Sunday, October 31, 2010

Today's Quote: I'm a Paralegal and I'm Not Afraid to Admit I Love Vampires

Why should my son have all the fun this Halloween? Since I shouldn’t eat all the Snickers bars, I think I’ll grab one of [Laurell K.] Hamilton’s [kick-butt vampire] books instead! ~ Massachusetts paralegal Elizabeth Wegner discusses vampire fiction with Nancy Harris in "Weymouth mom falls under the spell of vampire tales" (

I've spoken at a number of paralegal CLEs this year, and inevitably the talk at lunch turns to the latest vampire novels. No joke. I should do a national paralegal survey, "Who are your favorite vampires?" Not one single adult woman was ashamed to admit that she's read all of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. Well, I was sort of ashamed to admit I've read them, but speed-reading is one of my few super-powers, and I wanted to see what the heck my teenage daughters are talking about, and why they want to date Edward Cullen, like he's real and might actually be available for prom.

At the last CLE luncheon, I tried to turn my table mates onto the greatest vampire fiction writer of all time, Anne Rice. I got blank looks, and a few people who remember the miscast Tom Cruise as the Vampire Lestat (unlike gorgeous Stuart Townsend who played Lestat in the rather awful Queen of the Damned) in the 1994 movie Interview with the Vampire. So I was thrilled to see Harris remind us that Rice was writing great fiction about extraordinarily complex, enthralling vampire characters long before the rather insipid, albeit very polite, Edward, and that whiny (I'm not sorry to admit that I mostly wanted to slap her in books two and three) Bella considerably fattened Meyers' bank accounts.

I'm the vampire Lestat. Remember me? The vampire who became a super rock star, the one who wrote the autobiography? The one with the blond hair and the grey, and the insatiable desire for visibility and fame? You remember... ~ Lestat
I remember you, Lestat, and Edward will never replace you in my heart (although I am two-timing you via emotional affairs with TrueBlood's Bill and Eric.)


FedEx Recognizes Paralegal Who Went Above and Beyond Call of Duty

Great paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, and many other legal staffers go above and beyond the call of duty every day, solving problems as they arise and providing excellent customer service to their employers' clients, so it is nice to see FedEx in Memphis, Tennessee recognize 26 of its employees that have not only done a good job, but did way more than they had to, including senior paralegal Cynthia Fitzsimmons.

Purple Promise awards went to 11 employees for going above and beyond their duties to fulfill the company's pledge to make every FedEx experience outstanding.

Other Memphis-area employees receiving awards were Cynthia Fitzsimmons, a senior paralegal, who received a Purple Promise award for solving a customer's shipping problem at a national conference; and Debbie Stephens, senior human resources development specialist, recipient of a Humanitarian Award for supporting cancer patients.
I did a quick Google search and found what I believe is Fitzsimmons' blog, Silly Little Cynthia. I'm pretty sure I got it right, because it says she lives in Memphis, is a paralegal and loves her job at FedEx.

Her April 8, 2010 blog post, "An Attitude of Gratitude," says a lot about why Fitzsimmons is the kind of paralegal that goes above and beyond the call of duty. She writes:

I can get out of bed angry because I have to go to work or I can choose to be grateful for the job I have waiting for me. How you choose to look at this decision is also a choice. You can view life with either an optimistic or a pessimistic approach. It’s your call.

In another post, Fitzsimmons writes that she's grateful "to have a good company to work for and managers that care about our needs and concerns." I don't think Fitzsimmons is silly at all; she seems like the kind of person that gets up determined to bring a positive attitude to whatever challenges her day brings.

With a great attitude like hers, that's no doubt that Fitzsimmons is exactly the kind of person who will go the extra mile to help a client. Practical Paralegalism congratulates her for receiving a Purple Promise award in recognition of her outstanding service and commitment to her profession.

Some Alternate Activities for Halloween Miscreants

You probably can't tell, but Halloween is my fave holiday, even though this year I didn't get to wear my mouse ears to work (home all week on doctor's orders), and we never get a single trick-or-treater because most of my neighbors are retirees who turn off their lights and go hide out at K&W during the prime hours for elementary school kids and high school drop-outs to be gadding about, knocking over planters of winter pansies and expressing their lack of enthusiasm for pencils and boxes of raisins. So I'm vicariously experiencing neighborhoods that are bursting with Halloween excitement, like this one that has real live thugs:

Yeah, it is way uncool to be trick-or-treating when you have a driver's license, trying to pass yourself off as a cute 12-year old hobo, when that's how you dress all the time, you need a shave (and also a belt for your saggin' pants) - so after you learn to read, go volunteer for a Habitat build, and gimme back my kid's bike.


24-Hour Silly String Crime Wave Anticipated in L.A.

Judging by the absolutely hilarious decision to liberally apply quotation marks in strategic locations on the "warning" sign, the $1,000 fine is pretty iffy, and the illegality is certainly questionable, so if Silly String on Halloween is your weapon of choice, well, check with your lawyer first.

Source: the "blog" of "unnecessary quotation marks

ParalegaliPad: Rollable Keyboard Must Be Seen to Be Believed

I saw this mini rollable Bluetooth keyboard for iPad and iPhone rolled up like my beloved (but probably short-lived) morning newspaper, and bein' a total hick, went all Gomer Pyle and said, "Gawwww-leeeee."

This marvel is only $34 at EFO Gadget Shop. Dang, I better find one of these rolled up in my stockin' this Christmas...

Source: PadGadget

Debbie Does Cakes & Happy Halloween

Cake Wrecks just happened to feature a post of gorgeous Halloween-themed cakes (except for the one with the humongous spider that still has me feeling quite skeevy) - but one cake is of my favorite dog from my favorite movie from my favorite film-maker, Tim Burton.

Zero the ghost dog is wicked cute. I want one.

