Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 10 Paralegal Stories from 2008

Happy New Year! Here's a look back on the ten stories that generated the most traffic in 2008:

RP Salaries Surpass Averages

Florida Unveils Registered Paralegal Program

Legal Secretary Talent Becoming Scarce

Legal Assistant Today Announces 2007 Salary Survey Results

Paralegal Sued for UPL

Paralegal Outlook for 2008: We're Not Recession-Proof

Roundup: New PACE Exam, New PACE Study Manual, and New Paralegal Magazine Please note that since the publication of that entry, ParalegalGateway.com and Jeannie Johnston are no longer associated with KNOW.

Female Paralegals Paid Less Than Male Paralegals

Prominent Lawyer Accused by Former Paralegal of Being "Sexual Predator"

Guidance Software Outlines the Five Most Common Pitfalls of Outdated E-Discovery

Paralegal Honored by Utah Attorney General

Roberta Kaneko, a paralegal working in the Utah Attorney General's office, was recognized for her work at a luncheon for the department. Kaneko, a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, was honored for helping a crime victim through her testimony at trial.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Paralegals on the Move

Here is a quick roundup of paralegals "on the move":

In Wisconsin, paralegal Marc J. Adesso has moved to DeWitt Ross & Stevens' Brookfield office.

Dallas-based Interlegis, Inc. added Brian McHughs, a former paralegal, as the company's new director of client services and operations. McHughs spent six years with a Denver-based provider of litigation support services, as well as the past three years with a national service provider as the director of electronic discovery.

In Las Vegas, Laura Wilson joined ActionCOACH as a franchise paralegal. She has over nine years of franchise experience and a total of 23 years of experience. As a franchise paralegal, Wilson is responsible for assisting the General Counsel with all franchise and corporate matters including, compliance issues, researching, drafting, and reviewing documents, as well as maintaining corporate records.

Erin Doherty joined Michael A. DeMayo in Charlotte, North Carolina, as a paralegal in its litigation department. Also in Charlotte, Bonnie Guinn was named legal assistant and pre-closer at FrickTrent, while Dawn Ulery was named managing paralegal.

Paralegal Regulation Sorely Needed

Yesterday's news that a paralegal posed as a lawyer to represent a client in court illustrates the need to regulate paralegals. As it stands now, Larissa Sufaru, the paralegal in question, can resume her work as a paralegal without any fines or sanctions. She can be charged criminally, however. According to New Jersey law, Sufaru can be charged with a disorderly persons offense or with a fourth-degree crime (N.J.S. 2C:21-22.)

Sufaru faces no professional sanctions, nor are safeguards in place to screen paralegals and ensure that they are fully aware of the ethics involved in the unauthorized practice of law. With mandatory licensure, Sufaru would face sanctions, including suspension or revocation of her license. Licensure would require specific paralegal training, including ethics, and would require continuing education with a component in ethics.

By the way, this isn't the first time Sufaru has represented herself as a lawyer. As a board member of Women Helping Women, she is listed as Larissa Sufaru, Esq.

Atlanta Paralegal Specialist Wins Justice Award

A paralegal specialist from Atlanta received the Director's Award for Superior Performance in a Litigative Support Role.  Kimberly J. Casperson worked on the investigation and prosecution of complex cases, including the Eric Robert Rudolph serial bombing case and the prosecutions of former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell and others for bribery, tax fraud, and related charges.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Paralegals Use Strength, Skills to Raise Autistic Children

After finally learning that it was autism that left her son speechless, Rose Morreale, a paralegal, turned her researching skills and "steely Sicilian determination" to creating a future for her boy. At first, she quit her job to immerse herself in caring for her son, but eight years later, she returned to work. (Source: Buffalo News.)

Morreale is not the only paralegal whose child struggles with autism. Suzann Deskin, a paralegal formerly with the Asset Forfeiture Division, U.S. Attorney's Office, Little Rock, Arkansas, has a 15-year-old son with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism. Deskin is a strong woman who has never given up on her son and has raised him into a young man that functions well in school and is a basketball fanatic. He also excels at CAD drawing, and Deskin hopes that he will attend college. Payton struggles with social skills, but Deskin's patience enables her to teach him the basics - like not announcing that the man in line in front of you is wearing an ugly hat.

But if one autistic child is challenging, imagine having three! Janet Powell, a senior paralegal and project manager in the Miami, Florida office of a national labor and employment law firm, is raising four children, three of whom are autistic. Logan, 18, is a high-functioning autistic who is being trained to work in a marine environment through the Miami-Dade County Public School System's partnership with Miami's Shake a Leg Program. As part of the program, Logan pressure-cleans docks and helps clean the boats docked at the marina, and he assists in the marine trade school run by the program. He goes boating often and is learning marine navigation and understanding environmental issues, according to Powell. Katy, 7, is a very high-functioning autistic, and Powell describes her as "a come from behind break-out sort of kid." Dallas, 5, has a profound language delay and was very recently diagnosed as autistic.

"The good project management skills I use as a paralegal have really helped me in personal life to pace myself out so that I can establish priorities and accomplish at least some of the things I would like to do on the short term, and work toward other things in time," said Powell in an email interview. "This helps me avoid feeling victimized."

The amazing strength of these mothers is a true inspiration, and it is heartening to see such strong women working in the profession.

Censure Urged for Attorney Whose Paralegal Acted as Lawyer in Court

A lawyer who sent his paralegal to court to represent a client is now facing possible censure from the Disciplinary Review Board. Neal Pomper of Highland Park, New Jersey, breached Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5(a)(2), assisting the unauthorized practice of law, and 8.4(a), violating ethics rules, inducing someone else to do so or violating them through someone else's actions.

But the paralegal, Larissa Sufaru, is not without blame. She identified herself as a lawyer, entered an appearance on record, allowed herself to be addressed as "counsel" (that's probably a good time to say, "Excuse me, I'm actually not a lawyer"), and advocated for the client. The hearing officer reported Sufaru to the Supreme Court Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law, and she entered into an agreement with the Committee acknowledging that she did not correct the hearing officer or ask for an adjournment when it became clear that the hearing was not simply about receiving the results of a paternity test, as Pomper had originally thought.

The notice for a "hearing after blood test" stated, "You may bring an attorney with you, although an attorney is not required."

Even if there was confusion, nonlawyers are also not allowed to represent clients at paternity hearings and Pomper admitted he did not handle paternity matters, the DRB pointed out.

Pomper testified he had "severely admonished" Sufaru for going ahead with the support hearing and had "taken steps" to prevent a recurrence.


The client's retainer was also refunded.

(Source: Law.com)

Paralegal Raises the Bar in Fairbanks DA’s Office

In high school, Marja Hallsten dreamed of being an entertainment director on a cruise ship. She even went to travel school in 1984, but the 1980s intervened.

Instead, she worked as an apartment manager, a legal secretary and later as a paralegal for the District Attorney’s Office, where she works today. In October, Attorney General Talis Colberg named Hallsten the Department of Law’s Paralegal of the Year.

Hallsten, a trim, leggy blonde with the energy of an aerobics instructor, has a blunt manner, a bawdy sense of humor and a truck driver’s colorful use of language. But mostly she is unflappable, which is why she is good at her job.


She began working in the District Attorney's office in 2000 after attending night courses to be a paralegal.

Teresa Foster was the District Attorney at the time. She nominated Hallsten for the Paralegal of the Year award. She was impressed by Hallsten’s work on a tough rape case involving a mentally disabled victim.

Hallsten somehow managed to get her 4-pound, mixed-breed dog, Indy, into the courthouse, and the victim was comforted by the animal, Foster said.

Jay Hodges, a retired prosecutor and judge, said Hallsten was the best paralegal in the District Attorney’s Office during his final stint there.


(Source: newsminer.com)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chief Paralegal Promoted to Master Sergeant

Dawn M. Byrnes recently was promoted to master sergeant in the U.S. Army. Byrnes is serving as chief paralegal at Panzer Kaserne in Kaiserslautern, Germany, with the 21st Theater Sustainment Command.

She has attended advanced and basic noncommissioned officer course, primary leadership development course, air assault school, naval justice court reporting school, staff and faculty instructor developer course, small group instructor course and two senior paralegal conferences. Byrnes has a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies from Kaplan University and a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from University of Maryland.

