Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Paralegal Voice: Paralegals Giving Back

The latest edition of The Paralegal Voice, Paralegals Giving Back is now available at Legal Talk Network.

Volunteering can be an uplifting experience for all involved. On this edition of The Paralegal Voice, co-host Lynne DeVenny and I spotlight two paralegals who are 'giving back' to the community and volunteering their time to help others in need.

We welcome Cindy J. Geib, ACP, PaCP, a Certified Coordinator for Wills for Heroes and Lee A. Paige, CLA, Senior Paralegal at Parker, Milliken, Clark, O’Hara & Samuelian, who volunteers at the Los Angeles Food Bank. They discuss their individual experiences, time management and the impact volunteering has had on their lives.

Also in this episode:
  • How Cindy and Lee got into the paralegal profession and what they like most about their jobs.
  • Tips for paralegals interested in getting into their speciality areas.
  • What drew Cindy and Lee to their volunteer work.
  • Tips for balancing a job, family and volunteer work.
  • How to find the right organization for your particular talents.
  • Lynne and I also share practice and social media tips.
Follow this link to listen to the podcast:

Follow this link if you want the MP3 download:

There were several Internet resources referenced in the podcast:
The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsors: NALA...The Association of Paralegals and Legal Assistants and SunTrust.

Please share the links to this episode of The Paralegal Voice with your friends and colleagues. If you have a request for a future show, or a question for us, you are welcome to contact us at

Be sure you never miss a podcast by subscribing to any Legal Talk Network show, including The Paralegal Voice, by using the RSS Feed links or iTunes links at

Monday, April 25, 2011

North Carolina Bar Association Provides Disaster Legal Services

The North Carolina Bar Association, through its Young Lawyers Division, will provide free legal assistance to persons in North Carolina affected by the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding of April 16.

Activation of the Disaster Legal Services program follows President Obama's recent declaration of a major disaster. The President's action makes Federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Bertie, Bladen, Cumberland, Halifax, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Onslow, Wake and Wilson.

Storm victims needing help with legal problems may call the NCBA weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-800-662-7407 and ask for Disaster Legal Services. Someone will be on hand to answer basic questions and, if needed, refer storm victims to volunteer attorneys in or near their area.

Attorneys who wish to volunteer should call that same number or e-mail Access this link for more information.

Federal funding also is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis in the counties of Bertie, Bladen, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Greene, Halifax, Harnett, Hertford, Hoke, Johnston, Lee, Onslow, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Wake and Wilson for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance.

The program is conducted in conjunction with the ABA’s Disaster Legal Services Program and FEMA.

The volunteer attorneys will not be seeking and will not accept business from those affected by these storms. It is strictly a public service.

The N.C. Bar Association also has a free informational pamphlet titled “Rebuilding After Disaster Strikes,” which is available by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to YLD Disaster Services, PO Box 3688, Cary, NC 27519. The pamphlet may also be downloaded off the NCBA Web site ( where it is located on the home page under Featured Items.

Source: North Carolina Bar Association

Nikki Campos, CP: My Journey from Law Office to Home Office

Becoming a virtual paralegal did not happen overnight. I planned, prepared, prepared some more and things slowly fell into place.

When I had the idea of working from home back in the 2007, the first place I started looking was the Internet. I read every blog I could find on virtual paralegals and looked at every virtual paralegal website I came across.

The information that was available (and FREE) was invaluable. I took in all the information and learned so much about the virtual paralegal world.

While I was on maternity leave after my 2nd child was born, I started doing some of the work from my ‘home office.’ I was amazed (and so was my boss) at the amount of work I was able to complete from my home.

When my maternity leave ended, I convinced my boss to continue the arrangement. That was 2008 and this year marks my 3 year anniversary! Where has the time gone?

I learned a lot by ‘trial and error’ and I am still learning. Here are a few things I learned along the way:

1. Achieve Expert Status. I think it is important to understand that in order to be a virtual (freelance) paralegal; you really need to be an expert in the area of law or type of work you intend to provide. When a prospective client calls and wants to use your services, the main draw to hiring you is that there will be little to no training.

