Friday, March 7, 2014

Biz Buddies Episode 17: Leveraging Special Promotions to Increase Your Income

In this episode of Biz Buddies for You,
Vicki Voisin and Tina Hilton discuss ways to promote your business -- and increase your income -- by taking advantage of holidays. We discuss thoughts on adapting promotions to both traditional and non-traditional holidays. 

Vicki and Tina discuss:

  • The beauty of special promotions
  • Why you should tie your promotion to a holiday
  • Ideas for holiday promotions
  • How to locate holiday information
  • Ideas for promotion offers
  • What you need to do to prepare for a special promotion
  • And more!
Be sure to listen to this episode. It’s easy…and it’s free! Just click on the following links:
Page URL:
iTunes Link:
Our next episode: Tips for Getting the Help You Need
Please share the links to this episode of Biz Buddies for Virtual Professionals with your friends and colleagues.
If you have a request for a future show, or a question for us, you are welcome to contact us at .
Also, be sure you never miss a podcast by subscribing to Biz Buddies 4 Virtual Professionals on iTunes.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Apostrophe Fail

The Apostrophe Fail
By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS, ACP

I think the number one all time grammar fail is the apostrophe. It is not a punctuation mark for making words plural (more than one of something). Instead, it is a mark to show possession (ownership of something) or to show where letters are missing in a contraction (such as "don't").

There is a test that may make it a little easier to determine if something needs an apostrophe for possession:
  • Look for the possible possessive phrase:– the man['s] desk
  • Reverse the nouns: desk of the man
  • Examine the base ownership word to determine who owns the thing (here "man").
Most important, do not change the spelling of a singular noun just to make it possessive. For instance, the man (one man) is still the owner of the desk. Ownership doesn't magically make the desk belong to more than one man. It would be the "man's desk" not the "men's desk."

Does the base word showing ownership end with an "s" sound? If it does not, add an apostrophe and s: the man's desk. If it does, you usually add only an apostrophe: both boys' desks.

UNLESS you actually hear the s sound when you say it, then you should add an apostrophe and s: Phoenix's traffic or Waitress's tables.  That is a really important "unless" and one that is controversial. Say it out loud if necessary.

Again, however, while it may be correct under one reference source, the person you are working for may not like it that way. Do what you need to do to stay employed.

Proper names are sometimes the most difficult. I once worked with someone with the last name "Andrews" and actually saw (with my own eyes) how people (and more than one) would try to make it possessive by adding the apostrophe before the s—Andrew's. Never, ever change the spelling of someone's name before you make it plural or possessive. Start with the name and then do what you need to do to it. Just remember that is one thing that is sacred to everyone—their own name.

Apostrophes really are not as difficult as they seem to be when you see how often they are used incorrectly. It is just something that takes thinking about to get right. Take the time to think about it and you are a step ahead of most people.
This article was contributed by Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS, ACP. Kathy has worked in the legal field for over 30 years and developed an interest in grammar while studying for her first NALS certification exam. She honed that skill through lots of proofreading for her law firm employers. Kathy is involved in all levels of NALS . . . the association for legal professionals, works in the Phoenix office of Sacks, Ricketts & Case LLP, and has a proofreading blog at

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Paralegal Profile: Rebecca Garland, Traverse City, Michigan

Rebecca Garland is the Executive Director of Conflict Resolution Services, Inc., in Traverse City, Michigan where she specializes in family law and alternative dispute resolution.

She has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology/Criminal Justice and a Masters of Business Administration.
1.  What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  When I started college, I thought I wanted to be a prison guard for the state of Michigan.  One field trip to a prison took care of that notion!!  I did an internship in the office of an assistant prosecutor and fell in love with the law and the work of a paralegal.

2.  What is your favorite part of your job?  As the Executive Director, I handle all of the case intake paperwork for an agency that provides mediation, arbitration, facilitation and training services.  The favorite part of my job is when both parties involved in a mediation tell me there is no way they are going to agree on anything with the other party and then, after mediation is completed, finding out the parties worked out an agreement.

3.  What professional associations do you belong to?  I belong to the Grand Traverse Area Legal Professionals (GTALP); NALS of Michigan; and NALS, the association for legal professionals.

