Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Working Girl Wednesday: Rough Day? Go Home and Flambé Something

My current rough week started out with a rough Monday. I'm not whining (much). We all have rough weeks, and this one just turned out to be mine.

So I tweeted:

(That's the link to the blog, Paralegal Hell. Wonder if I should go ahead and grab the domain name, Paralegal Purgatory?)

And my virtual paralegal Twitter buddies rallied 'round.

One said, "There's always room for one more in Paralegal Hell."

(That's good to know - I think.)

So I raised a [figurative] glass, and toasted, "All rightee then! Icees all 'round!"

To which another paralegal (you know they're the real deal when the conversation switches immediately to food), asked, "What about baked goods? Will there be baked goods?"

Well, Paralegal Hell wouldn't be any fun without baked goods, so I confirmed, "You betcha. Alcohol is involved," and tweeted the link to this flaming dessert recipe, Bananas Foster.



I'm a fool for bananas, and the recipe has some awesome ingredients, including brown sugar, French vanilla ice cream balls - and rum. And you get to set it on fire - on purpose.

I think flaming desserts could be another good outlet for stressed-out paralegals. Instead of setting our desks on fire, we can go home and flambé ourselves a sinfully rich and comforting dessert.

Or, in my case, dinner...

Who knew Hamburger Helper ignited so quickly?

Legal Assistant and Lawyer Indicted for Stealing Millions from Vets

The My Fox Houston headline reads, "Elderly Couple Steals $2M From Vets."

That gave me pause in itself, because in most news stories, elderly couples are the victims.

But my heart absolutely sank as I read the story and learned that a lawyer, the sole practitioner of a small guardianship practice, and his wife, a legal assistant and the office manager, have been indicted by a grand jury for conspiring to steal more than $2 million dollars from mentally incompetent veterans.

According to the Texas Attorney General's office, Joe Phillips, a 71-year old attorney and former employee of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, was the legal guardian for these veterans, responsible for maintaining their financial affairs. He was supposed "to operate and maintain the bank accounts of the veterans to receive payments from the VA and SSA for ordinary and customary living expenses."

Instead, Phillips and his wife, Dorothy, 70, are accused of transferring the veterans' funds into his personal account over a five-year period from 2003 through 2008.

They are also accused of lying to the veterans about how much money they had in their accounts and failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax receipts.

The U.S. Attorney's Office news release ends with the statement, "Joe Phillips no longer serves as a fiduciary for any of his former military veteran clients."

The Phillips have yet to have their day in court. But it will be a sad one if the final verdict is that two legal professionals took advantage of the most vulnerable of prey, the mentally incompetent.

Sources: U.S. Attorney's Office - Southern District of Texas; myfoxhouston.com

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Professional Profile: Virginia M. Burrows, CLAS, NCCP & NCBA PD's 2010 Distinguished Paralegal

Job Title: Paralegal

Employer: K&L Gates LLP, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

Years of Paralegal Experience: Since 1982 – 28 years this summer

Specialty Areas: Commercial Real Estate

Career Highlight: Receiving the 2010 Distinguished Paralegal Award from the North Carolina Bar Association Paralegal Division

Paralegal Practice Tips:
  1. Find and USE a mentor who is a consummate professional with wonderful leadership qualities. Try hard to emulate that person. Even better – find several mentors.
  2. Never stop learning. Attend Continuing Paralegal Education events but also learn on your own by reading magazines, newspapers, books, etc., whatever is available to you.


Favorite Internet Resource: This is a hard question as I use so many web sites for different reasons. I guess I would have to say NETR Public Records Online Directory (http://publicrecords.netronline.com/).

Favorite Legal Software: Net Deed Plotter – a map drawing software for real estate professionals (http://www.deedplot.com/)

Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs, for career and/or case development? I use LinkedIn for career contact information and to find people with whom I have lost track. I also use the North Carolina Bar Association Real Property Section list-serv. I’m not sure if the latter is considered “social media”, but it is most certainly a wonderful resource.

Fun Fact: I entered a typing contest in high school – took first place at my school, first place at the county level, and third place at the state level – 125 words per minute with 1 error – on a manual typewriter no less! Wish I could consistently do that now.

Favorite Quotes: It varies from time to time and subject to subject, but at the moment they would be:

  1. "Take that first step in faith . . . you may not see the whole staircase, but take that first step." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  2. "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap . . . but by the seeds you plant!" - Robert Louis Stevenson

Professional Link: http://www.linkedin.com/in/virginiaburrows

_____________________

I've had the pleasure of getting to know Virginia while serving with her on the North Carolina Bar Association Paralegal Division Council. I'm in awe of her intellect and her generous service to the paralegal profession over many years. (I'm pretty sure she's forgotten more than I'll ever know.) Therefore, I was thrilled to be sitting right beside her at the reception when she was given the 2010 Distinguished Paralegal Award by NCBA PD. If you're looking for a paralegal to emulate, Virginia is an outstanding choice.

Today's Quote: Is Being a Doormat the Only Other Choice?

"Women have a very narrow path to walk; they risk coming across as a doormat or a bitch." ~ Robert Sutton, professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University and author of the upcoming book, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best and Learn from the Worst.



In a recent article, "The Problem with Women Bosses," Human Resource Executive Online explores a "prevalent double-standard in the American workplace," i.e. that staffers are not willing to tolerate the same poor behavior from female supervisors that they would tolerate in male supervisors. The article cites Chicago-Kent College of Law assistant professor Felice Batlan's forthcoming report based on a survey of 164 legal secretaries, which indicated most preferred working for male attorneys.

What about you guys? Do you prefer working male or female attorneys?

(Get your lucky doormat at Designer Doormats.)

Be the ONE - Message to Paralegals

Kathy Para, an attorney for Jackonsville Area Legal Aid in Jacksonville, Florida and the Jacksonville Bar Association's Pro Bono Committee Chair, is looking for legal professionals to be "The One" to help make a difference, even if it's in a single pro bono case:

At the annual Florida Bar Convention in Boca Raton this past week, attorneys from around the State were asked to be “The One” to give something back to their communities with pro bono legal services. They were asked to imagine the impact attorneys could make if every attorney took just one pro bono case. That single contribution could drastically reduce the enormous backlog of pro bono cases and significantly improve access to justice for all Florida residents.
Para's call for action in Florida lists several legal organizations that need help from both lawyers and paralegals, including the Guardian ad Litem program and The Missing Link of Jacksonville, which helps victims of domestic violence prepare pro se divorce documents. (The Northeast Florida Paralegal Association, Inc. has been involved with Missing Link for several years.)