She has deployed twice with the 101st Airborne in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Her military awards include the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Commendation Medal with Six Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal with Three Oak Leaf Clusters, Meritorious Unit Citation, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Air Assault Badge, Gold Schutzenschnire and two National Defense Service Ribbons.


(Source: baxterbulletin.com

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all my readers. Thank you for visiting!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Faltering Economy Attracts More to Paralegal Careers

As if the news of law firm layoffs isn't enough, the paralegal job market is going to be even tighter as more adults look into paralegal careers.

In Norcross, Georgia, Avaya is closing their plant and call center (and moving the jobs to India and Canada), leaving 120 people unemployed. Serita Tinsley saw the layoffs coming and became certified as a paralegal (did she take the NALA exam? or did she just get a paralegal certificate?).

Flora Schmidt of Mineola, New York, spent 30 years as a registered nurse. After taking computer courses, she hopes to land a nursing paralegal job with her new computer skills. After putting two sons through college, the 73-year-old needs a part time job to make ends meet.

These are just two of many adults beginning second careers or searching for work in an already faltering economy. The market will only get tighter before it gets better.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

LSUC Budget Introduces Fee Increases for 2009

Last month, the governing body of the Law Society of Upper Canada approved its 2009 budget, complete with fee increases of 3% for lawyers and 6.5% for paralegals. The fee for a practicing lawyer will increase $50 from $1,653 to $1,703, and the fee for a licensed paralegal will increase $55 from $845 to $900.

Licensing Process candidates will see a $540 reduction in their tuition fees from $2,940 in 2008 to $2,400 in 2009. 

This is the result of changes to the lawyer licensing process which replaced the four-week Skills & Professional Responsibility Program with a five-day pre-call professional responsibility and practice requirement, along with a post-call professional development requirement of 24 hours within the first 24 months of practice. The licensing process fee for paralegals will remain the same at $1,075.

A major component of the 2009 paralegal budget - $1,057,900 - is dedicated to professional regulation. These costs are mainly associated with good character investigations and hearings for grandparent paralegal applicants, as well as other paralegal regulatory expenses.

It is interesting to note that paralegal fees are being increased by a higher percentage than the attorneys fees, or in the case of the licensing process, remaining the same. Perhaps LSUC needs more money to run the regulation program?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Public Defense Costs Increased to Hire Paralegal

While the increase in court cases in Lincoln County, South Dakota will mean higher public defender fees, it will also mean that Peterson and Stuart Attorneys at Law will see an increase in their public defender contract from $3,000 per month to $8,000 per month.  The increase will allow those firms to hire a part-time paralegal.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Indiana Paralegals Receive Registered Paralegal Designation

Connie Cassady of The Koch Law Firm, P.C. in Bloomington, Indiana and Lori M. Craig of Barrett & Associates in Bloomington have both passed the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam given by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.

Cassady was the 2008 recipient of the Indiana Paralegal Association/IKON PACE scholarship. Her legal experience is primarily plaintiff-based in personal injury, medical malpractice, and nursing home negligence.

Craig's legal experience has been mostly in litigation. In 2000, she completed an internship while working on an extensive products liability case.

Since then, she has worked on personal injury, medical malpractice, and nursing home negligence cases for both plaintiffs and defendants.

When asked what being a Registered Paralegal means to her, Craig said, “I have accomplished a professional and personal goal to improve myself, to add value to my employment, and to reestablish my commitment to my profession.”


(Source: Reporter-Times/MD Times)

Associates Vie for Paralegal Tasks

Associates are feeling the economic crunch in the form of their billable hours, and without enough work to do, more associates are vying for tasks traditionally done by paralegals. Not only are they volunteering for document reviews and deposition digests, but in some cases, these associates are forced to do paralegal work as their firms lay off staff.

That's right, the paralegals who can keep costs down (a sound move in a shaky economy) are finding themselves out of work, and their jobs are being done by associates. In a situation like this, the best thing a paralegal can do is to take on those tasks him/herself. Most career books advise readers to find something that makes them indispensable, and being able to perform a document review or digest depositions in less time and for less money than an association is an indispensable value to the firm.

(Source: ABA Journal - Law News Now)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

NC Paralegal Certified by State Bar

Sheri Elizabeth Varner, a legal assistant with the law firm of Brinkley Walser PLLC in Lexington has attained paralegal certification from the N.C. State Bar. She joined Brinkley Walser in April 2008.


(Source: Winston-Salem Journal)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Paralegal Enjoying Fourth Military Deployment

As a military paralegal, Staff Sgt. Chad Darby, military justice non-commissioned officer in charge at the 16th Sustainment Brigade Judge Advocate's Legal Services Center, is experiencing a more peaceful kind of employment.

"I'm not being shot at," said the 34-year-old former infantryman from Zanesville. "I was always out on patrols. As a paralegal I don't have to worry about someone coming up on me with a satchel charge."


Instead, Darby prepares non-judicial punishment paperwork known as Article 15 under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and court-martial paperwork.

In addition to the typical duties, Darby and his fellow soldiers have found themselves performing unofficial legal assistance duties at Q-West in Iraq. They help soldiers and contractors with proxy marriages, divorces, powers of attorney, wills, notarized documents, citizenship packets, and even legal advice. The office has seen over 600 people since August 2008.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Women in eDiscovery Exceeds Fundraising Goal for Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Women in eDiscovery, a non-profit organization committed to providing information and education as a public service to the legal community, has exceeded its fundraising goal for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The organization raised more than $52,000 across six chapters. Some chapters participated in the Race for the Cure, and others participated in the Breast Cancer 3-Day, 60-mile walk. All proceeds benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure and National Philanthropic Trust, which funds important breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment.
 
Women in eDiscovery co-founders established a goal of raising $30,000 collectively and walking in at least five of the cities. The organization surpassed this goal by raising $52,000 across several chapters, including New York, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, and Minneapolis.
 
Women in eDiscovery was formed to bring together businesswomen interested in technology in the legal industry and has grown to more than 3,000 women with 22 local chapters throughout the United States and more chapters forming overseas. Among the women who have joined the organization are attorneys from law firms and corporations, litigation support professionals, paralegals, legal IT staff, consultants, and vendors.
 
For more information on Women in eDiscovery, visit www.womeninediscovery.com.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Adopt a Lawyer? Sure!

Billable Hours Unlimited, Ltd. has released "My Pet Lawyer," a remote-controlled programmable toy that they promise will be hours of fun.  Described as "your very own remote-controlled personal pit bull on an electronic leash," the toy features nine pre-recorded messages ranging from "You talkin' to me, sharkbait?!" to "Pro Bono? Never heard of him!"  The toy can also be personalized with messages recorded by the user.

Find one at www.mypetlawyer.com. Five percent of the net profit goes to Voice for the Animals and will be used for the rescue and adoption of homeless pets.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Paralegal Specialist Travels Long, Hard Road to Iraq

by Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau

Bombs, violence and death were part of Titus Abure’s boyhood. He fled the Republic of the Sudan as a 16-year-old refugee. His father died in Sudan’s civil war.

So this Army National Guard specialist says an Iraq deployment isn’t much of a hardship.

“I love it,” he said here in October. “I contributed to the success of the mission.”

Abure has fulfilled Freedom of Information Act requests for the XVIII Airborne Division, worked with the Iraqi Security Forces on legal issues surrounding detainees and interpreted and coached Arabic as needed. He is a paralegal specialist with the Nebraska National Guard’s 110th Multifunctional Medical Battalion here.

It’s all a long way from Torit, in the Eastern Equatoria province of southern Sudan in Northern Africa, where Abure was born.

“The majority of our Soldiers – probably 95 percent – come from rural Nebraska,” said the 110th MMB’s Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Davids. “Spc. Abure has been a benefit by being able to understand how things happen in other places around the world – his background of multiple languages, of coming from the Sudan and moving around Africa and coming to the United States. He’s very humble about it.”

Ever since Basic Combat Training, Abure has encouraged other Soldiers to keep hardship in perspective. “When people sometimes complain of little things, I ask, ‘How many times have you taken a shower? How many times have you eaten MREs? Have you ever thought there are guys here who in a week don’t take a shower?’ It’s good to be able to bring the other side of the story to people, so they are able to look within themselves,” he said.

They don’t know the half of Abure’s story.

Sudan

Much of Sudan remains an agricultural economy, accounting for a third of its gross domestic product and 80 percent of jobs. “Everybody still depends on agriculture,” Abure said. “So my parents were farmers.”

