Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Employer: RLI Corp., Peoria, Illinois
Years of Paralegal Experience: 15
Education/Degrees: Associate in Paralegal Studies, Bachelors of Arts, Masters in Legal Studies
Specialty Areas: Insurance Regulatory, Insurance Fraud Investigations
Career Highlight: Uncovering a major insurance premium fraud scheme that affected numerous companies and now has the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspector involved. It was shortly after I was named Director of the Special Investigation Unit and made me realize just how important this role is to my company.
Paralegal Practice Tip: Take a step back and breathe. Don’t send that email. Wait a day and see if you feel the same way.
Favorite Internet Resource: It sounds simple, but I love Google Earth (http://earth.google.com/). When I conduct insurance fraud investigations, this resource is invaluable when I am trying to locate “impartial” witnesses and their proximity to claimants as well as auto repair shops, medical providers and so on.
Favorite Legal Software: Workshare (http://www.workshare.com/). It is document comparison software and helps avoid metadata issues.
Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs, for career and/or case development?
I use any social media although Facebook and YouTube are my favorites for investigations. When conducting insurance fraud investigations, I LOVE looking at these sources because people put so much information out there and don’t realize who is looking at it and how it can affect their claims.
Fun Fact: I have 51 first cousins and grew up in the same neighborhood as most of them. And we still all get together twice a year.
One Gadget You Can’t Live Without: My Sync in my Ford Escape. Hands free everything! How did I ever drive without this?
Favorite Quote: “If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.” Jimmy Buffett
Professional Links: http://www.rlicorp.com/
Jennifer sent me a nice email when my daughter was hospitalized. She made my day, because I love hearing from readers. When I asked her if she'd be willing to do a profile, she said she wasn't that exciting, but I think the kind of work she does sounds extremely interesting. She sounds like a resourceful and thorough paralegal detective.
But the City Manager took a closer look at everything she had to do - by herself - and concluded that the title of "legal secretary" was too restrictive.
Here's the part where you guys go "uh-oh," and wonder if by too restrictive he thought she could do more, and tried to assign six more attorneys to her support load, or decided she could sort the mail for all the city offices while she was just sitting there doing crosswords at her desk.
The opposite happened (I know you skeptics out there are shocked). The City Manager recognized the more substantive work she is doing, and recommended a change in title to "legal assistant" and an increase in the position's pay range to $43,046 - $54,867.80 (the 80 cents really makes a difference, whew). The City Attorney vouched that the proposed pay range was reasonable.
But a City Council member (I'm guessing she never wore all the hats in a law office by herself) moved for a lower pay range of $18.84 - $24.79 per hour, or assuming the legal super woman works a 40-hour week, $39,187.20 - $51,563.20. The Council voted unanimously to approve both the title change and the lower pay range.
Maybe they should have put the vote on ice for a week, and let the City Council member run the City Attorney's office by herself, while the legal super woman takes a much-deserved paid vacation. I suspect if she spent a week in the newly minted legal assistant's shoes, she'd be convinced that the higher recommended pay range wasn't nearly enough.
Source: Reno Gazette Journal
Monday, August 30, 2010
To be entered in a drawing to win all five books, all you have to do is submit a short guest post, between 500-750 words, to be published at Practical Paralegalism in one of the following categories:
- Your professional profile (Simply answer the questions from a recent profile and provide a small-sized digital headshot.)
- A How-To in your specialty area
- A Top 5 Tips for your specialty area
- 3 Ways You Prepared for NALA’s Certified Paralegal Exam
- 3 iPhone, iTouch or iPad apps that you use for work
Entries should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by October 31, 2010. If you submit an entry in a category other than the profile, please include a brief two or three sentence bio. Two runners up will win the Practical Paralegalism Percolatin’ Paralegal coffee mug of their choice. Practical Paralegalism will pay the ground shipping for all prizes.
Maybe you're thinking, "Meh. No biggie." But the trial judge is considering contempt of court charges, and the defendant's attorney is lobbying for jail time - and a close reading of the Constitution.
The seriously ill-advised tweet read, "Actually excited for jury duty tomorrow. It's gonna be fun to tell the defendant they're guilty."
This real life social media courtroom drama illustrates the "no take back" effect on many status updates that should never see the light of day. Even if you think only your awesome Facebook BFFs can see your every clever (or clueless) thought, you don't know who they're sharing it with, who's helpfully saved it with a screen capture or emailed it to all of their co-workers - or even if you forgot to change your privacy settings from the entire Detroit, Michigan network.
When first questioned by the judge, Jons apparently denied making the post not knowing the entire message had been copied word for word off the Internet before she erased the posting.
I doubt this juror will be updating her Facebook status to read, "I'm so excited about court tomorrow. It's gonna be fun to be told I'm guilty."
Reader Comment: Alex helpfully adds, "The issue is Miss Juror made that post before the prosecution rested or the defense presented their case. Makes people wonder how many jurors walk into the job "excited to tell the defendant they're guilty."
Welcome to the first teleconference of the Data and Electronic Information Integration Management Governance Committee. (File under "Just kill me now.")
