Thursday, March 31, 2011

Student Interview with a Paralegal on YouTube

When I taught Introduction to Paralegalism back in the day at the local community college, my students had to turn in written reports summarizing their interviews with local paralegals. They were limited to written reports in no small part because there was no Internet or YouTube, video cameras didn't fit in your hand, and very few people had computers at home that offered more than basic word processing.

But today's paralegal student can easily videotape an interview with a smart phone, edit it from his or her home computer, and post it on YouTube, like Carolyn Hagan Stubbs did with her interview of medical malpractice paralegal Amy Boone, employed by defense litigation firm Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, which has offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio, Florida and New York.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Paralegal Profile: Brett Ryder, NCCP

Brett Ryder, NCCP
Job Title:  Independent Title Searcher, Legal Courier, Notary Public

Employer:  Self-employed, Brett Ryder Title Abstracting & Legal Courier Service, Wilmington, NC

Years of Paralegal Experience:   8

Education/Degrees:  Bachelors Degree, UNC Wilmington, 2003. Major: Political Science. Minor: Public Administration

Specialty Areas:  NC Title Searches, Foreclosure Searches, Full Searches, Mobile Notary, Loan Signings

Career Highlight:  Striking out on my own in August of 2009.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Paralegal's Husband and Wedding Provided by Macy's

The Daily Mail does such a great job of sharing the story of one paralegal's fairy tale meeting of her prince at the Herald Square Macy's in New York in 2009, and then her marriage to him at the same Macy's last weekend, that I'm just going to share the link, a picture, and congratulations to Pasadena paralegal Santina Bowers and her new husband, NYPD officer, Moise Naolo.

Bowers' LinkedIn profile indicates she's a legal document specialist with substantial experience in family law and specializes in providing services to low income families. She's a 2009 graduate of Pasadena City College.

Macy's provided everything for the wedding, even the cake.
Source:  Daily Mail

What's Worse than Being Fired for Insubordination?

Your answer may be different, but I think being sued by your former law firm for $1.25 million dollars makes the whole termination issue almost insignificant.

The last time Practical Paralegalism mulled over Texas paralegal Amber Williams' legal problems, in "Fired Paralegal Sued by Former Boss for Citysearch Review," I pointed out that you have to be pretty mad to take the time to file a defamation suit against someone who is likely judgment-proof. I really wasn't thinking in terms of specific numbers. If anything, I was conceptualizing this lawsuit in terms of our state's vague boilerplate civil damages language used in Superior Court complaints, "in excess of $10,000."

Lawyer's Request for Voluntary Discipline Due to Paralegal Misconduct Denied

I don't think any of you want to be associated with a "paralegal" or "investigator" whose qualifications, or lack thereof, include:

  • An extensive criminal history
  • No formal paralegal education
  • No investigator's license
Yet that's the person Georgia lawyer Joseph Maccione hired to assist him in his solo practice, allowing this fine fellow to prepare correspondence, communicate with clients, and collect retainer fees - and to identify himself as a paralegal and investigator on business cards and letterhead.

Paralegal Career 101: Choosing Your Law Specialty

Kristina Zelisko
by Kristina Zelisko

The legal profession is a vast field, filled with possibilities for choosing a specialty uniquely suited to your interests. As a paralegal, you could work in numerous settings, including government offices, law firms, and corporate legal departments. While these are some of the most common places to find a paralegal, there are many other types of organizations which employ these professionals, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports. How you craft your career is up to you. 

Depending on where you work, you might specialize in litigation, corporate law, intellectual property, immigration, or even real estate. Other common fields for paralegals include bankruptcy, family law, or personal injury. At times, the BLS notes, the law is a complex matter, and your skill set could become quite specific, based on the work your employer needs you to perform. To gain the special skills you require for a specialty, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) suggests that students attend paralegal schools to learn more and seek on-the-job training.

What’s right for you?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ethics Corner: Four Electronic Security Gadgets Paralegals Will Love

This says you're tough on digital security.
I'm working on a new ethics CLE presentation, "Old-Fashioned Ethics in a Newfangled World," but in my focus on digital and online security and ethical issues, I haven't been thinking as much about hardware as software. But a recent Mashable post, "10 Security Gadgets to Keep Your Stuff Safe on the Go," made me think about digital security from a more physical perspective.

Here are four security gadgets that will heighten your mobile security (as well as make you look super geeky and cool):

Welcome to Monday

Milton the Corgi doesn't want to go for a walk. Lynne the Paralegal doesn't want to go for a Monday.

NALA's Certified Paralegal Review Manual Now Available by eChapter

One of my terrific readers, who knows I'd like to take NALA's CLA exam, told me a couple of months ago that the Certified Paralegal Review Manual: A Practical Guide to CP Exam Preparation (3rd Edition) is now available by the eChapter, a very economical alternative for the cash-strapped exam hopeful who doesn't have $160.99 to buy the paperbook version outright - but I'm behind on almost everything in my professional life right now, so am just getting around to sharing this.

I haven't given up on preparing for the exam, but an extended medical leave at work by a key administrative staff member on my team, learning a new specialty area at work (Social Security disability), and an upcoming deadline for the ethics CLE manuscript I'm working on, "Old-Fashioned Ethics in a Newfangled World," have sidelined my CLA study plans for the immediate future.

But when I resume my exam preparation, purchasing the Certified Paralegal Review Manual: A Practical Guide to CP Exam Preparation by eChapter at $8.99 each definitely suits my wallet, as well as my plan to tackle one area of the exam at a time.

