Monday, August 27, 2007

Grammar: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them (Part 19 - Dangling, Misplaced Modifier)

The results of a dangling or misplaced modifier can be disastrous.

Modifiers are any adjectives, adverbs, phrases, or clauses that a writer uses to elaborate on something. Modifiers, when used wisely, enhance your writing. But if they are not well-considered -- or if they are put in the wrong places in your sentences -- the results can be less than eloquent. Consider, for example, this sentence:
The professor wrote a paper on sexual harassment in his office.

Is the sexual harassment going on in the professor's office? Or is his office the place where the professor is writing? I hope he was writing the paper in his office, not on the sexual harassment in his office. If that is the case, then the original sentence contains a misplaced modifier and should be re-written accordingly:
In his office, the professor wrote a paper on sexual harassment.

Always put your modifiers next to the nouns they modify.

Dangling modifiers are a different kind of problem. They intend to modify something that isn't in the sentence. Consider this:
As a young girl, my father baked bread and gardened.

The writer means to say, "When I was a young girl, my father baked bread and gardened." The modifying phrase "as a young girl" refers to some noun not in the sentence. It is, therefore, a dangling modifier.

Other dangling modifiers are more difficult to spot, however. Consider this sentence:
Walking through the woods, my heart ached.

Is it your heart that is walking through the woods? It is more accurate (and more grammatical) to say, "Walking through the woods, I felt an ache in my heart." Here you avoid the dangling modifier.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

LSSU Program Approved by ABA

The Lake Superior State University bachelor's degree program for business administration - legal management received American Bar Association approval, and is only one of two programs of its kind in Michigan.

Combining business and legal courses, the program prepares students to work in a variety of areas, such as human resources, employer benefits, safety, worker's compensation, contracts, and insurance, as well as the classic law firm environment.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cambridge Who's Who Names Connie J. Pence Professional of the Year in Paralegal Services

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- Connie J. Pence, a paralegal at Rainey Martin, LLP has been named Cambridge Who's Who Professional of the Year in paralegal services.

Pence is a member of the Central Oklahoma Association of Legal Assistants and currently serves as COALA's public relations chairwoman. She is an appointed board member of the Oklahoma County Bar Association Law Day Committeeand is also a member of the Oklahoma Paralegal Association and The National Association of Legal Assistants. Pence received a Westlaw Paralegal Program Certificate of Achievement. She regularly attends legal education seminars and has completed coursework in specialized mediation services. She is an annual test monitor volunteer for Putnam City schools and was named Legal Assistant of the Year by COALA for being "exceptionally conscious" and for working "tirelessly as a team player" to meet clients' needs.

Pence, a paralegal for 25 years, is experienced in many areas of law including corporate, commercial, civil litigation, asset protection, real estate development, estate planning, probate litigation, elder law, bankruptcy, employment law, personal injury, title opinions and background investigations.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Paralegal Is a Hidden Heroine

One of the "Hidden Heroines" to be presented with an award on November 8 at the Fort Wayne Country Club is paralegal Sherry Myers. She has been involved with Girl Scouts as an area director and troop leader and also volunteers with the Women's Bureau's Transitions program. Myers is a paraletal with Benton Pantello Morris James Logan and is also a paralegal studies instructor at Ivy Tech.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Grammar: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them (Part 18 - Run-on, Fused Sentence)

Run-on sentences are sentences that run on forever, they are sentences that ought to have been two or even three sentences but the writer didn't stop to sort them out, leaving the reader feeling exhausted by the sentence's end which is too long in coming. (Like that one!)

Break the sentences up! This would be grammatically fine if we broke this up:
Run-on: I’m going home, I’m done for today, I need a bubble bath.

Right way: I’m going home. I’m done for today, and I need a bubble bath.

Fused sentences occur when two independent clauses are put together without a comma, semi-colon, or conjunction. For example: "The pretrial conference resulted in a settlement but the defendant was unhappy with the terms." This one is easy. Just put a comma between "settlement" and "but":

The pretrial conference resulted in a settlement, but the defendant was unhappy with the terms.

The end result is a happy, relaxed sentence.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Paralegal Possibly Fired for Political Affiliation

Does a paralegal's political affiliation affect her ability to do her job? Most of us would give a resounding "no" vote, but in Naugatuck, Connecticut, the campaign coordinator for a Democratic candidate for mayor and paralegal for the borough attorney claims she was fired due to her political leanings. Anne Ciacciarella filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New Haven on Wednesday claiming that borough attorney Donald Zehnder Jr. fired her from her paralegal job because Mayor Mike Bronko and two state representatives gave Zehnder an ultimatum: he could either fire Ciacciarella or lose his position as town counsel.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

TNCC Adds Paralegal Program

Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia has added an associate's degree program in paralegal studies for the fall semester, which begins Saturday.

