Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Welcome Big Legal Brain to the Blawgosphere, Or Else

Or Else Wut? I Dunno. I Forgot.

I predict Big Legal Brain (, a new blog created by C. Hank Peters, aka "Chank," Gregory Luce (@gregoryluce on Twitter), and legal assistant and BLB unpaid intern No. 57, Amy Derby (@amyderby on Twitter), is going to be a big phat hit in the blawgosphere.

Paralegal Posting of the Week: National Aeronautics & Space Administration

by Margaret Lucas Agius, CP

NASA is looking for a Paralegal Specialist to work at its Washington, D.C. headquarters in the Office of the General Counsel, General Law Practice Group:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays from a Nerd, I Mean, Practical Paralegalism

Even though this holiday video, "How the Nerds Saved Christmas," from Waddey & Patterson PC, an IP firm based in Nashville, Tennessee, is a couple of years old, it's still a keeper, and not just because patent law is a hot specialty area.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Practical Paralegalism Presents the Posts of Christmas Past

Is my Christmas tree up yet? Nope. Which is why we're re-visiting the Posts of Christmas Past, rather than writing new ones. (Besides, it's kinda cool to have been hanging 'round the blawgosphere long enough to have a past to re-visit.)

Some of my fond memories include:
While trying to find the perfect image of beautiful chocolate for this post, my Google search (which may be possessed by not-so-benign spirits) comes up with "How to Make Chocolate Reindeer Poop Candy" - I can't make this up. I didn't even know that anyone would want to make any kind of chocolate poop candy - ever. I sure as heck didn't put chocolate poop in the Google query.

If you're like me, and can't read the fine print any more due to the rapidly accelerating aging process, the tag on the poop candy reads:

You've been naughty
So here's the Scoop
You're getting nothing
But Reindeer Poop!

"Little reindeer gifts" - why didn't I think of that? And this recipe is right up my culinary skill alley; you just throw a bunch of random chocolate together and melt it - or cheat and use chocolate-covered raisins.

Hey, Lady Jessop, I'm bringing Reindeer Poop Candy (the cheatin' kind) to the first meeting of PHCA (Paralegals- Who-Hate-Christmas-Association-mainly-'cause-our-trees-aren't-up)!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Arrrgggghhh!!! The Holidaze AND Apostrophe Abuse

This post at Apostrophe Abuse expresses both my holiday spirit and one of my misuse of punctuation pet peeves:

Wait. Take a deep breath. Count my blessings. Uh, thank you for snarky grammar blogs?

Source: Apostrophe Abuse

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading this Week

First, I'd like to make a holiday confession, already tweeted and irretrievably documented somewhere by the Library of Congress:

And you thought label makers were just for file folders and people with OCD.

Think your Monday Before Christmas started out rough, and worried that the other paralegals will laugh at you, because you asked for an extension of time for Christmas Day, and didn't get one?

Yeah, me, too. But now you've got someone to feel superior to. Me.

Plus, I have a whopper case of sinusitis. And when I can't breathe, I panic. (Or is it when I panic, I forget to breathe? One of those. Definitely.) But this is me blogging, and not panicking.

Without [much] further ado, here's this week's recommended reading courtesy of Practical Paralegalism (who by the way is not having a holiday meltdown, blubbering under the firm Christmas tree in the lobby, whining something uber-whiney about, "Can I take this fully decorated tree and fake presents under it home with me - just for the weekend?" Nooooo, not me.)
  • LinkedIn Profile Tips ( Job Searching) ~ Career expert Alison Doyle provides a detailed set of instructions for setting up a LinkedIn profile - with pictures. Too many legal professionals don't have LinkedIn profiles. If you aren't already using LinkedIn, getting started in January 2011 is a fine professional New Year's resolution that is free and relatively painless.
  • Handling Unethical Attorney Conduct: An Example (The Empowered Paralegal) ~ Attorney, author and paralegal instructor Robert Mongue suggests consulting outside counsel if a legal staffer finds herself in the position of reporting alleged misconduct within the firm, especially if that reporting is ignored.
  • Help Me Help You (The Paralegal) ~ Paralegal supervisor Ana Pierro blogs about the importance of clear communication between supervisor and employee, with the emphasis on how you can help your own supervisor better assist you.
  • 10 Best Reading and Productivity Apps (PCWorld) ~ I digest a lot of written content every day, and some of these apps are new to me - but worth checking out. I've heard good things about SimpleNote, although I currently store most of my brain matter in Evernote.
  • MacGyver Your Software: Necessity Reveals Useful Tools You Never Knew Your PC Had (ABA Journal) ~ Feeling like you're lagging behind in office technology updates, because the peeps on the paralegal listservs are all about Microsoft Office 10 and your firm is still so 2003? Dennis Kennedy takes a closer look at unused software features you may not be aware you have, including Word 2007's metadata scrubbing feature.
  • Naked Mailman Just Looking to Cheer Up Woman on His Route (FindLaw's Legally Weird) ~ With holiday cheer like this, let's just skip everything until the 4th of July. If you live in Wisconsin's North Shore Post Office delivery district, you have my sympathy. The USPS assures us this dude is no longer delivering holiday cheer, er, mail. Although I'm stressed out, too, and the story did make me laugh...
Favorite Practical Paralegalism post from this time last year: Holiday Gift Giving: Round Robin and Newts

