Friday, February 26, 2010

Paralegal Profile: Thirteen Questions for Karen McElroy, PP, PLS

1. Where do you work and what is your job title? I am employed by Tiffany & Bosco, P.A. where my title is 'legal assistant'.

2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? I've always had an interest in the law and politics. While going to college I took a summer off to work as a receptionist in a law firm (I already had good secretarial skills, but no legal experience). Instead of returning to day time college classes, I continued to work at the law firm and went to college at night. The law firm promoted me to a legal secretarial position after only a few months, and the rest is history.

3. What is your favorite part of your job? Probably the variety in all of the different types of litigation I work with at Tiffany & Bosco. There are cases in commercial litigation, construction law, contract law, tribal law, personal injury, bankruptcy, and banking. It keeps me on my toes.

4. What professional associations do you belong to? NALS...the association for legal professionals.

5. How has your membership benefited you? I joined NALS in 2002 (somewhat a late bloomer) and have been involved on the local, state, regional and national levels of leadership.

My experiences with NALS have given me so many opportunities to advance my education and leadership abilities, and I believe the best benefits are meeting and getting to know so many of my peers across the country and traveling to great conference locations.

Whenever I'm in a situation where I need to know or find something quickly in a different jurisdiction, all I have to do is send an e-mail to my network of NALS members to find the answer. NALS friends never cease to amaze me and life is so much more exciting with them!

6. Do you have any professional certifications? Yes...Professional Paralegal (PP) and Professional Legal Secretary (PLS).

7. What has been the highlight of your career? Passing my certification exams and then receiving my PP and PLS were definitely highlights for me and my career, and then when I received the NALS Award of Excellence in October 2009 I felt that my 29 years in the legal field were truly worth all my efforts.

8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Virtual paralegals and law offices seem to be the wave of the future, which also means that law offices will need to continue to speed money on technology. Clients demand it and the legal industry is silly if they ignore it. Also going paperless and relying on electronic forms of all documents is more efficient, less expensive, and environmentally friendly.

9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? Yes, I am connected daily to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and NALS Community. This is a most important way to stay connected with business associates, friends, family, and I just don't want to miss anything!

10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? Join a professional association and begin attending legal seminars and conferences. There is valuable education and networking offered and this helps anyone to make a decision and/or develop a career, increase their knowledge and interact with the people who work in the legal field.

11. Is there a quote that inspires you? I could not at any age be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

12. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? I know I would not be who I am today without NALS. NALS continues to give me leadership opportunities, education, and the most important networking with my peers, which continues to make working in the legal field enjoyable.

13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? In one word: read! Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker, was a powerful proponent of reading every day to enhance your life and I believe this to be true for our legal careers and life in general.

Here is a quote from Jim Rohn: "All of the insights that we might ever need have already been captured by others in books. The important question is this: In the last 90 days, with this treasure of information that could change our lives, our fortunes, our relationships, our health, our children and our careers for the better, how many books have we read? Miss a meal if you have to, but don't miss a book. It isn't what the book costs, it is what is will cost you if you don't read it."

Bonus...Just for Fun Fact: I am a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and Ohio Air National Guard and had at one time thought of making a career of the military. I am happily married to my husband Brian (we are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary this year) and have a wonderful home in Avondale near Phoenix, Arizona. My interests (in addition to NALS) are: reading, crocheting, shopping, traveling, law and politics.

Monday, February 22, 2010 Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Weeny E-Discovery

An article by Jason Krause in today's Newswire addresses the issue of e-discovery for working in smaller law firms and those who have a solo practice.

Attention to e-discovery is a topic I continually stress in my ethics presentations. It's been my experience that attorneys and paralegals in smaller law firms largely ignore e-discovery, hoping it will just go away and they won't have to ever deal with electronics in litigation. Many aren't even aware of something so basic as Metadata.

This is ethically irresponsible pursuant to the Model Code of Professional Responsibility adopted by the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Code of Professional Responsibility (MRPC) and similar model codes adopted in most states.

According to the ABA's MRPC 1.1, the attorney owes his client the duty to handle the client’s matter with competence and diligence, including the use of methods and procedures that meet the standards of competent practitioners, as well as adequate attention and preparation.

