Monday, November 22, 2010

10 Travel Tips: Be Prepared When Things Go Wrong

As many of you know, I just completed what I jokingly call my "2010 World Tour". That included lots of air travel...from Traverse City to Bismarck to Rapid City to Missoula to Tulsa to Los Angeles to Atlanta (a couple of times) and finally back home to Northern Michigan.

Fortunately for me, except for a couple of minor delays, everything went well.

Now it's the season when you'll be traveling over the river and through the wood to Grandmother's house for the upcoming holidays. Since traveling can sometimes be dicey, I have 10 tips that will help you if anything goes wrong:

1. Be sure your name on your ticket and your ID match. TSA is now strictly enforcing the requirement that the name on your ID (your driver's license or passport) must exactly match the name on your ticket. For instance, 'Vicki Voisin' on my ticket will not work because that's not the full name on my driver's license. I learned this the hard way!

Your ticket will have to be reissued with the correct name and usually for a later flight. In addition, you will have to pay all the fees involved. When you buy tickets, always be sure the ticket is issued to match your ID.

Another tip: When you renew your driver's license, get a separate photo ID card (the cost is $10 in my state). Keep it in a different place from your driver's license when you travel so you have a backup ID in case you lose your license. You'll be able to get through security to fly home if you lose your wallet on the road.
2. Carry with you the toll-f'ree numbers of all the airlines you fly. If a flight is cancelled or you realize you won't make a connecting flight, make a call from your cell phone to the airline instead of standing in line behind all the irate passengers. You will usually be rebooked immediately.

More numbers to have with you: passport, frequent flyer, hotel frequent guest and rental car numbers should be printed on one sheet of paper with a color copy of your passport key pages on the other side of the page. Hide them inside every bag you carry. Send a copy to yourself on your Google account and never delete it. This gives you access to your documents from any computer in the world.
3. Be patient. The people at the desk are doing the best they can. They're more willing to help you if you remain upbeat, calm and cheerful. Think how you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes. The delay is certainly not their fault.

4. Ask for anything you can get. This includes as f'ree meals, hotel rooms, ground transportation, and upgraded seats. You may get them...or you may not. For sure you won't if you don't ask.

5. Take names. If someone makes a promise to you (such as there is a room available at the hotel or you can return the rental call late without penalty) be sure to get the person's name.

6. Keep your daily planner with you at all times. You will need to make notes of new flights and also cancel or reschedule any appointments on your calendar. This is where you can make notes of the person making promises as above.

7. Never check luggage if you don't have to. When you have your bag with you, it will be easier to change planes (and even airlines) at the last minute.

8. Keep necessities with you. Never put anything in checked luggage that you absolutely must have at your destination, such as medicines and personal essentials. Those go in your carry on and are kept with you at all times. I always pack a change of undies, something to sleep in, and a fresh shirt in my carry on.

9. Keep your cell phone and laptop with you. Recharge them whenever you have an opportunity because you can never be sure when you'll find your next working electrical outlet. Also keep all electronics (including flash drives, external hard drive, chargers, and camera) with you, as well as materials for any presentations you'll be making.

10. Take some nice-to-have extras in your carry on. Never leave home without something to occupy your time if you're delayed. A book, magazine, needlework, iPod, crossword puzzle...anything to make the time go faster. It's also a good idea to pack some granola bars or trail mix in case you get caught with no time for a meal.

So, let me ask you. . .do you have any favorite travel tips so you're prepared when things go wrong? I'd love to hear them...please share them below. And best wishes for a happy, safe, hassle-f'ree holiday season!
©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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Professional Profile: Debbie Arbuckle, Pa.C.P.

Debbie Arbuckle, Pa.C.P. answers my Thirteen Questions this week. Debbie is employed by Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, PC in Blue Bell Pennsylvania. She is a Pennsylvania Certified Paralegal (Pa.C.P.) and a member of the Montgomery County Paralegal Association, as well as the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.
You'll enjoy reading how association membership has benefited her. Thanks, Debbie, for taking the time to share!

1. Where do you work and what is your job title? I work at Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, PC, Blue Bell, PA as a paralegal in the Land Use, Zoning and Development Department

2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? One of my first jobs out of high school was working for a sole practitioner in Philadelphia. I had basic secretarial skills and was placed through an agency.

Those who have worked for sole practitioners know that you do everything! I typed pleadings (back in the days of carbon paper), made copies, figured out the required forms and filings fees, and then took the document across the street to City Hall to file it.

Because it was such a "hands on" position, I really got to see a case from beginning to end and became curious as to the WHY's of the practice of law and went back to school, obtaining my paralegal certification from Penn State in 1994.

3. What is your favorite part of your job? Being a part of a team in accomplishing a goal for a client.

4. What professional associations do you belong to? I have been a member of the Montgomery County Paralegal Association (MCPA) for approximately 7 years. I have been on the Board for 3 years, currently as First Vice President. I am also a member of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and serve as MCPA's primary representative to NFPA.

