Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why Tweet?

Do you wonder why anyone would bother with social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn? Do you think social networking is a waste of time? Do you think that time spent on social networks has no value?

Perhaps it's the word 'social' that bothers you? 'Social' conjures up thoughts of fun and parties...of spending time on nonsense when there are too many other things to do. Social networking sites can be a lot of fun but what is incredibly valuable to all of the social networking platforms is the social learning that takes place. While I participate in FaceBook and LinkedIn, Twitter is hands down my favorite.

Here are a few tips that will help you understand Twitter and get on the road to social learning:

What is Twitter? Twitter is a social networking service that allows users to send messages (called 'tweets') that are 140 characters in length to their friends (called 'followers'). This 140 word format is unique to Twitter and allows for quick, informal sharing of information with people you wouldn't normally include in emails or instant messages. This expands your circle of contacts to a community of like-minded people. That community is growing by leaps and bounds...Twitter has well over 5 million users.

What does Twitter offer? Twitter can be used for both business and personal purposes. It's is a great way to keep in touch with your friends and broadcast information about what you're doing. You can always share that you're eating a PB&J at your desk (I do enjoy those posts) but I think the BEST use of twitter is for business purposes. Companies will broadcast their latest news and blogposts. Individuals will post links to their blogposts or ask for help. For instance:
  • @CathieCummings sent this message: I just christened my new laptop by getting peanut butter on the keyboard. Any suggestions on cleaning it?
  • Here's another post from an attorney: Today, I found out that a paralegal had redacted ORIGINAL documents with a sharpie. (OOPS!).
  • There are posts and links about employment opportunities: @alisondoyle posted Who's hiring
Tips for Twitter set-up. The first step is to go to and create your Twitter account. I have four important recommendations for this process:
  1. Select your user name (you can have up to 15 alphanumeric characters in your user name). Sign up using your given name with no spaces or underlines, as in VickiVoisin. Unless you have a brand that will identify you (such as @ExpertParalegal or @legaltypist), you must use your name or no one will be able to find you. How many people would know to look for me as @vvacp94? (Please note that @ is before every name on Twitter) Twitter will automatically check to see if the user name you've chosen is available.
  2. Be sure to load a picture, too. If you don't, your avatar will be something that looks like a brown paper bag with eyes.
  3. Give careful thought to your profile. Mind your manners and post a profile that will attract followers.

  4. You may also set up your Twitter account so your Tweets automatically link to Facebook...this will save you lots of time.

How to post Tweets. Because your tweets are limited to 140 characters (that includes spaces and punctuation) you have to be brief and concise. There are all sorts of shortcuts you can take to get more bang for your tweet...but that could be an entire article in itself. For now, we'll stick with the basics.

Your first tweet or two will feel strange but you'll quickly get the hang of it. Just type in 'Am a paralegal new to Twitter and wondering why I'm here.' Hit send and there goes your tweet....the response will surprise you. Once you get the hang of it, tweet about an article, an idea, or share a link of professional interest to your targeted followers. Many tweets will offer tips or links to articles or blog posts. Watch these carefully as this is where the social learning comes into play. For instance:
  • @alisondoyle posts several employment-related links every day. Some tweets will ask questions and this is your opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and share information in quick bursts of wisdom.

  • Looking for a job? Tell your Twitter friends! A story was posted about an account manager who was laid off from her job. Within minutes of the layoff, she pulled out her cell phone and sent a tweet that said 'Needs a job.' She did this even before she told her family. Before social media, victims of layoffs would share this news with just a few close friends and their family. Thanks to social media, the newly unemployed are coming out of the dark. This can be a great way to jump-start a job search. There will be support...either emotional support or suggestions for a new job. I might add here that there are lots of job postings on Twitter...I won't vouch for them but they're there.
What about followers? You can search for people to follow in the Find People link at the top of the Twitter page. Type in a name and then select 'follow.' The person may or may not follow you. This is a terrific option with Twitter because if someone chooses to follow you, you do not have to reciprocate. I frequently ignore anyone whose profile is questionable or who isn't writing about anything I'm interested in reading. You can follow topics, too. There is a search box in the right sidebar on the Twitter page. Type in 'paralegal' and all posts about paralegals will pop up. Type in 'job search' and you'll see all those tweets. From those tweets, you can select people to follow.

Here are a few suggestions for you to follow:
  • @VickiVoisin (of course!)

  • @legaltypist (virtual assistant) (who also has a great f'ree ebook Twitter 101 at

  • @DebbieLynnAVA (virtual assistant)

  • @ExpertParalegal (Lynne Devenny...great information and humorous posts)

  • @alisondoyle (terrific employment information)@sallyannekane (with Legal Assistant Today)

  • @kevinhouchin (an attorney)@breakthruguy and @mike_wesely (motivational quotes)

  • @NALStweet (yes, NALS is tweeting)

  • @lillyhill (paralegal who posts links of interest to the profession)

  • @Goddess_Bless (Lisa Devlin) @MargaretAgius @CathyRibble @CathyCummings (all Strategies subscribers...I love their posts)

  • @charlsye (Charlsye Smith-Diaz)

  • @rsylvester (a reporter who tweets from the courtroom)

  • @Paragate (Paralegal Gateway)

  • @Oprah Winfrey (do I have to tell you who that is?)

  • @aplusk (you get a gold star if you can figure that out ... it's Ashton Kutcher)
What does the # sign mean? The # you see before some topics is called a hashtag. Hashtags are channels that allow you to tune in to whatever signal will make Twitter useful at a given time. If you like the Food Network, you will follow #foodie or #cooking or #recipe. If you're a sports fan from San Diego, you can follow #padres. You will see all the tweets about that topic. The topics are endless.

