Sunday, August 31, 2008

Happy Labor Day - Launching Our First Survey!

In honor of Labor Day, A Paralegal's Blog is launching its first survey. What are you doing for Labor Day weekend?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Virtual Paralegal in a Virtual Work World of One's Own

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly has an interview this week with virtual paralegal Dawn M. Draper of Traverse City, Mich. A virtual paralegal can do almost everything a paralegal in an office can do, except work with the file cabinet, of course. The qualifications are the same, and according to Draper, the pay is higher.

To avoid conflicts of interest, she signs non-compete agreements. Being virtual is still new territory for paralegals, but this article provides some interesting insight into the life of a virtual paralegal.

For more, visit Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

ABA Gives Thumbs Up to Legal Outsourcing

I'm very disappointed in the ABA for legitimizing outsourcing legal work to foreign countries. They seem to have forgotten that they are the American Bar Association. This opinion was released on August 5 but was not announced until yesterday. Not only paralegals are affected by this, either. Contract lawyers, often hired to conduct document reviews, are seeing their jobs at risk as well, and one lawyer wants to know what the point of going to law school is if the jobs are just going to be shipped overseas anyway.

The American Bar Association has waded into the debate over legal outsourcing with an ethics opinion blessing the outsourcing trend as 'a salutary one for our globalized economy.'

A growing number of legal process outsourcing (LPO) companies have sprouted up in recent years to offer the services of lawyers abroad to handle the most labor-intensive aspects of U.S. legal matters, especially document review in large-scale litigation. India has been the most popular destination for legal outsourcing because it has a common-law system and English is widely spoken.

Companies operating there have hailed the advisory by the ABA's ethics committee as a major step forward for their nascent industry.

Of course companies operating overseas are excited. But what about small firms, who don't tend to outsource? Yes, this is great -- for Big Law Firms, which want to drive costs down while still producing quality work product. But keep in mind, you get what you pay for.

Ethics Opinion 08-451... states that sending legal work overseas is ethically permissible as long as the lawyer doing the outsourcing takes steps to ensure the protection of client confidences and preservation of attorney-client privilege.

What are the steps to protecting client confidences and attorney-client privilege? "Here, sign this waiver." It's just not enough.

The full opinion is behind the cut.

ABA Ethics Opinion - Outsourcing - Get more Legal Forms


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Beaufort County Eliminates Staff Attorney Post, Considers Hiring Paralegal

Beaufort County[, North Carolina] has eliminated its full-time staff attorney position, which was held by Kelly Golden, in this year's budget.

County administrator Gary Kubic said the move was part of a re-organization of several departments. He said he would not replace Golden.

"I'm thinking about bringing in a paralegal and farming out the legal work to law firms," said Kubic.

(Source: Career Center - Fight the Urge to Multitask at the Firm

There are three calls on hold, your email inbox is rapidly reaching critical mass, your cell phone is doing that vibrating-jig right off the edge of your desk (because you do keep it on vibrate at work, right?), and you've got a giant brief due tomorrow morning. For most people, that's just a typical day as a paralegal, an artful juggling act that also includes riding on a unicycle and playing the kazoo while avoiding growling lions. Ok, maybe not that last part, but recent studies show that multitasking may do more harm than good.

When people multitask at work, they're not actually doing multiple tasks simultaneously. That's impossible for the human brain. Rather, ...they continuously toggle from one activity to another. Recent studies show that not only does their work suffer from this reduced level of attention but as much as 25 minutes is actually lost as recovery time after each interruption. Multitasking thus results in wasted time and more frequent mistakes.

Staying focused is a perpetual struggle for legal assistants. Unlike lawyers, who can shut their doors and ignore the telephone, legal assistants, by the very nature of their jobs, are required to juggle tasks all day, every day. There are documents to create, revisions to make, phone calls and e-mails to answer and incoming mail to process. 'Ability to multitask' is a phrase regularly found in legal assistant job postings. But in fact, there is no such thing as multitasking at work. There are only interruptions that result in confusion and details slipping through the cracks in concentration.

Click through to find out how to hop off the unicycle, send the lions back to their dens, and toss the kazoo aside (your lawyers will need to be on board with this):
The advent of new, powerful technologies, coupled with the separation of paralegal functions into a position distinct from that of the legal secretary, has resulted in heightened expectations. Rather than working for one or at most two attorneys, each assistant now works for three, four, five or more. This means broader caseloads and multiple sets of lawyer preferences to memorize.

A paralegal might "simultaneously" review and assemble 10,000 pages of document production, prepare an exhibit list and mark deposition designations while answering questions by e-mail for a lawyer who's in a hearing.

The secretary, meanwhile, answers a half-dozen phone lines while creating a new complaint, interacting with accounting about the month's invoices, making markup edits to a brief, processing the incoming mail and arranging her boss' next business trip.


Newer technologies and ways of working need not hamstring legal assistants. They can and should work for them rather than the other way around. So here are some ways for lawyers to make sure that happens:

Do not pick up. Let calls roll to voice mail by default, with an option to reach the assistant for immediate help. Not only is that what voice mail is for but most people prefer to leave a message in their own words. About two-thirds of my lawyers' callers are annoyed at having to speak to me before being transferred to voice mail. A large segment of the remaining third are telemarketers who waste my time.

Slow down. E-mail is a powerful tool, but it can be a ball and chain when every message requires an immediate reply. Stop expecting this kind of responsiveness to e-mail. When a quick response is needed, use the telephone, take a stroll to the assistant's desk or consider using instant messaging.

Plan realistically. Don't play chicken with deadlines and remember assistants work for multiple attorneys and have multiple priorities. Learn to wait patiently for lower-priority work and accept that critical work sometimes requires a level of focus that excludes less pressing matters.

Delegate appropriately. Lawyers should divide work appropriately between the legal secretary and paralegal. ...

Staff adequately. Standardize procedures and ensure that well-trained support staff are always available. Word-processing personnel, for example, should be a firm's resident experts on WordPerfect or Microsoft Word. But too often, these employees are the least well-trained and can't effectively assist with anything more complex than straight typing.

