Friday, September 30, 2011

TGIF: A Little Friendly Advice

I'm learning several new legal specialties completely foreign to me, so when I received an email from one of our fantastic and terribly smart associates yesterday with the subject line, "A little friendly advice," I thought she was discreetly sending me some tips to aid my sometimes less than clueless dive into the newbie waters of very specialized federal law.

But as I read her very helpful advice, I started giggling:

I am passing this on to you because it definitely worked for me today, and we all could probably use more calm in our lives. Some doctor on TV this morning said the way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started. So I looked around my house to see things I'd started and hadn't finished. So I have managed to finish off a bottle of Merlot, a bottle of Chardonnay, a bodle of Baileys, a butle of wum, a pockage of Prungles, tha mainder of bot Prozic and Valiuminun scriptins, the res of the chesescke an a box a chocletz. Yu haf no idr how bludy fablus I feel rite now. Plaese sned dhis orn to dem yu fee ar in ned ov iennr pisss. An telum,u blody luvum.!! Xxx

Our office manager emailed the associate back and said, "You ain't right." (We say stuff like that in the South with a perfectly straight face, another challenge for me with the NALA CP exam Communications section.) 

I bloody love y'all! Have a great weekend!


Road to NALA CP Exam: One eChapter at a Time

I've received so much advice about preparing for NALA's CP/CLA exam that my head might explode before I ever have a chance to take it, but I also hear a lot of complaints about the staggering cost of the study materials.

I reminded a friend that several of the recommended books can be purchased by individual eChapters, kind of like a Kmart layaway plan.

Since I'm starting the Communications section that initially robbed me of all self-esteem humbled me, I purchased eChapter 1 of the Certified Paralegal Review Manual: A Practical Guide to CP Exam Preparation, 3rd Edition for $8.99 (total with tax $9.60). The Table of Contents and the Introduction are free. did ask me what school I attend. What's up with the focus on school? Can't a gal just like to read non-fiction? Again, "The School of Life" is not acceptable.

There goes the $9 I saved by not using the Cramberry flash card app.

I'm also studying "the little book," The Elements of Style, a few pages at a time. It's an eye-opener. I suggest that everyone read it, if you haven't in a while (or ever). The Grammar Police are extremely picky.

You Do Know I'm Not an Actuary, Right?

Every once in a while, I get a call from someone who doesn't work for our firm, and the conversation usually goes something like this (every single time):

Caller:  "Hey, who present values your lifetime disability benefit claims?"

Me: "We don't pay anybody to do it. I do it."

Caller:  [long pause] "Really? Could you run a present value for me?"

Me:  "You do know I'm not an actuary, don't you?"

And because it only takes a minute, and I like this person, and my boss knows I do it for this person, I run the numbers, and remind the person that we've been using the same amazing present value gadget for decades, that awesome cardboard sliding table-thingie made by Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company, Inc., the Future Damage and Present Value Calculator. Throw those interest rates in an Excel spreadsheet, and baby, you are golden.

$22 and worth every single penny. But hide yours. They are popular in the office.
I also use an iPad app, Time Value of Money, and have located several free online present value calculators over the years, but nothing beats the tried and true L&J PV tables.

Well, except maybe an actuary.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Road to NALA CP Exam: Flash Card App

Y'all remember when I brought th' iPad home like a stray puppy, and told Dear Hubby I needed it to study for the NALA CP/CLA exam? He didn't believe it, either. But I do!

Seriously, last year I downloaded the Cramberry flash card iPad app to make study cards, and the first steps this week to re-focus my exam preparation were: 1) try to remember my user name and password for the Cramberry account; and 2) express shock and outrage when I discovered that Cramberry now wants $9 a year in order to study more than 30 cards a day!
I know, crazy eyes...

$9! That's like a whole outfit at the thrift store!

Well, I'm here to tell you now, I'm not paying to make online flash cards. So I checked out my other cheapskate free options, and downloaded the free StudyBlue Flashcards iPhone app. (Studying for the NALA exam will be a better use of my iPhone than taking pics of myself while sitting in the car waiting for teenagers at after-school activities.)

This app does require users to sign up for a free account, which would have taken only 15 seconds, if I hadn't got hung up on the question about what school I'm attending. "The School of Life" wasn't an option.

Reader Question: Should I Tell My Boss I'm Looking for Another Job?

I have a question about when to tell my boss at my current job that I'm looking for another position. What's the etiquette for this kind of situation? I'm not sure how it works if I fill out an online application that requires names and contact info for references. I really like the people I work with but not the kind of paralegal work I'm doing. I don't want to burn any bridges. ~ An Understandably Anonymous Paralegal

Practical Paralegalism's Answer:

I'm sorry about your current job situation, and I think you're wise to keep an eye out for a better career fit for you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Paralegal Career Dressing: Can You Guess Which Item Came from Kmart?

