Monday, December 19, 2011

Paralegal Careers: The No. 1 Personality Trait You Need for Success

Many studies, surveys and discussions focus on the personality traits needed for career success.

Some say it’s confidence. Others list high self-esteem, assertiveness, attitude, etc. There really isn’t a clear picture of what it takes to have a successful career. It seems that a lot depends on the career and the individal.

One thing I do see in common among all of my successful paralegal friends – and there are many – is this: they are persistent.

Why is persistence so important?

With anything you do, you must have a stick-with-it attitude when the going gets tough. There is no quick fix or easy outcome for anything worth doing. If you are looking for quick and easy, you are apt to quit.

The going can get tough – very tough -- when you are building a successful career.

The tough times may be financial. They may be emotional or stressful. They probably include completing your education, finding and doing your job, working on association projects, pursuing certification – and more. Hard times can even be all of these simultaneously.

You see, it is all tough and you have to be persistent through it all. The people who make a success of their careers keep going, even when the going gets tough. This takes strength and faith and a good support system, but above all else persistence is key.

Persistence leads to consistency. To build a career that can sustain itself requires consistency. If you’re not consistent in your efforts, you may as well quit.

Consistency means you do the things that build your career on a regular basis. You show up when you say you will. You keep appointments and commitments. You do what you say you will do. In other words, you deliver and you do that 24/7.

What this looks like. A common mistake is thinking that behavior on the job is significantly different from behavior after the work day is finished and that after-work actions have nothing to do with career success. This is not true.

In the legal community, when you make a commitment you must meet that commitment. That includes meeting deadlines, having a rapport with clients, and being on time for work. People expect you do show up and to do what you say you will do. If you do not, you appear unprofessional at best, untrustworthy at worst.

You grow your career every day and your behavior 24/7 says everything about your character and the depth of your commitment, as well as whether or not you can be trusted.

Unfortunately, it is not easy to be persistent so those who work through the hard times and come through when they promise are often a rarity. If you have persistence, you will stand apart from your colleagues who don’t have that important trait.

Sometimes it can be easy to be persistent – such as returning phone calls promptly and being on time for appointments. Other times, it can take more work, especially when it means doing something you would rather not do in the first place.

When you see your efforts to be persistent pay off with good results -- increased responsibilities, salary and job satisfaction -- and people are singing your praises to colleagues, you will realize the power of persistence and understand why persistence is the No. 1 trait you need for career success.

Your challenge: Are you persistent? Do you have what it takes to keep going when the going gets tough? Think about this. Examine the times when you look for the easy way out. How can you turn that around so that you meet your career goals?
© 2011 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 setting 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 Paralegal Strategies, a weekly e-newsletter for paralegals, and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.

More information is available at where subscribers receive Vicki's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Paralegal Mentor Audio Tip: How to Stop Procrastination

Today's Paralegal Mentor audio tip provides ideas  addressing the issue of procrastination...something we all do and wish we wouldn’t.

For some it’s worse than for others.

For everyone, though, living with procrastination means living life with the brakes on and this is not a good way to live.  The things that are unfinished weigh you down and are always on your mind.
If you find yourself often thinking "I wish I had completed that project before leaving work." Or, "I wish I had planned this morning what we’re having for dinner tonight.” Or, "I wish I had finished ___X_____ before I started _____X_____." You’re procrastinating.

These thoughts stay with you day and night. And they just keep the procrastination merry-go-round spinning.
The good news is there is a solution. And, it is amazingly simple. Follow this link to learn the steps you can take.  

I'd love to hear what you are going to work on first! Leave a post below so we can celebrate as you finish those projects you’ve been putting off.

Remember...I'm dedicated to your success!

Paralegals: Thursday's Trivia Question

Thursday, December 15, 2011: What is the best answer to this ethics trivia question?

Paralegals who give legal advice to clients are committing the unauthorized practice of law (UPL). Which of the following functions is NOT considered to be giving legal advice?

A. Telling the client what you think his case is worth.

B. Explaining contract provisions to a client and his duties pursuant to the provisions.

C. Reading and analyzing cases at the lawyer's direction.

D. Directing or recommending to a client that he take a specific course of action. 

What do you think? I'll be back later with the answer and to add my comments.

Copyright 2011 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Professional Profile: Rhonda Henning

Rhonda Henning is a Paralegal/Office Manager at Buckmeier & Daane Lawyers, P.C. in Sioux City, Iowa where she specializes in personal injury litigation, criminal, family, juvenile, and probate law in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota as the attorneys she works for practice in all three states!

She has Associates Degrees in Accounting and Paralegal Studies, as well as a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice. Rhonda is also President of the Iowa Association of Legal Assistants (IALA) and, in addition, a member of both the South Dakota Paralegal Association (SDPA) and NALA.  Thanks, Rhonda!
1.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  The ability to assist individuals through challenging times in their life.

2.    What is your favorite part of your job?  The challenge of being able to assist in finding the correct case or piece of evidence to prove our argument to a judge or jury.

3.    What professional associations do you belong to?  Iowa Association of Legal Assistants (IALA), South Dakota Paralegal Association (SDPA), and National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).

4.    How has your membership benefited you?  Most of all, the benefits is the networking with individuals who become lifelong friends, the educational opportunities and opportunities to promote the profession

5.    What has been the highlight of your career?  A huge highlight was being elected to be President of the Iowa Association of Legal Assistants.

Another was finding a key piece of evidence that not one party involved in the case thought was there.  It was sheer luck that I stumbled across the case law for my bosses’ brief, but in the end it was an important element in deciding the case.