Another helpful resource for CLA exam prep is the NALA Manual for Paralegals and Legal Assistants (5th Edition), also available by e-Chapter, $16.99 each.

Also, if you're looking for a vendor, don't forget to check out NALA's Vendor Directory, which includes document, corporation and deposition services, as well as investigators, process servers, litigation support and other vendors.

The Paralegal Voice: Paralegals Who Love Their Jobs...and Why

The latest edition of The Paralegal Voice, "Paralegals Who Love Their Jobs...and Why" co-hosted by Vicki Voisin and me, is now available at Legal Talk Network.

In this episode, we spotlight four successful paralegals from across the country who love their jobs: Brian Haberly, Corporate and Securities Paralegal with Clearwire Corporation; Patricia F. Clapper ACP, NCCP, a paralegal from the firm, Levine & Stewart; Ruth Conley, a litigation paralegal at Andrews Kurth LLP; and Carl H. Morrison, II, AACP, a paralegal at Rhodes, Hieronymus, Jones, Tucker & Gable, PLLC. They share their diverse backgrounds, discuss career highlights, and offer ways to stay relevant and enjoy long careers in the paralegal profession.

Also in this episode:
  • Tips for balancing a job, professional association leadership, and family life.
  • Using social media to enhance your career
  • How to keep your career fresh and challenging
  • How to keep up with practice and technology skills
  • Vicki and Lynne share practice and social media tips.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Today's Quote: Legal Assistants Day Should Never Fall on a Weekend

For What it's Worth: March is Optimism Month. This is Act Happy Week. Today is Make  Up Your Own Holiday Day, which may explain why it is also Legal Assistants Day. ~ Excerpt from March 26, 2011 article, "Jurisprudence, Sticky Situation, Police Bladder --er, Blotter" (

For the record, I did not know yesterday was Legal Assistants Day when I tweeted:

Paralegal Practice Tip: If you're going to make up a holiday for us, make it a Monday. In fact, let's go for it. I formally declare tomorrow "National Skip Monday Day".

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why I Will Never Get the Big Head

My heart did a happy blogger skip when I read one of my latest reader comments:

I have read a few of the blog posts on your site since yesterday, and I truly like your style of blogging. I bookmarked it to my Internet favorites list, and will be checking back soon.


Until I read the next line:

We don't need no stinkin' pills.
I hope you'll visit my website to buy your penis enlargement pills.

You guys will understand why I don't share the link.

This is also why I love my dogs better than pretty much everybody.

Florida Bills Propose Paralegal Licensing

The Florida legislature is now dealing with one of the most hotly disputed issues in the history of the paralegal profession: whether paralegals should be licensed. On March 3, 2011, House Bill 1149 and Senate Bill 1612 were filed, proposing that the Florida Supreme Court create a licensing requirement for anyone wanting to use the paralegal title - and making it a felony for people without licenses to call themselves paralegals.

Florida is one of only a handful of states that currently offers a voluntary paralegal certification program, the Florida Registered Paralegal Program. The licensing bills were written by the Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations (FAPA)., in a detailed feature report well worth the read, reports that the group is pursuing licensing to protect the profession and the public:

Legal Secretary Clearly Recalls Lawyer Drafting $200k Bequest to Himself

This Tale of Woe Also Includes a Very "BAD DOG!" Moment
I Had to Change this Subtitle to "I'll Get You, and Your Little Dog, Too!" Had. To.

I doubt that Cindy Feld remembers the five years she worked as Florida Keys attorney William "Buck" DeVane's legal secretary entirely fondly. Recently she's been asked to recount one particularly memorable assignment (at least to her) to The Florida Bar.

KeysNet reports that The Florida Bar's grievance committee has "charged DeVane with misconduct, conflict of interest and being dishonest to investigators."

DeVane allegedly prepared a client's will, naming himself as one of two personal representatives of the estate - and  including a $200,000 bequest to himself. DeVane apparently has no collection whatsoever of drafting the will, but the Grievance Committee isn't buying the old - and extremely lame - "can't recall" defense, especially in light of the fact that he actually received the money:

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Fine Example of Getting to the Point

Greg Lambert wrote a post for 3 Geeks and a Law Blog earlier this week about "The Art of Shorter Writing". Having suffered from written verbal diarrhea all my life, I agree with him that modern professional writing has changed, and that the preferred style is clear, concise writing that gets the main point across quickly.

I commented at his post:

Greg, as an English major, I used to be the master (or mangler) of the 500-word single sentence. But as a working legal professional and blogger, I realized that I was going to have to take a simpler, more direct approach when writing for clients and blog readers.

Adopting a more journalistic style, i.e. shorter sentences and paragraphs, using the active voice, helps me get to the point more quickly, and hopefully in a way that doesn't cause my readers' attention to skitter off the page.
For those of you whose attention hasn't skittered off yet, when I stumbled across this graphic, I knew I had to share it as an example of very successful shorter writing:

The suspense is killing me. Thanks, My[confined]Space.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Australian Legal Assistant Wins 2011 Yale Drama Series Award

Photo via
If you want to be a writer, you frequently hear, "Don't quit your day job."  (And the paralegal profession, with its crazy health insurance benefits, seems to draw a lot of writers). But maybe Australian legal assistant Shannon Murdoch can quit her day job (or already did, see below), after winning the 2011 Yale Drama Series Prize for Emerging Playwrights.