P.S. My good Twitter buddy and new paralegal blogger, Karen Jessop (@mrsktj), sez there is a group for us (we know who we are): PHCA (Paralegals Who Hate Christmas Association). If the group gets a discount at Total Wine, I'm totally in.

Your Voice Mail Message Is More Important than You Think

Last week, the Regina Leader-Post published an article about convicted killer Ronald Smith's execution date being set for January 2011 - after the execution had already been stayed. One of the reasons given for the snafu in the Montana death row case is that a district court judge failed to respond to telephone and e-mail messages notifying him of the stay by a different district court judge.

Retiring Legal Secretary Celebrates 43 Years of Service

In today's mobile society, we often change jobs - not to mention careers - as frequently as we buy new cars - or television sets. Add the recession to that mix, with many of our colleagues in the legal field losing jobs they had hoped to retire from, and that makes legal secretary MaryAnn Wippermann's employment at the Missouri Attorney General's Office from 1969 until her retirement last week even more notable.

She was still a teenager, only 18 years old, when she started working for the AG's Office, and served six attorneys general during that period. Five of them honored her with framed letters at her retirement party.

Her dad gave her career advice that she clearly took to heart: he hoped to see his children stay at their first job for at least five years.

Attorney General Chris Koster praised Wippermann's service and body of knowledge - and marveled at the many changes she has seen during her long career:

MaryAnn is a living library of the Attorney General's Office. It's amazing to think of all the technological changes she has seen in the workplace. She is an outstanding public servant, and we'll all miss her very much.

Wippermann is actually "pseudo-retiring" - she plans to continue working for the AG's Office two days a week.

Practical Paralegalism congratulates MaryAnn for her long and successful - and ongoing - career in the legal field.

Sources: KRCG;; Missouri Attorney General

Friday, December 17, 2010

TGIF: Pachelbel for Cello Blows

It's the holiday season, never one of my favorite times of the year. But Pachelbel's Canon in D is one of the few pieces of music that gets me even close to the holiday spirit. I was an orchestra geek in high school (I played the flute and actually still do - at least it isn't bigger than me). Maybe that's why I found Rob Paravonian's rant against this particular piece of music way too funny - and also terribly interesting, because he also kinda explains the origins of all pop music. (Also, as a flutist, I do get to play the melody...)

Sing along; these lyrics are GREAT - 'specially if you're feelin' a little frustration at the office :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fruit Really Is No Substitute for Cookies

In response to my last post, whining about the lack of cookies in the office, a paralegal and fellow North Carolina Paralegal Association member, Crystal Robinson, who has a great sense of humor, emailed me this photo:

Exactly ;) Thanks, Crystal, you made me laugh out loud!

Who Ate All the Vendor Cookies?

My co-worker and super-paralegal, Rana Holcomb, gave me a sticky pad full of funny sayings last Christmas. Today, after driving like Miss Daisy at a hair-raising 5 mph on icy slick roads to make it into work - not realizing that my most serious risk of bodily harm was getting out of the car in the firm parking lot and nearly busting my tail on the icy sidewalk, all I really want to calm my frazzled nerves is a cookie. One will do.

We had vendor cookies and candy in an eye-boggling abundance - until today. Now all we have are empty boxes and tins full of crumbs, and the high school band pears I brought in to share. Fruit is no substitute when you're jonesing for a cookie.

So when I saw this was my sticky pad page of the day ("Stress Cure: Take two cookies and call in sick" if you can't read it), I just felt...robbed. Robbed and still stressed. And sort of legitimately sick.

So, help me, Jesus, I NEED a COOKIE!

Related Post: Help me, Jesus, I NEED a Snow Cone!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Today's Quote: Definitely an Advocate - But Not a Lawyer

"I should also draw your attention to the fact that Ms. Lynne DeVenny is erroneously listed as counsel [for our client] on the order. While I am confident Ms. DeVenny would be an outstanding advocate for our clients, she is in fact the paralegal working on the case. I am not sure how this slip happened, but do not want her exposed to any unjust accusation that she is engaging in the unauthorized practice of law." ~ My supervising attorney, Helen Parsonage, to the agency that mistakenly listed me as counsel on an order.

