Friday, March 30, 2007

Q and A with Linda McMahon: The Woman Behind WWE

The woman behind arguably one of the most testosterone-filled organizations once was a paralegal at a Washington law firm. Now Linda McMahon is the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment and gearing up for WrestleMania 23 on Sunday, the company's premier event.

Paralegal in Race for Assembly Seat

Anchorage, Alaska -- Paralegal Alex Crawford is part of the hotly contested race for Assembly Seat H. With elections on Tuesday, the campaign to represent the East Anchorage area has intensified. Crawford wants to reduce the size of Anchorage's government, and eventually rid the city of property taxes altogether.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Myths and Facts About Paralegal Careers

The paralegal profession is growing at a rapid rate. However, even with the career's popularity, some mythology surrounds it. Associated Content's The Myths and Facts About Paralegal Careers lays out these myths and dispels them with facts. For example, most cases are not like Law & Order (but you're not just answering phones or pushing paperwork, either); paralegals need to know how to research statutes and cases (but don't need to know them verbatim); there is room for advancement as a paralegal.

Tragically, another myth is disspelled: you don't need a license to be a paralegal. With any luck, this will not be the case forever.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Free Professional Legal Documents

Looking for a sample document? Free Professional Legal Documents has 304 different sample documents in Microsoft Word format, ranging from wills to non-disclosure agreements.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Book Recommendation: Behind the Bar

If you've ever wondered what it's really like to be a litigation paralegal, pick up a copy of Behind the Bar: Inside the Paralegal Profession, by Catherine Astl. A Certified Legal Assistant, Astl details her experience working for several different attorneys, including her husband, as she found her niche and worked with different personalities. She has spent most of her time as a litigation paralegal, which is reflected in the book.

It does read like a novel, and in addition to her experience, Astl offers tips to be organized and how to find your own niche. She also describes working in different areas of law, such as family law, criminal law, personal injury, and bankruptcy. A fascinating account of life as a paralegal, it's a quick, easy read for those looking for more information on the profession or thinking of switching their specialty.

Friday, March 23, 2007

LexisNexis Paralegal Online User Community

Not just a portal, the LexisNexis Paralegal Online User Community also features articles on work-life balance, the profession itself, and links to valuable resources.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

2007 NFPA/Thomson West Scholarship Applications Now Available

Every year, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and Thomson West award two scholarships totaling $5,000 to paralegal students in the United States. The first prize scholarship is $3,500; the second prize is $1,500. The winners receive their awards at the annual convention, this year to be held in Tampa, Fla. Thomson West provides a travel stipend so the winners can attend.

Winners are selected based on scholastic excellence, participation in campus and paralegal program leadership activities, community service, and their writing sample. Applicants will also need to submit a letter of recommendation from a paralegal program instructor or employer, a transcript to prove a B or higher average, and references. Applications and supporting documentation must be postmarked by August 1, 2007.

In 2003, I was fortunate enough to receive the first prize scholarship, which greatly helped defray the costs of my paralegal education. Since the convention was in Newport, R.I., I drove and was reimbursed for my mileage and hotel room, and I was able to attend the seminars, luncheon, and social event free of charge. I had a great time, met some very interesting paralegals practicing in fascinating areas of law (like Native American tribal law), and got to see how NFPA conducts their meetings. West also presented me with a plaque and a giant (fake) check.

The application form can be downloaded here (PDF file).

Open for Business

Not all paralegals work for someone else. Some, like the four profiled in the March/April issue of Legal Assistant Today, started their own paralegal businesses. Each of the four employ other paralegals to work under them in their thriving independent paralegal businesses.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) is holding their first-ever technology conference for paralegals, NFPA2007:Tech.Institute:, on July 19th and 20th in Pittsburgh, Pa. The keynote speaker is Monica Bay, editor-in-chief of Law Technology News and author of The Common Scold. Seminar topics include "Alternative Careers for Paralegals - Technology," "Computer Forensics," "E-Discovery," and "Courtroom Technology," among others.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Court Rejects Challenge to Lawyer Requirements

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court denying Montana legislator Jerry O'Neil's claim that he should be allowed to practice law, despite the fact that he is not a licensed lawyer. The state's high court upheld a 2004 District court ruling that found O'Neil in contempt and prohibited him from practicing law. Describing himself as an "independent paralegal," O'Neil has long sought for non-attorneys to be granted permission to prepare legal documents and give legal advice.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Awardee Founds Paralegal Program

At De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif., Joanne Hames was named Distinguished Educator for the month of January. Hames founded the paralegal program at De Anza and got it approved by the bar association, making it the first in Santa Clara county to be recognized.

