Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday LOL: Hey Boss, I Need A Raise...

...'cause Other Companies Want Me Bad

Paralegal: Excuse me, Sir, may I talk to you?

Attorney: Sure, come on in. What can I do for you?

Paralegal: Well, Sir, as you know, I have been an employee of this prestigious law firm for over ten years.

Attorney: I know, you're a valued employee here, plus you're the only one who knows how the copy machine works.

Paralegal: I won't beat around the bush. Sir, I would like a raise. I currently have four companies after me, and so I decided to talk to you first.

Attorney: A raise? I would love to give you a raise, but this is just not the right time.

Paralegal: I understand your position, and I know that the current economic downturn has had a negative impact on firm revenues, but you must also take into consideration my hard work, pro-activeness and loyalty to this company for over a decade. Plus, I am the only one who knows how the copy machine works.

Attorney: Taking into account these factors and considering I don't want to start a brain drain or learn how to use the copy machine myself, I'm willing to offer you a ten percent raise and an extra five days of vacation time. How does that sound?

Paralegal: Great! It's a deal! Thank you, Sir!

Attorney: Before you go, just out of curiosity, what companies were after you?

Paralegal: Oh, the Electric Company, the Gas Company, the Water Company and the Mortgage Company!
Thanks to my co-worker, Jamie, for sharing this morning joke, which I modified a wee bit to suit many of my readers, who are also in demand by the same companies!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Today's Quote: What Do Legal Assistants and Plumbers Have in Common?

Now that the promise of college is being used to motivate some of our most disadvantaged public school students, we wonder if those kids need to go into debt when they can have fine careers as legal assistants and plumbers with less risk to their financial security and self-esteem. ~ Excerpt from "Class Struggle" (The Washington Post).

Ouch. There are visions of plumber's crack dancing in my head, even though I know a good plumber probably makes more in one year than I do in five.

Since when did we get lumped in with plumbers in terms of educational requirements? Last time I checked, most legal assistants need two-year degrees, or even better, four-year degrees to compete for the better-paying jobs with reputable legal employers.

Source: The Washington Post

Friday LOL: I'm Thinkin' Orange Juice

This video is so silly, but who hasn't had a co-worker like The Annoying Orange on the other side of the cubicle?

Thanks to my good friend, Jamey, who posted this at her Facebook profile.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What Not To Do When You Feel Underappreciated

Who hasn't felt underappreciated at one time or another at work? Especially in a busy law firm, when you constantly meet deadlines and put out fires, only to start all over the next day. If you're not even hearing the occasional "great job" or "thank you" from your boss, you're bound to get a little grouchy.

So what's an underappreciated legal secretary or paralegal going to do?

I can think of many constructive options besides what two Pennsylvania legal secretaries are accused of doing, i.e. stealing $94,000 from their supervising attorney's business account.

Why the heck would they do that? They didn't feel like their supervising attorney appreciated them enough.

Now they are not only still underappreciated, but charged with theft, conspiracy, and forgery. In a new low for thievery, the funds they allegedly helped themselves to were earmarked for the future care of their boss's special needs son.

To add insult to injury, after $94,000 went missing, they were finally busted over .44 cents in postage after one of them used the office postage meter to mail a personal bill.

Robert Mongue uses this news story to discuss honesty and ethical behavior in "The Price of Appreciation" at The Empowered Paralegal blog. There's absolutely nothing that justifies taking anything at work (or anywhere else) that doesn't belong to us, even postage.

I could probably do a whole separate post on the benefits of working out postage meter privileges with your staff, but in this instance, I don't think a few stamps would have saved this attorney $94,000.

Feeling underappreciated? Go treat yourself to a pedicure or an over-priced coffee product, and start working on finding another job in a better working environment. But no amount of awesome merits sneaking extra bonus checks out of an employer's business account.

Source: WHTM-TV

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Professional Profile: Barbara Haubrich, ACP/CAS, Author of The California Litigator

Job Title: Administrative Legal Assistant

Employer: Chain Cohn Stiles, 1430 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield, CA 93301;

Years of Paralegal Experience: 26 years as paralegal; 4 as a legal secretary

Education/Degrees: 2010 ~Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) in Personal Injury/Wrongful Death from National Association of Legal Assistants, Tulsa, Oklahoma; 2009 ~ Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) in Trial Practices from National Association of Legal Assistants, Tulsa, Oklahoma;
2002 ~ California Advanced Specialist in Civil Litigation (CAS) from National Association of Legal Assistants, Tulsa, Oklahoma; 2000 ~ Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) from National Association of Legal Assistants, Tulsa, Oklahoma; 1989 ~ Certificate - Attorney Assistant Program from California State University, Bakersfield

Specialty Areas: Personal Injury Civil Litigation

Career Highlights: I am an Administrative Legal Assistant with the law firm of Chain Cohn Stiles in Bakersfield, California. I began my legal career in 1980 working for some of the finest civil defense attorneys in the area. Since 1995, I have worked for David Cohn, Managing Senior Partner of Chain Cohn Stiles, one of the most successful and prominent law firms in the San Joaquin Valley. I am Mr. Cohn’s lead legal assistant and administrator of his multi-million dollar personal injury practice. I exclusively handle all of Mr. Cohn’s trials, complex litigation, Federal, and Appellate matters.

I am also the creator and author of The California Litigator, a bi-weekly newsletter for California legal professionals who are interested in enhancing their knowledge and strategies in the arena of California state civil litigation support.

In 2001, 2003, and 2005, I was an instructor of Personal Injury law at California State University, Bakersfield Extended University, Attorney Assistant Program; and in the Spring, 2011, I am scheduled to teach this subject, along with introducing my textbook on the Anatomy of Personal Injury Civil Litigation. Most recently in April, 2010, I was a speaker at the Bakersfield Business Women’s Conference, a nationally recognized women’s conference speaking on the Ethical Boundaries of the Paralegal and the Legal Consequence.