I think we've all attended this exact same meeting at least once in our careers. (Sparky's input is truly a breath of fresh air.)
Sunday, August 29, 2010
This week's list is a little longer since I missed last week:
Funny, huh? Okay, if you don't know what's wrong with this picture, click here.
- Clerical Error Could Cost $11 Million (Paralegal Blaw Blaw Blaw) ~ One letter really does make a difference.
- Good People to Know: Your Friendly Process Server (Paralegalese) ~ Hug a process server today.
- Tell Me What You Want (Haley Lobs Law Bomb) ~ If you want it, ask for it.
- A Discovery Jewel: Keeping Requests in Focus (Bow Tie Law's Blog) ~ If you wanted it, you should have asked for it.
- Is Your Attorney Nosy? You Should Hope So (Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law) ~ This would be a great handout for your estate clients, and your students studying estate law.
- Our report from ILTA 2010 (The Posse List) ~ If you couldn't go to Vegas, reading about it is the next best thing.
- Wide Adoption of Electronic Signatures and Electronic Contracts Overdue (LexTek Report) ~ Everything you ever wanted to know about e-signatures.
- Amplify Google Scholar with CiteStack (Lawyerist)
- Train-Hopping Cat Reunited With Owner via Twitter (Mashable) - This one's for all you Twitter naysayers. Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty.
- Worker at taxpayer-funded agency in Virginia plays hooky for 12 years (CNN) - You Virginia taxpayers should ask for refund.
- Favorite Practical Paralegalism post from this time last year: Tina Marie Hilton's guest post, 5 New Technologies that Paralegals Need to Learn Now
I like to think I'd notice if that kind of cash went missing from my account. But maybe the law firm was doing so well that it could spare a million and some change. That kind of siphoning off of assets would cause many businesses to go under.
The El Paso Times is reporting that over a six-year period Rosanne Stogner allegedly wrote checks totaling $1,002,050.47 to herself, her spouse and his fence company - and her daughter's personal trainer.
Maybe I should start a series of posts called Rules for Everyday Living. We'll start with, "Know what's in your own bank accounts. Go over your statements every single month with a fine tooth comb, even if you think you can trust the other signatories with your life - or your money. Because sometimes you can't."
Source: El Paso Times
Central to the issue was whether a legal assistant at Magallanes & Hinojosa had worked on the Leal case while employed by opposing counsel, Brin & Brin, P.C.; and whether Magallanes & Hinojosa took reasonable measures to ensure that the assistant would not work on the case.
Despite signing a confidentiality agreement with Brin & Brin before she left, and being reminded by her new employer not to work on cases she had worked on with her former employer, the Court found that the legal assistant handled correspondence, took calls and copied sensitive documents in the Leal case.
This case is a reminder to both working paralegals and students that an ethical wall, also called a Chinese Wall, must be erected in regard to any situation where a conflict of interest may arise due to a paralegal leaving one law firm for another. See Guideline 7 of the ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services and ABA Informal Opinion 1526 (1988).
The Court clearly found the plaintiff's firm remiss in its obligation to avoid conflicts of interest raised by hiring this legal assistant, but a commenter at the news article bluntly asked, "If the assistant knew she was not to work on the case, why didn't she remind the attorneys when asked to run copies or file pleadings?"
I'd like to ask the legal assistant that question myself. The article does not address her formal training, education or experience, nor does it discuss the extent of ongoing ethics training or continuing legal education that she had access to. But the fact that a law firm has been disqualified from representation in a case that has been in litigation for years demonstrates the critical need for ongoing ethics training - for both lawyers and their staff.
Additional national resources that every paralegal should review and save as favorites in their browsers, in addition to state resources:
- Model Standards and Guidelines for Utilization of Paralegals (NALA)
- Model Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility And Guidelines For Enforcement (NFPA)
- NALS Code of Ethics & Professional Responsibility
Source: The Brownsville Herald
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Many thanks to my friend, Tammy Cravit, for tweeting the availability of Free Kaplan Study Guide eBooks for iPhone, iTouch and iPad through Monday, August 30, 2010.
I downloaded the following free eBooks, hoping several of them will be helpful to review for the NALA Certified Paralegal exam.
- The Paralegal Handbook by Anita Haworth, RP and Lesley Cox, RP
- Kaplan PMBR Finals: Corporations
- Kaplan PMBR Finals: Evidence
- Kaplan PMBR Finals: Civil Procedure
- Kaplan PMBR Finals: Family Law
- Kaplan PMBR Finals: Contract Law
Because my teenagers have been begging me to download apps for their entertainment, I also got five SAT prep books. I can't wait to see their excited faces! :P
Reader Comment: Margaret Agius reminded me not to forget to download the free app, Kaplan's Multistate Bar Exam flashcards. Check!
P.S. If the Lifehacker link does not work for you, try going straight to your iTunes account, or accessing http://http//kaplanpublishing.com/iTunes via your iTouch, iPhone or iPad browser (that worked for me).
I drooled. I slobbered. I spent countless sleepless nights obsessing. Finally, I just went out and bought the dang thing with my little dab of money earned from freelance and textbook writing. (No, Mom, John Grisham still hasn't invited me to lunch at the country club.)
