Like rain on to the seeds [of your to-do list]
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Like rain on to the seeds [of your to-do list]
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
A quick Google search revealed several programs knitting or collecting socks for soldiers, but if you'd like to simply purchase new socks and have them sent directly to soldiers in Afghanistan, check out Fox Rivers Socks for Soldiers program. They carry specialized socks, including military boot socks, and have a wish list for soldiers. You buy the socks and Fox River pays the shipping.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Today, there are lawyers all over the country still performing extensive pro bono representation on behalf of the remaining detainees.
Attorney General Eric Holder praised the lawyers representing the detainees during a March 19, 2010 speech before the Pro Bono Institute, including the following excerpt:
"As you all know, advancing the cause of justice sometimes means working for the sake of the fairness and integrity of our system of justice. This is why lawyers who accept our professional responsibility to protect the rule of law, the right to counsel, and access to our courts -- even when this requires defending unpopular positions or clients -- deserve the praise and gratitude of all Americans. They also deserve respect. Those who reaffirm our nation's most essential and enduring values do not deserve to have their own values questioned. Let me be clear about this: Lawyers who provide counsel for the unpopular are, and should be treated as what they are -- patriots."
Sources: YouTube; NPR
- Paralegal Today's mission to provide career, technology and news to paralegals
- Why it is beneficial to paralegals to get their writing published
- How paralegals can get published, including the different venues available today
- How to submit an article proposal to Paralegal Today
- Writing problems common to paralegals - and how to fix them
- Practice and social media tips from Vicki and Lynne
Here are the links mentioned in this podcast:
- Paralegal Today: The Magazine for the Paralegal Profession, http://www.legalassistanttoday.com/
- Litigation Support Today, http://www.litigationsupporttoday.com/
- Sally Kane's Legal Careers Guide at About.com, http://legalcareers.about.com/
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, http://www.amazon.com/Eats-Shoots-Leaves-Tolerance-Punctuation/dp/1592400876
- Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips, http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/
If you enjoyed The Paralegal Voice, we would appreciate it very much if you would share the link to the podcast with your friends and colleagues.
Do you have a request for a future show topic or a question for Vicki and me? We welcome your email at TheParalegalVoice@gmail.com.
"It was going fine until the snake decided he didn't want to play with me and climbed down my pants. I was doing stomach undulations and it decided to go south. I ended up having to leave the stage." ~ Debbie Scheel, a Houston legal assistant and belly dance instructor, describes a "technical difficulty" associated with a belly-dancing incident.
I really enjoyed reading this article about Scheel's passion for belly-dancing. I've gotten to do a few belly-dancing moves in Zumba classes, and they're a lot of fun.
But while I'm not afraid to hold a snake, I'm afraid I'd fall off the stage and into the orchestra pit if a live snake went south.
Compared to that, I bet nothing rattles Scheel in a fast-paced law office.
Source: Ultimate Woodlands
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Well, Victorinox knew there was a market for The Perfect Paralegal Tool and created a USB/Army knife (I know that phrase looks wrong but it's right).
Tucked away with insane precision are a removable 32GB USB drive with fingerprint authentication, laser pointer, and Bluetooth remote control for your Windows-only PC or laptop presentations. Yep, key ring and scissors too. It even features a blade to fight off your enemies and a file to scrape away any fingerprints after the deed is done.
I'ma be mad if one of these isn't in my Christmas stocking.
Friday, March 26, 2010
That's right, I know the exact date, same as I know the exact date I met my husband.
While we were both posting on a national paralegal listserv, Vicki noticed my professional signature which includes the book I co-authored, Workers' Compensation Practice for Paralegals (Carolina Academic Press, 2008) and sent me an email to say she owned a copy.
As she was one of exactly two people that I knew who had bought it, I promptly visited her website, The Paralegal Mentor, and then emailed her back with an agenda, because I was the desperate publications co-chair for a state legal assistant division at the time. Vicki's site looked like a gold mine to someone always begging paralegals to write for the newsletter. I asked her if we could re-print one of her articles, and she said "yes."