In 2003, I was the recipient to the Kern County Paralegal of the Year award, and in June, 2002, was featured in the Bakersfield Californian as One of Kern County’s Devoted Paralegals.

Paralegal Practice Tip: This is what I have told my children and have applied in my life: Do not stop learning. Knowledge is a powerful tool in your life. Never give up on yourself! If you can think of it, you can do it! Apply yourself to be the best at whatever you choose to do, and help others along the way.

Favorite Internet Resources:

Favorite Legal Software: Prolaw (Case Management Program);
Sanction: Trial services

Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs, for career and/or case development?
I use LinkedIn. I have found this site to be an effective means of getting to know other legal assistants and professionals that I otherwise would never have met. I particularly like this site because it is for professional networking, and not the average social site where you get bogged down with what someone ate for breakfast.

Fun Fact: I am a brown belt in Taekwondo. (Obtained in 1979, so it has been awhile). I love to golf, hike, and float in my swimming pool.

One Thing You Can’t Live Without: My family and close friends.

Favorite Quote: "I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end." ~ Abraham Lincoln

Paralegal/Legal Association Memberships: I have volunteered for multiple terms on the Board of the Kern County Paralegal Association. I am a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants and an associate member of the Kern County Bar Association. I am on the Legislative and Website Committees of the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations.

Professional Links:;


Many thanks to Barbara for sharing so much great information. Also check out the many terrific online resources she shares at her website:

Practical Paralegalism's Guest Bloggers Revisited

As a blogger, one of the best gifts I can receive is an offer to write a guest post. I've been lucky to have some terrific professionals share their knowledge and expertise with Practical Paralegalism's readers.

A guest post is a great way to share information, without committing to the regular writing schedule that maintaining your own blog requires. Most bloggers love to have reputable professionals on board that they can count on for well-written and helpful guest posts.

Guest posts make terrific writing samples and positively contribute to your professional online presence. Because they generally should be in the 500-750 word count range, they are also much easier to write than longer articles for newsletters or magazines. They are an effective way to share a few key points via a top 5 or 10 tips, a quick how-to or a list of favorite resources in your specialty area.

For new readers who may not have seen prior Practical Paralegalism guest posts, here they are - with many thanks (again) to these guest bloggers for taking the time to share their knowledge and experiences with us:

How Do I Remain Ethical? by Ellen Lockwood

Top 10 Reasons to Become a Paralegal by Michelle Fabio

Tips for the New Paralegal by Tausha Major

Landing that First Job: The Experience of a Brand New Paralegal by Harold Weaver

How I Landed My First Paralegal Job by Ana Vazquez

A Relocating Paralegal Shares Some Tips for the Job Search by Jennifer Taylor

The Four C's of a Paralegal's Fortune by Deana Waters

10 Tips for Immigration Paralegals by Helen Parsonage

5 New Technologies that Paralegals Need to Learn Now by Tina Marie Hilton

The Benefits of Voice Recognition Software by Mary Babic

5 Ways to Tame an Out-of-Control Office by Judd Kessler

Metadata 101: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You by Beverly Michaelis

Realize the Benefits of the Digital Age While Avoiding Its Curse by Steve Adams

Do You Twitter? Smitty Does by Jeff Smith

You Think a Paper Cut is Bad? by Debbie Hones

If you're interested in doing a guest post or a professional profile for Practical Paralegalism, please email me at

Monday, July 26, 2010

Living with Sickle Cell Disease

Today's post is going to be more personal than usual. I'm writing it from my youngest daughter's hospital room. You may wonder what it has to do with being a paralegal, but sometimes I think it's the 20-plus years I've spent in the legal field, advocating for others' rights, that led me to where I am today, the adoptive parent of a chronically ill child. It does create extra challenges to work full-time in the legal field, while caring for a child with special needs. I'm lucky to have terrific supervising attorneys and the ability to telecommute from time to time. I'm going to use this opportunity to tell you about someone who inspires me every day, and who has taught me a great deal about empathy, courage, and moving forward even when the going gets tough.

A Pint-Sized Hero

It's tough to find words to describe my youngest daughter, who has faced some hard medical and personal experiences with a tremendous grace and spirit. "Courageous", "dignified", "upbeat" and well, "tough" come to mind. She's her mom's hero.

She was born with sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder. Her body produces red blood cells which don't live as long or carry as much oxygen as normal red blood cells. Some of the red blood cells are crescent or "sickle" shaped and can get stuck in blood vessels, causing excruciating pain and sometimes organ damage. These are called "vasoocclusive crises" and the pain can be mild or so severe that sometimes even IV morphine does not provide any relief. It is harder for people with sickle cell to fight off infections.

During my daughter's early years, before I met her, she was frequently very sick and hospitalized for long periods of time. She had her spleen removed and had a port-a-cath inserted due to her many hospitalizations. Right before she started third grade, she was started on an amazing chemotherapy drug, Hydroxyurea (which boosts production of fetal hemoglobin), and enjoyed almost two years free of pain episodes. Her port-a-cath was removed.

At the beginning of the third grade, she also met me, her eventual foster-to-adoptive mom, through a wonderful mentoring program, Big Brothers Big Sisters. This child and I went together like "peas and carrots" (quoting her favorite movie Forrest Gump). I like to think that God matched us so that we could be there for each other. Adopting through foster care is an awesome way to build a family. God knew that this child needed us, and we needed her.

The Energizer Bunny

My youngest daughter has a boundless enthusiasm for life, undaunted by periodic bouts of severe pain and undergoing various medical procedures that would strike fear in most adults. She loves school, her friends, music, dance and theater. She is active in her church youth group. She won her school's science fair several years in a row, and has been a student council representative. She wants to work with sickle cell patients when she grows up and has talked about becoming a doctor specializing in blood disorders, a psychologist or a nurse.