2. Find Your Niche. Do not market that you will do anything and everything. Pick parts of your paralegal job or an area of law you enjoy working in and become an EXPERT in that area. Learn EVERYTHING you can—attend seminars, take classes. This is one of the best parts about starting your own virtual paralegal business—you pick what areas of law you WANT to work in!!

3. Create Your Internet Presence. The good news is that marketing as a virtual paralegal is fairly inexpensive because a lot of the social media sites are free (i.e. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn).

However, the biggest - and most important - investment you can make in your business is a professional looking web site. This is a must.

If you do not know how to create a website, I recommend hiring someone to do it for you. Your website is your “first impression” to a prospective client. If your website does not look professional, it appears you are not professional. It is almost like going to an interview wearing jeans and a t-shirt instead of a suit.

In order to establish your Internet presence you need to have a professional photo taken of yourself. Don’t use gadgets or legal symbols instead of a picture when you join social media sites or creating your website. Even though you may never see your client face-to-face, a person always likes to know who they are hiring and what they look like.

The same goes for the prospective attorney wanting to hire you. Ask the attorney for the links to their website or other social media sites they participate in so you can learn more about them and what they do. You feel more comfortable communicating with a prospective client and other professionals when they have a personal photo rather than a gadget.

4. Make Face-to-Face Connections. Even though it is important to have an Internet presence, it is also important to make face-to-face connections. Join your local paralegal association and attend meetings, seminars and other events. Even if you are not a member, legal associations welcome anyone interested in the legal field and are happy to have ‘nonmembers’ attend their seminars. This is a great way to network and obtain continuing education.

5. Watch Your Finances. I am a very frugal person and would NOT recommend getting a loan to start your business. You can get by with the basics of a computer, back-up hard drive, multi-function printer (fax, copier, scanner, and printer), phone line and shredder. Basic computer software you will need is Microsoft Office or WordPerfect and Adobe Acrobat. Save money and add items as you need them.

6. How Much Will You Charge? Now—the answer to the question everyone asks: how much do I charge? This is difficult to answer because it can depend on where the attorney lives, the billable paralegal rate in that area and also what area of law you are working in.

What I recommend is that you base your services on the quality of your work NOT the quantity. Have a clear understanding of what your value is and NEVER sell yourself short by charging less than you are worth. Once you understand your ‘value’, you must also take into consideration your expenses for office supplies, insurance and equipment. All of this combined will determine how much you should charge to make a profit.

7. MY MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE: Do not work from home because you want to be able to stay home with your kids. Everyone loses in this situation: you, the children, and the clients you are working for. You will spread yourself way too thin trying to keep your client happy, children content, and find time for yourself.

There will come a point when a deadline needs to be met but your children also need your attention (fed, hugged, changed, a boo boo, etc.) and you are going to have to choose. Don’t put yourself in a position where you are being pulled in too many directions and, therefore, not able to give a 100% to your job or your kids. For your sanity, have some help with your kids, even if it is just part-time for a couple hours a week.

Remember--you can do what you want, that’s the perk of being your own boss!

©2011 Nikki L. Campos CP

Nikki L. Campos, CP is a virtual paralegal from Nebraska. She graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies from Central Community College and a Bachelor's Degree in Management from Bellevue University. She also obtained a paralegal certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).

Armed with her education, her certification, and her work experience, she transitioned from working in a law office to working in her home office.

She planned and prepared for this step and today she shares much of what she has learned along the way. You'll want to read every one of her tips and keep them in mind should you decide to establish your own virtual paralegal business.

Visit Nikki's website:

Quote of the Day: " I am Not a ParaLawyer"

Canadian Paralegal Barb Ashford is often asked what she does for a living. She says that when she tells people she's a paralegal, their eyes glaze over and they say, "A what?"