Inspired by Christine Parizo's former blog, A Paralegal's Blog, and Jeannie Johnston at ParalegalGateway, I had started this blog, but had not opened it for public viewing yet. Meeting Vicki online and seeing her website, as well as her prolific writing, offerings for paralegal education, and tremendous advocacy for the paralegal profession, gave me the courage to hit the "publish" button and join the blawgosphere.
And Vicki is the inspiration and the driving force behind Legal Talk Network's first monthly podcast for paralegals, The Paralegal Voice. She kindly invited me to participate in one of her Mastermind calls in early 2009, and after the call, said, "We should do a podcast together." I'm not even going to pretend that I knew how to do a Mastermind call, a teleclass or a podcast at that time. But Vicki dreams big, as she urged us to do in her keynote address to NCPA, and made it happen.
So, if I look a little overly excited in this picture, I was literally meeting my paralegal mentor for the first time (I think of her as my personal mentor, just as all of you likely think of her as your personal mentor :) Vicki Voisin has opened so many doors for other paralegals, and continues to inspire us every day with her big dreams.
First Post: Why Another Paralegal Weblog?
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Law.com is reporting that Nancy Topolski, a former legal secretary at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, based in Seattle, Washington, filed a wrongful termination suit against the BigLaw firm after she was fired in November 2009 - allegedly because she suffered panic attacks after she was assigned to support a fourth attorney, Greg Chaimov.
The suit includes an allegation that Chaimov "had a tendency to wait until the last minute to give assignments to Plaintiff, which ended up causing projects to be rushed and completed to standards lower than Plaintiff desired."
I bet I'm not the only legal professional with an over-flowing in-box and 500 unanswered emails, thinking that you'd like to have that statement cross-stitched, framed and hung over your desk.
The article includes input from Patricia Infanti, the new president of NALS, who discusses the affect of layoffs on remaining staff and truthfully says that some people handle the increased workloads better than others.
As a long-time employee of a SmallLaw firm that specializes in labor and employment law, representing the worker or the "little guy," I see many employers try to defend these actions by alleging just cause as a legal basis for termination. But Topolski was valued enough to survive the earlier layoffs, so it might be hard to prove that her work performance was not satisfactory up until the point that a fourth lawyer was added to her load. She says she became completely overwhelmed and reached out for help, and instead of support, experienced a mental health crisis and got fired.
Sure, I've seen some of the unsympathetic opinions denigrating her ability to handle the last-minute deadlines common to law firms. But I suspect there are plenty of legal professionals out there, suffering severe anxiety or panic attacks in response to rapidly mounting caseloads with no end in sight - who can relate to and sympathize with Nancy Topolski.
Help wanted: Careless, unprofessional legal secretary with sloppy appearance to work for grumpy, hack lawyer in third-rate firm. No need for good communication skills or ability to work well under pressure. No one here talks to anyone else, and we work at a snail's pace.
Finally, someone is telling The Truth in a want ad about life in his or her law firm.
Not. This is an excerpt from The Assistant-at-Law's March 25, 2010 article for Texas Lawyer, "What Job Postings for Legal Staff Often Lack."
I sort of have a girl-crush on The Assistant-in-Law, and am thrilled that she has an email address so I can cyber-stalk her, or maybe just send her a LinkedIn invite...
Another favorite quote from this article:
The cardinal sin of legal-assistant recruiting is listing the faults of the employee who previously held the position. A recent posting admonished: "Do not bring drama to the office. Do not ask attorneys in the firm to help with your legal issues. Do not gossip. Bring a good work ethic."
She's right. Veteran legal support professionals aren't impressed by hyperbole, and using the word drama from the get-go is usually a deal-breaker. But darn if those cardinal sins don't contribute to one of my favorite hobbies, reading hilarious Craigslist ads for legal staff.
Know someone responsible for writing the job postings for your firm - who could use a bit of guidance? Leave a copy of The Assistant-at-Law's article (anonymously, of course) in his or her chair.