Seriously, I truly appreciate all my favorite career fashion bloggers' great cameras, photogenic genes, and super photos, because getting one good picture is so much harder than it looks. I wasn't even going to share this picture until I tinkered with a filter on my iPhone Camera+ app, and suddenly the berries from my prized Pyracantha bush (I raised it from a baby) looked like gorgeous Halloween lights (my fave holiday).

Obviously, I had to share the picture. Only I should have taken a second picture of just the dress, because as soon as I sat down at my desk, I overheated like a tea kettle boiling over, and had to shed the sweater and the belt.

Then people kept saying, "You are so dressed up today!" I felt kind of guilty, because this Jones New York dress from Ross Dress for Less is really a nightgown with darts and a lining. So comfy. And machine washable.

Jones New York dress (Ross), August Silk cardi (Marshalls), Mad Men pearls (Banana Republic), Belt (swiped from Forever 21 boyfriend sweater), Candie's Mary Janes (Kohl's)

No, nothing I'm wearing came from Kmart, but that Pyracantha bush started out as a $5 stick from a Kmart dead plant end of season sale.

If I tell you how many pairs of different Mary Jane style heels I own, I'll have to kill you. How many pairs do you own?

Paralegal Resume 101: How to Stand Out from the Competition

The latest edition of The Paralegal Voice, “Paralegal Resume 101: How to Stand Out from the Competition,” co-hosted by Vicki Voisin and me, is now available at Legal Talk Network.
Is your resume up to par? Will it rise to the top in a stack of other paralegals’ applications? On this edition, Vicki and I present a 101 course about paralegal resumes. We share our own experiences preparing and reviewing resumes, offer suggestions for handling the “no experience” issue for newcomers to the field, discuss the recommended formats for paralegal resumes, and provide tips to distinguish yourself from the pack of competitors for every job.
Also in this episode:

  1. Golden Rules for resumes
  2. The hosts’ resume pet peeves
  3. Resume resources
  4. LinkedIn tips
  5. Vicki’s practice tip and Lynne’s social media tip
Internet resources and links mentioned during the podcast:

Paralegal Practice Tip: Get the Story Right in Your Medical Summary

When I'm summarizing medical records, I do more than only review the patient's medical history. I try to get a sense of the patient's personality, perspective, and life, using all of the documents available to me, not just the medical records.

I also include the dates and a brief description of key non-medical events in the timeline, so that my summary is not just a medical history, but is an accurate chronological narrative of important events, good, bad, or indifferent, that we need to consider during litigation, including (but not limited to, for you legal folk):

Legal Professional Profile: Jill Goldbach, Legal Assistant

Jill Goldbach
Job Title:  Legal Assistant (I've been called worse.)

Employer:  Craige Brawley Liipfert & Walker LLP, Winston-Salem, NC

Years of Paralegal Experience:  12

Education/Degrees:  Forsyth Technical Community College paralegal technology program way back in the day, never finished.

Specialty Areas:  Litigation

Career Highlight:  Brown v. Springwood Care Center, nursing home trial with attorney David Pishko...1 million dollar verdict!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Today's Quote: "Legal Assistant" to Shmooze Playboy Bunnies

On Oct. 10, the nation will get to see Beardmore shmooze 1963 Playboy Bunnies at 10 p.m. on NBC. Beardmore will play Roger Anderson, a "legal assistant" to the show's male lead -- lawyer Nick Dalton (played by Eddie Cibrian). ~ Excerpt from "Central Catholic Grad heads to NBC drama 'Playboy Club'" (Journal and Courier)

Y'all know how much I love unnecessary quotation marks. Or maybe these are necessary. If so, what is "legal assistant" code for? Maybe in a television series about the early years of the Playboy Club, we don't want to know.

According to the article, Beardmore is supposed to be a  "mousy" character. Here's his pic:

Tommy Beardmore, the "mousy" "legal assistant" "Roger"
I dunno 'bout mousy. I'd go with adorable.

Someone please watch this and tell me what "legal assistant" means.

Source:  Journal and Courier

Multiple Choice Question: How Does this Paralegal Handle Stress?

This is a multiple choice quiz to see how well my readers know me. When Life gets to be a little too much, in what awesomely professional way do I handle extreme stress?

A. Have a Big Gulp glass of white wine;
B. Take a big gulp and whine;
C. Go all OCD and re-organize my closet;  or
D. Hide in bed with the world's cuddliest dog (see below).

The Corginator in the humans' bed where she sleeps EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, taken with my iPhone Camera+ app :)
Answer:  All of the above, although the closet re-organization can get a li'l sketchy after a Big Gulp glass of white wine.

How do you handle extreme stress? (You are also welcome to send me pics of your cute four-leggeds :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Practical Paralegalism Welcomes Paralegal Student Profiles

You know one of my favorite weekly features is the legal staffer profile. Even though it says Paralegal Profile Questionnaire at the top of the blog, it really means all working legal staffers, regardless of job title, are welcome.