No amount of technology or job specialization will make legal assistants superhuman. Multitasking is a costly and counterproductive way for them to work. Leading-edge technologies and streamlined work processes can increase their productivity and lower stress, but only if expectations remain realistic. Lawyers, assistants and secretaries must harness the technologies before the technologies harness them.

(Source: Career Center)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Virtual Paralegals Manage Cases at a Distance

In addition to overseas outsourcing, virtual paralegals may be the next cost-saving measure for law firms. Depending on how well you work independently, this could be a lucrative field with a fantastic commute and relaxed dress code.

Paralegals no longer have to be at arm's length from attorneys who need assistance with legal research or administrative tasks. In fact, they don't even need to be in the same country.

Internet connectivity has spawned a cottage industry of virtual paralegals who are hired as independent contractors and handle the same duties as their more traditional in-house colleagues.

As the modern workplace has evolved for lawyers, so too has it changed for enterprising support staff who launch their own businesses and often build client bases through word-of-mouth and professional connections made during their law firm years.

Paralegals are just a small part of the larger marketplace for virtual assistants, a marketplace in which businesses of all shapes and sizes can lean on administrative personnel who work from their home offices and leverage technology to create a less structured work day and more time for family.

Though the virtual assistant industry has experienced considerable growth in the last three years, virtual paralegals remain a relatively unknown resource.

Still, people like Cynthia Matthews are optimistic. The Wethersfield, Conn., resident began working in law offices in the 1970s and, after several decades in state employment, got the urge to return to the legal field. Several years ago, she went back to school to obtain an associate's degree in paralegal studies. She recently started advertising her services online as she attempts to build a side business while still working for the state Department of Public Utility Control.

Her desire is to get involved in real estate work and cater to in-state solo practitioners and firms with fewer than five attorneys.

"That's the market I'm trying to capture," she said. "You have to have a business sense [to become a virtual paralegal]. You need the practical experience."

Matthews expects word-of-mouth will bring the most clients, but she also mentioned that paid Web sites exist where virtual assistants can bid for projects.


Because there is not yet a formal certification process for virtual paralegals or general assistants, it's impossible to say how many are doing business, said Sue Kramer, marketing director for the International Virtual Assistants Association.

"So many don't belong to our organization, or they're doing the work of a virtual assistant , but they don't even know there's a name for what they do," said Kramer, whose group has more than 600 members in 16 countries.

If starting from scratch with clients, virtual paralegals have numerous options for doing business. They can charge an introductory low hourly rate to attract new clients; they can offer a certain amount of work for a monthly retainer; they can charge a per-project rate after both sides agree on estimated length of the project; and they can even work out a barter system with the lawyers for trading services.

Virtual paralegals generally charge $15 to $20 an hour for basic data input, and more complex matters start in the neighborhood of $30 an hour.

To make a business work, the "most critical" technology requirements are a telephone and high-speed Internet service to access Web-based software that allows one to manage and track projects, said Laurie Mapp, who owns a virtual paralegal business in Alberta, Canada.

"Most communication is by phone, e-mail or chat," she said. "A webcam may make video conferences possible, too."

Mapp started her business last year and though she has not connected with any Connecticut lawyers, her desire is to create an international clientele through online networking efforts. She plans to enhance her local client base through a marketing campaign this fall.

For an hourly rate, Mapp drafts court documents such as pleadings and motions, conducts research, proofreads briefs, reviews transcripts and handles large document redactions, among other things.

She said one of the main advantages of a virtual paralegal compared with a traditional paralegal is the lower cost: virtual paralegals are not paid salary and benefits.

"A virtual legal assistant is available whenever the workload is heavy enough to justify it, but in slow times there is no need to worry about layoffs or high salaries," said Mapp, who has a degree in paralegal studies and worked more than a decade in law firms focused mainly on litigation.

But it's not easy to win lawyers over to the idea of a virtual assistant for a variety of reasons.

"It is challenging convincing lawyers that they can trust staff or virtual contractors to get the work done, to do a great job and yet not be under their eagle eyes," Mapp said. "Law firms often aren't comfortable with technology, so that is another challenge ... getting them familiar with the tools that make virtual partnerships work."


Janice Favreau, who is the president of the Central Connecticut Paralegal Association, said her concerns about a company using a virtual paralegal are also tied to technology, but from a security standpoint.

Favreau said she wasn't familiar with virtual paralegals, but after doing some research one of her primary points was the challenge of maintaining client confidentiality by securing information that is being e-mailed or sent over the Internet.

Then there's a matter of possible conflicts of interest, something that paralegals must disclose to attorneys when working for a law firm, or possible instances of the unauthorized practice of law.

Favreau, a registered paralegal with the LEGO toy company in Enfield, believes that because virtual paralegals have no formal registration or certification process, they will not threaten the standing of traditional paralegals. In fact, they're eligible to be part of traditional paralegal associations, as long as they meet the criteria.

"From a level of standardization and comfort, I don't think they'll take over the profession," Favreau said. "They will augment and fill niches of the market. I can see both sides of the coin. Virtual paralegals can be very beneficial to a law practice for a case that requires a lot of resources."

Kramer, of the IVAA, said that anecdotal evidence indicates that the number of virtual assistants in the legal field is growing, though not as quickly as real estate virtual assistants. And there have been discussions about certification and creating an industry standard among the numerous virtual assistants associations.

But she agrees that virtual paralegals will not be replacing in-house paralegals on a large scale any time soon.

"I think it will be many years before we see that," Kramer said. "Traditional companies like law firms are more comfortable seeing someone in a chair."


Sunday, August 24, 2008

ABA Approves New Paralegal Baccalaureate Degree for Clayton State

Clayton State University in Georgia is adding a baccalaureate degree in paralegal studies. Its College of Professional Studies already offers a certificate program and an associate's degree program, which have already received approval from the American Bar Association. Shortly after the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved Clayton State's proposal to add a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies, the ABA approved that as well.


