Thursday, September 16, 2010

Working Overtime: Is it the best use of your time?

Are you always the last one to leave the office at night? If you are, you may need to re-think how you spend your normal working hours. Are you using your time wisely or are you wasting time needlessly because you think you can finish it later?

There will always be occasions when we will have to work overtime. Deadlines, rush jobs, special projects, and trials are a fact of life and often require professionals to work beyond 5:00 p.m. These special circumstances are not a problem. They happen, they pass and life returns to normal.

When these 'special circumstances' become habitual, when you're working overtime whether it's needed or not, when your whole life revolves around being at the office or texting on your BlackBerry, you may need to take a leap off the merry-go-round and reclaim your life.

Is your ego tied to working overtime? Sometimes we feel better about ourselves if we're giving 150% to the team, whether anyone else notices or not. Please give this some thought. Working long hours can lead to increased stress and burnout. This habit may also send you on a guilt trip because of conflicts with family time. Weekends and evenings happen for a reason. Use them to restore your spirit and your energy.

Working overtime may foster procrastination. You may find that you're not productive during regular working hours because you have the option of finishing the work later. Your inclination to put off your work because the whole day...and the whole evening...stretches before you will only lead to procrastination.

You may make more errors. You simply can't be your best 24/7. If you're consistently working overtime, the quality of your work may suffer. What's more, if you are working late on your own time, you may feel you're being taken advantage of and, therefore, justified in turning in a second rate performance.

Working overtime may lead to increased interruptions. You'll always find something to do to fill the time you have, whether it's putting your nose to the grindstone and churning out the work or drifting around the office to chat about Virginia Tech's loss to Boise State. When your work day has no definitive end time, you may also be more apt to tolerate unnecessary telephone calls and e-mail or interruptions by your co-workers. These all waste your time and keep you from getting your work done.

Other people's procrastination may rule your overtime. Some people simply cannot do their work unless they are up against a deadline. If your supervising attorney has this tendency, you're going to find yourself in Overtime Land all too often. If at all possible, do what you can to head off the crisis by completing some parts of the project ahead of time. You usually know what the procedure will require. Also, if you don't tolerate constantly being asked to work overtime, you may find that the last minute behavior changes.

Your challenge: There are two things you should consider:

First, you'll always fill the time you you'll probably get the same amount of work done whether you're working eight hours or twelve.

Second, you've heard that no one has ever had "I wish I'd spent more time at the office!" engraved on their tombstone.
Life is simply too short to spend it all at work. If you have no 'quitting time' your day will stretch on and on. You need a deadline. Make 5:00 p.m. your new deadline and stick to it.

©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

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Paralegal Voice: Spotlight on Bill Statsky

The latest edition of The Paralegal Voice, “Spotlight on William P. Statsky: A True Expert on Paralegals” co-hosted by Lynne DeVenny and me, is now available at Legal Talk Network.

We welcome William “Bill” Statsky, one of the foremost experts on paralegals in the country and the author of numerous paralegal and legal writing textbooks.

Bill talks about the importance of a paralegal’s writing skills, legal research, technology today, blogging and the future of the paralegal profession.

Also in this episode:
  • Bill's career before he started writing textbooks
  • The early days of the paralegal profession
  • The biggest change in the profession over the past 40 years
  • The future of the profession
  • Advice for prospective paralegals
  • How to keep your writing skills sharp
  • Practice and social media tips from Vicki and Lynne
Page URL:


Internet resources referenced in the podcast:

Bill Statsky’s blog,

Bill’s blog at Paralegal Gateway,

Bill’s books at Delmar Cengage Learning,

Paralegal Today Listserv,

Paralegal Gateway Yahoo! Group,

Paralegals Yahoo! Group,

The Odelia Grey Mystery Series,

The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsors: Westlaw Deposition Services and the National Association of Legal Assistants.

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 or a question for us? You are welcome to contact us at

Monday, September 13, 2010

Paralegal Profile: Cynthia A. Lowther, ACP

Cynthia Lowther, ACP, of Charleston, West Virginia answers my Thirteen Questions this week.

You'll enjoy reading the questions Cindy answered, particularly "what single event or person do you owe your success?" Thanks, Cindy!

1. Where do you work and what is your job title? I am a paralegal with the Environmental/Regulatory Group of Steptoe & Johnson PLLC in Charleston, WV.