I've had several paralegal educators and many paralegal students contact me to tell me they enjoy Practical Paralegalism. Of course, my favorite instructors are those that make my blog required reading - and The Paralegal Voice podcast at Legal Talk Network required listening - for their students. You rock, dudes!

But I've also had a few paralegal students ask me if they can submit a profile. Some of them are working and going to school at the same time. The answer is, of course! All you need to do is take the current questionnaire (see the top of the blog) and modify it for your student status (hint, this is a good homework assignment, instructors). For example:
  • Change current employer to current paralegal program.
  • Add your anticipated graduation date.
  • Change specialty areas to desired specialty areas.
  • Change career highlight to academic highlight (such as your favorite class or assignment, an internship, or student experience.)
  • If a question doesn't apply to you, don't worry about it, just leave it blank.
You get the picture. You should also get extra credit if you do submit a profile. You can tell your paralegal instructor that Practical Paralegalism said so.

Road to NALA CP Exam: Am I the Obstacle to Moving Forward?

Last week my good friend and paralegal Patti Clapper, who also blogs at Patti's Paralegal Page, sent me a direct message or DM (secret code for you can't see the conversation, and you're probably glad we're not cluttering up the public Twitter stream with our chit-chat anyway) via Twitter, asking, "Have you sat for the NALA exam yet?"

I replied that my best-laid plans to seek the Certified Paralegal designation had been halted by other plans, mostly involving me saying "yes" to a lot of other plans.

While attempting to wrestle my over-flowing and slightly obnoxious personal Gmail account to the ground, I found an email from January of this year from my friend and paralegal Deana Waters, also one of my first guest bloggers, asking me to write an article about my CP/CLA study plan, and I found myself whining replying:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Paralegal Career Dressing: No Heels on the Ark

So I find a pair of Bandolino heels I forgot I owned and have no idea where they came from, and decide today I'll strive to be a little more fashion-focused and forgo my usual flats. Keep in mind that it's not raining when I leave home.

Keep in mind that I know this picture is awful, and I need a better camera for career fashion blogging purposes, but I had to post the pic to tell the sad, sad story of fashion landing on its ass.

Loft dress (clearance at outlet store), No-name cardi, Forever 21 belt swiped from my boyfriend sweater, antique jade pin, and traitorous heels

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Paralegal Fired after Being Named "Sluttiest Blogger"

I know, how cool is that? The sluttiest blogger award, I mean. There are so many places I could go with this post, but I'm going to stick with general admiration - plus a warning about the possibilities of getting fired for red-hot sex-blogging.

A year ago, Vanessa Pinto a/k/a Fleur De Lis, had the nation's most underrated job at a San Francisco law firm.

But when she wasn't at work, she was writing a new personal alt-sex blog about her exploration of San Francisco's sex scene, and after only a single month of blogging, in September 2010 was named "Sluttiest Blogger" by the San Francisco Guardian.

Pinto via FleurdelisSF (NSFW, peeps! Wait 'til you get home!)
But Pinto's supervising attorney wasn't so keen on her recognition as a sex blogger:

Legal Professional Profile: Geneva Coleman

Gen Coleman
Job Title:  Legal Researcher

Employer:  Hamilton & Stevens, PLLC, Pikeville, KY

Years of Paralegal Experience:  (counting here)...four different firms for a total of about 10 years, interspersed through 30 years of work history (I'm also a former business instructor; freelance artist, photographer and calligraphy artist, with a background in grant-writing and medical-technical writing.)

Education/Degrees:  Bachelor of Arts Business Administration

Specialty Areas:  Legal research, technical/legal writing

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Paralegal Career Dressing: Steinmart Gold

It's that tough time of year when I waffle between reluctantly pulling on that first pair of pantyhose for fall, or sticking it out a little longer (with the ankle bracelet). I also wanted a chance to wear this Steinmart Evan-Picone dress, scored for a whopping $13 bucks off a clearance rack (possibly because it's silky and maybe a little weird but I love the colors) and using a coupon, before the air turned too chilly. (There may be no fire on the deadline to wear those summer dresses in the South; my bifocals steamed up when I stepped outside last night.)

Evan-Picone dress, Bandolino flats, Ross wide belt ($6.99!), Loft cardi (clearance)
You know what I said about it taking 1,000 pictures to get one really great one? This is number 9, folks.

Those Bandolino flats have a story. Peeps ask me where I got them, and I say "Hamricks!"

