Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Paralegal Resource: Fios, Inc.

Fios, Inc. is a company dedicated to helping attorneys, paralegals and other litigation support professionals navigate the complex challenges of e-discovery.

For over a decade, Fios has helped corporations and their outside counsel reduce risk, control costs and gain management control over the entire spectrum of electronic discovery. Fios delivers comprehensive services and expert guidance to transform the burdensome nature of electronic discovery into a streamlined, legally defensible business process.

The Fios web site is a virtual treasure trove of e-discovery information and resources such as:

Case Law provides Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, State Rules, Federal Rules of Evidence and relevant case law.

E-Discovery Knowledge Center offers
  • White pages
  • Web-casts and videos
  • Articles
  • Case studies
  • Industry standards
  • Service briefs and checklists

Sound Evidence Blog is the soapbox of Mary Mack, Esq., Corporate Technology Counsel. Her latest entry: FRCP moves from business days to calendar days.

There are also links to books by Fios e-discovery experts on topics related to electronic discovery.

Tom Mighell, Esq., was a guest expert on a recent episode of The Paralegal Voice that I co-host with Lynne DeVenny. He is a Senior Manager, Professional Services, at Fios where he helps clients prepare for and respond to litigation, and to understand the technologies used in e-discovery and other litigation technology processes. His focus is on working with corporations and their outside counsel to develop discovery readiness and response plans that increase efficiency while remaining conscious of both cost and risk.

Tom is just one of the many faces at Fios who are ready to help you maneuver the maze of e-discovery. Head on over to Fios, Inc. and take a look at the information offered's sure to help you with your next e-discovery project.

Who are those ABA Legal Rebels?

It seems that the legal profession is determined to turn today’s economic chaos into opportunity by changing the way attorneys do business. The American Bar Association has paid attention!

To celebrate these emerging practices, the ABA Journal has launched the Legal Rebels project to profile innovators in the legal profession who are finding new ways to practice law, represent their clients, adjudicate cases and train the next generation of lawyers. These innovators will be profiled in the ABA Journal and on the ABA web site, describing the changes they are making and the impact they are having on the practice of law.

For the most part, these ‘mavericks’ are leveraging the Internet to work faster and better but, most of all, to work different. The Legal Rebels featured in September included:

Denise Annunciata: Paralegal Power developed her own very successful Virtual Paralegal Services and represents a break from the usual ABA policy of only featuring attorneys.

Patrick J. Lamb: A Betting Man founded the law firm Valorum with other biglaw refugees.

Roderick A. Palmore: Demanding Diversity spearheaded the Associate of Corporate Counsel program Call to Action where other General Counsels evaluate outside law firms’ diversity efforts.

David Van Zandt: Purple Praise is te Dean of Nortwestern's law school who always wears purple, the school color. Showing his school pride is only a small piece of Van Zandt's business and marketing plan...he's also seeks advice from lawyers and clients about legal education, and changing the application process to include applicant interviews and establish a preference for candidates who have professional work experience.

Richard Granat: Internet Obsessive has several online ventures that focus on using the Internet to deliver legal services to underserved firms and clients.

Jeffrey J. Hughes: The Legal Grinder established an office that is also a coffeehouse. He owns Legal Grind, a Santa Monica, Calif., coffee­house/storefront law office where drinks are free and the legal advice is reasonable. For $45 you get 20 minutes with a lawyer; specific tasks—like a restraining order—can be had for $150. His wife is a paralegal who does contract work for him

Laurel Edgeworth: The Matchmaker created the Law Clerk Connection, a virtual forum that allows law students to bid on contract clerking assignments.

The stories about the inroads these innovators are making are fascinating. Be sure to watch for Legal Rebels who will be featured in the October issue of the ABA Journal and, also, follow the Legal Rebels Tour ’09.

The ABA is to be congratulated for recognizing these Legal Rebels who are embracing technology and transition to new media to reinvent themselves in the new economy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Three Success Rules To Shape Your Paralegal Career

During my entire career, I have immersed myself in learning. Because I have always worked as a paralegal, I have mostly attended and spoken at law-related seminars. Lately, though, I’ve been interested in time organization so I’ve been learning a lot about that, too.

I’ve found, however, that it is also important to take ample time to read all kinds of books, attend a variety of seminars, and listen to audio programs on personal development.Why?Because it is important that you work harder on yourself than you do on your job. If you do this, your life will be successful.

Over the years, I have learned three rules for success that I want to share with you. I refer to these as my "a-has" because they help me focus on important areas of my life and also because these guidelines have helped me create a successful career.

1. You are the average of the five PEOPLE you hang around the most. This is a principle taught by Jim Rohn, whom some call the 'father of personal development.' When I first heard this statement, I realized that it’s necessary to surround myself with people I want to be like....people who are success oriented, who have vision, who have spirit.

It is very important to make a concerted effort to be with people who think big and talk about great ideas, instead of the headlines in People Magazine, the price of gas (how depressing!), or how much they hate their jobs and their bosses. These attitudes and level of thinking are contagious. Beware!

There are many great seminars offered both where you live and all around the country. You have no excuse not to get out there and surround yourself with people who have positive attitudes and like-minded goals.

2. Your ENVIRONMENT must support your goals. Your success depends more on your environment than you may realize, but it's extremely important that you give yourself an environment that supports you at the level you want to BE AT, not the level you are at NOW. There are three areas of your environment that you should give your utmost attention:

Your physical environment. Do you love your work space? Do you have enough room to work and plan? Does this space encourage you to think? Are you surrounded by things that are beautiful and that bring good memories, such as a beautiful piece of art?

We can’t all have a gorgeous view from our offices, or even a window, but we can create an environment that brings us peace and tranquility without spending a lot of money. Little touches like flowers, photos of friends, family or your recent vacation, and even interesting paperweight can make you feel good.

Your emotional environment. Do you get the support you need from your friends, family and co-workers? These people are not mind readers. It is up to YOU to ask for what you need from them.

I have a great group of friends that I can bounce ideas off, ask for help with problem solving, and share my successes. Of course, sometimes I just need to vent! If your friends, family and co-workers cannot provide this, you may need to find a career coach or a support group that will help you.

Your intellectual environment. It is very important to feed your brain with new ideas and up-to-the-minute knowledge. Are you stimulating your brain every day? If not, you should attend a seminar, take a teleclass, or buy some new books or audio programs.

I so enjoy listening to these on my Ipod so I can learn while I take a walk or when I travel...this makes a long drive, a lengthy wait in an airport, or my time on an airplane zip by. My personal favorite is downloading books to my Ipod from my membership at Itunes also has many podcasts and other programs available at no cost.

One particularly good podcast, if I do say so myself, is The Paralegal Voice that I co-host with Lynne DeVenny on Legal Talk Network. This podcast is produced for and about paralegals. More information is available at or you can subscribe through iTunes. Again, this is a free resource that will enhance your paralegal career.