6.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  State level regulation of paralegals.  This is a trend that the Iowa Association of Legal Assistants is taking upon itself to become implemented in the State of Iowa, and is now being considered by the Iowa Supreme Court for implementation.

7.    If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be?   Join your local, regional, state and/or national professional association. The networking that you will develop is priceless. 

8. Is there a quote that inspires you?  The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie,deliberate, contrived and dishonest -– but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. ~John F. Kennedy

9.     You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?  The attorney I work for who took a chance on someone with no experience in the legal field, and let me have an opportunity at every turn to “soak up” knowledge, make mistakes and grow into this profession. 

10.    What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting?   Always be willing to learn, be open minded, take on a new challenge, and be a team player. 

11.  What electronic device can you not live without?  My cell phone

12.   What advice would you give yourself if you met you as a first-year paralegal?   Find a mentor! Having someone to guide you through the “getting your feet wet” stage is an essential part of getting your career off on the right track.

13. What web site do you visit daily?   I visit court websites on a daily basis. With attorneys practicing in multiple states, knowing what is going on with pending cases is essential

Bonus Question: What is the one thing you wish you were better at?  Time management – working a significant portion of the day in a litigation practice – time can definitely get away from you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday's Ethics Trivia Question for Paralegals

Thursday, December 8, 2011: What is the best answer to this ethics trivia question?

When a paralegal is offered a job by a law firm, what should he/she do to guard against conflicts of interest?

A. Reveal the names of clients in only litigation matters on which he/she has worked in the last 3 years.

B. Refuse to reveal any information about the clients or matters on which he/she has worked.

C. Reveal the minimum information about clients and matters needed to conduct a conflicts check.

D. Reveal only client names on matters on which he/she has worked.

What do you think? I'll be back later to add my comments.

Copyright 2011 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Paralegal Profile: Lou Stoker, ACP

Lou Stoker, ACP lives in Bakersfield, CA and is a Legal Assistant with Chain | Cohn | Stiles where she specializes in Tort Litigation – Plaintiff’s Personal Injury. 

She is active in the
Kern County Paralegal Association and a member of NALA. Lou has an Associates of Applied Arts degree. Thanks, Lou!

1.    Where do you work and what is your job title?
I am a Legal Assistant with Chain | Cohn | Stiles
2.      What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  I had a friend who worked in a law firm in Fort Worth, Texas (back then it was called Cantey, Hanger, Gooch, Munn & Collins) and she asked me if I wanted to come to work there.  That was in 1977 and I have been in the legal field ever since.

3.      What is your favorite part of your job?
  Responding to discovery and preparing lawsuits.

4.      What professional associations do you belong to?  Kern County Paralegal Association and NALA...The Association of Legal Assistants and Paralegals.

5.      How has your membership benefited you?
   Attending the monthly luncheons to earn MCLE credits, thus far, and meeting other members where I can put a face to a name of those I deal with (the adversary on a case) throughout the process of a lawsuit.  Also, now that I am on the Board as newsletter editor, I am becoming more intimately aware of the significance of our organization and the role we play in our community.

6.      What has been the highlight of your career?
  Being awarded the title of Kern County Paralegal of the Year in 2010/2011. Read more about Lou's award here.

7.      What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?
  The level of professionalism and recognition of many of the fine people within the work force.

8.      If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be?
  Even if you have a paralegal certificate, start as a file clerk or at the very most a legal secretary so you can learn the profession from the ground up.

9.      Is there a quote that inspires you?  Here is one of many:  Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness.  Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.  George Sand 1804-1875

10.       You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?  There is no substitute for showing up every day, working hard while at the office, and a good, amiable attitude.

11.       What’s your favorite vacation getaway? New York City

12.       If you could not be a paralegal, what would be your dream job?
  Photographer for NatGeo!

13.       What is your favorite hobby?  Golf

Bonus Question:
What makes you lose your patience?  Rude, pushy people

Paralegal Mentor Audio Tip: Paper, Paper ~ Everywhere!

Today's Paralegal Mentor audio tip provides ideas for handling the insane amount of paper that comes your way.

If you are ever going to keep up with all of the paper in your life, you have to become an instant decision maker.
The decisions you have to make are simple and those are covered in this brief audio.  These are not decisions you make once and then --voila!-- your paper is gone forever. NOT! This is an ongoing process you must follow every day. You'll also learn more about this process when you listen here.

You'll also learn one simple step you can take to stop the onslaught of catalogs you receive. These are a distraction and a time waster.

What questions do you have about those piles of paper that are multiplying in your office and your home?

Remember...I'm dedicated to your success!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Paralegal Practice Tip: Billable Hour Goals? Do the Math!

Most firms set annual billable hour goals for attorneys and paralegal. Reaching those goals is very important for a variety of reasons, the primary one being to demonstrate value to the firm.

If you do not break down the billable hour goals into 'chunks,' it's a good possibility that come December 2012 you'll find yourself falling short of the goal or scrambling to do two months' time in one month.

Neither is good, one is virtually impossible. Instead, you need to do a bit of math and some simple planning NOW to be sure you meet your goals 12 months from now.

I'll be revealing how to do the math and the planning this coming Tuesday, December 13th at 1:00 pm Eastern time when I present Your Big Billable Hour Breakthrough: How to Turn Your Time into a Billable Hour Gold Mine. For more information, follow this link.
Note: This course will provide 1.5 hours MCLE credit. Certificate of Attendance provided to all registered attendees.
As always, I'm dedicated to your success!