For a list of Practical Paralegalism's posts about some awesome want ads gone awry, enter "Craigslist want ads" in the blog search box at the right. I get many of them from readers, so if you run across one that makes you laugh so hard you pee a little in your pants, then I'm your girl ;)
Another Post about The Assistant-at-Law: "Dealing with Micromanagement: Don't Become a Zombie"
- President: Aniko Bouley, CP
- Past President: Stacey Peters
- Vice President: Jennifer Emery
- Secretary: Sharon Willier
- Treasurer: Catherine Allard
Bouley received the New Hampshire Bar Association's 2008 Paralegal Professionalism Award. Follow this link to see PANH's full slate of officers and committee chairpersons.
I am including the following excerpt from Bouley's President's Message posted at PANH, because it's a great message for all of us:
...No matter what you do, where you work, or where your journey takes you, the choice is yours to make it better. Look beyond the negatives and look for opportunities that can change you! You are the only one who can make a difference in your own life and by doing so, the rewards will follow.
Consider “paying it forward” by mentoring a paralegal student, or take the CP or ACP examination, or even better, join the Board of PANH to promote the paralegal profession and share your ideas. Whatever you decide, wherever your journey takes you, I believe that you will be pleased.
Congratulations to PANH's new board members and committee leaders. As a member of several executive boards myself, I know that this kind of service demonstrates a serious commitment to the paralegal profession and the legal community - and also, as Bouley's message emphasizes, that those committees need and welcome helping hands from members. Service on executive boards and committees is a wonderful way to get to know other paralegals and to contribute to your paralegal association.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Metadata is data about the data, or as forensic expert Craig Ball once called it, “the electronic equivalent of DNA.” It describes attributes and characteristics of the information contained in electronic files. It can be relatively benign: file name, date stamp, time stamp, size, or type of file created. Or it can reveal potentially compromising details, such as revisions, embedded comments, and where the file is stored on your computer.
What Does it Look Like?
To see metadata firsthand, right click on any file in your computer and choose “Properties.”
In this example, I altered the properties image to redact the file location. Normally, the document name and file path would be visible. This view illustrates what can be seen under the “General” properties tab in a Microsoft Word document. More metadata waits under the “Custom” and “Summary” tabs.
While all electronic files contain metadata, word processing documents represent the greatest area of concern for most law offices. It’s easy to see how a Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect file might contain sensitive, confidential, or even privileged metadata. And what can’t be seen under properties is easily revealed using a metadata viewer.
Only 12 professional responsibility committees in the United States have taken a position on metadata, and the reviews are mixed:
What is the Sender’s Duty When Transmitting Metadata?
All 12 jurisdictions require attorneys to use reasonable care to “avoid providing electronic documents that inadvertently contain accessible information that is either confidential or privileged, and to employ reasonable means to remove such metadata before sending the document.” The American Bar Association takes the same position.
May the Recipient Review Metadata?
Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Washington D.C., and West Virginia restrict or prohibit the use of metadata by the recipient. Pennsylvania approaches the issue on a case-by-case basis. Colorado, Maryland, and Vermont permit data mining or review.
Must the Recipient Notify the Sender if Metadata is Found?
Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington D.C., and West Virginia require notification (under varying circumstances). Maryland does not. Alabama and Maine have not addressed the issue.
What Should I Do?
- Know the rules that apply to you. If your firm practices in a jurisdiction that has issued a metadata opinion, follow the requirements of your jurisdiction. A detailed chart is available from the American Bar Association Legal Technology Resource Center.
- Encourage your firm to establish a metadata scrubbing policy. Even if not required, best practices dictate that metadata be removed from documents prior to transmission. This is the best way to protect sensitive, confidential, or privileged information.
- Master document revisioning tools. Nothing is more embarrassing than e-mailing a document you believe to be in “final” form only to find out from the recipient that redlining or track changes are still on and all your edits or comments are visible. Read more here about how to tackle this in Word.
- Learn how metadata is handled by your word processing application. To save a document without metadata in WordPerfect X4, choose File, Save without metadata. When the “Save Without Metadata” dialog box appears, select the metadata to remove. In Word 2007, click on the Office Button, select Prepare, then Inspect Document. Always make a copy of your document first, as using Word’s document inspector can produce unintended results (like deleting all your headers and footers). If you are a Word 2003 user, download the free “Remove Hidden Data” add-in from Microsoft’s Web site.