ABC News reports:

Shannon Murdoch's work was selected from more than 870 submissions by Tony-winning playwright John Guare.

Her play "New Light Shine" won the $10,000 prize and will be published by Yale University Press. A staged reading will be held Sept. 12 at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Conn.

According to organizers, Murdoch's play deals with "four small-town lives linked through a violent crime and their hopeless attempts to erase the past and build new lives."

A quick Google search indicates that Murdoch is also a blogger at You know you want it, and invented a new word to describe how she felt when she learned she won this year's Yale Drama Series: superidiculamazahappy.

Although I'm kind of wondering about the day job after reading Murdoch's November 10, 2010 post declaring, "...I have finally thrown off the shackles of that ghastly institution called a day job."  Actually, it gets better:

Today's Quote: At What Price Your Epic Snickeroo?

"You know, I'll bitch about it, but then I'll probably pay it anyway because I want my coffee." ~ Principal Financial legal assistant David Erickson tells The News Journal how he'll respond when the $4.08 price tag on his "Epic Snickeroo Latte" is raised due to the rising cost of coffee beans.

I thought the reading public was being played on the Snickeroo beans until I looked it up, and discovered Coffee Roasters offers Snickeroo flavored coffee, which is "chocolate, vanilla, caramel and nuts wrapped in a graham cracker cinnamon! YUM!" Buffalo & Spring is a little more low key in its description of Snickeroo coffee, describing the flavor as "reminiscent of the famous butter and cinnamon flavored cookies."

Informal reader survey here, at what price will you forgo your daily Starbucks and revert to the home brew?

Source:  The News Journal

Some Resume Action Verbs to Avoid

When I stumbled across "500 Positive Resume Action Verbs That Get Job Interviews," I got kind of excited, because I usually review several resumes every week (thanks, y'all, for asking for my input, I try to combine tact with brutal honesty). I frequently suggest that legal job seekers use a functional skills format to sell the capabilities they have to prospective employers.

I thought I had hit pay dirt with this extensive handy-dandy list, but upon closer inspection, I would seriously avoid using some of these verbs, including (but not limited to):

Paralegal Profile: Nita Serrano, RP, FRP

Job Title:  Paralegal

Employer:  Ogden, Sullivan & O'Connor, P.A.; Tampa and Orlando, FL

Years of Paralegal Experience: 15

Education/Degrees: AS Paralegal

Specialty Areas:  Med/Mal Defense, Insurance Defense

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why There Is a Dearth of Middle-Aged Fashion Bloggers

Or, My What Big Blue Eyes I Have

A couple of you have asked me if I follow any fashion blogs for real working women of a certain age, wearing normal stuff for the office straight from the Target runways, and looking rather like a model's very hip grandmum, and not like a model's 32-year old baby mum. Because the last time we saw 30-anything, it was the 90s, and a power suit still had shoulder pads and honkin' gold buttons.

Having never loved to get my picture taken, I thought maybe I could give the ol' daily career wear photo a whirl. But after taking a few full-length pics today, it hit me why not so many middle-aged women embrace fashion-blogging. I realized I've turned into my short, round grandmother. (I worshipped her by the way, and she gave the best sort of fluffy all-encompassing hugs ever). I don't know when I got so fluffy, too, but I think it happened last night.

Legal Secretary Was a Ready Dispenser of Comfort and Love

Cyphers was also a great beauty.
You guys know I love obituaries, especially the ones that provide a personal glimpse into a life well-lived. New Jersey legal secretary, Ruth Endlar Cyphers, died on March 14, 2011 at the ripe old age of 91. Her obituary indicates she had the terrific communication skills required for successful legal support staffers, and was a cherished mom and grandma:

Ruth was an accomplished legal secretary and worked over the years for many attorneys in the Morris County, N.J., area. She also worked for the Salvation Army. She was an avid letter writer and champion speller, winning contests well into her 80s. She could play the piano by ear, a little known fact, and is remembered by her children and grandchildren as a ready dispenser of cinnamon toast and button candy.
I remember my grandmother as a ready dispenser of the most wonderful homemade oatmeal with raisins, and hand-knitted afghans I still cherish today. What did your grandmother readily dispense to comfort and love you?

Addendum:  What is button candy, you ask? I'm glad, because I didn't know either. I wondered if it was something homemade like my grandmother's divinity fudge, but it may actually have been those old-fashioned candy buttons on paper tape.

Source: The Marietta Times

Here's Why Snail Mail Is Becoming Obsolete


Monday, March 21, 2011

Paralegal Career Dressing: Flower Brooches from JKW Jewellery

I am insane for flowers. However, when I grow them, I usually kill them. But now floral clothes and accessories are in, so I can wear them, love them - and never watch them turn brown and die.

Lately, I've been following a lot of fashion blogs for working women, and I've gotten so many great ideas for inexpensive ways to re-mix and accessorize my existing wardrobe, including adding a floral brooch to jackets, belts or purses. My readers who work in legal settings, especially corporate legal departments and private law firms know we can't go too crazy with fashion at work, because, well, to be frank, most dress codes for legal professionals lean on the ultra-conservative side.  Wearing one of the hot new floral brooches to court-related activities can be a little iffy, too. You definitely can't express your inner Carrie Bradshaw.

So what's a flowery, kinda girly-girl supposed to do - especially if you can't find a floral pin to wear to work that isn't the size of a child's head? Make your own! Which I've been doing, with lots of compliments, and a pending blog post (in which The Teen expresses honest shock when she busts me crafting), after I take my floral babies outside to photograph (the inside photographs are terrible).

