Monday, April 30, 2007

Paralegal Receives Mixed Verdict

WAILUKU, Hawaii -- While Wailuki paralegal Kitty Atchley was aquitted of a charge of unauthorized practice of law, she was found guilty of two misdemeanor counts of unsworn falsification to authorities for documents she filed in court as part of a divorce case in 2005.

Atchley testified that she followed Kathleen Marten-Naidenko's instructions when she filled out and filed the forms for an uncontested divorce. She filed a document indicating that Marten-Naidenko's husband had been served with divorce papers in Kihei, even though the woman had told Atchley that he was in Russia. Atchley also continued filing documents even after Marten-Naidenko told her to stop, because Atchley believed that Marten-Naidenko was being abused.

Separate trials are scheduled for Atchley on two other charges of unauthorized practice of law dating to November and December 2004, with one trial scheduled to begin July 9.

According to the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center, Atchley was convicted of unauthorized practice of law in 2002.

Grammar: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them (Part 3 - Missing comma in compound sentence)

In a compound sentence, a comma is needed to break it up. A compound sentence consists of two clauses that could otherwise stand alone. Place a comma before the coordinating conjunction that joins two independent clauses. These two clauses are joined by the comma and a conjunction such as “and,” “but,” or “or.”

The jurors went to deliberate, and the attorneys prepared for a long wait.

In this sentence, if you take out the comma, replace it with a period, and get rid of “and,” you have two separate sentences:

The jurors went to deliberate. The attorneys prepared for a long wait.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Hybrid Paralegal

The rise of technology, combined with a need for case management, has led to a new type of paralegal, the Hybrid Paralegal, as detailed in the May/June 2007 issue of Legal Assistant Today. The Hybrid Paralegal, often known as a Legal Technology Specialist or a Litigation Support Specialist, uses technical savvy and legal know-how to manage complex databases and prepare stunning trial presentations, complete with intricate computer-generated graphics. Mere technical expertise is not enough.

Paralegals are a good fit as litigation support specialists because of their knowledge of courtroom procedures and local rules. A person who only has technical knowledge will not understand when to display exhibits or the importance of preserving annotations made to documentary exhibits that are used in witness testimony. The technology is only useful if you know what the rules are for preparation and display in the courtroom. A paralegal background can be instrumental in understanding what is and isn’t allowed.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bachelor's Degree-Holders Decide to Hit the Books Again

For many, receiving a bachelor's degree is not the end of their education. At 18, most of us do not have clear career goals and go off to college because our parents expect it. Later on, we form new goals and decide to hit the books again, choosing a community college to train us for a "second career." Technical College of the Lowcountry in South Carolina has seen a fourfold increase in bachelor's degree holders returning to school, and among those are paralegal students.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Paralegal Applies Negotiating Skills to Become Mediator

Brandy Calvignac hoped to become a diplomat, but became disenchanted with the bureaucracy. Instead, she took paralegal courses at the University of California at Los Angeles, which led to a job working for a lawyer and a mediator. Three years ago, after taking mediation courses through the Los Angeles Bar Association, Calvignac became a mediator. Today, she runs her own mediation office, Positive Solutions Dispute Resolution Services.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Commentary: New Paralegals Need Focus and Strategy Toolbox in Workplace

Hiring partners are searching for candidates within a small set of parameters and something unique to the legal profession, according to Gailynne M. Ferguson on - Commentary: New Paralegals Need Focus and Strategy Toolbox in Workplace. Paralegals with newly-minted degrees and certificates are turned away as "overqualified" yet inexperienced, even though they may have acquired impressive skill sets in their prior careers. Ms. Ferguson says:

Those who are charged with the hiring process should realize that paralegals presently coming out of a certificate or degree program are more focused on their new career and anxious to go the extra mile in the workplace environment to make a statement and leave a footprint.