For more information, visit TNCC's Web site at

Monday, August 13, 2007

Grammar: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them (Part 17: Sentence Fragment)

All sentences have subjects and predicates. The predicate is the action, and the subject is the item doing the action.
On Sundays, Jane plowed through the want ads. Hoping that the next best job was buried in small print.

What’s wrong here? There is no subject in the second sentence. It should read:
On Sundays, Jane plowed through the want ads, hoping that the next best job was buried in small print.

My boss does amusing things. For example, smoking cigars and losing them somewhere in the office.

If you can’t attach a fragment to a sentence, make it a new sentence. Thus the second example becomes “My boss does amusing things. For example, he smokes cigars and loses them somewhere in the office.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Book Recommendation: My Job Went to India

Offshore outsourcing is something that we, as paralegals, need to be prepared to counter. It is happening, as more Indian lawyers are trained in U.S. law to do work for less than the cost of an in-house paralegal. However, we do not have to accept this as an eventuality.

In My Job Went to India: 52 Ways to Save Your Job (Pragmatic Programmers) by Chad Fowler, ways to keep your job while outsourcing happens all around you are detailed. The book is written for computer programmers, but I found it to be very useful for paralegals as well, with some creative reading between the lines. There are some sections that can be skimmed, but for the most part, this book is brimming with useful advice for professionals who want to build their careers and keep their jobs in the U.S. For those that have already seen work in their firms outsources, Fowler offers advice to distinguish yourself from others by working with and providing leadership for the offshore team.

In fact, in order to avoid the fate that has befallen programmers, I strongly recommend every single paralegal pick up a copy of this book and read it from cover to cover. It's a fairly quick read, and Fowler peppers his advice with examples from his own experience as a programmer AND as a jazz musician.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Paralegal Takes the Plunge

In the U.K., paralegal Hayley Wood raised more than £500 for charity by strapping on her parachute. Wood raised the money for Action Against Medical Accidents, and her employer, Irwin Mitchell, had been working closely with the organizers of the jump. It was an ideal opportunity to raise money for the charity that offers help to victims of medical accidents. The 26-year-old Wood joined a group of 15 who trained with the London Parachute Club before taking the plunge with an instructor.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Grammar: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them (Part 16: Pronoun Agreement Error)

Pronouns should also agree. When they don't, it’s not as ugly as subjects and verbs, but it really doesn’t look good and can be confusing. Many people have problems with pronoun agreement. They will write a sentence like "Everyone is entitled to their opinion." The problem is, "everyone" is a singular pronoun. Instead, "his" or "her" should be used.

Friday, August 3, 2007

ABA Reapproves Paralegal Program

CHERRY HILL, N.J. -- The American Bar Association has reapproved Gloucester County College's paralegal program.

The program, which will turn 10 years old next year, teaches students to help lawyers prepare for trials, closing arguments, and hearings. They investigate case facts, identify laws, analyze and organize information, and write reports to assist attorneys, including drafting contract and real estate documents, processing claims, and other client needs.

Complete program guides can be obtained by calling (856) 415-2150 or by visiting under the Business and Technology Division.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

PACO Elects First African-American as President of Organization

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Catherine Hawes was sworn in on Friday, July 20, 2007 by Judge James Green of the Franklin County Municipal Court as the first African-American President of the Paralegal Association of Central Ohio (PACO) in the 34-year history of the organization.

Catherine was voted in along with nine other board members at the last general membership meeting of PACO on June 18, 2007, and officially took office as of the swearing in ceremony. She is a member of the law firm of Lane, Alton & Horst and has been a litigation paralegal for 18 years. Catherine obtained her paralegal certificate from the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she graduated with honors. After graduation, she interned with the Honorable Judge Carmen Kelsey, 289th U.S. District Court in San Antonio, Texas. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Paralegal Studies from Hampton University, where she graduated Cum Laude.

As a member of the Paralegal Association of Central Ohio, she served three years on the board as PACO’s Primary Representative to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. She most recently chaired the 2007 Annual Paralegal Day Event for central Ohio in which NBC 4 News Anchor Colleen Marshall emceed the event, and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner was the keynote speaker.

As Judge Green addressed the incoming board, he issued a charge to each of the new board members to not take the position as a resume builder but to accept their newly elected post only if they were up for the challenges. He then swore in the newly elected president and handed off the gavel, stating that it was symbolic of her new leadership position.

Catherine Hawes being sworn in by Judge James Green

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

From Teacher to Paralegal to Principal: Sacred Heart Hires New Principal

HOLLISTER, Calif. -- Sacred Heart Parish School in Hollister has hired Alaskan transplant Jennifer Smith as its new principal. Prior to her hiring, Smith was a law student and paralegal, and before that, a teacher. From her law school and paralegal experience, Smith hopes to have learned how to be a better advocate for children.