Ashford, owner of Ashford Paralegal Services located in Brighton, Ontario, Canada, says:
There are several misconceptions out there about us. For example, paralegals are not lawyers who jump out of planes. Those are paratroopers. Paralegals, not unlike paratroopers, will defend you. We are sometimes referred to as 'little lawyers'. That too, is a misnomer. (I am not a lawyer nor am I little.)
So what do paralegals do? Ashford explains:
First off, we are licenced and regulated by the Law Society of Upper Canada -- yes, the same institution that watches over lawyers. To apply to become a paralegal in Ontario, one must have successfully graduated from a two-year paralegal course at an accredited college. The graduate must also complete a 120-hour field placement in a law or paralegal practice. Next you have to pay to write and pass the LSUC law exam, and pay the Errors and Omissions insurance, and the annual Law Society licencing dues.
Canadian paralegals have a limited scope of practice, says Ashford, and can only provide certain services to clients, such as:
  • All provincial offences under the Highway Traffic Act (such as speeding tickets, accidents, etc.)
  • Landlord and Tenant tribunals, Liquor Licence Act offenses, and many other provincial statutes.
  • Small claims cases up to $25,000, summary offence criminal matters (such as assault, shoplifting, etc.) and bylaw infractions.
Ashford also explains that "Paralegals are not permitted to practice Family Law (child custody, separations or divorces, etc.), handle wills and estates, small claims cases over $25,000, real estate law, or serious criminal offences."

Another good analogy offered by Ashford: "We are 'people people' - advocates for those who need representation and a voice in court. If you retain a paralegal, in many cases, you will not have to attend court or testify. Let's face it, going to court is scary as the justice system is complicated and even intimidating. So, if you find yourself in a bit of unexpected trouble, a paralegal may be just the ticket."

According to her website, Ashford is a Barb Ashford is a retired Toronto Police officer  and a recent graduate of the Paralegal Program at Sir Sanford Fleming College in Peterborough and is licensed with the Law Society of Upper Canada. She brings 26 years of policing experience to her clients and specializes in handling traffic tickets..

While I'm not an expert on the issue of Canada's licensing of paralegals, I don't see any reference in the article by Ashford that they work under the supervision of attorneys. If I'm wrong, please correct me.

And I'm wondering, "What is your opinion about the licensing of Canadian paralegals and the range of services they are allowed to offer directly to the public?"

See also:

Wisconsin State Bar Amends Policy on Paralegal Supervision

The Wisconsin State Bar’s Board of Governors ("Board") met April 8-9 in Green Bay to discuss a several issues, including an amendment to the State Bar's policy on paralegal supervision.
The State Bar’s current policy on paralegal supervision states: “The State Bar of Wisconsin supports attorney supervision of paralegals licensed under the authority of the Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court does not currently license of regulate paralegals, nor does any other entity in Wisconsin.Gov. William Curran asked the board to strike the words “under the authority of the supreme court” and add “pursuant to law” instead so the State Bar could promote its policy regardless of the licensing body.

The Board approved new policy language that will read: “The State Bar of Wisconsin supports attorney supervision of paralegals licensed pursuant to law.”

Source: State Bar of Wisconsin

Monday, April 18, 2011

Top 5 Ways to Minimize Interruptions

How can you get your work done if you have constant interruptions? You can't...and it's very frustrating.

You have to practice self-defense when it comes to interruptions. If you don't take steps to minimize them, your time will be wasted and your productivity will suffer.

Studies show that the average worker is interrupted every eight minutes. The same studies reveal that 15% of the interruptions are important, while the remaining 85% are a waste of time.

Telephone calls and e-mail are major culprits, but even worse are the two-legged interrupters: your co-workers.

Here are five tips to minimize those two-legged interruptions and keep you in the productivity fast lane:

1. Stand up when someone enters your workspace....or when they've over-stayed their welcome. When you stand, you send a message that the meeting will either be brief or that it has ended. This works every time. You start moving, they start moving...end of interruption.

2. Never ask "How are you?" when someone stops by your office. This is an open invitation to chat. Do you really want to hear about their gallbladder surgery? Instead, ask "What can I do for you?" This will get you right to the point of the interruption.

