Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 in Review: A Look Back at Events that Were Good for All Paralegals.

It wasn’t difficult to say ‘Good-bye!’ to 2010 and ‘Hello!” to 2011!

I'm addicted to news events so I'm always listening news programs  or reading newspapers, as well as paying attention on line and there was way too much ‘not good’ news last year. That was really depressing.

Regardless of the national news, though, there were some important highlights in the paralegal industry so I decided to take a look back to compile a list of what I consider to be the Top 10. Once you’ve looked at my list, leave your comment below and tell me what about other important events for paralegals this past year.

1. Florida Bar Appoints Special Committee to Study
Mandatory Paralegal Regulation
Florida could become the first state to mandate paralegal certification, requiring anyone working as a paralegal to pass a test and meet educational and continuing education requirements. While more than 3,000 Floridians have obtained voluntary certification as paralegals through a program begun by The Florida Bar in 2008, many paralegals are pushing for a mandatory program.
The Bar has created a nine-member Special Committee to Study Mandatory Paralegal Regulation which is comprised of 3 attorneys, 3 paralegals and 3 members of The Bar’s board of governors. (Source:
http://www.floridabar.org/

2. NALA Announces CP Exam Computer Based Testing
NALA...The Association for Legal Assistants and Paralegals made great strides with its voluntary certification program in 2010.

The "The Certified Paralegal Examination transitioned from a paper-and-pencil test to computer-based testing with plans to offer it each day in September, January and May, beginning September 2010. There are no changes in the examination eligibility requirements or the exam application fees. NALA will utilize the ACT Testing Center network, providing over 200 testing locations. Examinees may set their own testing times and days in each testing window. (Source: http://nala.org/)
3. Paralegal Gateway Unveils Updated and Improved Website
 The Paralegal Gateway website took a brief hiatus in 2010 while founder, Jeannie Johnston, performed a cool face lift and made some incredible improvements. She did a bang-up job!

Known as 'the' site for Paralegals, the new site featured integrated social networking, a deadline and filing calculator, the ability to search for legal services and a Career Center that lists available positions. Freelance Paralegals were also included, with members having the ability to post their service listings at no cost. There are also sections for Canadian Paralegals, Paralegal Students, Military Paralegals, an Association and Schools listing, legal information by state, and much more! (Source: http://paralegalgateway.com/)

4. What’s PDF/A?
And Why Are Federal Courts Requiring You to File in This Format
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced a prospective change to the technical filing standard associated with its Case Management / Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system. A move to the new more-controlled PDF/A standard is necessary to enhance CM/ECF security and to improve the archiving and preservation of case-related documents. PDF/A is the standard for long-term archival storage of PDFs.  (Source: Federal Courts Moving to Requiring PDF/A for Filings, a blog post by Rick Borstein)

5. NALA Offers 17 Advanced Certified Paralegal Credentials
In 2010, NALA’s increased the number of Advanced Certified Paralegal opportunities to credentialing in 17 areas, as well as the opportunity to be a Personal Injury ACP.
The Advanced Paralegal Certification Program for Personal Injury paralegals offers a variety of certifications to paralegals based on practice areas. Paralegals may earn multiple certifications in practice areas. If a Certified Paralegal (CP) successfully completes the Core Course and all 8 practice area courses, the paralegal is eligible for the ACP Personal Injury Credential. (Source: http://nala.org/)

6. Employment of Paralegals and Legal Assistants Projected to Grow
 28% between 2008 and 2018.
The US Bureau of Labor statistics says that employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations as employers try to reduce costs and increase the availability and efficiency of legal services by hiring paralegals to perform tasks once done by lawyers.

Demand for paralegals also is expected to grow as an expanding population increasingly requires legal services, especially in areas such as intellectual property, healthcare, international law, elder issues, criminal law, and environmental law. Competition for jobs is expected to continue as many people seek to go into this profession; experienced, formally trained paralegals should have the best employment opportunities. (Source: http://www.bls.gov/oco/pdf/ocos114.pdf)

7. “What Do Attorneys Wish Their Paralegals Knew” Goes
Viral on the Internet!
Kim Walker, a senior litigation paralegal with the Philadelphia law firm of Berger & Montague, P.C., and also a freelance author and blogger at Paralegal Pie, wrote "What Attorneys Wish Their Paralegals Knew" for the Legal Intelligencer. This generated a lot of buzz on the Internet, particularly at the Paralegal Gateway forum.

Kim polled attorneys at 3 Philadelphia firms, asking a simple question: "What do you wish your paralegal knew?" You can read the article here: http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202472944721

Kim was the December guest on The Paralegal Voice which I co-host with Lynne DeVenny. We discussed how paralegals can improve their legal technology skills, maintain the highest level of professionalism in the office, and communicate more effectively with their supervising attorneys. We also shared what we wish attorneys knew, emphasizing how attorneys can better utilize paralegals in the practice of law. To listen to the replay, follow this link.

8. New Case on Paralegal Fees from
the District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Edge Family Chiropractic, (No. 1D10-0565, June 25, 2010) addressed the question of the reimbursement of paralegal fees in attorney fee awards.

The court’s opinion cited cases in the United States Supreme Court in which NALA filed an amicus brief, Missouri v. Jenkins, and Richlin Security Service Co. v. Chertoff. In both cases, the US Supreme Court held that the term “attorney’s fees” includes paralegal services and that the paralegal fees should be reimbursed at market rates. The Florida opinion cites how attorney use of paralegals encourages cost-effective delivery of legal services and reduces the cost of litigation. To read the full opinion, follow this link.

9. Dupont Legal Honored by Inside Counsel as an Innovator
in Corporate Legal Departments
The Dupont Company is included in Inside Counsel's top 10 people/entities who exemplify the development of innovative solutions that have lunched the legal department to a higher level.

Dupont Legal's innovation involves the utilization of paralegals as a greater resource across multiple disciplines. The result was The Dupont Legal Model and the DuPont Paralegal Utilization Model. The company has several practice groups, such as immigration and bankruptcy, where the paralegal—under the supervision of an attorney—is doing all this work.

Paralegal Manager Marybeth Davies spearheaded this program, as well as the creation of "Dollars and Sense of Paralegal Utilization: The DuPont Paralegal Utilization Model," a publication that offers best practices for using paralegals to their fullest potential. It’s available for purchase at http://www.dupontlegalmodel.com/.

10. NALA Releases the 2010 National Utilization/Compensation Survey
...and It’s Free!
Approximately every 2 years since 1986, NALA has conducted a national survey of paralegals. With over 20 years of reports, this regular "look" at the paralegal profession has produced some interesting and valuable data. The findings are divided into 4 sections: participant background; employers and paralegal duties and responsibilities; billing rates; and compensation levels.

The 2010 survey included 1451 responses averaging 20 years of legal experience from a diverse geographical area. 5% of the respondents were males; 95% are females. The average age of survey participants is 46.

The survey presents information concerning the work environment, duties and responsibilities, billing rates and compensation levels of paralegals. It also includes a review of current findings in comparison with findings of previous surveys. Economic data is presented in terms of such factors as size of city, size of firm, educational backgrounds, years of experience, and specialty area of practice. Anyone can access the survey at http://nala.org/survey.aspx.


My Request to You:
That's my list of important events that benefited all paralegals last year but I'll bet there are many more out there. My request to you: leave a comment below with other highlights that should be noted for 2010.

====================
Copyright 2010 Vicki Voisin, ACP

1 comment:

Lynne DeVenny said...

Vicki, thanks so much for doing this -- it's wonderful to be reminded of GOOD news for legal professionals, after a rough couple of years.