I'm sharing this quote, with Helen's permission, to show how paralegals can look like they're engaging in UPL without even knowing it. I thought Helen's immediate response was not only appropriate, but necessary - notifying the agency immediately of the error, and protecting both the firm and me from potential accusations that I held myself out as a lawyer. (To get the full effect, you have to read the quote out loud, using Helen's British accent.)

I have no idea how my name ended up on that order. In this particular case, I had little direct communication with either the agency or opposing counsel. Anything I sign identifies me as a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal, and I have never signed pleadings on an attorney's behalf, even though the North Carolina State Bar's 2006 Formal Ethics Opinion 13 says I can "if warranted by exigent circumstances."

I've been a litigation paralegal for over two decades and have never been mistakenly listed on anything as counsel. Since I don't see all of the incoming mail, I likely would not have seen this order for some time (or ever), had Helen not caught the error and brought it to the agency's attention.

Helen was a paralegal for eight years before becoming an attorney and is amazing to work with; you can see why.

Related Post: Ten Tips for Immigration Paralegals by Helen L. Parsonage, Attorney

Paralegal Profile: Stephanie Durham Rivera

Job Title: Litigation Paralegal

Employer: Olive & Olive, PA; Durham, NC

Years of Paralegal Experience: 7

Education/Degrees: BA, Howard University

Specialty Areas: Intellectual Property; Trademark and Copyright Litigation

Career Highlight: A memorable career highlight for me was working on a case with the United States Product Safety Commission (CPSC), suing Walmart for failing to report safety hazards associated with Weider and Weslo brand home exercise equipment. Case result, Walmart was later fined $750,000 for its failure to report the faulty equipment. It was a highlight not only because it was a significant win for the everyday consumer and the first time a retailer has had to pay a penalty for failing to report a safety problem where the retailer was not also an importer or private labeler of the product involved, but personally, it was one of the first cases I worked on when I entered the paralegal field while working for the Department of Justice Office of Consumer Litigation in Washington, DC.

Paralegal Practice Tips: 1) Organize your emails at the beginning of the day and right before you leave. A messy inbox is a breeding ground for things to get overlooked.

2) Don’t keep files in your office (if you can help it). That’s what file rooms are for. Think of it this way, walking back and forth to the file room also promotes exercise.

Favorite Internet Resources:

In the life of a Trademark Litigation paralegal, I commonly use these sites as resources:

USPTO - TARR - to check Trademark Application status,

USPTO – TTABVUE- to check TTAB Litigation status,

Secretary of State (NC)- Company background information; confirm proper name and address to serve opposition (I encourage the use of the SOS website for any state; it’s a great resource for information),

Casemaker; it free to use for NCBA members and again, it’s a great resource,

Google- never underestimate the powers of Google. (Through the USPTO, you can even search patents with Google), and

Favorite Legal Software: Prolaw; case management,

Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs, for career and/or case development? No, but I should start.

Fun Facts: I’m a Durham County Guardian Ad Litem, I coach club volleyball (15 year old girls) and I married the love of my life in October.

One Gadget You Can’t Live Without: How about two? Android phone and Netbook Mini

Favorite Quote: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." – Robert Frost

Paralegal/Legal Association Memberships: North Carolina Bar Association Paralegal Division; Council Member- Ethics Chair, Women in Profession and Lawyers in the Schools Committee Liaison for the NCBA Paralegal Division; North Carolina Advocates for Justice Legal Assistants Division; Membership Committee member.

Professional Link: Olive & Olive Paralegal Staff


I met Stephanie through my current appointment to the NCBA Paralegal Division Council, where I'm currently serving as both the editor of the paralegal division newsletter and the technology chair. It's been an amazing opportunity to meet and work with some of the most active and influential paralegals in the state, including Stephanie. Many thanks to her for doing this profile - while planning her wedding!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

There's No Free Lunch

I'm writing this post to explain why you might not see much activity at Practical Paralegalism for a while. Like most of my readers, I work full-time, have a family to care for, have panic attacks when trying to think of something to fix for dinner (every single night to infinity, peeps!) - and have family emergencies.

Just Another Pain Event

Tonight I'm writing another post from my daughter's hospital room, as she suffers through a sudden and brutal sickle cell pain event. (I prefer the noun "attack" but the medical providers think it sounds more positive to describe it as an event. O. Kay.)