4.  How has your memberships benefited you?  Specifically as it relates to the GTALP, I have met so many wonderful individuals who were willing to share their wealth of knowledge regarding the legal system when I was starting out, tips on how to navigate the court system in my area and a listening ear when I was feeling frustrated because something wasn’t working out.  I have become very close to many of my “sisters-in-law” and truly value those friendships.

5.  What has been the highlight of your career?  The highlight of my career professionally was receiving the Liberty Bell award from the Grand Traverse-Leelanau-Antrim Bar Association in 2000.
The Liberty Bell award recognizes a lay person who was instrumental in promoting better understanding of the rule of law, encouraging a greater respect for law and the courts, stimulating a sense of civic responsibility and contributing to good government in the community. I received the award as a result of my work with survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence at the Women’s Resource Center in Traverse City, MI.
The highlight of my career personally has been talking to individuals I assisted when I worked as the at the Women’s Resource Center and seeing how much they have achieved in their own lives after leaving abusive situations.

6.  What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  There are two “hot trends” in the paralegal industry.

The first is the “virtual paralegal”.  Many attorneys, at least in my area, are starting to downsize their practices – no more big offices and several support staff.  The reality is, though, they still need assistance on small and large projects – research, writing, organizing.  Someone who is proficient in several document formats, electronic filing and so forth, who is self-motivated, works well with and without deadlines and (often) under pressure, will be able to market their services to those “downsized” attorneys and have all of the advantages of setting their own schedule, determining their pay and so forth.

The second is what I call the “non-traditional paralegal positions”.  In my case, I started working in a law office – a traditional setting for a paralegal.  But I really wanted to work with survivors of domestic violence and/or sexual assault as they navigated the criminal and civil justice systems.  That was when the “non-traditional paralegal position” became known to me.  It wasn’t where you would expect to find someone working as a paralegal but it was where individuals needed help understanding those systems.  I am now working as an Executive Director and even though I am not doing a lot of “traditional” paralegal work, the knowledge and skills I learned working as a paralegal have transferred into the work I am doing.

7.  If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be?  My first answer would be, “go for it.”  Working in the legal field can be so very, very rewarding.  My second answer would be, “be willing to learn things you might not be particularly interested in or comfortable with because the more you know, the more marketable you will be.”

8.  Is there a quote that inspires you?  “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.  As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”  Mahatma Gandhi

9.  You’ve enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute your success?  Attorney Mark Risk.  I worked for Mark for about one year.  In that year, I learned more about the legal field than I thought possible.  He gave me permission to try anything and provided me with direction when I needed it.  But most of all, he gave me credit for my work to others when other people would have taken the credit themselves.

10.  What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting?  Always be open to new experiences.  This might mean being open to learning about something you have never done before (like drafting a pleading) or being open to working somewhere you might not have thought about (like an agency helping survivors of abuse or the homeless) or to an area of law you didn’t think you would like.  The more flexible you are willing to be, the more things will open up to you and keep your career from becoming boring.

11.  What is your favorite kind of music?  Old school country music (think Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Mel Tillis, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Sr. and so on).

12.  What was your first job?  My first substantial job was planting and harvesting tomatoes on a farm in south-eastern Michigan.  It was done with mechanical assistance but was still incredibly, incredibly dirty work!

13.  From American history, who is your hero?  Laura Haviland.  “Aunt” Laura, as she was known, lived in the town of Adrian, Michigan.  She helped slaves navigate the Underground Railroad to Canada.  She was the only white woman to have a bounty on her head – dead or alive – paid for by the slaveholders and slave traders.  Her concern for orphans led to the opening of the Raisin Institute (eventually known as the “Adrian Training School”) and she insisted that it be open to all regardless of race, sex or creed.  The school started with children from the county poorhouse so they could receive an education and learn a skilled trade to move them out of poverty.  The education of blacks was forbidden in many states and the school was the first to teach blacks in Michigan.

Bonus Question: You’ve been given the chance to have dinner with anyone living or dead.  Who is it?  Aunt Laura Haviland – for all of the reasons she was my answer to #13!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Paralegals Can Cook: Beef Stroganoff

Karen Glenn McElroy, PP, PLS, NALS President Elect shared this recipe with Paralegal Strategies readers. Since it is made in a slow cooker, it is perfect for a day when you're too busy to cook or one of those cold winter days when you're craving comfort food. Thanks, Karen!