Ferguson goes on to emphasize what hiring managers are looking for: technological savvy and research abilities. Legal staffing firms can help paralegals put together a skill set from their previous careers that translate into the legal environment. However, in places where the value of paralegals is not realized, many firms would rather use a secretary who understands the firm's "culture," she says.

Ferguson concludes:

Employers need to look outside the box for potential and trainability of the paralegal. The paralegal needs to understand the complexities of the legal environment and its personalities. Different perspectives and experiences should not be overlooked by either, but rather embraced, because what a better resource for a firm than someone who has truly experienced firsthand what the firm may someday have to defend.

Monday, April 23, 2007

In Canada, Paralegal Licensing Is Good News

In Canada, paralegal licensing is good news, says Bob Aaron, a Toronto real estate lawyer. Among the benefits of the paralegal regulation slated to go into effect on May 1:

The new legislation will lead to the creation of standards of conduct and other regulatory requirements, providing better protection and recourse for consumers of all legal services. ... Once the licensing regime is fully operational, the public will have access to paralegals who are regulated, educated, licensed and insured.

Mr. Aaron points to the example of a woman whose reliance on a paralegal to stop an eviction resulted in her living in her car. The woman was able to recoup the fees she paid to the paralegal after two court hearings; however, a competent legal professional would have told her to save the money and use it for first and last months' rent instead. In the future, Mr. Aaron hopes, consumers will not have to resort to two court hearings to enforce minimum standards of paralegal conduct.

Grammar: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them (Part 2 - Missing Comma After Introductory Phrases)

Use a comma after introductory adverb clauses, adverb phrases, and participial phrases. Commas come after introductory adverb clauses, adverb phrases, and participial phrases. A comma here tells your reader that the opening act is through, and the main event is beginning. It’s easy to make this mistake, especially when you’re in a hurry.:

When she came home, she was disappointed to find her husband watching football.
Over the next few days, the case unfolded rapidly.

Exception: The comma can be omitted after a short clause or phrase if there is no danger of misreading. If the sentence includes a short clause or phrase, and there isn’t a way for the reader to be confused by the clause, it’s okay to leave out the comma:

In no time they had the servers up and running.

Friday, April 20, 2007

IPA Blawg: Report from the 2007 NFPA Regulation Conference in Dallas, TX

Missed the National Federation of Paralegal Associations Regulation Conference? IPA Blawg: Report from the 2007 NFPA Regulation Conference in Dallas, TX provides a comprehensive summary of happenings, including the status of regulation efforts in states where such an effort is active.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Michigan Car Accident Lawyers Publish Online Resource Center

Michigan Car Accident Lawyers has published an online resource to answer questions that arise following serious auto accidents in Michigan. The free guide is available at Michigan Car Accident Lawyers Resource Center and is part of a comprehensive Web site supporting auto accident victims and lawyers handling car accident cases.

In addition to addressing frequently asked questions, the Michigan Car Accident Lawyers Resource Center reviews important time limits for filing car accident claims, Michigan no fault law, what benefits are available, working with auto insurance companies, important coverage issues, car accident settlements, getting appropriate medical care, and tips to protect Michigan drivers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Florida's Proposed Paralegal Regulation

The Jacksonville Record published a synopsis of the proposed paralegal rule program, provided by the Florida Bar. On Monday, the Supreme Court of Florida heard oral arguments on the proposed Florida Registered Paralegal rule, but did not give any indication as to how or when it will rule. Updates will be posted on the Florida Bar Association Web site.

Unlike other regulation proposals, the Florida Registered Paralegal proposal sets up a two-tier system. The first tier includes paralegals who are qualified by education, experience, or training and perform work directly under the supervision of a member of the Florida Bar. This allows those currently working as paralegals to continue their jobs. The second tier, which is not mandatory to continue working as a paralegal, specifies education and training or certification requirements.

