, all of the advice applies to any legal professional. I've participated in second or third interviews that took place over lunch, which is a great way for both sides to get to know each other better outside of the office, but can be fraught with potential embarrassment, especially for messy eaters or those with already nervous tummies. Most of the tips I've heard from my mother, but "keep your hair and sleeves out of your plate" is a new one.

"Think before you Tat - Can Body Art Affect Your Employment Opportunities" from Nerino Petro's Compujurist. Some of my paralegal instructor friends tell me that the issues of tattoos, body and facial piercings, and blue, pink and purple hair come up in their classes, especially from younger students. But law firms are traditionally conservative, and "the cold hard facts are that there are many folks who find it unattractive and stereotype based on it."

"Ads by Personal Injury Law Firm Poked Fun at Faked Injuries" from ABA Journal. Even though I've worked on plaintiffs' personal injury cases for over 20 years, I still hate law firm television ads. Until now. Check out how one law firm takes a different approach.

The Gadget That Made Me Squirm: The Space Bar (thanks, Engadget). This post made me really look at my 10-year old ergonomic keyboard at work. I'm telling you, my own nervous tummy did an unpleasant flip. For a little more money, replacement of the keyboard altogether looks like an attractive option.

Most Coveted Gadget of the Week: The Livescribe Pulse smartpen (thanks, Lawyerist). As much as I hate paper, sometimes a pen and paper is required. With this pen, I might actually enjoy writing without a keyboard.

Favorite Quote of the Week from "I'm surrounded by assholes!" by The Namby Pamby, Attorney-at Law:

"You are an attorney, not a deity."

I've already pre-ordered 50 coffee mugs with this quote.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Parish Paralegal Supervisor's Qualifications Questioned

Karen Parker, a Paralegal Supervisor for Jefferson Parish in New Orleans, Louisiana, earns $64,000 per year, but now her qualifications for the job - and the existence of the job itself - are under intense scrutiny. Last month, FOX 8 News asked for a copy of her resume, as well as information regarding the paralegal certification required for the position.

But the parish response to the request has raised more eyebrows. Not only can Parker's resume not be located, but "the Human Resources department claims it has no personnel records relating to her 18 years of employment."

Parker is the ex-wife of former parish president Aaron Broussard, who resigned earlier this month during an ongoing federal criminal investigation of alleged corruption in his administration. Broussard was a controversial leader, facing heavy criticism and a class action lawsuit for implementing an outdated "doomsday" evacuation plan of pump operators in response to Hurricane Katrina, which caused severe flooding in the parish.

The parish council is planning to "introduce new legislation regarding the employment of elected official's spouses." Currently, a spouse can continue to work for the parish as long as they held the position prior to their spouse's election. reports that Parker and Broussard were married "in 2004, 12 years after she started working in parish government and [a] year after Broussard was elected." In August 2003, not long before they were married, she transferred to the Parish Attorney's Office, to a newly created Paralegal Supervisor position with a starting salary of $48,000.00.

But now it turns out that Parker does not even work in the Parish Attorney's Office, although she is still on its payroll. Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson told FOX 8 News that Parker only physically worked in his office for a few months before being transferred to ID management, where the job duties include "clerical work and taking pictures of new employees."

I think I could handle those duties for $64,000 a year and the word "supervisor" after my plain old paralegal job title.

Source: Fox8Live

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What We've Learned about Katie the Paralegal in ABC's "The Deep End"

I was bemused in an earlier post about television's newest paralegal character on ABC's legal series, "The Deep End," because some television reviewers couldn't tell the difference between Addy, one of the first year associates, and Katie the paralegal.

Then I wondered what kind of impression Katie the paralegal was going to make on the viewing public, most of whom make many amusing and mostly incorrect assumptions about the practice of law from television. That's why real trials seem so darn long and boring, compared to weekly television trials that sometimes last less than seven minutes - if you take out the commercials.

I didn't actually watch the premiere episode myself, partly because I was wearing my kid chauffeur hat, and partly because very little on television holds my attention, unless you're constructing a couture ballgown from paper clips and wilted lettuce, or saving the world by murdering other serial killers.

