Thursday, June 28, 2007

Salary Stories: Average Salary of a Paralegal

Salary Stories: Average Salary of a Paralegal

An inside look at being a paralegal, this blog interviewed Michael Forster, a paralegal in Washington, D.C., who gives a candid look at his duties, factors that affect salary, and more.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Commissioners OK Hiring New Paralegal

Realizing the value of paralegals, the Tippecanoe County, Indiana commissioners approved the plan to hire a new paralegal, among other new positions. However, before the positions can be filled, the County Council must appropriate money for them. Budget hearings are slated for August.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Major Drug-Trafficking Ring Shut Down

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A major drug-trafficking ring was shut down, with help from four paralegals and a legal intern.

In announcing the two federal narcotics trafficking conspiracy indictments in the case, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor cited the efforts of Paralegal Specialists Kim Hall and Sandra Holland, Legal Assistant Carolyn Carter-McKinley and Patricia Hall, and Erica Radcliff, legal intern.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Grammar: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them (Part 10: Wrong/Missing Preposition)

Prepositions show the relation of a noun or pronoun to another word in the sentence. Occassionally, prepositions can be confusing.

Consider, for example which is better: "different from," or "different than?" Though both are used widely, "different from" is considered grammatically correct.

The same debate surrounds the words "toward" and "towards." Though both are used, "toward" is preferred in writing. When I was learning grammar back in Catholic school, the stern nuns would mark “towards” as “not a word.” Needless to say, I don’t use it anymore. When in doubt, check a handbook.

Former Paralegal Pleads Guilty

In Hartford, former paralegal Cheryl Zeman admitted to a single count of felony forgery. Under a plea agreement, 14 counts of felony forgery charges were dismissed.

Zeman was facing a total of 15 counts related to allegations that she made phony court orders by forging signatures and counterfeiting the official Superior Court seal in order to benefit a divorce case client.

At the time of the alleged crime, she was a paralegal at the law firm of Griswold, LaSalle, Cobb, Dowd & Gin, which currently represents the city of Hanford and the city council.

It remains unclear whether Zeman would avoid jail time for her crime as a result of the plea bargain.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

HughesWattersAskanase Adds Personnel

HOUSTON - HughesWattersAskanase L.L.P., a Houston-based law firm, recently added a new paralegal.

Jan Whaley joined HWA as a real estate paralegal for partner Gary S. Gunn. She received her paralegal certificate from the University of Houston and has multiple continuing education credits issued through Banker Systems, Inc., and Prosperity Bank. Whaley has 10 years of experience in real estate and was previously employed with Southern National Bank of Texas (now Prosperity Bank) as a real estate closer for both residential and commercial real estate transactions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

County Zeroes in on Identity Theft

OLYMPIA, Wash. - In response to rising identity theft occurences, Thurston County commissioners have agreed to hire a full-time paralegal to allow Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Wheeler to turn his attention full time to prosecuting identity theft cases. Wheeler and the paralegal will join county sheriff’s detective Sgt. Jim Dunn and Detective Roland Weiss, who are assigned to the task force.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Employees of Crumley & Associates Receive North Carolina State Bar Paralegal Certification

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Crumley & Associates announced that three employees have received the North Carolina State Bar Paralegal Certificate.

The employees receiving the certifications were:
  • Courtney Abbott, senior PI case manager;
  • Lisa Macon, senior litigation case manager based in the firm's High Point office; and
  • Shelby Kernoodle, lead PI case manager based in the firm's Winston-Salem office.


In order to receive the certification, each applicant met strict criteria required by the North Carolina Sate Bar's paralegal certification program including at least 5000 hours of experience working as a paralegal, continuing education and a three hour ethics course.

Maybe Being a Paralegal Isn't for Him

CINCINNATI - A paralegal student faces jail in a threat to top the Virginia Tech shooting. Karsten Taylor was concerned that a "D" in his American studies class could hurt his ability to get a better-paying job, so he responded to the stress by threatening a school shooting. Taylor was studying to be a paralegal.

Perhaps being a paralegal isn't the best career choice for him, if this is how he's handling stress.