Doors Often Closed for Ex-Cons

In Florida, Christopher Bowers has tried to get a job as a paralegal, armed with his degree from Blackstone School of Law. (a correspondence course). Bowers also has a criminal record, making it difficult for him to find a job as a paralegal. He was conficted of armed robbery in 1995 and spent 10 years in prison, where the got his paralegal certificate.

Perhaps, though, he chose the wrong career. It's very hard to hire someone with a criminal record as a paralegal. Paralegals deal with a lot of confidential data and need to have a high level of ethics. While Bowers could be reformed, it's still a stretch for an employer to take a chance on him.

LDAs Assist With "Do-It-Yourself" Divorces

In California, Legal Document Assistants (LDAs) help clients with divorces, which cost less emotionally and financially. In a "do-it-yourself" divorce, the parties settle issues such as child support and asset division between themselves, and often seek the help of an LDA to draw up a marriage settlement agreement. Previously called paralegals, LDAs are required by the State of California to distinguish themselves from paralegals and are regulated by the California Association of Legal Document Assistants.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Weehawken Paralegal and Playwright Gains High Acclaim

Rachel Rubin Ladutke, by day, is a paralegal for a firm in Hackensack, N.J. In her spare time, the Weehawken, N.J. playwright organized a night of one-act works that will be read in midtown Manhattan on Friday, March 23.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Kaplan University Launches New Specialized Paralegal Programs

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Kaplan University announced Thursday the launch of several new online degree programs, including several specialized Paralegal disciplines in their Legal Studies programs.

The new specialized Paralegal disciplines are:

the Bachelor of Science Degree in Paralegal Studies/Social Security Law, for students seeking positions as non-attorney client representatives, or government or private paralegal positions involving social security;

the Bachelor of Science Degree in Paralegal Studies/Family Law, which prepares students to join a law practice that specializes in family matters, from child support to adoptions to divorce;

the Bachelor of Science Degree in Paralegal Studies/Corporate Law, which enables students to assist corporate attorneys in a broad range of business services, such as business planning, fundamental business formation and structuring financial provisions;

the Bachelor of Science Degree in Paralegal Studies/Real Estate Law, which readies graduates to support attorneys who provide a broad range of services to organizations and individuals who are involved in the purchase, management, leasing and selling of real estate; and

the Bachelor of Science Degree in Paralegal Studies/Employment Law, which explores both employee and employer issues, including wage disputes, discrimination, employment contracts and collective bargaining.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Top Ten Ways to Be Happy at Work's Top Ten Ways to Be Happy at Work lists ways you really can be happy at work -- and it's not about free food or a foosball table. For example, choose to be happy at work. Yes, it's work, but think positively about it, instead of dwelling on the negative aspects.

My favorite bit of advice, though, is to take charge of your own personal and professional development. It really is up to you, not your employer, to decide where you want to go with your career and take the steps to make that happen. Whether it's taking more CLE or becoming the office technology expert, take matters into your own hands. Outside the office, cultivate your interests.

The advice is common sense, but it is inspiring.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Benefits of Joining an Association

Joining your local paralegal association is one of the best things you can do for your career. In addition to networking with other paralegals in your area, you will also have the added benefit of being connected to a national organization such as the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) or the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Local paralegal organizations often have meetings and send out newsletters on a regular basis. The national organizations publish a regular magazine, offer discounts on products and services, and have regular conventions. Both national organizations offer a certification exam, and as a member, you receive a discount on the exam and exam preparation.

To find your local paralegal association, visit NFPA or NALA.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

New Regulations to Govern Paralegal Studies Grads

The new regulations will govern paralegal studies graduates in Toronto. Licensing for paralegals will be somewhat like a bar exam, according to Bernie Aron, co-ordinator of Humber College's paralegal studies program.

Under new Access to Justice Act legislation, paralegals in Ontario will be regulated by the Law Society of Upper Canada. For the first time in Canadian history, they will be required to receive training, carry liability insurance and report to a public body that can investigate complaints. The regulation comes into force May 1, just in time to regulate the class of 2007.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

'O.C.' Co-Star Joins CW Pilot to Play Paralegal

Adding a shot of glamour to the public perception of paralegals, Autumn Reeser, formerly of "The O.C.," is slated to play a paralegal in the Untitled Tom Wheeler pilot for the CW network.