2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? I knew from an early age that I wanted to be in the legal profession; however, I always thought I wanted to be an attorney.
My life took a left turn when I wasn't looking and I ended up as a legal assistant with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel for the West Virginia State Bar. From there, I knew I wanted to be a paralegal and sought to gain the education and hands-on experience to further my career in that field.

3. What is your favorite part of your job? The satisfaction of seeing my work ethic and work product recognized; and getting a good resolution for our clients.

4. What professional associations do you belong to? The list is long:
National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. (2006 - present) - Professional Development Committee member 2007-2010

Legal Assistants/Paralegals of Southern West Virginia (2004-present) - NALA Liaison 2010-2011
- Past President 2008-2010

Defense Trial Counsel of West Virginia (2005-present) - Paralegal Representative - Board of Governors (2010-2013)

West Virginia State Bar Legal Assistants Committee (2005-present)

Kanawha County (WV) CASA - Volunteer (2008-present
5. How has your membership benefited you? Membership in the various professional associations has given me the opportunity to gain self confidence and to build my leadership skills. I have made valuable networking contacts, state and nationwide, and have built life-long friendships. Membership has also given me the opportunities and tools to give back to the legal profession and the local community.

6. Do you have any professional certifications? I received NALA's Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) certification in Discovery in 2007.

7. What has been the highlight of your career? Serving as President of LAPSWV for the last two years has been wonderful. It's a lot of hard work trying to stay on top of everything, but I have had a fabulous group of ladies to serve with on the executive committee, and it has been a great experience.

8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Coming from a smaller, more rural metropolitan area, Charleston, WV (the State Capitol is a small city that thinks it is big), doesn't always see or set the hot trends in the paralegal industry. In some areas, we are still trying to earn the respect of the attorneys or offering advice on how to utilize a paralegal.

9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? Yes...I participate in Facebook and LinkedIn.

10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? I would suggest they join a paralegal association and start networking. Find a mentor. Learn to be a team player. Get lots of hands-on experience. Do what it takes to get the job done -- if that means copying or filing -- do it ... don't think you are above doing clerical work. If you're not organized -- get organized.

11. Is there a quote that inspires you? Have faith in others, but more importantly, have faith in yourself. ? Unknown

12. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? I have to credit a piece of my success to each and every attorney I have ever worked with. The good ones made me a better paralegal and the 'not-so-good' ones opened my eyes to what shouldn't be done. Five years in the Office of Disciplinary Counsel gave me an ethical advantage and conscience, while working with a master litigator provided me with my discovery and trial skills.

13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Never stop learning and always be willing to take on new responsibilities.

Bonus...just for fun fact: After years of watching my son play soccer, I joined an adult amateur soccer league and played for a few years. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lynne DeVenny, NCCP: Law Crossing's Legal Staff Member of the Week

LawCrossing knows how to select candidates for its Legal Staff Profile Series – and apparently I have a knack for choosing excellent partners for my ventures.

LawCrossing recently recognized North Carolina paralegal Lynne DeVenny, NCCP, as the Legal Staff Member of the Week. Lynne is also my co-host on The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast for paralegals and other legal professionals that is produced by Legal Talk Network.

This is what Donna McGill, author of the article, had to say about Lynne:
Paralegal Lynne DeVenny is one of those rare women who really can juggle it all flawlessly and while never once spilling her Dr. Pepper. Sharp as a tack and with an ability to juggle her responsibilities, along with her passion for Starbucks coffee, Hershey's Kisses and of course, Dr. Pepper, she pulls it off with grace and style and never a complaint. We're proud to include Lynne DeVenny in our Legal Staff Profile Series.
My first introduction to Lynne was through the Paralegal Gateway Forum where she takes an active role in helping paralegals with their questions and issues. It didn’t take long for me to realize that she was the co-author of Workers Compensation for Paralegals…a book that was already in use in my office and had come to the rescue on more than one occasion when I had a complex problem to solve.

Though we began communicating regularly by email and through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn…and talking frequently by phone… we never met face to face until I was invited to deliver the keynote address at the Annual Meeting of the North Carolina Paralegal Association (NCPA) held in Wilmington Beach, NC, this past March (2010). It was such fun to speak with her in person…and to learn that the ‘real’ Lynne DeVenny is just as fresh and interesting…and just plain nice…as the ‘on line’ Lynne DeVenny.

Let me take you back one year earlier, though, to March 2009 when I pitched the idea for a monthly podcast focusing on paralegals to the folks at Legal Talk Network. You could have knocked me over with a feather when they said ‘Yes’ because I was prepared for them to tell me I was a crazy lady. I immediately invited Lynne to be my co-host and The Paralegal Voice was launched. What a positive step that was! Lynne has never-ending ideas, energy and lively conversation. I see many more joint projects in our future.