Friday, August 22, 2008

NWACC Program Gets Bar Approval

BENTONVILLE [Ark.] - The paralegal program at Northwest Arkansas Community College was approved Aug. 12 at the annual American Bar Association meeting in New York City.

NWACC, the only program receiving initial approval by the Board of Delegates, joins an elite group of college programs that have attained such status, program director Mary Hatfield Lowe said.

Fewer than 25 percent of the 1, 000 paralegal programs in the country are granted ABA approval, she said.


Ex-Associate, Paralegal Win Damages From Former Firm

This is fantastic! Despite the fact that there is a cap on punitive damages, that firm should have to pay every single penny to this poor paralegal.

A Garden City, N.Y., tax certiorari firm must pay more than $716,500 in damages to a former associate and a paralegal who claim they lost their jobs after they became pregnant, a federal jury has decided.

Sitting in Central Islip, the panel of four women and three men Wednesday awarded only $16,499 in damages to Jacquelyn Todaro, a former associate at Siegel, Fenchel & Peddy, who was the lead plaintiff in the case.

However, the jurors decided that Maria H. Moscarelli, a former legal assistant who had worked at the firm for 16 years, should receive $203,838 for lost pay and $500,000 in punitive damages. The two plaintiffs had sought $15 million. ...

Moscarelli claimed that since beginning work for the firm in 1987, she had received pay increases every year, except in 1998, when she had a child. She contended that in 2002, when she became pregnant again, she was told she would not receive a raise for 2003, according to the suit. At that point, she was making around $60,000 a year.

She was terminated in August 2003, shortly after returning from maternity leave, according to Locke.

In court documents, the firm claimed it was downsizing, rather than firing employees vindictively, when it let Moscarelli go. Neither Todaro nor Moscarelli was replaced. The firm also claimed Moscarelli's assigned tasks were handled more smoothly while she was on leave.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Free Case Assessment Software Released by earlyCASE

Atlanta-based earlyCASE launched its free software available for download from earlyCASE is a web-based application which runs on a local PC and analyzes accessible electronically stored information (ESI) without the data ever leaving the computer or network.

earlyCASE supports multiple languages, extracts metadata, generates hash values, detects duplicates, and creates a local inventory database of documents and e-mails. earlyCASE allows users to make informed discovery decisions and easily cut down the size of data sets through filter and culling rules before going into the discovery process and review.

earlyCASE is offered in two versions, a Basic (free) version and a Professional version for a small flat rate charge, regardless of the amount of data analyzed. The Basic version offers 15 high quality eDiscovery reports, one which estimates a processing and review budget while providing an immediate understanding of the data. Through the Professional version, a 26(f) report for meet and confer is available to help clients reduce legal risk exposure by offering a necessary view of the legal case information--custodians, context, third parties, and more.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Paralegal Program Seeks Soldiers

To meet the growing need for paralegals in Columbus, Ohio, a new paralegal certificate program is beginning this fall for veterans. All are welcome, but the goal is to reach out to soldiers and their spouses looking for a career change.

Columbus attorney Bob Poydasheff is on board to teach the city's first paralegal certificate course geared toward military veterans, wounded soldiers and their spouses.

The accredited program, coordinated by the Center for Legal Studies, is offered to students in colleges and universities across the country to include aspiring legal professionals at Auburn University and the University of Georgia. The Institute for Innovative Technologies in Educational Programs is bringing the live lecture course to the Cunningham Center in September and January. The Veterans Association-certified organization is offering the course to students for $1,089 each.

Though the tuition does not include textbooks, Poydasheff said most accredited paralegal programs run $300 to $400 more than what ITEP is offering. Financial aid is available.


Army Paralegal Offers a Look at Iraq Aid

In the 115-degree heat of the deserts of Iraq, U.S. Army Spc. F. Matthew Duras' mind wanders back to the things he misses the most about living in Gloucester County.

Being able to swim in a pool on a hot day. Taking drives to the Jersey shore or to Philadelphia.

Or stopping at Hollywood Diner for a sampler platter and a few beers with friends.

The 37-year-old West Deptford resident has been in Iraq for just about two months, working on a base as a paralegal specialist in foreign damage claims. It will be another 13 months before he returns home.

Like many of the brave Americans who are serving our country, Duras' daily life in the Headquarter and Headquarters Battery, 41st Fire Brigade is rather different than life at home and often comes with many challenges. He joined the Army three years ago out of the Woodbury recruiting station.

Duras, who is able to communicate with friends and family via e-mail or Web cams quite often, has agreed to share some of his experiences with the readers of the Times.

Living and working in one of the quietest provinces in Iraq, Duras uses his degrees in paralegal studies to serve as the point of contact for foreign claims.

"We intake claims from the local inhabitants two days a week," Duras wrote. "I was escorting the Iraqi from an entry point to our claims office on those days. I talked to a couple of them and they seemed happy that the Americans were here. My impression of them is that they are a nice group of people who have been put into a very bad situation. The only unfortunate thing is that we can't help most of them, because we can't pay out any claim that is over two years old and most of their claims are from 2004 and earlier."

Trailers make up Duras's living conditions. His room is in a trailer and its the size of a small college dorm. Another trailer has showers, and yet another serves as the bathroom.

Since he's been in Iraq, Duras said, he's had to get used to waking up early, working long hours 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week and two hours on Sunday and walking everywhere.

"I have to walk to take a shower and to go to the bathroom," Duras said. "I have to walk about 1/4 mile to go to the dining facility and to the laundry facility. When I drop off laundry, I get it back usually in 3 days. I walk about half a mile to get to the gym."

And since it's summer, the heat in Iraq is intense. Some days the temperature can reach 130 degrees, and the breeze that blows is dry and warm.

"It's like walking in an oven," Duras said.

The only time they get some relief is during a dust storm. And then the mercury drops to about 105.

"We haven't gotten a severe dust storm yet," Duras said. "When we do get dust storms, the sky looks overcast."

While there are no fast food favorites at his temporary dwelling in Iraq, there are some other comforts that remind him of home.