There are pro bono opportunities in every state. With our special training and knowledge of the legal system, paralegals, legal assistants and other legal support staffers have a great deal to offer in this area, whether it's helping the organization directly, or working with our employers on pro bono cases.

It is an incredible feeling to make a difference in the life of a person who could not otherwise afford representation in the legal system. Volunteering your time will make a difference in your life, too. The years I spent as a Guardian ad Litem changed the way I see the world forever, and may have contributed to a decision I made years after I submitted the report in my last case: to adopt a child from the foster care system.

Do you need some ideas for volunteer opportunities in your area? Check out these sites, as well as your local and state bar associations:

The American Bar Association also has a terrific online resource, "How to Utilize Legal Assistants in Pro Bono Publico Programs."

Source: Jacksonville Daily Record

Monday, June 28, 2010

Would You Pass This Personality Test?

Jay Fleischmann, a consumer bankruptcy lawyer who blogs at Legal Practice Pro, has a new article at JD Supra that everyone should read, "6 Toxic Personalities No Law Firm Should Employ". He recommends that firms get rid of certain personality types early on - or risk being held hostage by difficult employees who know stuff their bosses don't. (Shoot, I thought this meant I was indispensable, even if I am kind of a pill if I miss a meal...)

If you find yourself doing any of the following, you might make the list:

  • Watching the clock
  • Unwilling to be accountable for mistakes
  • Failing to ask questions
  • Dragging your feet when it comes to returning phone calls
  • Regularly belly-aching (as opposed to constructive venting)
  • Staying silent when you should speak up

Jay's article is a good read, and an excellent reminder that even if we have loads of experience and top-notch legal skills, the failure to be a strong, honest and accountable team player could cost us a job.

Source: JD Supra

Related Post: Introducing the Bankruptcy Paralegal Forum

Today's Quote: From Legal Secretary to Judicial Clerk

How'd you get into being a judicial clerk?

Well, I went to college and my first job out of college was as a legal secretary for a law firm in Battle Creek, and that was over 20 years ago and I've just stayed in that field ever since then. I started here in July of 2009 working for Judge Kingsley, and previous to that I had worked for a family law attorney for over 20 years. I thought that when I applied for the job, I thought it'd be pretty challenging and rewarding working for a judge. It's interesting to see how having worked at an attorney's office -- where you would see how the paper flow starts and how the clients come in and discuss the cases with their attorneys -- and then now to see the other end where cases are finalized and how the whole process works.

Penny Shaw, a judicial clerk for Circuit Court Judge James C. Kingley of the 37th Judicial Circuit Court in Battle Creek, Michigan, gives a very informative interview to the Battle Creek Enquirer about her job duties. You can tell that Shaw really loves her job, and she speaks for many legal support staff members when she says, "...it's very rewarding, but it can be stressful at times when..." [Readers, you can fill in the blank].

Source: Battle Creek Enquirer

Related Post: What Else Can You Do with a Paralegal Degree?

NALS Needs You for Legal Support Industry Survey

NALS...the association for legal professionals needs you, even if you're not a member. NALS invites all legal support staffers, including legal secretaries, adminstrative assistants, legal assistants and paralegals to participate in its Legal Support Industry Survey at http://www.nals.org/ (under News).

I took the survey in under 90 seconds, so it won't take much time out of your busy schedule, and your input would be greatly appreciated by this terrific organization.

Be sure and check out all of the other great resources available at http://www.nals.org/.

New Advanced Ethics Course with The Paralegal Mentor

Vicki Voisin, The Paralegal Mentor, is offering a new 90-minute teleconference course, "Advanced Ethics: Complex Lessons for Attorneys, Paralegals and other Legal Professionals" this Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. EST. The course has been approved for 1.5 ethics MCLE credit by The State Bar of California and 1.5 ethics CLE credit by NALA, NALS and NFPA, as well as Florida CLE.

Vicki will cover the following key points (and more):

  • Regulation/Disciplinary Proceedings

  • The Unauthorized Practice of Law

  • Confidentiality and Privilege

  • Conflicts of Interest

  • Ethics Rules for Litigation

  • Ethics and Technology

Vicki is an amazing speaker and an experienced paralegal educator. This is an incredible opportunity to hear the latest in ethics issues from the comfort of your own office or home.

For more information and to register, click here. If you aren't already receiving Vicki's excellent (and free) weekly ezine, Paralegal Strategies, you can sign up for it at www.paralegalmentor.com/.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

I blog for paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, legal staffers - and the attorneys who want to get to know us better - to contribute to our virtual community and 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:

"Results are In! I'm a Happy Girl!" (A Paralegal's Journey to Lawyerhood) ~ Someone is understandably excited about her LSAT score. I recently added this blog to Practical Paralegalism's blog roll, and am looking forward to following this anonymous legal assistant's (a/k/a "lawschooldreamer") journey to law school.

"PACE Examination" (Paralegal Pie) ~ Kim's studying for NFPA's PACE certification, and she's going to share what she learns as she studies, so we don't have to! Or something like that...

"Jones Day Lays Off More Staffers, But Is 'Poised for Additional Growth'" (ABA Journal) ~ The news here isn't the layoffs, a common event for many firms over the last few years, but the reason officially stated by the firm:

"Universal adoption of smart phones, voice mail and e-mail enables (and requires) lawyers to be more self-sufficient” and reduces the need for support staff, the law firm said.

This story has generated discussion in other paralegal blogs, listservs and online groups. Technology is changing the way that law is practiced, and the role of legal staffers is changing with it. Make sure you're ready.

"Avoiding ethical pitfalls with electronic documents: Part 1 - Metadata" (State Bar of Wisconsin's Inside Track) ~ This is an essential read for all legal professionals. The authors share great tips for removing metadata. I'm looking forward to Part 2 about redaction.

"Illiterate Library" (Apostrophe Catastrophes) ~ You should see my face when I hear someone say "childerns" - much less write it.