Sources: Cake Wrecks; Debbie Does Cakes

You Might Notice a Change (or Two) at Practical Paralegalism

Yes, it's midnight, and my insomnia, fueled by my obvious OCD tendencies, wouldn't let me rest until I had simplified this blog in a big way. If you read all of Practical Paralegalism's posts via RSS Feed Reader, then you keep on doing what you're doing because it's darned efficient - but you probably haven't noticed a blessed thang as far as the template.

If you keep Practical Paralegalism as a favorite in a browser, or just visit occasionally, then you will notice the template has changed - a lot. I wanted to make it easier to read, because most of my readers look at documents all day long and need reader-friendly fonts and colors. Or maybe, it's just because I need easier to read formats. And because Blogger added Pages, it just seemed better to move some information off the home page.

So, what do you think? Is simpler better, or should I have stopped drinking that Arizona Raspberry iced tea four hours ago?

If you haven't tried Google Reader yet, I highly recommend it. It takes only a few minutes to set up, it's free, and you can subscribe to all your favorite news feeds and blogs - and never miss a blessed thang.

Related Posts:
Using Social Media - Without Letting It Take Over Your Life; Hey, Paralegals, What's In Your RSS Reader?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

TGIF: Make Yourself a Zombie

No, seriously, I'm sure you are very busy, unlike that "Carly the Co-worker with the Cushy Job," but it is kind of a holiday activity, so take a sneak Internet interlude and make yourself into a zombie at (This is me. I thought about making my boss into a zombie, but then also recollected how much I enjoy being gainfully employed.)

And now some zombie-isms to chew on for the rest of the day:

Don't worry, the zombies are looking for brains, you're safe. (hehehehehehehe)

You're a great friend, but if the zombies chase us, I'm tripping you. (hehehehehehehehehe)

Great minds taste alike. (hehehehhe This is my fave so far)

Finally, courtesy of Avvo, "Is it legal to kill zombies (and other related questions)?"

Budget Career Suit of the Week: Larry Levine Coffee Suit

I know it's tough on many legal staffers' salaries to buy enough suits for interviews, depositions, trials, as well as more formal offices that require suit-dressing almost daily. I also speak to a lot of professional groups, and having several nice suits is necessary (and several backups if you swing between sizes like I sometimes do) - but budgeting for them is challenging since I also have two teenage girls to dress.

I think an underrated budget suit designer is Larry Levine. I own several of his Signature line of suits, and I'm not embarrassed to say I've scored them for $39.99 each at my local Ross Dress for Less store. The jackets are fully lined; the pants aren't lined but the fabric is a good weight and hangs nicely. They often have interesting details that separate them from the same ol' boring suit-dressing. Sometimes you have to visit Ross often and dig through what seems like hundreds of clothes hung on endless racks in a rather bare bones shopping environment, but it's worth it when you're trying to build a career wardrobe on a limited income.

I recently bought a collarless coffee-colored Larry Levine Signature pantsuit with a waist tie that looks similar to this Larry Levine Coffee 4-Button Skirt Suit offered by a great online discount store, Smart Bargains. At $79.99 it's a great buy, but I'll be keeping an eye out for a sale. I love the coffee color, which is both flattering and slimming, and the slightly different take on the traditional three-button grey or black suit. I can't quite bring myself to wear pantyhose with skirts, but I do wear tights and Nine West high heel boots in the colder months.

Other local discount clothing stores where I keep an eye out for good deals on Larry Levine or Tahari, another fave discount suit designer, are Marshalls and T.J. Maxx. Online I've had great success with

I'd love to hear from readers who've scored great deals on suits - what designers do you like, and where do you do your bargain-hunting? Even better, if you've got a photo of you rocking a bargain suit from a second-hand store or eBay, I'd love to feature your career-dressing savvy here at Practical Paralegalism.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Open Thread: How Do You Handle Unequal Workloads between Co-Workers?

A question to The Modesto Bee's workplace coach in a column entitled, "Your Office Coach: Workload inequity isn't co-worker's fault," may remind you of situations you've experienced in the past - or may be experiencing now. You work in an extremely busy law firm or legal department and have a co-worker with the same job title (paralegal, legal secretary, administrative assistant) that makes the same salary as you but works for a different attorney. You personally like her, but you can't help noticing that she has a lot more free time during the work day than you do.

"Carly" comes in late every day and leaves right at quitting time. During work hours, she calls her family, texts her friends, shops online, surfs the Net, reads the paper and listens to ballgames on her computer. She also spends time chatting with people at her desk.

In the meantime, you're swamped, you eat lunch at your desk every day, your inbox is overflowing, and you frequently have to stay late to meet deadlines. You've tried to be professional, but you can't help feeling resentful, especially when she seems like a great gal - who has a cushy job and is oblivious to your crushing work load. You've even spoken to your office manager about the situation, without any redistribution of the load. What recourse do you have?

The workplace coach's answer accurately reflects the reality in many law firms, and you should read it in full to see her solution. Essentially, she says it's ultimately up to the powers that be, i.e. the attorneys, to fairly distribute the workload, if they are so inclined. Still, if no changes are made, where does this leave you, especially if you can't help but feel bitter (and abandoned) when "Carly" waltzes out the door every day at 5:00 p.m. (or earlier), while you're still at your desk assembling dozens of exhibits for an e-filing due in federal court that night. Can you learn to live with it?

How have you dealt - or how do you deal - with unequal distribution of work at your law firm or in your legal department, especially between co-workers of equal rank and pay? I'm hoping you'll share your thoughts and solutions here at this post (and please feel free to use the Anonymous comment option if you're more comfortable with it).

You might also be interested in checking out Dr. McIntyre's website, Your Office Coach at for more information about workplace concerns and her book, Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.