Today's Quote: Not So Enchanting

Not happy with the clinic’s apparent lack of interest and being provided incorrect information, the tenant then sought paralegal help from a supposed specialist in eviction issues. The paralegal asked for $500 upfront with $500 to follow, wanted to meet in a coffee shop, then said he wouldn’t be available for meetings. He also wouldn't discuss anything until paid, refused to provide an address or any ID beyond a Law Society card. He referred in a phone conversation to “client prejudice”, which is a principle whereby a legal representative can withdraw from the case as result of a dispute with the client, and in this case quite possibly $1000 better off after having made minimal or no efforts on behalf of the client. The paralegal also eventually condescended to mention that he wouldn’t be in town on the date of the hearing. Enchanting, isn’t it? ~ Excerpt from "Op-Ed: If you're a tenant in Toronto, look out!" (Digital Journal)

I think the author of this piece really wanted to title it "If you're a tenant in Toronto, look out for paralegals!" The quotes "sleazy paralegal behavior" and "fed up with the paralegals" also show up in this article about an unidentified tenant's eviction proceedings and his unsuccessful efforts to get legal assistance in Toronto.

As most of you may know, the Law Society regulates paralegals in Ontario, and licensed paralegals can represent clients in some legal matters.

But a couple of rules for every day client courtesy that all legal professionals can take away from this article are:  1) not to appear condescending in any way, shape, or form to already stressed-out clients; 2) show up for scheduled meetings; 3) provide a business card with multiple means of current contact; and 4) definitely mention if we are not going to be in town on the day of the trial or hearing.

Source:  Digital Journal

Paralegals Are Number One on Most Underrated Jobs List

I dunno about most underrated, but maybe most under appreciated at times?

Anyway, Forbes says paralegal is numero uno on's new list of "Most Underrated Jobs of 2011," followed closely by accountant, loan officer, market research analyst, and software engineer.

Is it good to be underrated? According to it's great:

This year, with unemployment persistently high and pressure on politicians to improve the jobs picture, Tony Lee, CareerCast’s publisher, says he and his team figured it was time to tap its vast data pool and release a list of jobs that may be unglamorous but that have better than average employment rates and incomes. While they don’t pay the six- or seven-figure compensation of hedge fund managers or heart surgeons, these underrated jobs allow workers to enjoy a decent standard of living and a relatively bright employment outlook. “We tried to come up with a list that’s relevant to most working people,” says Lee.

So we don't get no respect and we're not glamorous, but we've got a relatively bright employment outlook?  In this tough economy, I'll take it.

You can get a mug that says this at CafePress. But at least we're employed.

Sources:  Forbes;

Should You Give Up Being a Paralegal, or Approach It Differently?

There's a great ongoing thread at Paralegal Gateway's LinkedIn group (which has 5,711 members as of today) called "At what point do you give up being a paralegal and look at doing something else, when you were laid off seven months ago and have not found new employment yet?" Susan started the thread, and has since found a position, but the great advice keeps coming.

The thread stayed in my mind, because it comes up frequently in online social media groups for legal staffers, especially from new graduates of paralegal programs with little to no legal experience, and I've gotten plenty of direct email from Practical Paralegalism readers asking the same question.

If you're not getting interviews, or you are - but you're not even getting positive feedback such as, "You were in our top three and it was a very difficult decision," I don't think it means you'll never get to use that paralegal degree. But you might need to approach all or part of your career plan differently if it's not working for you now.

Here are 10 suggestions that may help open some law firm or legal department doors for those of you struggling to land interviews, or whose interviews aren't leading to job offers:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Paralegal Career Dressing: Meh Beads No More

You guys remember in last week's recommended reading that I was really impressed by Angeline at The New Professional's use of a small chain to hook together several doubled strands of separate pearl necklaces?  You don't? Well, I didn't forget. I 've been dying to try it, and I did today.

I received lots of compliments on my necklace - and several surprised faces when I showed admirers how it's done. Basically, I took five separate long sets of beads that were pretty meh individually and never worn (and destined for the GoodWill junk jewelry pile), put them together, double-looped them, and secured the ends of the loop with a 16" chain.

I added the golden glow of happiness.

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

I blog for paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, legal staffers by any other name, paralegal students and educators - and the attorneys who want to get to know us better. I try to share information they may find helpful for professional development, or just a much needed laugh during a hectic week working with lawyers. Once a week (or less often when Life happens), I share links to a half dozen or so articles focusing on legal news and humor, professionalism and career dressing, and practice tips and technology.

I also share links of interest at Practical Paralegalism's Facebook page and via my Twitter feed, @ExpertParalegal.

Loving these Worthington high waist pants for work (JCPenney)

Here's this week's links:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Paralegal Career Dressing: Hot Flash Much?

God, I hope no one has stolen my prospective career fashion dressing blog name, Real Women Have Wrinkles. Not to worry, tho', I'm pretty sure I can come up with something else equally apropos, that includes the words hot flashes and/or bifocals.