We share her story, hoping to raise awareness of sickle cell disease, and to celebrate the life of an incredible young girl, now a young woman, who like the Energizer Bunny, just keeps going and going and going, even when the going gets really, really tough.

There is no cure for sickle cell disease, and not much effective pain relief for many patients. New treatments for sickle cell disease are being researched, and maybe in the next 7-10 years, there will be better ways to manage pain and prevent pain episodes. Maybe there will even be a cure that is accessible to everyone with sickle cell. Until then, despite the pain and occasional interruption of "normal life", my daughter gets up every day with a positive outlook and a strong determination to live her life to the fullest while having lots of fun -- sort of like Lilo's bouncy little alien buddy, Stitch, with all his enthusiasm, curiosity and energy (but less destructive).

A Paralegal's Perspective on Chronic Pain

Witnessing someone you love experience excruciating chronic pain (sickle cell pain is often likened to post-surgical or cancer pain), and experiencing the extreme ups and downs it creates in our lives has given me more patience with the seriously injured clients I work with every day, plus an in-depth knowledge and experience of hospital procedures I'd previously only read about in medical records. I do have a special place in my heart for our clients who have sickle cell disease, knowing how difficult it is for people who have never experienced it to understand why someone who looks perfectly fine one day is suddenly incapable of talking on the phone or showing up to court the next day. I frequently say it is a mean disease, and it's one that makes it hard for many sufferers to hold down a job, or even get to a hospital if they don't have a strong support network.

There have been periods in my life since my youngest daughter came to live with us that I have not been active in paralegal associations at all, concentrating all my energy on keeping my job and addressing my daughter's medical issues. I've been very appreciative of her improved health and the opportunities to serve on paralegal association executive committees in recent years, as well as speak at many CLEs. But I'm thankful that, no matter what my daughter's health situation brings to our family in the future, even if it's necessary to cut back on extracurricular professional activities, that I can still blog from home or the hospital and promote the wonderful paralegal profession that I love.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

I blog for paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, and all the other legal staffers essential to the practice of law - as well as the attorneys who want to get to know us better. Once a week, I share links to a half dozen or so articles focusing on legal news and humor, practice tips and technology.

Also, once in a while I share a picture of something totally random but completely awesome (courtesy of my Google Reader Recommended Items feed - which seems to know I love to eat sweets but also thinks I want a porcupine), like these adorable hedgehog cupcakes made by Cupcake Envy in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Here's this week's list:

Military Search (Patti's Paralegal Page) - Use this database to locate active military personnel. Check out North Carolina paralegal Patricia Clapper's blog for more useful Internet resources.

I KNOW Better (Paralegal Pie) - Pennsylvania paralegal Kim Walker shares what she's learned since her laptop was stolen. Today is a good time to evaluate your own data back-up and security plan - but yesterday is better.

Be Prepared for Catastrophe (Lawyerist) - Here's another great post to help you formulate your emergency data back-up plan.

Encrypt Your Flash Drive with Free USB Safeguard App (Business Hacks) - Here's one way to protect your flash drive if it's lost or stolen. This free app even offers the option of displaying the e-mail address or telephone number of the thumb drive's owner.

The Web Means the End of Forgetting (The New York Times) - Best quote from this article? "The Internet records everything." Think about the permanency of the information you post online - before you post it. This lesson was reinforced for me in an amusing way with my Twitter stream. I never thought [much] about who was reading my stream besides a few interested followers (friends) until I discovered one of my tweets was quoted in a Canadian reporter's article, "Few delete accounts on Quit Facebook Day". There I am a few sentences away from Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerburg, reaching way more people than I imagined. (You, too, can not quit Facebook, while quietly percolatin' big thoughts and drinking coffee from your Practical Paralegalism mug.)

And finally, the Grammar Police, a/k/a Apostrophe Catastrophes, bust Kentucky's "American's with Disabilities Act". As an employee of a law firm that specializes in workers' rights, including ADA violations, this one is particularly painful.

Website of the Week: If you haven't added Tom Mighell's outstanding weblog to your RSS feed and subscribed to his free weekly newsletter, The Mighell Marker, you are missing a ton of incredibly helpful information about legal research and technology resources. Tom was also a terrific guest on a Paralegal Voice podcast, "E-Discovery Trends in the Paralegal World".

Sunday LOL: Jane Austen Parody Packs a Punch

I love Jane Austen. In fact, I often re-read her novels in times of great stress - maybe it's the long, polite conversations that slowly (but slyly and with great wit) move her character-driven plots forward. As a college English Literature major, I admit I found them a little boring. But as a paralegal who sees plenty of excitement during a work day, now I find them relaxing.

But what would have happened if her characters had just skipped the conversation and gone straight to a right hook? Good society will never be the same:

Source: Mashable, YouTube

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Medicare Reporting Rules for Personal Injury Claims

Or, You Snooze, You Lose 'Cause Medicare Don't Play Dat

If you have clients with pending personal injury claims, you likely have already run across the new Medicare reporting rules. But in today's article, "Many lawyers aren't aware of new rules," the Wisconsin Law Journal is reporting that many legal professionals still aren't up to speed.

Part of the reason they may not be up to speed is confusion over the rules themselves, which has caused the government to postpone enforcement twice. They now go into effect on January 1, 2011. Well, sort of. One-time payments made on or after October 1, 2010, as well as ongoing-care settlements made on or after January 1, 2010, are already subject to the rules.

The Journal reports:

New Medicare Secondary Payer reporting rules require attorneys, insurers and even plaintiffs to report any personal injury settlement, judgment or other award to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in cases where Medicare has rendered payment or could render future payments for care based on the injury alleged in the case. Failure to do so could result not only in CMS slapping a lien on the award for Medicare reimbursement, but also fines of up to $1,000 per day.

Having dealt with Medicare Set Asides for some time in workers' compensation cases, I can already tell you, protecting Medicare's interest is serious business.

