Friday, March 26, 2010

The Paralegal Voice: The Importance of Paralegal Writing Skills

The latest episode of The Paralegal Voice, "The Importance of a Paralegal's Writing Skills", co-hosted by Vicki Voisin and Lynne DeVenny, is now available at Legal Talk Network.

Sally Kane, Editor-in-Chief of Paralegal Today (formerly Legal Assistant Today) and Editor of Litigation Support Today, is the featured guest. An experienced legal professional and freelance writer who has published hundreds of articles in print and web-based media, Kane discusses the importance of writing to a paralegal's career.

In this episode:
  • Paralegal Today's mission to provide career, technology and news to paralegals

  • Why it is beneficial to paralegals to get their writing published
  • How paralegals can get published, including the different venues available today

  • How to submit an article proposal to Paralegal Today
  • Writing problems common to paralegals - and how to fix them

  • Practice and social media tips from Vicki and Lynne

The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsors: Teris, Westlaw Deposition Services, Clio and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)

To access the page, follow this link:

To access the MP3 download, click here:

There were several links mentioned in this podcast:

Paralegal Today: The Magazine for the Paralegal Profession,

Litigation Support Today,

Sally Kane's Legal Careers Guide at,

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation,

Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips,

Note: If you are actively employed in a litigation support and/or litigation support management position, you want to get a free one-year subscription to Litigation Support Today.

If you enjoyed The Paralegal Voice, please share the link to the podcast with your friends and colleagues.

Do you have a request for a future show topic or a question for us? Send those to

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bates Numbering in Adobe Acrobat Professional

Note: Today's Guest Author is Lori Robinett, President of the Mid-Missouri Paralegal Association. I subscribe to the association's blog on my Google Reader. Lori's also an aspiring author who blogs as Elle Robb. Check that out at She's even won some awards at the Ozark Creative Writer's Conference.

By Lori Robinett

Something that almost every paralegal will have to do at one time or another is Bates stamping. When I first heard that term, I thought it must be some very complicated way of numbering. In actuality, it is a fairly simple concept.

Bates numbering is numbering documents in a way that allows you to quickly find specific pages. For instance, if you have a document that has eleven exhibits, you would number the pages that make up those exhibits sequentially, not renumbering for each exhibit.

Bates numbering usually is 6 digits long, and in the past was done using an automatic numbering machine (I've got two Cosco stamps in my drawer right now!). With the stamp, it was a long, slow, tedious process. Thankfully, we now live in a world where technology can be harnessed to make our jobs so much easier!

To begin, scan your documents or combine your documents to create one PDF document.
  • Open your document and click on 'Advanced' on the menu bar.

  • Go down to 'Document Processing' and then you will see a list of options.
  • Choose 'Bates Numbering' and then 'Add'. That will take you to the Bates Numbering dialogue box.

  • Click on the button to 'Include all open PDF documents' and then select your file.

  • Click on Next, which takes you to the Add Header and Footer dialogue box.

  • Click into the Text box where you want the Bates Number to appear (we usually use the Right Footer Text Box).

  • Then click Insert Bates Number. There you can specify the # of digits, the start number, and any prefix or suffix you want (we usually use 6 digits, with whatever start # we need - in case this is a second batch of documents that start with the next # in the sequence - then we use a prefix of UM).

  • Click on OK to return to the Add Header and Footer dialogue box. Check the appearance in the preview screen to make sure it appears the way you want. You may have to change the font (towards the top of the dialogue box).

  • Then click OK and you're done!

******Lori Robinett received her B.S. degree from Central Missouri State University in 1990. She has taken numerous paralegal courses since taking her first job with a law firm in 1994, and has worked her way up from receptionist to legal secretary to legal assistant. After several years of working for private firms, she moved to a position as legal assistant with the Office of General Counsel with the University of Missouri in 2008. Lori is a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and is a member of the Paralegal Committee of the Missouri Bar, is currently serving as President of the Mid-Missouri Paralegal Association, and is editor of The Gavel, a regional paralegal newsletter. She is webmaster for and blogs (though not as regularly as she would like).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Paralegal Profile: Cindy Smiens Schmit, ACP

Cindy Smiens Schmit, ACP of Sioux Falls, South Dakota has graciously answered The Paralegal Mentor's Thirteen Questions. Thanks, Cindy!

1. Where do you work and what is your job title? I have worked for John P. Peterson in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for 11 years. My job title is paralegal/office manager/bookkeeper.
2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? I started my career working as a legal secretary and desired more responsibility.
3. What is your favorite part of your job? The diversity and my boss.
4. What professional associations do you belong to? I am a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants; South Dakota Paralegal Association; and support staff member of the South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association.
5. How has your membership benefited you? One of my SDPA colleagues asked me if I was interested in taking the CLA exam and starting a study group. Six of us studied and sat for the exam together. After passing the exam I became a member of NALA and an executive committee member of SDPA. My memberships have helped me network, reach my goals and continue my education.
6. Do you have any professional certifications? Yes. I received my CLA in 2003 and my ACP in Trial Practice in 2009.
7. What has been the highlight of your career? The highlights of my career include receiving my CLA certification, being named SDPA's Member of the Year in 2007/2008, and being selected as a 2009/2010 member of NALA's LEAP Class.
8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? I believe the hot trends in the paralegal industry are using the internet for networking and continuing education.
9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? Yes. I have a Facebook account, SDPA has a Fan Page and I recently joined LinkedIn.
10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? I would offer to mentor them and tell them to network and always continue learning.
11. Is there a quote that inspires you? 'You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.' ~Charles Buxton
12. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success?My former employer, mentor and friend, Attorney Harvey Oliver from Aberdeen, South Dakota. When Harvey left the firm where I was working to start his solo practice, I saw an opportunity and asked him if I could go with him. Harvey entrusted me to manage his law practice and sent me to continuing education seminars.
13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting?Continue learning and accepting new challenges.
Bonus...Just for Fun Fact: I like to bake and decorate cakes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Are You a One Man Band?

Do you have too much to do and not enough time to get it all done? Do you run out of day before you run out of list? Do you try to do everything yourself?

If you answered 'Yes!' to any of those questions, you are operating like a One Man Band. There is a solution: delegate!

It may be difficult to give up control of some of your responsibilities but that's the only way you'll get off the merry-go-round and stop being a 'one man band.'

Get over the idea that you, and only you, are capable of handling a job....that it will just not be good enough unless you do it yourself. While there may be critical issues that require your personal attention, remember that everything isn't critical.

If you delegate, you'll take a giant step toward relieving the stress and overwhelm of having too much to do.

B. Eugene Greissman, author of 'Time Tactics of Very Successful People,' said: You should do only that which only you can do.' It's true: decide what you have to do that takes your unique talents and expertise and then allow someone else to do the rest!

When you delegate, there are several steps you need to take to be effective:

1. Plan. Review the work you have to do and map out the steps that need to be taken to finish the project. From that map, determine which steps 'only you can do' and which steps can be done by someone else.

You'll find it easier to delegate if you use the 80% rule: you think that no one can do the job as well as you, so delegate when the job can be done to 80% of your satisfaction. Now, 80% of your satisfaction may not be perfect but remember that you now have two goals: 1) getting the job done and 2) taking some pressure off yourself.While you're mapping out your plan, be sure to eliminate anything that doesn't have to be done at all. Don't waste your time...or someone else's...doing jobs that aren't necessary.

2. Decide to whom you're delegating. Select the person who's ready to do the job...or someone you're willing to train so that they can ultimately do the job. You shouldn't delegate to people just because they're standing next to you. Consider their abilities, experience and eagerness. It's one thing if you impose your high standards on yourself, but you shouldn't impose them on someone who can't live up to your expectations. We all have different degrees of talents and skills. You can't expect yourself or others to operate beyond the current level of ability.

3. Give clear directions. Communication is the key here. If you don't give clear directions, you'll be setting the other person up for failure. The person you are delegating to must understand exactly what you want to get the results you're looking for. People can't read your mind. If you want a document or a file set up a certain way, let them know. This clear direction should also include deadlines for completing the work. If the work can't be completed by your deadline, that needs to be resolved up front.

4. Follow Up. Make notes in your planner (either electronic or paper) to remind you when the job should be completed and to schedule 'appointments' to check on the progress of the work. This will keep everyone on task and avoid any surprises when the deadline arrives and the work isn't completed.