Yes, I am finally the inordinately proud owner of that "magical and revolutionary product" that sounds like it was named after a feminine hygiene product.
Keep in mind that this small-town paralegal has never used an Apple product, and still does not have a smart phone (that will change next week). Until recently, it took me an hour to text "ok", and I rarely responded to texts that required more than a yes or no answer. The Goddess of Technology, I am not.
So when someone says a product is magic, I set the bar pretty darned high, like you can start using it as quickly as Tink, a/k/a Tinker Bell, can wave her wand with a bit of pixie dust to make humans fly.
Since Tinker Bell wasn't in the box, the reality of the iPad setup went like this:
- Take it out of the packaging. (First techno-idiot task: Peeling off the childproof shrink wrap without shedding blood.)
- Plug it into your PC or Mac.
- Using your PC or Mac, download and install the latest version of iTunes (www.itunes.com/download).
- Set up your iTunes account, if you don't already have one. (Have your debit or credit card handy).
- You'll be asked if you want to update the iPad software. If you do, get ready to put your new baby down, and find something else to do (other than hover over it) for 45 minutes. I am not famous for my patience.
- Go to settings, and pick your WiFi network.
- Under "Mail, Contacts, Calendars" add your email account(s). Pick how many lines you want to preview (the default is only two).
- Finally, it's time to pick some apps, accessing the Apple Store with the iPad.
Now, we're talking magic!Related Posts: Now I'm Really Drooling Over the iPad; Even a Corgi Can Use an iPad; Low Tech in High Places; January 31, 2010 Recommended Reading (Mad TV - iPad video)
Heck, yeah, you'd run, but where to?
Oregon legal assistant, Lois Jessee, and her golden retriever, K'lar Debear, found themselves facing one ticked off mama bear earlier this summer, right after they stumbled upon two baby bears rifling through Jessee's garbage can.
K'lar Debear (does anyone know what this means? I'm gettin' killer the bear...) did what any self-respecting dog does, and attempted to send those naughty cubs packing.
Only they were packing real heat in the form of one large angry mother... (I know what you're thinking) bear.
I've got to say I really admire Jessee's quick thinking under fire, an excellent trait for a legal assistant.
That morning, as she watched the mother bear close in on her dog, Jessee knew she had a split second to save herself and K'lar. Normally, she keeps the gate to her eight-foot fence padlocked, but that morning luck was on her side. The padlock hung open.
"Both of them are coming in my direction full blast," Jessee said. "There is only about 75 feet -- I realized I've got to get the gate open. I ripped open the lock. The dog comes whipping in. I close the gate. Momma bear and I are about five feet apart, looking at each other, momma to momma, just a eight-foot gate separating us. Had it been a four-foot fence, I don't think I'd be talking to you."
My heart's beating a little faster just imagining what it must have felt like to have the hot breath of an outraged bear on your heels. I'm so glad that Jessee and K'lar are fleet of foot and that Jessee's gate was miraculously unlocked.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Now it's time to convince The Boss that his two senior paralegals (hey, it's not only because we're the oldest paralegals in the office) should become NALA Certified Paralegals, and eventually Advanced Certified Paralegals under the umbrella of the firm's continuing education provisions.
So I try the old, "Hey, remember when I brought up the subject of national paralegal certification, like, three years ago, and you said 'Yes'?"
The Boss: "No."
Me: "Well, it's kind of like taking a bar exam for paralegals. It's really hard, and we need a refresher course because we last attended school, like, a hundred years ago. We'll be tested on ethics, legal research, and substantive law."
The Boss: "Oh, okay, go for it."
Me: "Don't you want to know anything else about it? Like, we could have gone to the Short Course in Las Vegas last year, but this year the Short Course is in Charlotte, so it's, like, fate that we decided to do it now?"
The Boss: "No."
Crap. Well, no, not crap, because the firm's paying, but crap, because I had this whole long speech prepared, and I had only gotten through the preliminary nervous babbling before I got to the good parts.
If I'd known it was going to be this easy, I would have started last year and aimed for a trip to Vegas.
Stay tuned for a future post in which I convince myself I have to have an iPad to study properly. (The type is really small in case my husband divorces me for bringing home an iPad, like it's a stray puppy or something.)
“That program [FRP] is up for review right now. But the registered paralegals have requested that we look into requiring that they be regulated in some form or fashion, and their request specifically is that they be regulated by The Florida Bar or the Florida Supreme Court,” said board member Greg Coleman, chair of the Program Evaluation Committee, which will review the registered paralegal program.
Paralegal regulation is a hot-button topic among legal professionals. In a 2006 Legal Assistant Today article, Patrick Vuong neatly sums up the opposing views as follows:
Some paralegals and legislators want mandatory licensure of the profession, saying it would assure that clients receive services from only qualified, trained professionals, and it would help distinguish paralegals from legal secretaries and other administrators. But opponents argue regulation is unnecessary because unauthorized practice of law statutes provide sufficient safeguards and already define what a paralegal can and can’t do.