- Do not rely exclusively on your word processing application as a cure-all. Neither WordPerfect nor Word scrubs all metadata away. Try this test: publish or save a “metadata-free” document to PDF, then open it in Acrobat Standard or Professional, version 8 or higher. Select Document, Examine Document…Oops! Acrobat just found more metadata. If you are tempted to click “Remove all checked items” in Acrobat, stop! Click the “Learn more” button first, or you may be in for more unintended results.
- Consider commercially available metadata scrubbers, such as Javacool’s Doc Scrubber or Payne Consulting’s Metadata Assistant (my personal favorite).
- If all else fails, remember you can always print, then scan your document. The scanned version can be safely transmitted without metadata. This may not be the most sustainable solution, but it works well if you don’t have access to other tools.
Beverly Michaelis is a lawyer and practice management advisor with the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund. You may follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/OreLawPracMgmt. Her blog is http://oregonlawpracticemanagement.wordpress.com/
And what about Steven Soderbergh’s critically acclaimed Erin Brockovich, which gave Julia Roberts her long-coveted Oscar? Sure, Roberts’s plucky paralegal could still have discovered the massive industrial cover-up of a poisoned water supply. But universal health care would have quickly and efficiently treated the community's afflicted inhabitants, after which point they would gently scold the captains of industry not to do that again over hugs and cupcakes. Then, three leaky nuclear reactors would’ve been built 50 feet from a kindergarten—but who cares! Chemo’s free, kids!
Employer: Drescher ProParalegal (Self-employed), Sonoma, CA
Years of Paralegal Experience: 20+
Specialty Areas: I’ve worked in most areas of litigation at one time or another, with recent emphases in complex litigation, intellectual property, and securities.
Career Highlight: Starting my own freelance business has to come first. In addition, I’ve had several opportunities to facilitate training seminars and assist in presenting MCLEs, primarily in discovery matters. I really enjoy teaching and mentoring others in the profession.
Paralegal Practice Tip: Never stop learning!
What made you decide to go out on your own as a freelance paralegal?
Do you have any suggestions for other paralegals thinking about freelancing?
What do you like best about being a freelance paralegal – and least?
Favorite Internet Resource: The sites I use most are Google, Google Reader for my RSS feeds, and Twitter, for all the useful information people share on it. I also do a lot of research on FindLaw and PLoL.
Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs, for career and/or case development?
I have a LinkedIn profile, a Twitter account, and I write a blog about my experiences as a new business owner. I’m really enjoying the professional connections I am making through each of those channels. I have a Facebook account as well, but use that for family and close friends, rather than business.
Fun Fact: I have a passion for all things wine and food related. I write another blog related to cooking, wine and entertaining. (http://sonomasip.blogspot.com/) I’m hoping to develop these interests into another small business in the near future.
Favorite Quote: Rather than a quote, it’s a Seth Godin blog post called You Matter: I hung it on my office wall, and read it almost every day.
LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/daphnedrescher
Freelance blog: http://sonomafreelance.blogspot.com/
Twitter handle: @DaphneDrescher
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I know my paralegal peeps (marshmallow and otherwise) can relate. I should probably schedule this tweet to pop up every four hours via HootSuite...
Related Post: Twitter: It's NOT About What I'm Doing Right Now;
Monday, March 22, 2010
"One surprise about my new job is: I'm expected to vacuum." ~ Michigan legal assistant Ivy Jiggens talks about starting over in the legal field and taking a $20,000 a year pay cut, after accepting a buyout from her former newspaper employer.
Jiggens gives insightful answers to Michigan State University visiting journalist Joe Grimm's career questions, and talks about the reality of starting over in the paralegal field as a second career. She's working on a second bachelor's degree in Eastern Michigan University's ABA-approved paralegal studies program at night, while working full-time as a legal assistant.
Are any of you expected to vacuum - or do windows?
Sunday, March 21, 2010
"I hate my job. More specifically, I hate being a 24-year-old paralegal. I took this job almost two years ago as a precursor to law school and a career as a public defender, or at least that lawyer that gets eaten on the toilet in Jurassic Park. " ~ An excerpt from "Desperate in DC's" plea for advice from True/Slant's Ken Layne.