But I'm just starting to learn how to craft these pins, and am at the beginner stage of using pre-made silk flowers. When I wanted a few brooches to wear now, in conservative colors, I turned to Etsy and found JKW Jewellery. My brooches arrived today from Ireland (Ireland! that kind of snail mail alone is exciting!), and they are so lovely and perfect for work that they almost take my breath away.

Need a Mental Break? Barcode Yourself

I'm sure you have absolutely nothing else to do but barcode yourself. Not really. If you're a legal support staffer reading this post at work, you're probably taking a wee mental break by hiding under your desk with your smart phone, trying to take your mind off the multiple discovery responses that need to be completed in an hour, or yanking on the wire thingie  that will "accidentally" disconnect your desk phone for the remainder of the day.

Not that I've ever done that.

But I have created a personalized barcode at

I scanned myself, and my barcode value is $6.84. And now everyone who can figure this out knows how much  I weigh...

P.S. If you think you've busted me blogging during the day, you're wrong. These babies are scheduled in advance, because my desk telephone cord seems to be welded into the wall socket, and I really do have multiple sets of discovery due.

Paralegal Gets Prison Time for Embezzlement from Harrah's

How cool is it that Harrah's sponsors Project 21, a program that educates young people about the dangers of underage gambling, with prizes awarded for participation in essay, poster and poetry contests?

How uncool is it to be the former Harrah's paralegal who plead guilty to stealing $370,000 from the program designed to help prevent underage gambling?

The Press of Atlantic City reports that earlier this year Jodi Muraczewski was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to embezzlement from the Project 21 corporate bank account from 2005 through 2009. She has also been ordered to pay $370,000 in restitution.

Minister and "People's Advocate" Is Charged with UPL

You'd think if you were already in jail on two charges of unauthorized practice of law, you'd be extra careful not to go down that particular road again. But the Charleston Post Courier reports that while David Lee Edward Mitchell was a guest of the Charleston County jail, he allegedly decided to offer his self-professed legal expertise to a fellow inmate - again.

Mitchell is a minister who allegedly told at least three people he is a paralegal. Since Mitchell is not a lawyer, despite running an enterprise called The People's Advocate, it is illegal for him to practice law or give legal advice. (Maybe no one told him paralegals can't give legal advice either.)

Allegedly accepting $300 to assist a fellow inmate, who was not satisfied with his current court-appointed lawyer, led to Mitchell's third UPL charge. (Perhaps in hindsight, the dissatisfied customer now better appreciates the fact that at least his court-appointed representative is a real lawyer.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

I blog for paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, legal staffers, paralegal students and instructors - and the attorneys who want to get to know us better. I try to share information they might find helpful for professional development, or a much needed laugh during a hectic week working for lawyers. Once a week (or every other week when Life happens) I share links to a half dozen or so articles focusing on legal news and humor, practice tips and professionalism, and technology. I also share links of interest at Practical Paralegalism's Facebook page, and via my Twitter stream (@ExpertParalegal).

This week's links:

So that's where all the twist ties disappeared to...(Thanks Work Fail Blog!)

Paralegal Career Dressing: Where Can a Growing Gal Get a Classic Skirt?

My figure has changed. My older friends tell me it's inevitable, no matter what you eat or how much you exercise. It's not that you aren't still cute, it's just that your shape re-distributes itself, mostly around your waist. I'm a lot closer to 50 than 40, and I've finally admitted that I need a few skirts for work that fit my middle-aged shape, which is a size larger than my "girlish" 40-year old figure.

But I've had a devil of a time finding reasonably well-tailored skirts in a budget-conscious price range, and I don't have time to try my luck at the few thrift stores in our area. Then I remembered most of my existing skirts are from the Merona and Mossimo lines at Target, and have held up extremely well (with careful laundering) for years. Unfortunately, I think the rest of the world knows about Target's career skirts, because many sizes are not currently available online, and the local store has even less to offer.

But today's JCPenney circular in the Sunday paper featured a high-waisted belted skirt  from the Worthington brand, with plenty of sizes available online. Here are a couple of the skirts I'm hoping will be comfortable classics to expand my, er, expanding career wardrobe:

Loud Lawyer's Ethical Breach Is Subject of Ask Amy Column

Amy Dickinson is a syndicated advice columnist and the late Ann Landers' successor at the Chicago Tribune. Although she's not a legal professional, Dickinson knew exactly what to say when a reader wrote her about an uncomfortable dining experience at a Long Island restaurant:

Bone Marrow Donor Sought for Chinese-Canadian Legal Assistant

Krisy Lam is fighting for her life.
Kristina "Krisy" Lam is a 28-year old legal assistant of Asian descent, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2009. After undergoing chemotherapy, Lam was in remission for most of 2010, but has since relapsed. She desperately needs a bone marrow transplant, but has no matches in her extended family, which is now publicly seeking a bone marrow match.

Lam's best chance of survival is finding a matching donor from within her own ethnic group, but Asians make up only a small percent of registered donors. Patti Lam, Kristina's mother, told the Toronto Sun, "We're hoping for a miracle. Her best chance of finding a donor is someone of Chinese descent." 

Caldwell Community College Student Wins 1st Place in NCPA Essay Contest

Way to go, Tammy!
Congratulations to Tammy Pyles, a paralegal student at Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute, which has campuses in both Hudson and Boone, North Carolina. She won first place in the 2011 N.C. Paralegal Association Scholarship Essay Contest.