They raised cows and grew vegetables.

As an agrarian society, Abure recalled, “They still have the family cohesion – that extended family outlook. You still look at things in terms of, ‘What’s my relations to my family?’ as opposed to, ‘What’s good for me?’ ”

The 41-year-old still misses Sudan. “A whole lot. The weather. The kind of activities we used to do back home: running, hunting, swimming in the river.”

But violence was a daily routine; civil war racked Sudan since its 1956 independence from Britain. “I saw people die,” Abure said. “I had friends who were killed.”

Education was a way out

“I warn you …”

“The commander of the rebels came to my family and asked my father, ‘Is Titus still going to school?’ Abure recalled.

“Please talk to him,” his father said.

Abure remembers the rebel commander’s advice: “I warn you to leave if you still want to go to school, because in a month or two, if you are still here, I will tell your father you are not going, because the roads are going to be bad. We will mine the roads. The probability of survival is going to be really reduced. If you want to go, this is the time.’”

He left the next day. Only the commander and his parents knew; he did not say goodbye to his extended family. He still didn’t know if the school was even open.

He left at 5 a.m. on a 200-truck rebel convoy that was ambushed twice – resulting in deaths and destroyed vehicles – during a three-day, 84-mile, trek to safety.
He made his way to Kenya, on Sudan’s southern border, where he found the Catholic missionary school open. He studied there four years.

At one point, Abure’s family links to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army were a lifesaver. The young man dissuaded rebels from attacking his school, arguing that the missionary institution was not associated with the government.

He later worked in a refugee camp in Kenya as a community leader and high school teacher. He helped distribute United Nations food aid, and he helped refugees apply for asylum in the United States – knowledge that would eventually take him down the same path.

He made it to the United States at 25.

Late-in-life enlistee

In California, Abure assembled electronics. In Tennessee, he worked for a publisher of inspirational books and for a tool manufacturer who, finding him a quick study, asked him to teach coworkers about wiring and reconditioning tools.

Now, education was a way up: Abure went back to school, teaching to earn extra money and earning a criminal justice and psychology degree.

He worked in the corrections system as a corrections officer – a civilian-acquired skill that would later enhance his paralegal specialty in the National Guard.

He lived in Connecticut and Georgia. He married, and the couple has one five-year-old son. Omaha, Neb., is now home.

“I’ve benefited” from immigrating to the United States, Abure said. “If I had remained in Sudan, I might not have gone to college, because of being a Southerner – even if you pass [an entrance exam], you rarely find yourself going to college. That’s why we had the war.”

Abure is one of a group of late-in-life enlistees who have joined the National Guard since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Attracted by the notion of serving his adopted country and by the training, educational benefits and paralegal military occupational specialty, he signed up at 38.

Abure’s recruiter told him he might deploy. “Yes, I’ll be ready to do that,” Abure remembered telling him. “You are there to serve the country should anything happen, and at the same time you still keep your civilian life,” he said of why he picked the Guard.

Abure’s story is unusual, but Davids, the 110th MMB command sergeant major, said his Soldier is by no means unique in the National Guard.

Deployment diversity

“Across the board, the National Guard is such a well-rounded organization,” Davids said

“We as leaders of the National Guard have learned over time to use those assets to our advantage. We learn who’s in the unit that can do what, whether they’re a carpenter or
whether they can build things or fix things, program, teach, talk – it’s phenomenal.

“In our task force alone, we have everything from lawyers to construction workers to computer programmers, to Web developers. We have enlisted Soldiers that are nurses. We have pilots. I’m an electrician back home. One of the first things I did here in theater was to help our brigade wire in new uninterruptible power supplies to keep the phones up and running in the event of power failure.”

It’s not a one-way street: Abure said he has gained as much as he has given during his first deployment.

“I have gained a wealth of knowledge,” he said. “A whole lot of experience.” His knowledge of administrative, fiscal and criminal law has grown. “I could not have done that without this deployment.”

He did not find the Iraq he expected before he came.

Different perspective

Abure’s idea of what Iraq would be like came from what he had seen and read in the media. “Listening to the news, you see bombs every day,” he said. “It’s selective. If there’s no violence, [there’s] no news. You look at it and you think things are really bad, because you are not there. The concept [of deploying] was horrible.”

But the Iraq Abure experienced defied his expectations. Violence was declining; reconstruction was increasing; and the Iraqi government, military and police were improving.

“When I came here, I was like, ‘What’s going on?’,” Abure said. “Very different from what I expected. No big deal.”

From his perspective as a childhood refugee, Iraq didn’t seem like a country at war. “For me, having been in a country with a war, where I’ve seen all kinds of bombs, it’s no surprise,” he said. Since he enlisted, Abure said he’s been struck by how Soldiers pull together. “It is family-oriented,” he said of the Guard. Fellow Soldiers have reached out to him, inviting him to share their civilian lives.

That “taking care of Soldiers” has continued with Abure’s deployment. His mother still lives in Torit, and Abure was delighted when he discovered he could make morale calls from here to talk with her. “They gave me a lot of phone cards,” he said. “ ‘Please, you need to talk to your family. You need to talk to your mom.’ The service I received was extraordinary.” Abure exudes gratitude. “It’s a beauty,” he said of his life. “It’s a beauty. At times, the life you receive is hard. But that hardship trains you to become a better person. You tend to appreciate certain things.”

Sometimes, though, Abure wonders if his fellow Americans appreciate what we have. “Just the other day we were talking about some states paying students to go to school,” he said. “Where do you find in the world where a state or a government pays students so they can go to school, so they can go to learn? When I look at it, it seems people don’t even understand the importance of education in the first place.”

And why would this not seem strange to a man whose escape from violence hinged on the answer to a rebel commander’s question, “Is Titus still going to school?” For this Citizen-Soldier, education was no luxury: It was the difference between life and death.

Technorati Tags: paralegal, paralegals, military, military paralegal, paralegal specialist, national guard

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Paralegal Alleges Discrimination Based on Pregnancy

Jeanne Marshall, a paralegal formerly with Siegfried & Jensen in Salt Lake City, Utah, filed suit in the U.S. District Court claiming pregnancy discrimination. She alleges that, when she returned from a month-long medical leave to deal with complications in her pregnancy, she was subjected to foul language, encouraged by a supervisor to terminate her pregnancy and divorce her husband, given no substantive work, and ultimately, had to leave the position. The firm adamantly denies the allegations.

Marshall was awarded unemployment benefits by the state Department of Workforce Services, and Siegfried & Jensen unsuccessfully appealed that decision -- twice.
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Monday, December 1, 2008

Paralegals: Take a Survey, Win a Calendar!


To kick off 2009, I'm offering nifty magnetic calendars - perfect for the fridge or to stick on your filing cabinet - to ten respondents who leave their addresses! Winners will be chosen randomly. All you have to do is take the survey! Click here to go to the survey, and don't forget to leave your name and address if you want to enter to win. Your information will only be used to send you the magnet, and all responses will be held in confidence.



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Paralegal Appointed to Recreational Trails Committee

Catherine Haagen-Smit, 52, of Newcastle, has been appointed to the Recreational Trails Committee. Prior to retiring in 2007, she served as a paralegal for the Placer County District Attorney's Office from 1991 to 2007 and previously held the same position for the Placer County Public Defender's Office from 1989 to 1990. From 1988 to 1989, Haagen-Smit served as a legal analyst for the California Department of Justice. Prior to that, she worked as a paralegal for Diepenbrock, Wulff, Plant & Hannigan from 1985 to 1988 and as a legal analyst for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from 1984 to 1985. Haagen-Smit is co-founder and secretary of the Folsom Auburn Trail Riders Action Coalition, a member and state representative of the International Mountain Bicycling Association and a member of the California Trails & Greenways Foundation. This position does not require Senate confirmation and there is no salary. Haagen-Smit is registered decline-to-state.



(Source: Imperial Valley News - Governor Schwarzenegger Announces Appointments)





Friday, November 28, 2008

Philadelphia Paralegal Chosen as Outstanding Local Leader

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA) chose Renee Mazzeo as the organization’s 2008 Outstanding Local Leader. The Outstanding Local Leader award is given to an individual who has promoted interest and participation in the activities of his/her local association and has been recognized by the legal community as a professional dedicated to the advancement of the legal profession.