Layne's advice starts out as kind of a downer for would-be writers. I want to write, too. As a job! Already an insomniac, now I can worry myself awake into the wee hours wondering if I'm a blogging, Panera-eating, sad cliche, or a solitude-wasting Twitterer.
I'm sorry that "Desperate" would rather be eaten by dinos than work in the legal field, but for me, I think I was born to be a paralegal, therefore I am. I write for work, and I write for pleasure, and I write about what I know, even if it's nothing fancy, just letters, motions and briefs that help injured people get what they need - and practical advice and news for those paralegals who like what they do (most of the time).
Maybe "Desperate" should apply his or her writing skills to an updated resume and cover letter, and see if a more satisfying line of work can be found.
"Break the law and your new 'friend' may be the FBI" (Associated Press) This is a must-read for all legal professionals and their clients.
"Social Media: Access to job opportunities" (Alexandria Times)
"Six Tips to Get Past Job Search Rejection" (Monster)
"How the iPad will change the world" (Practicing Law in the 21st Century-A Law & Technology Blog) Want to win an iPad? See Alison Doyle's post "Win an Ipad: SimplyHired What's Your Dream Job? Contest" but the deadline's this Friday.
Check out this highly quotable Apple iPad commercial spoof. "HOT TUB!"
"Crunch and Share Your Numbers Online for Free with Cloud-Based Spreadsheets" (Business Hacks)
"Coming Soon to a Computer Near You: More Free PACER Documents" (Legal Blog Watch)
"Quick Tips to Help Your Law Office Run More Smoothly" (PracticeSmarter)
"Clown Shoes Were Defective, Woman Claims" (Lowering the Bar) I knew there was a reason why I don't own any clown shoes.
Favorite Practical Paralegalism post from this week last year: "Resume Objectives Which Make You Go Hmmm"
"Without good paralegals, our legal system cannot function." ~ Dr. Allatia Harris, President of San Jacinto College - North
San Jacinto College (SJC) in Houston, Texas held its first induction ceremony for its new campus chapter of the paralegal honor society Lambda Epsilon Chi (LEX), which is founded by the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE).
“The creation of the San Jacinto College LEX chapter will help employers identify our truly outstanding students,” commented Ernest Davila, director of the SJC paralegal program. “Our program has been nationally recognized by the American Bar Association and statewide by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Recognition of our program by LEX as a national paralegal honor society further advances our national reputation.”
The admission requirements to LEX require a stellar academic record (3.50 GPA), but Ernest Davila, the director of SJC's paralegal program said that membership in the honor society can enhance students' careers.
LEX also offers annual competitive scholarships; applicants must submit a 500-word essay on a subject chosen by the scholarship committee. The deadline for this year's scholarship application has passed, but the 2010 scholarship essay question required applicants to analyze the legal and public policy aspects of a scenario involving same-sex marriage.
Congratulations to SJC for completing the charter requirements to add a LEX chapter to its program, as well as to all new LEX inductees this year. If you're a member of LEX or a LEX scholarship winner, Practical Paralegalism would love to hear from you.
Sources: Deer Park Broadcaster; AAfPE
COC instructor Nicole Lucy discusses why the ABA certification benefits both the program and the legal community:
Lucy, the chair of the Paralegal Studies program, and Los Angeles attorney Gary Collis, are presenting a free academic overview and discussion "'Til Death Do Us Part: A Legal Perspective of Same Sex Marriage in the Golden State" at COC on April 21, 2010. Click on this link for more information. This is an excellent learning and networking opportunity, especially for area legal students and professionals.
Click on this link for a Directory of ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs and this link for the General Approval Process Information.
Sources: The Signal; American Bar Association Standing Committee on Paralegals; Cougar News; COC News Release
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Job Title: Senior Paralegal
Employer: Texas Regional Entity, Austin TX
Years of Paralegal Experience: 15
Specialty Areas: Commercial litigation, class actions & multi-district litigation
Career Highlight: Assisted on two cases argued before the Ohio Supreme Court
Paralegal Practice Tip: Always look at your calendar for the week ahead to keep on top of deadlines. Also, I’ve been called a good “nag” by the attorneys I’ve worked with.