The Charlotte Observer reports:

She will receive a $400 scholarship, a student membership in the organization and free registration at the group's annual seminar in Cary. Her essay also will be published in a future issue of the NCPA Forum magazine.

Pyles wrote about growing up one of six children in a blue-collar family with a strong work ethic. A Pittsburgh native, she moved to Caldwell County in 2002.
According to CCC&TI's press release, Pyles enrolled in the paralegal program when she found herself without a job. Her decision to return to school full-time was a family affair, and everyone is making sacrifices so that she can earn her degree.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New Bill Addresses Serious Employment Obstacle for Many: Must Be Currently Employed

Last week a new bill, The Fair Employment Act of 2011 (H.R. 1113), was introduced before the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill was introduced to protect unemployed people from discrimination.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Henry "Hank" Johnson (D-Ga.), told the Huffington Post that he was troubled by want ads specifying that only currently employed job seekers need apply:

"I just thought about how unfair that was, to discriminate against people who had lost their jobs due to no fault of their own, who were just victims of corporate downsizing during a tough economy. And then to be penalized for having that status is very unfair. It reminded me of the days when blacks were told to not apply for jobs, when job ads said 'No women allowed.' This really affected me, and I decided that there was something that we could do."

The HuffPo article links to several want ads that contained the "must be currently employed" language, including a posting for a legal secretary by McGuireWoods, which has offices in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C., as well as Belgium and the UK. The ad is no longer live at the firm's site, indicating the firm is no longer accepting applications for the position. The phrase "must be currently employed" is contained in the cached ad.

Legal Secretary Takes On Supermodel's Bum

Legal professionals sit at desks for long periods of time. Some of us eat for entertainment (not namin' names, okay, me). None of this is good for the ol' keister, and I sure wouldn't want mine compared to that of a supermodel, say, Kate Moss.

But English legal secretary Tannita Davies said bring it on when asked to compare her bum to Kate's.

British Legal Assistant's Lawsuit Blaming Law College for Failing Bar Exams Thrown Out

Call me strange if you like, but if I were a successful legal professional at a well-established law firm, I would not want all of my colleagues - and the world - to know that I failed crucial law exams needed to become a solicitor in England and America.

And I wouldn't want a Google search of my name to reveal that I blamed the legal college I attended for my inability to pass the tests, including the New York Bar Exam, and for "ruining" my legal career.

The Mirror reports that Russian-born Maria Abramova's lawsuit against the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice (not to be confused with the venerable University of Oxford)  was thrown out in High Court last week.

According to The Mirror, The Hon. Justice Burnett was not sympathetic to Abramova's plight:

Aging Legal Team Creates Job Opportunities in Alaska's Law Department

With all the discouraging news about recent mass layoffs in the legal field, and the extremely competitive job market for paralegals, would you move to Alaska for a paralegal or related job?

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that one-quarter of the Alaska Department of Law's attorney and paralegal staffers are currently eligible to retire. The aging workforce is creating a staffing shortage that the department is trying to prevent, with an aggressive internship and recruiting program, as well as a mentor program pairing experienced employees with younger colleagues.

Law Society of Upper Canada Offers New Video about the Benefits of Hiring Paralegals

The Law Society of Upper Canada has its own YouTube Channel, "Your Law Series Channel," which provides information to the public, including a new video about the benefits of hiring paralegals in Ontario. The range of representation that licensed paralegals can undertake, including small claims, traffic and minor criminal matters, is especially intriguing to American paralegals, who can only appear on behalf of clients in a few venues, such as before the Social Security Administration.

This extremely interesting video features appearances by two licensed paralegals, Michelle L. Haigh of Precision Paralegal Services and Shelina Lalji of POINTTS. Haigh is currently serving a four-year term as a Paralegal Bencher on the Law Society's Paralegal Standing Committee.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Kiss a Leprechaun - or a Paralegal

This is a re-print of last year's St. Paddy's Day post, but I feel like I was born to spread the word about our secret day.

I feel like such a fool. Here I am, descended from a long line of red-headed Irish Catholics (lapsed), running around in my green dress all day (which really complements my Red-Straight-from-a-Bottle-Because-I-Got-Cheated-in-the-Genetic-Lottery hair) - and not afraid to use my big old black metal Bates stapler in case someone tries to pinch me.

But I didn't know it was our day. Sure, earlier this week, I saw a tantalizing tidbit in "The Tech of the Irish" about iPhone apps that said, "There is also a live Twitter feed integrated as well as a newsfeed so you can see how everyone else is celebrating the patron saint of paralegals and engineers." I laughed it off until I kept seeing tweets referencing "our" patron saint.

So I looked it up on Wikipedia and boy, did my mouth hang open when I read:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

700-Plus Employees Get WARN Notice Letters from Howrey

This is a tough week to be employed by Howrey, a law firm with multiple offices in North America and Europe, and a focus in three highly specialized areas: antitrust, global litigation, and intellectual property. LawCareers.Net is reporting that in the wake of the company's decision to dissolve, over 700 associates, secretaries, paralegals and support staff will be receiving WARN notices via overnight mail, including 480 employees in the Northern Virginia and Washington DC offices.

If you're not familiar with The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, the U.S. Department of Labor provides a Fact Sheet and Guide to Advance Notice of Closings and Layoffs at The Act offers protection to workers employed at companies that have 100 or more employees, by requiring employers to provide 60 days advance notice of mass layoffs.