That the most recent pain crisis started as my mom and I drove seven hours through driving rain, heavy snow and shovelfuls of sleet from Tennessee, where we had been visiting someone very special to us who has received a diagnosis of Stage IV brain cancer seemed a little unfair, but you know, life happens. I just told our night nurse, "I know there are people here whose troubles are more serious than ours." Similar to the way we handle our demanding and sometimes stressful paralegal jobs, as parents and people, we deal with the cards we're given.

It's a Snake Eat Mouse World

For example, about nine days ago one of my young relatives in Tennessee gave an adorable white mouse to his baby python, Marvin, to eat. This snake feast works by placing the mouse and the python in the bathtub together. (The cards this mouse was given did not look good.) And normally, the python rapidly consumes his live snack. Only this time, the mouse was ignored. So the python and his intended prey were returned to the snake aquarium to allow nature to take its course in private.

Only the adorable white mouse remained uneaten. Marvin the python ignored him. My other young cousin became somewhat attached to the ridiculously cute rodent, and asked her mom if she could name the mouse and was told the mouse already had a name: Lunch.

By the time I got there this weekend and heard the tail (Lunch has a really long tail), my bleeding heart overflowed, and I begged to free Lunch, arguing he was a freakin' Christmas miracle to survive over a week in an aquarium with a starving baby python (who by the way, looked pretty awful. I mean, I look at a lot of medical records every day and may by now think I can play a doctor on TV - but that snake looked right puny).

Lunch Isn't on the Menu

But Lunch was destined for another encounter in the bathtub with Marvin. Figuring he was fulfilling his dismal destiny, the creatures were left alone for a bit this morning (because we have evolved from avid fans of bloodshed at the Roman Coliseum). Only when my relatives returned to collect Marvin, Lunch was sitting on top of him. My first cousin, a nurse, observed Marvin appeared to be dead. (See, I could play a doctor on TV, or at least a member of House's diagnostic team. "It's lupus!").

Lunch, the freakin' Christmas miracle, was freed, which would have been a better Christmas miracle if my young cousin's dog hadn't immediately grabbed him and carried him off to, well, only God knows where. (God, are you listening? Couldn't you give Lunch a break and hook him up with a field mouse who has a nice crib under the garage?)

So, others do have it worse than us. My youngest is gettin' great narcotics (I asked her what her name was a minute ago and she said it's "Wut?") And while Lunch may not be free (or even alive) he did have the glory of sitting atop a python.

If you're wondering where I am for a while, I'm trying to create a Christmas miracle - getting a tree up sooner than four days before Christmas, meeting litigation deadlines while caring for one relaxed kid in the hospital who thinks her name is Wut?, and wondering if Lunch is out there somewhere, telling a group of completely rapt field mice how he kicked a python's butt.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Twitter Stalking 101: It'll Be Our Li'l Secret

I have talked to many, many paralegals during social media presentations in the last 18 months about the joys of Twitter. The. Joys.

Alas, I have convinced maybe six to try it. (I realized today that I may not be a gifted salesperson when I discovered even my own best friend and co-worker did not know I designed a line of humorous items for paralegals).

But you can still follow your favorite Twitterers without actually joining Twitter, and share in their micro-blogging fun, which may consist of links to stuff you might want to read, funny observations on life in the legal field (or in my case, as mom to two, yes, I said TWO, 14-year old girls) or some of the hilarious online conversations that get started (when some of us, not namin' names, sit down at our computers after dinner with a glass of wine.)

So how do you Twitter stalk? Simply go to the Twitterer's page at Find out if the object of your obsessive affections has a Twitter account simply by Googling him or her. For example, Google me, "lynne devenny twitter" or "@expertparalegal twitter" and you get to this link: That's my Twitter page, stalkers. You can visit any time you want to see the inanities I spewed forth during the day, using 140 characters or less.

You can also never miss a tweet from your favorite Twitterers, again without signing up for Twitter, by simply finding the RSS feed button on their Twitter page, and clicking it to add all of their tweets to your RSS feed reader. That button looks like this (see below).

Now, go out there and Twitter stalk like the skilled legal professional and social media savvy expert I know you are.

Since it's the holiday season, and we paralegals really need good laughs more than ever, especially if peanut butter and banana sandwiches were served at the annual holiday party or your bonus was a $10 GameStop gift card your supervising attorney got in his stocking last year, start with @loadedsanta, who recently announced, "Prancer has the runs. That's what passes for news around here." Yes, the language is awful and political correctness appears in nary a tweet, but still, who doesn't giggle at "120 days till Christmas, kids! If you actually knew that, you're one nerdy-ass kid." It's hard to argue with that.

Twitter Stalking 101. You are so welcome.

