Monday, May 31, 2010

Here's Why "No JDs Need Apply" for that Paralegal Job

Or, How Not to Get a Job in the Legal Field. Ever.

Ya'll know I'm a fan of paralegal want ads gone awry, and welcome tips from readers. And sometimes I blog about law school graduates applying for the same legal support staff positions we do.

But lately I've noticed a trend in paralegal want ads which state, "No JDs please" or "No JDs need apply." A recent post from Above the Law, "A Mass. Lawyer You Don't Want to Work For and a Law Student You Don't Want to Hire," may provide a clue as to why law firms are suddenly specifically excluding lawyers from applying for paralegal positions.

In a nutshell, a Massachusetts law student saw an ad for a paralegal on Craigslist and applied for the job. He advanced to an interview, which apparently went swimmingly, with the female attorney seriously considering him for the job - but asking for a month's test run.

For many paralegals who've been unsuccessfully looking for work for a long time, getting offered a trial run might have been a step in the right direction.

But in this case, the request for a probationary period did not go over well, and an increasingly acrimonious email exchange (also known as a "digital hot mess") ensued - with neither party apparently willing to let the other have the last word. The relationship turned about as sour as one can get between two professed "colleagues" (their word, not mine), with excerpts from their emails eventually appearing on one of the most widely read blawgs on the planet.

Published gems included:

If your [sic] not happy with your secretary, then deal with it one on one with her. Why would you think that I or anyone else would want to get involved with your internal affairs. What next? Do you want me to kiss your feet her Royal Highness?

You need to read the post and see the video (fodder for a whole separate post on why legal professionals should not "get stuff off their chests" on YouTube) for yourself. But they've got everything for the requisite pot-boiler: grammar snipes, secretly-shopped employees, misogyny, our founding fathers - and camera angles that made me a wee tad motion sick.

The good news for paralegals is that there could be a whole lot more "No JDs need apply" in future job postings...

P.S. Take it from an experienced litigation paralegal, shooting from the hip with your Blackberry can really come back to haunt you.

Sources: Above the Law; The Docket

Related Posts: For a Good Time, Read Paralegal Want Ads on Craigslist; Don't Throw People Under the Bus

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Saturday LOL: Don't Eat the Sushi

I know it's not actually Saturday, but yesterday I was trapped for seven hours like a rat in a giant, airless concrete maze of an amusement park with my husband, chaperoning five 14-year old girls and eating $10 burgers. Yesterday nothing was funny.

But today USB memory sticks disguised as sushi strike me as funny. Giovanni Masucci discusses easy-to-miss digital forensic evidence in the form of hidden thumb drives on the latest episode of The Paralegal Voice, "Digital Evidence for Paralegals."

Who'da thunk it?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Paralegal to Bike 545 Miles for AIDS Fundraiser

California paralegal Ami Flori is planning to spend the week of June 6-12 riding her bicycle a grueling 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles and sleeping in a 1,500-tent city each night.

But she's doing it for a good cause, to raise money for AIDS as part of LifeCycle9, "Ride to end AIDS." Described as a "life-changing ride--not a race--through some of California's most beautiful countryside," the funds raised support local agencies, including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.

Flori is not HIV positive and has "never lost anyone to HIV/AIDS." She states the reasons she's commited to this project at her donation site:
Not everyone is as lucky as I am. The truth is that in California alone, more than 87,000 people have died from AIDS-related causes since the epidemic began. Another 7,000 Californians will become infected with HIV this year. Sadly, many of those who are infected lack the resources to receive proper treatment. The services provided by the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center - medical care, mental health services, full-service pharmacy, and HIV testing and prevention programs - are vital to helping those less fortunate than myself live long and prosperous lives.
According to her participant link, Flori has reached her initial $3,000 goal and has increased it to $5,000. Flori has been training for this ride since October, and bikes before and after work, and on weekends. She told The Press-Enterprise that she purchased a "plusher bedroll" for the event and that her husband, Jose Beruvides, is her "number one supporter."

Practical Paralegalism sends best wishes for great weather and happy cycling to Ami Flori, another terrific paralegal working to make her community a better place.

If you would like to support Flori's ride, she says, "No donation is too small." Click here to contribute.

World's Funniest Paralegal? Mebbe Not.

A co-worker told me the other day that I should be a comedian. (Maybe that wasn't a compliment?)

You know there's even a shirt for that.

But it's for the dog.

Source: Zazzle

Related Posts: The Episode in Which We Finally Get a Law Firm Dog; Why Every Legal Professional Needs a Dog; Introducing the Staff of Practical Paralegalism

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Recipe for an Awesome Paralegal Patty

West Virginia paralegal Lesley Weigel's hamburger patty recipe is so good, she simply calls it "The Oh-My-Goodness! Burger."

Stop reading right now if you haven't eaten. The Beckley Register-Herald provides a vivid description of this very special burger:

The recipe calls for adding minced onion and finely diced bacon and a mixture of barbecue sauce and mayonnaise to the meat before it’s shaped into patties. A little bit of the sauce is reserved to put on the buns. A slice of Swiss cheese melted over each burger at the last minute creates a flavor that makes this meal distinctive.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Skip the Register-Herald article in its entirety if mouth-watering descriptions of Weigel's tips for making home-made fries, marinated slaw, corn salad and "make-ahead blueberry pie" might make you drool on your keyboard.

The recipe for these delicious burgers isn't a long held family secret - it's right there in the article. Weigel also shares her recipes for onion dip, peanut butter chocolate cheesecake pie, ginger-garlic buffalo chicken wings, her husband's favorite deviled eggs, baked Reuben slices and crock pot ribs in "Touchdown treats."