5. Reward success. Praise is often the most effective reward. Some occasions even call for a thank-you note for a job well done or perhaps a special treat. If there is an unsuccessful, or just partly successful, result, use a positive approach to review the errors and make your expectations clear so that future results will be satisfactory. This is important if you expect this person to do work for you again. Always remember: praise in public and correct in private.

Your challenge: Resolve to stop thinking that you're the only one who can do a job that meets your standards. This may mean you have to reconsider your standards. Then look at all the work on your desk and determine what can be done by someone else. Remember that you should be working on things that only you can do. If the work can be done satisfactorily by someone else, you should delegate it.

Follow the five steps to successful delegating and you'll be on your way to reducing your workload and relieving much of the stress in your life. You'll no longer be a one man'll be the leader of the orchestra!

©2010 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 Paralegal Strategies and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network. More information is available at

Friday, March 5, 2010

Paralegal Profile: Thirteen Questions for Ann L. Atkinson, ACP

1. Where do you work and what is your job title? I am employed by the national law firm of Kutak Rock LLP in Omaha, Nebraska where I am an Advanced Certified Paralegal in the public finance department.

2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? It just happened. My background is in business education, but after graduating from college, I took a part-time job at a small law firm and found that I loved the legal environment. Several years later (after the kids were in school) I started my first full time job with another law firm. When I interviewed for the position, the paralegal field was just in its infancy, but I knew then that was what I wanted to do. Like many others in this time period, I learned by doing. After several years, I was promoted to be the public finance department's paralegal. That is the job I still have today, and I still love it.

3. What is your favorite part of your job? I love working on a transaction from start to finish. An added bonus is the opportunity I have to travel to closings all over the country. Not only do I get to facilitate the closings, but I get to know the people involved. I have developed many friendships solely because of those contacts.

4. What professional associations do you belong to? Nebraska Paralegal Association (NePA), National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Association of Bond Lawyers (NABL).

5. How has your membership benefited you? Membership in each of these associations has provided me with the opportunity to grow and develop as a paralegal and as a leader. As with my job, the networking with other members of these associations is invaluable

6. Do you have any professional certifications? Certified Paralegal and Advanced Certified Paralegal (Contract Administration)

7. What has been the highlight of your career? Being selected to serve, and serving, on the legal assistant committee of the National Association of Bond Lawyers. That opportunity provided me with the chance to help other public finance paralegals learn how to assist their attorneys and also to educate attorneys how to work with paralegals. Those experiences gave me the confidence to become active in NePA and NALA.

8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Current technology (including the use of social media) and knowing how to put that knowledge to the best possible use. Virtual assistants.

9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? Keeping up with technology is something I strive to do, so last year (after attending a CLE session on social media), I joined LinkedIn. Unfortunately, I have not done much other than posting my profile. The downside is that most, if not all, firms discourage keeping up with postings on social media while on the job.

10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? I would recommend finding employment in a law firm or a law department in any available position for the purpose of getting first-hand experience in the legal environment. If still interested in this field, then getting a paralegal certificate from an ABA-approved paralegal school, as well as a bachelor's degree. As soon after graduation as is possible, take the CLA/CP. In addition to education, the current employers like to see prior experience on the resume. For that reason only, I would strongly recommend, if possible, continuing to work in a law firm or law department at least part-time while going to school.

11. Is there a quote that inspires you? I have a number of quotes that I like, but this is my favorite. It is taped to my computer. "People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care."

12. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? The single most important person is John Wagner, the attorney I have worked with since I began working at the law firm. He continually gave me opportunities to learn more about public finance by giving me projects that were more paralegal tasks than secretarial. If it were not for his trust and willingness to share his knowledge with me, I would not be where I am today. He never sees limitations on what I can learn or accomplish and always supports me.

13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Actually several things. Continue to learn, to read, and to keep up with technology. Be open minded. Be willing to go the extra mile. Volunteer for association activities.

Bonus...Just for Fun Fact: I grew up on a farm in rural Nebraska and actually went to a one-room schoolhouse for a couple of years. We made the move to 'town' (pop. 260) when I was 8. I met my husband in high school...I was his last choice for a date for prom. The rest is history. . .