Related Posts: Follow "Lawyer" Richard Prickman on Twitter; Why Twitter?; Twitter: It's NOT About What I'm Doing Right Now; Why I Won't Follow You Back on Twitter

Help, I'm a Paralegal. I'm Falling & I Can't Get Up!

This is how my day is going - how 'bout yours?

Even doh we's live wit a vomitee kitteh, I stills finds I Can Has Cheezburger more funner 'n sillee stringy stuff, and now instead o' makin' my brane hurtz over de CLA exam, wanna learn to talk de kittehs and de goggiez. Luckees der is a skool:

Useful FMLA/ADA Links

As I was downloading to my Dropbox account a PDF copy of the terrific CLE manual (to read later on my iPad) from the North Carolina Advocates for Justice recent 17th Annual Workplace Torts & Workers' Comp seminar, I decided to share some of the useful links provided by my supervising attorney J. Griffin Morgan in his manuscript, "An Outline of Leaves and Accommodations for Injured Workers under the Family Medical Leave Act and Americans with Disabilities Act." This is great information to bookmark for those of you who work in the areas of workers' compensation and employment law:

General Information on the Statutes

EEOC Guidance Documents on Specific Issues

If anyone in your firm attends a CLE seminar, encourage them to provide some in-house education upon their return, including sharing helpful materials, and/or doing a written or live presentation of key points from the education sessions. It's a great way to keep your co-workers up-to-date on the latest legal developments and practice skills in your specialty areas - and to prove you were paying attention!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Paralegal Profile: Crystal L. Robinson, NCCP

Job Title: Real Estate Paralegal

Employer: Levine and Stewart, Chapel Hill, NC

Years of Paralegal Experience: 13

Specialty Areas: Real estate closings, foreclosure work

Career Highlight: In 2006, when I came to my current job, it provides me the ability to learn as much as I can.

Paralegal Practice Tip: Be proactive, do not wait for things to come to you.

Favorite Internet Resource: LinkedIn,

Favorite Legal Software: I use Netronline a lot to search title; the link is

Do you use social media resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs, for career and/or case development?
I use LinkedIn and Twitter, and I read several paralegal blogs weekly. I am able to get updated materials for the NCPA Forum and any information that is helpful to my career.

Fun Fact: I love to act crazy with my children, and I sometimes write poetry.

One Gadget You Can’t Live Without: The Internet; I need the connection.

Favorite Quote: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about getting out there and dancing in the rain” ~ Author Unknown

Paralegal/Legal Association Memberships: North Carolina Paralegal Association, currently serving as Interim District Director II and Articles Editor for the NCPA FORUM.

Professional Links:
I met Crystal through the North Carolina Paralegal Association, and I very much appreciate her taking the time to do this profile, because she's a very busy woman! Also, check out NCPA's Facebook page at

Monday, December 6, 2010

Today's Quote: The Daily Effort to Make a Difference in the World

"The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful." ~ Elizabeth Edwards, attorney, best-selling author and estranged wife of John Edwards posted this to her Facebook account even as her cancer condition deteriorates.

My heart, too, goes out to Elizabeth Edwards and her family and friends - as it does to the family and friends of several people close to me who are dealing with their own grim cancer diagnoses. One was a key figure in my childhood, a sometime surrogate mom, an unconditional cheerleader for an excruciatingly shy little girl, and a sharer of the gentler gifts of gratitude, compassion and forgiveness. She helped make me the paralegal, the mom, and the woman I am today.

Elizabeth Edwards' quote reminds me that as a mother, a paralegal and a woman, I do have days when I regret not showing more patience, more strength - and more willingness to listen fully and talk much less. But I still want to get up every morning, and some how, some way, whether it's through my job in the legal field, my role as a mom to a chronically ill child, or simply as - I hope - a good friend, try to make a positive impact in the world, too.

It's so hard to let go of those we cherish, but I'm hoping to live and love more presently and fully than I ever have in my life, and to make every minute count with the precious people who have made - and still make - such a positive impact on my life every day.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your strength and your hope.

Sources: Forbes; MSNBC

The Paralegal Voice: Talking Murder and Mayhem with Sue Ann Jaffarian

The latest edition of The Paralegal Voice, "Talking Murder and Mayhem with Sue Ann Jaffarian: Paralegal & Fiction Writer," co-hosted by Vicki Voisin and me, is now available at Legal Talk Network.

In this episode, we welcome Sue Ann Jaffarian, a paralegal for Hooper, Lundy & Bookman, PC in Los Angeles, and author of the best-selling series, The Odelia Grey Mysteries.