Catherine Durgin explores the opposing views on paralegal regulation in her 2007 ABA Business Law Today article, "Getting legal with paralegals".
The debate about the need for paralegal regulation is as old as the profession. The arguments often parallel a person's view on the role of paralegals in the delivery of legal services. Are paralegals merely assistants to lawyers, or do they represent an independent profession that requires separate regulation and supervision? While some are content letting the supervising lawyer decide the qualifications of the paralegals he or she hires, others call for increased supervision and regulation.More recently, Shirley Caroline Bryant, PLS, asked "How Does Paralegal Regulation Affect YOU?" in a 2009 article for NALS. She gives good advice when she recommends that paralegals should "stay informed regarding the presence of regulation in your state."
Even the advocates for increased regulation have differing opinions on what needs to be done: Some want to raise the profile of the profession by establishing standards for paralegals, while others call for mandatory regulation that expands the role of paralegals in the delivery of legal services and simultaneously protects the public from the unauthorized practice of law. Proposals at the state and national levels recommend various regulatory schemes as solutions. Some have been successful, others not so successful.
Where do you stand on paralegal regulation? Do we not fix what isn't broken - or do we need regulation to mandate who can and cannot use the paralegal title?
Sources: The Florida Bar News; Legal Assistant Today; Business Law Today; NALS
The Guidelines are an extraordinarily useful and direct set of provisions for both lawyers and paralegals, well worth a close read by all legal professionals. In addition to information about national certification programs and educational programs, North Carolina's voluntary associations for paralegals are listed.
Guideline number 8 is particularly worth emphasizing, due to the number of trust account abuse cases publicized across the country:
8. A Lawyer may DELEGATE MANAGEMENT OF A TRUST ACCOUNT TO A paralegal OR OTHER NONLAWYER EMPLOYEE BUT THE LAWYER REMAINS PROFESSIONALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR the safe keeping of the funds deposited in the account and for compliance with the recordkeeping and accountings required by the Rules of professional conduct.
Kudos to the N.C. State Bar for creating this excellent reference for paralegal utilization. Now, can we get these in a poster that we can hang up in the office?
Source: North Carolina State Bar Board of Paralegal Certification
A pair of so-called paralegals, calling their unregistered business Estate Planning Paralegal Services in Dublin, Ohio, but not working under the supervision of lawyers, are being sued by Ohio's Attorney General for violations of the state Consumer Sales Practices Act and of the Home Solicitation Sales Act. Andrea and George West, currently residing in New Mexico, allegedly called themselves "Medicaid Specialists" and operated a Medicaid assistance scheme which cost their victims thousands of dollars.
Medicaid is a U.S. health program for people with low incomes and few assets. Add the fact that these were senior citizens unable to live independently, and this reaches a new level of heinous behavior.
Attorney General Richard Cordray said, "They targeted residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities around the state, promising to help the residents apply for Medicaid. Although the Wests received thousands of dollars in payment, they never delivered the promised services."
If the allegations are true, and in a just world, we reap what we sow, the Wests would not only be ordered to pay restitution and civil penalties, but they would spend their final days in a nursing home, helpless and penniless, at the mercy of anyone who walks in the door hoping to take advantage of their desperate need.
It's situations like this one that bolster the argument for mandatory regulation or licensing of paralegals.
Sources: Columbus Business First; Legal News Line
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Employer: Winston & Strawn LLP, Chicago, IL
Years of Paralegal Experience: 18
Education/Degrees: B.G.S. Social Science, Roosevelt University; A.A.S., Daley College; Paralegal Studies, Lewis University
Specialty Areas: Litigation, Criminal, Civil Right, Pro Bono
Career Highlight: Receiving the Liberty Bell Award from the Chicago Bar Association and the Distinguished Service Award from the Federal Court.
Paralegal Practice Tip: Always be flexible and able to adapt to unforeseen changes. Attitude goes a long way.
Favorite Internet Resource: Lexis
Favorite Legal Software: Ipro/Concordance
Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs, for career and/or case development?
I use Facebook as a think tool. I try to post “thought provoking” ideas and concepts to help people improve their lives. I am not special; I made a decision, a choice, that I was not going to accept the negativity which surfaced. I sincerely believe that we’re stronger than we know. When adversity comes, so does your strength.
Fun Fact: I love lasagna.
One Gadget You Can’t Live Without: Blackberry
Favorite Quote: "A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life." ~ Muhammad Ali
I was extraordinarily privileged to write about Ken for Paralegal Today's July/September 2010 Paralegal Spotlight, "Wrongfully Incarcerated Paralegal Becomes Award-Winning Prisoner Advocate". Ken is an incredible human being, as well as an enormously talented paralegal. He's quiet and much more inclined to talk about prisoner advocacy than himself, but his colleagues were more than happy to talk about how truly special he is to them.
To The Idiot Who Stole the Toilet Paper from here:
(upper-left hand drawer, to be exact)
I think it's time you re-examined your life. Is your main goal in life to root through drawers looking for something to wipe your ass with or is there something I'm missing? Sure, you might have gotten away clean (pardon the pun), But you really have to ask yourself if this is what all your hopes and dreams turned out to be.