But here's what the viewing public has deduced about Katie the paralegal (and likely paralegals in general) so far:

"Dylan works with a sexy paralegal with secrets of her own!" ~ A.V. Club

"Susan discovers in the series opener that her husband, Cliff (played by Billy Zane), is sleeping with a paralegal." ~

"Dylan (Matt Long), meanwhile, hooks up with a paralegal who is the mistress of the firm's managing partner, Cliff (Billy Zane)." ~ USA Today

"Thus, when we see Dylan strike up a relationship with paralegal Kate (Rachelle Lefevre, formerly of Twilight fame), and later realize she's already entangled with another core character, we don't particularly care." ~ IGN

"Nothing that happens in the pilot remotely resembles the law in action; everything is clearly geared toward life lessons and relationships, with Addy crushing on Liam, Dylan crushing on paralegal Katie (Rachelle Lefevre) whose pre-Raphaelite tresses steal every scene in which she appears..." ~ Los Angeles Times

"There should also be a cute paralegal." ~ SFGate

"The partners sleep with the newbies, the newbies sleep with one another, and the paralegal - she’s at the bottom of the pecking order - sleeps with everybody." ~ The Boston Globe

So far the nicest thing anyone's said about Katie the paralegal is that she has great hair.

Which she totally does.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Unemployed Pop Star Becomes a Legal Assistant

Or On-the-Job Training to Sue Your Sleazy Manager

I've seen people accept legal assistant positions for many reasons, but Taiwanese pop singer Yuki Hsu's reason is a new one for me:

She said that she was taking the opportunity to study legal principles in preparation for her eventual lawsuit against her former management company to resolve contract issues.

Channel News Asia reports that her allegations against her former management team include failure to pay commissions and an attempt to facilitate an indecent proposal from a businessman after a performance in China.

Hsu's professional qualifications for a legal career include a debut album with catchy tunes like "Dub-i-Dub" that sold a million copies in the late 1990s, and acting in Taiwanese dramas.

According to, Hsu is not being paid for her work, despite being the main breadwinner for her family and relying on friends for financial support. She said that she took the job because she "wanted to do research in order to solve her legal problems."

Maybe someone should tell Hsu that legal assistants get paid to do legal research.

The Paralegal Voice: "Practice Management and Ethics Issues, Plus Choosing a Litigation Support Vendor"

The latest episode of The Paralegal Voice, “Practice Management and Ethics Issues, Plus Choosing a Litigation Support Vendor,” co-hosted by Vicki Voisin and me, is now available at LegalTalkNetwork.

The first part of this episode features attorney Beverly Michaelis, Practice Management Advisor for the Oregon State Bar's Professional Liability Fund, who discusses practice management, technology and current ethics issues for paralegals. She is followed by Shawn Siek, Vice President of ESI Business Development at Teris, who talks about what to look for in a service provider and how to hire a litigation support vendor.

In this episode:

  • The number one cause of legal malpractice claims

  • Law office technology and training

  • Getting started on going paperless

  • Avoiding key technology-related ethics errors

  • Top three considerations when selecting a litigation support vendor

  • Negotiating volume-pricing and direct billing with vendors

The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsors: Teris, West Deposition Services, Clio and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)

Here are a few links to additional practice management resources:

If you like The Paralegal Voice, we’d appreciate it very much if you will share the link with your friends and colleagues.

Do you have a request for a future show topic or a question for the hosts? Please send it to

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Paralegal Profile: Ellen Lockwood, ACP, RP & Dachshund Lover

Job Title: Certified Paralegal – Intellectual Property Specialist

Employer: Clear Channel Communications, Inc., San Antonio, TX

Years of Paralegal Experience: 18

Specialty Areas: Intellectual Property, Ethics

Career Highlight: Publication of the Paralegal Ethics Handbook (Thomson West, 2009)

Paralegal Practice Tip: You don’t realize how important networking is until you need those contacts. Get involved in paralegal organizations, write articles, give presentations, whatever it is you like to do. The contacts you make will be invaluable.

You are a co-author of the Paralegal Ethics Handbook. How did you get involved in this project?
It was my idea! As chair of the Professional Ethics Committee for the Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas, I thought paralegals of all experience levels needed a resource for their ethics questions. We are now in our third edition.