3. Your HABITS create your future. It only makes sense that your daily habits will create long-lasting effects in your life. The habits you adopt today will determine the results you get tomorrow.

If you want to be healthy and in shape, you must have the habits of a person who is healthy and in shape. If you want to be a successful paralegal, you must have the habits of a successful paralegal. If you want to be a leader, you must have the habits of a leader. None of these things will happen tomorrow unless you establish habits today that will lead to the results you want.

Your challenge: Visualize YOUR tomorrow. What kind of person do you want to be? Where do you want your career to take you? Then decide: What new habit can YOU put into place NOW that will make YOUR tomorrow what you want it to be? What can you do today to create a work environment that pleases you? What will you do to surround yourself with people who will support you and also be a positive influence? Ask yourself these questions now so that you can create habits for yourself today that will result in the tomorrow you want.

©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

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Paralegals: Increase Your Billable Hours With Low Hanging Fruit

You can thank Mother Nature for the expression low hanging fruit.

A fruit-bearing tree usually has some branches that are low enough for animals and people to reach without much effort. While the fruit on the lowest branches may not be as ripe or pretty as the fruit on the higher limbs, it’s easier to harvest.

Thus the popular expression ‘low hanging fruit’ generally means selecting the easiest target with the least amount of effort.

The term is often used in business to refer to the sale of consumer products or services. Salespersons may be encouraged to seek out the easiest customers first. These might not be the highest commission sales but they may be easier to close AND there may be more of them.

Here’s another example: Imagine for a moment that you’re taking a trip to Italy but you don’t know how to speak a single word of Italian. It’s obvious that you should start with the easiest words and phrases first such as wine…coffee…please…good-by…thank-you…taxi…etc. instead of beginning by conjugating verbs. By choosing to learn the simplest words and phrases first, you are picking the low hanging fruit. In this case, you are not necessarily choosing the less important but, instead, the easiest way to reach your goal.

You can apply this example to almost anything you are working on, but in this instance let’s apply it to increasing your billable hours. How do you increase your billable hours with low hanging fruit? You do this by choosing to do the work that will yield the most billable hours.

Instead of focusing on minor projects that having you starting and stopping and entering .6 entries all day, focus on the larger projects on which you can spend a considerable block of time and for which you can bill all, or at least most, of that time.

In a law firm, this is not necessarily the easiest work. Instead, it is work that will yield the maximum billable hour results...or picking the low hanging fruit.

What do you have to do today that will yield the most billable hours? The deposition summary? The medical records review? The answers to interrogatories? The estate plan? What pleadings need to be drafted? Each of these may take several hours.

Begin your day with those larger projects when your energy levels are at their highest. Close your door, do not take phone calls, and do not check your email. This should be absolutely uninterrupted time.

Once you have spent your block of time on the low hanging fruit projects, tackle the smaller projects such as email, phone calls and correspondence all at once. This is all billable time but if you draft a letter, then work on the deposition summary for a while, then return some email, then return some phone calls, you will have turned your day into a mishmash of work. In fact, you may begin a whole bunch of projects and finish none. Jumping from one task to another reduces your focus and your productivity. The result is fewer billable hours.

Of course, you can pick all the low hanging fruit you want, but you have to turn it into profit before it does you any good. That said, be sure to enter the time for your longer project as soon as it's finished so that you don't lose any billable hours. The same goes for those shorter tasks. You will have the greatest number of billable hours if you input your time as your day goes along and be sure it's all entered before you leave the office in the evening.

Your challenge: Always plan your day around the low hanging fruit. Before you leave the office in the evening, consider what must be done the next day. Once you have that list choose the project that will take you the greatest amount of time and schedule a block of time for that first. Then bundle the smaller tasks and plan to do them all at once. If time permits, spend another chunk of time on more ‘low hanging fruit’ later in the day. Focus on the low hanging fruit and you are practically guaranteed you will reach your billable hour goals by the end of the year.

©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

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Paralegal Profile: Thirteen Questions for Megan Power

Megan Power is a paralegal I enjoy following on Twitter as @Meg_Power. To learn more about her, I asked Meg to answer the Paralegal Mentor's Thirteen Questions. Thanks, Meg!

1. Where do you work and what is your job title? I work at Lowenstein Sandler PC. It's an AMLAW 200 firm based in Roseland, New Jersey with additional offices in New York City and Palo Alto, California. My title is Corporate Paralegal.

2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? I fell into it, to be honest. I initially thought my first paralegal job would be a stepping stone on my way to law school. I quickly learned that I would not enjoy being an attorney. I'm glad I learned that lesson before taking on all of that law school debt. Fourteen years later, here I am.

3. What is your favorite part of your job? Research. I love digging for information and then compiling it in a way that makes sense for the attorney and client.

4. Do you belong to any professional associations? No. I have looked into a couple over the years, but haven't taken the step to join.

5. How has your membership benefited you? Not applicable.

6. Do you have any professional certifications? No. This is again something I've looked into over the years, but so far, I haven't felt it was necessary to advance my career.

7. What has been the highlight of your career? Being hired by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in New York City. Having that name on my resume still opens doors for me today. As for other highlights, well, I feel like the best is yet to come.

8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Virtual paralegals appear to be on the rise, or maybe it's been going on for a while, and I'm only now cluing into it! I'm interested to see where this virtual segment of the market goes.

9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? How has that benefited you? You can find me on LinkedIn at on Twitter @Meg_Power. I've found Twitter in particular to be incredibly helpful in connecting with paralegals all over the country. It's been eye opening to see the varied and interesting things paralegals are doing. I've become a paralegal mentor through connections I've made on Twitter which is likely not something I would have done otherwise. Connecting with others on Twitter has really helped me to see where I might take my career to the next level. The paralegal community there is really supportive, and I'm glad that I found it.

10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? I would encourage anyone to pursue a paralegal career with confidence. The outlook for paralegals is great. I'd also encourage anyone new to the profession to be open to looking for positions outside of their preferred practice area, especially in this economy. Take what you can to get your foot in the door and get some experience under your belt. You never know, it might be the area you like best! I'd also emphasize that networking is critical.

11. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? I cannot think of any single event or person. I've been fortunate that I've met many people along the way who have been willing to take the time to teach me what they know.

12. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? It's really all about reaching outside of your comfort zone and volunteering to take on projects that might not normally come your way. There are so many different things going on in the legal field, in so many practice areas. Just today I volunteered to help a performing arts alliance form a nonprofit organization. I do not have much experience in organizing nonprofits, so this will help me gain experience in a new area, while helping out a great local cause.

13. Is there a quote that inspires you? "Be the change you want to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi.