To me, it was only 27 cents worth of toilet paper, but to you: It represents the kind of person you are. A thieving, poor, good for nothing sham.
Don't be a thief, be enlightening and do something productive. Read a book, write a book, call someone you miss. Remove an animal from the shelter, donate to a charitable organization. The sky's the limit and the world is your oyster.
From "The Toilet Paper Ministry" (See this lengthy treatise in its entirety at PassiveAggressiveNotes.com)
Coming on the heels of a post about the ultimate passive aggressive email exchange between two legal secretaries who got fired over a missing ham sandwich, I had to share one of my favorite blogs with you guys: PassiveAggressiveNotes.com. This blog, which daily shares "painfully polite and hilariously hostile writings from shared spaces the world over," is a must-read for anyone who's ever endured passive-aggressive co-workers - or is the passive-aggressive co-worker.
Ah, me, what's a day without a laugh at someone else's expense? And who hasn't gone ballistic upon discovering some useless sham of a human being ripped off the last of the toilet paper?
I think the little hearts at the top of this note really make it truly, truly heartfelt and even a little (just a teensy bit) sweet. Go now, out into your wide-open oyster world, and do some soul-searching while you replace that 27-cent toilet paper.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
I downloaded NALA’s membership application (http://www.nala.org/Upload/file/PDF-Files/MBRAPP.PDF), although I don’t have to be a member to sit for the Certified Paralegal (CP) exam. But I’m a fan of NALA, and membership offers discounts for online and live courses which might be helpful to preparing for the CP exam. An active membership is $125 per year, plus a non-refundable $15 initiation fee. However, the initiation fee is waived for members of NALA-affiliated associations like NCPA.
You might be wondering if I'm such a big fan, why I haven’t joined NALA, or any other national paralegal organization sooner. I love the support, education and many other benefits that national organizations offer to their members, including (but not limited to, in case somebody gets mad that I left them out), NALA, NALS, NFPA and AAfPE. My limited budget has been a significant factor in my selection of association memberships to date. My employer graciously pays for my two current state paralegal division memberships. Most of the national associations' annual fees are a bit steeper than either of my current state association fees.
My unbiased, unaffiliated, and (hopefully reasonably) objective status as a blogger and amateur news commentator is also a consideration. With some very attractive national paralegal, legal support staff and paralegal educator organizations to choose from, I thought perhaps I should remain neutral territory, sort of like the paralegal version of Switzerland. I thought I had a brilliant resolution to the problem, i.e. join them all - but the air left that balloon when I calculated my membership fees would be in excess of $1,000 per year. Not. Happening.
But I am committed to pursuing NALA's Certified Paralegal designation, and I think the benefits of a NALA membership more than justify the annual fee. Now, I’m going to go turn my piggy bank upside down – in front of The Boss, so he’ll feel sorry for me and want to help build my self-esteem by supporting me on my road to the NALA CP Exam.
Look for future posts in which I shanghai me a study buddy, and tell The Boss I want to take the bar exam for paralegals.
Related Posts: Road to NALA CP Exam: When, Where & How Much?
Heather Finch was a long-time paralegal for the law offices of Howard, Lewis & Petersen in Provo, Utah. Leuzi Cardoso started work there as a legal secretary in 1983, performing many different functions over her 29-year career. Managing shareholder John Valentine told a local television station that their deaths are a major blow to the firm.
Both of these women were amazing leaders. Mrs. Finch was the head of the paralegal organization for the whole state. Mrs. Cardoso has been our office manager and has been very accomplished in a number of areas. We are just so saddened to lose both of them.
Their detailed professional biographies can be viewed at the firm's online staff profiles. Both women were incredibly accomplished legal professionals. Finch was an active member and held various leadership positions in the Utah State Bar's Paralegal Division. She was the 2009 Utah State Bar Paralegal of the Year.
And both were wives, as well as moms to five children each. There aren't sufficient words to convey to their families, friends and colleagues how sorry I am to hear of this devastating loss. Heather Finch and Leuzi Cardoso were living their lives to the fullest and making their life-long dream come true, the actions of wonderful, courageous and imaginative women - who will be deeply missed by the people who loved them.
Sources: Salt Lake Tribune; ksl.com
I love it that Aaron Korsh, the creator of the now defunct legal dramedy "The Deep End" doesn't give up. His newest project "A Legal Mind" is headed to the USA Network.
You know I'm delighted, as "The Deep End" provided plenty of blogger fodder. I can't wait to find out why Rachel can't be Mike's valuable research ally during business hours, even if he is a bogus high-powered corporate attorney engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.
Although I am a woman, even I can tell that not many viewers are going to be paying attention to Rachel's "encyclopedic knowledge"...
Related Posts: Television's Newest Paralegal Confounds Some Viewers; We're All Guardian Angels; Psssst, TV Writers, Most Paralegals Have Never Flunked a Bar Exam; What We've Learned about Katie the Paralegal in ABC's "The Deep End"
Unfortunately, the news story is about a paralegal, Rebecca Shaw, of Hartsville, South Carolina. She has been charged by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) with almost a dozen criminal counts arising from the alleged misappropriation of at least $245,000 in client settlement funds from a law firm trust account.