"The food in the dining facility is pretty good and there is a wide selection to choose from," Duras said." There is an MWR (Morale Wellness and Recreation) facility here. It has a big-screen TV, a room with a projection system that shows movies, pool tables, foosball tables, air hockey tables, a library, a couple of rooms that have video game systems in them and an Internet cafe."

But the cultural and language barriers are sometimes unavoidable.

Duras recalled a moment that occurred last week while on duty

"We were out intaking foreign claims and we had about 15 Iraqis out there, which is a lot for us," he wrote. "Just like in America, over here there are different education levels. I think our Claims intake form is rather simple to keep it from being confusing for the person filling it out. Even so, there are still some Iraqi that either can't read it or just get confused by it. When an Iraqi doesn't know how to fill out the Claims intake form, all of the other Iraqi will help him fill it out correctly. It is truly a group effort and I have seen one Iraqi help out 2 or 3 other Iraqis. I just thought that is neat to see, as I am not sure if I would see the same thing happen in America."

That same day, Duras was also bombarded with questions from the Iraqis who were waiting to speak to the lawyer.

They asked about American cheeseburgers, if he had a girlfriend, and how close he lived to New York City.

"Even though language is a barrier and most of them speak very little English at best, I am still able to have conversations with them," Duras said. "I have even had a couple of them shake my hand as they were leaving. That is always a good feeling. I just wanted to share that experience with you, as I think it provides an often not seen look into the Iraqi people."


Monday, August 18, 2008

Paralegal Sets Sights on Rising Lawyer Salaries

Many people think the logical career move for a paralegal is to go to law school and become a lawyer. (In fact, it's such an expected career path that I try not to blog about paralegals becoming lawyers, because I believe that being a paralegal can be a very rewarding career. I believe it so much that I bristle a bit when someone asks me if I'm going to go to law school.) While career paralegals will disagree, Adam Scheuer, a former Manhattan paralegal, is starting law school next week at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law after seeing the super salaries handed to associates.

Statistically, Scheuer said, the odds are not great for top-rung starting pay.

"It just depends on how successful I am in law school," he said. "It's a meritocracy."

In these tough economic times, the lure of high associate salaries certainly is tempting. However, I remember reading somewhere that in a recession, more people enroll in law school, and by the time they graduate, the market is flooded with newly-minted J.D.s all competing for the same jobs. Currently, attorney positions are difficult to find, and with a flooded market, even in a good economy, competition is fierce.

(Source: Cleveland Business News)

Paralegal Fights Corruption in Fiji

Fiji seems like an idyllic place, full of sun, sand, and relaxation, but beneath the calm facade lurks corruption. After a successful career fighting corruption in Hong Kong, paralegal Albert Lau is now helping Fiji fight internal corruption.

Not often do people think of taking up a profession fighting corruption and promoting good governance.

For Albert Lau, making a difference in society is a passion he long established when he was growing up.

Born and bred in Hong Kong, Albert is a retired chief investigator with the Independent Commission Against Corruption in Hong Kong where he worked for 31 years to control corruption and build a better nation.

He wanted to become a lot of things when he was young but along with his parents, Albert had very little opportunities.

His father was a cook while his mother was an amah both working for expatriate families and they earned only $150 a month in the 1960s.

"I attended government primary school where the fee was $5 Hong Kong currency which is equivalent to 30 times more today.

I was born after the Second World War and the country was poor. After high school, I decided to work and saved enough to pay for my own private study.

"When I was still in high school though, I had an interest in studying electronics so my first job was as a Quality Controller in an electronic factory that produced radios, amplifiers, etc."

He graduated with a degree in Business Administration from the Open College of the Macau University which was the only open university for adults in the 70s.

According to Albert, most people believed in a Chinese philosophy where a way out of poverty was to receive a good education and be well equipped. This made him even more determined to work hard and persevere in life.

Experiencing the hard life

Albert spent some time monitoring the quality of electronics produced at the factory before he joined government as a Welfare Assistant and his responsibilities were, inter alia, examine and investigate the financial situation of the applicants on whether they were eligible for financial assistance from the government and this most probably was his first insight into the life of an investigator.

He spent a year and a half before he applied for a position with ICAC Hong Kong in 1974 when the organisation was established.

"There was an advertisement where ICAC were recruiting new investigators so I applied and was assigned to the lowest rank of Assistant Investigator. Basically the organisation was set up to investigate corruption offences committed by any person and the job was mostly detective work.

"However, there are certain areas of crime being investigated apart from corruption offences like dangerous drugs, smuggling and white collar crimes, such as commercial fraud, tax evasion, illegal immigrants, which are related to corruption offences.

"It is very challenging being an investigator especially when dealing with corruption. Back in the old days in Hong Kong, corruption was widespread because at the time new comers did not know much about the law."

Life on the job

From 1974 until retirement in 2005, Albert spent 31 years working as an investigator for ICAC Hong Kong.

Climbing up the investigator ranks over the years, Albert spent most of his life leading, managing and supervising investigation teams.

He was also responsible for providing investigative training as well as offering advice. On a positive note, Albert has dedicated his working life to controlling corruption. While politicians, historians and learned individuals know the definition of corruption, it is hard to put a lid on how a corruption investigator works.

"Common sense prevails. Corruption in general is difficult to detect because there is no victim of crime especially when both parties involved are satisfied.

"Some are reluctant to give evidence. There needs to be certain kinds of internal control and we cannot afford failure.

"The duration and work of investigators depend on the complexity of the case and sometimes the most difficult can be syndicate corruption involving a lot of people.

"Investigations can be time consuming but investigators have to get evidence."

Moving on

After retirement, Albert joined a law firm in Hong Kong as a paralegal. He provides litigation supports to lawyers.

His investigative skills and experience help find evidence to support a case and if there is one word that describes Albert, it is his unending desire to see justice served and corruption controlled.

His presence at the Fiji ICAC Investigators Training Course Stage One from August 4 to 9 was aimed at enhancing the core competence as an investigator.

"I feel I need to contribute to society. I like to see a government to be a clean one where everyone can enjoy a fair field to play.