3. A bit of creative workspace re-organization goes a long way. If your desk faces the door, turn it so you don't look right into the hallway at everyone who passes. Once they make eye contact, they always stop to chat.
Can you remove your chairs? If not, stack some files on them so the office pest (IE time waster) can't take root for a half hour of blah blah blah. Last, NEVER have a bowl of candy on your desk. Who can resist a handful of M&M's...and a little conversation to go along with them?
4. If you're asked to answer a 'quick question or someone wants 'just a minute' of your time, beware! Your first question should be, "How much time do you need?" If you have the time available, go for it and hold them to the deadline. If you don't have a spare fifteen minutes, schedule an appointment with them later.
Rehearse a few lines like: "I'm sorry but I need to finish this deposition summary in the next hour. Can we talk later?" or "Attorney X is waiting for this research. I can spend some time with you at 2:00 this afternoon." If you use lines like these, you've turned the tables and you're now meeting on your own terms.
5. Urge co-workers to accumulate their questions. They should save all but urgent issues to discuss with you in one chunk of time. It's much more productive to spend twenty minutes discussing five client matters than it is to talk about one client matter for ten minutes every hour.

BONUS TIP: Don't interrupt yourself! Determine the time of day you are most productive (early morning? mid-afternoon?) and make yourself unavailable to the world during that time every day. Shut your door. Turn off anything that might be noisy or distracting. Stock your desk with all the supplies you need to eliminate unnecessary trips to the supply room. Practice what you preach: gather your questions and assignments and interrupt your co-workers only once.

Your challenge: Make a short list of the interruptions you will allow. For all the rest, decide which of today's tips you can implement to minimize them. Once that decision is made, take the necessary steps to curb those interruptions and you'll find yourself on your way to a more productive day.


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 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 where new subscribers receive The Paralegal Mentor's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Congratulations to Ana Piero - Paralegal Gateway Superstar

Ana Pierro has been named Paralegal Gateway's March 2011 Superstar. She is the paralegal supervisor at Pershing LLC, a subsidiary of The Bank of New York Mellon.

Since beginning her paralegal career in 1993, she has worked in various areas of the law including, Personal Injury, Products Liability, Insurance Defense, Commercial Litigation, Pharmaceutical Regulation and Securities Regulation.

In 2005, Ana served as President of the Legal Assistant Association of New Jersey, now known as The Paralegal Association of New Jersey. She has been a member of the New Jersey State Bar and the American Bar Association. To read more about Ana, follow this link.

Kathy Amiranti: NALS 2010-2011 President

Kathy Amirante, PP, PLS is NALS 2010-2011 President. Kathleen Amirante, PP, PLS was installed as President of NALS...the association for legal professionals on March 11, 2011.

Her installation took place during the association's Professional Development Conference in Tulsa, OK.

Kathy is a legal assistant employed by Kitch Drutchas Wagner Valitutti & Sherbrook in the firm's Lansing office. She is a member of NALS of Lansing and NALS of Michigan and has served as President of both.

Congratulations, Kathy! This will be a year you'll never forget.

Paralegal Profile: Nancy L. Jordahl, CP, FRP

Nancy L. Jordahl, CP, FRP is a paralegal with Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, PA in Orlando, FL. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Russian Studies from Stetson University and graduated with honors from the Rollins College Paralegal Studies Program.

1. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? I was working as a retail manager for Camelot Music and got fed up of the way I was being treated by some of the customers. So I took a test in a career aptitude book and it said I would be a good paralegal.

2. Do you specialize in any particular area of the law? Breach of Warranty, Insurance Defense, and Corporate Defense.

3. What is your favorite part of your job? Going to trial.

4. What professional associations do you belong to? National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), Central Florida Paralegal Association, Inc. (CFPA), Florida Bar Registered Paralegal and Orange County Bar Association Paralegal Section.

I also serve on the Advisory Board for the paralegal program for Keiser University in Orlando.
5. How has your membership benefited you? In many ways but I consider the most important to be friendship and networking.

6. What has been the highlight of your career? Being named Paralegal of the Year by the Central Florida Paralegal Association in 2010.

7. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Electronic discovery.

8. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would you tell them? You have to want to work hard and be self-motivated. This is not a job for people that want to goof off all day at work.

9. Is there a quote that inspires you? "Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you." Frank Lloyd Wright

10. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? Me for working hard and not giving up when things get tough and my parents for their work ethic.

11. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Be involved in professional organizations and keep on learning. I also think you shouldn't be afraid to ask your attorneys in your office for different challenges.