Misappropriation is defined as the intentional, illegal use of the property or funds entrusted to your care, but actually owned by someone else. It's accurate in this instance, but I prefer the shorter, more powerful verb stealing. Theft and larceny also work for me. Let's be direct when talking about taking things that do not belong to us. Breach of trust and betrayal also come to mind when legal professionals take money from the people they are supposed to be protecting, helping and advocating for.
It would be great if this turned out to be the biggest accounting error ever, and not a situation where a law firm employee forged clients' signatures in order to cash a disturbing number of settlement checks over a six-year period.
With the SLED estimating the amount of missing funds "to go well beyond $245,000 before the investigation is complete," you have to wonder how this went on so long, and what could have been done differently to protect both the law firm and its clients from blatant mismanagement of a trust account.
I don't like reading these stories any more than you do. I'm proud to be a paralegal, and I'm proud of the work that many legal professionals do. But I don't like to be reminded that a few rotten apples make the rest of us look bad when they use their training and their access to large amounts of money to steal - not only funds that don't belong to them - but also the public's trust.
Source: South Carolina Now
Monday, August 23, 2010
To keep track of the details, I created a notebook labeled “NALA CP Exam” in my Evernote account. Have I ever mentioned most of the memory storage cells in my brain reside in this incredible and free cloud-based application?
Second, I visited the N.C. Paralegal Association, Inc.’s website (http://www.ncparalegal.org/). I’m a member of NCPA, an affiliate member of NALA. I wanted to review membership benefits relating to NALA.
2010 Certified Paralegal Short Course
I went to NCPA’s “NALA News” section and was pleasantly surprised to see that NALA is offering the 2010 Certified Paralegal Short Course (http://www.nala.org/shortcourse.aspx) on November 11-13, 2010 in Charlotte, NC, which is a little more than an hour away from me. The course is recommended for paralegals planning to take the Certified Paralegal exam in January or May 2011.
I was a bit taken aback by the $390 registration fee for NALA members and $450 for non-members, but the blow was softened somewhat by discovering, in addition to handout materials, the fee includes the Certified Paralegal Study Guide and Mock Examination (West Legal Studies, 4th Edition, 2009). Amazon.com has a 2008 edition of the book listed at $41.83 currently.
I printed the Registration Form for the short course – and am still considering how I will approach The Boss with this proposal, i.e. that he pay for it. In the event of an “in your dreams” response, I need to figure out if I can pay for the course myself – or prepare for the exam without taking a review course. But I know myself very well. I know I would benefit from a focused, intensive review, especially of the practice and skill areas in which I have little or no experience.
NALA CP Exam Fees, Deadlines & Commitments
Third, I visited NALA’s website. I reviewed the information for obtaining the Certified Paralegal designation. If I want to sit for the May 2011 exam, my application needs to be postmarked by April 1, 2011 (unless I want to pay a late fee). The fee to sit for the exam is $250 for NALA members and $275 for non-NALA members.
I carefully reviewed the examination application. For the substantive law section of the exam, I must select four out of the nine specialty areas. My initial inclination is to select Litigation, Family Law, and….and…uh…uh, choosing the remaining two is harder than I thought. I haven’t worked in, or had any formal education classes in any of the other areas since the early 90s. I briefly thought about flipping a quarter or drawing pieces of paper out of a hat. Right now, I’m leaning toward bankruptcy and contract law, the subjects I remember best from school. I need to make a commitment soon, though, so I can plan a course of study.
Any suggestions regarding selection of the substantive law sections?
Look for tomorrow's Road to the NALA CP Exam post, "If I Join a National Organization, Can I Still Be Switzerland?" I'm working on the post inspired by a good paralegal friend's response to my announcement, "R U NUTZ?"
- Gmail rocks if you can figure out the 18 steps needed to take back your ill-advised email;
- Do not put your lunch in the firm fridge, i.e. keep your ham sandwich in a portable cooler with a combination lock at your desk;
- Hair-pulling in the parking lot after hours is a lot less damning than e-mail; and
- Melinda, by her own written admission, was a player in 2005.
Oh, and say it with me, gentle readers, your work computer really isn't yours.
We welcome paralegals, Colleen Sarenpa, Director of Trademarks for Polaroid Corporation at PLR Brand Services, LLC, and Gwen Spurrier, a paralegal at the Minneapolis law firm of Gray Plant Mooty, to talk about one of the fastest-growing specialty areas today: intellectual property. They discuss how they entered this highly specialized area of the law, their biggest challenges on the job, and what it takes to become an intellectual property paralegal.