"Advice to Boss on How to Enhance Our Working Relationship" (Paralegal Hell) ~ Another anonymous paralegal blogger shares tales from the front. I follow along, gasp sometimes at the disclosures and the, er, language - and if she's a real paralegal, hope the hell she doesn't get caught.

"BigLaw: The Five Jerks You Meet in Law Firms" (TechnoLawyer Blog) ~ Laugh at the associate and partner jerks all you want, but even the staff is included here under "The Indignant Admin," who sends firm-wide emails demanding the return of her scissors and complains about holiday gifts. Oh. Snap. I sent a firm-wide email demanding the return of my stapler once - and I am unbearable if I miss lunch, even if it's a cold Pop Tart on the fly.

Favorite Practical Paraleglism post from this time last year: "Cyber Graves": Give Your Executor Your Facebook Password

Related Guest Post by Beverly Michaelis, J.D.: Metadata 101: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

Donation Fund Established for Paralegal Shot in Head

On June 12, 2010, a South Carolina paralegal opened her car door to a slender and polite teenager who reminded her of her 12-year old daughter - and almost lost her life.

Danielle DelPercio, who lives in Conway, was shot in the head, allegedly by a 14-year old boy who has been charged with attempted murder and carjacking with great bodily injury. He is in custody and on suicide watch. DelPercio still has the bullet lodged in her skull, has no health insurance and is unable to work.

According to DelPercio's MySpace page, she has an associate degree in paralegal studies from Horry Georgetown Tech College and a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from Coastal Carolina University. She worked as a legal assistant and office manager for attorney Ralph Wilson in Conway for approximately nine years, and was most recently employed as a legal assistant for the Irvin Law Firm in Conway.

In today's column "After fight for life, a long road ahead" in the Myrtle Beach Sun News, journalist Issac Bailey writes of DelPercio:

She's the one who spent three decades of her life "standing up for the underdog, even in school," as her mother remembers it.

She's the one who has spent years as a paralegal in criminal defense cases, maybe even making too many excuses for the lives led by some of the clients she helped.

She's the one who will have to determine just how high she will put up her guard to the new world and how far she's willing to walk away from the carefree woman she was, one trusting enough to pick up a strange boy at night.

I can't imagine how DelPercio and her family must feel. I know they are beyond grateful that she is alive and on the road to recovery, but also struggling to deal with the consequences of DelPercio's fateful decision to help a teenage boy who appeared to be vulnerable, but instead took advantage of her vulnerability.

This incident reminds me of a hot summer day about ten years ago when I was stopped at an intersection, and a young woman with an infant suddenly opened my unlocked passenger door, slid into my car, and asked for a ride home because she had missed her bus. It was 95 degrees that day, and you could fry eggs on the sidewalk. I couldn't say no.

I drove her to an area of town well known for drug-dealing and violence, and let her out in front of a rundown apartment building. Several males in their late teens walked in front of my car and stood there so that I couldn't drive away. In that few minutes, I wondered if I had made the biggest mistake of my life by giving the young woman a ride. Finally, they slowly stepped aside while still staring at me, and I drove away - thinking I would never leave my car doors unlocked again.

It's a tough world when trying to be kind could end up costing so much.

I hope that Danielle DelPercio recovers fully from this tragic act of violence, physically and mentally, and is still able to be that person who stands up for the underdog - even though she'll likely never fully trust the underdog again.

If you'd like to donate to the Danielle DelPercio Fund, here is the link: http://www.danielledelperciofund.com/Danielle_DelPercio_Fund/Donation_Page.html


Sources: The Horry Independent; Myrtle Beach Sun News

Legal Secretary Wins Pepsi Grant for Community Center

Three years ago, an Ohio legal secretary and her husband saw a closed elementary school as a safe place for youth to gather in the community. They bought the building for $5,000, but did not have the additional funds needed to bring their dream to life.

Thanks to winning a Pepsi Refresh Project grant in the amount of $50,000, Kristin Combs and Michael Nance-Combs of Springfield, Ohio can start work on a number of projects needed to create the community center on the old Sawyerwood School grounds, including a T-ball field, a basketball court, a soccer field, batting cages, computers, and replacing 52 windows needed to meet the county's occupancy code.

The Pepsi Refresh Project site says, "We're looking for people, businesses, and non-profits with ideas that will have a positive impact. Look around your community and think about how you can change it." Applicants submit their ideas, and once Pepsi has received 1,000 applications each month, the company reviews them and posts the approved projects at its site for voting. Projects with the most votes receive grants in varying amounts to individuals, small groups and organizations from $5,000 - $250,000.

You can see Combs' project here. She states that the couple purchased the old school because they "thought this would be a great place for the kids to hang out." The goals of their project include promoting local youth activities and bringing their community together.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal article, Pepsi funded this grant program in lieu of purchasing Super Bowl advertising. Just imagine what kind of positive - and refreshing - changes we could see in our communities if more corporate giants took this approach.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Paralegal Tweet: I Live to Answer Discovery Requests

I'm sharing another tweet from one of my favorite legal assistant Twitterers, Susana (@madeinkowloon on Twitter):




I know you guys can feel her pain.

So can The Percolatin' Paralegal.

Susana also tweeted this week, "some guy here for mediation just came into my office and used my stapler. what in the world? ever heard of knocking and asking?"

A couple of weeks ago, a random scruffy guy wandered into my office and announced, "I'm gonna fire one off."

By the time I found just the right word, "WUT?" - he clarified, "The fire alarm, ma'am. The fire alarm."


More Susana Posts: Social Media 101: A Bit of Fun with a Meme; Objection Gone Overboard

Legal Assistant Wins a Week at Long Beach Island

Sometimes knowing that you've got a beach vacation to look forward to can make all the difference in the world, especially when the going gets tough.

A New Jersey legal assistant suffering from a painful medical condition so debilitating that she can't work or drive right now learned that she won a week's stay at a beautiful beach - while she was being transported by ambulance to a hospital.

Lorraine Esposito, who lives in South Plainfield, received the news via her cell phone that she won first prize in The Shore Thing Sweepstakes sponsored by New Jersey Media. She, along with several family members and friends, will get to spend a week at a house located in the prestigious Loveladies section of Long Beach Island.

Esposito told the Asbury Park Press, "For a year, I've been going from the couch to the bed. This is a real exciting adventure. I still can't believe we won."

Practical Paralegalism sends Esposito best wishes for a wonderful and relaxing vacation, as well as improved health and much better days ahead.