5. How has your membership benefited you? The obvious, most quoted answer is, of course, "networking". Another benefit has been the personal friendships that have developed. I take great pride in being part of these organizations that are comprised of other professionals in my field.

6. Do you have any professional certifications? I am a Pennsylvania Certified Paralegal.

7. What has been the highlight of your career? Up until this point, I think obtaining my Paralegal Certificate has been one of the highlights. I went back to school at night after being out of school for 15 years. My ex-husband told me that the night before my first mid-term I was talking Latin in my sleep! Of course, I was also still working full time and raising a daughter. The process, due to various reasons, took almost 10 years.

8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Keeping up to date with new and expanding technology is not only a trend, but sometimes a challenge in this day and age .I truly believe, however, if you stop learning, you stop growing!

9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? I did finally start a Facebook page earlier this year. I was home after knee replacement surgery and my recuperation period encompassed 3 major snow storms this past winter. I could not get out to drive and finally got curious about Facebook; now I'm hooked.

10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? Find someone who is passionate about their paralegal career to take you under their wing. Make sure you really want this to be your profession, don't go into it unless fully engaged.

11. Is there a quote that inspires you? "I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." This quote is attributed to Ettiene De Grellet. I found it on a card in an eclectic shop many years ago, framed it and it has inspired me ever since.

12. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? I would have to say my first employer, Robert Rosin, Esq. Learning from the ground up working for a sole practitioner was an invaluable that I did not fully appreciate until many years later.

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 question: I understand you make a mean Pomegranate Martini. What's your secret? This recipe goes to the grave with me!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Survey Results: Paralegal Practice Area Experience Tops Technological Proficiency

According to the results of a survey conducted by Robert Half Legal, a premier legal staffing firm specializing in lawyers, paralegals and other highly skilled legal professionals, when lawyers hire paralegals, they place the most value on knowledge of a specific practice area. Technological proficience ranked second.
"When hiring for paralegal roles, prior practice area expertise will bring a job seeker's resume to the top of the stack, particularly if that experience is in a high-demand specialty such as bankruptcy or litigation," said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal.
Mr. Volkert also pointed out that the current market favors specialists over generalists. He recommends that job applicants highlight the specific skills and expertise that make them the ideal fit for a specific job opening so that employers know they have the experience necessary to hit the ground running if hired.

In the survey 200 lawyers at the largest law firms and corporations in the United States were asked, "In a competitive job market, which one of the following attributes makes paralegals the most marketable?"

Their responses:

Practice area expertise - 66%
Technological proficiency - 13%
Length of employment/tenure - 7%
Associate or bachelor's degree - 7%
Paralegal certification or bar association accreditation - 4%
Other/don't know - 3%

It is interesting that level of education, as well as certification, have the lowest percentage of value. However, a paralegal with practice area expertise + certification + a degree will definitely demonstrate the best skills for the job over a paralegal with only practice area experience.

To read the full article, as well as Mr. Volkert’s five tips for job seekers to improve their marketability, follow this link:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Paralegal Profile: Cindy J. Geib, Pa.C.P., ACP

Cindy J. Geib, Pa.C.P., ACP answers my Thirteen Questions this week. Cindy is employed by David A. Peiffer in Manheim, PA.

She is both a Pennsylvania Certified Paralegal (Pa.C.P.) through the Keystone Alliance of Paralegal Associations and an Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).

You'll enjoy reading Cindy's advice for anyone contemplating a paralegal career. Also, can you guess what Cindy's passion is in her 'spare' time? Thanks, Cindy, for taking the time to share!


1. Where do you work and what is your job title? I work for Attorney David A. Peiffer in Manheim, Pennsylvania which is in Lancaster County. My title is Pennsylvania Certified Paralegal.

2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? I was working in Management for General Mills in their Restaurant Division (they owned Red Lobster and Olive Garden at the time). One of the cashiers I knew started going to school and was taking an introduction to paralegal studies class. She would bring her book to work and study when it wasn't busy and told me how interesting it was. I decided to take one class to see if I liked it and the rest, as they say, is history!

3. What is your favorite part of your job? The attorney I work for is amazing! He is super nice and polite and so pleasant to work with. Having such a great atmosphere makes all the difference when working is such a stressful profession.

4. What professional associations do you belong to? I am a proud member of the Lancaster Area Paralegal Association (LAPA). I served as LAPA's President for 3 years and as a Director for over a decade. I also served as the Chair of the Student Liaison Committee for about 6 years.

LAPA is a member association of the Keystone Alliance of Paralegal Associations and I served as the Chair of the Alliance for 3 years and as LAPA's Primary Representative to the Alliance for 6 years. I have also been a proud member of NALA for about 15 years! I served on NALA's Professional Development Committee for several years.

5. How has your membership benefited you? Wow! I could write a novel on how many ways membership in LAPA and NALA have benefited me both personally and professionally. Quickly though, networking, leadership opportunities, continuing education, lifelong friendships, job leads and the list goes on and on!