12. What was your first job? Babysitting. I say that is the reason I never had children.

13. What is the one thing you wish you were better at? I wish I was better at communicating my thoughts to others. It is something I really struggle with.

Bonus - Just for Fun Question: What was the riskiest thing you ever did? The riskiest thing I ever did was...ride a bike (not my own) back to the place I was staying in the outskirts of New Orleans from downtown New Orleans on Fat Tuesday.

UK Firm Lays Down the Law: Lower Hemlines, Lower Heels and Brush Your Hair

The Daily Telegraph reports that the renowned UK firm, Allen & Overy has sent an email to 105 would-be solicitors telling them to lower their hemlines, lower their heels and brish their hair or  face an "uncomfortable discussion".
'We've been asked to draw your attention to the fact that HR have received numerous complaints about the way female trainees have been dressing around the office,' said the email. It also described how some staff turned up to work without brushing their hair and added that those who were not dressed appropriately would not be able to take part in client meetings.
It seems that a number of female trainees showed too much leg and looked "like they were ready for a night of 'clubbing' rather than a day at the office as the weather warmed up". They also showed up for work without "properly brushing their hair".

A spokesman says "the sartorial elegance of A & O's trainees has been well known for many years. However, it seemed a good idea to suggest the gentle application of a little common sense when deciding what to wear to work in the morning as we want our clients to remember what they say not what they wear."

Common sense seems to be the key here. What's your opinion of Allen & Overy's message to trainees?

Read more here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Paralegal Mentor's Cinnamon Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

Having given up chocolate for Lent, I've had to abstain from making my usual Chocolate Chip Cookes and Awesome Never-Fail Brownies...they would be just too tempting!

To satisfy my sweet tooth, I made these Cinnamon Pecan Oatmeal Cookies.  The recipe is my own combination of several recipes -- these cookies are wonderful with a tall glass of milk or cup of steaming hot coffee. Even Rachael Ray would say 'Yummo!!!"


The Paralegal Mentor's Cinnamon Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter (2 sticks) brought to room temperature (no substitutes for the real butter!)
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add:
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Mix the following dry ingredients together in a small bowl and then add to the above; mix well:
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon  cinnamon (add more if you wish)
Stir in:
3 cups quick cooking oats*
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drop the dough by tablespoons** onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten with a glass -- butter the bottom of the glass and dip in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar (about 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon)
Bake for 10 -12 minutes until light golden brown around the edges. Do not overbake or you will have hockey pucks. Remove from oven and cool on rack. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
 *Use only quick cooking oats -- old fashioned oats will cause the cookies to spread
** I always use my medium-size Pampered Chef scoop

Copyright 2011 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Certification: 5 Reasons Why Double Is Better

A question was posed to me recently while I was doing one on one coaching with a paralegal who wanted tips to get her career off dead center and moving forward. She asked me:

"Vicki, do you think I should get state specific certification or take a certification exam offered by a national paralegal professional association?"

My answer? "Both!" Double is always better. Here are five reasons why you should double up on your certifications.

Credible. Certification typically consists of the "3 E's": Education, Experience and Exam. You are not able to take a certification examination unless you meet certain criteria. It is a career-long commitment that demonstrates to your peers and your employers that you have mastered core principles and that you are dedicated to staying current in your profession.

Certification gives you expert status which translates to credibility. Having that on a state level is definitely a plus. You double your credibility when you take that expert status to the national level, showing advanced analytical abilities and writing skills, as well as a broad understanding of laws and procedures nationwide.

Marketable. Whether you're job hunting or job hopping, you are more valuable if you have doubled up on your certifications. Think of it this way:
(a) almost everyone acquires a certificate or degree in paralegal studies prior to entering the profession; if everyone has a paralegal certificate, they have identical qualifications and are on a level playing field;
(b) state specific certification hikes you up a notch and gives you a leg up on someone with only their basic education;
(c) doubling up with your national certification puts you on top of the heap.
Portable. Your state specific certification will serve you well so long as you never move to another state. For instance, if you move from North Carolina or Ohio to Texas, you will be competing with paralegals who may already have that state's certification.

Since you will need all the ammunition you can muster to land a job in a place where virtually no one knows you, your very portable national certification will give you the credibility you need for employment in your new location.