According to LawCareers.Net, the employees are combining their efforts to weather the pending job losses:

Paralegal Profile: Brandi Racz

Job Title:  Probate Paralegal

Employer:  Kirk & Huth, P.C., Clinton Township, MI

Years of Paralegal Experience:  14

Education/Degrees:  A.A.S. Paralegal Studies, Ferris State University

Specialty Areas:  Decedents' Estates, Guardianships, Conservatorships

Career Highlight:  It's all been very interesting.

Future Goals You're Working Toward:  Finishing my degree.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Use to Create a Cool Facebook Banner

I know I can talk until I'm blue in the face about Twitter and convince maybe 1% of you to join, and then actually use it once you join, but I also know that many more of you are enthusiastic Facebook users. If you're like me, you're still getting used to the new Facebook profile, and wondering why that irksome new banner at the top of your profile page seems to cruelly arbitrarily latch onto the worst of your pictures.

ProfileGen.com, allows you to pick a cool banner to display instead - or even to upload your own image to turn into a Facebook banner. (I know the more technologically proficient among you can probably generate a custom banner without a free web app, but I'm lazy and well, just not that smart.)

I picked:

Because I totally am.

P.S. Practical Paralegalism has a Facebook page, and very, very much appreciates your virtual support there, since this blog is totally non-profit (which is a diplomatic way to say I do not make any big or little bucks doing this :)

10 Ways for Paralegals to Nurture Themselves

This is an aptly named Butt Station Blue Assistant.
I'll admit to being the most stressed I've been in a long time. Our legal team's wonderful administrative assistant has been out of work for several months, and it's challenging trying to wear both hats. I've got an ethics CLE manuscript due, and while I love the subject matter, it's tough finding the extra time to work on it. There are always deadlines associated with various paralegal activities, and then there's this blog.

When I stumbled upon "100 Ways to Nurture Yourself," I immediately thought, "I'm too over-scheduled to do anything to nurture myself!" Then I thought about it and realized I have a lot of paralegal friends who would probably say the same thing.

If you don't have time to read the entire list, here's 10 nurturing things to do that especially apply to paralegals:

Lindsay's Back on the Courtwalk

So Lindsay was in court again last week. Pretend that she listened to you, her criminal lawyer's indispensable paralegal, when deciding what to wear on the courtwalk.

Plain ol' beige. Check.

Black tights and vintage heels a spinster librarian would approve of. Check.

Long sleeves and a modest neckline appropriate for the cute 12-year old Lilo your children loved. Check.

Liquid leather. Check. You're pretty sure you didn't recommend liquid leather. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

High Brow Insults for the Workplace

Let's be honest. Working in the legal field is stressful. Highly. Stressful. And sometimes people aren't nice to you each other. So occasionally you'll want to vent and let loose with a really good insult about those inconsiderate clods people, including your boss, the bonehead on the other end of the phone line, that guy who designed the new postage meter, and whoever stole those colored Post-It flags you were saving for a special occasion.

But you don't want to get fired.

Try couching your grand slam jab in literary terms. If someone overhears you, say that reciting literature is the mark of keen intelligence, and you once won a literary prize in the seventh grade. (Lie if you have to.)

Here are a few high brow suggestions appropriate for a legal setting, courtesy of "When Insults Had Class":

How to Wear Your Monkey to Court

Metal detectors don't detect unarmed monkeys.
A few weeks ago I asked you to pretend you worked for Lindsay Lohan's criminal attorney and had to give her some tips on dressing for court. But we didn't cover what to say when a client asks if she can bring her preemie daughter to court.

Whatever you think might be appropriate, I bet it isn't, "Wear a good bra with plenty of room to tuck in your monkey."

That's what an unidentified woman did when she brought her "daughter," a seven-week old marmoset named Cara to the Amherst County courthouse in Virginia last week. According to New Era Progress:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Paralegal Career Dressing: The Essential Boyfriend Blazer

I don't think that every working woman necessarily needs a boyfriend, but she can always use a boyfriend blazer to add polish to dresses, skirts, and slacks. Kohl's has a versatile twill boyfriend blazer by Apt. 9 on sale for $34.99 (originally $60), available in black or sand:

Removable chiffon-rosette brooch is a nice bonus.


Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

I blog for paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, legal staffers, paralegal students and instructors - and the attorneys who want to get to know us better. I try to share information they might helpful for professional development, or a much needed laugh during a hectic week working for lawyers. Once a week (or every other week when Life happens) I share links to a half dozen or so articles focusing on legal news and humor, practice tips and professionalism, and technology. I also share links of interest at Practical Paralegalism's Facebook page, and via my Twitter stream (@ExpertParalegal).

This week's links:

I suspect some of my male readers might be either rolling their eyes or feeling left out when I talk about career-dressing for female legal staffers, so this one's for you.

What the well-dressed male paralegal might wear to a business lunch. (

Delaware Paralegal Association to Host an Evening with Erin Brockovich

The Delaware Paralegal Association (DPA) has scored the most well known paralegal in the world for "An Evening with Erin Brockovich!"  The event will take place on Friday, April 29, 2011, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington, Delaware. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet Erin during an opening cocktail reception, and she will share her inspirational story during the program.

Space will be limited for this event, so reservations and payment should be submitted by April 8, 2011. You can obtain more information here, including the PDF invitation.

Many thanks to Anthony Iannini, a litigation paralegal at Saul Ewing LLP and DPA's president, for sharing information about this exciting event.