Paralegal Regulation by State

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations has a chart detailing paralegal regulation by state in PDF format. For those wondering what the status is of regulation in their state, this is a great starting point. Last updated in February, 2007, the chart also includes legislation that did not pass.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

From Paralegal to Project Manager

Litigation Technology vendor TCDI hired five new employees. Among those new hires is Melissa Sorrell, formerly employed by Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, P.L.L.C. in Winston-Salem as a Litigation Paralegal. Ms. Sorrell will be responsible for day-to-day management, reporting, and coordination for several TCDI projects.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Grammar: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them (Part 1)

Before I started working in the legal profession, I was a journalist and copy editor. I spent a good part of my day vigilantly guarding my own work and the work of others against grammatical errors that could have diminished the credibility of the publications. Now, in the legal world, I use that same vigilance on my own correspondence. Grammar is absolutely key in the legal world, as words are the cornerstone of our jobs as paralegals.

Knowing the finer points of grammar is essential to any task, whether it's sending an e-mail to a client or drafting a legal memorandum. Proper grammar sends across a message: that you're professional and that you took the time to proofread your communications. It helps prevent confusion, too. How many times have we received an e-mail that was sloppily written, only to have to call the sender to find out what she really meant? Or try to muddle through run-on sentences, fragments and commas scattered about like birdseed? It gets frustrating after a while. The worst part is, sometimes we know we’re the ones frustrating someone else.

For the next 20 weeks (one mistake per week), I'll explain the most common grammar mistakes and how to avoid them. For now, though, here are the top tips I've gleaned from my journalism experience:

  • Keep it simple. If you can say it in a shorter sentence, do it.
  • Proofread everything.
  • Keep a dictionary, The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition, and a thesaurus within arms’ reach.
  • Practice writing, and have someone else review what you've written.
  • Read well-written pieces and learn from them.

Mandatory CLE Planned for New Jersey

New Jersey is one of just a handful of states that do not require mandatory continuing legal education for attorneys (Massachusetts, sadly, is another). That may change because, absent a compelling case to the contrary, the New Jersey Supreme Court will begin requiring mandatory continuing legal education for its attorneys.
Retired Appellate Division Judge William Dreier, who chairs the board of the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education, says there have been six months of "rumblings" from the court about imposing mandatory CLE. He says most lawyers keep up with changes in the law and that MCLE would be good for "the sizeable minority that doesn't keep up."

This could assist paralegals solely working with New Jersey law to encourage their employers to send them to CLE seminars. After all, if the attorneys are now required to keep current on changes in the law, the paralegals should also be attending seminars.

Law Firm Launches All-IP Blog

The attorneys of McKee Voorhees & Sease have launched, a blawg focused specifically on legal issues pertaining to patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and various litigation cases shaping the intellectual property (IP) industry.

In addition to publishing news on IP topics (about 3 to 5 each week), each post will feature links to further clarify the news item providing users a full scope of each issue.

Each post will also be categorized by subject so users can select a category and see only posts relevant to that subject. Users will be able to subscribe via email to get updates when they are posted. Also, RSS feeds will be available for the blog as a whole and each category of posts.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Listing Paralegals on Firm Web Sites

Over at The Estrin Report, Chere Estrin has some encouraging news for those lamenting the lack of recognition of paralegals and other law firm staff on their Web sites. Some firms are actually posting biographies of non-attorneys. Maybe the law firm culture of "Attorneys -- and Everybody Else" is finally changing? I can only imagine clients feeling a bit more comfortable knowing about the person who is working on their case or handling their money. Also, including the paralegals, support staff, and other law firm employees on the Web site is a morale booster. It's nice to be recognized!

Friday, April 13, 2007

On-Site Day Care Starting to Catch On at Law Firms

On-site daycare is starting to catch on at law firms, according to this article by Leigh Jones in The National Law Journal. Geared mostly toward attracting female attorneys and encouraging female partners, these on-site daycares could be a huge draw for paralegals, as well (since a majority of paralegals are female). Law firms see on-site day care as a way to enhance a work-life balance at firms and a means to help boost their numbers of women partners by making it more attractive for them to remain with the firm.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

CCC&TI's Paralegal Technology Program Now Certified

Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute's Paralegal Technology Program has received designation as a qualified paralegal studies program from the North Carolina State Bar Board of Paralegal Certification. The status will allow past and future graduates of the program to become N.C. certified paralegals.