"If corruption exists, some rights of people will be intruded on. But being an investigator is a meaningful task.

"For me to share my experiences and knowledge with FICAC investigators is great. The motives behind FICAC is a great one and you can see the political willingness of the government really wants this country to be a corruption-free society." Albert is married with two children and believes family support and understanding are the backbone of his profession as a corruption fighter.

Highlighting this man's achievements is not so much a political, social or economical motive but a straightforward notion that achievement and success is possible if one is determined, steadfast and honest.

(Source: Fiji Times Online)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Former Paralegal Is First Winner of "The Spot Light Mom Blogger" Contest

For most mom bloggers, reaching an audience can be tough. The Blog Train offers a solution to find targeted traffic for work at home mom bloggers. Even if a mom isn't "formally" working from home, all moms work and work hard. Andrea Chamberlain, a former paralegal and July's Winner, said, "A stay at home mom will tell you life is like a glorified insane asylum, and the life of a work at home mom is the same only with a straight jacket on."

Jen Edwards, an entrepreneur, started The Blog Train this past June. The Blog Train is a membership forum for mom bloggers to announce their blog updates, funnel targeted traffic to their site, network with other moms, and find valuable blog building/work from home information. The Blog Train is designed to encourage participation and prides itself on being dependent on entrepreneurial moms.

Weight-Lifting Paralegal Aiming for London Olympics

In a way, this just proves that paralegals are superheroes, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound -- or in this case, lift small cars off unlucky pedestrians:

A young weight-lifting paralegal from Wolverhampton has his sights set on the next Commonwealth and Olympic Games after putting in a strong performance in a national contest.

Sundeep Singh Khela, from Goldthorn Park, came second in the British Senior Weightlifting Championships which took place at the National Sport Centre in Lilleshall.

The 23-year-old, who works as a paralegal with the Birmingham office of law firm, Irwin Mitchell, has been weightlifting since the age of 17.

The Championships are divided into categories according to participants’ body weight and strength, with Sundeep competing in the 77kg category.

Commenting on his performance, Sundeep said: “It was a really close fought competition. The crowd were on their feet as it came down to me and one other contender from Scotland called Graeme Kane.”

During the tournament Sundeep achieved a personal best in the clean and jerk section of the competition, lifting 140kg, but was finally beaten by his rival who weighed in at more than half a stone heavier.

Sundeep, who has previously beaten Kane in the under 23s title, has vowed to come back stronger than ever next year in a bid to take first in the British Championships.

He puts in on average 13 hours of training every week and is already the current British Underweight Champion, ranked one of the best in his weight category and has won both the West Midlands and All Midlands weight lifting titles.

He has also won the British underweight competition three years in a row at two different weight categories and has competed at many other national competitions.

Sundeep now has ambitions to win a place on the British team for both the Commonwealth games in 2010 and the Olympic Games in 2012.

(Source: Birmingham Post)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

UK Firms Outsource to India

This week, two U.K. law firms, Eversheds and Clifford Chance, announced that they will be outsourcing paralegal work to India. Citing lower costs as their main reasons, the firms say they will be able to pass those savings along to clients.

But at what cost? Will the paralegals in India be adequately supervised? Will they understand the intricacies of the English language as it relates to legal work? Will they be able to communicate adequately with their "supervising" - and I use that term loosely - attorneys?

Paralegal Goes From Despair to Ripley's Believe It or Not

Terry Dwight Coleman, a paralegal in Colorado, released his first book, DON'T GIVE UP, DON'T GIVE IN, with the message that no matter your background or problems, God can use you to his glory.

Coleman draws from his own struggles, and he believes that the book will inspire those who seek to overcome their troubles. Abandoned by his mother and raised by his grandmother and aunts, Coleman is no stranger to despair. By the time he reached adulthood, he felt he had no purpose in life, and he turned to alcoholism to fill a void. Fortunately, a friend introduced him to church, and Coleman's conversion gave his life new meaning and direction.

Coleman, who in 2005, sang a record-breaking 849 church hymns for 40 hours 17 minutes, at the age of 54 to bring awareness to the plight of the homeless, has vowed to donate twenty percent of his royalties to four different charities that help the homeless.

(Source: NewsBlaze)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Legal Secretary Talent Becoming Scarce

I found this article particularly interesting because I started out my legal career as a legal secretary to work my way through paralegal school (and gain experience in law offices). Apparently, as the Baby Boomers retire, so do the old-school legal secretaries: the ones that can type 100 words per minute, wrangle a Dictaphone, and know how to format briefs in their sleep.

[A]ny help could be getting even harder to find for law firms looking for legal secretaries.

As the number of Baby Boomers nearing retirement grows, the amount of talent to fill those positions is becoming increasingly scarce, according to some industry professionals.

Cindy Johnson, president of the job placement agency CareerTrac Professional Group in Waukesha, said several clients are facing the retirement of longtime legal secretaries and decisions as to how those positions will be filled in the future.

“There are legal secretaries all the same age, who have been doing this for 20 years and all are going to retire at the same time,” said Johnson, who solely focuses on placement of legal professionals. “In my experience, the market is shrinking for qualified people to replace them.”

Technical Difficulties

Throughout the last decade, the state technical college system has seen a dramatic drop in the number of institutions that carry legal administrator programs as well as the number of students who enroll in those courses.

According to Mike Tokheim, Education Director for Business and Information Technology for the Wisconsin Technical College System Office, students pursing associate degrees as legal administrators decreased by more than half since 1997.

Last year only 100 students registered for the program, compared to 340 a decade ago.

“It’s been a steady decline,” said Tokheim, who added that when he started 25 years ago, almost all of the 16 state technical colleges offered a legal secretary program.

Currently, only three — Blackhawk, Moraine Park and Milwaukee Area Technical Colleges — offer a two-year associate degree for legal administrative professionals.

According to a research assistant at MATC, the college currently has 16 students enrolled in the program, a slight increase from past years, but much smaller than the 128 students participating in the paralegal program.

Bryant & Stratton Technical College, which has two campuses in Wisconsin, transitioned out of its legal secretary program into a paralegal program in 2003.