Ms. Mazzeo has been a member of the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals (“PAP”) since 2000. She started out helping the Public Relations/Marketing Committee (PRMC). PRMC provides a liaison to the Philadelphia Bar Association, and presents yearly achievement awards to PAP members. Renee also assisted with planning for PAP’s exhibition booths at the Pennsylvania Governor’s Conference for Women, an event held in Philadelphia in 2005 and 2007. Ms. Mazzeo was awarded with the Leadership Award in 2004 for her work in 2003 with PRMC.

In 2003, Ms. Mazzeo was also a key participant in planning of the Association’s 30th Anniversary celebration. Working with the Professional Development Committee, she has also been involved in selecting the winner for the Association’s Annual Scholarship, given in memory of past President Joan Weldon. Ms. Mazzeo also takes responsibility for the Association’s Legalmen Project. She is currently serving on the 2010 NFPA Convention Committee. As a Board member, her dedication to the profession and association shows in her never-ending willingness to help, assist and volunteer. Even with her busy schedule, she still finds time to attend national and local legal functions to promote the profession and the Association.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shelby County OKs Paralegals in Budget

In Shelby County, Indiana, the County Council adopted its 2009 budget, which includes an increase over the 2008 package. As part of that package, six positions will be added: three deputies to the sheriff's department, a paralegal to the public defender's office, a part time paralegal to the prosecutor's office, and a part time clerk to Shelby Superior Court II.

(Source: The Shelbyville News)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Legal Aid Paralegal Position Eliminated

Tanking right along with the economy is funding for Greater Hartford Legal Aid, which is now facing budget cuts. Sadly, layoffs are part of the package. Six attorneys, one paralegal, and one staff member will find themselves searching for new jobs in March 2009. Countless more people who cannot afford legal representation will find themselves struggling to remain on equal footing with their opponents, despite the hard work of the remaining staff at Legal Aid.

(Source: Layoffs and Legal Aid - Susan Campbell)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Legal Assistant Today Acquired by Litigation Support Today

Last week, Conexion International Media, Inc., publisher of Litigation Support Today, announced that it had acquired Legal Assistant Today from James Publishing, Inc.

Legal Assistant Today has been the only independent trade magazine for paralegals, and it has been published continuously for over 25 years. Conexion, meanwhile, has been publishing Litigation Support Today and producing the International Litigation Support Leaders Conference. Charles Buckwalter, VP of Conexion, claimed in a press release that "Legal Assistant Today shares areas of convergence with our other publication."  He further stated that he is confident that Conexion will be able to maximize promotional opportunities and build upon LAT's strong paid subscriber base to "better serve the information needs of the paralegal profession."

The concern is that, if James Publishing, an established company that specializes in legal publications, is willing to let go of LAT, what will really become of it? Does Conexion understand the difference between paralegals and litigation support professionals, which tend to focus on trial presentation, document review, and other, more technology-intensive roles? Not that the convergence of the two is a bad thing, given the increasing challenges of being both paralegal and litigation support professional in a smaller firm, but will the paralegals specializing in areas other than litigation be left in the dark?

Conexion itself is a "publishing group that specializes in the development of international and niche-market publications[,] particularly those focused on vertical professions or special interests with multiple growth potential in the USA, Hispanic USA and/or the markets of Latin America, Asia-Pacific, or other regions." It's a broad mission that may result in a more superficial publication that caters to no one.

Readers, feel free to comment on this development. Do you read Legal Assistant Today? Does this make you more or less likely to subscribe or renew your subscription? Sound off in the comments.Technorati Tags: , , ,

Friday, November 21, 2008

Paralegal's Research Supplements Motion to Move Trial

Murder defendant Fred Cooper’s attorneys have filed their seventh attempt to move his trial out of Lee County. To supplement the motion, the Public Defender's paralegal, Karen Maus, found thousands of web postings by citizens and the media regarding the case. There are nearly 6,000 pages on four compact disks of articles and postings.

(Source: The News-Press)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pro-active E-Discovery Strategies Can Minimize Risk

E-discovery strategies are critical for enterprises in a world of rising litigation, bankruptcies, mergers and acquisitions, and increased regulation, argues CMS Watch, an independent analyst firm that has just released a half-day online course, "The Fundamentals of E-Discovery."

For those enterprises that do not have a proactive e-discovery strategy in place, getting hit with a lawsuit or regulatory action means a costly search for information needles in very large haystacks.

"The Fundamentals of E-Discovery" course lays out the proper ways to build a successful e-discovery process, and offers advice on which key technical considerations to evaluate when selecting an e-discovery tool.

The courses are available online at: http://cmswatch.com/Education/.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New "Practice of Law" Definition Written

The Hawaii State Bar Association has crafted a new definition for the practice of law in Hawaii and will send its draft to the Hawaii Supreme Court next week.

After a year of occasionally contentious discussions in which professionals like accountants and real estate brokers accused the lawyers of trying to steal their work, the new draft makes a point of saying that the rules are not intended to restrict anyone from doing their usual business.

Instead, it says no person shall “hold themselves out as a lawyer, or being authorized or competent to practice law in this state unless the person is an active member of the state bar in good standing.”

The original draft was one page. The latest version is four pages and contains a dozen exemptions, including the preparation of real estate contracts, purchase and lease agreements and tax returns; selling or soliciting insurance and annuity products; performing paralegal services; and selling legal forms to the public or publishing legal self-help information in print or electronic media.


(Source: Pacific Business News (Honolulu):)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Supervisor-elect Adam Hill Hires Paralegal as Legislative Aide

Supervisor-elect Adam Hill has hired Susan Devine, formerly a litigation paralegal for the San Louis Obispo law firm of Ernst & Mattison. Hall will be sworn in on January 5, 2009.

(Source: SanLouisObispo.com Tribune

Monday, November 10, 2008

Current Economy Offers Opportunity for Paralegals

As law firms struggle with the limping economy, paralegals may have a window of opportunity to prove their value.

With less money to go around, firms need to cut their operating costs, and one way to do that is to hire lower-paid paralegals who can do the work of attorneys, touted toward the end of this article.

(Source: Ocala.com Star Banner)

Paralegal Wins Mega Money Jackpot

P. Kevin Seamon, a 56-year-old paralegal in St. Augustine, Florida, won the November 4 $750,000 Mega Money jackpot. He bought his winning Quick Pick ticket at Pat's Discount in St. Augustine.

(Source: Jacksonville.com)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Paralegal Elected to Laconia School Board

Paralegal Stacie Sirois is the newest member of the Laconia School Board, winning by 75 votes in the only contested school board race in Ward 5.

She defeated former teacher and school administrator Doris Barnes who, at the age of 96, was beginning a new career in local politics. Sirois logged 526 votes to Barnes' 453.

Sirois has two children in the Laconia School system and spent much of her day holding a sign outside Woodland Heights Elementary School.

Fourth grader Duncan said he wanted his mother to lengthen recesses while sixth grader Rebecca would like to not have to walk to school anymore.

"I don't think either of those things are going to happen," Sirois said, laughing.

Sirois is a paralegal with attorney Ed Philpot and graduated from Laconia high School in 1987.





(Source: Citizen.com)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Resource for Paralegal Students Launched

Best Paralegal Schools recently lauched their website, http://www.bestparalegalschools.com, which aims to provide online resources to students searching for paralegal training programs. Best Paralegal Schools allows students to compare paralegal degrees and request information from schools that interest them.

Students will also find articles about various paralegal education options available to them -- from online paralegal training courses to traditional campus programs. Best Paralegal Schools will give prospective students a good idea of what they can expect from paralegal courses, how to choose the best paralegal program, and whether they should pursue paralegal certification.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"Licensed Paralegal" Is a Liar

Remember the "licensed paralegal" who is a juror in the Ted Stevens case? She pulled a disappearing act, claiming that her father had died. In reality, the juror, Marian Hinnant, 52, went to the Breeders Cup races. And yes, her father is alive and well.

I don't know why she's being described as a "licensed" paralegal, when no such animal exists in the United States. Nor do I think she should be a paralegal of any sort, given her disregard for the judicial system. As paralegals, we help uphold the judicial system, not undermine it by causing a trial to be put on hold so we can play the ponies.

Sick.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Paralegal Inducted Into Who's Who

Tracy L. Reinholt, Senior Corporate Paralegal for Simon Property Group, Inc., has been recognized by Cambridge Who's Who for showing dedication, leadership and excellence in all aspects of legal services.