Attorneys’ Rates For Paralegal Work Inappropriate

Robinson v. Chand, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32347 (May 2)

The Eastern District of California reduced a requested attorney’s fees award because various tasks performed by the attorney could have been delegated to a paralegal: “paralegal work should be billed at an appropriate rate, regardless of the status of the person actually undertaking the work.” Here, the tasks that should have been billed at paralegal rates included preparing cover sheets, converting computer files, mailing and arranging for service of documents, scheduling matters, organizing case files, researching non-legal matters and preparing boilerplate documents.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Grammar: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them (Part 9: Wrong/Missing Inflected Ends)

"Inflected ends" refers to a category of grammatical errors that you might know individually by other names -- subject-verb agreement, who/whom confusion, and so on. The term "inflected endings" refers to something you already understand: adding a letter or syllable to the end of a word changes its grammatical function in the sentence. For example, adding "ed" to a verb shifts that verb from present to past tense. Adding an "s" to a noun makes that noun plural. A common mistake involving wrong or missing inflected ends is in the usage of who/whom. "Who" is a pronoun with a subjective case; "whom" is a pronoun with an objective case. We say "Who is the speaker of the day?" because "who" in this case refers to the subject of the sentence. But we say, "To whom am I speaking?" because, here, the pronoun is an object of the preposition "to."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Paralegal Billing from The Paralegal

The Paralegal is a new blawg by Ana Pierro of New Jersey. In Paralegal Billing, Ana describes the how, who, and why of keeping your time. Part of it is keeping accurate time; don't cut your time when you report it! It is the partner's responsibility to cut time, and seeing how long it takes on a task may prompt the partner to assign another paralegal to help, if it is a very time-consuming project. Also, be very descriptive with your time. It aids in billing and justifies the time you spent on the project.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Grammar: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them (Part 8: Wrong Word)

This pretty much speaks for itself.

Malapropisms happen when we use a word that is similar to the word we wanted – but the word that we use has a completely different meaning.

Then there are the times that we just, simply, use the wrong word. If you’re not sure of the word’s meaning, either use another word or grab a dictionary.
She diaphragmed the sentence.


In this example, it is impossible to diaphragm something. A diaphragm is a body part used for breathing. The author actually means, “She diagrammed the sentence.”

Friday, June 8, 2007

FileTrail Adds Mapping Technology to File Tracking

FileTrail Inc. has announced the addition of QuickMaps™ mapping to their Records Management products. QuickMaps allows staff to see where file folders are located on a floorplan of their office.

FileTrail developed the QuickMaps interactive mapping technology in response to customers who revealed that knowing who had the file did not always help. For example, in very large firms, not everyone knows where other people sit.

The maps show the physical location of a file, while a one-click-email link generates an email to the person holding the file, allowing a custom message to be entered before sending.

QuickMaps pinpoint the location of a specific file. A popup screen, over the person's desk, provides additional information including name, phone number, email address, and a list of what other files they also have. QuickMaps also works with a list of files - this functions like a graphical picklist, streamlining retrieval and delivery of files.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Paralegal Convicted of Felony Theft

MANITOWOC, Wisc. -- Paralegal Debra Hardtke of Kewaunee was convicted of felony theft Wednesday in Manitowoc County Circuit Court. She faces up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines when sentenced on August 31.

According to the criminal complaint, Hardtke took at least $207,800 from the law firm Whyte, Hirschboeck and Dudek S.C., Manitowoc, where Hardtke was an employee.

NHC Paralegal Program Redesigned

North Harris College, an ABA-approved school, has reformatted some of its paralegal course offerings. Some of its courses will be offered online, and some courses will be compressed into fewer weeks.

While it's an honorable gesture to allow students to take more courses in less time, it seems that shorter courses compromise learning, a la the "paralegal mills" that churn out graduates in 12 weeks. However, NHC will offer these courses for three hours on a Friday night and three hours on a Saturday morning, which seems to be more of a "paralegal boot camp" that would cover the material with the same number of credit hours.

NHC has also added Advanced Legal Research and Writing and Rules of Civil Procedure to its curriculum.

Paralegal studies students are given a personal Westlaw password for each semester. North Harris College also instituted a chapter of LEX (Lambda Epsilon Chi), the national honor society for paralegals. Paralegal students with a 3.5 grade point average are eligible for this honor, which added to a résumé gives a program graduate an edge over other job applicants.