What do you think is the most common ethical mistake made by paralegals?
Assuming that if the attorney asked them to do it, it must be okay. Attorneys often don’t know whether what they are asking is something a paralegal should do. Paralegals should check before they agree to do something and not be afraid to tell their attorneys that it isn’t appropriate for them to do a particular task.

Favorite Internet Resource: Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas – – lots of ethics answers and resources!

Favorite Legal Software: SAEGIS – I can’t live without it for trademark searches! And of course, various search engines for the Internet.

Fun Fact: I foster for Diamond Dachshund Rescue (, and I donate platelets regularly

Do you Twitter? Yes. Twitter handle: @paralegalethics

Professional Links:;

I met Ellen through Twitter and through her blog, Paralegal Ethics. She also recently authored a terrific guest post for Practical Paralegalism, "How Do I Remain Ethical?" And speaking of dachshunds, my mom's beloved Brubaker made an appearance on this blog - wearing a pink Snuggie.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Does Julia Roberts Look Like a Paralegal?

Of course, everyone's a fashion critic during the Golden Globes.

I'm not offended. Because the girl looks good.

And she did play the world's most famous paralegal evah...

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

Or, Do You Know Where I Can Get a Fried Oreo? And Anyone Seen This Big Guy?

One of the many reasons I blog for paralegals is to share information they may find helpful for professional development (or just entertaining during a rough patch at work). Once a week I share links to a 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:

"Leave an Effective Out-of-Office Message" from Business Hacks. But this tip is from me: if you're in Tahiti, keep it to yourself. You don't want to make recipients cry when they get your message.

"How to Cover a Conference Using Twitter #MPF" from Marketing Strategy and the Law. A well done Twitter stream from a major conference can be informative - and lessen the pain of not being there, especially if you had your heart set on going but your wallet wasn't cooperating.

"Hey, Lady Lawyers: Have We Got a Conference for You..." from Above the Law. This CLE is brought to you by a group of men who haven't got a clue. But I'm with David Lat. By all means, proceed. The entertainment value is too good to pass up.

"Employee Injured in Five-Mile Drive for Coffee Is Eligible for Workers' Comp" from This article doesn't say whether the collision occurred because the worker hadn't had his a.m. coffee.

"Deputy Tracks Fugitive Through World of Warcraft" from Lowering the Bar. I've been to a number of seminars about how to locate people online, but no one has mentioned online gaming - yet. But could you pick this guy out in a lineup? (See photo above.)

"7 Tech Tools to Help You Sleep Better" from Friedbeef's Tech. In my youth, I was a blissfully sound sleeper. In my dotage? Not so much. Did you know that you can get white noise online? And to think my doctor said not to sleep in the same room with my laptop...

For you family law specialists, here's some "trust" issues from the "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks to think about when you're drafting those pre-nuptial agreements. And maybe everyone starting that long walk down the aisle should try this "Cold Feet wedding bouquet." (Engadget has the coolest tech.)

Finally, "Sarcasm Gets Its Own Emoticon" - but it costs $1.99 (via Mashable). That seems pretty reasonable, and useful in places where written sarcasm often doesn't translate - like professional listservs. Or maybe not.

Great Deal on an Interview Suit: Corporette shares this great deal on a Kasper suit for $99 from Smart Bargains. Normally, this blog's suit of the week costs more than my monthly mortgage payment, so it was a pleasant surprise to see a recommendation for a versatile suit that a working girl can actually afford.

Weird Craving of the Week: I've never had a fried Oreo, but now it's all I can think about. Maybe that fried Oreo does own something. Me. (Thanks, Apostrophe Castastrophes.)

Martin Luther King's Top 10 Tips for Legal Professionals

This is a re-print of Practical Paralegalism's post from last year's Martin Luther King holiday, but in today's turbulent world, with so many people suffering, it's a good day to reflect on the ways we can use our special skills and training to effect positive change in the world and make a difference in our communities.

If Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today and asked to write a column with Top 10 Tips for legal professionals, especially those who work tirelessly to advocate for human rights and civil freedoms, that advice might include his following quotes:

  1. An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

  2. Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

  3. Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

  4. That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.

  5. The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.

  6. Whatever your life's work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.

  7. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

  8. We must use time creatively.

  9. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

  10. Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'

Rules to live and work by do not get any timelier than these. Volunteer, never stop learning, be a critical thinker, work hard and above all, challenge yourself to make the world a better place.