Karen Glenn McElroy's Beef Stroganoff

  • 2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 can condensed (10-3/4 oz.) cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1 can condensed (10-3/4 oz.) cream of celery soup, undiluted
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 jar (6 oz.) slice mushrooms, drained
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream (8 oz.)
  • Hot cooked noodles
In a 1 quart slow cooker, combine the first seven ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until beef is tender. Stir in sour cream. Serve with noodles. Serves 6.

Note: Karen uses low sodium soup and low fat sour cream and it tastes great. Also, she use whole-wheat noodles.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

First-Year Paralegal: What Do You Wish You Would Have Known?

I asked this question on Facebook: What do you wish someone had told you when you were a first-year paralegal? The response was phenomenal so I thought I'd share the great advice with you.

While I'm not including names, the tips were provided by paralegals from all over the country who are in various stages of their careers. Here they are:
  • Improve writing skills.
  • Ask good questions and take good notes so you don't have to ask the same questions over and over.
  • Write down EVERYTHING! Confirm EVERYTHING! What you understand may not be how your attorney wants something done.
  • That my job description was not a complete list of tasks.
  • You will make mistakes and mistakes can be corrected!
  • So many things:
1. Don't be afraid to ask questions - better to ask than to screw something up. 
2. Be friendly to EVERYONE in your office, and also to court personnel and others along your path. 
3. Don't get caught up in office politics. 
4. You will have to work with people who are lazy, stupid, scheming, ignorant and just plain mean. Be professional, help them if you can, and always take the high road. 
5. Learn how to operate every piece of equipment in the office. 
6. Compliment people - it works wonders. 
7. Join your local paralegal association, and join a committee. The friends you make will be your friends forever. 
9. If you know that your spelling and grammar skills need brushing up, do it. 
10. If you trip over a heavy three-hole punch and break your little toe, file a worker's comp claim. Don't suffer in silence.
  • That it's an AWESOME profession, but it is what you make of it. If you want to soar to new heights then be active, do all you can, and remember we are all professionals in the same boat. Grab an oar!
  • Though you may want to, understand that you can't do everything, so be realistic about the number of projects you can take on. And I wish I had not been told: Oh, honey, you're so green.
  • If your boss has some silly little thing that he or she wants you to do every day that you feel is beneath you (like, for example, sharpening their pencils) - it's a whole lot better in the long run to just do it rather than to raise a fuss. You will understand this in about 10 years.
  • Be curious.
  • No matter what the Rules of Court say, ALWAYS CALL THE CLERK of Court's office to avoid misinterpretation, especially the local rules ... some judges have many rules to follow outside the standard rules of court.
  • You never stop learning!
  • Never go to your attorney with a problem without having at least one solution.
  • Do your work instead of loitering on Facebook! Bye, y'all!
  • Be nice to the court personnel and, when you really need their help, they will.
  • That assisting your attorney in achieving positive results for the client would also provide far greater rewards for me - the satisfaction of helping others.
  • Take nothing personally.
  • You don't wait for work to be assigned. You take it and do it, even if you have to do it on your own time to prove what you can do. Ask the attorney for the case theory and theme & then think likr the opposite side.
  • Learn litigation instead of real estate transactional. There will always be litigation, but the real estate work can disappear.
  • Its a constant learning process and that you really need to be able to get along with everyone. And that at some point or another we've all been there.
  • How much I was going to enjoy it. Even after 40+ years.
  • That billing your time is an awful task, but other than that being a paralegal is a fantastically fulfilling and exciting career. I despise billable hours, so I went to work where that is not required! SO happy!!
  • You need to meet Vicki Voisin asap and not wait another year! : )
  • Billing - or wording of your billing. Insurance companies are sooooo particular!!!
  • Join NALA
  • Sit for the CP exam as soon as you can... wish I could do that one over.
  • I wish I would have been encouraged to sit for my certification exam sooner in my career. However, I am still so proud of my certification. And join a professional association like NALS, NALA, NFPA or any of the local associations. Networking is so important!
  • Join your local paralegal organization and NALA. The friendships and contacts you will make through these organizations will be a valuable part of your career. Also, find a mentor that you can talk to about your career path, and as you progress in your career mentor others.
  • Join your professional associations (local, state & national) for networking & to have a say in your profession & the advancement of your profession, obtain a mentor through your local association, always continue learning.
  • I wish someone had explained billing and that it was the attorney responsibility to determine whether I had spent too much time on a project.
  • Join a local paralegal association!
What do you wish you would have known when you were a first-year paralegal? Follow this link to The Paralegal Mentor Blog to leave your personal advice.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Paralegal Mentor's Awesome Almost-Famous Never-Fail Brownies

This is The Paralegal Mentor's go-to dessert recipe. Once you try them, you will never again resort to a packaged brownie mix. The ingredients are easy to keep on hand and it takes just minutes to mix up this treat. They will make you "Almost Famous"!!