Profitable. Salary surveys illustrate the value of your certification. If you're a paralegal with one credential, you will certainly earn a higher salary than a paralegal with none. However, if you're a paralegal with double certifications, you are in a position to demand an even higher salary. In this case, certification makes both sense and cents.

Recognizable. Certification is a standard by which employers can judge the competency of a potential employee and the value of a current employee. You can be very proud of the letters displayed after your name. They demonstrate your advanced abilities, your depth of experience, and your knowledge. Double the letters translates to double the recognition of your advanced skills and knowledge.

A handful of states have state specific certification. There are different qualifications for taking each. Some require you to have up with national certification to qualify, others do not. Wherever you live, national certification is available and accessible.

How do you "double up" if you have no state certification available? Both NALS and NFPA offer more than one certification. NALA offers advanced paralegal certification with 18 APC credentials. You can also work on certification in a different industry. For instance, if you work in insurance defense, a CRM (Certified Risk Manager) might be helpful. Do you work with employee benefits? You might look into a PHR (Professional in Human Resources).

There are also certifications in the computer and medical fields that could be beneficial. You will want to be sure that the certification you seek has value in your specialty area and enhances the scope of your work. The only other precaution is to be sure the certification is professionally managed and administered.

Do you want to move your career in the right direction? A single certification will do that. Double certification will make you more credible, marketable and noticeable. You will find it is both portable and profitable. Double certification will move you miles ahead. Double is definitely better!

©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 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, April 12, 2011

Should you keep a candy dish on your desk?

Food has long been considered an important part of office culture.

In most offices you’ll find the always-full candy dish, the Friday potluck, the pizza party, the doughnuts, the birthday cake, Tupperware containers with fresh cookies, leftover desserts, and goodies from the kids’ school fundraisers.

There’s always some reason to incorporate food...and usually unhealthy food...into the work environment.

There are a few good reasons why this happens.
  • Food builds camaraderie, right?
  • It’s comforting, right?
  • You never know when someone (including you) might need a little pick-me-up, right?
  • It’s part of bonding with other co-workers, right?
  • It says “We appreciate you!”, right?
  • It’s a great way to get food you don't want out of your house, right?
Besides, office food is usually free. “Free” doesn’t mean you’re obligated to eat it... especially if you’re being offered a bunch of empty calories.

I usually advise against food in the office – especially the candy dish on your desk - because it invites interruptions. Co-workers interpret this as an open invitation to stop by to help themselves and to chat for a while. Or the food means you have to take frequent breaks to fill up. Before you know it you’re behind in your work and your billable hour goals.

There may be even better reasons for keeping that candy off your desk, out of your desk drawers, and banished from the office altogether.

In Today’s Wall Street Journal article “When the Office Turns into Candy Land” Sue Shellenbarger reports on Melanie Meek’s efforts to slim down. Apparently the office candy dish was sabotaging her efforts.

Melanie declared war saying, “If I have to smell it, I will move it.” Candy was swept into co-workers’ desk drawers. Other snacks were placed in a separate room.
It’s true that each empty calorie available for mindless eating sabotages the efforts of co-workers who are trying to eat healthy. If you can see it...reach it...smell’re likelier to eat more.

If you are surrounded by people who urge you to eat and this plays havoc with your diet, as well as your work, there are alternatives. First, don’t take that first bite. Once you do that, it’s difficult to stop. When you’re tempted, remind yourself of your goals. If you have to have a treat during the day, turn to schedule periodic nutritious snacks to avoid mindless grazing. Suggestions include sugar-free candy and gum, raw vegetables, nuts, fruit, yogurt, and string cheese.

If your co-workers insist on bringing food into the office, encourage them to provide healthy snacks – both in the interest of increased productivity and in the interest of reduced waistlines.

To read Ms. Shellenbarger’s full article, follow this link.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Keeping the Judge Happy: The Nuts & Bolts of the Rules of Evidence

How can you best serve your firm's client AND make the judge happy? Understand The Nuts and Bolts of the Rules of Evidence

Attorney Allen R. Telgenhof is teaming up with me on Wednesday, April 13th at 1pm Eastern time to offer this excellent continuing education opportunity that will also provide 1.5 hours of MCLE credit.