Friday, January 15, 2010

If a Jury Summons Says Get Your Furry Hide to Court, You Have to Go

Even If You Really Are a Cat

Nobody likes getting a jury summons. Sal is no exception.

His avoidance plan? Hide under the bed until the Court realizes that he's not fit for duty.

When I shared the YouTube link to Sal's story with my co-worker, she quipped, "I have jury duty on the 21st! Can I send Sal in my place?"

Moral of this Story: Don't mess with the U.S. Census Bureau.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Television's Newest Paralegal Confounds Some Viewers

And Has an Affair with the Boss

Hey, paralegals are always grumbling about insufficient representation on television legal dramas.

But it sounds like the paralegal character on ABC's new series "The Deep End" (series premiere airing January 21) might not be a standard bearer for the profession.

Actually, per several different television review sites, some reviewers of the pilot episode can't tell the difference between female lawyers and paralegals at the fictional Los Angeles law firm Sterling Law.

ABC says Tina Majorino plays first-year associate Addy Fisher (and the network should know because it's their series) while and think that Addy's a really smart paralegal.

Per, Addy's romantically involved with her boss, Cliff as played by Billy Zane, but also attracts the attention of fresh-faced new associate, Dylan as played by Matt Long.

Dylan also manages to make a deeper connection with an ace paralegal named Addy, but every alliance at Sterling is complicated. Addy is drawn to Dylan, but it seems she hasn't quite broken off her affair with Cliff.

All of the television sites reviewing the pilot episode agree that the paralegal is the subject of an office romantic entanglement - but all of them don't get the characters' roles in the law office right.

TV Fanatic has an interesting, if incorrect, character introduction: "Say hello to Addy Fisher. She's a paralegal with a sharp mind that rivals many actual lawyers." If Addy was a real associate, she'd probably be mad.

Matt Long confirms his character adores a paralegal - but that she's played by Rachelle Lefevre. I'm laying odds that Long knows which actress plays his love interest.

Check out the series trailer at (Take note that Billy Zane's senior partner character is known as "The Prince of Darkness.")

Ya'll, I don't watch television much, so I'm relying on you to tell me if ABC has gone off "The Deep End" with its newest legal series.

A Not Uncommon Moment in a Paralegal's Day: Client Communication Fail

Or Sorry, Sweetie, But You're SOL

If you work in a law office, you've been there and done that.

You know, called that nonresponsive client on numerous occasions and followed up with many (heck, even monthly) clear and informative letters bluntly advising him that if he doesn't take action by a certain date, his legal rights and remedies will expire forever (and either something terrible will happen, or nothing will happen at all).

Sometimes the letters even include gentle but firm notices of the firm's withdrawal from further representation, such as, "Hey, you've ignored me for months. Therefore, I can't be your lawyer anymore and I'm closing my file. Here's your deadline to take action (again). Good luck with that!"

Most of the time, you hear nary a peep in return, and the case turns into another quietly closed file.

But there's always that one procrastinator who's not at all worried about that final deadline (or the fact that your firm fired him), until it's today - and the courthouse and your office are closing in three and a half minutes.

Then you hear that voice you never thought you'd hear again, and that client's calling back, ready to rock and roll.

Alabama paralegal Melissa Hinote elaborates on her tweet, and illustrates one client's renewed interest in his own potential claim on the day the statute expired in her post at Paralegalese, "My Screenplay Idea."

The now passionate would-be litigant is so ready to take some action that he's even willing to come to the law office in person to talk about it - next week.

Did you know that in addition to meaning "statute of limitations," SOL is also an acronym for (polite forms):

Sadly Out of Luck
Simply Out of Luck
Sorta Outta Luck
Somewhat Out of Luck
Sobbing Out Loud
Swear Out Loud
System Off Line

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beware the Wrath of a Legal Secretary Scorned

Or, If You'd Just Said "Yes" to that Vacay Request...