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
4 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (may reduce to 1/2 teaspoon)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional) 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x13" pan. You can use just one saucepan to mix all ingredients.

In a large saucepan, melt butter and unsweetened chocolate. When melted, stir in sugar and set aside to cool.

Combine the vanilla with the slightly beaten eggs and stir into the chocolate mixture when it is cool enough so the eggs won't cook.

Stir in dry ingredients and add nuts. While the recipe says these are optional, they aren't optional at our house -- I always add chopped pecans.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for no more than 30 minutes. Start checking these at 20 minutes. They are done when top is shiny and sides start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Check the middle with a tooth pick to be sure it is not runny -- but remember these will continue to cook once out of the oven.

For the ultimate chocolate experience, make a frosting while the brownies are baking -- use the same pan you used to mix the batter.
Melt 2 squares unsweetened chocolate with 3 tablespoons butter. Stir in 5 tablespoons milk, dash of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Blend in 2 cups powdered sugar (measure and then sift). Pour over brownies while they are still warm.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Paralegals Need These Personality Traits - Part 2

In Part 1 of You Need These Personality Traits,   eleven important personality traits paralegals should possess were identified and explained.

The traits listed in Part 1 included: Adaptable, Anticipative, Confident, Conscientious, Decisive; Disciplined; Discreet; Efficient; Ethical; Flexible; Focused; and Hardworking. If you missed that article, follow this link to access it.

Time now for Part 2 and twelve additional positive traits paralegals need to build a career that can be sustained for the long haul:
Honest. Your character must be beyond reproach. Be good and truthful; never lie, steal or cheat. When you make a mistake, admit it, learn from it and move on. Never deny making the mistake or blame someone else. 
Incorruptible. Refuse to do something you know is wrong. Follow ethics rules, as well as the law. Never sign the attorney’s name to document and never notarize a document if you don’t it signed. Understand rules regarding Trust Accounts. 
Independent. Be a self-starter. Do tasks on your own. Establish systems and checklists so you know what needs to be done next and you are not asking the same questions over and over again or interrupting people to help you. 
Logical: Using the knowledge you possess, reach reasonable, sensible conclusions. Do your work in a sequence that will increase productivity. 
Loyal: Be faithful, trustworthy, and devoted. Be a loyal employee and do not criticize your employer, even if your employment has ended. Do not be the person who provokes others in the office to be unhappy with working conditions. 
Organized. Look at the work you have to do and plan how you will get it done. Look ahead and plan to meet deadlines. Arrange your office so that papers and files do not get lost. 
Perfectionist. Attempting to do a project without fault is important. Pay constant attention to detail. Always check for grammar and typographical errors. However, remember it is your effort that counts. You need to know when what you have done is good enough and you can stop working on it. 
Persistent. Be unrelenting, consistent and determined. Do not quit until the goal is reached or the work is completed. 
Punctual. Be prompt for work and for meetings. Arrive on time. Do what you say you will do when you say you will do it. Get your work done on time. 
Responsible. Be accountable, dependable, and sensible. You should be a person who can be trusted to do the right thing.  
Thorough. Again, pay attention to detail. Do everything you are supposed to do and leave nothing out. Plan for the unexpected. Always have a Plan B...and perhaps a Plan C and D
While there are many other traits that could be on this list, these will see you through on your path to career success. Which traits do you possess? Which do you need to work on?  What traits would you add to this list? Leave your comments below.
© 2013 Vicki Voisin, Inc.  Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? Please contact Vicki Voisin. She will contact Stephanie for her approval.

Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She is the co-author of The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success. Vicki publishes Paralegal Strategies, a weekly e-newsletter for paralegals, and hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast pr oduced by Legal Talk Network.

More information is available at where subscribers receive Vicki's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.