Ms. Reinholt has 20 years of professional experience. Considered an expert in corporate and securities law, she is tasked with tax structuring, managing corporate and organizational projects for retail properties, preparing organizational documents and maintenance of all corporate legal entities. She was honored by the Indiana Paralegal Association with the Paralegal of the Year Award in 2002 and with the President's Award in 1999 and 2000. In 1994, she completed her paralegal training at Indiana University. Ms. Reinholt attributes her success to her drive and desire to succeed in the work she enjoys.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

InterLegis Announces Native File Redaction Capability for Web-based Review

Dallas-based InterLegis, Inc. has introduced a native file redacting capability. Discovery360™, InterLegis’ e-discovery culling and review application, now allows users to redact files in their native format to save time and simplify the document review process.

The ability to perform native file review has been available for some time, but one disadvantage often cited with this method has been the inability to redact native files. Some of today’s most sophisticated review tools do offer workarounds for redacting native files, but these typically involve the added cumbersome step of pausing in the middle of a review to convert the native file to a tiff image, which can then be redacted. This interrupts the steady flow of the review process and still leaves open the risk of inadvertently producing the native, unredacted file.

However, Discovery360 users can now redact native files on the fly, without converting the file to a tiff image in the middle of the review process.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

AG Recognizes Department Paralegals

A plethora of paralegals were honored by Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey at the 56th Annual Attorney General Awards Ceremony.

The prosecution team that obtained a conviction in United States v. Seale, including Connie Lee, Paralegal Specialist, received the Attorney General's Award for Exceptional Service.

The Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service is the Department's second highest award for employee performance. The recipients of this award exemplify the highest commitment to the Department's mission. Stephen J. Foster, Paralegal Specialist, from the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice, was a recipient, as was Samantha E. Ward, Paralegal Specialist, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York. Paralegal Specialist Theresa L. Kneser from the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, Sareta Magee Taylor, Paralegal Specialist from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California were also recipients.

The Attorney General's Award for Excellence in Legal Support recognizes outstanding achievements in the field of legal support to attorneys by paralegal specialists and other legal assistants. The recipients were, from the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees, Tina L. Oppelt, Paralegal Specialist, Office of the U.S. Trustee, Newark, N.J.; from the USMS, John A. Patterson, Torts Claims Administrator, Office of General Counsel; from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon, Karen L. Klever, Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist and Gerri L. Badden, Victim Witness Specialist; from FBI Portland, Ore. Division, Cindy M. Dugan Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist; from the Research and Publications Section, Office of the Solicitor General, Candy P. Lubin, Technical Editor; Paralegal Specialists Susan D. Ross, James K. Davis and Michele M. Klatka.

The Attorney General's Award for Outstanding Service in Freedom of Information Act Administration recognizes exceptional dedication and effort to the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This year's paralegal recipients, from the Office of Legal Counsel, were Paralegal Specialists Tsedey C. Berhanu, Bernsteine B. Garrett, and Richard A. Hughes.



(Source: MarketWatch

Friday, October 24, 2008

Juror Profiles: Licensed Paralegal?

The Anchorage Daily News ran profiles of the jurors in the Senator Ted Stevens case, and I found Juror #4's profile to be particularly interesting:

JUROR #4 FEMALE: A licensed paralegal, works for a mortgage company on bankruptcy issues. Initially thought a defendant should testify, but said she understood why that's not a requirement after the judge instructed her in the 5th Amendment guarantee.


Licensed paralegals still do not exist in the United States.


(Source: Anchorage Daily News)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Paralegal Follows Heart to Nursing

Vicky Tilman is following her heart — and the promise of a higher paycheck — into the nursing field.

Her previous work as a paralegal in Moncks Corner was pleasant and steady, but 40-year-old Tilman knew her boss was nearing retirement, and she ultimately wanted more job security than what her small business employer could provide.

"It's hard to find a job as a paralegal," she said. "I'm not saying they're not important, but there's a lot of them. It's very easy to be replaced, and there's always someone willing to take less money."

Tilman is months away from completing nursing school at Trident Technical College.


If Tilman misses being a paralegal, her nursing degree can also propel her into the lucrative field of legal nurse consulting, which would allow her to use her medical and legal knowledge.

(Source: Charleston Post Courier)

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Note on Lawcrossing.com

At no point did I speak to anyone from Lawcrossing.com or Lawcrossing or its affiliates or subsidiaries regarding paralegal regulation or paralegal salaries. The author of those articles, Stony Olsen, took the "quotes" from this blog without ever contacting me and without my authorization. While it may appear from the articles that he contacted me, he did not, and I was not interviewed or communicated with in any way prior to these articles being published.

I have only spoken with Lawcrossing for the purposes of the paralegal profile published on their website in January 2008.

As a former journalist, I am disgusted by this breach of ethics.

How to Lower Those Outside Fees

The fifth suggestion in Law.com's recent article for in-house legal departments looking to cut costs is perhaps the best: paralegal support. Find a good paralegal, and make the investment:

Consider innovative paralegal or support strategies.

A great paralegal, whether that person is in-house or outside, can save significant amounts of fees. On the other hand, an unskilled or sloppy paralegal can make disastrous mistakes that can increase litigation costs several fold (particularly in the document retention area). Fight for the budget and invest in a top-notch in-house paralegal or legal support professional. Make sure that person has strong interpersonal skills, develops solid relationships with key managers and understands the business. Ask your outside counsel to be alert to training and development opportunities for your paralegal. (And, by the way, be aware of authority suggesting that it may be risky to classify paralegals as exempt rather than hourly workers.)

If you have a good paralegal and can spare the support, think about seconding him or her to work directly for the law firm during a busy period on your case. In one hard fought wage-and-hour certification battle involving dozens of declarations, I asked my client to assign its excellent paralegal to us for a two-week period. The paralegal assisted in reviewing witness declarations, obtaining signatures and working towards the filing. The assignment was a nice change of pace for her and also resulted in fee savings. And because she was working closely with company managers and employees, she developed relationships that were helpful when the assignment ended.


(Source: Law.com)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Jordan Scrhader Ramis Hires New Paralegal

Jordan Schrader Ramis PC hired Holly P. Iburg as a paralegal in the firm’s dirt law practice group.

Iburg will support the firm’s real estate and land use practices and has 10 years of legal experience. Formerly an attorney in Oregon and California, she has 12 years of development and construction experience, including serving as vice president of operations for a land development company.


(Source: Daily Journal of Commerce)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bose McKinney & Evans Hires Paralegal Amy Case

Indianapolis law firm of Bose McKinney & Evans LLP has hired Amy Case as a paralegal in the Litigation Group.

Case assists with the preparation of federal, state and county cases for trial and settlement. Among her duties are client intake and preparation, preparing pleadings, calendaring events, and scheduling and attending depositions, mediations, and bench and jury trials. She also manages and updates litigation files, assists with correspondence to clients, opposing counsel, courts and third parties and prepares discovery to be forwarded to opposing counsel. Case has experience assisting in a variety of litigation areas including employment, real estate, intellectual property, creditors' rights and insurance disputes.

Originally from Mooresville, Indiana, Case also served as a bankruptcy litigation paralegal for another law firm, as well as a corporate paralegal for Union Acceptance Corporation.

Graduating with her Bachelor of Science from Ball State University, Case also received her associate's degree in paralegal studies degree from Ivy Tech State College. Currently residing in Indianapolis, Case is a member of the Indiana Paralegal Association, is active in her church and enjoys cooking and riding bikes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Highlights of NFPA's 2008 Policy Meeting

The 2008 Policy Meeting of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations opened on Saturday, October 11 and lasted through Sunday, October 12. During that time, delegates voted on agenda items and paid tribute to the profession. On Saturday morning, NFPA honored Phyllis Dunton, Illinois Paralegal Association, and Koann Lawrence, Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association, in Memoriam.

Starting with the basics, 46 associations were present for voting, and 86 people passed PACE this past year. On May 1-3, 2009, the regulation and leadership conference will be held in Washington state. The Paralegal Association of Wisconsin will be rejoining NFPA, and since last year, Korean-American Paralegal Association in Los Angeles and South Florida Paralegal Association have joined. NFPA is also offering a new membership benefit: health insurance.