LegalTech New York Attendee Survey Shows Strong Sustained Financial Support for Technology in Law Firm and Legal Department Budgets

If a survey conducted at LegalTech New York was any indication, lawyers are shedding their technophobe reputation. Today Edge Legal Marketing released the results of their 2007 attendee survey taken at LegalTech New York, held January 29 through January 31 and boasting 12,000 attendees. Law firm and corporate attorneys, as well as support staff, IT professionals, and specialty vendors, attended this year's conference.

The technology budget in law firms and legal departments is growing for 2007, as 67% of respondents indicated, part of an upward trend in legal technology spending. Only three percent of respondents reported a budget decrease for 2007, compared to six percent just a couple of years ago.

Data storage and imaging topped the list of researched items in the exhibit hall this year, while respondents reported electronic discovery software as the top software product researched. Document management, litigation support, and case management and budgeting software followed.

Full survey results can be found at Edge Legal Marketing.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Free Resources From Robert Half Legal

Robert Half Legal has released its 2007 Salary Guide at Robert Half Legal - Candidate Free Resources. They also offer a free glossary of job descriptions and the Project Team Approach, which details how to assemble a productive group of legal professionals that can tackle any type of legal project.

Councilors Urge More License Staff

In Springfield, Mass., paralegal Shannon O'Brien is the only staff member handling office visits, phone calls, and e-mails for the License Commission, dealing with bar, restaurant, and used-car licenses. City councilors are calling for more staff members, as it is too much for one person to handle, according to Assistant City Solicitor Michael E. Mulcahy.

Friday, March 9, 2007

High Court Suspends Coddington's Law License

What is it with suspended, disbarred, and unethical attorneys doing paralegal work? In New Hampshire, the high court suspended Paul Coddington's law license after he mismanaged clients' money and failed to respond to court notices about those charges. He hasn't practiced law since 2004; he's been working as a paralegal.

Now, I understand that it may seem like a great deal to hire a disbarred attorney as a paralegal. Here's someone who knows the law. But doesn't anyone worry that maybe the disbarred attorney will engage in the unauthorized practice of law? Or ethical violations of other sorts?

Conflicting Views of Alleged 'Double Life'

Charles Rust-Tierney, a former president of the Virginia ACLU charged with viewing child pornography, was also a public defender. Peter Krauthamer, the deputy director of the D.C. Public Defender Service, said that Rust-Tierney will be allowed to resume work if he is released but will be downgraded to paralegal status.

However, in my opinion, "downgraded to paralegal status" sounds like Krauthamer does not respect the high ethical standards paralegals hold themselves to, and Rust-Tierney should not be "downgraded." The man was viewing child pornography, and if convicted, should be spending time in jail, not "downgraded to paralegal status."

Thoughts, anyone? Anyone else insulted and worried that people like Krauthamer are trying to turn the profession into something for unethical lawyer-types?

Edited to add: If he is innocent, by all means, he should go back to doing his regular job. My outrage stems from Krauthamer's casual use of the phrase, "downgraded to paralegal status." It's an insult to the profession. Either fire him or "downgrade" him to an administrative position, but leave the paralegals out of it.

Sisters' Candles Offer Inspiration, Uncommon Scents

A team of sisters, Brenda Peronto of Luxemburg, Wi. and Lisa Lambert of Suamico, Wi. introduced The Vine Candles to area shops, and they are now sold at craft fairs and retail shops. The candles are made of natural soybean wax and feature Bible verses on the sides.

Prior to the venture, Peronto had been a paralegal for 20 years.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Try the Software Before You Buy offers an array of downloadable legal software demonstrations on their Legal Technology Download page, organized neatly into categories such as Bankruptcy, Calendaring, Case Mangement, and Contact Management. They have also included demonstration versions of business, audio/video, design/photo, and Internet software. This is a great resource for scoping out the different types of legal software before you get the firm to commit to a package.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Classify Paralegals as Professionals, Not Administrative Staff

Rees Morrison notes in his blog, Law Department Management, that if you classify paralegals as professionals, not administrative staff, you pay for appropriate quality. I'd go one step further and classify the junior level paralegals as professionals, too. After all, more paralegals are entering the field with paralegal degrees. With the inevitable regulation of paralegals, an administrative staff salary will not make the profession financially rewarding for intelligent, hardworking paralegals. And remember, you get what you pay for!