Also in this episode:
- Our guests’ career paths to IP work
- The definition of IP and its sub-specialties
- The responsibilities of an IP paralegal
- How to get into the IP specialty area
- Online IP resources
- Practice and social media tips from Vicki and Lynne
MP3 link: http://websrvr82il.audiovideoweb.com/ny60web16519/LTN/PLV/PLV_081810_IntellectualProperty.mp3
Internet resources referenced in the podcast:
- International Trademark Association, http://www.inta.org/
- U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, http://www.uspto.gov/
- Careers in Intellectual Property Law, ABA, http://www.abanet.org/intelprop/careers.html
- Appendix to Careers in Intellectual Property Law, ABA, http://www.abanet.org/intelprop/appendix.html
- Intellectual Property Today magazine, http://www.iptoday.com/
- Patently O blog (Dennis Crouch), http://www.patentlyo.com/
- IPWatchdog blog (Gene Quinn), http://ipwatchdog.com/
- How to Become an Intellectual Property Paralegal, http://www.ehow.com/how_5858706_become-intellectual-property-paralegal.html
- National Association of Legal Assistants Advanced Paralegal Certification - Trademarks http://www.nala.org/APC-trademarks.aspx
The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsors: Westlaw Deposition Services and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).
If you enjoyed The Paralegal Voice, please share the link to the podcast 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 TheParalegalVoice@gmail.com
Sunday, August 22, 2010
So, I'll admit, I sometimes still wonder what I'm going to be when I grow up, or when I turn 30. What am I now? Professionally, I'm a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal who has worked in the legal field since 1986. Since 1990, I've known I have a real affinity for medical records, damage calculations and civil injury law. I've written a textbook for paralegals with my boss. I've spoken at numerous CLEs about topics ranging from civil litigation to presenting effective settlement demands to most recently, social media. I'm booked to speak at several more CLEs, for both paralegals and attorneys, by the end of this year.
So is it normal to be thinking, "What's next?" Before I adopted my youngest daughter, right before she started third grade, I was looking at several options for higher education, including going to nursing school, getting a second bachelor's degree in psychology, or working toward a master's degree in professional writing. I also thought about seeking the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) Certified Paralegal credential.
Then life happened, and plans for further education fell to the wayside. But now my youngest is a high school freshman, and I am thinking about implementing a real educational goal for 2011. I'm very much interested in NALA's Advanced Paralegal Certification programs in Discovery, Trial Practice, Personal Injury, and more recently, Trademarks.
First, I'd have to obtain the Certified Paralegal designation. But I'm a little intimidated. Yes, I said that out loud on a blog read by legal professionals across the country - and in some other countries. My last taste of a formal paralegal education was in 1990, when I obtained my associate degree in Paralegal Technology. My last taste of a formal college education was in 1993, when I obtained my bachelor's degree in English Literature. My days of formal study are almost two decades behind me.
I know that I will need to review extensive materials to prepare for the CP exam. It's been a long time since I researched anything other than North Carolina workers' compensation cases - my current specialty area. Do I think it would be good for me personally and professionally to embark on a disciplined and planned review of the study materials for the exam?
Do I worry about what I'll have to give up to find time in my daily schedule to do this?
Am I going to give up this blog?
Heck, no. But I've already started cutting back on other activities, including freelance writing.
I need an intellectual challenge, and I'm thinking that NALA's CP exam might be exactly what I need to grow as a paralegal.
If I do this, you know I'll blog about it every step of the way. Would I love a like-minded study buddy?
The Law.com headline "Lawyer says he couldn't have stopped paralegal's pilfering" makes me scratch my head a little in itself. By definition pilfering means stealthily stealing small amounts. Spinks appears to have helped herself quite openly to staggering amounts of cash.
The fact that Michael Puskas, the lawyer who used her as an independent contractor for real estate transactions, thinks he couldn't have done anything about this paralegal's, er, pilfering really makes me scratch my head.
Puskas says he had an "arms-length" relationship with Spinks from 2002 through 2008, but according to the news article, he admitted borrowing $240,000 from her - which he never paid back. Listen, peeps, we'd have to be pretty tight for me to loan you that amount, even with two or three less zeroes. And I'd be pretty darned curious about your income flow, if you were a paralegal willing and able to loan a couple hundred thousand dollars to me.
The article says, "Puskas says he hopes to put the whole affair behind him."
Spinks' nefarious actions, including representing herself as a lawyer, stealing from the elderly, and forging a will, could have happened anywhere in the world. But Ontario Superior Court Justice Barry Matheson is right to wonder how it happened and went undetected so long here. I hope the Law Society of Upper Canada directs more than a few pointed questions to Puskas in its investigation of his role in this affair.
I'd love to hear the answers.
Source: Law Times
In addition to all that work required under her own roof - the cooking, the cleaning, the gardening, the wiping away of her children's tears, and the care of the dogs - Jill had long worked as a legal secretary, a demanding job she does with the kind of attention to detail that work requires if the attorneys these women work for are going to look as capable as they wish to look. So, in the words of that old song of female empowerment, "she brought home the bacon, and put it in the pan." ~ From "eulogy for Jill, by request" (ParadisePost.com)
Lest you be reaching for a tissue to cry for Californian Jill Hendrick, be assured that she's very much still with us (at least as of the date of this post), but asked the columnist (her brother-in-law) to go ahead and knock out her eulogy in case he dies before she does.
That sounds very much like your typical crackerjack legal secretary, getting everything taken care of long before it's actually needed.
It is a really good eulogy. Maybe I'll go ahead and draft mine, to make sure the dogs get included.