Erin was a guest on an episode of The Paralegal Voice hosted by Vicki Voisin and me. If you haven't listened to a free Legal Talk Network podcast yet, this episode is a great place to start. Erin's enthusiasm and advocacy for the paralegal profession are contagious!

In a related news story that may fall under "very legally weird," the movie Erin Brockovich inspired a WAY serious fan in Mexico to cover himself in 82 tattoos (to date) featuring Julia Roberts. He plans to add more tattoos, as his money - and available body space - will allow.

Online CLE: 10 Ways to Prepare Top Civil Injury Settlement Demands

If you think you missed this new webinar offered through The Paralegal Mentor, you're in luck. The course was postponed due to scheduling issues. The new date is Wednesday, March 30, 2011, at 1:00 p.m. EST, and you can register at

When the course was announced, Vicki Voisin received an email from a paralegal who works as a Senior Claims Specialist for a major malpractice insurance carrier:

It would mean so much to me to receive a well written settlement brochure that tells me exactly how my insured breached a standard of care that proximately caused $x damages and how Plaintiff intended to prove it. Settlement could be achieved much quicker!

During this class, I'm going to share some of my hard-won experience, including how and why I developed case evaluation sheets, what I learned from working with a former insurance adjuster, and the most repeated mistakes I've seen in settlement packages (usually inherited at the litigation stage) over the years.

If you're not already subscribing to Vicki's free weekly ezine, Paralegal Strategies, you can sign up at

Source:  The Paralegal Mentor

Attention Paralegal Students: 2011 NFPA/Thomson Reuters Scholarship Available

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)  is accepting applications for two large scholarships sponsored by Thomson Reuters, available in the amounts of $3,000 and $2,000. The deadline to submit your application is July 1, 2011, and the PDF application is here.

Applicants must:

Robert Half Legal Survey Forecasts Increased Legal Hiring

A new survey by Robert Half Legal for its quarterly Legal Hiring Index indicates that 29% of the 200 lawyers interviewed plan to hire additional legal personnel during the second quarter of 2011. The fastest-growing specialty areas are litigation, general business/commercial, and bankruptcy/foreclosure law.

"The business environment remains competitive, and law firms are adding staff to help them expand their client base and enhance service offerings," said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. "Law firms, in particular, are hiring on a full-time and project-basis to keep up with growing business demand in hot practice areas such as litigation."   

Associates with five years of experience will be the most sought after staff, followed by paralegals and legal secretaries.

Of course, the increase in job openings for legal professionals will vary depending on where you live. Are any of you seeing more want ads for paralegals, legal assistants, and legal secretaries in your area?

Source:  PR Newswire

Friday, March 11, 2011

TGIF: Have You Seen Jen's New Sex Tape?

I asked my kids that at dinner last night, and they're all, "WUT!!!! Jennifer Aniston made a sex tape?!?!?!" And I waited about 30 seconds before I said,


But she did make a very funny video that explains what an Internet meme is. Go, Team Jen!

This video reminds me, I need to schedule a haircut...

Oh Yes She Did: Paralegal Steals Client's Home Equity

There's not a whole lot to this story, besides the "what the hell?" angle. Earlier this week, a Connecticut paralegal entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court to an embezzlement charge. Stacey Williams admitted that when a client changed his mind about taking out a home equity loan, she went ahead and borrowed over $123,000 against his house anyway.

Over a five-month period in 2008, Williams used the client's home equity funds for her "personal benefit." Now she's facing up to 30 years in prison. I wonder what she thinks of the personal benefit now.

Williams also got busted in a seriously big way:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Welcome Paralegal Support 101 Blog!

Welcome to the blawgosphere, Kris!
Sometimes I miss the new paralegal bloggers. And sometimes I don't miss them, but I wait a few months to see if they're just a one post wonder, or if they've caught the blogging bug.

But in the case of freelance paralegal blogger Kris L. Canaday, her post on JD Supra led me to her blog, Paralegal Support 101,, which has been up and running since December 2010. Canaday's goal is to provide information about paralegals and freelance services in particular:

If You Ask Me One More Time What's for Dinner, I Will Eat You

The most stressful part of this paralegal's day is wondering what to fix the fam for dinner. 'Cause I'd be happy with beer, popcorn, or dry cereal. For some reason, they are not. Little ingrates.

The other essential part of connecting with my kids, other than over baggies of dry cereal at the dinner table, is texting. I only recently started texting more than two characters an hour. So I love the Parents Shouldn't Text blog:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Today's Quote: Is the Jury Out on Paralegal Schools?

Even for those lucky enough to find a job in their desired field, there’s still no guarantee that it will pay well enough. Paralegal Today, an independent magazine about the paralegal profession, noted that lawyers, legal assistants, paralegals and others employed in the legal industry have been "required to take a hack in their earnings, renounce their bonuses or were just laid off because of funding cuts and a low order for work." ~ From "The jury's out on law schools" (

You'd have to be living under a rock if you still believe that going to law school will land you a phat-cat job making the big bucks in the land o' milk and honey.

But are you living under a rock if you still think that a paralegal degree is a ticket to steady employment in what the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbrook, 2010-11 Edition, still projects as a fast-growing profession?

