Saturday, March 28, 2009
When this post made its way to Facebook, I received lots of questions from Friends. They didn't know books could be downloaded to their Ipod and wanted to know how. Here's the scoop:
There's one thing I love to do: read. I never seem to have any extended time to really enjoy a book, though. If I wait until bedtime, I'm snoozing after two pages, no matter now good the read.
Then there's one thing I ought to do: exercise! Time for that is limited, too.
How did I solve this dilemma? I rarely read a book any more. Instead, I download recorded books to my Ipod and then off I go for a long walk where I get lost with the story. This way I can get my exercise and, at the same time, 'read' all those books on my list.
I truly get lost in the stories and travel to all the places the characters go...in fact, today I went from Pennsylvania to New York City with Kyle, the main character in 'The Associate.' I can easily visualize the characters and the geographic location.
You don't have to be a techie to do this. In fact, if I can do it, anyone can! The process is very simple...as simple as it is to download music to your Ipod.
I have a membership with http://www.audible.com/ where I receive two books each month...much like a Book of the Month Club or Literary Guild Membership...except that there's nothing to order and nothing to send back...and no clutter on the shelf. All good things. There are lots of choices so I never have a problem finding something great. I usually choose 'unabridged' versions and also look for long books. For instance, I listened to 'The Story of Edgar Sawtelle' for 14 hours...and hated for it to end. Same with 'Pillars of the Earth' and 'World Without End'...32 and 38 hours respectively. It's amazing how fast they go.
Each month I receive points from http://www.audible.com/. I may choose a book..most are one point...or I may carry the points over. They do not expire. Of course, I can purchase books if I'm out of points. Once 'purchased,' the books are placed in my library in the Audible account and from there are download directly to Itunes on my computer. I simply 'update' my Ipod. Voila! I have another book to 'read.'
I also download podcasts to my Ipod...they are usually free. To do that, I right click on the podcast link, click on 'save target as' and then save it to the appropriate file on my computer. There is one more step: open Itunes, click on 'file' and then on 'import.' You will be taken to your computer files where you locate the download. Click on that, then on 'open' and it goes to Itunes. The only tricky part is remembering where you saved it. I'm also careful to import podcasts to Itunes as soon as the download is complete so that I don't forget about it.
There's one more piece of equipment I use...a small speaker/charger for my Ipod. Using this, I'm able to 'read' my books while I get ready for work, unload the dishwaster, etc.
So, there you have it...hours of listening pleasure and an exercise program all rolled into one. Now, that's multi-tasking at its finest!
Friday, March 20, 2009
For sixty minutes Vicki and I will discuss...
- Her experiences with Hurricanes Alicia and Ike...
- How she developed her firm's Disaster Preparedness Plan...
- How she managed her firm's recovery from Hurricane Ike in September, 2008 ...
- The importance of being prepared for a disaster...
- The steps you can take to be sure your firm is ready for the worst...
- And much more...
Whether you've been in the work force for a long time, are just beginning your career or you're somewhere in between...
No matter what kind of work you do and no matter where you work (traditional law firm, corporation, government entity)...
This is important information you must have...
The Paralegal Mentor Mastermind Series is presented as a f'ree special bonus for all professionals who want to create lasting success in their careers.
Remember...you can sign up for this presentation whether you attend the live class or not...ALL registered participants will receive a recording of the call.
Vicki S. Knight is a NALA advance certified paralegal specialist in Trial Practice who practices in the Houston, Texas law firm of Olson & Olson, LLP, a governmental defense firm. Her prior experience includes working through preparations for, and the aftermath of Hurricane Alicia in August, 1983.
Ms. Knight not only authored the firm's Disaster Preparedness Plan, but was asked by her firm to take over the process of assessing and quantifying the damage after the storm, overseeing all repairs and replacements, as well as preparing the necessary documentation to obtain payment under the company's various insurance policies when their firm took a direct and devastating hit from Hurricane Ike in September, 2008.
In addition, she has provided paralegal support to attorneys for over 30 years in the areas of indigent client representation in utility cut-off cases and bankruptcy law, corporate labor, employment, and employee benefits law, and litigation support and oversight in a broad spectrum of legal issues. Often dubbed the 'Union Rep' for the paralegals of her firm, she has established a program of in-house CLE classes available to all firm paralegals at no charge, as well as annual memberships in their choice of professional organization.
You will not want to miss the information Vicki Knight, ACP has to offer!
'See' you soon, Until then, I remain...dedicated to your success!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
To quote Mr. Tierney, "Most firms are hearing, loud and clear, from clients seeking a little billable-hour love during these harsh economic times. For two decades, substantial rate boosts were an annual rite, placing clients in a grin-and-bear-it posture. No longer. Industry observers say clients are requesting -- even demanding -- by letter, fax, e-mail or Ma Bell a smaller tab to smooth their ride through the recession."
Chuck Trense, president and CEO of the Atlanta attorney recruiting and placement firm Trense Group, offers this information, "Billable rate [issues] are an oversimplification of what's going on. Clients are looking for value. At the end of the day, they don't care abut the hourly rate. They are concerned about the total cost to get the job done -- and the quality."
NOW COMES THE BEST PART: THE ROLE OF THE PARALEGAL IN THE BILLABLE RATE STRUCTURE.
Tierney suggests that "One foreseeable cost-saving trend is pushing some duties down the ladder from senior-level associate to a less experienced one. Or, from the less experienced to a paralegal. The firms avoid an actual rate reduction but wind up charging less at the end.
Right on, Mr. Tierney!
An experienced, properly utilized paralegal will provide longevity of profits. Work delegated to a paralegal is limited only by the skills and qualifications as well as the attorney's Rules of Professional Conduct. In most circumstances, an attorney will be able to bill the time of an experienced paralegal at a rate that will generate additional revenue for the firm at a lower cost to the client.
There are many tasks a paralegal can perform that may take the paralegal the same amount of time as the lawyer. However, with the paralegal's lower hourly rate, the resulting lower fee to the client will surely have an impact during a recession. For instance, if an attorney charges $200 per hour and that attorney spends three hours interviewing two witnesses, the cost to the client will be $600. The same task can be performed by a paralegal at a rate of $90 per hour, resulting in cost of $270 to the client. Which do you think the client would prefer?
Paralegals also provide continuity for the firm. Associates frequently move from one practice area to another or move on to another firm, or become partners where they develop their own client base. Paralegals often work with one group of partners and the same clients for a long period of time. The clients develop a high degree of familiarity with the paralegal and also a high degree of confidence. In this way, paralegals strengthen client relationships.
The economic downturn is on the minds of everyone in the legal profession. Firms should take a long hard look at the benefits of retaining paralegals on their staffs. Clients' demands for lower fees and high quality work will be met by the effective utilization of paralegals. Law firms can only benefit from moving in this direction.
© 2009 Vicki Voisin, Inc. Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by achieving 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 publishes a bi-weekly ezine titled Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence. More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com
Monday, March 16, 2009
I love to do things for my friends, my family and my community. I’m the first one to collect food for the homeless shelter or to raise funds for new equipment for our local hospital.
My mother always used the adage, “He would give a stranger the shirt off his back!” when she was speaking of a kind, generous person. Surely that would apply to me.
Then I began cleaning my closets and sorting through clothes I hadn’t worn in the past year...a number of them for the past several years. Some of the clothes were relatively new. Others were older but not really out of style. Most of them didn’t look right on me or didn’t feel right when I wore them. Much as I hate to admit it, some of them no longer fit and the chances were slim to none that they ever would again. How I wished I could still slip into those size 4 jeans!
Following tips from organizing experts, I emptied my closet, examined every article of clothing, and sorted it all into piles designated to throw away, to keep and to donate. Soon I noticed that the to keep pile was much larger than the to donate pile. I scrutinized the to keep pile and told myself I just couldn’t give those clothes away! They were too good! Some even had sentimental value!
At that point in my organizing project, I had to have a serious talk with myself. I said, “Self, if you are truly unselfish and generous enough to give someone the shirt off your back, you should have no trouble donating the clothes you are no longer wearing to someone who needs them!”
After all, I donate my time and nothing is more valuable than my time. I donate my blood. I donate my talent. I donate money at the drop of a hat. Girl Scout cookies? Raffle tickets to win a trip to Vegas? I’m there! Why, then, is donating my clothing so difficult?
So what if I paid a lot for the clothes? They are of no value to anyone if they just hang in my closet getting older by the minute. So what if there were memories associated with a dress? Even without the dress, the memories will remain. And leaving those jeans hanging in the closet won’t, unfortunately, make me thinner!
Then I re-evaluated my to keep pile. I was happy with my decisions. All the clothes had the potential to be worn. There was one item I loved: a velvet jacket that I knew I’d been saving because it was “too good to wear.” The purchase price for that jacket was $100. I’d worn it twice.
“Self,” I said, “that means each wearing cost you $50. That will not work.” The jacket would become dated, not worn out. So I vowed to quit saving anything because it is “too good.” I vowed to wear the jacket often so I will get my money’s worth from it. I will not feel guilty when I move it to the to donate pile some day.
Two good things came from this exercise: I now have a nearly empty closet for guests to use when they visit and some needy people will get some pretty nice clothes to wear. Oh, and one more thing, I feel much better about myself!
However, I will always wish I could fit in those size 4 jeans again!
Friday, March 13, 2009
The American Bar Association's Model Rule 1.15 addresses the attorney's ethical obligation to keep a client's property safe. That obligation includes:
- Keeping the property or funds separate from the lawyer's property and in a safe place, such as a separate bank account, a safe deposit box, or a fireproof safe
- Keeping accurate and complete records of the client's funds and property (rules regarding the records to be kept vary from state to state)
- Promptly notifying the client when property or funds are received
- Promptly delivering the property to the client when entitled
- Providing a full accounting of the property upon the client's request
The client's funds are not to be commingled with the law firm's general operating account(s). Violation of this rule, even if there is no harm to the client, may result in the attorney being disciplined. There may be other ramifications such as criminal charges and civil litigation. This is a serious issue.
Here are seven important things you must remember when handling the client's money or other property:
1. 'Fees paid in advance' are not to be confused with 'retainer fees.' Advanced fees are usually requested to ensure the attorney's fees and costs will be paid. These fees are never deposited in the firm's general account. Instead, they are deposited in the client trust account and may be withdrawn only as fees are earned or expenses are paid. The fees are considered 'earned' when they are billed. Any unearned advanced fees are to be refunded to the client.
2. A 'retainer fee' is a flat amount that is paid for a specific period of time, such as monthly. Retainer fees are paid to guarantee that the attorney will be available for whatever work has to be done during the specified period of time. The retainer fee belongs to the attorney whether or not the attorney does work that would earn payment of the fee. They are not returned to the client, regardless of the amount of work done on the client's behalf.
3. Any funds received by the attorney but still belonging to the client are deposited in the law firm's trust account. The trust account is a separate account from the attorney's general operating account. It is maintained in the state where the attorney's office is located. The two accounts are never commingled, even if there is no harm to the client. For instance, it is unethical to borrow funds from the trust account to buy new office furniture or cover payroll, even if the money can be returned to the trust account before it is missed.
4. The client trust account may also be called the IOLTA Account. This is the Interest on Lawyers' Trust Account program. The supreme courts or legislatures of all 50 states have established these programs so that the interest on the attorney's trust account is forwarded to the State Bar to provide legal services for low-income citizens.
5. States are divided on the issue of paying unearned fees by credit card. The ABA approves the use of credit cards for payment of earned fees. Those fees may be deposited directly into the firm's operating account. It has been suggested that payments for unearned fees (remember that these funds still belong to the client and must be treated as such) may not be made to a credit card account that is used for the firm's general operating funds. (See Arizona Ethics Opinion 08-01 and Michigan RI-344 for examples). It would probably be best if attorneys have two credit card merchant accounts...one for earned legal fees and costs and a second for advance fees and expenses.
6. Some states allow nonlawyers to sign trust account checks. The rule varies from state to state. Whatever the rule, the attorney remains responsible for any mistakes or theft of funds from the account. It is important that the attorney reviews all trust account transactions each month. The attorney is ultimately accountable for the safekeeping of the client's funds. Nonlawyers can be prosecuted for mishandling the funds.
7. According to ABA Model Rule 1.5, the attorney must keep records of trust account funds and other property for five years after representation of the client ends. This time period varies from state to state.
Your challenge: Review the Model Rules and Ethics Opinions in your state so that you understand the rules that apply to your firm's handling of client funds and property. While the attorney will be disciplined if errors are made, you, too, could subject to criminal or civil penalties. Your firm should have a system in place to ensure that its clients' funds and property are handled properly and ethically.
© 2009 Vicki Voisin, Inc.
Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: 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 publishes a bi-weekly ezine titled Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence. More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com