As for the agenda topics:

Practicing Paralegal Resolution
NFPA delegates voted to remove the word "practicing" from NFPA's Bylaws, which on one hand will open up the membership to paralegals with nontraditional careers, such as paralegal educators. On the other hand, it will open up membership to paralegals who possibly have competing interests. At this juncture, it will be important for the individual associations to define "paralegal" for their membership to include paralegals with nontraditional careers but also exclude "paralegals" who will have competing interests. Delegates and members will need to be vigilant to avoid appointing or electing a person with an obvious conflict of interest relating to their nontraditional role.

New Definition of Paralegals
The resolution to amend NFPA’s definition of paralegal to include "and does not violate applicable unauthorized practice of law statutes, administrative laws, court rules, or case law" was defeated by a margin of 8 votes.

Military Paralegal Membership
NFPA created a Military Sustaining Member-at-Large category to allow military members to join NFPA without joining a local association. Due to the nature of the military, this would allow military paralegals deployed overseas to be members of NFPA.

Vice President, Director of Marketing
In a majority vote, the delegates amended the NFPA By-Laws to add a Vice President, Director of Marketing to the Board. Since marketing is what attracts and keeps members, it was widely supported by 40 associations (and opposed by six). Marketing, which translates to branding, will help NFPA continue to forge its identity as the leader of the paralegal profession.

Award Winners
The award winners were announced over lunch on Saturday.
Paralegal of the Year – Cynthia Quinn
First Place West Group Scholarship – Kathleen Nolan
Second Place West Group Scholarship Winner – Laverne Scott
William R. Robie Award – Beth King, RP
PACE Ambassador Award РK. Paezlè Harris and the Georgia Association of Paralegals
PACE Scholarship – Georgette Neal
Local Outstanding Leader Award – Renee Mazio, Philadelphia Association of Paralegals

Sunday, October 12, 2008

2009 New NFPA Officers

Left to right: Cheryl Corning, Region V Director; Sandy Heintz, Region IV Director; Mary McKay, RP, Region III Director; Helen Federline, RP, Region II Director; Theresa Prater, RP, Region I Director; Georgette Lovelace, RP, President; Tracey Young, RP, VPPI; Ann Price, RP, VP-PACE; Stephen Imondi, RP, Secretary-Director of Operations; Anita Haworth, RP, Past President-Board Advisor
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

2008 NFPA Convention: CLEs and Personality Types

Thursday at the 2008 Annual Convention of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, the attendees had the opportunity to enhance their knowledge through CLE seminars and National Federation of Paralegal Associations training. In the morning Coordinator and Future Board Member Training, Anita Haworth, RP, NFPA President, and Linda McGirr, Vice President and Director of Membership, guided attendees through the basics of being on the Board or being a Coordinator. Because the group was small, attendees had the opportunity to ask questions on the specific coordinator positions that they were considering.

On the CLE menu, a plethora of options were given to attendees. I attended Dr. Paula Gabier’s “Meeting Juror Expectations in the 21st Century,” a fantastic session dissecting the different generations that are eligible to serve on juries. Dr. Gabier and John Christopher, her co-presenter, noted that, when used properly, technology is not “slick” but a necessity to illustrate points at trial. In Brian Duffy’s “Profitability and Paralegal Utilization,” Duffy noted that, with the proper use of paralegals, law firms can reduce their costs by one-third while still providing high-quality legal services to clients. Michael West’s “Investigative Issues and Techniques” detailed what to look for when hiring an investigator to assist with cases. For example, there is a big difference between a retired police officer and a trained investigator, he said.

Thursday’s keynote speaker was Dr. Taibi Kahler, originator of the Process Therapy Model ™ and The Process Communication Model ®. He detailed the six different personality types and how to work with each. Some personalities, when under duress, self-flagellate, while others become self-righteous. Each personality type has its own needs, and knowing those needs is key to successfullly navigating the workplace.

On the policy meeting floor

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Justice Clinton-Imber at the NFPA Convention

Honorable Annabelle Clinton-Imber, Arkansas Supreme Court Justice, addresses NFPA members as the Friday luncheon speaker. Justice Clinton-Imber began her legal career as a paralegal in Houston and is a graduate of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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At the NFPA Booth

Stephen Imondi, RP and Wayne Akin man NFPA's booth at the 2008 Annual Convention.


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Thursday, October 9, 2008

NFPA Presidential Candidates

Susan Ippoliti and Georgette Lovelace, R.P., candidates for NFPA president, socialize at the Thursday night vendor reception.


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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

ArPA Wednesday Welcome Reception

ArPA's Wednesday night welcome reception was well-attended by paralegals, NFPA board members, and even local attorneys. Wine and cheese were served in a low-key setting, and door prizes were awarded. Paula Adams of ArPA was officially presented with her RP pin during the reception.
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Monday, October 6, 2008

Keeping NFPA's Focus on Advancing the Paralegal Profession

As delegates gear up to travel to Rogers this week for the 2008 NFPA Annual Convention, there are three more agenda topics that can make or break the advancement of the paralegal profession.

Defining "Practicing Paralegal." This agenda topic would delete "practicing" altogether from NFPA's Bylaws, leaving "paralegal" open to a wide variety of interpretations - most notably, someone working as a vendor who once was a paralegal. If this Pandora's box is opened, a vendor could sit on a local paralegal association's board -- or the NFPA Board. If that happens, instead of working toward paralegals' best interests, the vendor would work to advance its own interests, which are not always in line with those of paralegals. Instead, NFPA should actually define "practicing paralegal" and make it inclusive: those who work in non-traditional roles; those who do substantial pro bono work; those who are former paralegals and current paralegal educators. If I had a vote, it would be no on this topic.

Inclusion of Military Paralegals as Individual Sustaining Members. A hearty yes goes out to this topic, although it does need a friendly amendment suggesting appropriate dues, since the original topic leaves it as "local association dues," and those widely vary. Perhaps a $30 discount from Individual Sustaining Member dues would be appropriate for military paralegals who wish to join as Individual Sustaining Members. Due to the nature of the military, joining a local association is difficult, and this option would encourage military paralegals to join NFPA.

Create an Access to Legal Services Coordinator. No. NFPA has a pro bono coordinator, it seems like this is a second coordinator that would do essentially the same thing. Further, NFPA needs to focus on regulation and exams and promoting the profession. While access to legal services is important, it varies in each locality and is best left to local associations, not to mention local bar associations. As paralegals, there is only so much we can do to ensure that access to justice is equal. At some point, lawyers are needed because paralegals, quite simply, can't practice law.

Note: I will be blogging at the 2008 NFPA Convention this week. Stay tuned for updates!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Grandfathering Provisions Are Sunset for a Reason

In 2000, the grandfathering provision of the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE), allowing paralegals with experience but not formal education to take the exam, sunset. The earliest Registered Paralegals (RPs) listed on the National Federation of Paralegal Association's website are from 1996, meaning that the grandfathering provision extended for at least four years.

Now, an agenda topic at the annual convention wants to resurrect the grandfathering period, for all the wrong reasons - namely, so that paralegals who have not met the educational requirements to take PACE can take the exam anyway. This is a grave mistake.

The grandfathering period was already extended once, from 1999 to 2000. As professionals, paralegals - and NFPA in particular - should be promoting education. I re-read the agenda topic, and I'm somewhat disturbed by the reference to education as a "financial burden." Getting the degree is an investment in a paralegal's future, not a burden of any sort.

It is a mistake to resurrect the grandfathering period because education is a key component of any profession, and we as paralegals should strive for those standards in order to be recognized as such.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hennepin County Gets Grant to Hire Paralegal

Minnesota's Hennepin County is getting a $500,000 federal grant to solve cold cases. The Department of Justice grant will be used to hire a cold case team that includes a paralegal, as well as a full-time detective, a forensic scientist, a prosecutor, and the use of the county sheriff's crime lab, which is one of three DNA testing labs in the state.

The staff will test DNA samples from homicide and rape cases dating as far back as 1991. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that, while the DNA evidence from these cases is well-preserved, the county has been lacking the means to analyze the DNA. This grant, and the help of a paralegal on the team, will help clear the cold case backlog.

(Source: StarTribune.com)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mandatory, Not Voluntary, Is Necessary for the Profession

One of the National Federation of Paralegal Association's (NFPA) member organizations submitted an agenda topic to allow NFPA to support all types of regulation, not just mandatory licensure. As it stands now, NFPA can only promote regulation if it meets the minimum standards it has set: formal education requirements, an exam, a character requirement, and a grandparenting provision. But some associations want NFPA to support all forms of regulation, even if they do not meet those minimum standards.