6. Do you have any professional certifications? I am a Pennsylvania Certified Paralegal (Pa.C.P.) through the Keystone Alliance of Paralegal Associations and an Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) through NALA.

7. What has been the highlight of your career? Bringing the Wills for Heroes program to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and being the first Paralegal to serve as the Wills for Heroes Certified Coordinator ... a position that was previously held only by attorneys.

8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Certification without a doubt! I think we will see more and more certification programs initiated at the state level in the next couple of years.

9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? I am definitely a FaceBook Groupie! I love FaceBook! In addition to having my own personal FaceBook page, I manage the FaceBook page for LAPA.

10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? I would encourage them to do several things:

#1 Speak to multiple paralegals in the profession in multiple areas of law

#2 Look very, very carefully at the programs offered by the colleges in their areas to make sure they are high quality programs

#3 Obtain the highest level of degree in paralegal studies that they can financially afford and have the time to pursue and

#4 Look very carefully at the job market for paralegals in your area

11. Is there a quote that inspires you? "A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove...but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child." ~Unknown

12. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? There have been so many paralegals, attorneys and events that have brought me to the place where I am today. I have met so many inspiring paralegals along the way in NALA and LAPA and many who are very dear friends of mine to this day. It's been an incredible journey and it's not over yet!

13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Participate in as many continuing legal education opportunities as possible. Even it they are not in the particular area of law you are working in or are interested in, go! You just never know who you might meet or what area of law you might end up working in. Trust me -- YOU NEVER KNOW! CLE events are great places for networking!

Bonus...just for fun question: What sports team are you passionate about? Take me out to the Ballpark! I am a huge fan of the Lancaster Barnstormers, a professional minor league baseball team in the Atlantic League. We've been a host family for 6 years and we have players living with us for 6 to 8 months out of the year. Sometimes we even have 2 players at the same time. We've hosted several famous MLB players too! It's been a great experience for our family! My picture is me at my "Happy Place" ... The Lancaster Barnstormers stadium.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

10 Ideas For Getting Your Next Paralegal Job

Thanks to Justin Davis, Staff Writer for Criminal Justice Degree Schools for submitting this guest article with great tips for you when you look for your next paralegal job.
The Paralegal Mentor was honored to be named to the Top 25 Paralegal Blogs by Criminal Justice Degree Schools. To see the full list, just follow this link.


10 Ideas for Getting Your Next Paralegal Job
By Justin Davis

Whether you are a new graduate or just looking for a change, finding your next paralegal job is more difficult today in the current economic environment where employers are still cautious about adding new staff.

The following 10 ideas can help you acquire the ideal paralegal position.

1) Follow the press releases:
firms that are handling class action lawsuits or personal injury cases based on recalls often announce them. If you see news about a class action that has thousands of potential defendants, call the office and offer your services on a short-term basis. Your performance could make it a long-term position.

2) Call up the career services department at the school where you got your degree or certificate. Rather than asking for help in job placement, ask for the three to five firms that have most recently worked with the school to find applicants. You're more likely to find work with firms that are actively looking for help.

3) Make friends with the court clerks. Since these local, state and federal employees deal with lawyers and lawsuits each day, they often have a better sense of how firms are doing than almost any other source.

4) Watch an hour of evening television, or call your local cable company. Finding attorneys who have the money to advertise on television can open up doorways and ease the process for cold-calling - a difficult task for many.

5) Move outside the standard paralegal job description. After all, you can provide assistance in nearly any legal aspect outside of presenting a case or giving legal advice. So, expand your search to jobs that can include legal expertise. This can include working in insurance or human resources departments at medium and large corporations, or similar positions. Change your search to include keywords based on your skill set, rather than just "paralegal".

6) Contact legal professionals and buy them lunch. Reach out to people that currently have a position that you would like to someday reach and invite them to lunch so you can learn how they got to their current position. Often they will share useful advice and do what they can to help you succeed.

7) Set up Google News alerts for "Smallville law firm" and "Smallville paralegal job" or related terms so that you can receive email notifications when an online article or job posting with specific keywords is published. This could provide you with the latest information about who is hiring before anyone else.

8) Start a paralegal blog. There are numerous blogs written by paralegals that attract a strong following (see the Top 25 Paralegal Blogs Blogging can help you get found in search engines and also shows potential employers how you think and demonstrates your writing skills.

9) Attend networking events. Keep your eye out for events put on by local law firms or legal organizations. Meeting people at events can help you develop relationships with legal professionals who can help you find a job or tell you about positions that haven't been advertised yet.

10) Seek out pro-bono work opportunities. Volunteer legal work can help you meet attorneys who may be hiring or know someone who is hiring. Do a great job and legal professionals that you work with might recommend you to someone they know.

Justin Davis is a staff writer at Criminal Justice Degree Schools, a resource site providing information on paralegal degrees and schools.