Sue Ann talks about balancing dual careers as a very busy corporate paralegal and successful fiction writer; her "large and in charge" fictional paralegal, Odelia Patience Grey; and what's next for both Sue Ann and Odelia. Throw in vampires, writing advice, and dealing with weight prejudice - this is a lively discussion you won't want to miss!

Also in this episode, Sue Ann reveals:
  • Her tips for getting into or making the change to corporate or health law

  • How she got her start as a fiction writer

  • How she balances working as a full-time paralegal with writing several novels a year

  • Her tips for would-be writers

  • Information re Book No. 6 in The Odelia Grey Mysteries due June 2011

Page URL:

MP3 Link:

Internet resources referenced in the podcast:

The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsors: Westlaw Deposition Services and NALA...The Association of Paralegals and Legal Assistants.

Please share the links to this episode of The Paralegal Voice with your friends and colleagues. If you have a request for a future show, or a question for us, you are welcome to contact us at Also, you can make sure you never miss a podcast by subscribing to any Legal Talk Network show, including The Paralegal Voice, by using the RSS Feed links or iTunes links at

Related Posts: Paralegal Profile: Sue Ann Jaffarian, Mystery Writer; Book Review: Too Big to Miss Is Too Good to Miss

Flying Over the Holidays? Might be Grounds for a Shotgun Wedding...

Maybe this Rocky Horror TSA Parody Will Ease the Invasion of Your Personal Space

Er, a bit risque and NSFW, but really catchy, especially for those of you, like me, who remember religiously attending Rocky Horror midnight showings - in full costume and with all the props - during your college years in the, er, 80s.

This prickly paralegal (who is totally enamored of her own personal space) is traveling to Tennessee later this week - via good old-fashioned automobile.

Exchange from Practical Paralegalism's Facebook Page:

Ronald: "If I'm patted down by the same TSA agent more than once, are we common-law married?"

Practical Paralegalism: "Ronald, I'm 'fraid so. Try to get a cute one :)"

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Open Thread: What Do You Prefer for the Firm’s Holiday Party?

There’s an interesting article at the Wisconsin Law Journal Blog, “Holiday parties can be frugal and festive,” which discusses some ways that law firms might want to deal with the thorny issue of the annual holiday party during tight financial times. Some of the less expensive options suggested include:

  • Nosh on trays of wannabe hors d’oeurvres from Costco, and chase them down with no-name brewskis. Okay, but only if the party starts at lunch.

  • Hold an Elvis-themed party. I’m sorry, but peanut butter and banana sandwiches on paper plates would likely make me cry

  • Hire a bus to take everyone on a tour to see the holiday lights in your locale. Snacks are suggested; booze was not mentioned. (As an experienced field trip mom, I know for a fact that charter buses will not allow sunflower seeds, popcorn, or almost any fun food on board.)

  • Ask if any of the employees are caterers and/or rock band members. (Maybe specify that being a master of Rock Band for Wii or PlayStation doesn’t count. Or just invite everyone over to play Rock Band and eat peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Oh, wait, this still makes me teary-eyed.)

  • Have an Ugly Christmas Sweater contest. My advice? Just don’t. I bet some of you, including Tim Gunn, are crying now.

  • Skip a cheap party and allow employees to go home a little early – sharing the costs of the non-event among them as a kind of [an awful] bonus.

Seriously, there are actually some great ideas in this article if you’re the party planner, from negotiating restaurant rates to planning the firm’s participation in a charity event

If you could plan your firm’s holiday party this year, what would you really want to do? Please feel free to comment as Anonymous, The Grinch or even as Elvis-Lives-in-My-Basement to protect your identity and employment status.

Source: Wisconsin Law Journal Blog

Florida Firm Lays Off Legal Secretaries Three Weeks before Christmas

Practical Paralegalism extends its deepest sympathies to the 16 staff members, mostly legal secretaries, including some with decades of service, abruptly laid off from several of Florida real estate firm Ruden McClosky’s offices last week. Although the firm’s paralegals are safe (for now), and the firm announced less than two weeks ago that it was growing and hiring associates, this pre-Christmas layoff of experienced and valued staffers has got to be a horrific blow to the morale of the remaining employees.

The layoffs were confined to administrative and support staff and did not include lawyers or paralegals, co-managing partner Carl Schuster said in a statement.

He said the layoffs were part of a strategic plan to move toward a standard, three-to-one lawyer-to-secretary ratio, lower expenses and boost profits.

"Ruden McClosky continues to implement changes that are in line with today's law firm standards for best practices, which include maximizing efficiencies while enhancing the firm's technological capabilities," Schuster said. "We have taken steps to sustain the profitability of our offices across Florida."