Deadline for NFPA Awards Is July 15

The deadline to apply for the National Federation of Paralegal Associations awards is July 15, 2007. Awards will be announced at the annual convention in Tampa in October.

  • Outstanding Local Leader Award (expenses paid to attend the NFPA annual convention including airfare, two nights hotel, social event and meal per diem) This person demonstrates influential behavior in the paralegal profession; promotes interest and active participation in the activities of his/her local association; motivates others to work toward establishing and carrying out professional goals; and is recognized by the legal community as a committed professional dedicated to the advancement of the legal profession.

  • NFPA Paralegal of the Year Award (expenses paid to attend the NFPA annual convention including airfare, two nights hotel, social event and meal per diem) This award recognizes an individual NFPA member whose on the job achievements have contributed to expansion of the paralegal profession, inlcuding contributions to his or her employer and colleagues and the paralegal profession in general.

  • Individual Pro Bono Award (expenses paid to attend the NFPA annual convention including airfare, two nights hotel, social event and meal per diem and $1,000 sponsorship fee will fund a $1,000 donation to the pro bono project of the winner’s choice) This award is open to all practicing paralegals. The candidate need not be a member of NFPA. The paralegal must have exhibited true dedication to the delivery of quality legal services to a portion of the population that cannot afford to pay for legal services.

  • PACE Ambassador Award (expenses paid to attend the NFPA annual convention including airfare, two nights hotel, social event and meal per diem) This award is presented to an association and its PACE ambassador. The award recognizes outstanding achievement in promoting the PACE program.

  • Robie Award (expenses paid to attend the NFPA annual convention including airfare, two nights hotel, social event and meal per diem) The award recognizes an NFPA member in honor of the Honorable Willima R. Robie and his dedication to the paralegal profession, the expansion of the delivery of legal services and equal access to justice for all Americans.

  • PACE Scholarship - This award will cover the PACE exam fee, PACE Application and Handbook, PACE Study Manual, and enrollment in the AIPS on-line study course.

  • Association Pro Bono Award (A $500 sponsorship fee will fund a $500 donation to support the recipient’s pro bono program) This award recognizes an outstanding pro bono program that reaches a portion of the population that could not otherwise afford legal assistance. Each paralegal involved in the program must comply with all ethical standards as established by the member association and NFPA.


NFPA Award Procedures

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Paralegal Pleads to Taking Almost 700 Grand

Charleston, S.C. -- Paralegal Amy C. Smith pled guilty to wire fraud. She admitted that she took more than $700,000 from her firm's escrow account as part of a get rich quick scheme, which entailed wiring money to an accomplice in Ohio.

Ten Keys to a Successful Job Search

From Beyond.com:

1. Take stock - (Know Yourself)

If you know your strengths and weaknesses and what you want in a career, then you have a much better chance of finding your perfect job. Finding that dream position starts with understanding your personality, values and what drives you. Taking a career and personality assessment is a huge first step towards optimizing your personal career path. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment is the most widely used personality instrument. More than 2 million worldwide assessments are performed each year by job seekers, professionals, and organizations, including 89 of the Fortune 100.

2. Networking - (Know others)

Many jobs are obtained through networking. It is a very important tool for job seekers and is an extremely fast and effective way to find your next job or career. While many employers advertise open positions on internet job boards like Beyond.com Career Search , you should find out about the “hidden job market” as well by talking to as many people as possible and letting them know you are looking for a job.

3. Accomplishment oriented resume - (Know how to write it well)

The purpose of a resume is not to get you a job, but to land an interview. An organized, industry-specific and accomplishment-oriented resume will get employers to take notice. In todays hyper-competitive job market, you simply cannot afford to send out a resume that is less than perfect.

Two Common Yet Easily-Avoidable Resume Mistakes
1. Always use a professional email address on your resume. While footballfan@aol.com may be fine for conversing with friends, it will give employers a negative perception of your level of professionalism and commitment to your job search.

2. If your resume includes an objective statement, it should be geared to both your personal goals as well as the goals of the company. Describing how you can add value to the company will give potential employers the impression that your goal is to provide a long-term commitment.