MRPC 1.3 refers to diligence and says the lawyer should pursue a matter on behalf of a client and take whatever lawful and ethical measures are required and also act with commitment and dedication to the interests of the client and with zeal in advocacy upon the client's behalf.
Nowhere in the Model Rules is there reference to firm size...these rules apply regardless of the size of the firm for which the attorney works. The client deserves to be represented competently, diligently and zealously by any attorney he or she employs.

Mr. Krause quotes John Simek, a computer forensics specialist with Sensei Enterprises:

"We're seeing tremendous growth for small firm e-discovery services. Judges are expecting attorneys to take it seriously and the attorneys realize that ethically they have an obligation to consider digital sources for evidence."

That's exactly what Judges expect and also what clients have a right to receive. Any attorney who ignores e-discovery are flirting with malpractice.
As Mr. Krause writes:
Unfortunately, lawyers who haven't been involved in major litigation involving digital documents probably haven't had a chance to learn things that some big firms have learned the hard way. Even more, small and solo firms often have hurdles to overcome that large-scale litigators never have to think about.

For example, many lawyers who have never been involved in e-discovery before may mistakenly believe that printing an e-mail might be an obvious way to produce a document. However, there is a body of law that may require litigants to preserve metadata or other digital features in a document that are lost when printing. And while large firms can typically hire professional forensic examiners, small firms trying to operate on a tight budget might be inclined to do forensic examinations themselves, which could open up a host of problems.
E-discovery is a huge and complicated area. Admittedly,it is easier for a firm that has an IT staff knowledgeable in e-discovery. On the other hand, every firm should be sending staff (including attorneys) for training. There are some very good programs offered by NALA, Kroll Ontrack, Teris and Fios, for a start. The Association of Litigation Support Professionals (ALSP) also offers information and training.

Even basic training that exposes staff to the in's and out's of e-discovery is better than pretending that it doesn't exist at all.

The article authored by Mr. Krause is worth reading and can be accessed by following this link.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Personal Branding: 5 Things To Do Now

This guest article appeared in the February 4, 2010 issue of Paralegal Strategies. It was submitted by Brian Haberly RP, a Corporate and Securities Paralegal who resides in Seattle, WA where he is the President of the Washington State Paralegal Association (WSPA).

What is Personal Branding?Personal Branding is the term used to describe how we market ourselves to others. It is how we set ourselves apart from the crowd.

Whether you know it or not, you have a unique brand and it may be working for you or against you. Right or wrong, it is human nature to judge others, and most often those judgments are based largely on first impressions.

With that in mind, you should understand the importance of developing your own positive personal brand, so that you can set yourself up for success!

In a world where attention spans are getting shorter and shorter and our ability to influence others is based on the credibility we bring to a discussion, it is essential to convey a consistent message.

Just like you trust a friend's movie or restaurant recommendation more than you do that of a critic's written review, so too will your boss and your co-workers value your views if you have established your own credibility with consistent results, fulfilled promises, and honesty.

It used to be said that it takes a lifetime to build your reputation, but that a reputation can be lost in mere moments by one poor decision.

The good news about the emergence of Social Media, blogs, and more is that YOU can build much of your own reputation more quickly than ever, and even be seen as a subject matter expert in your particular area of expertise!

Here are 5 things to do NOW to build your personal brand:

1) Update your profile on LinkedIn and use the "View My Public Profile" feature to see how others will see it. LinkedIn is the site of choice for professional networking. If you aren't taking full advantage of it by having an up to date, well detailed personal profile, you are cutting yourself off from many new contacts. Be sure to use your LinkedIn Public Profile URL in your email autosignature when appropriate. For instance, mine is

2) Ask yourself, "What do I have to offer?" Discover your unique selling proposition and then develop it. It might be your special expertise in a subject, a hobby, or a local or national cause. Better yet, start up a new organization to promote your shared interest with others. You will be building your own reputation and you will be viewed as a Leader.

3) Be generous with your knowledge. Share your experience with those around you that are eager to learn. When you lift up others, they'll often be willing to help you when you need to call on them. Offer your ideas and suggestions on blogs. Answer questions and point readers back to your own web site, blog, or Twitter account to deepen your own brand.

4) Be personal and show that you are human. Post photos of yourself to show your personality but not photos of you drinking, partying excessively, or doing something that would make your mother blush. You want your online story to promote your best attributes, not your worst.