This is a mistake. With the sour tang of the Wisconsin Supreme Court denial still on our tongues, this should be a motivator to push even harder for mandatory regulation. This is not the time to compromise, especially since, even more recently, the Indiana Supreme Court denied voluntary regulation. This is Indiana, which is full of Registered Paralegals and home to NFPA's own president.

Instead, waving the Richlin v. Chertoff decision in the air, we need to demand recognition as professionals through licensure. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that our work warrants reimbursement, which would not be the case if paralegal work was not valuable and substantive.

There cannot be an acceptance of voluntary regulation as a "stepping stone" to mandatory licensure. That is accepting defeat, accepting the patronizing pats on the head that mean that we as paralegals will never fully be recognized for our contributions to law offices, corporations, and other entities. Voluntary certification creates a market for uneducated, unskilled paralegals who of course will be paid less than paralegals who received the voluntary certification.

There is not a single state in the entire United States that thinks paralegals are essential enough and professional enough to require regulation. Not a single state - it's a travesty, considering that paralegals are the lifeblood of any law office and perform essential, cost-effective functions in corporations, government positions, and other non-traditional roles.

NFPA needs to continue to push for mandatory regulation as the leader of the profession, which is why this agenda item should not pass.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Paralegal Touted for County Treasurer

In Pittsylvania County, Virginia, M.K. "Kate" Berger is one of the candidates for County Treasurer, and she's getting a hearty thumbs-up from a county resident.

The first thing cited in the opinion piece is Berger's paralegal experience:

[Berger] has a general practice paralegal certificate from the Paralegal Institute of Silver Springs, Md. This has assisted her in successfully operating her own paralegal service company since 1987. She has acquired a broad knowledge of federal and state tax laws, as well as experience in understanding and interpretation of those laws through her paralegal services with numerous legal firms in Pittsylvania County and Danville.


It is heartening to see paralegal skills touted as a reason to elect someone to a position of such high responsibility. The knowledge and skills gained from being a paralegal extend far outside the law office.

(Source: WWW.WPCVA.COM)

Yes to Creating an Entry Level Paralegal Exam

At the 2008 National Federation of Paralegal Associations' (NFPA) Annual Convention, being held next week in Rogers, Arkansas, several agenda topics that will shape the future of the paralegal profession are being discussed. One topic, submitted by the Arkansas Paralegal Association (ArPA), is the creation of an entry-level exam for paralegals.

Currently, there is no entry level examination for paralegals -- from either NFPA or the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). However, NALA does have their Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal exam, which can be taken directly out of school. NFPA only has its Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE), which requires experience in addition to the completion of a degree. ArPA proposes the creation of a committee to devise a plan, including costs, questions, and as many details as possible, for such an exam.

The committee would be composed of Registered Paralegals in good standing, and it would meet, mine test banks, and make this entry level exam a reality for the profession, which is one of the many things paralegals need. Many entry level paralegals are being steered by their schools to the NALA exam, which is a grueling two days. NFPA would seek to create a much shorter exam, more in line with PACE, that would truly test the skills and knowledge of paralegals with their newly-minted certificates and degrees. It would also give employers a way to measure the readiness of their new paralegals.

Let's face it, we don't always learn everything we need to know in school, but if we can demonstrate a basic level of competency, it will be that much easier for skilled, serious paralegals to land the challenging jobs they want.

If you are a member of NFPA and your Primary Representative is attending the convention, be sure to tell her (or him) that you do want NFPA to create an entry level exam. It has the potential to go a long way toward changing the profession and furthering the image of paralegals as actual professionals, and I strongly support this agenda item.

Friday, September 26, 2008

From Paralegal to Hip Tranquil Chick

In her 20s, Kimberly Wilson took up yoga to handle the stress from her job as a paralegal. The harmony, health, and balance of yoga propelled her to open her own yoga studio in her living room, shortly after she took a new job running the paralegal program at Georgetown University.

This small practice, graced with Wilson's extra touches - tea, cookies, aromatherapy, and inspirational readings - blossomed into ten classes per week on top of her 40-hour workweek. After two weeks at a yoga instructor training course, she quit her job.

Meanwhile, as an alert and budding entrepreneur, Miss Wilson observed hordes of young professionals living in the District who, like her, were working themselves to death and yearning for a sense of community. Creatively meeting this need, she envisioned a warm and thriving yoga studio that would heal stressed-out bodies while nurturing lonely souls. Embedded in that vision was a sense of adventure and a new life for her, draped with her own style and flair.

...

Today, Miss Wilson leads a hip yoga enterprise called Tranquil Space in the metro [Washington, D.C.] area, with studios in Dupont Circle, Arlington and Bethesda that serve more than 1,200 people each week. She recently outgrew her Dupont location and built out a new eco-friendly studio that spans three floors, including a new showroom for the TranquiliT "eco-luxe lifestyle" clothing line she designs and a spa.

She runs the business and its spinoff nonprofit, the Tranquil Space Foundation, which focuses on empowering young women, and has written a book, "Hip Tranquil Chick: A Guide to Life on and off the Yoga Mat." Besides all that, she gets to do what she loves every day: build a community of people who share similar passions and values, and help them find renewal amid their otherwise frenetic lives. Miss Wilson is writing another book — "Tranquilista: A Girl-on-the-Go's Guide to a Mindfully Extravagant Life" — and does a column, blog and podcast on the yoga lifestyle.


(Source: Washington Times)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Essential Tech Tools for Paralegals

As a paralegal in a small firm, I cannot afford to be afraid of technology. There are times when I will be asked to troubleshoot an issue or recommend a product, and in order to do that properly, I need to stay on top of the latest trends. My technology toolkit consists of:

Gadgets

  • BlackBerry Curve. I recently upgraded from a separate PDA and cell phone, and I am enamored with the Curve. My contacts, calendar, task list, and memos are all integrated, and I can read my e-mail or get directions using Google Maps, which is almost as good as a GPS service. Bonus: the 2.0 megapixel camera, which can be used to take pictures for work and play. I consider a smart phone a must because of the integrated PDA functions.



  • My laptop, a Dell Inspiron 1525 with an Intel Duo Core processor, 3GB of RAM, and a 250GB hard drive. It allows me to work from home (from any room in the house, thanks to built-in wireless connectivity), read up on technology trends, and teach myself office productivity programs (I have the Office 2007 suite.) I also recently used it to give a demonstration of Outlook features to the rest of the office by hooking up a monitor for one side of the room to use. The other side was able to view the demo on the Inspiron's crisp 15.4" screen. Buy the best technology you can afford (i.e. more memory, not necessarily a fully-loaded gaming machine, unless you're a gamer); the investment will allow you to keep the machine longer. I have been using Vista with SP1, and I've found it to be relatively stable and user-friendly.


  • Apple iPod nano. Mine is a 2nd Generation; the one pictured here is the latest, which includes a video screen (great for those commuting on public transit). I listen to podcasts on technology, litigation, and other topics of interest during my commute by plugging my iPod into an adapter in my car. Ok, and it's just plain fun.


Magazines

  • Legal Technology News, which is geared toward IT professionals but has interesting tidbits about the latest hardware and software for law practices. If you're looking to bridge the gap between the legal department and the IT department, LTN will help you speak their language. It also publishes an annual resource guide, with products divided into categories, i.e., document management.

  • PC World, which my office subscribes to and which publishes great tips and ideas for computing. PC World has shown me some of the best free programs available and helped me wrangle Vista.


Technology is not something to fear, especially in this rapidly changing world. By investing in your own technology education, you invest in your career.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hire a Paralegal, Keep an Attorney

Lumberton City Attorney Robert Price agreed to stay on until March, partially because the City agreed to hire a paralegal to ease his workload. The City hasn't had a paralegal for two years, but hiring a paralegal is definitely in the City's budget.


(Source: FayObserver.com)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Female Paralegals Paid Less Than Male Counterparts

There is currently a pretty big kerfluffle over this American Community Survey report released by the U.S. Census Bureau. At the heart of the controversy is the finding that female paralegals receive lower salaries than their male counterparts. The study revealed that the median salary for female paralegals is $42,600, and the median salary for male paralegals is $45,700 -- in other words, female paralegals make 93 cents on the man's dollar.