UCC Board to Add Paralegal Program

WINCHESTER, Ore. -- Umpqua Community College is in the process of adding a paralegal program to its roster. Vice President for Instruction Dennis O’Neill said that the new paralegal one-year certificate or associate’s degree was developed at the request of the local Bar Association and would be the only one in Oregon south of Portland.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

IPA Blawg: A Paralegal's View of The ABA Techshow

The ABA Tech Show wasn't just for attorneys, as evidenced by theIPA Blawg: A Paralegal's View of The ABA Techshow. Courtney David Mills attended and shares his view on collaboration tools in the legal field, courtroom technology, and document automation.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Paralegals Gain Recognition as Professionals in Phillipines

MANILA -- In the Phillipines, the general public is familiar with some "para-"s as professionals: paramedics, paramilitary personnel. With the first graduates of The Manila Times Institute for Paralegal Studies receiving certificates of completion, paralegals also are becoming recognized as professionals. The blogger at Macka seems to agree that paralegals are a great addition to the legal services teams in the Phillipines.

Paralegals Are Considered "Temporary" Across the Pond?

The author of Legal Career Advice focuses on legal careers in the United Kingdom, and in this post, describes how to get a foot in the door at a law firm.

However, if you think paralegals are disrespected in the United States, you might be horrified to hear how they're viewed across the pond, according to this blogger:

English law firms tend to treat the paralegal position as a temporary one. It is unusual - and often a bit sad, really - if you are a paralegal for more than say, 18 months. Most paralegals do the job for 6-12 months only.

In America, 'career' paralegals are much more prevalent - the position is viewed as a career and not a temporary stop-gap. Accordingly, the London offices of US law firms will tend to pay better, but, then, you will probably work harder and more hours than in an English firm.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Former Paralegal Fights Fraud With an Eye on Ethics

Former paralegal and current private investigator Denise Petty is spearheading an effort to regulate her profession. Petty, the current president of the Alaska Investigators Association, set as her goal for this year to get legislation passed requiring private investigators in Alaska to be licensed by the state. Currently, private investigators and detectives need only a business license to work in Alaska.

Petty started her career as a paralegal in private law firms around Fairbanks, Alaska, later becoming a deputy clerk for U.S. District Magistrate Judge Joseph Miller. When Miller ran for public office, Petty decided to start her own private practice.

Getting to Know... Marjorie Banker

After 46 years as a legal secretary, Marjorie Banker, 84, could retire. Instead, she's taking classes at the Alexandria branch of Northern Virginia Community College to become a paralegal. Banker has no intention of slowing down.
When I finish these classes I hope to get a job as a paralegal; they have much more responsibility. They go with the attorney and if the attorney's absent, the paralegal can actually speak for them. Also, I just need something to do and someone to converse with whose interested in the same things I am.

Go Marjorie!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

So What Does a Paralegal Dress Like?

On Entertainment Weekly's Web site, stylist Miles Siggins is happy to discuss the latest fashion Dos and Don'ts on American Idol. For example:
Melinda, for example, is a brilliant singer, but sometimes I feel like she dresses like a paralegal.
The thing with Melinda is she doesn't have much of a neck at all. And what neck she does have disappears when she puts heavy things on her shoulders. The reason to put her in dresses is to give her a bit more of a shape. I thought Tuesday's dress was great. The hairdresser was going to get a bit carried away with big hair but I said, "This has to be sleek hair to go with a modern dress."