This article is well worth reading in its entirety, and sharing with your colleagues. It includes several tips for making sure that personal injury cases with Medicare-eligible clients are handled properly, such as:
  • Educate everyone in the office about the new rules, including the staff.
  • Create a Medicare set-aside worksheet for each file to determine whether CMS may have a claim.
  • Make sure any Medicare issues have been addressed before mediation and/or settlement.

I'll add my own tip: do not ignore those conditional payment letters from Medicare. Review them and reply in a timely manner.

Source: Wisconsin Law Journal

Legal Assistant to Compete for Master Chef Title

50 amateur home cooks, including one legal assistant, will compete to become the next legendary culinary master on MasterChef, a new Fox reality series, which starts Tuesday. The winner will also have her own cookbook published and receive a $250,000 cash prize.

According to the show's website:

MASTERCHEF contestants will be put through their paces in a series of challenges designed to test their palate, food knowledge, passion and culinary skills both inside and outside the kitchen. As they're whittled down, they'll face increasing pressure, from being asked to slice and dice a truckload of onions to creating incredible gourmet dishes from boxes full of random ingredients to providing an all-American send-off meal for hundreds of U.S. Marines to catering a high-end wedding.

I bet California legal assistant Adeliz Garcia will be right at home in this high pressure environment - with Chef Gordon Ramsay, one of the world's most demanding taskmasters. The photo is of Garcia with Ramsay as he gives her a few words of advice after sampling her audition recipe. She loves to cook her signature dish, Trio of Tostones with Red Wine, Balsamic Reduction and Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce. What are tostones? They are twice-fried green plaintain chips, a favorite snack and side dish in Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Practical Paralegalism wishes Garcia the best of success in the competition - even if she is trying to change careers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Today's Quote: Are You Disconnected from the Outside World at Work?

And so, as social media and the Web in general become increasingly crucial tools for New York's ruling class, analysts at banks, paralegals at law firms, even employees of some news organizations and publishing houses must endure Web restrictions that are shaping their lives, isolating them from friends and generally disconnecting them from the outside world. ~ Excerpt from New York Observer's July 20, 2010 article, "Stop! Restricted Site! With No Facebook or G-Chat at Work, It's All Hands on Deck for the City's Ruling Class".

What Internet filters or restrictions does your employer have, if any? Should we be completely restricted from accessing personal email or social media sites during the day, or does a little bit of access during downtime increase work productivity and morale? This interesting article provides some food for thought - and some tips for climbing over those pesky blocks set up by the IT department. (Hint, a smart phone is one way to go, although it's not especially discreet if you don't have your own office.)

You know my mantra, "Your work computer isn't really yours." Know your employer's Internet policies, and if they're wide open, don't abuse them. But keep in mind that you might not know what Web-policing an employer has installed at any given time. A friend of mine recently told me that when she worked at a BigLaw firm, employees received a printout of every website they'd visited at the end of each month.

Now that's food for thought.

Source: New York Observer

Forbes Includes Paralegals on List of Fastest-Growing Jobs for Women

Forbes has published a list of "The 20 Fastest-Growing Jobs for Women," based on employment statistics compiled by researcher Laurence Shatkin, author of Best Jobs for the 21st Century. Paralegals and legal assistants are represented well at number 12. We were beaten by skin care specialists, athletic trainers, and a number of jobs in the health care field. But we were included in the three jobs on the list that have a median annual salary of $40,000 or more.

The paralegal profession is fast-growing but still largely female-dominated. I'd love to hear from my male readers who are earning paralegal degrees, or are currently working as paralegals, about their experiences as the minority in this field.

Source: Forbes

Paralegal Profile: Tracey L. Young, RP, NFPA Vice President & Director of Positions & Issues

Job Title: Paralegal

Employer: E. Stewart Jones PLLC, Troy, New York (

Years of Legal Experience: More than 25 - I stopped counting when I hit the quarter century mark!

Specialty Areas: Plaintiffs' personal injury and medical malpractice

Career Highlight: Several years ago I had the opportunity to assist at trial as second chair and run the PowerPoint exhibit presentation which I had also prepared. This was my first opportunity to actually sit at the attorney's table, and it was great to be able to participate in the trial and see a case through to verdict.

Paralegal Practice Tip: Write it down (but not necessarily on paper). When attorneys give oral assignments, I make a note right away so the task is clearly defined (and not forgotten). I keep to do lists and a work done list. I make notes on our case management program to document phone calls, etc.

Favorite Internet Resource: Google - my first search program for whatever I am looking for.

Favorite Legal or Business Software: I don't really have a favorite software but my office just switched to the new WestlawNext program, and I have heard good things about it. I am looking forward to trying it out.

Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs for professional purposes?
I am on Facebook and LinkedIn . I also subscribe to various e-newsletters and listserves in an effort to keep on top of the latest issues affecting the paralegal profession.

Fun Fact: I love to travel and hope one day to be able to go on a photo safari in the Serengeti.

Paralegal Association Memberships: Capital District Paralegal Association and National Federation of Paralegal Associations

Professional Link:
I very much appreciate Tracey's willingness to provide this profile, as well as her participation in a recent episode of The Paralegal Voice, "Regulation of the Paralegal Profession - NFPA Says "Yes". I hope when she goes on that photo safari, she'll remember that Practical Paralegalism really loves sharing cool pictures taken by paralegals!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This Was My Day

All I had in me was a long whiny post about what an awful Monday it was, until I realized it's Tuesday, and then I was flat out of inspiration.

But I think this video's worth at least 1,000 words:

She could definitely be a paralegal. I've been attacked by those humongous rogue rubber bands before.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What Not to Wear...Really

This post will tie together several recurring themes at Practical Paralegalism:
  1. Paralegals have to embrace the future and become a little geeky - or nerdy - to keep up with today's ever-changing technology and its effect on the practice of law;

  2. There are some things you can't wear to work, or on a job interview;

  3. My perfect career dress is modern, has more than a touch of spandex in the weave, is machine-washable and costs under $50; and

  4. When I was in the 6th grade, I was dead set on marrying Mr. Spock when I grew up (oh, have I not mentioned that here before?)