The knee-jerk reaction is a resounding, "What?" After all, the paralegal field is dominated by women. Are male paralegals really doing a better job than their female couterparts? It's sexism, is the outcry.

In thinking it over, though, I wonder how much of it is women who are unwilling or unable to negotiate their salaries. With the lessons of Debra Condren's amBITCHous ringing in my head, I am certain that we as women are not asking for salaries befitting our worth. Blaming men, the good old boys' structure of the legal field, and firms for not being conscious of the pay gap is easy. What is hard is to ask for the raise that is deserved, the salary that is fitting, and take ownership of your career. Simply put, it is up to women to assert themselves in salary negotiations, no matter how difficult it is. Playing the victim is not going to result in raises; action is.

Furthermore, the survey does not take into account maternity leave or education levels. Male paralegals are deliberate; they typically are not promoted from secretarial positions but have started as paralegals. It truly is a career for them, and they typically have the credentials to back that up, which may explain some, but not all, of the pay gap.

Right now, we as paralegals have much bigger fish to fry than a pay gap. We are fighting to be recognized as professionals, and complaining about a gender pay gap is not going to give us that recognition. What will give us this recognition is mandatory regulation. Not one single state out of 50 in the United States thinks that a paralegal's job is so important that it requires mandatory regulation. Not one.

Complaining about a pay gap isn't going to change that. In fact, it will create discord between male and female paralegals when what we really need is a unified front in our quest for being recognized as professionals. And if male paralegals truly are more valued than female paralegals, alienating the men (inevitable if we resent them for higher salaries) probably isn't the best strategy.

By the way, if you haven't already, read amBITCHous. It's a fascinating and very useful look at how women subconsciously sabotage themselves, and how they can break that pattern.

The study in PDF is below; click to enlarge.


acs-09 - Get more Business Documents




Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fios Adds Registered Paralegal to Consulting Team

Fios, Inc. has announced that Cynthia Bateman, former global privacy and e-discovery director from Georgia-Pacific, is one of three new additions to their team.

Bateman comes to Fios after spending more than 13 years with Georgia-Pacific, most recently serving as the global privacy and e-discovery director. Bateman is adept at developing and implementing e-discovery programs that are legally defensible, cost efficient and in compliance with regulatory and court-defined rules. With nearly 20 years of industry experience, she earned her paralegal certification from the National Center for Paralegal Training in Atlanta and is certified by the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE). Bateman is a frequent speaker and contributor on best practices and challenges related to legal holds tracking, data accessibility and collections. She is an active member of The Sedona Conference, participating in both Working Group 1, focused on electronic document retention and production and in Working Group 6, focused on international electronic information management, discovery and disclosure.


Monday, September 15, 2008

When Social Events Override Professional Development

Across the country, national involvement takes a backseat for whatever reason. I have heard anecdotal evidence from other former board members across the country, and it prompts me to ask why national involvement isn't a priority, why so many paralegals seem unable or unwilling to see outside their geographic area.

In some cases, boards plan programs like pizza lunches and social events. It prompts another question: how many other paralegal associations are sacrificing professional development for purely social reasons? Is this actually attracting paralegals or repelling them? Or is it attracting a certain type of paralegal, the person who believes that being a paralegal is just a way to pay the bills and nothing more?

Certainly, I have nothing against socials. When I first relocated to Western Massachusetts, WMPA held an after work social gathering every month, an informal way to get to know fellow paralegals, in addition to dinners featuring educational speakers. My favorite part of the conventions are the social events; there is an amazing sense of camaraderie, and being with people who are as enthusiastic about being paralegals as I am is exhilarating and inspiring.

At the same time, though, we as paralegals are struggling to be seen as professionals. Across the country, we're watching paralegals' efforts at regulation be thwarted. Just this year, the Supreme Court ruled that paralegal fees are recoverable at market rate, rather than just the cost to the attorney. With this climate of contrasting attitudes, it is imperative that we band together nationally to present a united front, to carefully watch legislation in other states, and to be involved in our association at the national level. Social events are nice, but they are not going to transform us into professionals, nor will they project the image of paralegals as professionals.

There is no magic bullet that will ensure paralegals will be viewed as professionals, but keeping on top of our professional development goes a long way toward that goal. The local association -- and the board of that association -- should lead the way, guiding its members toward professional development and national involvement. Without that guidance, what is the incentive to join a local paralegal association? What is the incentive to be involved in the local association? I ask myself that question, and I fervently wish that an association existed in the same town as my firm so that we could hold meetings and educational sessions during lunch and be involved on the national level.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Preparation Key to Making Yourself Recession-Proof

"Recession" is an ugly word, but it's a word that has become part of our daily vocabulary. With "recession" comes an even uglier word, "layoff." It can happen to anyone, no matter how hard-working.

While no one is truly "recession-proof," here are some tips to become "recession resistant":

1. Be informed. Watch what is going on in your department. Is there tension? Have there been layoffs or a lack of new hires? Are expenditures being cut? Staying on top of these indicators is important in order to assess the health of your firm, and in turn, your position.

2. Make yourself invaluable. Take on assignments from other attorneys in your department or even outside your department, if work is slow. Let the powers that be know that you are ready, willing, and able to tackle that next challenge. Partners especially like to know that they are getting the best value for their dollar in a versatile paralegal.

3. Know where you stand. Take a long, hard look at those performance reviews. If there is something that needs improvement, now is the time to do it.

4. Make sure your work product is the highest quality and that you can stay on top of deadlines. Be flexible, be the go-to person, and take advantage of any opportunity to strengthen your skills.

(Source: lawjobs.com Career Center)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Book Recommendation: The Paralegal's Handbook



The Paralegal's Handbook: A Complete Reference for All Your Daily Tasks, written by Anita Haworth, RP and Lesley Cox, RP is an excellent resource for paralegals, both novice and experienced. This is the first book I reached for to learn how to handle a personal injury case, and I know that I will use it many times in the future. Using straightforward language, Haworth and Cox cover investigations, fact checking, document management, discovery, trial preparation, and different areas of practice. All the information is neatly organized, and as a bonus, they included a section of forms at the end. It's a fantastic resource, one that is finally the how-to manual needed for succeeding in the day to day tasks of the job.

There was some concern when the book was first printed, as Haworth had insisted that Kaplan not use her title as NFPA President on the cover. When Haworth first received copies of the book with her title on the cover, she was shocked and horrified. (Haworth would not use her position as NFPA for personal gain.) Behind the cut is her letter to NFPA leaders and members, and Kaplan's letter acknowledging their error.



Leaders,

I want to bring something to your attention. It is a personal issue, but one that also affects me professionally and in my position as NFPA President. About a year and a half ago, I agreed to co-author a book for Kaplan Publishing. As part of the negotiations, Kaplan wanted to list my title as President of NFPA on the front cover of the book. I discussed it with the Board because I was uncomfortable with that idea. I felt it was inappropriate, and the Board agreed. I felt it would give an appearance of impropriety in that someone might think I was using my position as NFPA President for personal gain. I also did not want it to appear that NFPA was endorsing the book. While I understood Kaplan’s desire to use that for marketing purposes, I told them to remove the title from the cover. They agreed to do that. This was on June 14, 2007.

The final manuscript was provided to Kaplan this spring. Part of the agreement was that I and my co-author would have the right to review the final version of the book before it was printed. However, that did not occur as Kaplan was in a hurry to get the book to print. Although we kept asking to see the book and were told we’d get to see the initial press copy, I did not know it had been printed until I received a box full of books yesterday. To my horror, they did not change the front cover, and my title is listed on the front cover of the book right under my name. I immediately informed the NFPA Board of this.

I also immediately contacted my editor and brought this to his attention. I forwarded to him the email exchange wherein I asked them to change the front cover and remove my title – and his agreement to do so. I asked him what Kaplan was going to do to correct this very serious error. He informed me that Kaplan has already printed and shipped to suppliers a total of 3000 books. They cannot recall the books without totally cancelling the book. Kaplan will provide me with a letter that I will provide to you acknowledging that it was their error and accepting full responsibility for the error. Further, they will change the front cover of the book so that all future printings do not list my title.

I am extremely upset about this and horrified at the position in which Kaplan has placed me and NFPA with their error. Please accept my sincere apologies. Further, please feel free to share this email, and the letter from the publisher which I will provide, with anyone you desire.



Letter from Kaplan to A. Haworth - Get more Legal Forms