She's a fan of the crock pot, just like Practical Paralegalism is. Practical Paralegalism is also a fool for a good deviled egg with pickle relish and can't wait to try the recipe.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Professional Profile: Susan Winters, Corporate Legal Assistant & Writer

Job Title: Legal Assistant

Employer: International Consulting firm in Reno, Nevada

Years of Paralegal Experience: 10

Specialty Areas: Corporate law, IP and Compliance

Career Highlight: In my current job and previous positions, the legal department has been proactive in educating its internal clients regarding legal issues. I've enjoyed creating PowerPoint presentations on IP and licensing issues with references to Barbie, Star Wars and the Mongol motorcycle gang.

Paralegal Practice Tip: When you work in-house, your clients are your colleagues -- so strong communication skills and the ability to play nicely with others is essential.

You write articles for local magazines and indie publications under your legal name, and have just released a new paranormal romance e-book Howl through The Wild Rose Press and blog at Mariposa's Musings under your pen name "Mariposa Cruz". How long have you been writing, and when do you find the time between working as a corporate paralegal and raising teens?
My first paid article was published a month before I accepted my first paralegal position. My scheduled writing time is weekend mornings while my kids are asleep. I also write during lunch breaks and any time the kids are out with their friends.

Who is the most interesting person you've interviewed for a freelance article?
I've met so many incredible people through interviews; it's tough to narrow it down to one. I would say indie publisher, Jacqueline Church Simmonds of Beagle Bay Books. She wrote a novel about a woman pirate captain based on her research for a college history class. When she realized publishers weren't keen on publishing her novel, she started her own publishing house. She turned her dream into a thriving business. Beagle Bay Books now has a catalogue of 26 titles

Who is your favorite novelist? Geraldine Brooks. Her excellent research skills are reflected in the authentic voices of her characters.

Favorite Internet Resource: Paralegal Gateway's Secretary of State Pages

Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs, for career and/or case development?
I read blogs to stay current with trends in the legal world. Adams Drafting ( provides on point discussion regarding various contract issues. Wall Street Journal Law Blog ( is a good resource for a variety of legal topics.

Fun Fact: Knitting is another one of my passions. My daughter has threatened to stage an intervention if I bring home any more yarn.

Favorite Quote: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

Professional Link:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Interview 101: How to Rock a Basic Black Suit

Many of Practical Paralegalism's readers tell me they are interviewing for law firm jobs for the first time, as they start first, second or third careers. Others are interviewing for new jobs after economic layoffs, and some are trying to get back in the legal field after a long hiatus to raise a family or care for a parent. Most of them have limited budgets, and most want to stretch their dollars to the max by working with an essential professional wardrobe basic that many of them already own: the black suit.

Throughout my legal career, I've always owned at least one black suit, like this Tahari suit from Overstock. It's hard to go wrong with basic black, which is classic, elegant and figure-flattering. You can mix a black suit with a variety of blouses and accessories, dress it up or down, or create a look that's ultra-conservative or a little bit edgy, depending on what you're doing.

But how can you keep your basic black suit from appearing completely boring on that first interview? How do you walk that fine line between looking dowdy (or worse, like a flight attendant) - or memorably professional, confident and modern?

You can brighten up a black suit with a sleeveless blouse in a color that flatters your skin tone. With so many of today's designs featuring well-tailored twists, pleats or ruffles, you can find an inexpensive solid-colored top that adds an interesting design element to an otherwise unadorned basic suit and allows you to unbutton your jacket so you can show off the details - and breathe.

Depending on the neckline, adding either a modern take on classic pearls, such as this adjustable multi-strand necklace from Kohl's, or a small pair of elegant earrings, provides that extra polish. (When in doubt I swear by my clearance-sale bezel-set diamond studs or my grandmother's pearls, but whatever you do, avoid combining a chunky necklace with matching chunky earrings for law firm interviews.)

If you rock that simple black suit and score a second or third interview, don't panic - or run out and buy more suits you can't afford yet. You can wear the same jacket over a solid faux wrap or shift dress, or replace the pants with a black skirt and add a pretty print blouse. That pair of classic black heels that every legal professional should own can go with all of your black suit combinations - at least until you get that first paycheck.

If you haven't interviewed for a law firm in a while (or ever), here are a few tips to make that first impression one of a competent, energetic and intelligent legal professional:
  • Make sure your hair, make-up and even your eyeglasses are understated and classic, but flattering. (Ask some professional friends for feedback on your interview looks, especially if you haven't changed a thing since high school.)
  • Carry a classic purse or briefcase with well-organized contents - especially if those contents include your resume, references and/or writing samples.
  • Keep fingernail polish clear or neutral.
  • Turn your cell phone off before you enter the building.

Now go out there and rock that essential basic black suit!

Related Post: What to Wear to a Paralegal Job Interview

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

I blog for paralegals - and legal assistants, legal secretaries, legal staffers and attorneys who want to get to know us better - to share information they might find helpful for professional development, or a much needed laugh during a hectic week working for lawyers. Once a week I share links to a half dozen or so articles focusing on legal news and humor, practice tips and technology.

Here's this week's list:

"Quick Self-Audit: What Kind of Employee Are You?" (Law Business Tips) ~ Every now and then we all need to take a good look at ourselves and ask if we're being the best professionals we can be. Nancy poses some good questions to ask, including "Do you respect and show respect to all employees regardless of their title, job, seniority or lowness in the pecking order?"

"Pay Your Legal Assistant's Dues, Make Yourself Happy" (The Last Word) ~ If your firm's not paying annual paralegal or legal staff association dues for at least one active state or local group, here are some good reasons to do so.