Although the terminated employees were given severance packages and health insurance coverage for undisclosed amounts and periods, they were only given enough time to pack up their desks after receiving the news – and then were immediately escorted from the premises.

Times are still tough for legal staffers nationwide, including these Florida secretaries who lost their incomes right before Christmas – and for those left behind at the firm, who will be trying to figure out how to shoulder the extra work, while wondering if they are next.


Who Decapitated Frosty?

It's that warm, fuzzy, fa-la-la-la-la-laaaa time of year, for holiday festivities, sugary treats, and joyful Christmas tales. So, imagine my shock last Friday morning, when I opened a box of Krispy Kreme donuts left on our firm's kitchen table and saw THIS:

I know. My Gawd. What a horrific and gruesome crime scene. I'm sorry if you urped up even a little of your Monday morning coffee.

What de heck? It's a headless Frosty the Snowman donut. And someone I work with is clearly a heartless psychopath.

Several of us did put our heads together and pretend that we were unrealistically attractive forensic squints and FBI agents for the renowned but fictitious Jeffersonion Institute.

Was it one of the guys?

Nah. They would have simply torn the head off with their bare hands, leaving harsh, jagged, doughy edges.

Do we have a cannibal in our midst? Are brains like the delicacy of donut snowmen?

Nah. Plus, we think serial killers are more turned on by ripping out the eyes of their victims.

There's only one conclusion. It had to have been a staffer. One of us obsessive-compulsive neat freaks clearly used a knife to cleanly sever the head from the body. (By the way, that's not blood. That's Frosty's *sniff* red wool scarf.)

It definitely wasn't me, though. I only like the bloody raspberry filled ones.

Legal Secretary Had 50-Year Career and Beautiful Hats

Obituaries offer small glimpses of personal history about many people that I’ll obviously never get to meet – but often wish I’d known. For example, Mary Farnsworth, of Iowa City, died on December 1, 2010, after living a full and rich life for 91 years. The eldest of nine children, she graduated from business college in 1938, and married and raised two sons of her own. She also had an extraordinary and long career in the legal field:

Mary enjoyed a 50 year career as a legal secretary, working for a number of attorneys before joining the war effort where she worked on classified government materials in Washington DC and later in Detroit. She finished her legal career with the McMurray law firm in Iowa City. She was a long time member of the First Baptist Church and held a variety of offices with the church, and the Iowa City chapter of the Association of Christian Women. Mary was an avid reader, and a talented craftsperson; taking great pride in her sewing, knitting, and quilting projects. She was also known for her large collection of hats, an accessory that she was seldom seen without.

Now you seldom see women wearing hats, which seems a shame, as they can be elegant and original fashion accessories. It seems fitting to close this post with a quote by Frank Sinatra, “Cock your hat – angles are attitudes."


New Contest: Practical Paralegalism Needs Facebook Friends

This may come as a complete surprise to perhaps three of you, but I was Empress of the Nerds in high school. Captain of the High I.Q. team, editor of the school literary magazine, and wearer of hideous prescription glasses for the nearly blind that made uber-nerd Steve Urkel look like Usher's doppelganger.

So maybe I'm a little insecure and trying to be more popular in my old age? (But I lost those glasses a long time ago). Nah. I'm much more secure as a middle-aged contact lens wearer :)

But I do use Practical Paralegalism's Facebook page as the equivalent of my online newsletter at the moment, and I'd love for more legal professionals to get the updates in their Facebook feeds. I very, very much appreciate the 300+ wonderful supporters who have liked Practical Paralegalism's Facebook page to date (!/pages/Practical-Paralegalism/44954125655) but decided to hold a contest to encourage you to spread the word among your Facebook buddies - paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, administrative assistants, paralegal students and instructors, legal vendors, and even the attorneys who just like us a whole lot - to add Practical Paralegalism's page to their Likes.

How and what do you win? If you're new, simply like Practical Paralegalism's page on Facebook and add a comment to the December 5, 2010 contest post ("Hi!" is good enough.) If you were referred by an existing fan of the page, be sure and add that person's name to your comment, and you both will be entered to win a $25 gift card of your choice (iTunes, Amazon or Starbucks). Existing fans who refer more than one person can be entered more than once - as long as the new fan identifies him or her.

The contest will last through January 15, 2011. I hope to hear from lots of you, and am looking forward to this contest as a way to get to know more terrific legal professionals across the country better, especially those who are heavy Facebook users, but are not so much into LinkedIn or "the Twitter," to quote Betty White from the movie You Again.