5) Make use of stories to leave lasting impressions. Audiences will quickly forget statistics in a story or live talk, but they will long remember your personal insights and experiences when told with sincerity, humor and relevancy. Engage people and ask questions about them and their families. People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

If you follow these 5 simple steps, you will have an outstanding personal brand.

©2010 Brian Haberly RP

Brian Haberly RP is a Corporate and Securities Paralegal who resides in Seattle, WA where he is the President of the Washington State Paralegal Association (WSPA). He has been in the legal profession for nearly 25 years, serving in the Corporate Legal departments of several leading public companies such as Starbucks Coffee Company,,, Mosaix (acquired by Avaya Communications), Litton Industries (acquired by Northrop Grumman). Brian is also a member of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), and the National Association of Stock Plan Professionals (NASPP). He also serves as a Community Advisory Board Member of the Edmonds Community College paralegal program, located a few miles north of Seattle.

Paralegal Profile: Thirteen Questions for Kris Hill, CP, FRP

1. Where do you work and what is your job title? For the past seven years I have worked as Paralegal for the Escambia County Attorney's Office in Pensacola, Florida.

2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? My choice to become a paralegal came after many years of traveling and many different jobs. After I got married, then had a child, I went back to school and obtained my B.A. in Legal Administration. I wanted a profession that would challenge me intellectually, as well as allow me to incorporate my technological and graphic arts skills. Being a paralegal has done all that and more!

3. What is your favorite part of your job? I work mainly as a research paralegal, and one of my favorite parts of the job is that 'Aha' moment when you find a definitive answer to a question. 4. What professional associations do you belong to? I am a member of the Northwest Florida Paralegal Association (NWFPA) and NALA. I am currently serving on the NWFPA Board as Past-President, and I am a member of NALA's Continuing Education Council.

5. How has your membership benefited you? Membership in professional associations is valuable on so many levels:

1) continuing education, which is absolutely essential for our profession;

2) networking, both through my local association and through NALA...the contacts and exposure to information are invaluable;

3) professional development...both NALA and the NWFPA provide many and varied opportunities for professional growth, and I've tried to take advantage of as many of these opportunities as I can;

4) really do feed off of the enthusiasm of your fellow members;

5) vision...this, to me, is one of the most 'unexpected' benefits of membership; membership in associations has given me the understanding of how the paralegal profession began, the role of associations in developing our profession, and the need to have a vision for the future.

6. Do you have any professional certifications? I attained my Certified Paralegal designation in 2000 and I received my Florida Registered Paralegal designation in 2008; now I'm looking forward to taking NALA's advanced certification program in Land Use when it becomes available.

7. What has been the highlight of your career? I see my decade in the legal field as a series of opportunities and accomplishments that have led me to where I am now:

* after receiving my Bachelor's degree, I was hired as paralegal for the U.S. Magistrate Judge of the Northern District of Florida;

* when my position with the Northern District ended, though I was disappointed at the time, I was hired by the Escambia County Attorney's Office. I've truly enjoyed my 'niche' in local government law;

* have had the good fortune of having bosses who encouraged me to 'be all that I can be' in the paralegal positions I've held;

* attending my first NALA Convention in Tampa in 2006 opened my eyes to the national paralegal scene;

* and taking part in NALA's inaugural LEAP program gave me insights into how I could be a leader in both NWFPA and NALA.

8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Definitely an area to keep watching is the virtual paralegal field. I see this as something that will become more and more prevalent.

9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? If not, do you see that in your future? I look at social media as incorporating not only social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, but also other web-based technologies such as webcasts, podcasts, blogs, and virtual meetings. While I do have Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, I have also actively taken part in webcasts and podcasts, both as presenter and participant; I have created a blog and follow many others through RSS feeds. I recently experienced another innovative social medium when I attended a virtual legal technology conference and expo, complete with a convention hall, f.r.e.e CLE credit, rooms for vendors, and crowd noise!

10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? It's important not only to know what your career goals are, but also to know yourself and your priorities, and make sure these are all aligned.

11. Is there a quote that inspires you? My favorite 'old' quote is: 'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.' Lao Tzu

My favorite 'new' quote is from the interview you and Lynne DeVenny did with Erin Brockovich. When she was asked how she maintains her optimism in the face of the current environmental challenges, she said: 'One step at a time, one person at a time, one voice at a time, then collectively, all of us, we can effect change.' (Note: If you missed the interview with Erin, follow this link to Legal Talk Network.)

12. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? I've had some great mentors in my career who have both given me roots and given me wings.