So what does a paralegal dress like, anyway? Not cool, Miles. We're not a bunch of walking fashion Don'ts in shoulder pads!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Groklaw's Jones Confident Amid SCO Deposition Summons

Despite a deposition summons issued by SCO Group, paralegal and Groklaw blogger Pamela Jones remains confident. For several years, Jones has posted nearly all public documents related to the SCO v. IBM and SCO v. Novell trials, but SCO alleges that the timestamps on the entries indicate that Jones received the documents from IBM, not from public records. While SCO has not established exactly how Jones damaged the company directly, its memorandum raises the question of how much influence a blogger can exert over the public's perception in a civil trial.

Florida Supreme Court to Hear Arguments on Paralegal Regulation

The Supreme Court of Florida has ordered oral arguments to be heard on April 16, 2007 regarding proposed legislation for paralegal regulation.

Both the South Florida Paralegal Association and the Florida Bar Association have filed briefs.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

USA Network: Raises Welcome

USA Network: Raises Welcome:

I was privy to an interesting conversation on the train this morning, as a couple old colleagues ended up sitting across from each other and catching one other up on their respective lives.

The one said she was a paralegal, and really liked it. She then explained how she had worked in television, at USA Network and Sci Fi, doing something with databases. But the pay was so poor, she said, that she got certified to be a paralegal, and is making way more money now.

TV may be a sexy gig, but apparently some get sick of eating Ramen noodles for lunch and dinner.
By Michael Malone

I wonder what type of paralegal she is now?

MONEY Magazine's Best Jobs: Paralegal

It's good to be a paralegal, according to Money Magazine and On their list of the Best Jobs in America, the paralegal profession ranked 27th. The article predicts a 10-year job growth of 29.75% and an average salary of $61,204. The top job in the field is that of a patent agent.

MONEY Magazine's Best Jobs: Paralegal

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Book Recommendation: A Survival Guide for Paralegals

In A Survival Guide for Paralegals: Tips from the Trenches, veteran paralegals share their tips for surviving as a paralegal. Definitely more than just your average cheerleading career book, Tips from the Trenches covers everything from seven guiding principles to surviving in specific areas of law.

The authors, Alan Gelb and Karen Levine, packed this book with proven tips. Work issues, stress, asking for a raise, office politics, research and writing, and even how to dress is covered, all in easy bite-size tips. An easy to read and easy reference, Tips from the Trenches should be in every successful paralegal's library.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

University of Miami Launches Online Paralegal Program in Spanish

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The University of Miami is launching a new online Paralegal Studies Program in Spanish, geared toward Spanish-language speakers worldwide.

Based on its current four-month, in-class certificate program on the main campus, the new online course is for:

  • U.S. residents whose first language is Spanish and who wish to become trained Paralegals;

  • Professionals working with major U.S. corporations in Central and South America, the Caribbean or Spain;

  • Professionals working with Spanish-language corporations that in the course of their business with the U.S. must deal with U.S. laws and court procedures; and

  • Residents of Spanish-speaking countries who plan to relocate to the U.S. and start a new career. (Please note this is a non-credit course and will not qualify applicants for a U.S. visa).

Because the program deals exclusively with the U.S. legal system, students are required to have a working knowledge of English. However, all instruction is conducted in Spanish, including exercises and examinations. Students will be assigned a Spanish-speaking online instructor who will answer questions and supervise instruction. The new course will train students to work for law firms, corporations and government agencies that deal with the U.S. judicial system.

Monday, April 2, 2007 Launches Composix Kugel Hernia Mesh Patch Glossary has launched a comprehensive hernia glossary as part of its continued response to the FDA's recall of Bard's Composix Kugel Hernia Mesh Patch. The glossary, which contains relevant terms for patients with questions about hernia repair, will stand alongside the articles, blog entries, and resources already gathered for LegalView's Composix Kugel Hernia Mesh Patch practice area.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

NHTI Paralegal Program Reapproved by ABA

New Hampshire Technical Institute's paralegal program was recently granted reapproval by the American Bar Association. NHTI offers an associate degree and a certificate program in Paralegal Studies. They are the only such programs offered at a New Hampshire institution of higher education that have received ABA approval.