Book Recommendation: Paralegal Success - Going from Good to Great in the New Century

In paralegal courses, you learn the law and how to apply it to your work. Everything else, from keeping your career goals fresh to navigating office politics to being the office superstar, is up to you. Paralegal Success: Going From Good to Great in the New Century, by Deborah Bogen, helps you keep your edge, not only at your current position, but in your career. From the paralegal student just starting a career to the veteran paralegal looking for a new challenge, Bogen covers all the bases.

Bogen explains the files every paralegal should keep and use for his or her own personal growth. She also details how to develop your own area of expertise and balance work and family life. Also included is the Successful Paralegal's Almanac, a year-long plan to stay on top of work, continuing education, and your career. Month by month, she lays out a plan that seems simple yet comprehensive.

This is a great book to keep in your personal library, and I highly recommend it. The tips never go out of style, and in this competitive job market, going from good to great can make a huge difference in your career.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Don't Catch the "Office Cold"

They exist in every office, sometimes at a higher level, sometimes lower. They ooze negative energy and unprofessionalism. They make flippant remarks about their jobs, let their professional appearance slide, and give off the impression that They would rather be getting a root canal than be at work. They could be anyone, from attorneys to other paralegals, secretaries, or receptionists. Perhaps this is just a "job" for them, a way to pay bills until they find a calling, or just a way to pay bills because they intend to cruise through life with no plan. They, of course, are the Apathetics, who just don't care about their work.

In any case, their negative energy is more contagious than that office cold, and it can infect you. They can cause you to lose interest in your work, to lose the passion that has driven you to excel as a paralegal in the first place. You may find yourself sighing and saying, "If they don't give 100%, why should I?" And slowly but surely, your work will suffer, your clients will suffer, and eventually, your career will suffer. As with a cirulating office cold, arm yourself with Airborne and echinacea tablets now, before you're miserable:

  1. Have a short-term goal. Maybe you want to handle more aspects of the files, or maybe you want to take more CLE. Maybe you would like to learn more about your area of law. Whatever it is, have a short-term goal in mind, and actively plan how you will reach that goal. Perhaps you can offer to draft pleadings, or find seminars of interest on the Web. Focusing on that short-term goal will help keep you motivated in your daily work.

  2. Have a long-term goal. Moving into a larger firm, becoming a paralegal manager, or holding a prominent position in the local paralegal association are all long-term goals that could keep the negativity at bay. Or perhaps you have a dream that has nothing to do with being a paralegal, such as writing a novel, starting your own business, or retiring early. Your work at this current position can propel you into your long-term goal.

  3. Keep something inspirational in view. This may sound trite, but keeping a quote or picture someplace prominent on your desk can help with motivation. For example, right before I started my current job, I opened a fortune cookie with the fortune, "You will always be successful in your professional career." That fortune is taped to my computer monitor -- I consider it fate that drove me to that cookie.

  4. Find happiness outside work. Your career is important, but so are you. Find something you love to do outside of work, just for you. Whether it's a yoga class, time spent doing crafts, or reading novels, take some time to de-stress.
  5. See if you can do anything to alleviate the negativity. Maybe the Apathetic just needs a little pat on the back, or perhaps she needs some clarification regarding her assignments. If a fellow paralegal or support staffer is the Apathetic, a compliment ("You did a great job on that memo") or an offer of help ("Is there anything I can do to help?") may help.

  6. Minimize contact. Maybe there is nothing you can do about the negativity. In that case, avoid the Apathetic as you would avoid a sneezing, coughing person. Treat him with respect, but quickly retreat to your own workspace (or shoo them away with, "I'm really busy right now; can we talk later?") and review your goals.

  7. Keep it all in perspective. Much like that office cold, the Apathetic probably will not be at your office forever. They will quit or be fired. Remember that every time you feel that negative energy.

Monday, March 5, 2007

LSUC Using Cash Reserves for Paralegal Regulation

The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) is using its cash reserves for paralegal regulation, to begin the intial startup process. The startup budget is designed to cover the costs of paralegal regulation through early 2008, when actual numbers of paralegal licenses are known and a budget outlining regular operating costs will be part of the LSUC's annual budget.

The first paralegal licenses will be granted in early 2008, and paralegals who are eligible can apply for grandparent status from May until October of this year. Grandparent status will be granted to those paralegals working for three out of the last five years. Transitional status will be considered for paralegals with relevant education or experience. Those who are not eligible under grandparent or transitional status will be considered under the permanent model, and will be eligible for licenses beginning in 2009. Paralegals wishing for licenses will be required to sit for an exam.