Bonus…Just for Fun Fact: I registered to take part in this year's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time. Be sure to look for my resulting award-winning novel in bookstores next year. (haha)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Congratulations! Northeast Florida Paralegal Association Celebrates 25th Anniversary

The members of the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association (NEFPA) have good reason to celebrate: The Association has been serving the Jacksonville FL area paralegals since 1984!

The Jacksonville, Florida Daily Register reports that members of NEFPA) celebrated the organization’s silver anniversary on September 17th. They served cake, of course, and also opened a time capsule that was put in place when the Association was formed.

Shown here are new board members: Treasurer Nancy O’Grady, Secretary Carol Marin, President Cindy Houston, Vice President of Professional Development Lucia Fernandez, Vice President Committee Liaison Dana Welcker and NALA Liaison Kathryn Howell. (Not Pictured were First Vice President Cathleen Reid and Second Vice President Mary Richard).

Per the Daily Register: 'The organization has grown to 203 members and serves paralegals from St. Augustine to Fernandina. It was founded in 1984 as Jacksonville Legal Assistants, Inc. and two of the charter members are still active with NEFPA, Barbara Jernigan and Donna Hoffman.

"One of our charter members told me that (NEFPA’s) first operating budget was $1,000,” said Cindy Houston, NEFPA President. “Our current budget is $35,000. So we’ve not only grown in membership, but also in the services that we can offer.”

One of the highlights of the 25th anniversary celebration was uncorking the time capsule that was created when the NEFPA was founded. Items inside the tube included old photographs, newsletters, professional surveys, business cards of former presidents and an old banner.

The name on the banner may have changed through the years but the organization’s mission has remained the same: “to encourage a high order of ethical and professional attainment, further education among members of the profession, cooperate with local, state, and national bar associations, establish fellowship among its members and members of the legal community.”

NEFPA also encourages its members to gain certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and offers a review program for the certification.

One of its members gained national attention this year by being recognized as the American Association of Justice 2009 Paralegal of the Year. Linda Whipple was honored with the award at the American Association of Justice convention in San Francisco this year.

The organization is not only about advancing the profession, but also giving back to the community. Throughout its previous year the organization provided a holiday party for children living at Gateway Community Development Center, worked with The Missing Link of Jacksonville to help those who suffered spousal abuse and supported the military by assembling care packages for those serving overseas."

NEFPA will host the 35th Annual Convention of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) July 14-17, 2009. For more information about NEFPA to to

Monday, September 21, 2009

Paralegal Resource: Litigation Support Today

The August/October 2009 '3rd Anniversary Issue' of Litigation Support Today arrived in my firm's mail over the weekend. Since I was sorting the mail, I grabbed the copy for a quick read before passing it on to the attorney to whom it was addressed.

The contents of this issue intrigued me:

Using Hash Codes for File Identification (Challenges and Solutions)

Taking the Pain Out of Foreign Language Documents (Best Practice Tips for the Lit Support Professional)

ESI Vendor Selection (Using the EDRM Model)

Three Hot Career Trends in Litigation Support ("Today it takes six to eight months longer to fill these positions with many openings remaining unfilled since February 2009.")

Searching for the Elusive Needle in the Haystack: The Advantages of Concept Search
And more....Notes from the Second International Litigation Support Leaders Conference with Keynote Speaker Craig Ball; Vendor Briefs, and Industry News.

The issue was slick, easy to read and every article caught my attention. This publication is a terrific resource for all paralegals, but especially for those who are involved with litigation support.

Then this headline really caught my attention: How to get a FREE subscription to Litigation Support Today:

If you work in litigation support for a law firm, corporation, the government or elsewhere, you and your colleagues can qualify to receive a FREE subscription to Litigation Support Today. To subscribe or renew, just go to and complete the quick and easy subscription request form.

What a bargain!!!

The comment by Editor-In-Chief Albert J. Buckwalter in his 'Message From The Editor' really made sense to me:

"As the role of the litigation support professional continues to expand it is clear that in addition to being responsible for the processing and management of the support given that we also continue to be primary educators to our attorneys.

The attorneys should be focused on the legal theories and aspects of each case while lit support professionals provide attorneys with technical options and resources to help them access the information contained within the vast amounts of both electronic and hardcopy discovery."

While Litigation Support Today is celebrating its 3rd anniversary , it sounds like the publication team is really celebrating the future with many new benefits: a digital version of Litigation Support Today; a website job bank plus other innovative features; new special editorial sections on hot topics such as E-Discovery, and more.

You'd be crazy if you didn't click on this link right now and sign up for your very own subscription to Litigation Support Today. This may be one of the best career moves you make.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Paralegal Mentor Mastermind Call: How Do You Talk To The Insurance Carrier?

You are invited to an important free event!
The Paralegal Mentor Mastermind Series Presents...

How Do You Talk To The Insurance Carrier?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - 8:00 pm Eastern Time

Guest experts Marcy Jankovich ACP and Renee Jent CP, both Senior Claims Specialists for ProAssurance Companies.

Marcy and Renee will present a simulation of contact by legal professionals to an insurance carrier.The goal is to educate the listener regarding the types of information sought by an insurance carrier.

You'll also learn more about paralegals working in the insurance industry. This industry offers a variety of opportunities for paralegals. (See bios for Marcy and Renee below) The hour will be both informative and entertaining.


The Paralegal Mentor Mastermind Series is presented as a free special bonus for all professionals who want to create lasting success in their careers. can sign up for this presentation whether you attend the live class or not... ALL registered participants will receive a recording of the call.

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 ...

Marcy Jankovich, CP/APC , is a Senior Claims Specialist at ProAssurance, a professional liability insurance company. Although the primary book of business for ProAssurance is medical malpractice, Marcy manages legal malpractice claims exclusively.

Her duties include coverage verification, assigning defense counsel, managing the litigation in multiple states (authorizing expert witness retention, authorizing extraordinary litigation expense, reviewing proposed motions, etc, attending settlement conferences and monitoring defense counsel at trials with full authority to bind the company).

Ms. Jankovich graduated from Southeastern Paralegal Institute of Nashville, TN in 1989, achieving the CP (Certified Paralegal) credential in 1992, and APC (Advanced Paralegal Certification) with Specialty in Criminal Law and Procedure in 1993. Marcy gained experience as a freelance paralegal serving on a case-by-case basis for small firms in several areas of law from 1992 through 1996, concentrating on administrative law, particularly workers compensation claims, social security disability and special education advocacy.

Immediately prior to joining ProAssurance in December, 2002, Marcy served as Executive Legal Assistant to the Jackson County Prosecutor, John McBain for six years until he was elected Circuit Court Judge. She was responsible for managing Civil Asset Forfeiture cases, writing Request for Grant proposals (100% funded), media management and litigation support on high profile cases including assistance at trial.

Renee Jent holds Associate Degrees, Magna Cum Laude, in Office Administration and Legal Assistant Studies from Lake Superior State University. She has been employed as a paralegal since 1995. Before joining ProAssurance in 2004, Ms. Jent worked at a court agency managing interstate child support enforcement cases.