Legal secretary Claudette McCarthy and her supervising attorney, David Gross, enjoyed a successful working relationship for many years - until she ratted him out for keeping a $50,000 client payment to himself, and he ended up facing the New Jersey State Bar for alleged misappropriation of funds from his former partners at Budd Larner.

Now the New Jersey Disciplinary Review Board is recommending that Gross be disbarred. (See the complaint here.)

In 1998, McCarthy seems to have been a willing enabler when Gross directed that a client send a $50,000 payment directly to him marked "personal and confidential" - bypassing the firm mail room and avoiding deposit into its business account. She typed the letter to the client with the instructions, and stayed mum when Gross told her not to save it on her computer and not to save a hard copy.

Then the working relationship soured, with McCarthy reporting a chill in the air after she refused to do some work for Gross' wife, an attorney with the same firm. She told the disciplinary board that McCarthy even called her a "fucking idiot" on one occasion. (I suspect at this point that the working relationship was beyond repair.)

However, the event that made McCarthy sing like a canary to Gross' law partners happened in 2002 when he threw her vacation request into a wastebasket after writing an emphatic "no" on it. After being assigned to another attorney, she disclosed Gross' receipt of the $50,000.

"She admitted that she wanted him to feel embarrassed and humiliated because she felt that he had demeaned, degraded, and abused her, and had ruined her reputation at the firm," the board said.

Ouch. That's the very clearly scorned part.

I bet some of those snide commenters at that Above the Law holiday gift-giving thread are re-thinking their stinginess to their legal secretaries right about now, and that there will be a lot fewer Wendy's Frosty gift cards bestowed for Christmas 2010.

And while I've got your attention, when's the last time you sent your legal secretary fresh flowers for no reason at all?


What Would You Do If You Stole Millions from Your Employer?

The answer seems to be, continue showing up to work for almost a decade and stealing more money until you get caught. reported that Richard Thomas, a former bookkeeper for San Francisco law firm Bostwick, Peterson & Mitchell, was sentenced in December 2009 to 10 years in prison for "helping himself to $9 million of the firm's funds over about nine years."

That works out to about a million dollars a year in extra income. (I confess to really wanting to know what kind of car he drove every day to work.)

At what point do you stop stealing millions of your employer's money, and move to a country without an extradition treaty with the U.S.?

Shoot, Thomas won't be able to answer that one.

Oh, and here's another helpful financial life lesson from Philadelphia secretary and paralegal, Heather Kovacs: pay taxes on your income, including bonus checks (not to be confused with free money).

The Morning Call reported that Kovacs pleaded guilty last week "to failing to pay taxes on more than $70,000 of income, much of it from bonus checks" and faces up to "six years in prison and a $500,000 fine."

Her supervising attorney, John Karoly, may have been the inspiration for her creative bookkeeping. In November 2009, he was found guilty of "laundering $500,000 he originally gave to a local charity."

A fine pair.

Paralegal Profile: Kym Adams, Legal Document Assistant & Divorce Mediator

Job Title: Legal Document Assistant-Divorce Mediator

Self Employed: Adams Legal Document Services Inc., 151 S. State Street, Hemet CA 92545 1 (800-942-7101)

Years of Paralegal Experience: 14 yrs

Specialty Areas: Family Law, Probate, Landlord Tenant, Collections, Step-Parent Adoptions, Estate Planning ( Living Trust, Wills, Power of Attorneys, Deed Transfers), Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Career Highlight: When I helped a divorcing couple who had been married over 20 years. After being tied up in the litigation world and spending thousands of dollars on attorneys, I worked with them for five months, got them out of court, saved them thousands of dollars and was able to help them work together to reach a resolution on all the difficult issues. They both were so happy when we were finally all complete. But, it was bittersweet, because it was still very difficult for them when they executed the final Divorce Agreement. It was emotional for all of us. I will never forget that couple, and I am sure they will never forget me.

Paralegal Practice Tip: Don’t ever give up. Listen to your clients. Start a strong network of attorneys.

Many of Practical Paralegalism's readers are from jurisdictions that do not have legal document assistants. What are the main differences between legal document assistants (LDA) and paralegals?
A paralegal works under the direct supervision of a lawyer or attorney. A LDA works independently. A paralegal cannot accept compensation for preparing documents for clients. A LDA can charge for document preparation. Paralegals cannot work as an LDA unless meeting the requirements of being bonded and registered by the county.