Take a simple giant step. Now that you're all set up to tweet, you just HAVE to download Tweetdeck...until I did this, Twitter was difficult to use because tweets stream in real time. There was no way I could just sit at my desk and watch the tweets go by. Tweetdeck (a f'ree download at allows you to set up ten columns and then customize those columns to fit your interests. I have a column for 'paralegal' and another for 'probate' and another for 'law firm'...these change frequently. You can also organize your followers into groups.

My usual warning. Everything you post can be located with a simple Google search so remember that people may read every tweet you send. An inappropriate tweet (or post on any networking site for that matter) could hurt your career, cost you the job you have or take you out of the running for a new job. Don't say anything about anyone (especially your boss) that you would not say to them if they were standing in front of you.

Your Challenge. If you haven't already, it's time to see what the social media rage is all about. The key to your success is to use social media as a learning tool. Create your Twitter sure to use your name correctly, upload a picture, write a positive profile...then ask yourself what you want to learn from Twitter and search for that information. This will get you off to a great start. Let me know if you have questions!

© 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

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Five Things You May Not Know About....Candy Reilly, ACP

This is the first article in my new blog series 'Five Things You May Not Know About....' Each week I will feature a different paralegal...they will come from all areas of the profession and from different areas of the country. The focus will be on their work and also on how they spend their free time.

Candy Reilly, ACP
Fargo, ND

1. Candy, tell me about yourself and your work. I've been a paralegal for 24 years and currently work for the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of North Dakota, where my title is Paralegal Specialist. I married Jim Reilly in Kauai...our favorite travel destination. The North Dakota winters are long so we spend as much time outdoors as we can during the summer. We like to travel to tropical locations every January or February.

2. What is your favorite thing about being a paralegal? I love the detail work of investigating or researching. I believe it's important to go that extra step to help the attorney in every case I'm working on.

3. What do you consider to be your biggest challenge in doing paralegal work? I am a 'black and white' person. That doesn't always work in the legal field where there are a lot of 'gray' areas. Some issues are very frustrating.

4. Tell me about any volunteer activities you participate in. I'm always available for volunteer work in my community. For instance, I baked for the members of the National Guard who spent a month away from their homes to help build dikes and floodwork in the Fargo area this past winter. I also love to make baskets to auction for various causes, such as for friends in need or the annual basket auction at the courthouse where proceeds go to charities.

5. What do you like to do in your 'spare' time? I love to create something from nothing, such as pots from clays, jewelry from beads, quilts from fabric, etc. I like to make scrapbooks. I started making jewelry about eight years ago in between NALA projects during a particularly boring winter in North Dakota. I started with a few bracelets and was hooked. One thing led to another and I had more bracelets than any one person could wear. A friend suggested that I sell some. That was difficult but she persuaded me and the rest is history.

I usually sell the jewelry only to friends or co-workers, but I'm working on a Web Site. I love working with sparkly crystals. Recently I've started working with stones as they have so many different qualities. I've also created one of a kind bracelets, IE football bracelets (every woman needs to 'sparkle' during football season!) and sorority bracelets for my sorority sisters.

My creations have also included wedding jewelry for brides and their bridesmaids. This year I began experimenting with metal stamping, metal and rivet jewelry, soldered jewelry and silver wire fusing. I can't wait for warm weather when I can use the garage workshop and fire up my butane torch!

This picture was taken last Christmas when my nieces, my mom and I all made bracelets. Jewelry making can be a great group activity.

Earrings are my favorite thing to create. I look for unique beads so each pair is different. I've also made book marks (I call them book thongs) that were a big hit at the office. When I'm out in public or flying somewhere and someone comments on my jewelry, I love to be able to say, "I made it."

Since summer is so short in North Dakota, I create fewer pieces in the summer because I want to enjoy the outdoors. During the Winter months, I search for new beads and try new ideas/creations.

And, yes, I do still find time to work as a paralegal...after all, I have to support my hobby!

Thanks, Candy, for sharing a bit about your unique self with the Paralegal Mentor World!


Ethics Lessons: Let's Get Ethical...Let's Get Technical!

Technology rules! This is one truth known to all paralegals and other legal professionals.

We have entered the age where nothing is fast enough. Thanks to technology, we can work faster but it does not guarantee we are working smarter.

If legal professionals do not allow the time to check their work for accuracy, to ensure security, guarantee confidentiality and protect the attorney-client privilege, they are doing a disservice to the firm and its clients.

Are you familiar with the ethics rules that apply to the use of technology in the law firm? Now is a great time to learn those rules and also earn CLE credit.

Let's Get Ethical...Let's Get Technical will be offered on Thursday, May 14th, at 1:00 pm Eastern time. This ninety-minute teleclass (you only need to be on your computer is necessary) has been approved by NALA for 1.5 hours of ethics CLE. (California CLE credit application is pending)

This content-rich high-quality course will include a comprehensive handout for your reference, as well as lots of great information, including
  • How the web is redefining 'public' information
  • Why social media can be helpful...and how it can be a negative
  • The issues of Metadata
  • Rules, Codes and case law that you should be aware of
  • How to properly redact documents for online filing
  • The perils of using your BlackBerry, your laptop and your cell phone
  • Killer tips for using technology in litigation

For more information and to register, follow this link.

Hope to see you on May 14th!