Saturday LOL: A Lesson in Phone Etiquette

I'm posting this video today, because I know many of you are cat people. Plus, I know many of my readers spend a great deal of their time at work talking to disgruntled callers, including clients, potential clients and opposing parties. (For some reason, people seem to be much more comfortable yelling at the legal staff instead of the actual attorney.)

While I know all of you are too good at your jobs to ever consider giving anything less than excellent customer service, who hasn't fantasized about doing this in the middle of a difficult telephone conversation?



I like one commenter's quip, "Leave your message after the meow."

An "Upcycling" Legal Assistant Turns Junk into Jewelry

Legal assistants and paralegals have a talent for thinking outside of the box and taking scattered pieces of information and huge piles of unorganized paper - and turning them into something useable and beautifully effective, such as summaries, exhibits and narratives.

Mary Hummert, a St. Louis, Missouri legal assistant, takes this talent to a new level in her business, Pairabelles (http://www.pairabelles.mybisi.com/), which in addition to antique furniture, sells beautiful "upcycled jewelry artistically fabricated from broken jewelry bits and pieces, vintage clip-on earrings and silver plated flatware." Upcycling is the process of converting useless items into something better, and in this case something beautiful and wearable. The family-run business is located in a "charming stone cottage" behind her home.

The upcycled jewelry designed by Hummert is eye-catching and original, including charm bracelets, necklaces and belt buckles. I'm especially taken with this belt buckle, aptly titled "Green With Envy." I'd wear this buckle with a pair of well-tailored dark wash jeans, heels, a cream t-shirt and my favorite tan blazer - to work. But I work in VerySmallLaw, where business casual is okay - unless you're going to a mediation, deposition or hearing.

According to LinkedIn and the firm's website, Hummert is a legal assistant to construction law attorney James Scott, at Greensfelder in St. Louis.

Lawyers and Staff Share Some Sutherland Comfort

On Thursday, June 24, 2010, the seventh annual "Battle of Law Firm Bands" took place at the Black Cat in Washington, DC to raise money for Gifts for the Homeless, Inc., a non-profit corporation comprised of area law firms and staff.

At one point during the contest, a guest performer was introduced by a band as "paralegal - 12th floor." The Washington Post article doesn't identify the band or the 12th floor employee, but I'm wondering if it was paralegal Amanda Hubert, who joined the winning band, Sutherland Comfort, as a back-up singer during "Crazy in Love." Other legal staffers who joined the band included Rachel Saltzman, a recruiting assistant, and Christopher Lewis.

Sutherland Comfort is comprised entirely of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP lawyers and employees from its DC office. According to its website, the firm has seven major practice areas, corporate, energy and environmental, financial services, intellectual property, litigation, real estate and tax. According to LinkedIn, Hubert is a financial services paralegal and has a masters degree in public policy from George Mason University.

As part of its efforts to win this year's competition, the firm pulled out all the stops, including re-naming its band after hosting a firm-wide contest. Supporting a rock-and-roll competition, whether it's being part of the band, donating money, volunteering to deliver donations, or wearing "Sutherland Comfort" t-shirts in the audience sounds like a great way to bring a large law firm together and help the community.

In addition to allowing legal professionals to be rock stars for a night, the event raised more than $130,000 for Gifts for the Homeless. According to its website, 100% of the proceeds will be used to help the homeless in the DC metro area.


Sources: BLT; Washington Post; Sutherland

Legal Assistant Instructor Competes to Host Oprah Show

A crafty adjunct professor in the Legal Assistant Program at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida wants to be the next big TV star on Oprah's new television network, OWN.

And by "crafty," I mean that literally. Vanessa Wilson, who has a law degree from the University of Florida and blogs about quilting and sewing at Crafty Gemini, is a contestant in an online video competition for a chance to win her own show, Patch Works, on OWN.

Wilson teaches sewing classes at Cootie Coo Creations in High Springs, and also offers free video tutorials on her YouTube channel. She has over 500 subscribers to her free monthly newsletter. She told The Gainesville Sun that she plans to teach viewers how to re-purpose every day items:

Wilson plans to teach viewers to make things out of items they probably already have at home, such as cloth diapers made from towels and children's clothes made from old T-shirts.

"It's a tough economy," she said. "People are whipping out that old sewing machine and starting to make stuff. And there's nothing better than a hand-made gift."
You can see Wilson's video audition here, as well as cast your vote for her.

I love the quilted netbook cover she shows off in the video, and am excited to see the "Laptop Cover Tutorial" at her blog. I'm going to give it to my oldest daughter, the graduate student in costume construction, and subtly hint that this would make a great Christmas gift.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Michelle Obama Praises Department of Justice Employees

On Wednesday, June 23, 2010, U.S. Department of Justice employees had a memorable visit from First Lady Michelle Obama. She praised them for their work, and recognized not just the attorneys, but the staff as well.

I was especially moved by these remarks from her speech:
...I’ve seen the power that law has to change people’s lives in a very real and meaningful way. And I knew that lawyers had the ability to help turn words on a page into justice in the world –- to keep a neighborhood safe; to keep a family in their home; to leave our children a world that is a little more equal and a little more just.

And I know to be here, taking pay cuts as many of you do, you’ve got to be doing it because of passion because all of you all would be at a firm somewhere if it didn’t mean something to you.

But that’s true whether you’re an attorney, a paralegal, a librarian, a support staffer — truly, the dedication that you’ve all shown is extraordinary. And I’m proud — very proud — of the work that you’ve done, and I’m extremely grateful for what you’re doing every day.

And it’s important for us to share those values with the next generation. We need to replace you all. We need to start working on the next generation of staffers and attorneys and librarians and paralegals who are going to fill these seats in decades to come. And they’re going to do that because of the work that they see you doing. They’re going to do that because of the pride that you take in your work. We are the role models for the next generation.

Whether you work for the Department of Justice or a small firm in a rural town, Michelle Obama's words are inspiring and remind us why we love working in the legal field.

We are role models, and what we are doing is important.

Source: Main Justice

Today's Quotes: Earthquake Tremors or Caffeine Shakes?