Favorite Internet Resource: http://www.practicalparalegalism.com/ of course!! And I’m constantly amazed at the power of Google.
Favorite Legal Software: Summation
Fun Fact: I love to cook and started a cooking blog last year: http://jenniferwillcookforshoes.blogspot.com/
Do you Twitter? Yes
Twitter handle: @JenTaylor1015
Professional Link: http://www.linkedin.com/profile?viewProfile=&key=49259678&trk=tab_pro
Jennifer was one of the first paralegals I met on Twitter, and even though we've never actually met in person, through the power of social media, we've had some great virtual conversations. Please check out her blog, Will Cook for Shoes, including her recipe for Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes that seriously has me drooling - and jealous 'cause I'd never stumble upon high grade French chocolate in my pantry.
Also, earlier this year, Jennifer generously shared her job search experience with Practical Paralegalism in a helpful guest post, "A Relocating Paralegal Shares Some Tips for the Job Search".
American paralegals are also traditionally honored on St. Patrick's Day, and many employers give paralegals and legal assistants an exemption from work on March 17 so that they can celebrate the day of their patron saint.
Best Reader Comment: "I wish I had known - I would have taken yesterday off as a religious holiday!" ~ HDK
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Medical records usually provide a wealth of detailed personal information about the injured party, including:
- Marital and family status
- Vocational history
- Pre-existing conditions, including substance abuse and mental health status
- Current and prior medications
- Prior surgeries, significant injuries and serious illnesses
- Life expectancy factors, including smoking, alcohol intake, weight and congenital conditions
As you are reviewing records for medical issues directly related to the case you are working on, keep an eye out for important background information. Include any facts that you learn about the injured party's background at the beginning of your medical summary, where anyone working on the case in your office can easily review them.
For example, the beginning of a medical summary which includes background information obtained from medical records could look like this:
Not only will you get to know the injured party very well, but your supervising attorney will be impressed with both your attention to detail and creation of a highly informative dossier that can be useful throughout litigation.
If you would like to read more about how I review and summarize medical records for civil litigation purposes, including workers' compensation cases, my supervising attorney, J. Griffin Morgan, and I wrote a book, Workers' Compensation Practice for Paralegals (Carolina Academic Press, 2008), which includes an entire chapter explaining how to summarize medical records. There is an extensive discussion of the relation of medical records to the key issues of causation, treatment, diagnosis, prognosis, permanent impairment, ability to work and future medical needs relevant to any kind of civil injury claim, including personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice and nursing home negligence.
Monday, March 15, 2010
"It's probably a drain on things. But I think you make up for it with morale and people liking each other." ~ Sean Doran, a paralegal who has worked for several firms in Washington, tells FOXNews why he thinks office pools are still a good thing. But several other employees mentioned in the article were either issued warnings or fired for their participation in office pools.
Any March Madness circulating (quietly) around your office?
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Welsh, who has a master’s degree in public administration and also is a doctoral student in technical and professional discourse at East Carolina University, will be presenting during the “Sites of Advocacy” session. Her presentation is titled “Using civic rhetoric and Foucault’s systems of discourse to advocate for elderly infirm victims of nursing home abuse.”
Source: The Birmingham News
Saturday, March 13, 2010
"I went to Washington D.C. in support of career colleges," Russell stated. "Career colleges, such as Herzing University, have played a major role in my life as well as my daughter's life. As a result of the education I received at Herzing, I am now working in my field with an excellent salary."
Friday, March 12, 2010
Turcotte was initially a little embarrassed to fess up to her intrigue, but meeting others online quickly dispersed it. The genre attracts much more than so-called desperate housewives anxious to fill dreary lives with romance, but also brings into the fold the alter egos of many professionals.
"It really is incredible," said Turcotte, who is involved in judging online writing contests, as well doing some editorial work on the website. "Some are professional writers, there's also doctors, lawyers and psychologists, most are over 30, too.
Source: Standard Freeholder