So when my "blog serendipity," also known as the recommended items feed in my Google Reader included a post from The Gadgeteer, stating that I won't fear the future while wearing this dress...

...which Think Geek says says is perfect for conventions or just wearing around the house, I thought it was time to emphasize that paralegals can never get this geeky, or wear this outside of the house, even if it is machine washable and only $39.99.

But it would have made the perfect wedding dress for the future Mrs. Spock.

P.S. The model's hair totally rocks. I'm going to get big purple streaks in mine just as soon as I figure out how to jumpstart my career as a virtual RV paralegal...

Legal Team 101: Being Appreciative Is a Two-Way Street

At first glance, I thought John Cord's post, "Be nice, and other ways to strengthen your legal team," at the blog Generation J.D., was only going to yield a short quote with some timeless advice for new lawyers, "1. Don't run up the Westlaw/Lexis research bill, and 2. be nice to paralegals and secretaries."

But Cord's article is well worth a closer look - by all members of the legal team, from the senior partner right down to the part-time runner and that lady that comes by once a week to make sure the plants don't die. His article is really about appreciating everyone's contribution to getting the job done.

And what legal staffer wouldn't heartily agree with the following advice for attorneys?:

  1. Say please and thank you.
  2. Be effusive in your praise for jobs really well done.
  3. Be unexpected and reward exceptional work - a lunch out of the office, baseball tickets, or some other recognition.
  4. Shut the office down early sometimes. Even 4 p.m. on a nice Friday is a good perk.
  5. Get to know the people behind the workers - take an interest in their families and activities.
  6. Don't limit your website bios to just attorneys - include pictures everyone on the team.
But strengthening the team is a two-way street, and when we're fortunate enough to be part of a great work environment, we should also be appreciative employees. There are a number of ways that we can show our employers that we don't take their work, energy and input for granted:
  1. Say please and thank you, whether it's for great mentoring, having expenses paid for a CLE or conference, getting the opportunity to do more substantive work, or receiving a raise or surprise luncheon treat.
  2. Be effusive in your praise for cases really well handled and problems quickly resolved.
  3. Be unexpected and reward exceptional supervisors - do more than you're asked, fetch a cup of coffee or a soda when you can tell they really need it, share the candy from your secret stash (all the attorneys I work with know which drawer has the Hershey's chocolate) or bring baked (even if not at your house) treats once in a while for the whole office to enjoy.
  4. Offer to stay late in a pinch, or come in on the weekend, especially when you can tell your supervising attorney needs your help but is reluctant to ask.
  5. Get to know the people behind the bosses - take an interest in their families or activities (without being nosy).
  6. Market your firm, even if your bio is not on the website, by telling people what you do and how proud you are of the work your firm does.

One of the nicest things my supervising attorney repeatedly says when he takes extended vacations is, "I couldn't do this without you!" When I think of all the wonderful career opportunities I've had during 15 years of working for him, I honestly have to say, "I couldn't do this without you!"

Source: The Daily Record

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

I blog for paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, and all the other legal staffers essential to the practice of law today, as well as the attorneys who want to get to know us better. 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:

Basic Legal Research on the Internet ( ~ This article has a great list of mostly free "go-to" sites for primary and secondary sources.

Safeguarding Client Information in a Digital World (Oregon State Bar) ~ Technology is changing, and the ways that law offices maintain confidentiality need to keep up with it. (Thanks to the Oregon Law Practice Management blog for this great article link.)

Top 10 Tips for Surviving Office Life (Lifehacker) ~ From getting key tasks completed to avoiding sounding like the whiny co-worker your co-workers love to hate, this post gives great remedies for avoiding some pitfalls of modern office life.

In-Out Board Tabzon Keeps Tabs on Co-Workers' Whereabouts, Kicks Ass (Business Hacks) ~ Tabzon ( is free. This seems like a great alternative to that dry-erase board no one can seem to find the time to initial in their haste to flee the office.

A Passive-Aggressive Craigslist Ad (Above the Law) ~ You guys know I love the Craigslist ads gone awry. So, what do you think? In this economy, will there be many takers for a legal assistant position that pays $8.50 an hour to start - with an ocean view?

Tell Her She Looks Ridiculous (The Careerist) ~ I can't disagree with the statement, "Well, girls, law is kind of an uptight profession." So, what do you do when a co-worker is a fashion disaster at work? Tell her directly, or keep mum?

Legal Secretary Claims Co-Worker Assaulted Him with a Biological Weapon (Courthouse News Service) ~ A complaint filed in Travis County Court, Texas, gives a whole new meaning to the concept of a "toxic relationship" with a co-worker. If this cause of action flies, then coming to the office while you're sick with the flu might constitute assault and battery.

Website of the Week: JurisPro Expert Witness Directory - (Thanks to Patti Clapper of Patti's Paralegal Page for sharing this link.)

Gadget I Want But Don't Know Why: Kokonatchi bots that light up and burble something cute and unintelligible when you get a new tweet in your Twitter stream. Awww, they are so adorable - aren't they? Um, can anybody translate? (Thanks, Mashable!)

Favorite Practical Paralegalism post from this time last year: Follow "Lawyer" Richard Prickman on Twitter

Legal Assistant Auditions for Idol and Glee

I can't sing a lick, but I admire folks who can. I'm also an unabashed Glee fan, although I stopped watching American Idol several seasons ago.

USA Today is reporting that one of our own, legal assistant Kelly Dutton, successfully auditioned for the 10th season of American Idol in Nashville this weekend - no mean feat with an estimated 10,000 hopefuls showing up. This will be the first season without Simon Cowell.

Dutton is also a Gleek with a degree in voice performance, and in response to Glee's open casting call, submitted an audition video.