On Wednesday, an earthquake that originated on the Ontario-Quebec border shook things up in law offices as far away as Ohio. Legal professionals in Mansfield, Ohio were bewildered and literally shaken by the tremors, as they relayed to the Mansfield News Journal:

"I thought I was going crazy," said Karen Carroll, a legal assistant employed by attorney James Wagner.
Missy Rhine, a legal assistant at Spaulding and Kitzler on Main Street, thought she had the "caffeine shakes."
And legal secretary, Megan Tahmalwash, employed by the Harper Law Office, thought at first that the wind was shaking her chair.

"This wasn't bad though," she said, "I used to live in California."

You know you work in a law office when you confuse your caffeine shakes with earthquake tremors...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Paralegal and Her Dog Go to Boot Camp

Okay, I know how much many of my readers love their dogs (and their cats), and would love the idea of joining an outdoor fitness program where the pooches are welcome, too. So when I saw this Reuters story about a California boot camp for humans and their canine companions, I had to share the excerpt about the paralegal:

Shannon Payne, a paralegal, says she always loved running, but her Pomeranian Chihuahua mix, Sammie, was "too wild" when she tried to take him with her. He barked and growled at every passing dog so she ended up leaving him home then felt guilty exercising without him so stopped working out entirely.

Payne credits her 7.30 a.m. Burbank boot camp class for making Sammy comfortable around other dogs, giving him an outlet for releasing pent-up energy and making her feel safe enough to be able to leave him at home alone all day, sleeping.

"The class is just as good, if not better, than weight training classes I've taken at gyms, but with this one, I get to be with my Sammie," Payne said.

I love happy endings.


Source: Reuters

Kern County Paralegal Association 2009-2010 Member Awards

The Kern County Paralegal Association (KCPA), located in Bakersfield, California, has named Alberta "Lou" Stoker, CLA as its 2009-2010 Paralegal of the Year. Stoker is employed as a legal assistant by Chain/Cohn/Stiles in Bakersfield. She works primarily in the personal injury department.

Hana Tarin, CLA, who also works for Chain/Cohn/Stiles as a medical legal assistant, was named the Outstanding Member of the Year.

According to its June 2010 newsletter, The Paralegal Post, KCPA just celebrated its 20th anniversary. The organization also has an impressive schedule of different outreach programs each month, including collecting blankets for the homeless, a clothing drive for a local elementary school, and sponsoring a Thanksgiving meal for a local family in need.

Check out the group's terrific newsletter, which includes a funny article, "You Know You Work In a Law Office When..." - "[t]he fire alarm goes off in the building, and no one in your office moves."

Good one. Or, when the alarm goes off, you sit there and argue with your co-workers (while still furiously working on whatever has to be filed with the court by the close of business) about whether it's real or a test for so long that if the building really had been on fire, you, your co-workers - and whatever you were still working on - would have gone down in flames.

Professional Profile: Haley Odom, Paralegal & Blogger

Job Title: Paralegal

Employer: Slack & Davis, LLP, Austin, Texas

Years of Paralegal Experience: 8

Specialty Areas: Commercial Litigation, Aviation

Career Highlight: Taking a firm from WordPerfect to Word and then paperless. It was invigorating.

Paralegal Practice Tip: Learn Excel. Excel does so much more than crunch numbers for you. Indexing production, working on time lines, putting together important facts, creating charts and graphs – it’s all so easy in Excel. Learn it, use it, love it.

Favorite Internet Resource: I cannot tell you how often I use PDFmyURL.com day to day. It’s wonderful and extremely easy. http://www.pdfmyurl.com/

Also, I really do love http://www.dictionary.com/.

Favorite Legal Software: KDocs. Hands down. https://www.kdocs.net/Logon.asp

Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs, for career and/or case development?
  • LinkedIn: I am on LinkedIn, but I have never found great success with it as far as career development is concerned. It has been good for staying in touch, even loosely, to former colleagues.
  • Twitter: I'm @HaleyOdom on Twitter, and am a big fan of Twitter! Not only has it been a perfect medium for me to get general information on any topic I could come up with, it has been a facilitator of excellent relationships. How else would I have come across @ExpertParalegal! Twitter has also been helpful in some of my cases, which is nice.
  • Blogs: I also have a blog, Haley Lobs Law Bomb (http://haleyodom.wordpress.com/). My blog has been great for me personally. My writing is getting better, and I’m getting more comfortable putting my thoughts in writing.

Fun Fact: I turned down a scholarship in engineering to get a degree in English. English is harder than chemistry.

Favorite Quote: “If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Professional Links:

www.twitter.com/HaleyOdom

www.haleyodom.wordpress.com

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/haley-odom/6/792/2a9

__________________

Awww, Haley, thanks for the Twitter mention. It's how I met you - and a lot of other terrific legal professionals nationwide. And I love Dictionary.com and Ray Bradbury, too.

Readers, I hope you'll add Haley's blog to that RSS feed reader I know you've set up by now. Also, if any of you would be willing to do a professional profile and share a little about what you do, as well as a few of your favorite professional tools and tips, please email me at lynne.devenny@gmail.com.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Software Review: Redact-It® Desktop

Or, This Paralegal’s New Best Friend

One of the most time-consuming and tedious job duties I frequently perform as a paralegal working on serious injury cases is redacting health insurance and payment information – by hand - from voluminous medical records and bills. Like many solos and small firms, my firm does not currently have any redaction software. As many of my readers know too well, manual redaction requires making duplicate work copies, and then choosing your weapon of choice, such as a Sharpie, Paper Mate Liquid Paper Dryline and/or Post-It Cover Up Tape (in three different sizes). In a case involving complex injuries, extensive medical treatment and hundreds of pages of records, this exhaustive process can take hours – longer if you run out of supplies (including the ones you raid from your co-workers’ desks).

Therefore, I was unusually excited when the opportunity arose to review Redact-It® Desktop from Information Graphics (IGC) (http://www.redact-it.com/redactit_desktop.htm), a “simple desktop tool” which “intelligently remove[s] sensitive content and privacy information from documents.” I had just completed a lengthy redaction project that took over half a day of my time, plus a ream of paper and several rolls of cover up tape. One of the attorneys in our firm had recently spent a late night redacting a last-minute project by hand. Another paralegal had just finished a discovery project where she had to redact – by hand – confidential information from thousands of pages of financial documents. We were more than ready to try an economically feasible software package like Redact-It®Desktop ($195 per user license or desktop), to see if we could use our redaction time more efficiently – and significantly decrease the number of staff hours which would be better used doing more substantive work, as well as the cost of expensive office supplies.