Anyway, I've noticed that most of the career fashion bloggers I follow (other than being way younger than me) had to start somewhere, and occasionally they poke a little fun at their first efforts. So I'm going to just put my first effort out there, and share what I have learned so far:
  • Your husband won't tell you if your clothes are smooth or not;
  • He'll happily take pictures but get you confused with the family dog until he's had a cup of coffee;
  • Much like painting, it takes a 1,000 pictures to get one great one, but I don't have that kind of time before work; 
  • If you put your hair in a Bam-Bam ponytail at night because you wake up at 3 a.m. sweating like the proverbial pig, you will have huge puffy hair all day;
  • Great lighting and photo editing software are essential (note to self: get some); and
  • This all looked better in person than on camera.

Legal Assistant Is a Competitive Home Cook & Seeker of "The Perfect Bite"

Even if you don't read the full article at Food Curated, "The Perfect Bite: A Competitive Home Cook, 150 Cod Tongues & A Passion for New Nordic Cuisine," the accompanying video is a great interview of New York legal assistant and successful competitive home cook, Erin Evenson:

This video is fascinating in no small part because she demonstrates a recipe called "Crispy Cod Tongues and Cheeks", which she also refers to as "Tongue in Cheek Balls".  Erin says this is not as gross as we think.

I never even thought about cods having tongues, much less ones the length of these. Awesome.

The recipe did start out kind of uber-gross-looking (at least to me), but as she proceeds it starts looking a great deal more promising, and in fact, I found myself craving a taste of the final and stunningly gorgeous product and "perfect bite".

This weekend Erin is competing in the Food Experiments National Championship in Brooklyn, and scored 150 Atlantic cod tongues to use for the event. This sounds like a feat of epic proportions that a legal assistant could do with her hands tied behind her back.

Erin calls herself a "food dork," but I would love to eat at her house. Bring on the cod tongues!

Mom, Model & Legal Assistant Graces Cover of New Novel

Florida legal assistant Rebecca Jones, employed by attorney Rachael Greene in St. Augustine, discovered that one of her modeling photos is the cover of Jane Porter's latest novel, She's Gone Country, by accident, after her photographer stumbled across the book while browsing in a Barnes and Noble store.

What makes the choice of her photo even more remarkable is that the book is about a model who leaves New York City to move back to her family's ranch in Texas, and Jones is a model who lives with her husband in a small town, Hastings, on a third-generation potato farm.

Porter was so excited by the similarities between her protagonist and her cover model, that she interviewed Jones for her blog, where you can read more about her modeling career. You can also see the lovely (and tall) Jones' online portfolio at Model Mayhem, including magazine covers where she's been featured.

Congrats to Jones! Practical Paralegalism wishes her the best of success in both her legal and modeling career.

Sources:  The St. Augustine Record; JaneBlog; Model Mayhem

Friday, September 16, 2011

TGIF: Don't Stop Me Now 'Cause I'm Having a Good Time

This hilarious dance interpretation of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" made me laugh out loud, and is only slightly unsafe for work (there are no expletives and everyone remains fully clothed, but a few hand gestures are darned unmistakable):

I know all my legal staffer readers are probably thinking, "Don't stop me now, I'm having a good time!" on a Friday.

Well, perhaps not.

Hope all ya'll supersonic women (and men) burn through the skies this weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Legal Secretary Blamed for Filing Wrong Report in Redistricting Case

I know my anti-Republican friends will be thrilled by the Las Vegas Sun news headline, "Republicans file wrong expert report in redistricting case."

But if you read the story in full, it sounds like the Republicans would like the headline to read "Legal secretary files wrong expert report in redistricting case."

Mark Hutchinson, lawyer for the Nevada Republican Party, said his legal secretary filed the wrong expert report with the court. He told the Las Vegas Sun, "She just had it on her computer and she filed the wrong report."

No doubt it is a very serious mistake to select the wrong document to attach to a court filing, but I just want to emphasize what I think is a more important sentence in this article:  "The court document submitting the mistaken report was signed by his associate Jacob Reynolds." [emphasis added]

Legal staffers can't practice law, and they work under the supervision of attorneys, who are ultimately responsible for reviewing and then signing off on any documents they prepare or draft.

Reynolds had the final responsibility to make sure the document he signed and all its attachments were correct. So I'd like to see the headline read, "Lawyer files wrong expert report in redistricting case."

Just sayin'.

Readers, what say you?

Source:  Las Vegas Sun

Paralegal Career Dressing: Happy Thrifted Feet

If you're going to be a career fashion blogger, you have to share pics of yourself. Duh. But I'm not young, photogenic, or especially cute. But I am middle-aged, fuzzy-haired, and more than a little interested in fashion, especially work wear that's classic but not boring.

I'm not a clothes horse, and I don't have much of a clothes budget, but I think choosing the right wardrobe for your body and your job can boost both your confidence and your professionalism. Besides, if I'm being really honest, sometimes it's just fun being a girl and dressing up.