Paralegal Profile: Rachelle Johnson

Job Title: Legal Assistant

Employer: Bryce Law Firm, PLLC, Tulsa, OK

Years of Paralegal Experience: 8

Education/Degrees: Currently attending University of Phoenix, expected graduation 2012, B.A. in business management. Took LSAT in December 2010, intend to attend University of Tulsa Law School, beginning 2013

Specialty Areas: Elder and Family Law

Career Highlight:  Assisting the attorneys at the Bryce Law Firm with guardianship cases involving eating disorder patients. The wards involved in the cases were greatly helped by the guardianships. Also, assisting attorneys in ensuring that the ward's voice was heard in guardianship hearings and medical decisions made on the ward's behalf. I always enjoy working on a case that involves benefiting someone.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Holy Shopping Spree! Entire Legal Staff Gets $500 to Spend at Ann Taylor

Stacy's wearing my fashion weakness: chain necklaces.
SHUT. UP. Seriously, can you just hear Stacy London's response if I told her a law firm gave its entire staff, lawyers and legal support members, a $500 shopping spree at Ann Taylor?

I love Ann Taylor, and already suffered severe Ann Taylor envy once this week when one of our fabulously stylish associates wore a beautiful black pencil skirt she scored from a clearance sale, with an extremely chic black ruffled jacket snagged from a Kohl's clearance rack.

But The Orange County Register is reporting that Cummins & White, LLP, in Newport Beach, California, treated its employees to new clothes, both to boost morale and the image of the firm:

The Paralegal Voice: Revitalizing Your Career with Continuing Education

Looking for new opportunities in the paralegal world? In February's episode of The Paralegal Voice, we welcome Karen G. McGee, ACP, President of NALA, and Christine E. Porter, ACP, Chair of NALA's Continuing Education Council, to talk about opportunities through NALA and how you can revitalize your career with continuing education.

Karen and Chris discuss Advanced Paralegal Certification and all of the options available in specific practice areas, as well as NALA's new "blended learning" approach and how to use these tools for career growth.

Also, in this episode, we discuss:

How a Paralegal Can Help Market a Small Law Firm

An Oklahoma reader recently emailed me with a law firm marketing question:

First off, I am an avid fan of your blog! [No, I am not making this up to make myself look good.] I really admire how you market your blog and Facebook page. I work for a small firm that has decided to really market itself this year. We have increased our advertising, updated our website, and created a Facebook page. I have been put in charge of the website re-design and Facebook page. The problem is, I have no marketing experience and no clue how to promote our website and Facebook pages.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Paralegal Career Dressing: Pretty Little Flash Drives

I guess this is the night I confess all my deep dark secrets, and either y'all laugh and delete me from your RSS feed reader - or tell me yours.

Okay, here goes, I'm going to say it really fast and get it over with, "onmondaynightmeandTheTeenbondoverABCFamily'sPrettyLittleLiars." OMG, it's driving me CRAZY! WHO IS A!?!?

During tonight's episode I nearly forgot about A altogether, totally captivated by the pretty, shiny, sparkly jeweled owl flash drive that was the focal point of yet another plot twist. (At this rate, the series could go on for years. Will they ever graduate from high school? What grade are they in anyway?)

As soon as we realized a pretty necklace was hiding a flash drive, The Teen and I both shrieked at the same time, "OMG, I'VE GOT TO HAVE ONE!!!" Ergo, this post.

With no further drama, here's some pretty little flash drives to obsess over - or just quietly purchase and wear to work:

Today's Quote: A Time-Saving Domestic Tip

...Also, yes, I still have my Christmas tree up, because if I take it down before April the Christmas tree wins. Also, I’ve been using it to throw clothes on when they come out of the dryer because that way you get less wrinkles on them.  It’s like using hangers, but easier and more festive.  Stop judging me. ~ The Bloggess

I'm not judging. I'm taking notes.

And what could this possibly have to do with being a paralegal?

Well, I'm a paralegal, and my Christmas tree is still up.

But now I don't have to buy an extra drying rack for my sweaters.  Yay, me.

Source: The Bloggess (Jenny always make me laugh when I feel like crying. Paralegal Practice Tip: Add The Bloggess, to your RSS feed reader, but save her posts until you're either at home wondering if your family will eat dry cereal in sandwich baggies for dinner, or can't stop crying in your car at lunch...)

Fired Paralegal Sued by Former Boss for Citysearch Review

The Ultimate Bellaire is reporting that a Texas paralegal and (I'm assuming) her husband are being sued in Harris County District Court by her former supervising attorney, Michael Weston of Weston & Associates, PLLC, a bankruptcy firm, for allegedly posting a highly negative review of Weston on

The plaintiffs say that after they fired Amber Williams, their paralegal, for insubordination on Nov. 6, 2010, she and Jon Williams posted a false and derogatory review of Weston on, claiming, among other things, that he is condescending and cold. According to the brief, this fraudulent posting has been made public to thousands of potential clients since Nov. 22, 2010, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost income.

ParalegaliPad: The iPad 2 Will Literally Make You Crap Your Pants

According to this most excellent iPad 2 parody, we will buy iCrap if Apple makes it. Yup.

I don't even know why I salivate over iPad 2 commercials, reviews and blog posts, except that I'm like Pavlov's dog 'cause Apple has conditioned me to do so. I love my plain ol' but I guess now obsolete iPad, and have assured it repeatedly that I have no plans to trade up (even though I read every single word of Mashable's post about how to get rid of a lame yesterday's iPad. I'm sorry! It's an emotional affair, so I didn't really stray!).

Heads up, there are a few NSFW (but totally appropriate) comments.

Bonus Tweet:

Oh, and welcome to Monday.