"Poster's remorse common for social-network users" (Digital Media) ~ I can't say this enough. Assume anything you post on a social network is not private. Think before you post it. If you're really mad, back away from your computer, and instead of posting an angry status update, go for a long walk or call a close friend.

"Perform Reverse Phone Number Lookups with Google Maps" (Futurelawyer) ~ Call me paranoid, but I like to know who's calling me. I also like for reverse lookups. What's your favorite reverse lookup site?

"Best 3 Sites for Free Word Templates" (Business Hacks) ~ I refer people to Microsoft Office Online all the time for sample functional resume templates, a great format for legal staffers to use to showcase their legal, communication and computer skills. I used a Microsoft Office functional resume template when I had to update my own resume for an executive committee appointment.

"Watch Those 'Jury Duty' Tweets, People" (Lowering the Bar) ~ Remember the days when we used to wonder what jurors were thinking? Thanks to social media, now we do. I just did a Twitter search for "jury duty" and found most of the recent tweets about it contained expletives I can't re-print here. But not having jury duty did motivate at last one person to go to church today, so that's a good thing, right? (User name left out to protect the thankful.)

"The Hundred-Layer Lasagne" (the kitchen) ~ Don't look at this if you're hungry and not likely to get awesome lasagne any time soon. When I tweeted this link, one of my social media buddies thought it said "hundred-lawyer" lasagne.

Favorite Practical Paralegalism post from this week last year: "On Missing @lilyhill"

If you've got a link to an article that you think Practical Paralegalism readers would enjoy or find helpful, please feel free to send it to me at

Legal Secretary Sacked for Sending Personal Email from Work

Or, Yet Another Reason Why Your Work Computer Isn't Really Yours

How many times have you sent personal email via your law firm email address, signed with your official law firm signature?

If we're being honest, most of us likely have sent personal business correspondence from our work address at one time or another, but it's never a good idea, as illustrated by the experience of Australian legal secretary, Vassie Seidel.
Seidel lost her job after e-mailing a complaint from work to organizers of the Australian-Italian Festival. Although she was not a permanent employee of Macdonnell's Law, she still signed the email as an employee of the firm.

Seidel asked the festival organizers for her money back, but instead she was terminated for breaching the firm's email policy. She told the Herald Sun, 'I made a mistake and I sent a private email from my work account but to lose my job because someone at the festival office took offense is wrong. It's vindictive.''

Whether the organizers brought her email to the attention of her employer or not, the bottom line is that she breached a personnel policy and suffered the harshest consequences for it, the loss of her legal secretarial position.

Seidel found out the hard way that your work computer isn't really yours, but she's young and likely won't repeat this mistake at her next job.

The moral of this story: Know your employer's policies regarding email usage - but even if the rules are liberal or nil, wait until you get home and then send personal correspondence from your personal email account.

Source: Herald Sun

Today's Quote: From Legal Secretary to Candidate for Circuit Court Judge

"I come from a blue collar family and a small business background. I understand what it's like to live from paycheck to paycheck. I can relate to the common person." ~ Janice Keeton, a Florence attorney and former legal secretary who worked her way through law school, states that her background will enable her to relate to people who would appear in her courtroom. She's running in a general election for one of three circuit judge posts in Lauderdale County, Alabama.

Keeton includes her years as a secretary/paralegal, membership and executive board duties in the Lauderdale County Legal Secretaries Association, and being named Legal Secretary of the Year twice among her achievements in her campaign bio.

Her accomplishments are a reminder to all of us to bring our best to every job we take, no matter what our title is, because we're all an important part of the legal team - and you never know where your path will take you.

Paralegal Student Is the Biggest Man on Campus

And the Biggest Man in America

Igor Vovkovinskiy, a paralegal student at the Minnesota School of Business, is the new Guinness World Records title holder of Tallest Living American Man.

At 7 feet 8.33 inches, earning the title is no stretch.

Like many legal professionals, Vovkovinskiy values good evidence. He told AOL News:

It feels good to finally have proof that I am the Tallest Man in America. Everyone is always asking me if I'm certain that I'm the tallest and I was never able to prove it. Now that I have this certificate to hang on my wall, I could finally show it!"
Squeezing into a desk in class may be a challenge, but at home he has a 9-foot long bed.

I admit that my first question was, "Where in the world does he get size 26 shoes?" A Google search yielded the answer: they are specially made for him by a German shoemaker who makes shoes "free of charge for the world's 10 tallest people."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday LOL: Get Lost, Cats

Ya'll know I'm not a big fan of cats since ours slept peacefully within three feet of a live possum in our living room, but in honor of YouTube's fifth anniversary last week and the Lost grand finale tomorrow night (I like to call this show "It's raining men, Hallelujah!"), this video is too good not to share:

Source: Mashable

Thursday, May 20, 2010

2010 Technology Goals for Paralegals from NCBA's Practice Management Center

I've been carrying around the January 2010 issue of Practice Management, the North Carolina Bar Association's Law Practice Management Section newsletter, because of Erik Mazzone's terrific article "12 for 2010". Erik, the director of NCBA's Center for Practice Management, recommends 12 technology goals that legal professionals can implement one month at a time, especially if they seem a little overwhelming at first. I know it's almost June, but I still want to share some of his great recommendations with my fellow paralegals.

  • Try a new browser. I'm loving Google Chrome, and am going to follow Erik's recommendations to try some extensions. Any recommendations?