I'm still thinking about starting a separate career fashion blog called something like Real Women Have Wrinkles, but that means making a commitment to taking my own picture a lot more than I'm currently comfortable with.  But you have to start somewhere, so let's go with my feet, and my current fave shoes for the office:

Yup, that's an ankle bracelet.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Looking for a Paralegal Job? You Need to Get Out of the House

Ken Winters, owner of Staffback, a corporate recruiting firm in Santa Cruz, California, has some good advice for job seekers:  get out of the house.  He recommends spending at least one-third of your job-seeking time volunteering and making personal connections, and using the rest of your time to look for jobs online and to network electronically via LinkedIn.

Court-reporting student Kaila Tabasz is taking Winters' advice, volunteering at Hope's Closet, a non-profit organization that provides foster children with gently used clothing, while looking for a job.  According to her LinkedIn profile, she also has a paralegal certificate and experience working in law offices.

Winters shares other good job-seeking tips in the Santa Cruz Sentinel's helpful article, and highly recommends using LinkedIn, His recommendation of the online professional network, currently in use by over 120 million professionals, reminds me that I still discover many legal professionals, lawyers and paralegals alike, who do not use LinkedIn at all, not even publishing the most basic profile with just a name, job title, and current employer.

Do you have a LinkedIn profile? It's one of the best free investments you can make right now for your professional future.

Source:  Santa Cruz Sentinel

Paralegal Profile: Sami Hartsfield, ACP

Sami Hartsfield
Job Title:  Paralegal

Employer:  Insurance defense firm (confidential due my blogging agreement with my employer)

Years of Paralegal Experience:  5

Education/Degrees:  AAS Paralegal Studies (4.0); UH Law Center's Summer 2008 Prelaw Institute (4.0); BS Political Science (3.9)

Specialty Areas:  Personal Injury, litigation

Career Highlight:  Winning the Houston Association of Legal Professionals' "Rookie of the Year" award in 2006, and being published in the Texas Paralegal Journal in 2008.

Future Professional Goals:  Excel at my career, help grow my firm, learn something new every day, help make the attorneys' jobs easier, and finish my book! Also, help the newbies and not be selfish or territorial with my knowledge!

Paralegal Practice Tip:  Figure out how to make the attorneys' jobs easier without being asked.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Now THIS Is What a Fictional Legal Assistant Should Look Like

Disclaimer:  I have not seen The Change-Up and in fact have no idea what it is about (and refuse to look it up right now so this disclaimer remains truthful.)

In fact, the only thing I know is that Olivia Wilde plays super-hot legal assistant, Sabrina, opposite Ryan Reynolds, who is, well, like I said I have no idea, but is still inordinately cute.

I hope this is a promo shot that I swiped, but the obligatory decorative law office backdrop makes me giggle.
Anyway, I kind of have a girl crush on Olivia Wilde, and hereby declare her the hottest fictional legal staffer ever.

Um, should I actually see this movie?

Is Getting a Paralegal Degree Just Wishful Thinking?

Hmmm, what's wrong with this picture?
Educator Alan Singer has written a thought-provoking post for the education section of The Huffington Post, "You Are Not Getting A Teaching Job Through The New York Times," which I of course like because he supports my previous blog rants posts warning paralegal wannabes about online for-profit paralegal programs that promise students sure shots at the alleged plethora of legal support staff jobs just begging to be filled, if you only have the right degree - their degree.

The article includes a lengthy quote from BG in California, an anonymous participant in a blog forum (which may be a generous term for three comments), who issues a particularly harsh warning against embarking on a paralegal education:

....The reality is that paralegals are dependent on lawyers for a living and that law is one of the worse fields to be in right now. Not only is legal work being outsourced and in short demand, but some of the software they have our right now and developing could very well replace lawyers and paralegals over the coming years. Factor in the legal self-help products on the internet and the future looks rather bleak.

Anyone thinking about a career in the paralegal field is not playing with a full deck. You can save time and money by not choosing a career that is on its way out. It doesn't matter what type of paralegal credential you have, jobs are in short supply and without any experience, you will not be hired.

Save your hard earned money and look for a better career path where at least you might find a job. Anything else is wishful thinking.

BG does not mince words, but has some valid concerns. You guys know what I think, i.e. that becoming a paralegal is do-able but definitely challenging in this economy, and people considering a paralegal education need to do their homework and understand the realities - and demands - of today's legal field.

But what I'm more interested in is your thoughts about getting a paralegal degree these days - is graduating and getting a job in the legal field really just wishful thinking?

Source:  The Huffington Post

Monday, September 12, 2011

This Legal Secretary Is Real

You know how I like to blog about the oh-so-unrealistically attractive paralegals, legal assistants and other legal staffers featured in television legal series and movies. Because it's fun, and you know, that's really how we want to be portrayed to the masses.

Okay, maybe not so much, but some of you have forgotten to mention that you're just as good-looking as those fictional legal staffers. Take UK qualified legal secretary Louise Cliffe, for example.