It is fitting that Lynne be recognized by Law Crossing because she is always recognizing other paralegals in her blog, Practical Paralegalism, where she is a prolific writer who dances circles around other blawgers with her copious posts.

Congratulations, Lynne! And thanks to Law Crossing for all you do for the legal profession.

To read the full article about Lynne, follow this link to the LawCrossing site.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cathy Ribble, CP: LawCrossing's Legal Staff Member of the Week

I have my Paralegal Mentor Mastermind Calls and Twitter to thank for my friendship with Cathy Ribble, CP.

In May 2009 the monthly Mastermind Call focused on Virtual Paralegals with guests Andrea Canavina (Legal Typist, Inc.), Dana Fortier (Fortier Business Solutions) and Denise Shears (Shears Virtual Advantage). Each had established a successful virtual business and generously gave an hour of her time to share with my followers important tips for working virtually.

Listening in on the call that night was Cathy Ribble, CP, an paralegal from Guthrie, OK, who had many years of law firm experience. She was searching for just the right fit for her paralegal work.

The proverbial light bulb went off as Cathy listened to Andrea, Denise and Dana. Working virtually appealed to her. She had the training and she knew at that moment that she wanted to establish her own be in charge of her destiny.

Fast forward a mere three months, and Cathy was ready to launch her own virtual paralegal business, Digital Paralegal Services. She’d spent her summer pulling together a business plan, forming her business structure, building a web site, having a professional photo taken, ordering business cards and designing a brochure.

Cathy and I had kept in touch via email and Twitter during this time. She shared her progress with her business, as well as the news that she'd passed NALA's Certified Paralegal Exam. I fondly remember a conversation with her by cell phone as she traveled to the Grand Canyon with her daughter. To say the least, I was impressed with her determination, her tenacity, and her ability to establish the foundation for her business.
When I decided to produce the Virtual Paralegal Interview Series, Cathy was first on my list to include in the product. I wanted her to convey just how she’d decided to work virtually and the steps she’d taken to launch her business. Cathy gave a thoughtful, interesting interview. The month was September, 2009.

On the heels of the Virtual Paralegal Interview Series came another idea: I would produce a short ebook with tips for virtual paralegals. I invited Cathy to collaborate with me on this project and we worked together to gather tips from 13 virtual paralegals, edit them, add biographical information and web sites. The result is a terrific resource for anyone wanting to work virtually: Sixty-Six Solid Tips from Your Virtual Paralegal Success Team. Cathy was with me every step of the way and she was a terrific partner in this endeavor.

Meanwhile, Cathy was getting leads on clients, launching her newsletter, and doing a lot of writing. She also submitted her article titled Dismissal is Not Always a Good Thing (April 1, 2010) for an issue of Paralegal Strategies. Recently, I included Cathy’s web site Digital Paralegal Services in my Top Ten No-Cost Resources for your Professional Arsenal.

I interviewed Cathy for the Virtual Paralegal Interview Series just one year ago. This week, she was named Law Crossing’s Legal Staff Member of the Week. Here's a brief clip from the article:
“When we hear the statement that ''Women can do it all'', you'll find proof of just how much a woman can accomplish by hearing Cathy Ribble's story. The certified paralegal, business owner, grandmother, wife and amateur photographer no doubt has her days filled to the brim - and she clearly wouldn't want it any other way.

“Aware of just how much the traditional work day is changing, this Texas native and her company, Digital Paralegal Services has been providing comprehensive professional services to firms around the country. With an emphasis on confidentiality, professionalism and ethics, Ribble has redefined the way law firms hire paralegals.”
This recognition is much deserved. Cathy has worked tirelessly during this year to establish her business. Yet, she always has time to talk and to help other paralegals with their questions. Law Crossing’s "Legal Staff Member of the Week". To read the full article about Cathy, follow this link.

My hat is off to Cathy…and to Law Crossing for their astute choice of Cathy as the Legal Staff Member of the Week. Congratulations!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Career Tip: Looking for a Job (or Not) - It's Time to Update Your Resume

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 to demonstrate your value to the firm?

You haven’t looked at your resume in forever
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? Did you finish your education?

Is your personal information 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 it on a moment’s notice. It will, in fact, take care of itself.

Additional Resources:

©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