Easy and Speedy

First and foremost, it is very simple to start using Redact-It right away. The program includes “Getting Started with Redact-It” which shows users the various program features in short, clear and easy to follow steps. It only took a few minutes to review the how-tos, and I was ready to start my usual redaction project, redacting variable payment and insurance information from medical documents. I simply clicked “Open” to access the already scanned documents (no making duplicate copies), clicked the “Redact” button, and started dragging the box to highlight the many areas I needed to redact. Suddenly, I was the Super Woman of Redaction, redacting documents faster than a speeding bullet.

One immediate benefit of using Redact-It is how quickly I can redact data from just a few characters to almost an entire page of a document, without having to decide which size black marker or cover up tape to use. I simply clicked and dragged the redact button to immediately block out the desired information. I was amazed at how fast I was able to whip through a large stack of medical bills from different providers, almost instantaneously – and neatly – redacting documents that used to take me as much as five or ten minutes a page, depending on how many separate areas needed to be redacted (sometimes dozens per page on itemized statements).

Each time I redacted an area, I was offered the opportunity log it and to fill in the reason for the redaction. Redacting became almost fun instead of tedious and inconvenient – and much less messy, without little pieces of cover up tape sticking to my fingers and in my hair. Plus, I could still see the content underneath the redacted areas prior to finalizing the project. This allows users to easily and instantly “un-redact” mistakes - a much more painstaking project if you used pens or white-out and can no longer see the redacted information.

Once I finished making my proposed redactions, I used the “Verify” feature to double-check my work and manually review my redactions. The last “Finalize” step saved the redacted document in a new file type of my choice (PDF or TIFF), without modifying or overwriting the original PDF document (unlike Acrobat). Users also have the option of saving a draft version for other reviewers to see the proposed redactions and the content underneath – prior to finalizing. A project that normally would have taken at least three or four hours was completed in well under an hour, simply viewing and marking the documents on my computer screen (much kinder on my eyes). The final redacted product is much more attractive and professional-looking than hand-redacted documents.

Special Features

While most of my redaction projects require manual review of each page because of the variable data involved with billing, insurance and payment information, Redact-It offers many auto-search features for any kind of data, including a “Redact Privacy Info” feature which will automatically find and redact Social Security numbers, phone numbers, email addresses, date of birth and names from a variety of documents, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, e-mail messages and searchable PDF files. I used this feature to redact dozens of instances of privacy information from several documents in literally seconds.

Redact-it also allows users to search for other commonly redacted information, like account and reference numbers, addresses, race or state, as well as create custom searches, such as finding a specific term like “25 million". The “Find & Redact” tool allows users to create custom and “wild card” text searches which are automatically redacted when found. In addition to searching by text, Redact-It® Desktop also offers the ability to search by pattern, macros, templates and even by re-runable scripts which can be used repeatedly. Users can also do a bulk manual redaction to process documents with the same layouts. IGC provides plenty of examples to show users how to set up their own scripts and templates.

Redact-It also allows users to easily stamp documents with preset stamps like “draft,” “completed,” and “confidential.” Users can create custom stamps and water marks as well – and Bates-number documents. The software also removes metadata and allows users to create IGC Content Sealed Format (CSF) files with added security controls to prevent altering. Recipients use a free Brava viewer to access the CSF files.

No More Cover Up Tape or Sharpies


Redact-It is designed to redact documents quickly and painlessly, and to take as much human error out of the process as possible. For legal professionals who frequently redact a significant number of documents as part of their regular job duties, it is the ideal software solution. Legal technology experts with much more software savvy than me have weighed in (see reviews below), and given this terrific software high marks for doing the main task it was designed for, offering a variety of ways to auto-redact documents and create redacted and secure new documents, while leaving the original files “as is.”

From this newbie’s perspective (remember mine is the hand with cover up tape still stuck to it), the main toolbar is wonderfully simple and user-friendly, making it easy to start redacting documents right away, even for users who are a little leery of new technology. Redact-It offers a free 15-day trial (http://www.redact-it.com/download.htm), a great no-risk opportunity to see the many advantages this application has over hand redaction.

If your firm is currently redacting voluminous documents by hand and has a tight budget, you could make a sound argument that over a short period of time Redact-It will offer a substantial savings in attorney and staff time, as well as the cost of paper and redaction supplies.

Now that I’ve used Redact-It® Desktop, there’s no way I’m going back to Sharpies and cover up tape.

Another Fictional Paralegal - And This One's a Boy!

You guys know that Practical Paralegalism likes to show the diversity of paralegals working today, including giving equal time to the guys.

So, I would be remiss (very, very remiss) not to show you a picture of television's latest fictional paralegal, Jasper Goodwin a/k/a Jaz, as played by Chad Connell in the new Lifetime movie, Double Wedding.

Tia and Tamera Mowrey play twin sisters (a stretch!) who fall for the same man. Jasper, paralegal to Tia's lawyer character, Deanna, is the one who sets her up on the blind date with Tate (it rhymes!), the confused object of both sisters' affections. (Actually, one reviewer says Jaz set Deanna up on a dating site without her knowledge. Can't you get fired for that?)

The movie debuted on June 20, 2010. Did anyone see it? Did Jaz do anything paralegal-y?

By the way, this cute Canadian actor is @ChadJC on Twitter, and as of today, only has 1,026 followers. You can get in early, before he blows up like Ashton...

Paralegal Starts New Applicant Screening Service in Illinois

Karen Poole, an AAS-Paralegal and Administrative Assistant employed by the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority (SWIDA) in Collinsville, Illinois, thought employers might need help sorting through the deluge of employment applications they receive for every open position.

"We knew there wasn't anyone offering this kind of service," Poole said. "We think it's a growth industry. We were looking to be unique."
So Poole, along with partners, Janice Bunselmeyer and Lisa Carillo, founded AccuCheQ (http://www.accucheq.com/), located in Granite City, Illinois, a new company which will provide background checks for job applicants, as well as help sort applications and recruit suitable applicants. The Belleville News Democrat reports the company already has several major clients, including the Chicago Police Department.