Here's her picture:

Louise Cliffe via The Mirror
I know. *Gasp*

But you can relax, because underneath the model/actress exterior, she's just like us, enjoying beer and gravy, and  listing her favorite luxury items as chocolate and her bathrobe.

You can watch Louise on the reality TV show Big Brother 2011 (UK), which makes her almost a fictional legal staffer, but better. The Teen advises me that television drama is no good without cat fights and some weave gettin' ripped out.


Today's Quote: Thanks for Justice Letter Includes a Talented Legal Assistant

The team from the District Attorney’s office, James Ransom II, the assistant District Attorney, and his talented experienced Legal Assistant, Susan Bush, as well as the District Attorney, Michael Jackson. My son’s case was well represented by this group. They kept our family well informed of the ongoing investigation in all the proceedings and did a professional job. Thanks for a job well done! ~ Excerpt from a letter to the editor that the family of Thomas Duane Banks wrote to the Tuscaloosa News.

The family of Thomas Duane Banks, who died in a workplace shooting in October 2010, has been through a horrific tragedy, but still found the time to write this poignant and thoughtful letter acknowledging the efforts of Alabama law enforcement officials and members of the Bibb County District Attorney's office for swiftly and successfully prosecuting the murder case.

They acknowledge the help and comfort that were provided to their family, as well as a level of compassion "way beyond the call of duty." That they also acknowledge the talent and experience of a legal assistant is a special kudos for her work on the case, and recognizes the key role she played in this family's experience of the legal system.

What Inedible Materials, Quail & Frozen Dessert Have in Common in NC

While researching a licensee, I happened to run across a list of occupations and activities that must be licensed or permitted by The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Much of the list did not surprise me, but a few unusual activities requiring regulation caught my eye:
  •  Chick Dealer (I get Egg Dealer.)
  •  Permit to Transport Inedible Materials (Yuck.)
  •  Quail (This has to do with dressed carcasses. I'm giving up quail. Wait, I've never eaten quail.)
  • No Quail Casserole for me, thanks.
  •  Retail and Wholesale Frozen Dessert (Now I can sleep at night.)

This is one of the nicest things about being a paralegal. You never stop learning new stuff ;P

Best Reader Comment:  "...Nothing says Thanksgiving quite like the "ping" of shotgun pellets hitting the plate as you pull them out of your meat." ~ Grumpy Humbug

What odd activities are licensed by your state's agriculture or consumer divisions?

Practical Paralegalism's Recommended Reading This Week

I blog for legal professionals, including paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, paralegal students and educators - and the attorneys who want to get to know us better. I aim to share information they may find helpful for professional development, or just a much needed laugh during a hectic week working with lawyers. Once a week (or less often when Life happens), I share links to a half dozen or so articles focusing on legal news and humor, professionalism and career dressing, and practice tips and technology.

I also share links of interest (and blab about paralegal and mother of teen minutiae) at Practical Paralegalism's Facebook page (thanks to all of you who have "liked" it to date!), and via my Twitter feed, @ExpertParalegal.

Get that Mad Men look for less at Sears - Bow Blouse $23.99
Here's this week's links:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Photo of a Legal Assistant's Key Role at Trial Is Worth a 1,000 Words

I love this picture from The Palm Beach Post, showing plaintiff and mother Ana Mejia hugging attorney Robert Bergin's legal assistant, Kellie Aquino, after a jury returned a $4.5 million verdict in a medical malpractice trial in Palm Beach County Circuit Court in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The feature story itself makes interesting reading, discussing a heartbreaking situation where Mejia's son, now a toddler, was born with no arms and one leg. Plaintiffs' counsel contends that medical providers were negligent for not detecting the catastrophic disabilities prior to birth, and monies recovered are intended to cover the costs of medical care over the child's lifetime. The defendants plan to appeal the award.

The photo shows the close relationship that litigation paralegals and legal assistants often develop with clients during the course of a trial. So often news stories show only the winning attorneys at the conclusion of major trials; it's wonderful to see another key member of the trial team, the legal assistant whose hard work and special skills also contributed to the win, featured as well.

Source:  The Palm Beach Post

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Connecticut Paralegal Makes a Difference as "The Budget Lady"
Louanne Romaneck, a Connecticut paralegal with several decades of legal and bookkeeping experience, makes a unique difference in people's lives as "The Budget Lady," helping others develop household budget plans to improve their quality of life. On September 27, 2011, she's giving free budget advice at the Salem Free Public Library (which also offers ballroom dancing classes. Way. Cool.)

Romaneck also has a website, The Budget Lady, for her budget-planning business. She offers self-help services at her site as well, including a household budgeting chart. In her site bio, she describes how her legal experience contributes to her budgeting skills:

In my 28+ years as a Legal Assistant, I have continuously maintained business accounts, including monthly bank reconciliations, maintenance of Clients Funds accounts which requires stringent accounting skills, accounts payable and receivable, preparation of business tax returns and business tax deposits, I have maintained close working relationships with business accountants, and as a Probate Paralegal, I have administered multi-million dollar decedent estates from onset through closure of the estate.  With the use of Excel, I have created a multitude of spreadsheet forms over the years which have not only helped make my job easier but also the jobs of co-workers.