Source: The Modesto Bee

Paralegal Profile: Satyra L. Riggins, CLA

Job Title: Litigation Paralegal

Employer: Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, P.A., Charlotte, NC

Years of Paralegal Experience: 14

Education/Degrees: Bachelor degree in Political Science from Baylor University

Specialty Areas: Civil Litigation

Career Highlight: I was the senior paralegal on a complex accounting fraud case involving over 1 million pages of data. I was responsible for coordinating depositions and deposition preparation during an intense nine-month discovery period involving over 80 depositions, both nationally and internationally. This discovery period was tough, but I felt a great sense of accomplishment when we finished that last deposition.

Paralegal Practice Tip: Make sure that you fully understand the scope of a project before beginning your work. If necessary, repeat the instructions back to your supervising attorney to ensure that both of you have the same interpretation of the project duties.

Favorite Internet Resource: LawGuru (

Favorite Legal Software: Caseologistix (

Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs, for career and/or case development?
I use LinkedIn for professional networking purposes. I network with paralegals and other legal professionals around the country. I have gained some great ideas and tips through these connections. In addition, I belong to several groups on LinkedIn where there are discussions on topics of interest to paralegals and other legal professionals.

I created Facebook and LinkedIn groups for the Metrolina Paralegal Association which is being used as a tool to update MPA members and other interested parties on the activities of the association.

Fun Fact: My husband is in the security alarm industry, and I am in the legal industry so some of our friends call us “Law and Order.”

One Gadget You Can’t Live Without: My personal Blackberry. I love being able to get my emails without having to sit down at a desktop or laptop computer.

Favorite Quote: Never make someone a priority in your life, when they have only made you an option in theirs.

Paralegal/Legal Association Memberships: Metrolina Paralegal Association (Publicity Chair/Newsletter Editor) and National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)

Professional Links:

The Paralegal Voice: The Importance of Technology in the Paralegal World

The latest edition of The Paralegal Voice, “The Importance of Technology in the Paralegal World,” co-hosted by Vicki Voisin and me, is now available at Legal Talk Network.

We welcome Kim Plonsky, a frequent contributor to Paralegal Today and a paralegal at Gainsburgh, Benjamin, David, Meunier & Warshauer, L.L.C., in New Orleans, Louisiana, who knows her technology inside and out! Kim looks at the kinds of technology to use on the job, the minimum technology and software skills that today’s paralegals should have, and shares her favorite online resources for keeping up with today’s legal technology.

Also in this episode:
  • How Kim became a technology expert and columnist
  • Kim’s favorite electronic gadgets
  • Kim’s favorite legal software
  • Technology resources for paralegals on a budget
  • Common legal software utilized by law firms
  • Practice and social media tips from Vicki and Lynne

Page URL:

Internet resources referenced in the podcast:

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

Related Post: Paralegal Profile: Kim Plonsky, LAT Software Reviewer and Gadget Whiz

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

E-Discovery: Did You Know?

When I lecture about social media to legal professionals, many of them are mystified by Twitter and any application it could have to their professional lives. Today, I'm going to give you an example of how Twitter broadens my horizons every day. Bob Ambrogi (Twitter stream is @bobambrogi) tweeted the link to this post at Catalyst E-Discovery Blog, featuring a "video dramatically depicting the explosion in e-discovery and electronic information."

Not only is the video extremely interesting, it plainly illustrates that if e-Discovery hasn't come to a law firm near you, it's coming soon. It's also pretty clear that statistically, we miss a lot of electronically stored information (ESI) in traditional discovery searches. If you aren't even familiar with the most basic facts about e-Discovery, subscribing to blogs like Catalyst E-Discovery Blog can serve as a free primer (just click that orange RSS button right in the top right hand corner of the blog and drop that subscription right into your RSS feed reader). Reading the posts is a great way to get ready for that day you do have to deal with it, especially if you work in litigation.

Source: Catalyst E-Discovery Blog

Related Posts: The Paralegal Voice: "E-Discovery Trends in the Paralegal World; A Few Free E-Discovery Resources for Newbies; E-Discovery: A Need for Experienced Project Managers and a New Group; Free E-Discovery 101 Webcast for Paralegals Available at Fios

Monday, October 25, 2010

Paralegal Publishes First Novel, A Matter of Pride

Congratulations to Florida paralegal Jane Gill, who has published her first novel, A Matter of Pride (Double Edge Press, 2010).

The description of the novel at the publisher's website reads:

"You can never go home again. . .” Lu Conners wonders why she would want to.

Home to her conjured up memories of a poverty stricken childhood on a dirt-farm in Florida, the death of her mother, an embittered and closed-off
father, and the cutting slights of being called nigger and pickaninny. Was it any wonder that when she won a scholarship for college in the north she never
looked back?

Now with teenagers herself, a successful career, and a business-owner husband, the last thing she wants to do is attend to her newly deceased father’s affairs. Neither is she anxious to deal with her hostile brother or face those figures from her childhood who could feel nothing but betrayal after her long absence.

The journey home unexpectedly becomes more than a facing of bad memories. To her surprise she finds it to be a journey of renewal as secrets are revealed, sacrifices are discovered, and a newfound pride in her family and roots is instilled to be treasured and passed down to the next generation.
Gill, who also obtained her NALA certification when she was 50, told The Saratogian that she used her own experience in probate law to write the story about what happens to a family farm when its owners pass away. She chose African-American characters in part because she wants African-American youngsters to know they are descended from heroes, and not just slaves.

According to the firm's website, Gill is a certified paralegal employed by Muirhead, Gaylor & Steves, L.L.P., in its Sarasota, Florida office. The firm handles wills, trusts, probate, trust administration, estate and gift taxation, and charitable foundations.

Today's Quotes: Never Underestimate the Value of a Swift Kick Under the Table

Some people swore that the house was haunted. One, Sheila Wainwright, even vouched for the validity of this claim in Judge Harrow's court. The city attorney buried his head dejectedly in his hands for the entire performance. Why me, Jules Munroe thought, examining the slits of pink light crowding his vision. Why did I have to return to this God-awful hole-in-the-wall to practice law? Munroe's paralegal gave him a swift kick under the table.

Glancing up, the young lawyer realized the whole courtroom was smirking at him.
~ Excerpt from "Habeas Corpses" (NPR)

That's what we paralegals are here for, to help our supervising attorneys realize the whole courtroom is smirking at them.

This is an excerpt from Montana resident Derek Sturm's entry, "Habeas Corpses," in NPR's Round 5 Three-Minute Fiction contest. Every entry had to start with the line, "Some people swore the house was haunted," and end with the line, "Nothing was ever the same after that." You can listen to an NPR recording of the excerpt here.

It's true that a lot more goes on under the table at court proceedings than one thinks.

A Helpful Note for Your Chattier Co-Workers

I occasionally see articles and posts about workplace efficiency which address the problem of getting chatty co-workers out of your work space and tactfully (or not) putting the kibosh on the small talk. Even though this fed-up employee's informative sign comes straight from, I actually find it rather direct.

Enjoy. Feel free to copy it for your own new office or cubicle:


Who Are You? And How the Hell Did You Get into My Offices?

Thanks to Legal Blog Watch for posting this latest comedic legal video about negotiations gone South (way South) between a defense attorney and the prosecutor in a burglary case - as well as bringing xtranormal ("If you can type you can make movies...") to my attention (I think this calls for a foray into movie-making for paralegals - I'm taking calls for a like-minded script conspirator, I mean, contributor.)

C'mon,who hasn't wanted to say "Oh, Crap" when that great client you're representing - isn't.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It Gets So Much Better, and We Need to Help

You guys know I love Glee and don't answer the telephone at my house between 8 - 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. Even my 14-year old said last week, "Glee just makes my whole week better."

When I saw Chris Colfer's video for the It Gets Better project, I had to share it here. Not only because I am against discriminating against anyone for any reason, but also because as legal professionals, we're supposed to be advocates for justice, and we're supposed to be helping to make the world a better place for so many people battling adversity, prejudice and society's apathy, including but certainly not limited to, the homeless, the wrongfully accused, children in the juvenile court system, people losing their homes, people suffering from disabilities, and those experiencing discrimination at work and at school.

But we have to start at home, teaching our children not to judge and not to hate and most of all, not to be cruel. We have to educate and take a stand with relatives, friends and colleagues, some raised in atmospheres of intolerance, to show them that empathy, compassion and understanding are needed today, more than ever. A friend said to me recently that computers and the ease of cyber-bullying without directly facing your victims, seem to be creating an extraordinarily cruel and callous generation with no inhibitions or remorse when it comes to tormenting others, especially online. We need to teach our children not only that bullying of any kind is wrong - but also what to do when it inevitably happens to them.

We need to reach out to those in trouble and let them know they are not alone, and we all need to work to make sure that things do get better - for everyone.

Saturday LOL: I'm Going to Take All My Ambien at the Same Time...

...and Then Chase It with a Glass of Scotch

This video, "So You Want to Go to Law School," starting making the rounds right about the time several friends asked me what I thought about their graduating seniors planning for careers as lawyers. I might have said something along the lines of, "NOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooo, don't do it!"

This is a tough time to go to law school, in no small part because there are way more new law school graduates than jobs. So much so, that some of them, in total desperation, apply for our paralegal and legal secretarial jobs. There's a lot of truth thinly disguised as humor in this video; it really should be required viewing prior to signing on the dotted lines for law school loans.

Yet another reason I'm happy to be a student-loan free paralegal.

Source: Above the Law

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Would Ya Like Fries With That?

Or, More Stuff They Never Told Us We'd Have To Do in Paralegal School

Maybe I'm speaking out of turn here, but I think many of us pursued advanced education and paralegal training, so we wouldn't have to man the drive-thru window and repeatedly ask the public, "Would ya like fries with that?"

Because Practical Paralegalism is all about transparency when it comes to disclosing the pros and cons of the paralegal profession, it's my moral obligation to tell all ya'll paralegal students and newbies that after you get that degree, you still might have to man a drive-thru window, even if you get a great paralegal job and are rocking that off-the-rack suit your mom bought you at JCPenney and sensible pumps.

(Before you read any further, please don't shoot or blitz the messenger with hate email. I just calls 'em as I sees 'em.)

A Connecticut law firm specializing in personal injury and malpractice, The Kocian Law Group, now offers a drive-thru window at its newly renovated office on Middle Turnpike West in Manchester. This actually wasn't the result of some attorney's brilliant, midnight epiphany, "Shazam, I'ma kick the competition in the tail by offering drive-by legal services!" The building was a former Kenny Rogers Roasters (ya'll I did not know that The Gambler was in the healthy meal business worldwide, including Malaysia) and already had a drive thru window.

Kocian says he's been told this is the first drive thru legal service in Connecticut, and possibly the country. It's all about convenience for the customer, by offering an easy way for them to drop off and pick up documents.

"We represent a lot of injured people," said Kocian. "If you have somebody who's in a wheelchair or somebody who's hurt, it's convenient. We represent a lot of workers compensation claimants. They have to come pick up their checks once a week."

A paralegal mans the window, handing over documents to customers and answering any questions they have.

"They really love it. It's convenient for them," said Rosa Castillo, one of the firm's paralegals.

The firm has also expanded its hours - and is open nights and weekends.

Check out the video with the article; it looks like the paralegal's desk is right in front of the drive-thru window.

Talk about an office with a view.

I think another country singer, Tim McGraw, sums up the joys of drive-thru customer service real well:

Your ketchup's in the bag
And a check is in the mail
I hope your chicken's raw inside
And I hope your bun is stale
I'm supposed to tell you"Please come back"
But how bout this instead?
I hope you both choke on a pickle
Man, that would tickle me to death
I don't know what you're waiting on
You're holding up the line
Oh man, you ain't got no change coming back
Are you out of your mind?