And the Winners of Practical Paralegalism's Odelia Grey Mystery Series Contest Are:

Grand Prize Winner of the first five books in the Odelia Grey Mystery Series by paralegal and author Sue Ann Jaffarian: Dennyce Korb

1st Runner-Up of a Practical Paralegalism coffee mug of her choice: Alyssa Mozingo

2nd Runner-Up of a Practical Paralegalism coffee mug of his choice: Jay Moore (Jay, I know you're not actually a paralegal, but if you don't find a mug you like, I bet you have a few paralegal NALS colleagues who'd be glad to take your winning mug off your hands :)

I'll be sending an email to the winners telling them how to collect their prizes.

The contest ran from August 31 through October 31, 2010. Contestants who submitted a professional or paralegal profile or guest post within that time frame were entered in a drawing for the books and the mugs.

Many, many thanks to all who entered. I'll be announcing a new contest soon, and hoping to hear from more of Practical Paralegalism's readers, especially the ones who lurk, but then sometimes surprise me with the sweetest emails on days when it really raises my spirits to know that you're out there and you enjoy this blog.

Related Post: Practical Paralegalism Contest: Win the Odelia Grey Mysteries Series

Friday, December 3, 2010

TGIF: Good News for Peeps with No Health Insurance

I know some of you are without insurance now, so this will come as quite the relief. It's circulating as an email, which is how I got it - so if you know who to credit, please let me know!

Enjoy your weekend. Hopefully, Practical Paralegalism's computer issues will be worked out soon, and I'll be back to the regular business of celebrating legal staffers in the blawgosphere - and sharing a few spit-out-yer-coffee moments :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2010 ABA Journal Blawg 100 Announced

I don't want to give the wrong impression. I just posted the badge as a graphic for this post. Practical Paralegalism was not selected (although one of my supervising attorneys was very sweet and nominated me). No paralegal blogs were selected - but there is always next year.

However, checking out the 100 blawgs selected is a good way to find new material for your RSS feed reader. After all, the ABA Journal considers these blogs to be the cream of the legal blog crop - and it's a pretty big crop at 3,000 blogs and counting.

You can also vote for your favorite blogs, although you'll need to register with if you haven't already.

I am happy to see several blogs that I've added to my RSS feed reader this year included: The Careerist, iPhone JD, and Tablet Legal. And I'm looking forward to checking out several new blawgs that I'm not familiar with.

Congratulations to all of the bloggers included in the 2010 ABA Journal Blawg 100 - it's a terrific recognition of hard work, original thinking and commitment to all of the lucky readers who have access to great quality - and free - content that makes us better legal professionals, too.

Run, Possum, I Mean, Paralegal, Run!

As an English major, I'm a bigger fan of the off-color language than I should be, but there are days when only WTF will do. (I'm also over-using Whuck! quite a bit these days. What can I say? The. Holidays. Really. Stress. Me. Out.)

But when I saw this post, "22 Awesome WTF! Posters" from Creative Overflow, I felt this one in particular calling to me. I'm the fat little figure fleeing from my current discovery project - which feels like it is about to flatten me like a possum on the indifferent highway of life.

It's been one of those weeks, starting with a Monday call to Triple AAA after I left my auto lights on here at work (it was only four hours, peeps, whuck?) Then my laptop died at home (ergo, the reduced blog posts), The Cat projectile-vomited all over a wall in my living room, and I had an excruciatingly painful and humiliating experience after I idiotically rinsed a contact lens with that extremely caustic (but killer cleaning solution) Clear Care and then popped it into my eye, causing me to scream like a lady and believe for about 10 minutes that I had lost sight in that eye forever.

These posters are available from Minga, and I think several of them would look really, really lovely in my office. Think my boss will go for it?

Open Thread: Help a Buddy Out with Notary No-Nos

A couple of days ago I blogged about "How to Abuse a Notary Commission," based on shocking allegations of notary stamp abuse in a foreclosure mill case that has made national news.

A reader left the following question at the post:

As a notary, I sometimes find myself in a bit of a sticky situation. I have a boss, an attorney and a notary himself, who sometimes demands that I notarize documents that are blank except for the client's signature, and even to make changes to documents that I've previously notarized. I would be interested in a post on how to deal with this issue.

Oh man, I hate to hear about notaries caught in these situations. The notary no-nos are patently obvious, but more important, what do you do if you're the poor legal staffer stuck in this situation? I hear frequent complaints from legal staffers who are asked to perform, er, at best, irregular notarizations all the time by supervising attorneys.

As a notary, you took an oath to abide by the laws governing your commission, but as an employee, you're trying to keep a roof over your head and buy groceries - at least until you can find another job where no one will ask you to commit notary stamp abuse.

I thought I would put this issue to my wonderful and experienced readers. How do you recommend that Anonymous deal with this thorny but not uncommon notary issue?