The importance of possessing a working knowledge of the Federal Rules of Evidence cannot be underestimated. This 90-minute webinar will include:
  • An introduction to the Rules of Evidence
  • The types of Evidence
  • The role of the judge and jury
  • Presumptions
  • Relevant evidence and its limits
  • Authentication, documents and exhibits
  • The use of lay and expert witnesses
  • The hearsay rule and its exceptions
The course qualifies for 1.5 hours of MCLE. Just follow this link for more information and to register.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tanya L. James, PLS Receives Award of Excellence

Tanya L. James, Certified PLS, was presented with the Award of Excellence from NALS of Phoenix on January 11, 2011.

Tanya obtained her PLS certification and the NALS Continuing Legal Education Award in 2009. Tanya is currently the immediate Past President of NALS of Phoenix and the webmaster/web designer for the association.

Her service to NALS does not stop at the local and state level, she also serves on the national level as a committee member on the Future Leaders Development Committee and she is currently the webmaster/web designer for Region 8.

Congratulations, Tanya!

NALA Launches Criminal Litigation ACP Course

NALA has launched its 18th ACP credential: Criminal Litigation

The Criminal Litigation course explores the intricacies of criminal law and procedure. As a paralegal working with either a prosecutor's office or a defense attorney's office, you are likely to encounter issues involving criminal law, therefore the course examines these issues from both perspectives.

Presented in 10 modules, subjects include constitutional rights, charges and defenses, preparing for trial, trial, post conviction proceedings, appeals, juveniles, and technology in criminal law. Issues addressed in the course range from search and arrest, through the criminal process, to appeal. For more information, follow this link.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Misty Sheffield: Virtual Paralegal Practice Tip

Misty L. Sheffield, CP provides today's Virtual Paralegal Tip. Misty is the creator, owner, and lead paralegal of Legal Kick, LLC, a freelance paralegal firm specializing in civil litigation.

Misty is a Certified Paralegal through the National Association of Legal Assistants; a 1992 graduate from the National Center for Paralegal Training, an ABA-approved program in Atlanta, Georgia; and a 1991 graduate of the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.

Misty has over 12 years of experience working in law firms, the judicial system, and as a freelance paralegal. She volunteers with her local Victim and Witness Assistance Program and as a guest speaker for local paralegal programs.


“The Fast Pitch”
I am not talking baseball; I am talking marketing. The virtual paralegal’s most frequently used marketing tool is the fast pitch or elevator speech, a quick, condensed answer to the question, “What do you do?” Your elevator speech should be crafted to create interest and intrigue in the listener.

When I went into business for myself in 1995, my first elevator speech was a huge flop. I would simply say, “I am a freelance paralegal.” My audience would usually respond in confusion instead of curiosity. I have tried different approaches to elevator speeches through the years.

I have finally settled on one that I am comfortable with no matter whom my audience may be, and it usually creates a genuine interest in what I do. I now answer by saying, continue “I help small law firms save money.” This answer usually leads to an interesting conversation. I knew that I finally had my elevator speech right when people began to say things such as, “I can’t wait to tell my neighbor, who is an attorney, about what you do.”

If you never move your audience to action (such as asking for a business card or mentioning a referral) you need to revise your elevator speech. Instead of starting your answer with, “I am,” try starting with “I help.” Also, never forget to shift the conversation to the other person by asking, “So, what do you do?”

Happy Marketing!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nancy L. Jordahl, CP, FRP Named 2010 CFPA Paralegal of the Year

Members of Central Florida Paralegal Association (CFPA) recognized Nancy L. Jordahl, CP, FRP, as the 2010 Paralegal of the Year at their December 2010 Meeting.

Each year CFPA seeks nominations for Paralegal of the Year from the Central Florida area. The purpose of this award is to honor a local area Paralegal for her/his hard work and outstanding contributions to their firms and the legal field as a whole.

Nancy serves as CFPA's NALA Liaison and is employed by Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, PA in Orlando.

Congratulations, Nancy!