Practical Paralegalism gives Kelly Dutton two thumbs up for pursuing her musical dreams in a big way.

Source: USA Today

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday LOL: Studying in Library More Effective than Studying in Shower

Since so many of Practical Paralegalism's readers are paralegal students, I had to share Brigham Young University's brilliant comedic effort to promote studying in its library, "Study like a scholar, scholar," a very funny spoof of the wildly popular Old Spice "Man Your Man Could Smell Like" ads:

Source: YouTube

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Eating Lunch at Your Desk Ain't Pretty

Or, No Wonder I Have GERD

Whenever I'm invited to speak to a group of legal professionals about using social media, I always encourage them to use an RSS feed reader to keep up with their favorite blogs. But one of the features I like best about Google Reader, a popular and easy to use feed reader, is the "Explore" feature, which recommends posts from blogs I don't normally subscribe to. I like to think of this feed as "blog serendipity."

Some of the freshest, funniest and honestly off-the-wall material I see every day (much of which can't be shared here, but still makes me laugh out loud) comes via my "Recommended items" feed, like this photo from the blog masks&facades. I've retitled it "What It Looks Like When a Paralegal Tries to Beat Deadlines By Shoving Lunch Down the Hatch in Under Three Minutes":

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

Practical Paralegalism Talks to Carolina Paralegal News About Paralegal Blogs

Kimberly "Kay" Johnson, a paralegal and freelance writer for Carolina Paralegal News, recently interviewed me for an article about paralegal blogs, which appeared in the June 2010 issue, available online here. I'm honored to be included with the other terrific bloggers, and Kay kindly gave me permission to share the written portion of my interview as follows:

1. What is the purpose of your law blog?
Practical Paralegalism celebrates paralegals and other legal staffers - and shares a few cautionary tales (mainly for educational purposes). With so many blogs and publications focusing on attorneys, I wanted a place online to recognize the other critical part of the legal team: the talented staffers whose work is necessary to the practice of law today.

2. What event/decision prompted you to start a law blog?
The book I co-wrote with my supervising attorney, Workers Compensation Practice for Paralegals (Carolina Academic Press, 2008) had been published earlier in the year. I found I enjoyed writing for paralegals. Inspired by some of my favorite legal blogs, such as Above the Law and Legal Blog Watch, I decided a paralegal blog was the way to go. There aren't many paralegal blogs in the blawgosphere, so I hoped there was room for one that focused on paralegal news, legal humor, technology and career development.

3. What process do you use to select the content for the blog?
a. How often do you update your blog?
b. Is there a topic that you would not cover in your blog? If so, what is it?
I follow current legal and technology news and try to feature content that both engages and educates my readers. With the thousands of legal blogs available today, a blogger's challenge is to offer content that creates a loyal community of readers. I generally update Practical Paralegalism several times a week. As far as topics that I won't cover, I don't share information that breaches client confidentiality.

4. Did you have the computer skills to create the blog?
a. If so, was the blog easy to create?
b. If not, how did you learn the computer skills necessary to create the blog?
c. If you outsource the construction of the blog, why?
There are several free blogging tools available that don't require substantive computer skills, such as Blogger, the Google platform I currently use. While a simple blog is not difficult to set up, creating an attractive template and deciding how to make the best use of the limited space on your site is more challenging. More advanced blogging skills include learning how to add sophisticated elements to your posts, such as video, as well as mastering marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to bring traffic to your blog. I learned these skills on-the-job, by reading a lot and studying other blogs. Since Practical Paralegalism is an unpaid labor of love, I couldn't afford to outsource its construction, but did have help from my technologically-savvy spouse when we upgraded the template last year.

5. What do you want the legal community to gain, to learn from your blog?
I want to raise the profile of the paralegal profession and recognize the many educated, intelligent and multi-talented legal staffers working behind the scenes, as well as provide information for career development. And some posts are simply intended to entertain readers. The legal profession can be stressful and fast-paced. Sometimes we need a place to go where we laugh at ourselves.

6. Describe the easiest part of maintaining your blog?
The easiest and most fun part is sharing inspirational stories about paralegals.

7. Describe the challenging part of maintaining your blog?
The most challenging part is finding the time to update Practical Paralegalism consistently, although the more you blog, the easier it gets.

8. What type of feedback do you receive from your blog?
a. From the legal community?
b. From the non legal community?
I've been fortunate to receive positive feedback from legal professionals across the country, including nationally recognized legal bloggers that I respect and admire. I also get a lot of private email from readers commenting about stories or asking questions, which is appreciated. I don't hear so much from people who aren't legal professionals, although my teenage daughter shows my blog to her business technology classmates.

9. What advice would you give to a paralegal that is interested in starting and maintaining a blog?
The blawgosphere definitely needs more dedicated paralegal blogs. If you're seriously thinking about blogging professionally, check your employer's social media policies, get your supervising attorney's blessing, have a plan for your content and commit to publishing a post at minimum several times a month. I see too many would-be bloggers enthusiastically start blogs, post a few times and then disappear. A great outlet for paralegals who don't want to make the commitment to their own blogs is to write guest posts for already established blogs.

Related Post: Welcome the New Paralegal Bloggers on the Block

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Today's Quote: A Paralegal Tells the Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

I thought Practical Paralegalism's readers would enjoy this honest exchange between a prosecutor, Charles Coulson, and his former paralegal student, Cynthia Barth, during voir dire. Barth, a paralegal, was seated as a juror for this Ohio murder trial, which resulted in a conviction and a death sentence:

Coulson: Mrs. Barth, I see you are a paralegal. Did I help you get there?
Barth: Yes.
. . .
Coulson: Do you think your experience as a paralegal would in any way interfere with your ability to listen to the law as the Judge gives it to you and apply it in this case?
Barth: No, I think it would help actually.
Coulson: You think you might be able to understand these instructions even better?
Barth: Hopefully.
Coulson: Well if I did any good, I hope so. I had you for research and writing?
Barth: Yes.
Coulson: I think you mentioned that.
Barth: Actually I think that your paralegal was there more than you were. I didn't mean to embarrass you.

The Court concluded the record did not establish bias due to Barth's student-teacher relationship with Coulson - noting that she said his paralegal was there more than he was. Treesh v. Bagley, 07-3524 (6th Cir. 2010)


There's No Free Parking in Downtown Aberdeen

"I can't afford parking - I can't afford anything." ~ Scottish paralegal Claire Williams

The Scotsman is reporting that a paralegal, owner of a black Volkswagon Beetle, has incurred parking fees in excess of £18,000 for parking illegally in downtown Aberdeen - on a daily basis for almost a year.

For those of you (like me) who aren't frequent overseas travelers, that's approximately $27,451 and some change in U.S. dollars.

That's a jaw-dropping amount for anybody. I'm not saying that I haven't incurred a few random parking tickets in my day while filing documents at the federal courthouse (in ancient times before e-filing), but I just dropped them on the office administrator's desk and forgot about them.

The article contained this description of the paralegal's parking situation:

Miss Williams works at a law firm in Aberdeen city centre, where car parking is limited and expensive.

That may be the understatement of the century.

I don't know who I feel sorrier for - the "cash-strapped city council" or the cash-strapped paralegal. The Evening Express reported earlier this year that she had "a pile of tickets on the floor of her car and an even bigger stash of notices at her office." (Did nobody at the office notice?) She's filed bankruptcy, but the city is still calculating its legal fees to tack on to her bill.

But as I review Aberdeen's schedule of car parking charges, it looks like a business permit at £160, or a little over $240 per year, would have been the more prudent choice.

Note to self: If you ever move to Aberdeen to work in a law office, make sure the price of a downtown parking permit is included in your compensation package.

Source: Scotsman; Evening Express

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Today's Quote: You Can't Touch a Paralegal for Poise

However, between hysterical sobbing fits, Danielle mustered the preternatural poise of a paralegal to speak with the police: “My hair was pulled and they accosted me.” Ashley laid down her own law: “Technically, I didn’t pull her hair. I pulled her extensions, which isn’t really part of her.” ~ Excerpt from "Aftershocks hair raiser: Ashley pulling her way to her own Real Housewives of New Jersey spinoff show" (CultureMap).

I don't know what this catfight was about, but it made me giggle. I'm even more amused that eventually someone will type "paralegal catfight" into a Google search and get to this post.

I have no idea why these entertainment writers think paralegals have preternatural poise, but since preternatural means surpassing the ordinary or normal, I'll take it. (Maybe it means we're good at maintaining straight faces, especially when the going gets rough in court or other litigation-related activities, like depositions. No way can we jump up and hysterically shout, "You've got to be kidding!" when witness testimony goes south, or our supervising attorney remembers his exam questions are in his other briefcase - at home.)

What I've seen of Real Housewives between flipping channels hasn't led me to believe that anything about them is real, including all of the really big hair. I haven't a clue as to who Danielle is, other than what Google has to offer - but I'm pretty sure she's not a paralegal.

I'll have to add this deep philosophical question to the list of weird stuff that keeps me up all night: is hair-pulling an assault if the hair in your fists is synthetic?

Source: CultureMap

Paralegal Profile: Georgette M. Lovelace, RP, NFPA President

Job Title: Paralegal

Employer: Susman, Duffy & Segaloff, P.C., New Haven, CT

Years of Legal Experience: 30

Specialty Areas: Litigation – medical and legal malpractice defense, municipal defense, and plaintiff’s personal injury

Career Highlight: Being able to make a contribution to the paralegal profession by serving on the NFPA board of directors

Paralegal Practice Tip: Calendar EVERYTHING! And never put a file back on the shelf without setting a date to look at it again.

Favorite Internet Resource: I can’t really say there’s any one website that would constitute my favorite – it really depends on what my needs are at any given time. But I’m partial to NFPA’s website,, because there are so many great resources there.

Favorite Legal or Business Software: Excel

Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs for professional purposes?
Yes, I use LinkedIn to stay up-to-date on the specific litigation practice areas in which I work on files.

Fun Fact: I’m never as happy as when I’m planning my next trip, whether it be for personal or professional reasons, although I’m partial to cruises.

Paralegal Association Memberships: NFPA, New Haven County Association of Paralegals

Professional Links:,

Many thanks to Georgette, who is super busy as the current president of NFPA, for sharing a little about her career with Practical Paralegalism's readers. You can hear Georgette, along with Tracey L. Young, RP, talk about NFPA's benefits and activities on the most recent edition of The Paralegal Voice, "Regulation of the Paralegal Profession - NFPA Says 'Yes'".

With This USB Drive, I Thee Wed

On a recent episode of the monthly podcast The Paralegal Voice, "Digital Evidence for Paralegals," digital forensics expert Giovanni Masucci discussed hidden thumb drives which are easy for most people to miss in a search for electronic storage devices.

Pretty soon we'll have to check out the personal bling, too. Although this custom-made wedding ring isn't a functional USB drive, there's no doubt that a functional one is the wave of the digital future.

Source: Mashable

Related Post: Don't Eat the Sushi

Monday, July 12, 2010

Today's Quote: Attorney Gives Props to Staff

Q: How is your law firm doing?

A: My partners, staff and I enjoy the law practice every day. We have a great team of experienced paralegals and assistants that have been together a long time, making our law practice a real joy! The firm consists of eight attorneys and 10 paralegal assistants.

~ John Lichtennegger, a Jackson, Missouri attorney tells the Southeast Missourian about his practice, including his donation of land for the Jackson Senior Center.

It's great to see a successful attorney enthusiastically giving his legal support staff credit for making his professional life a pleasure, as well as allowing him to pursue a dual career in land development. Lichtennegger also indicates that his practice is growing, particularly in the areas of real estate, estate planning, workers' compensation, bankruptcy and credit-related problems.