“We switched over because paralegal is a more prestigious title and our research showed that more students would be interested in that kind of a degree,” said academic program director Amy Frohwirth.

Johnson said there is also a stigma still associated with the legal secretary job, which could partially explain the lack of college courses in the state.

“People going to college don’t think there is any future in it and yet it’s a well-paid profession,” said Johnson, who noted that her agency places entry level legal secretaries with no experience at an average starting salary of $34,000.

Tokheim conceded that the term secretary became a turn-off for prospective students, which is why the system renamed its program in 2004. But after a one-year jump in enrollment, numbers have continued to slide.

Experience or Youth?

One of the issues Johnson and others said firms are wrestling with is whether to transition to a veteran legal professional or train a recent college graduate.

Sandy A. McGee, COO of the Schroeder Group, S.C., Attorneys at Law, in Waukesha said that there is a definite challenge in finding quality among the quantity of available candidates.

McGee said smaller firms, like hers, will typically want someone who can be an easy hire and hit the ground running.

“When we have an open position, we throw an ad in the paper, or use an agency to fill it, but my sense is they are struggling with people as well,” said McGee.

Johnson admitted that the roster of qualified employees has shrunk over the years and experience does not always come with age.

“I take a look at my pool of candidates and they are almost all 40 and over,” said Johnson. “That doesn’t necessarily make them the best candidates for what our firms are looking for.”

She said she recently placed a woman who graduated with honors from the Rockford Business College in Illinois at a Wisconsin firm willing to train a candidate with long-term potential.

“She only had six month’s experience and none in Wisconsin, but was hired almost on the spot because of her grades,” said Johnson.

Habush Habush & Rottier, S.C., recently promoted within to retain talent, according to firm administrator Jennifer Passig. A receptionist working in the firm’s Waukesha office advanced to a legal assistant position in the medical malpractice division.

“She had some experience with the firm, but not necessarily as a legal professional,” said Passig. “We were willing to train her and it’s worked out well.”

While Habush, a client of Johnson’s, has not experienced a gap in quality legal professional help, Passig said the firm is taking proactive steps to develop fresh hires for after veteran legal professionals retire.

“Some of our more senior legal assistants have been taking a newer person, who doesn’t have a lot of experience, under their wing,” said Passig. “It’s been an effective tool.”

In rare instances, firms may benefit from a family history in the profession.

Kim Starr, vice president of the legal division at Madison staffing firm Drake and Company, said she has been in the business so long, that she is placing the daughters of people she placed 20 years ago.

(Source: Wisconsin Law Journal)

LA Lawyer Gets Prison in Lawsuit Kickbacks Case

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A lawyer who pleaded guilty to a federal tax offense as part of a major lawsuit kickback scheme was sentenced Monday to two months in federal prison and fined $50,000.

Richard Russell Purtich, who cooperated with prosecutors, apologized at his sentencing.

"I deeply, deeply apologize to the court and to all those I've affected by my conduct," he said.

Purtich was ordered to surrender to prison authorities by Sept. 22. U.S. District Judge John Walter rejected requests from the prosecution and defense that Purtich receive probation.

Purtich, 56, had been accused of acting as an intermediary through which the New York-based Milberg Weiss firm paid a former client more than $2.5 million in fees for acting as a plaintiff in several class actions.

He pleaded guilty in 2006 to interfering with the administration of federal tax laws. Purtich admitted that he did not inform the Internal Revenue Service of about $900,000 in payments that he had received from Milberg Weiss and then forwarded to a former Beverly Hills eye doctor.

Purtich was one of the first defendants to plead guilty in the case involving lawsuits against some of the nation's biggest corporations. The investigation also led to guilty pleas by a co-founder and three former partners at Milberg Weiss.

The State Bar of California has suspended Purtich's law license and is likely to disbar him. He now works as a contract paralegal.

...which he absolutely should not be doing. Seriously, who would hire a suspended lawyer to do paralegal work? He obviously does not follow a code of ethics, and he is no more likely to do so in a paralegal role.

I'm sure I've said it once, but I'll say it again: disciplined lawyers should not be working as paralegals. They have already proved themselves untrustworthy with legal matters, and for lawyers hiring them, they are inviting trouble into their practices. For consumers of legal services, it is a huge disservice to them, and many of them do not even know that a disciplined lawyer is working on their case.

(Source: The Associated Press)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Michael Martin's Mother Is Right

Mothers usually are right:

Justice Struggle to Find New Ways to Ask You to Shake Your Booty -- Vulture -- Entertainment & Culture Blog -- New York Magazine: "My mother still thinks that being a paralegal is the greatest job possible. Even when I told my mother they're going to greenlight the movie, that they're going to start shooting it, she was like: 'You know what? I got these brochures about being a paralegal. You should check it out.'" —Michael C. Martin, former MTA employee and writer of the currently shooting movie Brooklyn's Finest

By Day, Paralegal; By Night, Rising Mars

By day, and to most people, Stephen Mauriello is simply a husband, new father, and paralegal near his home in Morristown, N.J. But his fans know him as Steeven Mars, a star on the rise in the music galaxy. Last year, the talented singer/songwriter released his debut solo album, "If Not Now...When?"

"I started the Mars thing to separate the musician side of me from the responsible side," he said. " 'Steevan Mars' became like 'David Bowie,' my alter ego, which is ironic because it's probably more me."

Music has been an integral part of the Florham Park native's life for more than 20 years, ever since his parents gave him his first guitar at age 11.

"It was pretty obvious that I wanted one. I was playing every tennis racket and hockey stick in the house," he said.

Although Mauriello has experimented with other instruments, including drums and piano, he said he's remained loyal to his first love.

"The guitar is, without sounding like a cliche, like a good friend," he said. "I was kind of a lonely kid, and it used to keep me company."

Mauriello started performing in the mid-1990s with the alternative rock band Joyseed, with whom he recorded two albums and performed in various venues in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. But the band broke up in 2000 after a record deal with Sony Music fell through.