4. Job proposal - (Know your value)

Get the attention of decision-makers at a company through a Job proposal. It’s a one or two page “mini business plan” that’s intended to get you an interview with the decision-maker of a targeted prospective employer. While a resume tells someone what you have done in the past, a job proposal shows in some detail what you are going to do for the company down the road. Specifically, it lays out how you will help them achieve their vision of success. It generally explains the vision you have for a new product or service, how to enhance an existing program, or why to implement a new process. It may also outline your plan to increase company sales or improve accounts receivable. When you challenge the relevance of traditional job search strategies and begin utilizing tools and techniques that clearly distinguish you from the pack, most anything is possible, including winning a dream job with a great company during a down economy.

5. Industry Knowledge - (Know your market)

During your job search, it is imperative to show initiative and drive while continually looking to improve your industry knowledge. In today’s competitive job market, staying up-to-date on your industry is crucial to your future success. To be a truly outstanding business professional, you must not only understand trends and developments in your own industry, but the trends and developments in an average consumer’s industry.

6. Research - (Know the players)

There is no substitute for hard work and research. Knowing which companies are hiring in your area is only half the battle. Take your search to another level by getting access to key contacts, decision makers, and hiring managers. Check out sites like Hoovers.com to gain access to these types of lists.

7. Interviewing - (Know how to communicate)

The biggest mistake in interviewing is not being fully prepared. It is crucial for job-seekers to use every conceivable means possible to prepare for an interview and to allow ample time to fully prepare. Understand that interviewing is a skill; as with all skills, preparation and practice enhance the quality of that skill. Preparation can make the difference between getting an offer and getting rejected.

Practice Answering These Commonly-Asked Interview Questions:
1. Tell me about yourself.
2. Where do you expect to be in five years?
3. Describe a work-related problem you had to face recently. What did you do to deal with it?
4. What are your strengths? Weaknesses?


8. Marketing - (Know how to sell yourself)

An interactive marketing portfolio of yourself pulls together your accomplishments, education, experience and awards in one place. It is a highly-effective job-hunting tool that you develop that gives employers a complete picture of who you are -– your experience, your education, your accomplishments, your skill sets, and what you have the potential to become -– much more than just a cover letter and resume can provide. You can use your career portfolio in job interviews to showcase a point, to illustrate the depth of your skills and experience, or to use as a tool to get a second interview. Don't forget to setup your portfolio at Beyond.com Career Search . The best kinds of portfolios can be built and distributed to employers through the internet.

9. Background Check - (Know your history)

With thousands of resumes to choose from, employers often select from pre-screened candidates first, as these job seekers appear more serious in their job quest and commitment. Pre-screening by the job seeker saves the employer valuable time and money, and places pre-screened candidates ahead of the competition.

10. Learning never ends - (Know more)

The investment of time and money in continuing your education sends a powerful message to prospective employers that you are serious about improving your skills and abilities. Employers are more likely to hire candidates that show the desire and commitment for lifelong learning. Whether it’s a certificate program, associates, bachelors, or masters degree, there is a program to fit your lifestyle, schedule and budget.

NIPA Honors Outstanding Paralegals

The following people received recognition from the Northeast Indiana Paralegal Association:

  • Deb Killian of Hamilton received the Paralegal Recognition Award for significant contribution to NIPA, the legal community and the public. She is employed at Rothberg Logan & Warsco LLP in Fort Wayne.

  • Suzi Hall of Fort Wayne was named the winner of the Outstanding Member Award for her hard work on various committees and spearheading NIPA’s involvement in its charitable community service project. She is employed at the law office of Solomon L. Lowenstein Jr.

  • Catherine Myers, a student at International Business College, received the Marilyn Morlen Scholarship.


NIPA officers elected for the 2007-08 term are: Tina McCoy, vice president; Jennifer Swift, treasurer; Denise Brewer, primary representative to the paralegal association; Julia Harber, advertising chair; Alex Jokay, education chair; Jennifer Minnick, membership chair; Christine Hire, pro bono chair; Kathy Sasser, professional liaison chair; Nichole Wiesehan Monnier, associate/student representative; and Donna Gleason, website editor. Other officers completing their terms are Deb Killian, president; Jeff Jones, job bank chair and parliamentarian; and Tina McCoy, secretary.