According to Romaneck's LinkedIn profile, she is currently employed by Hersh & Crockett in Hartford, Connecticutt.

I've recently become a huge Excel fan and have incorporated it extensively into my daily tasks, but I bet Louanne Romaneck could teach me a few new tricks, about both Excel and budgeting!

Sources:, The Budget Lady

Young Paralegal for Children's Right Society in New York Dies

Annalisa Scalia (via Photo News)
I was saddened to see an obituary for a young paralegal, Annalisa Marie Scalia, of Campbell Hall, New York, who died last week at only 27 years of age. In addition to being a paralegal for the Children's Rights Society, headquartered in Goshen, she was also a licensed paramedic, and the first certified female firefighter for the Monell Engine Company Firehouse in Washingtonville.

The Children's Rights Society, Inc. (CRS) is a non-profit organization that provides legal services for children in Orange County. The organization's mission is to "secure justice for and to protect the rights of the children we represent." 

One of Scalia's colleagues at CRS, staff attorney Victor Guzman, wrote the following at her online guestbook:

Though I only knew her a short while at The Children's Rights Society, she had a passion for life. She was always cheerful and willing to assist you any way she could. I always looked forward to calling the office because she was always so cheerful. She will be sorely missed!

In addition to a passion for living, Annalisa Scalia clearly had deep compassion for, and a desire to help, other people. My heart goes out to her friends and family for the tragic loss of this spirited and gifted young person and paralegal.

Sources:  The Photo News, CRS

Friday, September 9, 2011

More Stuff to Do on the Computer When You Are Supposed to Be Working: Just Gimme the Facts, Ma'am

I don't care what the Supreme Court says. Tomatoes are fruits, even if I do agree I've never had one for dessert.

I also learned that Valium is an all natural chemical, and that trace amounts can be found in wheat and potatoes. Maybe that explains why McDonald's french fries are so addictive.

And I had no idea the hyoid bone is the only human bone not connected to another bone. Now if I only knew what a hyoid bone was. Kidding. (I looked it up. If it's fractured, you've probably been strangled. Good to know.)

Warning: Do not open The Amazing Fact Generator at work, or you will be hitting it again...and again...and again.

Thanks again, StumbleUpon. Good times.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Paralegal Career Dressing: There's Nothing a Double Strand of Faux Pearls Can't Fix

You're living under a fashion rock if you haven't heard of Banana Republic's Mad Men Collection yet. I oooohed and aaaaahed over it, but couldn't afford any of it, except the double strand of pearls from the collection I scored a couple of weeks ago, 40% off. So when I got an email yesterday that BR was having another 40% off sale I thought it would be a good time to recommend my favorite accessory purchase of the year to my readers.

But they're GONE! Yep, that classic double-strand of nicely weighted pearls in three different colors from the Mad Men collection is no longer there. As much as I love mine, I suspect they sold out online, at least for now.You might check your local Banana Republic store, which is where I first laid eyes on them.

Not to torment y'all, but this is what they look like:

The perfect faux pearls
If there was a fire at my house, I swear I'd grab what Dear Hubby likes to refer to as my over-priced Apple products and these pearls if I couldn't save anything else. They go with everything.

Seen a great set of reasonably priced faux pearls for work? Send me the link! (I'll also keep an eye out for you guys to see if BR offers these again online.)

P.S. Update on the pale yellow BR cardigan I got on sale. I love it! And so did my boss, because she ordered one, too :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Attorney Reprimanded for Allowing Legal Assistant to Perform Lawyer Tasks

This particular excerpt from a recent list of attorneys disciplined by The Florida Bar caught my eye (and you know why):

Constantine Kalogianis, 8141 Bellarus Way, Suite 103, Trinity, publicly reprimanded following a June 17 court order. (Admitted to practice 1993) Kalogianis is further directed to complete ethics school. Kalogianis failed to maintain communication with clients and failed to properly supervise his legal assistant who oftentimes performed tasks of a lawyer. Kalogianis also used a misleading firm name. By calling his company Kalogianis & Associates, it implied that more than one attorney worked at the firm, when in fact, he was a sole practitioner. (Case No. SC10-1739)

Of course, the first question that popped into my mind, and I hope yours is, "What the heck was his legal assistant doing?"

The Florida Supreme Court's June 17, 2011 order isn't enlightening, but the Report of Referee is, finding that Kalogianis employed a non-lawyer assistant whose job duties ranged from conducting client intakes alone to negotiating fee agreements and collecting fees. In several cases, the legal assistant appears to have done things either only a licensed attorney should do - or that nobody should do, including: