Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Here are twelve tips that will help you survive these situations and thrive in your career:
Just like the cable company, adopt the habit of 'bundling.' Try saving all the questions you need to ask the attorney and present them all at once. It's tough to flag down a busy person and they don't like frequent interruptions that take them away from their work. If you can schedule one or two fifteen minute meetings (say, first thing in the morning and perhaps immediately after lunch), you may find a more willing listener.
Does your state have guidelines for the utilization of paralegals? If not, the American Bar Association has published Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services. Those are available at this link. Your national professional association may also have guidelines in place. For instance, the NALA, the assocation for paralegals and legal assistants, has guidelines available by following this link. Once you have located guidelines, make a copy and then discuss the guidelines with your employer. Tell him/her that you really like your job and you like working for him/her but there are some areas where you feel uncomfortable and could he/she help you with those. If your employer doesn't know that you need this help, he or she can't provide what you need.
Be sure you are getting the supervision that is required for nonlawyer staff. Remember that the attorney is to review your work before it leaves the office and that nonlawyers cannot sign pleadings or correspondence that offers legal advice.
Familiarize yourself with the court rules for your state and your local jurisdiction. Know where to find requirements and time frames for any filings you'll be doing. It's your responsibility to know this for calendaring and for planning when work needs to be done.
Are there similar older or closed files you can follow? They would give you great ideas for procedure that's been followed in the past, documents that have been drafted, and correspondence that's been sent. Be sure to ask the attorney if there is another file you can follow or another client with similar issues.
Make the court staff your new best friends. They are usually happy to help with procedure and they may have checklists and forms you can use. Be sure to treat them with respect and be lavish with your thanks.
Create your own procedures manual. This should include forms, checklists, contact lists, and helpful Web sites. The more systems you can put in place, the smoother your transition into this new practice area will be.
Seek out continuing education opportunities, especially in the new practice area. You should consider certification and advanced certification. There are also a number of online courses (remember that The Paralegal Mentor offers a few that might work) that should be convenient for you to attend.
Take an active role in paralegal forums. Two good ones are provided by Paralegal Gateway and by Legal Assistant Today. NALA also provides a good forum for members. The paralegals who post on those venues are very generous with their expertise and advice. They will generally share forms and their knowledge of procedure.
Join local, state and national professional associations. After you've joined, become an involved member: go to meetings, run for office, join in discussions and educational events. This will provide chances for networking with other paralegals who do the same work you do. Professional newsletters and journals offer lots of articles that may help you with your situation.
Find a mentor. Ask someone who has experience in the practice area to help you learn the ropes. Again, most paralegals are incredibly generous with their time and their expertise.
Use social media as a resource. Establish accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, provide a professional profile and dive in. Be sure to join whatever groups work for you, too. This is a great way to ask questions, locate resources and learn about educational opportunities. Just remember that whatever you post on these sites can be viewed by everyone so keep everything you do on a professional level.
Your challenge: When you find yourself saying, "Holy Moly...what do I do now?" take a step back, analyze the situation, and decide which of the above tips will work for you. You will probably find more than one. Then, step by step, learn all about the new practice area or the new procedure. Before you know it, you'll be offering tips and advice to other paralegals.
©2000 Vicki Voisin, Inc. If you want to reprint this article in your newsletter or at your blog, you may do so but you must include the following: 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, ethics issues, organizational tips, 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 (Subscribers receive a free special report titled ‘Is Your Computer Talking Behind Your Back?’ and are invited to attend free monthly Paralegal Mentor Mastermind Calls that feature guest experts discussing issues of interest to the paralegal field.)
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Susan is my hero and there are many lessons to be learned from her experience...I want to share a few with you:
1. Never give up on your dreams.
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue and the dreams you dare to dream really do come true. ~ Lyman Frank Baum
No matter how long you've had your dream, keep it close to your heart and never let go. Never think that your dreams can't come true. Susan Boyle was born with her beautiful voice and she dreamed of being like Elaine Paige. At age 47, she marched on stage and all the world watched her dream become a reality.
2. Have courage
Courage is simply the willingness to be afraid and act anyway. ~ Dr. Robert Anthony
Courage gives you confidence for every step you take. Courage recognizes challenges. Courage understands risk. Courage acknowledges fear. Courage is aware of the possibility of failure. Then courage gives you the confidence to move forward, to do what you believe is right and true. Courage urges you to reach your full potential. At age 47, Susan Boyle stood before the audience and had the courage to reach her full potential. Was she nervous? You bet!
3. Take risks.
Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go. ~ T.S. Eliot
Susan Boyle took a huge risk when she stepped on stage and looked Simon Cowle in the eye. Would he like her? Would she be embarrassed? Would she fail? Susan knew, though, that if you live your entire life playing it safe, you will never know what you can achieve. Sure, never taking a risk is playing it safe, but playing it safe is the greatest risk of all.
3. Never underestimate another person.
Don't judge a book by its cover. It's what's inside that matters. ~ Michael Green
Susan Boyle is not tall, she is not thin, she doesn't have great hair, and she would not win a beauty contest....but Susan Boyle is beautiful on the inside. Never be fooled by what you see. A person may look great, they may drive a snazzy car and they may wear the latest fashions. Those do not make them beautiful. Always look deeper for a person's inner beauty. If you did not look inside Susan Boyle, you you would miss her beautiful voice, her charm and her unassuming personality that make her a truly beautiful person.
4. Don't be afraid to leave your village (ie your comfort zone)
A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for. ~William Shedd
Only by venturing outside her tiny village did Susan Boyle make her dreams come true. Her voice would have been heard at weddings and at funerals and at church on Sunday morning but the world would have been deprived of knowing her and Susan would not have accomplished her life goal. Yes, she would have been safe. Yes, she would not have risked failure. By stepping outside her comfort zone, though, Susan Boyle taught us all that we should never stay in our safe harbor but sail toward our dreams, no matter how frightening that may be.
5. Believe and you can achieve.
If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, I know I can achieve it. ~Jesse Jackson
If you are to achieve anything in life, you must first adjust your attitude and believe with all your heart that you can do anything you decide to do. When you do this, half the battle is won. Believing in yourself is even more important than your abilities. Susan Boyle believed in herself even when the entire audience was smirking with disbelief. Other people do not have to believe in you...but you must always believe in yourself.
6. Stay true to yourself.
He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away. ~ Raymond Hull
There has been much discussion about whether Susan Boyle should have a makeover. Should she have her eyebrows waxed? Her hair styled? Her wardrobe updated? Susan herself has admitted she might need to exercise a bit now that she's seen herself on national television. If she wants to change to suit herself, that's great. Goals for personal improvement are good. However, Susan shouldn't change herself to please anyone but herself or she will lose the person that everyone fell in love with. Had she walked on stage looking like Miss USA, no one would have been surprised by the beatiful voice...they would have expected it. Finding the unexpected in Susan Boyle has been the attraction.
7. Do not fear competition.
You learn so much from competition. You gain confidence every time you step up and perform. ~Natalie Gulbis
Just when Susan Boyle was getting accustomed to the limelight, competition surfaced...a twelve year old boy with an incredible voice and darling dimples whose name is Shaheen Jafargholi. Susan will have to march on stage and meet the competition head on. She should do this by remaining true to herself. Susan is not Elaine Paige and she is not Shaheen Jarfargholi. She is a simple, unassuming woman who will grow from this experience and who will know in her heart that the world loves her for who she is.
I hope that Susan's brush with fame will cause you to pause and consider your life, your goals, and your dreams. Know that if you believe, you can achieve. In closing, I will leave you with one last quote:
Only as high as I can reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be. ~Karen Ravn
© 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
For communications to be regarded as privileged, they must be treated as privileged. They should be made only in confidential settings and they should not be made in the presence of anyone who is not covered by the privilege, such as a friend of a client. The privilege doesn’t apply to information learned by the lawyer from third parties or to the lawyer’s conversations with the client if those conversations were conducted in the presence of a third party.
The privilege is held by the client and the client is the only person who can waive it. The privilege lasts indefinitely. Therefore, the privilege continues even if representation ends or the client dies.
There are certain situations that may seem harmless but may result in the disclosure of privileged information to a third party. To protect the attorney-client privilege in cases you are working on, you should keep the 'third party factor' in mind.
The Third Party Factor
The Third Party who wants information. The client and their relatives or friends usually do not understand the importance of privilege so they may have expectations regarding the sharing of information:
If a relative or other third party calls for information about the client’s case, you must decline.
If a person believes he is entitled to information because he is paying the client’s attorney fees, you must decline.
If the client wants a friend or relative to sit in on a consultation for moral support, you must decline.
Communications by telephone that may be overheard by a third party. Federal laws and many state laws protect the privilege of communications made by telephone, even if the telephone is cellular or cordless.
Conversations that take place over cell phones have an expectation of privacy so long as the parties to the conversation take the necessary care to isolate themselves and talk only when they are out of earshot of others.
The expectation of privacy would be nonexistent if those same conversations took place in a crowded restaurant. On the other hand, an attorney may be very cautious and avoid anything but a hard-wired telephone to communicate with clients...or always take care to be sure no one else can hear the conversation...but there is no guarantee that clients will be as cautious, nor do they always understand that when privileged information is disclosed to a third party, even accidentally, the privilege is usually waived.