Mauriello spent the next few years playing in local churches, such as the progressive Liquid Church in Morristown, formerly of Basking Ridge.

"It was the best band I ever played with," he said, noting the weekly church performance schedule helped him hone his skills.

Mauriello's been enjoying positive recognition since the release of the new album. In February, he was a finalist in the "Morristown's Got Talent" competition, and three months later he performed in a showcase for up-and-coming musicians at the legendary Bitter End in New York.

His solo album was inspired by his wife, Lurdes, whom he met six years ago at the Famished Frog in Morristown, where he'd gone to hear a friend play piano.

"She's a very good critic. She's not afraid to tell me what's wrong with my songs," he said. "She's the reason I recorded that CD. I wasn't really doing anything musically, and she said 'Look, this is what you do. I don't care what it costs, what time it would take you."

Mauriello worked nearly a year writing and recording the six songs on "If Not Now...When?" Other songs that he wrote during that time, as well as some new pieces he's worked on since, will appear on his next album, "That Was Then, This Is Now...Again," which he expects to complete in 2009.

The high-energy songs on his debut album reflect Mauriello's taste for classic rock, which he developed as a kid by listening to records that his older siblings lent him -- Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and Eric Clapton.

Mauriello said his family not only influenced his choice of instrument and taste in music, but also inspired many of the pieces on his first, six-song solo album.

"Long Time," the album's reflective opening song, was written a year after his sister's divorce, Mauriello said. The song's lyrics evoke the pain the entire family felt after the separation, he said.

"It's in the perspective of my sister, but as a family, we were all going through it," the singer said. "When something is really hitting you emotionally, it really is a good impetus for songwriting."

Other songs on the album are based on events or relationships in his own life.

The lyrics on the album's final track, "Sideways (A Long Way Down)" -- "I want to sing again, if only for an hour or two" -- reflect his frustrations with his old job in New York City.

"I came home after a really long day, sat on my bed and started writing," he said. "It just started to come out how much I hated working in the city."

The album's title track, with its questioning lyrics about finding identity and purpose, hints at Mauriello/Mars' sense that he leads a double life.

"That song is about me.... I'm a paralegal during the day, but is that really who I am?" he explained. "It's about when are you going to find who you are and where you fit into the world.

"If you don't make it in this business, you have to do something else, but in a sense you're living two lives," he continued. "Your true self is really a musician. Sometimes it's hard to reconcile the two, and be one person."

These days, Mauriello said he's found an identity he feels comfortable with: the father of a 1-year-old boy.

"I think Danny's definitely going to be a musician," he said. "If there's music in the house anywhere, he reacts to it. He just moves, or he just smiles, or he sings along. . . . He likes to pluck my guitar."

Mauriello hopes music can serve as an outlet for his son's emotions, just as it did for him.

"Sometimes, growing up as a boy especially, you're not brought up to act on those feelings. Music was a way to bring those feelings out," he said. "(A guitar) is like another voice."

(Source: Morristown Green -

Paralegal Pay for, um, not Paralegal Work

Here's another argument for paralegal regulation: Alabama Attorney General Troy King promoted a political appointee who serves as his spokesman and chief of staff to one of the agency's five paralegal jobs -- at a salary of $104,000. Of course, this political appointee has NO paralegal training, and Alabama state law doesn't require AG paralegals to actually be paralegals.

So basically, someone who does have paralegal training and needs a job has been squeezed out of a perfectly good (and fantastically paying -- how nice would it be if $104K was the standard paralegal pay?) job for a political appointee with no training. If regulation were in place, this would just not happen. State law would require that paralegals in the AG's office would need to be actual paralegals with the appropriate training and licensure.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pro-Link Hires Paralegal Immigration Consultant

Pro-Link Global Visa and Immigration Services, a provider of corporate global immigration services, with offices in the U.S., EMEA, and Asia, hired a paralegal to be their new global immigration consultant.

Beata Firosz, a paralegal with over five years experience in immigration, joined Pro-Link GLOBAL as an Immigration Consultant in their Arizona office. Firosz previously managed large corporate client accounts focusing on Europe and Asia at a large immigration law firm. She also owned and successfully operated her own immigration services business specializing in the Eastern European market.

Like the rest of the Pro-Link GLOBAL team, Firosz is multilingual -- her native tongue is Polish. She holds a degree in business management and advertising.

In a statement, Pro-Link GLOBAL said that her experience as an immigrant to the U.S. make her the perfect candidate to bring commitment and empathy to her clients.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Court Upholds Firing of Paralegal Over Smoke Breaks

Can an employee be fired over smoke breaks? Apparently so, although it certainly does raise some interesting legal questions. Not only did the appeals court uphold the firm's decision to fire this paralegal, they also ordered her to repay the $3,000 she had received in unemployment benefits because she allegedly misrepresented her termination.

I did check the New York State Department of Labor's Web site, and no employer in New York is required to provide any sort of breaks to hourly employees, just an unpaid meal break.

A New York appeals court has upheld a Rochester law firm's decision to fire a paralegal who defied a policy that banned smoke breaks for hourly employees.

Karen Kridel had reportedly worked at the firm for more than a year and took a five-minute break in the morning and afternoon to smoke, the Associated Press reports. Kridel, who said the breaks re-energized her, claimed she often made up the time taking calls during her lunch break.

But the firm had banned smoke breaks for hourly workers, outside of the lunch hour, and in 2006 began enforcing it when five-minute breaks turned into 15 minutes, a half hour and then one employee was found sleeping in a car.

The appellate division in Albany upheld Kridel's firing and sided with a state Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, which ruled that Kridel misrepresented her firing, the AP reports.

Kridel may now need to repay $3,000 in unemployment benefits. Though, according to the AP report, she is considering an appeal.

Is it legal? Yes. Fair? No. If the firm was truly concerned about productivity, they should also provide a discount or reimbursement of smoking cessation programs, including alternative therapies, which are often not covered by health insurance.