  • Buy yourself a smartphone. You can ask my husband. I've been in angst over making a commitment to the right smartphone for several months. I didn't feel so bad when Steve Fox wrote an essay about his own inability to make the decision in the April 2010 issue of PC World, "When Smartphones Make Us Feel Dumb." If a techie like Steve feels likes his head might explode from all the available choices, then I'm not alone in my dithering, especially when a two-year commitment is involved.

  • Get out there and network. When I talk to paralegals who are new to social media and a little hesitant, I tell them, "If you don't do anything else, set up a LinkedIn profile." You need a professional virtual presence.

  • Try a digital notebook. Like Erik, I am mad about Evernote (

  • Use an RSS (feed) reader. This is one of the easiest ways to keep up with legal news and technology, and I'm always surprised to find that so few of my colleagues use one. I believe in it so strongly that I wrote an article, "Feed Your Mind: Stay on Top of Your Career with an RSS Feed Reader," for the April/June 2010 issue of Paralegal Today.

  • Use a better to-do list. Erik recommends Remember the Milk (, which my husband is also a fan of.

I recommend that you add NCBA's Law Practice Matters Blog to that RSS reader I know you've set up by now.

Related Post: Hey, Paralegals, What's in Your RSS Reader?

Transgender Paralegal and Politician Heads to DC

"You can't get more honest than (openly transgender individuals) are. It's not like we're living a lie anymore." ~ Pam Bennett.

Sometimes I read about paralegals who capture my imagination and admiration based on their courage, their commitment to their communities, and the obvious respect they've earned from those who write about them.

Pam Bennett is one such paralegal. A longtime resident of Aurora, Colorado and a recent city council candidate, she is the subject of an editorial by Dave Perry of The Aurora Sentinel, "Dressed for Success, Pam Bennett heads to DC."

A parent, a grandparent, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a Commissioner with the City of Aurora Veterans Affairs Commission, Bennett was Aurora's first transgender politician. Over the course of her campaign, she made quite an impression on Perry, who describes his first sight of her: "She was about 6-feet tall in sensible pumps, wore a conservative, powder-blue, skirted suit, had bleach-blond, chin-length hair begging for a hot oil treatment and a truly infectious smile. It really was more of a grin."

She admitted she wasn't the "girl next door." Much to his surprise, Perry found her likable, well-versed on key city issues and "gracious." In October 2009, The Voice of Aurora wrote that she brought "thoughtful compassion to the race" and said that her transgender status had not defined her candidacy.

In a blog post, Pam openly shared her experience being laid off in April of this year from a paralegal job she knew was temporary but that she enjoyed. She wondered if her age (60) and transgender status were preventing her from getting other offers of employment. She focused on her special skills:

What I do know is that anyone with a skill or knowledge that is in demand will receive consideration for employment. It was that special skill or knowledge that I possess that I needed to discover. I also want to help my co-workers who are about to be laid off to discover what their special skill or knowledge is.

Multi-Discipline Engineer Paralegal.

Says it all. Very nice and succinct. Software, hardware, system integration and certified Paralegal all in one person. So if anyone is looking for me I am here; ready to interview and start working.

In his column, Perry reports that Bennett did get offered a good paralegal job - in Washington, D.C. He mused as she left his office that he'd "never known anyone more honest about who they really were" and that her honesty is "something you'd expect to hear from the girl next door."

I think Washington, D.C. has plenty of opportunities for an honest politician, and wish Bennett the best of success at her new job and in her new life.

Sources: The Aurora Sentinel;

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Working Girl Wednesday: I Have PTSD

Or, Possum Traumatic Stress Disorder

Ya'll got kids? You know I got kids, two eighth grade girls to be specific.

It's exactly four years, three months, fourteen days, two hours and ten minutes before I can drive them to their freshman dorms at college.

Not that I'm counting.

They really love me, 'cause look what I found in my desk chair this evening. (My possum tale has gone down in the annals of infamous family history. They beg me to shriek, "It's PLAYIN' dead!")

Maybe it was a tough day at the law office, but I have to admit that I jumped a mile when I saw this stuffed but still oddly ghoulish-looking possum that my darling kids left for me.

Maybe it's the tail.

This one has a name, "Cheese Puff," but I'm here to tell you, even stuffed possums look like creepy dead things in a low light.

This interesting possum fact from Planet Possum has not in fact done anything to calm my newfound PTSD:
While "playing possum," they emit a smelly substance from their anal gland which smells like rotten meat. This makes the opossum appear to be a rotting carcass and most predators will not eat him.
Cheese Puff. Right.

Paralegal Profile: Lorie J. Smith, Paralegal Today's Spotlight for April/June 2010

Job Title: Paralegal

Employer: Hager & Associates Law Office, P.C., Wilmington, NC 28401

Years of Paralegal Experience: 1

Specialty Area: Family Law

Career Highlight: Winning the North Carolina Bar Association Paralegal Division Student Scholarship.

Paralegal Practice Tip: Wear comfortable shoes!

Favorite Internet Resource: for forms and court calendars

Favorite Legal Software: PCLaw is awesome for billing. We also use Amicus Attorney, and I find it is very user-friendly and easy for calendaring, leaving phone messages and tickling important dates.

Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs, for career and/or case development?
I only use Facebook to play games - not at work, of course : ) I love Practical Paralegalism!! I don't wanna slant this or anything but I really do love it. Great, up to date, reliable stuff (especially since I'm new) and keeps things on the light side. I love it on a bad day at the office - I'm gigglin' anyway!

Favorite Quote: Never miss a really good opportunity to shut up.

I was privileged and honored to write the Paralegal Spotlight article about Lorie, "From Rock Bottom to Rock Star," for the April/June 2010 issue of Paralegal Today. Since I first read about Lorie in the news last spring, she's been one of my heroes, and I'm excited to share her story with Paralegal Today's readers. She's also become a friend through the power of social media.

Also, if you enjoy Practical Paralegalism and are a legal staffer, I could use your help in the form of a Paralegal Profile about you! It's a great way to raise the profile of the paralegal profession and put faces to the many legal professionals out there who are the quiet and often unsung backbone of the practice of law. You don't have to have years of experience or be the president of an association - all you have to do is be a hard-working legal staffer willing to share a little bit of your own experience in the form of answers to a short questionnaire. If you're interested, please email me at

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Today's Quote: Sing Loud and Proud Anyway

When you were seven, you stood on risers in church with your cousin, Carla, and your friend, Pam, singing "Away in a Manger" for the brimming congregation. Afterward you ran down the aisle to find your mother. "Mom, how was it? Was I good?"

She beamed and circled her arms around you and said, "Oh, Honey, you were so loud."

Savannah Maynard, a Charlotte, North Carolina paralegal and freelance writer, gracefully shares the inner longings and heartbreak of those of us who dream of making it big as singers - but can't actually sing - in "The Fine Art of Singing Badly".

I love this beautifully perceptive essay, which contains the hopes and dreams of every one of us who ever realized, belatedly, that we really never are going to get a singing part on Glee.

"Joy to the World" (also commonly known as "Jeremiah was a bullfrog") is my absolute favorite song to sing badly.


Profile of Legal Document Assistant, Tammy Casados

The Anderson Valley Post has published an in-depth profile about Tammy Casados, a California legal document assistant who owns her own business, C & C Document Service, in Anderson. Casados has an associate degree in paralegal studies, and is working toward a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.

I recommend that you check out the article in its entirety to learn more about Casados and what a legal document assistant can do in California, but I loved some of Casados' answers to the Post questionnaire so much that I'm sharing a few excerpts here:

Pets: Two dogs. Chico and Pohkeyta. Pohkeyta is missing.

My worst job: Is not having a job.

In my spare time: What spare time?

If stranded on a deserted island, I would want: My dog.

(I would have given the same answer to that last question.)

Practical Paralegalism really hopes that Casados finds Pohkeyta!

Legal Assistant to Compete for Mrs. Pennsylvania Title

Sherri Xanthopoulous Russo, the current reigning Mrs. Collegeville and a legal assistant employed by Keenan, Ciccito and Associates for 13 years, has a very personal platform for her competition in the Mrs. Pennsylvania International Pageant. A thyroid cancer survivor, she is also using Facebook to raise thyroid cancer awareness:

It is my intention to encourage gynecologists to make this simple neck check part of their regular routine gynecological examinations. I intend to develop a brochure to be placed in OGBYN offices teaching women how to perform a neck check and encouraging them to do it as part of their regular self breast exams.

Contestants are judged on their interview skills and appearance, as well as evening gown and swimsuit competitions. The 2010 Mrs. Pennsylvania pageant will be held in York on May 29. Winners of the state pageants go on to the national competition in August.

Russo's platform to raise thyroid cancer awareness is critical, with "the incidence of thyroid cancer in women rising faster than any other cancer in the United States." The Light of Life Foundation's award-winning public service announcement "Check Your Neck" is successfully raising public awareness.

According to The Light of Life Foundation, thyroid cancer is often diagnosed by patients themselves. has a step-by-step article "How to Do a Thyroid Self-Check". Check your neck - and ask your doctor to as well.

Practical Paralegalism wishes Sherri X. Russo the best of luck in the upcoming 2010 Mrs. Pennsylvania Pageant. Regardless of the outcome, she's a winner in our book.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How to Get Fired on Facebook 101

Even though I recommend Facebook as a great way to network and get to know your friends, family and other professionals better, Facebook is not for the faint of heart - or those who like to pour their hearts out via social media.

Fellow North Carolinian Ashley Johnson found that out the hard way. According to The Charlotte Observer, she lost her lucrative waitress job at Brixx Pizza after she posted a status update complaining about a couple that she felt stiffed her on her tip - and mentioned the restaurant by name.

Brixx has a company policy against complaining publicly about customers and "casting the restaurant in a bad light on a social network." Johnson has apologized and told The Observer, "...I had no idea that something that, to me is very small, could result in my losing my job."

There's no word on how Johnson was busted by Brixx, whether she was friends with co-workers who reported back to her supervisors - or the supervisors themselves - or if her privacy settings allowed more users than she thought access to her profile.

Facebook can enrich both your personal and professional life - by following some basic social media rules for self-preservation:
  • Check your Facebook privacy settings carefully - you might be surprised by who can see your profile.

  • But assume anyone can see your profile, and post information accordingly.

  • Don't post any information that you wouldn't reveal in a live setting, such as at a PTA meeting, business conference or work.

  • Never post negative information about your employer, your customers or your business colleagues.

  • Know your employer's social media policies.

The same advice goes for Twitter, which was another employee's downfall after she inadvertently tweeted (read "publicly blabbed") about her formerly anonymous sex blog - using her real name.


The golden social media advice from The Delaware Employment Law Blog is, "...if you put it on the Internet, you'd better assume that your boss is going to see it and is going to hold you accountable."

Would You Bleed Purple for Corporate?

So you're at the annual employer conference, in a recessionary economy, and your boss mentions that the really loyal employees (the ones he seems to lunch with the most) are all getting the company logo tattooed on their bodies, and coincidentally, there's a tattoo artist right there on the premises to help you show your team spirit - forever.

What do you do? Hope you're being punk'd? Submit - and tell your family that you were a victim of the open bar and your only memory of the last day of the conference is the company logo on your butt? Look your boss right in the eye and tell him that you have a rare tattoo ink allergy, which you know from firsthand experience, because you have "Mo" written in a very personal place and that you're so traumatized you told the only person in a position to see it, i.e. your gynecologist, that it's your nickname - and wasn't really supposed to be in memory of your sainted mom whom you lived with until you were 38?

You're probably thinking, "I'm a paralegal. No way will my employer suggest company tattoos when it's still against company policy not to wear pantyhose with skirts."

Yes. Way.

Minnesota paralegal Katie Edmeier, employed by Anytime Fitness, now has the company logo, a running man symbol, tattooed on her upper arm. So do 200 other seriously loyal staffers. Edmeier isn't worried that she'll regret the tat if she moves on. She told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that she'll just view it as a reminder to live healthy.

In "Taking Company Brand to a Whole New Level," Melissa Hinote at Paralegalese wisely and firmly points out that she'll go the distance for an employer she respects, "but I will not get a tattoo of the company logo on any part of my body."

I'm with Melissa. Not only am I deathly afraid of needles and of having limited space for future company logos in the event I don't retire there, but I'm afraid of what the company logo might look like when I'm 80.

Happy Ohio Paralegal Day!

If you're a paralegal in Ohio, then today's your day:

The Cleveland Association of Paralegals, Inc. (CAP) is celebrating Ohio Paralegal Day May 17th. Governor Ted Strickland signed a Proclamation declaring the 3rd Monday in May as Ohio Paralegal Day. Mayor Frank G. Johnson signed a Proclamation designating May 17, 2010 as Paralegal Day in the City of Cleveland. The date was selected to mark the incorporation of the first paralegal association in Ohio - Paralegal Association of Central Ohio. It is a day to recognize the hard work and dedication that paralegals do on behalf of their employers and for the public.

Thanks to CAP for sharing its Paralegal Day press release. Several other states have celebrated Paralegal Day (although not on the same dates), including New York, Michigan, South Carolina, Texas, California, Connecticut and Utah.

If you're an Ohio paralegal, did you or your employer do anything special for your day?

(If you're like me and live in a state without an official Paralegal Day, you'll just have to make do with St. Patrick's Day.)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

I blog for paralegals to share information they might find helpful for professional development - or a much needed laugh during a hectic week working with lawyers. Once a week (or every other week when the demands of a full-time job and teens supercede my best intentions) I share links to a half dozen or so articles focusing on legal news and humor, practice tips and technology.

Here's this week's list:

"Productivity...and a Clean Desk" ( ~ Great tips on how to get your desktop clutter down to only the project you're currently working on.

"Best of ABA TECHSHOW - Digital Workflow: Developing the Paperless Habit" (Law Practice Today) ~ This article not only walks you through the process to an office with less paper in it, but provides links for software and training.

"Why Skype is the Most Used Software in Our Law Firm" (Divorce Discourse) ~ I use Skype at home, but this post provides great ideas about its multiple uses for the office.

"Adobe Debuts eSignatures, Takes Digital Signature to the Cloud" (TechCrunch) ~ Hmmmm, free vs. the cost of overnight shipping - and paperless? What's not to love?

"Enhancing & Maintaining the Value of Paralegals" (Law Business Tips) ~ I just heard Nancy Byerly Jones present this very subject at the North Carolina Bar Association Paralegal Division's very successful annual meeting and conference last week. Even if you weren't there, Nancy's excellent advice for having a successful paralegal career is summarized very well in this post.

"My So-Called Laptop" (Engadget) ~ 1987 was a good year, no? The biggest laugh I get during my social media presentations is when I revisit highlights of "technology" from the late 80s and the slide with the flashing DOS prompt appears.

Practical Paralegalism's favorite old post for this week, "Top 10 Social Media Tips for Paralegals" ~ After delivering a presentation on social media for career development at the NCBA Paralegal Division's annual meeting on Friday, if even one attendee sets up an RSS reader to keep up with professional blogs, creates a complete LinkedIn profile, or follows some legal experts on Twitter, I'll feel like my work there was done.

You're Never Too Old to Start a New Career

Davida Barnes graduated from Nashua Community College's Paralegal Studies program in Nashua, New Hampshire this weekend with two notable distinctions. At age 79, not only is she the oldest student in this year's graduating class, but she also received a rose at the ceremony, recognizing her as "the person most significant to the completion of the current goal of graduation."

Barnes, the mother of eight children, already has an internship lined up with a local attorney. She holds a master's degree in human services and previously worked for the U.S. Department of Labor for many years. When that job ended, she sold manufactured homes for 15 years "until the housing market collapsed." She embarked on training to be a paralegal when she determined she could not live on Social Security.

Davida Barnes sounds like a go-getter who doesn't let the grass grow under her feet. She'll bring a wealth of valuable vocational and life experiences to the paralegal profession. She told The Nashua Telegraph that she "couldn't have asked for a better internship," but it sounds like her future supervising attorney couldn't have asked for a better intern.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Today's Quote: Walk the Walk

"I was thinking their dresses were like perfect bridesmaid dresses." ~ New York paralegal Helen Dweck didn't realize how prophetic her thoughts were when her boyfriend, Joseph Setton, popped the question to her in the latest art installation and performance piece, "Walk the Walk," inside Bryant Park. The installation represents "an aggressive examination of work and gender roles, with women pounding their heels above an outdoor office cubicle of sorts."

Even the artist, Kate Gilmore, didn't expect her work to inspire a proposal - but still found Setton "adorable."