Prior to that, she was employed at a small firm working in personal injury, Social Security Disability, and civil litigation. Ms. Jent obtained her Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) designation from National Association of Legal Assistant (NALA) in 2002 and recertified in 2007.

She is the past president of the Legal Assistants Association of Michigan, Inc. (LAAM) and previously served as the association’s NALA Liaison. Ms. Jent has served on the Legal Studies Advisory Committee of Lake Superior State University since 1997. She is a member of the State Bar of Michigan Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section and NALA .

Go to this page RIGHT NOW to reserve your 'front row seat' for this important event. You'll see how easy it is to secure your spot when you click here.

Paralegal Tips: Are You Ready For The Exam?

If you're preparing for an exam, perhaps for your paralegal program or for your paralegal certification, it's important that you use planning and time organization techniques both for preparing for the exam and for taking it.

Here are five tips that will help you achieve your best results:

1. Walk into the exam room completely relaxed and refreshed. Get plenty of rest the night before and have a good meal at least 90 minutes before you begin. Repeat this mantra: I am prepared...I know this material...I am going to do well. Absolutely no negative thoughts allowed. If you need to, practice some deep breathing and other relaxation exercises. Above all, do not panic. Remember that if you fail, the world will not end.

2. Listen to instructions carefully and review the entire exam before you begin answering the questions. During this preliminary review, mark the easiest questions or areas that you feel most comfortable with. Determine the number of questions you will be answering and also the value of each question.

This will give you a good idea how to plan your testing time by allocating the number of minutes to be spent on each question based on the question's value. For instance, if you have one hour to finish the exam and there are ten questions with equal weight, you;ll spend five minutes on each question, with ten minutes remaining to review your answers. However, if one question is worth a greater percentage than the others, you will allot more time for that question.

3. Before you answer a question, read it aloud to yourself (of course, not too loud because others should not hear you). If the question is confusing, you may have to rephrase it. If the question has several parts, break it into steps and take it one step at a time.

4. Begin by answering the easiest questions and be sure to stick with your allotted time. If you find yourself struggling with a question, leave it and go on to the next one. You can return to the unanswered question once you complete the rest of the exam.

Be sure that you don't spend too much time on the questions that are easiest. Write enough to get the job done. Don't write an essay when one isn't required. You'll be wasting time that would be better spent answering those more difficult questions.

5. Always use your review time. When you've used your allotted time for answering questions, spend the remaining time reviewing your work. Read the questions and your answers, making any necessary corrections or additional material if it's necessary.

If there are blanks or unanswered questions, this is the time to complete those. Never leave a question unanswered. An unanswered question is definitely wrong. It's better to take a stab at an answer.

Bonus tip: Never understimate the importance of writing legibly. While neatness may take a bit of extra time, it certainly does no harm and may positively influence the person grading or reviewing the test.

Use these five tips when you take your next exam and see if they don't help you do your best work. Always remember that, as with everything in life, a bit of planning at the beginning of the exam will help keep you on track and get the best results.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Singing the Layoff Blues: How I Keep My Head In the Game

Margaret Agius, CP has submitted today's guest article. I have known Margaret for years through our work with the Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section of the State Bar of Michigan.

During the time she has been without a job, I have tried to offer ideas and support. I have been impressed with her fortitude and the style with which she handled not only the job search, but the rejections as well. She has done her best to be innovative and to keep busy.
Knowing that many paralegals are having the same experience, I asked her to write about her journey. I did not ask her to credit me but I'm glad she did. As always, I'm ready to help in any way I can.

It does seem that the economy may be improving. Hopefully this will translate to hiring opportunities for paralegals. Meanwhile, take some lessons from Margaret's efforts to 'keep her head in the game.

Singing the Layoff Blues: How I keep My Head in the Game

Margaret Agius, CP

I was laid off from my paralegal position on December 1, 2008, after almost 10 years with the firm. By my calculations, for every six résumés I send, I score only one interview. So far, none of the interviews have resulted in a job offer. I was losing my edge, among other things.

There HAD to be something I could do to “think outside the box” of merely sending résumés and hoping for the best.I turned to our Paralegal Mentor for advice. Vicki highly recommended social networking. I’ve met new paralegal friends and reconnected with old ones using LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and created a VisualCV. To date, I have 72 LinkedIn connections, belong to 20 groups and received four recommendations. I have 63 Twitter followers and 15 Facebook friends. I won’t win any contests for the most followers or friends, but I’ve always valued quality over quantity.

“Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence” was one of my few remaining regularly scheduled paralegal activities. I joined a number of “Paralegal Mentor Mastermind Calls,” and contributed when I could. I took two of Vicki’s teleclasses, “Let’s Get Ethical...Let’s Get Technical” and “A Blueprint for Your Job Search in the Digital Age.” Both were excellent. I attended my state paralegal association spring networking reception and seminar. I was starting to get back in the groove.

Then in late May, the job postings and interviews really dried up. I was watching the Today Show on June 11, on which a representative from gave advice to unemployed viewers on how to stand out in the competitive job market. One viewer was looking for a job in journalism. The representative told her that was looking for freelance writers around the country to contribute regular articles on a wide variety of subjects. Communications degree, years of writing for paralegal publications and time on my hands…twist my arm!
I applied to be the Detroit Legal News Examiner that day. I was accepted on June 15, and posted my first four articles on June 16. It’s independent contractor work and does not provide a regular salary, but it sure as heck gives me something to help plug the ever growing gap in my résumé--and keep my brain cells active.

I threw myself more heavily into my frugal hobbies of coupons, rebates, rewards programs, and survey programs. I then created a website to share my tips with the world. I christened FrugalParalegal on June 13, 2009. Here are a few of my blog entries:
7 Tips for Printing Coupons at Home [ Jun 14, 2009, 5:30 PM ]
7 Rewards Programs That Pay [ Jun 16, 2009, 9:22 AM ]
3 Survey Programs That Pay [ Jun 17, 2009, 9:56 AM ]
Paralegals--Fun and Learning in Las Vegas [ Aug 11, 2009, 2:45 PM ]

Feel free to visit, browse, and join in on the fun and savings!Now that summer is winding down and the kids are back in school, it's my fervent hope that the job postings and interviews pick up again. In the meantime, watch for me on, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and FrugalParalegal.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Paralegal Profile: Thirteen Questions for Dorothe Howell ACP

Dorothe Howell ACP shared her experience and expertise on the September episode of The Paralegal Voice titled E-Discovery Trends in the Paralegal World. You can listen to Dorothe's terrific e-disovery tips by following this link and find additional e-discovery resources here. Dorothe was also kind enough to share her paralegal journey by answering the Paralegal Mentor's Thirteen Questions:

1. Where do you work and what is your job title? E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, Wilmington, DE – Senior Paralegal in IP and Commercial Litigation department

2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? I like the law and worked as a legal secretary first and my boss encouraged me to take paralegal classes. I liked it and continued to pursue the career

3. What is your favorite part of your job? I like every part of my job, but the collection, processing and production of documents is probably my favorite

4. What professional associations do you belong to? NALA

5. How has your membership benefited you? Absolutely

6. Do you have any professional certifications? Certified Paralegal designation in Trial Practice, Discovery and Business Entities

7. What has been the highlight of your career? Being able to work on landmark high profile, document intensive cases like the Enron matter

8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Technology and electronic discovery

9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? If not, do you see that in your future? Somewhat, since that is where we are now finding discoverable documents

10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? Study hard, work harder and make sure you stay ahead of the multitudes by being on the cutting edge with your knowledge

11. Is there a quote that inspires you? Yes, but it has nothing to do with legal: Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul! (Note: Dorothe can be found riding her Harley in her 'spare' time.)

12. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? My first attorney boss, Powell Welliver, who inspired me to become a paralegal

13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Never stop learning

Bonus…Just for Fun Fact: The best thing I ever created during my paralegal career are spreadsheets to keep my professional life organized.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quid Pro Quo and Other Thoughts on Learning Latin

If the Romans had been obliged to learn Latin,
they would never have found time to conquer the world.
~Heinrich Heine

It is interesting how decisions we make can have a powerful impact on our future, even if those decisions are made for the wrong reasons and years before their impact is apparent.

As a fourteen-year-old freshman in high school, I chose to take Latin. Why? does any fourteen-year-old girl make decisions? I must have wanted to learn Latin, my mother must have wanted me to learn Latin, AND the teacher was beyond gorgeous. I don't remember his name but he was OLD...probably all of 22 since that was his first teaching job.
My stint in Latin class lasted through the middle of my sophomore year when my family moved North and it wasn't available in my new school. I know I probably hated to leave the teacher, but I'm certain it didn't bother me one iota to interrupt my Latin lessons forever.

Fast forward more years than I like to think about and here I am. involved with the legal profession and eternally grateful for my Latin lessons. What I learned in the space of one year has served me well in my paralegal career.

Paralegals are exposed to Latin terms almost every day, whether they work in litigation or in civil law...whether they're preparing pleadings or contracts. It's important that they understand what the terms translate to, for example:
  • Ad hoc. For this; for this special purpose
  • Ad litem. For the suit; for the purposes of the suit.

  • Amicus curiae. A friend of the court. A person who has no right to appear in a suit but is allowed to introduce argument, authority, or evidence to protect his interest.

  • Duces tecum. Bring with you; requiring a party who is summoned to appear in court to bring with him some document, piece of evidence, or other thing to be used or inspected in court.

  • Et al. An abbreviation for et alii "and others'.

  • Et seq. Abbreviation of et sequentes; "and the following" something shown as et seq.

  • Et ux. an abbreviation of et uxor, "and wife"

  • Ex parte. On one side only; by or for one party

  • Ex post facto. After the act

  • Fiat. "let it be done".

  • Ibit. Abbreviation of ibidem; in the same place, in the same book; on the same page

  • In re. In the affair; in the matter of

  • In toto. In the whole

  • Inter vivos. Between the living

  • Ipso facto. By the fact itself; by the mere fact

  • Lis pendens. A pending suit

  • Mala praxis. Malpractice

  • Mandamus. We command

  • Nunc pro tunc. Now for then.

  • Per curiam. By the court.

  • Per se. By himself or itself.

  • Per stirpes. By roots or stocks; by representation.

  • Praecipe. An original writ, drawn up in the alternative, commanding the defendant to do the thing required or show the reason why he had not done it.

  • Quantum meruit. as much as he deserved.

  • Quantum valebant. As much as they were worth.

  • Quare. Wherefore; for what reason

  • Quid pro quo. What for what; something for something.

  • Res. A thing; an object;

  • Res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself.

  • Res judicata. A matter adjudicated

  • Scilicet (SS. or ss.) To wit; that is to say

  • Semper. Always

  • Semper paratus. Always ready

  • Simplex. Simple, single

  • Sine. Without

  • Situs. Situation; location

  • Stare decisis. To abide by, to adhere to, decided cases

  • Status quo. The existing state of things at any given date.

  • Supra. Above; upon

  • Tort. A private or civil wrong or injury.

  • Ultra. Beyond; outside of; in excess of.

  • Ultra Vires. Acts beyond the scope of the powers of a corporation as defined by its charter or articles of incorporation.

  • Versus. Against

  • Vice. In the place or state

  • Vice versa. Conversely, in inverted order

  • Voir dire. To speak the truth.

Was Latin difficult? Yes! Was learning Latin important? Yes, again! It serves as the root for so much of our language, in fact all languages. When I entered the legal profession as a paralegal, I already felt comfortable.

I can't say this about all the classes I've taken, but the time spent learning Latin was time well spent.

Have you studied Latin? I'd like to hear if and how it has impacted your career.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why and How You Should Update Your Resume TODAY!

September is 'International Update Your Resume Month.' This initiative is spearheaded by Career Directors International to promote the importance of having your resume updated at all times.

Why is this so important? You should always be prepared to submit your resume at the drop of a hat. If you're not, you'll be rushing to update and submit the resume and you may end up with a sub-par document. Keep this quote in mind as you think about your resume:

It pays to plan ahead.
It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark!

Planning and preparation are always important. Here are additional instances you should consider:
  • Your current job responsibilities have changed, you have new training and skills, you’ve recently completed a degree program or obtained a certification from a professional association.

  • You're happy with your job and have no intentions of leaving. Out of the blue a recruiter comes calling with a terrific opportunity but your resume needs to be submitted NOW. Would you be able to do that?
  • It's time for your annual performance review and you intend to ask for a raise. Is your resume updated so that it will demonstrate your value to your employer?
  • You haven’t looked at your resume in forever. This is not good!Resumes don't just jump out of a hat. It takes time, effort and good organizational skills to gather information, choose format, write good content and to draft the perfect cover letter. If you don't have a powerful resume to work with in the first place, you'll be in big trouble if you need that resume tomorrow morning.

What steps should you take to update your resume?

  • Working from your last update, make note of all of your accomplishments and do be specific: Did you work on a special project? Were you instrumental in initiating a new system that improves productivity? Have you surpassed goals? Have you gone above and beyond? Did you learn any new skills? You must be specific.
  • List all continuing education events you attended. Did you train in any new practice area? Did you obtain a certification or other credential? Did you finish your education?
  • Is your personal information still current? Have you changed your name? Have you moved, changed your telephone number or email address? Incorrect personal information means no one will be able to find you for that important interview.
  • Consider your format very carefully. Many standard formats found on the Internet will not work because they turn into gobbledy gook when it’s uploaded to a future employer’s electronic system. Also you need to carefully place the information regarding your skills and employment history so that there is not too much white space. It is critical that the reviewer’s eye be drawn to your content, not to blank space.
  • The content is also critical. Resume reviewers will not take the time to read a long diatribe. Your content must be clear and concise. It must also be presented in a way that it can be easily read. If everything is lumped together in one paragraph, your resume will end up in the circular file. If at all possible, your resume should be only one page in length.

Your Challenge: Begin updating your resume today using the tips above. In the future, use your computer as your ‘resume diary’ where you keep careful notes of everything you do. There’s no doubt that this is work, but once your update is completed and if you keep your ‘resume diary’ updated it will be simple to bring your resume current on a moment’s notice. It will, in fact, take care of itself.

©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

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Resources for Paralegals: The American Bar Association

The American Bar Association isn't just about attorneys. Through some outstanding programs, the ABA promotes the paralegal profession and offers some excellent resources for paralegals.

The ABA's policy making body, the House of Delegates, adopted the current definition of "legal assistant/paralegal" in 1997. The definition reads as follows:

A legal assistant or paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.
According to the ABA's Web site, "The current definition of "legal assistant/paralegal" replaces the definition adopted by the ABA Board of Governors in 1986. It adds the term "paralegal" since the terms "legal assistant" and "paralegal" are, in practice, used interchangeably. The term that is preferred generally depends on what part of the country one is from. The current definition streamlines the 1986 definition and more accurately reflects how legal assistants are presently being utilized in the delivery of legal services. "

The ABA has also adopted Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services. The Model Guidelines were originally adopted in 1991and are intended to encourage lawyers to utilize paralegal services effectively and promote the continued growth of the paralegal profession. The Guidelines were revised in 2004 to incorporate new case law, new advisory opinions, new and revised state guidelines and changes in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct since the original publication date.

Are you a paralegal who has recently lost their job? Want to know how to market yourself in today's economy? The ABA's Economic Recovery Resources portal contains resources and tips on a variety of topics for lawyers and paralegals. Gain access to invaluable information and resources for job search/networking, stress management, professional development and much more. Visit the new ABA Job Board to search for jobs, create a profile and upload your resume.

The Standing Committee on Paralegals develops and promotes policies relating to the education, employment, training and effective use of paralegals. The Standing Committee, through its Approval Commission, continues to serve as the body to set standards for paralegal education.

The Standing Committee monitors trends in the field and recommends for approval and reapproval to the House of Delegates (the ABA's policy-making body) those paralegal training programs that have met the standards and guidelines set by the ABA for quality paralegal education.

In addition to overseeing its approval program, the Standing Committee also monitors trends in the field. The Standing Committee maintains an information service for those persons interested in becoming paralegals. In an average year, the staff office processes more than 6,000 requests for information and responds to numerous requests for help.

The ABA also offers information for preparing for a career as a paralegal, where to get training and what it means to graduate from an ABA-approved paralegal education program. Read past articles from our Update newsletter. Here some additional resources produced by the ABA:

Your ABA: Ethics training for paralegals: a winning situation for clients
2005 Survey of Approved Paralegal Education Programs
Economic Benefits of Paralegal Utilization
Information for Lawyers: How Paralegals Can Improve Your Practice

Be sure to visit the ABA Web site to check out all of the information available there, including various publications and a list of paralegal blawgs.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Are You Leading By Example?

"The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves." ~Ray Kroc, Founder of McDonalds

Many leaders believe their role is to improve their members and shape their thoughts and behaviors. Those leaders spend countless hours trying to mold their followers.

This thinking causes leaders to miss the single most important leadership principle: leading by example. Leading by example translates to practicing what you preach, walking the walk and talking the talk, and doing what you say you will do. Members clearly see how you react under pressure and also what you view as important. Your values are transparent. When you lead by example, the practices you incorporate will inspire others to follow you and to emulate you.

There are five basic rules for leading by example:

1. Treat others as you expect to be treated. No leader should consider themselves to be better than the members or expect to receive royal treatment. Instead, a true leader's goal will be to treat others with respect and give them a sense of importance. Every member must be treated with dignity.

2. Be more interested in listening to members than talking to members. Your role as a leader is not about YOU, it is about your members and the association you are leading. Don't waste your breath telling members how great you are. Instead, listen to their concerns and their issues. Listen to the solutions they suggest. While ultimate decisions will be based on what is best for the whole, your members must know that you value their input.

3. Look at the positives, not the negatives. Negative thinking breeds unhealthy attitudes and poor results. It makes successful outcomes seem impossible. Members are drawn to leaders who have positive attitudes and the ability to resist or overcome negativity.

4. Help others along the way. A leader's role is to set members up for success. When your term is over, you should be able to say you've not only empowered your members, but you've inspired them to follow in your footsteps as a future leaders.

5. Don't take yourself too seriously. Your role is important but, again, this is not about YOU. You are human, You make mistakes. Whether you succeed or whether you fail, do not take yourself too seriously. This will give you the ability to identify with your members. You may be the person who ultimately makes things happens, but you cannot do this without the enthusiasm and hard work of your members.

As you take on any leadership role, remember that there is no such thing as a perfect leader. You can come close to perfection, though, by setting an example of hard work, truth, honesty and never-ending empathy for the cares and concerns of members

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 weekly ezine titled Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence. More information is available at

Friday, September 11, 2009

Everything Your Paralegal Wants You to Know...

Frank Sanitate and Douglas Gillies of Quality Time Pros have authored an excellent article for the September 2009 issue of Arizona Attorney. The article is titled 'Everything Your Paralegal Wants You to Know (But Never Told You).

Where did they get their information? It's simple...they asked paralegals!!! What a great idea!

Do you ever wonder what's really going on inside your paralegal's head? In recent time mastery workshops for paralegals, the paralegals were asked to write something that they wished their bosses knew about them. The results are instructive -- and sometimes poignant.

The authors present nine statements that summarize the paralegals' responses, beginning with No. 1 I have a Life Outside of Work to Number 9 Sometimes I need Help with practice tips for each. Here's my favorite practice's a tip I've repeatedly offered in my Time Organization seminars for paralegals and in articles I've written:

Have a brief morning meeting with your paralegal or paralegals to go over priorities and answer questions. This is a good time to find out what they have been doing for you and thank them.
The morning meeting can set the tone for the day. Staff will know what has to be done and they can ask questions about their work. If used constructively, this meeting can go a long way toward stopping constant interruptions all day long...attorneys won't be calling the paralegal every 15 minutes with one new project after another and the paralegal won't be popping into the attorney's office to ask questions about the work they're doing. Everyone will be more productive.

Be sure to read this article. You will find all of the comments and tips interesting. You'll also find yourself saying, "Yes! That's exactly what I've been thinking!" You might also suggest that, in the interest of higher productivity and increased billable hours, your employer read it also.

Which practice tips can you put into effect TODAY?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Guest Post: 5 Tips for Paralegals Conducting Fact-Gathering Interviews

**Thanks to Michelle Fabio, Esq. for this guest post. She offers great tips that every paralegal can utilize.**

Five Tips for Paralegals Conducting Fact-Gathering Interviews

Most paralegals will conduct fact-gathering interviews at some point in their careers, and although there's no set format you have to follow, there are some tips to remember that can help keep you on the right track.

Of course, pre-interview you should always do as much prep as possible by knowing the file in and out and by identifying what you seek to obtain from the questioning. Then, when formulating your questions and follow-ups, keep in mind these five tips for fact-gathering interviews:

1. The "Explain it to me like I'm a four-year-old" concept.

Do you remember in the film Philadelphia when Denzel Washington's character keeps asking people to explain things to him like he's a young child? Well this happens to be a great fact-gathering interview technique, although you don't necessarily need to quote Denzel directly.

You and the interviewee may not have the same perception of terms or situations, so try your best to have him spell things out for you, i.e., what he means by "late at night," particularly if the exact time is important to the case you're working on.

2. Ask even when you know the answer.

Many times you will know a lot about a case before you even get to a fact-gathering interview, but always remember that you want the facts from your interviewee's point of view. This means that even when you think you know, for example, which of your interviewee's daughters she's referencing, ask to be sure.

It's better to have too much information recorded than not enough; as you well know, facts make or break cases, and a little clarification in the beginning can go a long way in the life of a case.

3. Don't worry if interviewee's version of facts is different than your current understanding.

Sometimes you'll interview someone who is recounting an event in a way very different from how you have been led to believe it happened. By all means, elicit facts from the interviewee, but the fact-gathering interview is certainly not the place to grill or cross-examine him or openly address discrepancies.

If you feel it will help bring out salient facts, gently introduce contradictory ones you have in your notes just for clarification, but don't pressure the interviewee to change his recitation of events. There will be time to parse out the truth later.

4. Use a combination of open-ended and closed-ended questions.

Open-ended questions are great for getting things started and letting your interviewee give her side of the story without any (or many) interruptions from you.

That said, she may offer commentary, information that is too general, and/or legal conclusions as opposed to the facts you're looking to bring out; in these instances, it's your job to redirect the questioning to specifics, using closed-ended (yes or no) questions to get the answers to the questions you need answered.

Incidentally, you can practice this interviewing tip in your daily life--even with your children, nieces, or nephews as you inquire about their school days.

5. Don't let the interviewee know you think he's lying.

Yes, one day an interviewee will look you straight in the eye and flat out lie. He knows he's lying. You know he's lying. But that doesn't mean he has to know you know. Phew. Got that?If you've managed to develop a poker face over the years, now would be a good time to pull it out.

You can ask the interviewee to repeat certain things, reframe questions, etc., but don't let on you don't believe him; an offended witness can become very harmful to a case down the road.

Guest post by Michelle Fabio, Guide to Law School, who also writes for and about choosing the right paralegal course for you at

Additional info: Michelle Fabio, an American writer and attorney leaves the Anthracite Coal Region of Pennsylvania for her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy, falls in love, adopts two dogs and three kids (baby goats), tends to chickens, rabbits, ducks, and a growing garden, writes to her heart's content, and begins bleeding espresso. No, really. Read more at her blog

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Paralegal Voice: E-Discovery Trends in the Paralegal World

E-Discovery Trends in the Paralegal World” is the topic of the third episode of Legal Talk Network's monthly podcast, The paralegal Voice. This monthly podcast is co-hosted by Lynne DeVenny and is now available by following this link.

Guest experts for this episode include Tom Mighell, legal technology expert and a consultant at Fios, and Dorothe Howell, Senior Paralegal with E.I. duPont deNamours, Inc., who has extensive experience in gathering electronic data.

Discussion explores everything from the basics of e-discovery to how to train for a career in this growing legal specialty area, including:
  • The basics of e-discovery

  • New trends & technology in e-discovery

  • In-house vs. outside counsel roles

  • Training for a career in e-discovery
  • Tom & Dorothe’s favorite e-discovery resources

  • Practice & social media tips from Vicki & Lynne
You may find these essential Internet resources about e-discovery, including those mentioned in this podcast, to be useful:

Electronic Discovery Law, a blog by K&L Gates,

Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM)

E-Discovery Team,

Fios E-Discovery Knowledge Center

Kroll OnTrack Resources

Practical Ediscovery, a blog by Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP,

A Few Free E-Discovery Resources for Newbies (from PraticalParalegalism)

Free E-Discovery 101 Podcast for Paralegals Available at Fios (from PracticalParalegalism)

The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsors: Teris, Clio, NALA, West LiveNote and George Washington University's Online Master's Program in Paralegal Studies.

Please share the link for The Paralegal Voice ( with your friends and colleagues.

If you have a request for a future show topic or a comment or question for the hosts, please send it to

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Paralegal Profile: 13 Questions for Patty Wyndham

In the 'In Between' issue of Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence, my weekly ezine with tips and resources for paralegals and other professionals, I am including profiles of paralegals from all over the US and Canada. In last week's 'In Between' issue, I included Patty Wyndham of Charleston SC who has taken her paralegal career in a different...and interesting...direction. Here are Patty's answers to the Paralegal Mentor's 13 Questions:

1. What is your paralegal background? I worked for many years in the legal field as a deputy clerk for a JDR court, progressing to a paralegal in the corporate environment. Most recently, I worked as a Trademark paralegal.
2. Where do you work and what is your job title? I own and operate Legal Billing Specialists, LLC. We provide legal billing and bookkeeping services as well as paralegal services to attorneys with a focus on small and solo practices.

3. What prompted you to open your own business? I was working as an Office Manager/Paralegal for a small firm in California. My husband’s job transferred us to the East Coast. The managing principal of the firm refused to accept my resignation and even tried to convince me to remain in California with my family on the East Coast. I began working remotely as an independent contractor for that firm. After a few months working virtually, I found that I loved working for myself, being my own boss and wanted to see the business grow and thrive.

4. Did you have to have any special training to do legal billing? In addition to an Accounting degree, I have attended seminars and training workshops for many different billing programs. Legal billing requires you to understand what the attorney is trying to express to the client as well as assisting the attorney or practice in keeping accurate financial records. Therefore, I believe that a strong accounting and legal background is key.

5. What is your favorite part of your job? I love what I do! I love doing the billing for attorneys and helping them with their financial records. I think it’s interesting to watch a practice grow and thrive, especially in today’s economy.

6. What is the most difficult thing about being in business for yourself? The buck stops with me. If my business is doing great, I get the accolades. However, if business were to drop, then I would only have myself to blame. I have employees who count on me to remain in business for their job and financial security. The stress of that can be powerful.