Poole is right about the need for thorough and accurate background checking of potential employees, especially those who will have access to business accounts. The fact that many employers need assistance in this area is illustrated by a recent news story about a paralegal who was facing theft charges in one city but yet somehow slipped through a background check to gain access to - and steal from - another law firm's business account. Companies like AccuCheQ allow small firms and solos to obtain accurate background information on all potential hires, even if they do not have their own HR staff.

Congratulations to Karen Poole, another resourceful and forward-thinking paralegal who saw a rare opportunity, in a down economy, to fill a growing business need. Practical Paralegalism wishes Poole and AccuCheQ the best of success in all future endeavors.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

I blog for paralegals - and legal assistants, legal secretaries, legal staffers (and the 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:

"Paralegal Today Releases 18th Annual Salary Survey Results" (PRLog) ~ It's no surprise that annual salaries fell a little in 2009, and many of us didn't get raises. The top-earning specialties were intellectual property, commercial law and securities law. For the full 14-page salary survey, see the April/June 2010 issue of Paralegal Today. If you don't subscribe, you can still order single issues by calling toll-free (877) 202-5196 or contacting Sherry McCoy at smccoy@conexionmedia.com. I'm honored to have several articles in this issue, including "Feed Your Mind: Stay on Top of Your Career with an RSS Feed Reader."

"Trial Prep Made Easy" (Paralegals on Trial) ~ The anonymous but always interesting P.O.T. shares great essential tips for paralegals providing support during trials. Like a good paralegal, she even prepares for her possible untimely death - because the trial must go on.

"Writing Bad Briefs: How to Lose a Case in 100 Pages or More" (New York State Bar Association Journal) ~ I know many of my readers help write briefs. While this article is more than a little tongue-in-cheek, it's still a keeper. From mixing up the parties in the caption to over-the-top highlighting of your key points to cut-and-paste boilerplate, here's all the ways you can sink your case, whether you're still a paralegal student drafting a brief for a grade, or an experienced paralegal contributing to a key brief for your firm's client. (Thanks, Trial Practice Tips Weblog.)

"Sincerely, Me: What Our Email Sign-offs Say About Us" (WebWorkerDaily) ~ I spend more time thinking about my email sign-off than I probably should. Right now, I'm a "Best regards" gal. I used to be okay with a simple "Best" until this post said it's strange. What works best for you?

"Continuing Computer Education and Firm Efficiency" (Law Technology News) ~ Not only do we need regular ethics and practice skills education, but these days, it's a critical investment for firms to upgrade their staff's computer skills as well. If your firm does not make the investment, then you need to make the investment in yourself, even if it means taking a few courses at the local community college or taking advantage of free online computer training.

"Yes, Your IT Department is Watching - And Being Paid to Rat You Out" (PCWorld) ~ Just a reminder that in a digital world, our employers may know a lot more us than we think. Remember, your work computer is not really yours - and neither is that company mobile phone.

"Utah Attorney General Mark Schurtleff Uses Twitter to Announce Execution" (TechCrunch) ~ Some people found these tweets shocking. What do you think? Apropos or in poor taste?

"Throw Smelly Shoes in the Freezer to Freshen Them" (Lifehacker) ~ You can forget sprinkling cat litter in my shoes. But I am wondering if spraying them with vodka would also work...

Favorite Practical Paralegalism post from this week last year: "This Paralegal Has a Skeleton in Her Closet" Just a quick update, but when my boss gets cold, he steals the infamous Blue Sweater (the very one in the photo) from Bucky.

I hope you'll check out Practical Paralegalism's new CafePress store at http://www.cafepress.com/PracticalParalegalism for new paralegal merchandise, such as "Practical Paralegalism Celebrates Me 'Cause I'm Not a Cautionary Tale", "Litigation Would Be a Nicer Place If Everyone Brought Their Dog to Work," as well as "The Percolatin' Paralegal" t-shirts, totes, mugs and more.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday LOL: That'll Be HONORABLE "Mr. Jack Jack" to You

You know I think every legal professional needs a dog or other four-legged companion to greet us at the door after a stressful day at the office - and to love us unconditionally, even it's only because we have opposable thumbs and smelly shoes.

So I really got a kick out of Veterinary Pet Insurance's 2010 list of unusual names for cats and dogs.

My favorite dog name from this year's contenders? It was hard to choose amongst names like "Molly McBoozeHound," "Bettie Poops," and "Hon. Mr. Jack Jack," but Practical Paralegalism fell hardest for this cutie:



"Bam-Bam Noodle Butt."

Source: msnbc.omc

Related Posts: Why Every Legal Professional Needs a Dog; Introducing the Staff of Practical Paralegalism

Today's Quote: Crazy Is As Crazy Does

"I think the only thing crazy about her was it was crazy that she thought she wasn’t going to get caught." ~ Assistant District Attorney John Walko is seeking at least a three-year prison sentence for Kathleen "Kathy" Foer-Morse, a former paralegal who admitted to stealing over $100,000 from a Norristown law firm.

The Norristown Times Herald is reporting that Foer-Morse's defense attorney may present evidence of her "deteriorating emotional condition" as an argument for leniency, but Walko does not appear to be sympathetic. He stated to the court, "She was in a fiduciary position as a paralegal and abused her clients' trusts."

Source: Norristown Times Herald

Related Post: Jailed Paralegal Admits Theft and Awaits Sentencing

Legal Assistant Climbs Mt. Shasta to Raise 20k for Breast Cancer Fund

Last Saturday, I ran a little over three miles to help raise funds for cancer research and celebrate cancer survivors, but that seems like a very small feat compared to what Caroline Tice, a Ballwin, Missouri legal assistant, did for cancer research last week.

Tice, along with her friend, Jane Small of St. Louis, climbed Mt. Shasta in California to honor breast cancer survivors. At 14,179 feet, Mt. Shasta is the second highest peak in the Cascades.

They joined a team of 24 breast cancer survivors and supporters for the "Climb Against the Odds," as a fund-raising effort for the Breast Cancer Fund. Together, Tice and Small raised over $20,000 in pledges.

...This was the second climb the women made for breast cancer. In May they climbed Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. To make Tuesday’s climb, they trained almost every weekend since November, occasionally in below-freezing temperatures.

Congratulations to both Tice and Small for undertaking their incredible adventure to fight breast cancer.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Town Honors Woman Who Worked as Legal Secretary for 63 Years

The Town of Middleboro, Massachusetts actually recently honored Muriel Howard, 104, as its oldest resident. But what I found notable about her life is that Howard worked as a legal secretary for over 60 years - and started her legal career while she was still a teenager.