This Detective's Mysteries Involve Real-Life Books

A paralegal by trade, Patrick Murphy is employed by John Wiley & Sons as a book detective. He tracks down pirated teachers' editions of textbooks. Bootleggers are then given two options: cease and desist, or face litigation.

Reservists Are Saluted for Middle East Service

Reservists are saluted for Middle East service, including Sgt. Deborah Cain of La Grange, Ky. She received a promotion Saturday from specialist.

Cain returned two months ago and is resuming her paralegal studies at Sullivan University.

Two Moms Create Cool T's for Tots

Corporate paralegal Dana Steele and her partner, Michelle Hanson, originally started out making summer t-shirts for their children. However, less than a year later, their clothing line Slick Sugar has been featured in Parents magazine and has 10 designs per season. The line is centered on a rock-star image, more cool than cute.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Paralegal Operates a Haven for Horses: New Gloucester Farm Offers Quiet Pastureland

In New Gloucester, paralegal Linda Walker, along with Deb Hutchins, operates Open Gates Equine Rescue, a refuge for abandoned horses. The 14-acre farm sees a lot of cases of horses suffering from neglect or starvation, as well as cases of physical abuse. Open Gates works with other rescue organizations and is hoping to hold classes this summer. Additionally, Open Gates wants to establish a food bank for mistreated horses.

I Need Serious Fashion Help!

I thought I'd give you a little something fun to start off your week. This young woman says, "I need serious fashion help!" She's a legal secretary working toward her paralegal degree and trying to find a polished professional style. Anyone got advice for her?

Me, I'd recommend snagging a copy of Dress Your Best: The Complete Guide to Finding the Style That's Right for Your Body, by the hosts of TLC's "What Not to Wear." It covers 26 different body types, including men, and offers great looks for work, weekend, and evening, and is peppered throughout with tips for all body types.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Top Dog Will ‘Snap’ to Commands Across the Sea

Paralegal Linda McHugh and her border collie, Snap, are set to represent the United States at the 104th Crufts Dog Show in England, the largest dog show in the world. Snap is one of three dogs chosen for this honor; the other two are golden retrievers, both handled by males.

McHugh spends her days as a paralegal for Ropes and Gray in Boston.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Disbarred Lawyer Can't Work as Paralegal

Nicholas J. Ellis thought that even though he had been disbarred, he would be able to work as a paralegal. Not so fast, said Justice Robert J. Cordy of the Worcester, Mass. Supreme Judicial Court, as he prevented a potential ethical black hole from entering the paralegal profession.

Ellis was asked to resign from practicing law after pleading guilty to two counts of motor vehicle insurance fraud in 2002. That guilty plea resulted in a sentence from the Worcester Superior Court to serve six months of a two-and-one-half-year sentence in the House of Correction.

As an attorney, Ellis made fraudulent claims to John Hancock regarding his client's alleged disability. Ellis knew his client was not disabled, but proceeded to make the claims anyway.

What would stop him from committing egregious ethics violations as a paralegal? Ellis would not have a license to practice to lose. No, someone else's license would be on the line, and he could freely pass the buck to his employer.

As paralegals, we have a duty to our clients and our opposition to provide the facts. The true facts, not a set that our client has asked us to provide. Having someone who has pled guilty to fraud as a paralegal raises questions as to whether or not he can assist an attorney in the ethical representation of a client.

Additionally, the paralegal profession still has a veneer of newness. To this day, I still have not heard a single paralegal joke, such as an ambulance-chasing joke. At this point in time, it is important for paralegals to present themselves as professional and ethical, in order to advance the perception of the profession.

Justice Cordy ruled that Ellis's disclosures to the bar counsel were insufficient. According to the associate justice, information regarding Ellis's debts owed to clients, as well as sources of income and vocational activities, are very relevant to him being employed as a paralegal. Justice Cordy also noted that the proposed employer was a sole practicioner with office space next to Ellis's old firm.

In other words, Justice Cordy took a step toward preserving the integrity of the paralegal profession, a step that is most appreciated by this paralegal.

Paralegal Helps Design Germ Protector for Use at the Gym

Paralegal Claudia, along with her business partner, Mel, and their company, Fiaro, have debuted a That's a Wrap, a neoprene wrap designed to fit around dumbbell handles and weight machine handles. The product will protect gym-goers against germs. It fastens with a velcro closure and is easy to clean.

Claudia credits her paralegal background and contacts with helping her protect Fiaro's ideas.