7. What steps do you take to market your business? Is it difficult to find clients? Most of my clients are found by personal referrals. I am beginning to become more active on Twitter and have found many interesting people that way. I would like to get more involved with the local bar association and network more as well.
8. If someone considering establishing their own business asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? Prepare, prepare, prepare! Make sure you have a solid business plan. This includes, where you will work, how you plan to remain in business and most important, what is your rainy day plan?

9. What has been the highlight of your career? The highlight of my career was to help a struggling small practice with one attorney grow and flourish.

10. You have enjoyed a successful career. To what single event or person to you attribute that success? My success has definitely been due to the support and love of my family. They have supported me during the time while I was building my business and complained very little during the long hours that sometimes accompanied it. I am forever grateful to them.

11. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? How has that benefited you? I have recently starting using Twitter and I love it! It can be addictive! I have “met” many new people and even made contact with prospective clients through Twitter. I would love to get more involved with Twitter and other social media. You can find me on Twitter @LegalBilling.

12. Is there a quote that inspires you? Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. ~Albert Einstein.

13. What is the most important step a person can take to keep his or her career interesting? Find something you love to do and pursue it with your whole heart and mind!

Bonus…Just for Fun Fact: My assistant and I have learned that the secret to a successful and happy day is a stash of Double Stuf Oreos and a Diet Dr. Pepper.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Paralegal Miriam Katz Appointed V Corp Chief Knowledge Officer

New York Paralegal Miriam Katz has joined Vcorp Services LLC, as the chief knowledge officer. She will further bolster the company's strong team of experienced professionals. Vcorp Services is a a leading provider of state corporate filing services since 2003.

I have become acquainted with Miriam because she is a subscriber to my weekly ezine Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence and she frequently attends the monthly Paralegal Mentor Mastermind Calls where she always asks thoughtful questions. We've also chatted about her job search. With her excellent skills and diligent application process, it was just a matter of time before her expertise was recognized. I'm pleased Vcorp Services understands the value of her extensive knowledge and that her search now has a great ending.

Vcorp Services offers an extensive suite of services including entity formations,formation services, supplemental filings, document retrieval, tax-exempt filings, UCC filings and searches, trademark applications, and more.

Miriam earned a B.S. in business from the University of Connecticut and her paralegal certificate from Adelphi University in New York. She has more than 20 years experience and has served as the assistant vice president and compliance administrator of National Financial Partners Corp.(NFP).

She has also held positions with Salomon Smith Barney and CIBC World Markets(formerly Oppenheimer & Co., Inc.). In her role as a corporate paralegal and corporate compliance professional, she has performed a broad range of corporate governance and corporate compliance functions, including licensing and registration relative to insurance and finance products.

Vcorp Services Chairman Shai Stern released this statement:

"Miriam's extensive experience overseeing corporate compliance, coupled with her hands-on experience as a corporate paralegal and compliance professional,ensures that she understands the direct needs of Vcorp's client base.

"She will not only help our organization improve innovation, share best practices and streamline processes, but maximize the return on investment in knowledge, including the intellectual capital and expertise of our professionals, which is the core of our business model."

In this new position, Miriam Katz joins the executive team of a company whose suite of services enables companies around the nation to conveniently and cost-effectively complete entity formations, supplemental filings, documentretrieval, tax-exempt filings, UCC filings and searches, trademarkapplications, and more.

"I am excited to add my own experience to the already considerable expertise represented here," said Katz, "And I look forward to continuing to grow Vcorp as we continue to be responsive to the needs of our clients."

Congratulations, Miriam! Paralegals will view this news as a positive sign that the economy is picking up and that paralegal hiring has begun again.

Unusual Networking Tools You Already Own

Social media allows you to 'meet' many interesting people. That's how I got acquainted with Debbie Lynn Butler, founder of AVA Professional Support Services. She tweets as @DebbieLynnAVA and offers a wealth of knowledge, as well as inspiration for getting the most out of your day.

Debbie is a graduate of the College of William and Mary with a degree in education. As an experienced virtual assistant, she enables authors, coaches, educators, and entrepreneurs to do what they love best by providing online presence management, training, and business support.

In this article, which she so graciously allowed me to reprint in the In Between issue of Strategies, Debbie helps with the universal problem of networking and offers tips for using networking tools you may already own.

Networking is about making connections and building relationships. The best networking tool for this purpose is a genuine interest in other people. If you feel this isn't enough, here are some bonus tools you may already own.

A smile: Everyone owns one of these. A smile is easy to use, highly portable, and universally recognized as a sign of friendship. Even better, the friendliness factor in your voice increases when you smile so you can use this tool at live events, over the phone, during virtual conferences and teleseminars, and when podcasting or producing Webinars.

Pen and paper: Use these to jot down ways you can help others. Remind yourself in writing to follow up with whatever you promise. Make notes about people and their interests, ideas, and ideal clients so you can make connections now and in the future.
Thank you notes: A cousin of pen and paper, these allow you to thank others for helping you, for giving recommendations or referrals, and for making purchases. Expressing thanks reflects your good character, making you someone others will want to get to know better.

A way to keep track of contacts: A computer, a notebook and pencil, or a shoebox full of index cards can help you build relationships. Individuals who have developed a system for keeping track of all their friends and acquaintances and the related birthdays, anniversaries, spouses and children, special likes and dislikes, business concerns, and outside interests are prepared to connect on so many different levels.

A collection of random acts of kindness: Keep a list. Think of kindnesses you have received and especially appreciated. Borrow ideas from other people. Make a note when a person or a special need pops into your mind and then act on this thought. Be committed to doing random acts of kindness and you will discover it is also easier to network.

Something of perceived value: Everyone possesses something of perceived value they can share. Introductions, recommendations, and words of encouragement at the right moment are precious. The willingness to listen, to do what you promise, and to mentor are also priceless. Other valuables you can share in person and with your Web site visitors include a free consultation that provides solutions instead of a sales pitch, a problem-solving article, an organizational checklist, a sample of your product or a trial of your services, guidance concerning technology or writing, and complimentary lessons. Use your valuables to help others, to initiate contact, or to remind others that you are thinking of them and they are important to you.

Use these tools-- a smile, pen and paper, thank you notes, a contact tracker, a collection of random acts of kindness, and freely shared valuables--to facilitate making connections and building relationships. Don't be surprised if your interest in others helps you make new friends, too.

Debbie Lynn Butler wants you to do what you love best. Let a virtual assistant from AVA Professional Support Services do the rest. Get free tips and tools for making the most of your time and resources at Receive our latest business-boosting ideas when you sign up for our newsletter. Her blog is Yes, the Butler did it! and you can follow her on Twitter as @DebbieLynnAVA. She also has some excellent articles at .