As an ex-smoker, I am very familiar with how a cigarette break would energize me. That quick rush of nicotine plus the forced deep breaths from inhaling would focus and center me. However, I can't recall a time when I finished a full cigarette in five minutes. It took at least seven (I timed it), not counting the time it took to find a spot to smoke, light up, and grind out the cigarette.

I also remember how hard it was to quit. I stopped smoking over the summer while I was still in college, but if I were still smoking today, I would have an even harder time quitting. One, I would have been smoking even longer (thus the nicotine dependence and habit more deeply ingrained), and two, I had fewer sources of stress in my life back then (I was on summer vacation, living with my parents rent-free, working as a temp, and really only had to pay for gas for my car, meals outside the house, and personal items).

(Source: ABA Journal)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Connecticut Changes Guidelines for Electronics in Court

After some behind-the-scenes prodding by Connecticut paralegals, in particular, those in the Central Connecticut Paralegal Association, the courts in Connecticut have revised their guidelines for the use and possession of electronics in the courthouses.

Under the new guidelines, a person may have any of the following electronic devices inside a state court facility:

* A cell phone;
* A camera cell phone;
* A personal computer with or without video or audio recording capabilities;
* A digital or tape audio recorder;
* A personal digital assistant (PDA) with or without video or audio recording capabilities;
* Any other electronic device that can broadcast, record or take photographs.

The guidelines prohibit a person from using a cell phone or any other electronic device to take pictures, take videos, make sound recordings, broadcast sound, or broadcast still or moving images inside a court facility. However, with a judge’s permission, an individual may use a personal computer for note-taking in a courtroom. In addition, other electronic devices may be used in a courtroom if permitted by the judge or other judicial authority or permitted by court rules.

At the Connecticut Paralegal Day in June, members of the various Connecticut paralegal associations spoke with Richard Blumenthal, the Attorney General. He agreed to intervene on their behalf, and he did! The letter he sent is behind the cut, along with the attachments he included.

What a testament to the power of paralegal associations!

R. Blumenthal Letter to Judge Quinn re: Electronics in Courthouses - Get more Legal Forms

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

California University of Pennsylvania

California University of Pennsylvania, Middle States Accredited, 156 years young, part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, is proud to offer online undergraduate and graduate programs in Legal Studies and Homeland Security. The Legal Studies program allows seasoned practitioners and scholarly students the opportunity to address, analyze, and critique the law and its implications from social, administrative, judicial, operational, philosophical, and managerial perspectives. The Legal Studies program enhances your ability to advocate and argue; increases research and assessment skills; hones a disposition to reconcile and mediate; and develops human and institutional skills necessary for action, legislation, or policy implementation. The program delivers a highly sophisticated legal education that leads to greater levels of understanding and responsibility and will help you to strive for personal, intellectual, occupational, and professional growth.

The 1 0 0 % O N L I N E L E G A L S T U D I E S program, through Cal U Global Online, is intent on serving a new generation of student learners in the virtual classroom where accessibility is no longer an issue. A virtual community creates a lively, dynamic educational experience that enriches the collaborative skills essential in the contemporary workplace. Cal U’s MS in Legal Studies: Law & Public Policy program can be completed in just over one calendar year. To learn more about the online programs offered at California University of PA, please visit

This message is sponsored by California University of Pennsylvania.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Lawyer Calls Former Paralegal's 'Sexual Predator' Claims 'Ridiculous and Not True'

In the spirit of fair and balanced news coverage, I give you the following denial issued by Richard N. Laminack, the attorney accused of being a "sexual predator":

"Houston lawyer Richard N. Laminack uses words such as 'silly' and 'ridiculous and not true' to respond to allegations contained in a Texas state court suit that describes him as a 'sexual predator' who participated in an effort to defraud fen-phen clients by overcharging them for expenses.

Laminack denies the allegations in the suit, filed July 25 by Angela Robinson, who formerly worked for Laminack at two Houston plaintiffs firms. Robinson is suing Laminack; his current firm, Laminack, Pirtle & Martines; and the O'Quinn Law Firm, formerly known as O'Quinn, Laminack & Pirtle. In 2006, Laminack and Thomas Pirtle left O'Quinn Laminack to form Laminack, Pirtle & Martines, and John O'Quinn renamed O'Quinn Laminack the O'Quinn Law Firm."


Powhatan’s Lori Tracoma named Paralegal of the Year

Powhatan’s Lori Tracoma has been awarded the prestigious Paralegal of the Year award, chosen as the best in her profession by the member law firms of the American Association for Justice.

The Richmond law firm of Cantor and Arkema P.C. brought Tracoma on board as a receptionist 27 years ago and she has diligently worked her way to the top as an advocate for what she terms her “innocent victims.”

Now specializing in catastrophic injury and traumatic brain injury cases for a three-attorney personal injury team at Cantor Arkoma, Tracoma is involved with the clients “from the initial interview all the way through trial, which averages 18 months to two years. I get to know the clients very well and on a personal level,” she said.

(Source: Powhatan Today)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

D-M Paralegal, 20, Stabbed to Death Outside Scottsdale Store

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is mourning a young airman who was stabbed to death during a weekend visit with family members in Scottsdale.

Airman Spencer Goode, 20, a paralegal in D-M's legal department, was knifed shortly before midnight [last] Saturday in the parking lot of a Kwik Mart convenience store. ...

Goode was visiting his sister, who lives in Scottsdale, according to the White Lake Beacon, a newspaper in the western Michigan community of Whitehall, where Goode went to high school.

The newspaper described Goode as an accomplished high school athlete, skilled in soccer and basketball, and a popular student known for his sense of humor.

Goode joined the Air Force in January 2007 and was assigned to D-M a few months later, said a base spokesman, Staff Sgt. Jacob Richmond.

(Source: ®)

Miss Universe Drops Suit Against Pro Se Paralegal

On July 15, Donald Trump dropped a Federal civil suit against paralegal Adan S. Perez, Luz Bolivar and The Miss Mexico Organization LLC for trademark and copyright infringement. Perez et al. had been using the trademark Senorita Mexico USA, which Trump alleged infringed on the Miss Universe trademark.

(Source: PRLog)