13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Stay attuned to changes in your area, as well as other areas of the law, and don't be afraid to try new things.

Bonus...Just for Fun Fact: Before becoming a paralegal, I enjoyed several other careers, such as working as a licensed massage therapist on a cruise ship, working as crew manager for a Norwegian freighter company, and working for a newspaper.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Paralegal Voice: The Power of Paralegal Education

The latest episode of The Paralegal Voice, “The Power of Paralegal Education”, is now available at Legal Talk Network.

Education is vital to a successful paralegal career. On this edition of The Paralegal Voice, co-host I welcomed Linda J. Wolf, ACP, the current President of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and Attorney Elizabeth Mann, Department Head of the Paralegal Program at Greenville Technical College, to focus on the importance of paralegal education. Discussion also focused on entering and growing in the career field, as well as what employers look for when hiring paralegals.

In this episode:

  • Why a paralegal career is still a good choice, even in a tough economy

  • Proficiencies and personal qualities necessary for career succes

  • Trends in employer expectations re: education and certification

  • How to position yourself to enter higher-paying specialty areas

  • Why the paralegal field is an excellent choice for a second (or third) career

  • Where to locate information about paralegal salaries and trends

  • NALA’s Breaking News about its certification program.

The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsors: Teris, West Deposition Services, Clio and NALA, The Association for Legal Assistants/Paralegals.

To listen to this episode, follow this link.

To download the episode to your MP3 player, follow this link.

Here are a few links to additional paralegal career resources:

American Association for Paralegal Education (AAFPE)

NALA, The Association for Paralegals and Legal Assistants (NALA)

Greenville Technical College Paralegal Program

US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011

Paralegal Today 2009 Salary Survey

New Paralegal Salary Survey, Sally Anne Kane Legal Careers Blog, July 3, 2009

Monday, February 8, 2010

3 Must-Know Trial Notebook Tips

This quote is perfect for paralegals who assist with trial:

You were born to win, but to be a winner,
you mustplan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.
~Zig Ziegler

How do you prepare to win? Here are 3 tips:

1. Always assume every case will go to trial. This assumption means you will begin creating the trial notebook the moment the client retains the firm. Waiting until the week before trial may lead to omission of critical elements of your claim or failure to include evidence necessary to prove those elements at trial.

2. Organizing case documents begins at the initialclient interview. Case issues are formed with the information you gather during the first client meeting. Organizing documents in the very beginning makes it easier to develop the case theme.

3. A trial notebook is your trial blueprint. The mostimportant thing you can do is to organize it for quick and efficient access. The secondt hing you must do is customize it to fit the needs of the attorney trying the case.

This is just a sample of the information you must have to prepare a trial notebook. To get the tools, resources and information you need for an organized and systematic approach to assist with preparation of a case from the moment the client retains your firm until the verdict is handed down, join me and Christina L. Koch ACP when we present Trial Notebook Techniques and Strategies--How to Create the Ultimate Trial Notebook

This 90-minute teleclass meets the requirements of the Certifying Board for Legal Assistants for the National Association of Legal Assistants for 1.5 hours of continuing legal assistant education to maintain the CLACertified Legal Assistant Credential. NFPA and NALS have indicated they issue credit for courses approved by NALA.
For more information, follow this link.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Beverly Michaelis: T-R-E-A-T Clients Well

The January episode of The Paralegal Voice featured Beverly Michaelis, an enthusiastic supporter of Paralegals and a member of the Oregon State Bar who works with the Professional Liability Fund as a Practice Management Advisor.

The discussion with Beverly touched on many issues, including the number one cause of legal malpractice claims, important points for law office technology and training, issues with going paperless, and tips for avoiding key technology-related ethics errors.

It was great interviewing Beverly with my co-host, Lynne DeVenny, and the time just flew by so there were questions we were unable to tackle. Thankfully, Beverly touched on one of the most important questions in her recent post over at the Oregon Law Practice Management blog.

She very cleverly refers to T-R-E-A-T Clients Well:

T = Timeliness
R = Responsiveness
E = Empathy
A = Assurance
T = Tangibles

This is a great article. You should head on over to Beverly’s blog to get the full story and learn more about T-R-E-A-T Clients Well. Just follow this link.

And you can listen to Beverly's interview on The Paralegal Voice at Legal Talk Network. Thanks, Beverly!