Source: Southeast Missourian

A Disclaimer You'd Be Proud To Claim

Props to one of my supervising attorneys, Helen L. Parsonage, for catching the very funny fine print in Winston-Salem, North Carolina attorney Richard J. Rutledge, Jr.'s e-mail disclaimer notice (for listserv use only - he has an official "real" disclaimer, complete with IRS language, that he uses for business.)

Disclaimer: This email is for the purpose of abstract discussion of legal principles and procedures, and does not create an attorney-client relationship or any other legal relationship between the sender and recipient. It is not legal advice, and is probably not protected by attorney-client (or any) privilege. I may be dead wrong. Your mileage may vary. Consult your professional tax advisor. Eat your vegetables. Brush at least twice daily, especially after meals. Monitor your tire pressure. Get plenty of sleep.

Many thanks to Rick for allowing me to share it with you. I don't know about you guys - but I prefer this one for practical advice you can use for everyday living.

Regulation of the Paralegal Profession - NFPA Says "Yes"

The latest edition of The Paralegal Voice, "Regulation of the Paralegal Profession - NFPA Says "Yes," co-hosted by Vicki Voisin and me, is available at Legal Talk Network.

We welcome National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) leaders, Georgette Lovelace, RP and Tracey L. Young, RP. They talk about the benefits NFPA provides to its members, NFPA's position on regulation of the paralegal profession and its upcoming convention. These experienced paralegals also offer advice to listeners considering a paralegal career.

In this episode:
  • NFPA history and goals
  • Member benefits
  • NFPA's position on regulation and how it can help the paralegal profession
  • Joint conference held in Washington, DC
  • Upcoming annual convention in October 2010
  • Advice for listeners considering a paralegal career
  • The potential impact of social media on your career

Page URL:


Internet resources referenced in the podcast:

The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsors: TERIS, Westlaw Deposition Services, and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).

If you enjoy The Paralegal Voice, we would appreciate it very much if you'd share the podcast link with your friends and colleagues.

Do you have a request for a future show or a question for us? You are welcome to contact us at

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Today's Quote: Dude, There Is No Equity in Crime

"There are no two people that are exactly alike. We don't do a comparative analysis. It's foolish to listen to someone who fancies himself a paralegal and is wearing an orange jumpsuit." ~ New Jersey Superior Court Judge Thomas V. Manahan explained to John Morano, who may withdraw a prior guilty plea to bank robbery, why his argument at his sentencing hearing - that he should get less time than another bank robber who netted more money from his exploits - is an epic fail.

Morano's fellow prisoner, David Wheeler Coates, got six years after stealing $10,000. Morano is also facing six years, but thinks he should get less since he only got away with $100.

The judge has given Morano a week to reconsider his position, with the helpful advice that he should only listen to his real lawyer.

Source: Asbury Park Press

Rocky Mount Paralegal Receives Academic Award

Congratulations to Melissa Solomon, a paralegal employed by attorney C. Ray Joyner in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, for receiving the first Dovey E. "Kim" Watson, Jr. Award from Wilson Community College. Solomon is a 2010 graduate of the Paralegal Technology program, who maintained a 4.0 grade point average. She plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in legal studies.

The Dovey E. "Kim" Watson Jr. Award was created by WCC to honor the teaching legacy of Kim Watson, a dedicated instructor in the paralegal technology program for many years before his death.

According to Dr. Watson's obituary (available by purchase only via The News & Observer), he died on July 15, 2008 at 56 years of age. He earned his juris doctorate from Wake Forest University as a Blake Scholar. His obituary describes his tremendous impact on the WCC paralegal program:

Watson began his legal career in private practice in Wilson before being asked to start a Paralegal Technology Program at Wilson Community College. His love for both teaching and law made his decision to become a professor an easy one. In 1994, the first students completed the program and the area law firms quickly hired the new graduates. This was just the beginning of the legacy he built for Wilson Community College's paralegal program.

Dr. Watson's students were always a top priority for him. He had time for them no matter what else was going on. Students nominated him for both "Who's Who Among America's Teachers" and "Who's Who in American Law" and he was very humbled by these honors. He provided a relaxing classroom environment as he challenged his students' minds and encouraged them to be the best they could possibly be.

In 1999, Dr. Watson was selected as Wilson Community College's Teacher of the Year. In July 2007, The North Carolina State Bar designated the Paralegal Technology Program as a "Qualified" Paralegal Studies Program earning graduates the right to sit for the North Carolina Certified Paralegal Examination. Gaining this designation is a testament to his commitment in providing his students with all possible professional opportunities and experiences.

Dr. Watson's legacy will live on through the Dovey E. "Kim" Watson Award and his students. Congratulations to Solomon for her outstanding academic record and for being the first student to receive this honor.

Sources: DailyMe; Rocky Mount Telegram;

Drive To Work Needs Volunteer Legal Professionals

In many parts of the United States, there is no public transportation available. If you can't drive to work because you've lost your license, you can't hold down a job or provide the most basic essentials for your family - much less pay someone to help you obtain driving privileges.

But help is available for Virginians who find themselves in this predicament, and if you're looking for a unique volunteer opportunity, you can be part of the solution. Drive To Work ( a non-profit organization which helps Virginians regain driving privileges so that they can sustain gainful employment "depends on volunteer attorneys, paralegals and skilled administrative professionals. Volunteers assist in every aspect -- from court appearances, to information collection, to client communications and to record keeping and filing."

Founder O. Randolph Rollins, an attorney and former Virginia Secretary of Public Safety, was recognized for his pro bono work with the Richmond Bar Association's 2009 Public Service Award.

Drive-To-Work “is a gateway to a lot of people getting their lives back on track,“ Rollins said. “We’re offering them the light at the end of the tunnel.“
If you're interested in volunteering for this organization, you can call (804) 358-6727 or send an email to