Mrs. Howard began her career as a legal secretary at 17, working for [the late Fletcher] Clark on the second floor of what are now town offices in the Bank Building at the corner of South Main and Center streets. She continued with the law firm after Mr. Clark's death, climbing the stairs to the law offices each day for 63 years.

Born on January 10, 1906, this means Howard's legal secretarial career spanned the years from approximately 1923 to 1986.

Here's a picture of an early No. 4 or No. 5 Underwood typewriter, made anytime from 1923 to 1931:




I bet Howard has some wonderful tales to share from her many years in the legal profession, including witnessing the evolution of office technology from manual typewriters to the introduction of MS-DOS and WordPerfect 1.0 in the early 80s.

Sources: SouthCoastToday.com; Wikipedia

Related Posts: We've Come a Long Way, Baby; Student Documents Challenges Facing Kenyan Nonprofit Paralegals

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dear Future Boss, You Must Be Sane

I got a case of the willies while reading today's Above the Law post, "3L Desperately Seeking Perfect Boss on Craigslist," not only because there's a law student in New York who genuinely thinks this list of personal commandments will lead to a dream boss, but it's like this 3L got inside the head of every law firm employee who ever lived.

I've heard every single requirement on the "Perfect Boss Wish List" come out of many legal staffers' mouths at some point over my 20-plus year career.

Check them out for yourself, but here's my favorite five:

  1. You must not be a lunatic.

  2. You must actually know what is going on in your own cases.

  3. You must not continually screw up your own cases, and then expect me to magically fix the problems or blame me when things go wrong as a result of your errors.

  4. You must be willing to pay me on a regular basis for my services (just a reminder). I do not accept food, liquor or drugs as payment. Payment must be made in valid, U.S. currency and must be a reasonable wage for a person of my skill set.

  5. You must possess basic social skills.

I'm actually okay with my boss being "disastrously disorganized" because that just makes me more indispensable. (But in my reality, my boss has the cleanest desk in the office.)

The Craigslist poster says the ad is "most certainly not" a joke. (If it is a joke, it's a pretty good one.)

As a former co-worker used to say to certain intake callers with unreasonable expectations of any law firm's ability to undo a seriously hot mess (usually involving alcohol, homemade tranquilizers, or rude hand gestures at a former place of employment), "Good luck with that."

Ya'll got anything to add to the list? What do ya think - will this novel approach lead to a request for an interview by "Boss McDreamy"?


Sources: Above the Law; Craigslist

Today's Quote: Too Old to Get Hired?

"I am (or was) a legal secretary with several years of experience (30+ years). … I have applied to jobs that are more than one-half less than what I was earning. I search for a job each and every day. … Where do people in my age bracket go? Too young not to work but too old to work?" ~ A woman from Warren County, New Jersey wrote to the Senate in an attempt to help get the jobs bill, H.R. 4213, passed.

The Washington Independent has published a thoughtful article about age discrimination as a serious obstacle for older workers that have been unemployed for an extended period of time, many part of a growing group called the "99ers" because their unemployment benefits have run out.

I've heard from a number of my readers in their 50s, down-sized from good legal jobs, and now unable to become re-employed in the legal field - or anywhere else. They do feel that their age is a hurdle. Some aren't getting interviews, and some are - but then never hear anything further, even after expressing their willingness to accept a lower salary.

I'm proud of the law firm that I work for, which values its older staffers, and has hired older workers to fill positions. But when I hear my older readers' tales of continuous rejection, I do wonder if age discrimination is a growing problem.

What has been your experience? Is age discrimination a disturbing fact - or are other factors keeping older workers from getting new jobs?

Source: The Washington Independent

Jailed Paralegal Admits Theft and Awaits Sentencing

Last year, I blogged about former paralegal, Kathleen "Kathy" Foer-Morse, who was terminated from High Swartz in Norristown, Philadelphia, for tardiness and disappearing during the day. But tardiness was the least of her sins. The firm discovered over $100,000 missing after she left, and she was arrested and jailed, unable to pay the $99,000 cash bond.

The $100,000 was allegedly used to pay restitution in a New York case where she was accused of stealing $285,000 from another law firm. A recruiter's carelessness was blamed for her subsequent employment at High Swartz.

The Mercury is reporting that Foer-Morse pleaded guilty yesterday, not only to the theft from the Philadelphia law firm, but also for "lying about being sexually assaulted while in custody after her arrest."

Judge Steven T. O’Neill deferred sentencing Foer-Morse in the theft case so that court officials can complete a background investigative report about Foer-Morse and so Foer-Morse can undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The judge will use those evaluations to assist him in sentencing Foer-Morse later this year.

Foer-Morse, who faces a possible maximum sentence of 14-to-28-years in prison on the theft charges, remains in the county jail in lieu of $99,000 cash bail pending her sentencing hearing.

There was only one comment from a reader at the end of this sorry tale. "Emilystuff" wrote, "I guess those commercials [are] correct that state anyone can become a paralegal."

Without any current paralegal licensing or regulation required in the U.S., Emilystuff is correct that there are individuals working in law firms today, holding the title "paralegal," who have a variety of backgrounds, ranging from no experience or training, to years of experience combined with degrees from respected institutions, as well as state and national voluntary certifications.

I couldn't find any information about Foer-Morse's alleged qualifications to work as a paralegal, but a thorough background investigation, including a simple criminal record check, should have prevented her from becoming employed at High Swartz and gaining access to the firm's checking accounts.

Foer-Morse is not representative of the typical paralegal, but she's another example of one bad apple tainting the public's perception of the rest of the barrel. When hiring new paralegals, law firms should insist on evidence of training from reputable educational programs, and carefully check backgrounds and references.

Legal employers should also initiate extensive in-house ethics training for their staff, and/or send them to annual ethics CLEs to keep their ethics knowledge current, whether it applies to client interaction, accounting, or the latest ethics trap, social media. Lawyers should carefully supervise their staff and monitor their own business accounts, because they are ultimately responsible for mistakes and misdeeds which occur on their watch.

It's up to legal employers to insist on high standards for paralegals, and to show the public, including Emilystuff, that not just anyone can waltz into a law firm and become a paralegal entrusted with confidential information and large amounts of money.

Source: The Mercury