If I'd Known It Was Boss's Day, I Would've Baked You a Cake

Or, "Nappy Boos's Day"

Boss's Day this year fell on Saturday, October 16, 2010. So, if you forgot about it altogether, you can buy yourself a little extra time by announcing, "Gee whiz, Boss's Day fell on a weekend, so I had to catch you this week."

I didn't know that forgetting a key date was actually the origin of Boss's Day:

Patricia Bays Haroski registered "National Boss' Day" with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1958. She was working as a secretary for State Farm Insurance Company in Deerfield, Illinois at the time and chose October 16 because she forgot that the birthday of her boss, who was her father, was actually on the 16th. Four years later in 1962, Illinois Governor Otto Kerner backed Haroski's registration and officially proclaimed the day.

One of my fave blogs, Cake Wrecks ("when professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong"), devoted a whole post to Boss's Day cakes - including the charming cake below. The post provides a step-by-step guide for how not to impress your boss, and perhaps supports the argument that it would be best just to lie low and forget the celebratory cake altogether.

(The Cake Wrecks post features another one of my punctuation pet peeves: your vs. you're. Do not get me started.)

Whatever you do for your boss, make sure you do it with your co-workers; Emily Post says giving your boss an individual gift makes you look like a brown noser.

Or you could just tell your boss a really funny joke (hubba hubba hubba).

Sources: Wikipedia; Cake Wrecks

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More Paralegal Cautionary Tales

Or, Oh, No, You Di'int

I'm back with the latest installment of stuff we wish hadn't happened, but allegedly did.

  • “My bad,” was a California legal secretary’s response to her former supervising attorney when she was initially busted for writing a mere $1,800 worth of checks out of his business account - including one to her mortgage company. Now, after being charged with forging over 100 checks totaling $120,000 out of that account, she can tell it to the judge. (Crestline Courier-News)
  • “It was also the bus matron’s fault,” says the wife of a New York man who left his job as a legal assistant, and got a new job driving a school bus. Legal assistants are supposed to notice things other people miss, but after his third week on the job, he illegally parked the bus and went home – not noticing a three-year old passenger was still on board. “My bad,” probably won’t cut it here either. (New York’s WPIX-TV)
  • A California fisherman is still (weirdly) able to laugh about losing (almost) every last dime he had - to the tune of $24,000 - to a shady process server who assured him she’d help him pursue his pro-per negligence lawsuit against a hospital. The process server is accused of not doing anything to help him pursue the litigation, instead helping herself liberally to the contents of his checking account, and even creating a fake paralegal, aptly named Hope, as part of the scam. (New Times SLO)
  • Oh, yes, those bats do too stink up the place. Government officials have brought on the mac daddy air freshener and are serving an eviction notice on a colony of bats currently occupying the Anderson County Courthouse Annex building in Anderson, South Carolina. According to a paralegal who works in the building, the heat from the afternoon sun really brings out the fragrance of bat droppings. (All of a sudden your bat-dropping-free cubicle looks pretty good, huh?) (WYFF Greenville)
  • A Massachusetts paralegal/office manager and her lawyer spouse have been charged with embezzling more than $1 million from several extraordinarily trusting clients, as well as several (former) friends. They allegedly convinced and/or tricked their victims into refinancing or mortgaging their homes for very large sums - with the property and proceeds going directly into the accounts and pockets of the accused thieves. (If you're worried that this pair of alleged con artists is still at large, the judge slapped GPS monitoring bracelets on them and ordered them confined in their home.) (Boston Herald and Middlesex District Attorney)


The photo is my best Oh-No-You-Di'int-Face I could find, but it's really just me wearing an awesome dragon mask my oldest kid, the graduate student in costume construction, made. This mask helped her land a really cool summer job in NYC making costumes for Broadway shows.

Paralegal Profile: Heather J. Lee, CP

Job Title: Certified Paralegal/Paralegal Specialist

Employer: United States Attorney’s Office located in Alexandria, Virginia

Years of Paralegal Experience: 8+ years

Specialty Areas: Criminal law (narcotics, gun, and gang cases); health care law and public policy

Career Highlights: In January 2009, I received the Certified Paralegal designation from the National Association of Legal Assistants after sitting for the exam. I was honored to receive a Department of Justice Director’s Award for Superior Performance by a Litigative Team, in December 2009.

Paralegal Practice Tips: It is hard to give just one, so here are a few key tips that I strive to meet every day: be organized; always ask for a deadline (an actual deadline, not when they would like it to be finished); and do not be afraid to learn something new-continually advancing your skill set is extremely important.

Favorite Internet Resources: I use Google every day. A few of my other favorite Internet sites are:,, and

Favorite Legal Software: Sanction Courtroom Presentation

Fun Fact: I love taking pictures when we travel. I normally come home with over 1,000 pictures from each trip. I just don’t have the heart to delete any of them. Do not worry, I do not print each picture.

Do you Twitter? Yes. Twitter handle: @heathrlee

Favorite Quote: "Nothing is impossible; the word itself says, 'I'm possible!'" ~ Audrey Hepburn

Professional Link:
I met Heather via Twitter, which is a great way to interact with other legal professionals all over the country. I appreciate her doing this profile so much - it's a great way for both me and ya'll to get to know her better. If you're a legal support staffer - paralegal, legal assistant, legal secretary, administrative assistant, executive assistant, or one of the many other positions which provide critical support to lawyers, I'd love to have you do a profile, and help show the wonderful diversity of our profession. If you send an email to, I'll be glad to send you the questionnaire. I know it's quick and relatively painless - some people have sent completed questionnaires back within 15 minutes of receipt!

Buy the Constellation for Only 27k

Or, Gadgets Gone Wild

I admit I'm in the market for a smart phone. But to be honest, when I first saw this one, I didn't know what it was, other than, oooooh, really shiny.