Paralegal Recognized for Pro Bono Service

A Myrtle Beach, S.C. paralegal has been recognized for her pro bono work. Janice Morreale has been awarded the 2006 E.W. Mullins Sr. Paralegal Pro Bono Award by Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough for her commitment to pro bono service.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Hinckley Allen Snyder Adds Paralegal Bios to Site

Joining the growing trend of listing paralegal information on firm Web sites, New England firm Hinckley Allen Snyder LLP also posts paralegal bios on their Web site. Click on "Our Attorneys" and any letter of the alphabet, and you'll see a listing of partners, associates -- and paralegals.

Again, it is very encouraging to see law firms recognizing that paralegals are an essential part of the legal team!

Paralegal Returns From Iraq With New Call Sign, Medal

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Tech. Sgt. Daniel Velarde, a paralegal with the 50th Space Wing Judge Advocate Office, came home from his recent deployment to Iraq with a new call sign and a new medal.

[Seargent] Velarde earned the name "High Speed" for his performance while deployed as part of Multinational Force Iraq's Task Force 134. He also earned a Defense Meritorious Service Medal, making him only the second mid-level Air Force NCO in Task Force 134 to receive the prestigious award.
...
"We handled detainee boards," he explained. "We would gather evidence, file it and make sure photos and evidence were marked appropriately." Detainees included Iraqi insurgents and third-country nationals suspected of attacking Americans and coalition members and planting roadside improvised explosive devices.
...
Sergeant Velarde first became a paralegal in October 2003.

"I like law," he said. "I like the fact that it's always evolving and always challenging. It challenges you as an individual to make sure justice is served and everyone is treated fairly."

Monday, June 4, 2007

Man Charged With Posing as Lawyer Applies for Probation

STAMFORD, Conn. -- A paralegal accused of posing as a lawyer has applied for a probation program that would result in his record being erased.

Brian Valery, 32, faces charges of impersonating an attorney in Stamford and Brooklyn, N.Y., and could face similar charges in other districts. He duped the firm Anderson, Kill & Olick, where he had worked as a paralegal since 1996, by claiming he had passed the bar exam in 2004. He told his bosses that he had been attending law school at night.

A judge will decide on July 13 whether Valery deserves the chance to enter accelerated rehabilitation, a program reserved for first-time offenders who commit crimes that are not of a serious nature.

Participants stay on probation for two years and have their record wiped clean if they fulfill conditions imposed by a judge.

Grammar: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them (Part 8 - Vague Pronoun Reference)

Sometimes the use of a pronoun is more confusing than just repeating the noun itself. It happens when the pronoun could refer to two possible nouns already used in the sentence.
After the boy sat next to his father, he sneezed.

Who sneezed? The boy or the father? This is an ambiguous reference. Rework the sentence if necessary.

At other times, pronouns are just too vague.
Due to the influx of cases, the associates worked late into the night. They accepted this as part of the job.

What did the associates accept? Change “this” to “the long hours” for clarification.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Veteran Farmworker Paralegal Bridges Two Worlds

Veteran farmworker paralegal Raul Barrera ensures that migrant workers receive the pay they were promised. He takes down the stories of the workers for legal aid attorneys. Barrera, 71, has tried unsuccessfully to retire from his job, but he keeps feeling the pull.

"It's in my blood. It's what I was born into," he says simply.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Disbarred, but Not Barred from Work

Disturbingly enough, in some states, disciplined lawyers can still work as paralegals or clerks.

There are states that absolutely ban disciplined attorneys from even coming near legal work, such as Massachusetts. Here, suspended or disbarred attorneys cannot be employed in any capacity in any capacity, even as a janitor, by another member of the bar.

California and Colorado, however, allow suspended attorneys to work as paralegals, as long as the supervising attorney notifies clients about the disciplinary action. Yet it is still difficult to employ a disciplined attorney:

In a recent Colorado case, a disbarred attorney was hired by his former firm—ostensibly operated by his former associates. The reality was that the disbarred attorney was still running the firm, according to Nancy L. Cohen, president of the National Organization of Bar Coun­sel. “It is going to be hard for you to supervise that person and tell them what to do,” she says.