Utah State Bar Paralegal Division Selects Paralegal of the Year

The Paralegal Division of the Utah State Bar has selected Sanda Flint, CP as its 2010 Distinguished Paralegal of the Year. The award honors:
...a Utah paralegal who, over a long and distinguished career, has by their ethical and personal conduct, commitment and activities, exemplified for their fellow paralegals and the attorneys with whom they work, the epitome of professionalism...

Flint served as the Continuing Legal Education Chair on the 2009-2010 Board of Directors, and has been employed by Strong & Hanni in Salt Lake City for a decade, working in the area of insurance defense. She is a past Chair of the Paralegal Division 2003-2004.

Congratulations to Flint for the well-deserved recognition of her outstanding career and contributions to the paralegal profession.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune

Saturday Laugh Out Loud: A Cake to Celebrate the Loss of a Few Pounds

Getting divorced? There's even a cake for that. A reader recently sent me an email with pictures of divorce cakes - for your divorce party to celebrate losing major poundage in the form of an unwanted spouse.

Source: 31 Awesome Cakes to Celebrate Your Divorce

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Working Girl Wednesday: Critter Control Ain't in My Job Duties

I'm a longtime paralegal. I like to think I function well under pressure, and that I can handle pretty much anything thrown at me in a fast-paced litigation practice. I've always been proud of my ability to solve problems and think on my feet in emergencies.

But recently, I've had reason to be less proud.

It's All Sinbad's Fault

Late last Saturday night, the hubby and I were enjoying some rare down time with the big screen television all to ourselves. For almost an hour, we'd been laughing our rear ends off to one of Sinbad's routines on Comedy Central. I was in total agreement with him not to let your grown children move back home.

Life was good until my husband said, "Don't look, honey. The Cat brought us a present. I'll take care of it. Just don't look."

My husband knows I hate dead things - and am not overly fond of The Cat, either.

I still couldn't resist taking a peek from the safety of the love seat.

I peeked enough to see a very long rubbery tail, and hit the panic button, assuming The Cat had gifted us with a loathsome and large Winston-Salem City Rat. As a shiver of revulsion scurried down my spine, my husband approached, trying his best to reassure me, "Honey, I'll take care of it. Don't worry...I think it's dead."

But by that time I had seen enough to know that a good-sized possum was attached to the long rubbery tail, and despite suffering from laryngitis for several days, found that my Inner Operatic Shriek still worked perfectly fine.

While no wildlife expert, I knew enough to raggedly scream at my poor husband, "It's PLAYIN' DEAD! 'Cause that's what possums DO!!!!!"

Which caused said possum to miraculously revive like Larazus from the tomb, and streak across the living room to the safety of the sofa underworld.

Which caused said paralegal to scramble over the back of the love seat to put on her rubber galoshes and grab a broom - because the other factoid she retained about possums is that they are excellent climbers.

Get Your Own Broom

In defense of my emergency problem-solving skills, I want to add that I also grabbed the dogs and The Cat to shut them safely away in bathrooms and bedrooms, and blocked off every exit from the living room - except the outside patio doors - with sofa pillows and laundry baskets.

My husband and I then intensely analyzed the situation, using the nice flashlight I got as a speaker gift from the North Carolina Bar Association to pinpoint the possum's exact location under the sofa. The Cat was not the culprit. The critter was not hurt. It likely walked in the open patio doors on its own four legs and involuntarily became comatose when it heard people shouting with laughter because Sinbad is so dang funny. I helpfully offered that I'd be spending the night in a hotel if the possum stayed. I promised to try not to scream again.

I did think of getting a vendor to do this specialty work, and called Critter Control, listed in the Yellow Pages as a "humane" remover of pests from your home, only to get a recorded slow Southern drawl announcing, "This is Robert from Critter Control. I am sorry that I cannot assist you right now, but I am in the field. Please leave a message."

Clearly, it was a hoppin' Saturday night for the critters, which left my husband and me on our own. We learned later that we didn't follow the recommended possum removal process (using cat food to lure the unwelcome varmint into a trash can tipped on its side). After we upended the sofa, the thoroughly traumatized possum did a fabulous job of continuing to look like it had been dead for hours. My husband used a broom (not the one I refused to let go of) to gently but firmly roll it (think Olympic curling) out the back door. It remained unmoving, except for an occasional ear twitch, for another 45 minutes before miraculously reviving again and beating a hasty retreat.

It's important to learn from your traumatic experiences, right?

I learned that possums are a lot cuter at The Nature Science Center than in your living room, and not to leave the patio doors open at night.

You Like Tomato and I Like Tomahto

You like potato and I like potahto, You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto, Let's call the whole thing off

~ Louis Armstrong, "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off"

Tomatoes, tomahtos, whichever you prefer - the prison system still frowns on inmates receiving steamy photos of their gal pals wearing nothing but the "strategically placed" ripe, red fruit. (If this post makes you see tomatoes in an uncomfortable new light, I'm sorry.)

It doesn't matter if you're only an unsuspecting paralegal delivering personal mail [thinly] disguised as confidential legal correspondence to "The Tomato King" (also known as Frederick Scott Salyer) during his residence at the Sacramento Main County Jail. You're still the one banned from future jailhouse visits with your firm's client.

The AmLaw Daily reports:

Here's one we haven't heard before, via the Los Angeles Times: Sacramento, Calif., authorities have banned a law firm paralegal from a county jail after she brought a firm client a package marked "Atty Client" that contained an emery board and a nude photograph of one of the client's girlfriends holding tomatoes over her breasts. Ahem.