Note: The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (better known as the ECPA) extended the scope of the Federal Wiretap Act of 1968 to include electronic communications. This act prohibits the interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications.
Communications by fax and e-mail that may be intercepted by a third party. E-mail does not have to be encrypted. All fax cover sheets and e-mail messages, whether they are routine or contain privileged information, should contain a statement that it is privileged, and that if the recipient receives it in error he or she should not read it and should inform the sender. While this disclaimer can’t prevent someone else from reading the message, it can help you make the case that the disclosure was inadvertent and that the communication should retain its privileged status.
Always remember that you are dealing with different generations who have different comfort levels when it comes to technology. Some will want everything sent by e-mail. Some won’t be able to get their documents that way or check their e-mail so seldom that sending the communication by US mail would be faster. Be sure to get the client’s permission to communicate by e-mail. You should also be sure client is available to receive documents before sending them electronically.
Work done in preparation for litigation, including both mental impressions and informational material, is protected from discovery by a third party. Mental impressions are the theories and strategies in a case. Mental impressions carry an unqualified privilege that absolutely prohibits their discovery or admission into evidence. Research falls under the category of mental impressions. Informational material covers factual investigations such as witness statements. Informational material is protected with a qualified privilege that can be discovered if the material is essential to the opposing party’s case and if the opposing party has no other way to access the information.
Privileged documents may be accidentally disclosed in a document production. It is always helpful to mark documents as privileged, making the privilege obvious. This warns a third party who shouldn't have access to the document not to read it, warns staff to protect the privilege, and demonstrates to the court that the document was regarded as privileged if the matter is litigated.
There have been instances involving the revealing of confidential documents in document productions where the privileged document was not properly identified or the method of marking the document was careless...perhaps they were marked in pencil that could not be seen in the copying process or with a sticky note that fell off.
Your challenge: Understand the issues of attorney-client privilege and how those relate to the 'Third Party Factor.' Remember that in order for information to be considered privileged, you must treat it as privileged. This means using caution to be sure third parties do not have access to privileged information, do not receive privileged documents, and are not present when you or the attorney are having discussions with the client that include privileged information.
© 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
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Here are a few tips that may help you with disaster planning and recovery:
Have a plan. You may not be on the West Coast, situated by a body of water, live in Tornado Alley or be in the path of hurricanes, but you cannot dismiss the necessity of having a disaster preparedness plan in place. This is not a simple process. It will take a lot of time and effort but it's important to do this is NOW, not when the disaster is upon you because then it will be too late. This plan should be in writing and provided to all employees. It should also be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
Keep your employee contact information current and establish a communication plan that will work in the event of disaster so that employees will receive information about the status of the office and when they should return to work. Consider the fact that power may be out and phone lines could go down. How will they get this information if that occurs?
Keep lists of vendors and suppliers. This list would include the entities in charge of your banking, your payroll and bookkeeping systems, as well as your computer systems.
If records are destroyed, will you be able to access client information and contact clients? Create and maintain a list of clients and their contact information. Be sure you're able to access important dates and deadlines.
Use off-site secure servers for your computers if possible. It goes without saying that computers should be backed up daily, regardless of the system you use.
Inventory your firm's furniture and equipment. Keep detailed records of the dates of purchase and cost.
Take pictures...both before and after. Use these pictures to document the condition of your firm's premises before the disaster and then to document the damage. This will be crucial for settling insurance claims.
Have the ability to work remotely. Your clients will still have business you must attend to and you will need the means to do that.
Insurance is vital. Not only do the firm's premises, furnishings and equipment need to be adequately insured, but business interruption insurance is also a necessity. Your firm's largest losses could be to its income stream.
Identify your plan's successes and failures. Following a disaster, you must take a look at what worked with your plan and what needs to be fixed before the next disaster strikes.
Your challenge: Arrange a meeting immediately with key staff members at your firm and begin preparing your disaster plan. If you already have a plan in place, review it to be sure it's up to date. The same goes for your home: have a plan, pictures, contact information and adequate supplies. You cannot fool Mother Nature. When she strikes, you can only be ready to deal with the aftermath.
© 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
Friday, April 3, 2009
It is significant that the list includes not only law students, lawyers and law firms, but law librarians, professors, law schools, IT Specialists, and PARALEGALS. This list recognizes the value paralegals and their importance in the building of a successful legal career. Here's a quote from the beginning of the paralegal list:
"Graduates of law programs will more than likely be depending on the skills and expertise of paralegals to make their jobs easier. Find out more about what these professionals do, their experiences in law, and more from these feeds."
While this list was created as a resource for law students, the contributors offer a wealth of information for everyone in the legal profession. If you are on Twitter (and I recommend that you have an account), you will want to check out the Top 100 list and add them to your Follows.
Legal professionals have joined the Twitter phenomenon!