Washington State Selected as Test Site for PCC Esam

Brian Haberly, RP, President of the Washington State Paralegal Association (WSPA) has announced that Washington State has been selected as one of six test sites for the new Paralegal Core Competency Examination coming later this year.

Highline Community College in Des Moines, WA, south of Seattle, has agreed to host the pilot exam, which will be a "paper and pencil" version, rather than the computer based version when the test goes national.

The Paralegal Core Competency Exam  has been developed by Professional Examination Services, and will be offered via pilot tests at selected locations throughout the contiguous United States only on June 11, 2011.

Those wishing to participate in this pilot test will need to apply online between April 1 - 30, 2011 (click here to register). The reduced application fee for this pilot test will be $65.00. When the test goes national, the registration fee will be $215.

Follow this link to view the brochure for PCC Examination. For additional information, visit

Monday, April 4, 2011

Paralegal Profile: Cheryl Nodarse, CP

Cheryl J. Nodarse, CP, works at the Hubbard Law Firm in Lansing, MI where she focuses on Litigation, Eminent Domain, Municipal and Environmental Law.

She has a B.S. degree in Sociology from Central Michigan University, as well as her Associates Degree from the paralegal program at Lansing Community College. She earned her Certified Paralegal designation in 1990.

What has been the highlight of Cheryl's career? To whom does she attribute her successful paralegal career? What fad does she most regret being part of? You'll find out when you read her professional profile below. Thanks, Cheryl!

1. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? As a freshman at Central Michigan University, I took Political Science 101, and simply loved it.

I asked the Professor what career path, short of law school, I could pursue that would follow the political science path. He recommended the legal assistant profession, which, at the time (1984), I had never heard of, but my interest was piqued, and the rest is history.

2. What is your favorite part of your job? I love the opportunity to build relationships with co-workers, colleagues and clients.

3. What professional associations do you belong to? I am a member of the State Bar of Michigan Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section. I lived in Florida after college and was a member of Florida Legal Assistants.

4. How has your membership benefited you? The old saying, "It isn't WHAT you know but WHO you know," is so very true. Active membership in professional associations has always given me the most excellent opportunities to know the WHOs that have enriched both my professional and personal life.

5. What has been the highlight of your career? I had the unique opportunity to work with a State agency to create a conservation easement program from the ground up. To date, this easement program has enrolled over 46,000 acres in Michigan into perpetual conservation easements, protecting the land for all time. This was a very rewarding experience!

6. Is there a quote that inspires you? "If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month." ~Theodore Roosevelt

7. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? Attorney Pete Aldrich of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, was the very best of mentors. A brilliant litigator, he encouraged me to stretch beyond my comfort level in drafting pleadings and other documents, and always had me assist with trials, arbitration hearings and depositions. He was also very willing to talk strategy and listen to my suggestions.

8. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? There is one answer to this question: BECOME INVOLVED in your professional organizations. And, by "involved", I don't simply mean pay your dues and read the newsletters. Rather, I mean volunteer to work on a committee or, better yet, run for a seat on the Council. You will get so much more out of it than the time you invest.

9. Who would play you in a movie of your life? Possibly Molly Ringwald? In my younger years, people would often comment that we looked alike. In fact, a boy in college tried to use it as a pick up line, but it didn't come off quite right: "Hey, you know, you look just like that actress? What's her name? Oh, yeah, Molly Ringworm?"

10 What was your first car? It was a 1972 Buick Skylark that my parents bought from my grandmother. It was a horrible olive green color, and decidedly uncool, but that car could FLY! My husband still grumbles about my selling it.

11. What sports team are you passionate about? I am a die-hard University of Michigan football fan, much to the chagrin of my employers, many of whom are MSU grads. (I try not to hold it against them.)

12. What TV channel do you most often have on? I am a bit of an HGTV junkie.

13. What fad do you regret being a part of? Having come of age in the mid-to-late 1980's, I was part of the high-hair fad. It was NOT a good look for me (or for anyone else, as near as I can tell).

Bonus...Just for fun question: What is your favorite kind of music? Alternative rock. My teenage daughter has turned me into a confirmed fan of the band "Switchfoot". I've even met the band members twice. I hope that doesn't place me into groupie status!