The contents of the package are not what we'd normally consider to be covered by the attorney-client privilege, and the authorities in Sacramento agreed. Despite the fact that the paralegal from the four-lawyer firm Segal & Kirby didn't know she was delivering a produce pin-up, they banned her from visiting the firm's client, Frederick Scott Salyer, the Times reports.

Not having to deliver this guy's mail sounds like more of a relief than a punishment...

Sources: The AmLaw Daily; Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

You Think a Paper Cut Is Bad?

by Debbie Hones

An experienced workers' compensation paralegal for many years, I had the opportunity to raise an adjuster's eyebrows when I gave a recorded statement for my own on-the-job injury several years ago.

I told the adjuster from the very beginning that I was calling to report my own claim because it was just my supervising attorney, Jay Gervasi, and me.

She asked, "What department do you work in?"

Answer: "All of them."

She persisted, "Who is the HR person?"

Answer: "Me."

She gamely continued, "Who is your supervisor?"

Answer: "Jay is my supervisor. Obviously, he was not doing a very good job of supervising me since I got hurt."

But I'm sure a red flag went up when I told her that I got hurt putting a wood chisel through my hand.

That's right, a wood chisel.

I adapted my desk so that the top drawers are open to provide more work space. I made the covers that fit over the drawers in order to use the drawer but also have an extra surface to work on.

One day I reorganized the drawer, and the cover did not fit any more. I had to remove the block of wood under the cover. I guess I did too thorough of a job attaching it. I needed a wood chisel to remove the piece of wood.

But the wood chisel slipped and went through the thumb pad of my left hand. I ended up in the emergency room. When the triage clerk asked me if I had had an accident, I feigned puzzlement and replied, "No, I did it on purpose so I could get the day off."

Where did I get the wood chisel? From my supervising attorney.

Debbie is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal employed by Jay A. Gervasi, Jr. in Greensboro, North Carolina, and is a member of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice Legal Assistant Division and the North Carolina Bar Association Paralegal Division. The photos are courtesy of Jay and Debbie's office mates, who had a little fun with the "crime scene." They sound like a great group to work with, and Practical Paralegalism thanks Debbie for generously sharing this just-another-day-in-the-life-of-a-paralegal story with its readers.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Grammar Geek Grammy

You know how some people dream of having their 15 minutes of fame on reality TV shows like American Idol, Survivor - or Paris Hilton's My New BFF?

Not me. I can't sing, I like my food processed - and Paris scares me. Instead, I dream of catching that next big grammar snafu for one of my favorite grammar blooper blogs, like The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks or Apostrophe Catastrophes.

I knew I'd hit poor punctuation payola when I pulled a flyer out of a bag of groceries recently, chock full of glaring but charmingly consistent grammatical errors. I could tell the store manager was sincere in his desire to be of service, and I'll always be grateful that he helped me score my first accepted submission to Apostrophe Catastrophes (kinda like winning a Grammy for a Grammar Geek):

If you're going to misuse punctuation, you should always do it in all caps and the largest font possible.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

Happy Mother's Day! I hope your children showed their appreciation for the hard-working legal professional moms in their lives - or at least didn't announce at 5:00 p.m. today that they have a project worth 50% of their grade in Social Studies due tomorrow - that they've known about for weeks and haven't started.

I blog for paralegals to share information they might find helpful for professional development - or a much needed laugh during a hectic week working with lawyers. Once a week (or every other week when the demands of a full-time job and teens supercede my best intentions) I share links to a half dozen or so articles focusing on legal news and humor, practice tips and technology.

Here's this week's list:

"6 Rules for Protecting Confidential Information" (Lawyerist) ~ Essential ethical rules to live by.

"5 Simple Tools for a Paperless Office" (Mashable) ~ I've researched the benefits of going paperless, now let's talk about how to make it happen.

"Useful (and free) Office resources from Microsoft" (Compujurist) ~ Need to brush up on your MS skills? There's no better time than now, and you can't beat the price.

"Work Smarter, Go Home Sooner" (The Last Word) ~ Once you've experienced the joys of a second monitor, your life will never be the same.

"10 Must Have iPhone Apps for Lawyers" (The MacLawyer) ~ What's your favorite smartphone app for work?

"One for You, One for Me" (Paralegalese) ~ Another insightful post from Tennessee paralegal Melissa Hinote, this time discussing the power of delegation.

"The Case of the $18,000 Phone Bill" (WSJ Law Blog) ~ Once I yelled at my teen for running up an extra $64 in texting overages. Honey, I sincerely apologize. It was a mere pittance compared to this - even though I made you pay me back.

Favorite Practical Paralegalism post from this time last year ~ "Why Didn't 'Scare My Pants Off'"

Image courtesy of

Facebook Helps Put Legal Assistant's Dog Over the Top

Even a dog can use Facebook to benefit a good cause, in this case Bark for Life of Pottstown. Pennsylvania legal assistant Lindsay Tate spread the word on Facebook about her dog Hank's participation in The Mercury's Top Dog competition, and raised enough votes, in the form of monetary contributions, for him to tie for first place.

Tate works for Miller Turetsky Rule & McLellan, P.C. in Collegeville, where Hank is also the law firm mascot. Tate got her co-workers involved in the canine fund-raising activity for the American Cancer Society (ACS) and told The Mercury, ""I just think it's such a great idea because dogs inspire people and it's so easy to just give a dollar or something to support a vote for a cute dog and know it's going toward a great cause."

Check out the slideshow of Mercury Top Dog contestants. With a group this good-looking, winning this contest was no walk in the park!

Source: The Mercury