Source: Paradise Post
Saturday, August 21, 2010
The Big Law Big City firm I worked for when I was pregnant with my first kid had a "closet" with a couch in it. The room, an apparent architectural afterthought, was about 16 feet long and about five feet wide with a 30 year old leather couch and nothing else - not even a light fixture. Plus, the door was disguised as part of the wall. As far as I could tell, I was the only one who knew about the couch closet. The summer I was pregnant, that couch called my name everyday at lunchtime. Those were some of the best naps of my life.
Oooooh, this is like a gothic novel, except when you stumble across the secret room, instead of falling in love with the handsome but tormented lord of the manor, you get to take a nap during the middle of the day, which is even better.
Thanks for sharing this brilliant idea, Marie - this is definitely workable at our office, a historic house with lots of odd little rooms and hidden nooks (plus a ghost).
Related Posts: Our Law Office Is Haunted. Really.; This Paralegal Has a Skeleton in Her Closet
Speaking of dogs, my job would be perfect if I could bring my dogs to work. But the best I can do is bring a Practical Paralegalism mug, tote or t-shirt with a big ol' hint for The Bosses...
Related Posts: The Episode in Which We Finally Get a Law Firm Dog; Introducing the Staff of Practical Paralegalism; Why Every Legal Professional Needs a Dog
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Ferino, a softball player and 2000 graduate of Shepard High School in Palos Heights, thought her job as a legal assistant would preclude her from serving on the jury. But she was selected, her sister said, because she didn't follow politics.
"We are not a political family," her sister said.
I understand how Ferino feels. I thought being a paralegal was an automatic get-out-of-jail free card when it comes to jury duty, even though I've always wanted to serve on a jury.
But I can also see how trying to pay your bills on the $40 daily stipend would be a significant stressor, along with 14 long days of deliberations that resulted in agreement on only one of the 24 counts. Although Ferino isn't talking about the experience right now, she is clearly happy to return to her job at a Burr Ridge law firm, and put former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's trial - and the accompanying media circus - behind her.
Source: Southtown Star
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Here's video of Bethany Massey dancing with her brothers on the show:
Congratulations to the Massey family for getting a second chance to strut their stuff. If Bethany Massey can face Howie, Piers and Sharon on national television, she can probably handle anything that comes her way in a law firm.
Source: Newberg Graphic
The legal profession tops this list, with a growth rate of 29% over the last year:
1. Legal - Increase: 29%
The legal profession covers a wide variety of occupations, from attorneys to legal assistants and secretaries. Although there's a strong increase in online job postings, it's important to note that the legal profession is cyclical: in a recession, corporations cut back their legal staff to contain costs. This upswing in hiring is a good sign that business is getting better - good news for all of us. Unless of, course, the largest increase in demand for lawyers is bankruptcy law.
I can hear some of my readers snorting, "Duh! Legal professionals have been more like victims of corporate massacres over the last two years, and no duh, bankruptcy is booming proportionally." Of course, in a down economy, bankruptcy and foreclosure practice remain marketable specialty areas, along with employment, insurance defense and litigation. Paralegals play a vital role by helping law firms efficiently provide more economical, competitive services, including taking on many tasks that may have previously been performed only by associates.
After a relentless period of bad news topped by more bad news for employment in the legal field, I'm hoping that we'll see more signs of better times over the coming months. But I expect that legal employers will demand more highly qualified, versatile employees than ever, especially in areas impacted by rapidly changing technology.
I've noticed an increase in advertising for legal support staff positions regionally, including more job announcements appearing in listserv posts. What about your area of the country - are you seeing more online ads for legal support staff?
Source: San Francisco Chronicle
Employer: The affiliate of a large Bank, Jersey City, New Jersey
Years of Paralegal Experience: 15+
Education/Degrees: BA Political Science
Specialty Areas: Plaintiff’s personal injury and insurance defense. More recently securities litigation.
Career Highlight: Being able to contribute to the profession with my blog, The Paralegal, and serving as President of Legal Assistants Association of New Jersey (LAANJ) in 2005.
Paralegal Practice Tip: Learn as much as you can about an issue before you start to research it. It makes researching so much more interesting and easier. My other tip is to make sure you keep a “tickler” system where you record due dates. Include file review dates. Don’t just put a file away without making sure you set a date for a status review.
Favorite Internet Resource: Google has to be the one constant in most of my research. It’s the first place I go when I need to find information about an issue.
Favorite Legal Software: I think Bloomberg Law, https://www.bloomberglaw.com/login.htm, is a great source of information for a securities paralegal.
Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs, for career and/or case development? I use Twitter and LinkedIn as my professional resources, and I use Facebook with family.
Fun Fact: I was born and raised in Lisbon, Portugal.
One Gadget You Can’t Live Without: I can’t live without my iPhone. My life is in it.
Favorite Quote: "Whether you think you can or can’t… you’re right." I always end it by adding my own, “So you may as well think you can”
Paralegal/Legal Association Memberships: New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) and Legal Assistants Association of New Jersey (LAANJ)
Professional Links: http://theparalegal.wordpress.com/