Really, really shiny. It's an 18-karat Vertu Constellation Quest, baby, and it can be yours for the bargain price of $27,000.

What do you get for 27k? I dunno. I'm all, like, "Dude, what's a Vertu?" One review says you get "an excessively large box." Which I would expect to live in for that price.

The same review says the phone has a concierge key. For 27k, I want a live concierge living with me in my excessively large box, and anticipating my every desire - plus vacuuming, picking up puppy poo, and taking the teens to their orthodontist appointments. (Does anyone even know if you can play Angry Birds on a watchamacallit, er, Vertu?)

I'm also wondering if this iPhone, iPad and iPod touch controlled massage chair, reasonably priced at $4,999, will fit in my excessively large box...I'ma get my concierge to check on that for me.

Thanks, Engadget, for making me feel both gauche and penniless yet again...

Follow the NALS Conference on Twitter!

NALS...the association for legal professionals has set up a cool Twitter widget on the NALS website to display updates with the hashtag #NALS10 by people tweeting from the NALS 59th Annual Education Conference & National Forum. If you are attending the conference in Branson, Missouri, NALS invites you to tweet your thoughts during the conference, using the hashtag.

If you are not able to join the conference, you can simply go to to see what people are saying, and what you are missing! You can also leave your comments at the bottom of the page.

I love the Twitter widget, and as always am impressed by NALS' creative use of technology to benefit legal professionals across the country.
This information was originally posted at the NALS LinkedIn Group. This LinkedIn Group has over 1,100 members and is a terrific - and free - online resource for legal professionals. For more information about NALS, please visit its website,

Monday, October 18, 2010

Should a Legal Staffer Be Required to Wear High Heels?

We've all heard of those law firms, the ones with the dress code prohibiting female employees from wearing slacks. But have you heard of the law firms that require female employees to wear high heels? (I can already see most of the legal support staffers I know rolling on the floor laughing if anyone tried to make them wear heels, but I'll admit I don't know many BigLaw legal professionals.) reports that Denise Fitzhenry, a former executive assistant to the chairman of 215-lawyer firm Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, LLP, has filed suit against the firm in U.S. District Court in Detroit, alleging that she was discriminated against after suffering an injury due to wearing required high heels.

According to the complaint, Fitzhenry was employed as an executive assistant to Alan Schwartz in October 2005, and was an exemplary employee. In February 2007, Fitzhenry suffered an injury at work, which required extensive medical treatment, including back surgery.

When Fitzhenry initially returned to work, she requested reasonable accommodations of her disability, including reduced hours, regular breaks, and no lifting of heavy objects. Fitzhenry alleges that Schwartz refused to honor the requests and instead was extremely hostile. She tried to transfer to a different position with the firm, but was told "the only way she could get away from [Schwartz] was to leave the firm." Eventually, she was demoted to the word processing pool, and then terminated after she returned from a subsequent medical leave. Her complaint also alleges the firm violated the FMLA act.

Fitzhenry's attorney claims the firm required secretaries to wear high heels in an atmosphere "more akin to an episode of Mad Men than a modern workplace," and that Fitzhenry's injury was caused by catching one of her high heels in the carpet at work. The State Bar of Michigan Blog rather drolly asks "Does This Suit Against Honigman Have Legs Without High Heels?" Of course, it will be up to the court to determine whether her legal claims have merit, but I'm interested in the assertion that any law firm in this day and age might still require female employees to wear high heels to work.

I have nothing against high heels, but who decides how high? For example, I think a two-inch heel is wicked high, and I can fall off those in a skinny minute. But one of my very fashionable co-workers thinks nothing of running around the courthouse in absolutely fabulous designer three-inch heels. But she also wears super cute flats when she feels like it.

Readers, where do you stand (honestly, no pun intended) on the high heel issue? For or against? Moderate or stilletto? Do you work for a firm that has a Mad Men dress code for women, such as skirts only and pantyhose required at all times?

By the way, my husband and I watched the first three episodes of Mad Men on DVD, but had to give it up, because it was frankly unbelievably depressing and made one want to commit a slow and dreary suicide via heavy midday drinking and chain-smoking.


Today's Quote: Shy Legal Secretary Comes Out of Her Shell on The X Factor

Shy Rebecca Ferguson had so little confidence in her voice that she refused to sing for her boyfriend until TWO YEARS after they met.

And even then the star, who has dazzled the judges with her soulful performances, insisted Karl Dures stood with his face to the wall to spare her embarrassment.

~ Excerpt from "Rebecca's so shy, she'd only sing to me if I faced the wall" ( News)

I'll admit to being absolutely fascinated by the incredibly shy but effortlessly elegant Liverpool single mom. Although she finished a legal secretarial course to support her children and to have something to fall back on if a singing career didn't work out, I don't think Rebecca Ferguson is going to need her degree.

Here she is, singing "Feeling Good," looking impeccably stylish as usual, and blowing Simon away again - which in itself is worth watching the video.

I totally have a "style-crush" on her, too.


Paralegal Earns Warwick Rodeo Queen Crown

Australian paralegal and horsewoman Kate Skinner (left in the photo) was crowned as the 2010 Warwick Rodeo Queen in front of a capacity crowd at the Douglas Feez Pavilion on Saturday night.

Near as I can figure, this is kind of like being crowned Miss Texas, except with horses instead of high heels, bathing suits, and evening gowns (and a lot of strategically placed double-sided tape). Instead of gunning for the title of Miss America, the local rodeo queens move on to compete for the title of Miss Rodeo Australia.

According to the Miss Rodeo Australia website:

The Miss Rodeo Australia organization spans the country, bringing together rodeo enthusiasts for a yearly pageant and competition to select and crown Miss Rodeo Australia from among Australian’s rodeo queens. Starting 33 years ago, Miss Rodeo Australia has travelled the length and breadth of our country, promoting the sport of rodeo and the western way of life. She is the ideal western-type girl who takes to heart the job of representing Australia, America’s, Canada and New Zealand number one western sport. She is a cowgirl, an athlete and a gifted communicator who knows her sport and works to educate the public and raise the awareness level of professional rodeo and its related industries.