Check out this page:
Open this:

As a successful business owner, what do you think is most important for paralegals thinking about starting their own freelance or virtual businesses to consider?
  1. In California - make sure that they are licensed as an LDA and follow California Civil Code 6400 - all guidelines.
  2. Introduce yourself to local attorneys.
  3. If hiring employees, have them sign a “Non Compete Agreement.”
  4. Hire a bookkeeper.
  5. Look into incorporating to save taxes.
  6. Join organizations in your local community, i.e. Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Rotary Club, etc.

Favorite Internet Resources:

Favorite Legal Software:

Legal Solutions by West Group
Collier Top Form –Bankruptcy Program

Fun Facts: I am the mother of four and a grandmother - and I can still ride a standup jet ski and tear it up by jumping boat wakes! Love to dance too!

Do you Twitter? Yes

Twitter handle: @Kymsmiles

Professional Links:;

Update on Paralegal's Drive to Send Chocolate to Troops in Afghanistan

After I posted about Air Force paralegal Senior Master Sgt. Kimberlee Keller's drive to send chocolate to troops stationed in Afghanistan, several readers expressed interest in participating through their paralegal associations or law offices and asked me if she's still accepting chocolate.

I sent her an email to ask, and here's her response:

To All:

Thank you all for your generous donations of chocolates, cards, and other care type package items to the troops here in Afghanistan. Since I am redeploying within a few weeks, MSgt Gordon Comerford, First Sergeant, will be the new POC for coordinating with you. He is cc'd in the email and his email/mailing address are below. Please coordinate directly with him for items needed in the AOR. He has a lot of troops at very remote sites with specific needs without any access to BX

MSgt Comerford has very limited office space, so please communicate with him before mailing packages as he will need to coordinate the delivery/forwarding of packages to ensure he has the space to accommodate.

For those who would still like to send some chocolate over, you are probably safe to send through the month of April...after that the weather gets too hot and it will melt during shipment. You can safely ship chocolate from Nov - April.

It has been a great pleasure to communicate with all of you over the past few months, but now it’s time for me to return home J! Thank you so much for your support of the troops, we certainly feel all your love and prayers from afar.

Gordon Comerford
APO AE 09354


Warmest Regards,


Kimberlee L. Keller, SMSgt, USAF
Law Office Superintendent
Bagram Airfield,

Please feel free to share this post with anyone that you think might want to help.

A bag of M&Ms is guaranteed to brighten someone's day, but maybe not so much if they're soft and squishy. Check with MSgt Comerford before you mail them!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Paralegal and "Dog Next Door" Rescuer Loses Home in Fire

Georgia paralegal Deborah Wood has a generous spirit and a calling to care for homeless pets, but now she and 15 foster dogs are the recipients of help from American Dog Rescue and American Red Cross, after she lost her home to a fire this week.

Sadly, one of her foster dogs did not survive the fire.

"I am totally exhausted and I lost everything," said Wood, founder of The Dog Next Door, a private, home-based canine assistance group. "By profession I am a paralegal, and by passion I have a dog rescue company. I tried to get all dogs out of my house. One is in doggie heaven, one is critical injured, all others, need foster homes today. I will probably be staying with Red Cross as I don't have family here and few friends."

Wood's dogs have temporary shelter with a local animal hospital, but American Dog Rescue is working hard to find them more permanent placements.

Ms. Wood's story touched my heart deeply," said [Arthur] Benjamin, [President of American Dog Rescue]. "Here is a woman that has devoted her personal time to saving dogs and when disaster struck, her focus has been and remains on the welfare of her sheltered animals. American Dog Rescue has taken a leadership role in gathering national and local support to ensure these animals are given a chance."

Wood and her canine charges are in my thoughts and prayers.

If you want to help, visit American Dog Rescue and Wood's site, The Dog Next Door.

Click here for a list of adoptable pets from The Dog Next Door. The photo included with this post is of Lily, a shepherd/miniature pinscher mix. I don't know Lily's status after the fire, only that she is a beautiful dog - and that Deborah Wood has 15 dogs that have been through a lot and really need their "forever homes" now.