No doubt a paralegal will be a gifted communicator. I grew up around horses, and now that I think about it, racing a horse around barrels, roping a calf, or pretty much making an animal that weighs over a ton do anything it doesn't want to do, are skills that would translate well to working for attorneys in a fast-paced litigation practice.

Congratulations to Kate Skinner. Practical Paralegalism sends her best wishes for her continued success in the Miss Rodeo Australia contest.

Source: Warwick Daily News

NFPA Elects Officers and Directors at Annual Convention

National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) members from Vermont to Hawaii, Alaska to South Florida, gathered at NFPA's 2010 Annual Convention in Cherry Hill, New Jersey last week to attend seminars, workshops, debate topics and elect officers and directors. The convention was hosted by the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals.

NFPA's board of directors consists of a president, five vice presidents, treasurer, secretary, five region directors and the board advisor (immediate past president).

The newly elected officers and directors are:
  • Tracey Young, RP - President
  • Robert Hrouda, RP - Vice President & Director of Positions and Issues
  • Suellen Honeychuck, RP - Vice President and Director of Paralegal Certification
  • Cheryl Corning - Secretary and Director of Operations
  • Theda Yandell, RP - Region I Director
  • Cindy Welsh, RP - Region II Director
  • Cherylan Shearer - Region III Director and Chair of the Region Directors
  • Jessica Swedenhjelm- Region IV Director
  • Lizbeth A. Bialis - Region V Director
  • Georgette Lovelace, RP, Immediate Past President is now the Board Advisor

Other officers who were elected in 2009 continue in their respective capacities:

  • Theresa A. Prater, RP - Vice President and Director of Profession Development
  • Mary J. McLaughlin, RP - Vice President and Director of Membership
  • Isabel Quintana - Vice President and Director of Marketing
  • Karen Santagata, RP - Treasurer and Director of Finance

Congratulations to the new officers and directors, as well as many thanks for their service to the paralegal profession.


This information was originally posted in the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. LinkedIn Group. The NFPA LinkedIn Group currently has over 1,760 members and is a wonderful - and free - online resource for legal support staffers. For more information about NFPA, visit its website at

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Today Is Practical Paralegalism's Second Birthday

And they said it wouldn't last...or that they hoped it would last...or something like that.

Two years ago today, I published my very first blog post.

I'll be frank. I. Did. Not. Know. What. I. Was. Doing.

I didn't know how to insert a hyperlink or a photo into a post, much less a video. HTML code was something other people knew. I was also pretty darned serious for the first few months; I didn't know it was okay to just let it all hang out every now and then. (Well, maybe it's still not okay, but I do it anyway because it's fun.)

Last year, I celebrated Practical Paralegalism's first birthday with the Los Angeles Paralegal Association. I couldn't believe they let a country hick like me come to the big city and hang out with them. I was completely impressed by LAPA's energy, diversity and fantastic CLE offerings.

This year, I celebrated by yelling at my teens for having the grossest room on the planet and for leaving chocolate on the floor of their room for The Corginator to find, and by publishing rather more posts than usual, because there were simply a lot of amazing paralegal stories to share. (Don't worry, I'm thinking about taking the rest of the week off.)

And then I found The Christmas Corgi Blog, and the perfect picture to celebrate such a momentous birthday.

(In case you think it's all about my dog, I'm happy to post pictures of your dogs, too. I keep a picture of my dogs on my desk, so that on really bad days, I can remind myself that I have to keep my cool and continue to work in order to buy kibble.)

So, to repeat the goals stated in my first entry into the blawgosphere ever, here's to another year of sharing some good paralegal stories, some good paralegal lessons, and some good paralegal practice tips. If we are lucky enough to share a few laughs, too, then that is definitely my idea of a good day.

Related Posts: Is Practical Paralegalism an Exception to the Short-Lived Rule?

Paralegal Shares Story to Help Other Victims of Domestic Violence

Florida paralegal Patty Parra-Perez Andrews has survived a tragic incident of domestic violence that most of us could not begin to comprehend: the deaths of her two oldest children, Lauren and Sean, at the hands of her ex-husband in 2004. Andrews was shot point-blank in the head during the attack but miraculously survived.

Andrews’ story is heart-breaking, but not unusual for victims of domestic abuse. She stayed with her husband and endured 18 years of physical and verbal abuse before finding the courage to leave and divorce him in 2004. Only a few months later, he waited in ambush for the family and committed the unthinkable acts of violence, chasing his fleeing daughter down the street before shooting her and then himself.

But as difficult as it is to talk about her experiences, Andrews is sharing her story to benefit other victims of domestic violence, and to honor the memory of Lauren and Sean. She is promoting the Bay Area Legal Services’ Cup of Hope fundraiser on November 6, and will appear on an episode of Dr. Phil.

She told Tampa Bay Online:

"I need to tell other women that there are so many services out there for them, things I didn't know about," she says. "I know they're embarrassed to say I'm living with someone who hurts me.

"I know I can't stop the killings. I just don't want any woman to go through what I did."

Andrews has remarried, to attorney Troy Andrews, who supported not only her efforts to prevent domestic violence, but her desire to be a mother again. They are parents to Kailey and Kyle.

This feature story was hard to read; honestly, it made me cry. I admire Andrews' perseverance in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy - for her ongoing courage and her willingness to share her story in order to help other women trapped in violent relationships, by encouraging them to seek help.

Source: Tampa Bay Online

Paralegal Raises Public Awareness of Controversial Gardasil Vaccine

Pennsylvania paralegal Jodi Speakman was one of the featured guests on an October 14 online radio segment, “The HPV Vaccine – What Some Mothers Think You Should Know,” available at

Speakman became active in raising awareness of adverse Gardasil reactions after her daughter Victoria began having debilitating seizures and full body tremors in 2008, following a Gardasil vaccination. She has shared “Victoria’s Story” on numerous websites and administers the Facebook group, Stop Gardasil! Victoria’s Story.

Multiple media sources have recently reported that an examination of FDA records obtained via a FOIA request showed 16 new deaths and 3,589 adverse reactions associated with the controversial vaccine. As the mother of a teenage girl who suffers from a serious genetic medical condition, I have deep concerns about this vaccine, as do many other parents.

A CBS 6 interview with VCU Massey Cancer Center cervical cancer expert Dr. Weldon Chafe supports my concern that there is not enough information to show that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its risk of serious side effects, at least not at this time.

How the Loss of a Legal Secretary Affects a Prosecutor's Office

Times are tough everywhere, but the Alleghan County Prosecuting Attorney’s office in Michigan is really feeling the blow after county commissioners voted to lay off a full-time legal secretary and cut the $39,500 salary for this position from the annual budget.

Allegan County Prosecutor Fred Anderson expressed extreme disappointment Wednesday, Oct. 13, in the commissioners' decision.

He had previously described how--without the secretary--his office would no longer be able to send out letters to individuals who had written insufficient checks to businesses of the misdemeanor variety. He said most people who receive the letter from the prosecutor's office pay the balance due and no legal action is required.

"The mom and pop stores really rely on us," Anderson said, adding that, without the service, businesses would be burdened with taking up the matter in civil proceedings.

But no one could be more disappointed than the legal secretary facing the loss of her job. According to the 2009 staff directory for the prosecutor’s office, there are only three clerical positions, legal secretary, secretary and victim rights coordinator, supporting eight attorneys.

I suspect that insufficient check notifications won’t be the only service to fall by the wayside with a ratio of eight attorneys to one secretary.

Source: Allegan County News

Paralegal Is a Face of Kroger's Breast Cancer Campaign

“Look up – and live.” ~ Robert Thomson, husband of Susan Thomson

As you know, this is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Smith's Food and Drug, a division of The Kroger Company, is sponsoring the "Giving Hope a Hand" campaign to raise $3 million for breast cancer causes, including Komen for the Cure races and the American Cancer Society - and Utah paralegal, Susan Thomson, is one of the faces of the campaign. She’s featured on pink boxes of Betty Crocker Wild Blueberry Muffin Mix and shares her story at the campaign's website.

Thomson has passed the five-year survival mark, after undergoing extensive treatment for breast cancer. Throughout treatment, she missed only a few days from her job as a paralegal for Smith’s Food & Drug in Salt Lake City.

Many of her co-workers didn’t know she was sick. Her co-worker Lesa Bridge told the Salt Lake Tribune that Thomson focused on others instead of her diagnosis.

She had a quiet strength, and unless people knew her personally, they didn’t know what she was going through. She focused on relationships with people she cared about, on helping others and her work.

Susan urges others facing breast cancer to stay strong:
One of my chemo nurses said something that has remained with me: “If you lie down to die, you will lie down and die.” My message to anyone facing this disease is “look up and live.” My husband helped me to realize this – don’t look down, and don’t give up.

Sources: Salt Lake Tribune; Deseret News

Legal Secretary Advocates for Safe Injection Practices

Nevada legal secretary Karen Morrow underwent a routine colonoscopy and endoscopy in 2008, but the consequences were anything but routine. She and many other patients contracted hepatitis C due to the alleged unsafe injection practices of the physician’s clinic. The physician and two of his clinic workers have since been indicted on felony criminal charges involving patient neglect.

Morrow became so sick that she lost her job of 16 years and suffered through 54 weeks of debilitating treatment, including interferon. She told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “I literally couldn’t get out of bed much of the time. I couldn’t even lift my arms above my head.”

Today Morrow has no signs of the virus, is employed as a legal secretary at Santoro, Diggs, Walch, Kearney, Holley & Thompson in Las Vegas – and was the featured speaker at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. last week, kicking off the 2010 International Infection Prevention Week and raising awareness of safe injection practices at health facilities. Morrow urges people “to support the One and Only Campaign in Nevada, which stresses one needle, one syringe, used only one time.”

Kudos to Morrow for using her own experience to help prevent others from contracting hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV due to lapses in basic infection control practices – many resulting from reuse of syringes.

Per the One and Only Campaign website, patients should ask their healthcare providers the following questions before receiving an injection:
  1. Will there be a new needle, new syringe, and a new vial for this procedure or injection?
  2. Can you tell me how you prevent the spread of infections in your facility?
  3. What steps are you taking to keep me safe?

Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal

Karen Morrow is pictured with her husband Scott (in the background) and her dogs, Balto and Molly.

Paralegal and Attorney Lead California Pajama Program

As a proponent of adoption via the state foster care system, and an adoptive parent myself, I am excited to read about The Northern California Chapter of the Pajama Program, lead by chapter co-presidents, paralegal April Fuchs-Smith and attorney Pallie Zambrano. The program provides new pajamas and books to children awaiting adoption, and its “Open Your Heart” campaign is one of five nationwide finalists for the CLASSY Award for Most Creative Fundraiser.

The annual “Open Your Heart Campaign” resulted in the donation of 2,500 pairs of pajamas. The winner of the CLASSY award gets $10,000 in cash and in-kind services. Voters must be over 18 years of age and can vote once from October 9 – 22.

If you’d like to vote for the Pajama Program under “Most Creative Fundraiser,” here’s the link: (Make sure you click on the North Cal Pajama Program button, and then the “Submit My Ballot” button before exiting the website. You will be asked for some information to confirm you’re not a bot.)

For more information about the Pajama Program, go to Having a PJ Drive would be a wonderful community service project for a paralegal association.

Source: PR Urgent