Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Paralegal Profile: Brynne Williamson, PP, PLS

Thanks to Brynne Williamson, PP, PLS for taking the time to answer The Paralegal Mentor's Thirteen Questions!

Brynne is a Paralegal with Helzell Fetterman, LLP. in Seattle, WA where she specializes in estate planning, probate and taxation. She is a graduate of the paralegal program at San Joaquin College of Law in Clovis. CA.

  • What has been the highlight of her career?
  • What advice does she have for new paralegals? 
  • How has professional association membership benefitted her?
  • What does she see as trends in the paralegal profession? 
Find out below. Thanks, Brynne!

1.    Tell us about your job. I am a paralegal with Helzell Fetterman, LLP in Seattle, WA. My job focuses on estate planning, probate and taxation.
2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  I was a young girl when I told my grandfather that I wanted to be an attorney. He encouraged me, telling me that with hard work and determination, I could accomplish anything I wanted.

I lost sight of my goal for a few years until one day I realized I wasn't living up to my full potential. I enrolled in the paralegal program at San Joaquin College of Law in Clovis, California, and before graduation was working as a paralegal specializing in estate planning and taxation.

3.    What is your favorite part of your job?
  I am so happy that I chose to enter the legal field. As a probate paralegal, I am the person who is on the other line to help our clients with a complicated procedure during a very difficult time in their lives. I enjoy helping our clients and assisting them in gathering asset information we need for the preparation of the inventory and estate tax return, if one is required.

However, as much as I like preparing the inventories and estate tax returns -- and I do -- I would have to say that my favorite thing to do is present a new probate matter in Court. As a King County Bar Association Registered Legal Assistant, I am authorized to personally present orders in the Ex Parte Courtroom. It is an exciting process, and I have found the judges and commissioners to be very supportive of my role in the probate process.

4.    What professional associations do you belong to?  I am a member of NALS...the association for legal professionals.

5.    How has your membership benefited you?  Joining NALS was one of the best professional decisions I have ever made. I joined as a student in 2004 because I wanted to become certified as a way to set myself apart from my schoolmates. Not long after that, I decided I wanted more from my membership and became involved on the national, state, and local levels.

I am mid-way through my term as NALS Marketing Director and am a member of the NALS Think Tank. I love the work that we do on the board and with the “Tank” and really enjoy being a part of the governing process.

6.    What has been the highlight of your career?  Serving as the 2008-09 NALS of Greater Seattle President was a great honor for me. It was a very exciting year, and I am proud of everything that our board of directors accomplished. In addition to our regularly scheduled Noontime Seminars and evening membership meetings, we also organized a Meet & Greet social and two full-day CLE programs. That year we also launched an electronic newsletter and were honored to win the NALS Foundation Jett Award, 2010 Founders Award, for one of its new features, "Where's Eula Mae."

7.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Paralegal regulation continues to be a hot topic. I'm sure  your readers have varying views; however, whether you are for regulation or not, I think you should keep yourself informed and self-regulate. The legal field is dynamic and to be a good paralegal, you need to attend CLEs that pertain to your area of law and that help you grow as a professional.

8.    If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be?  My advice would be the same as my grandfather's was to me years ago: if you are determined and work hard, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. And always, always remember that you will play an important role in your law firm and may be the person who has the most contact with your clients, so you should represent yourself professionally and positively.

9.    Is there a quote that inspires you?  Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard to any. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

10.     You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?  I would never be where I am today without the support of my significant other, George. Although I know he would like to sometimes talk about something other than NALS or what I learned in the office that day, he has been there by my side from the beginning and is always willing to help me with my projects and give me advice.

11.  What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting?  Join your local paralegal organization.  It is the best way to stay ahead of the trends in the legal field and to network with other legal professionals.

12. What time in the morning do you first check your email? As soon as I wake up – bright and early at 5:15 am. 

13.What was your first job? My first job was working for the Bashful Butler, a catering company owned by my friends' uncle. We were the official caterers for the Tournament of Roses, and in addition to the big party at the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, we catered all of the float construction events in the air conditioned 'float barns.' I'll never forget how cold those nights were, but the job had some good perks, like cake every weekend!

Bonus Question: What’s your favorite food? I’m not sure if it counts as “food,” but I love candy!  Last October at NALS11 in Cincinnati, my roommate Renee Kleinjan, introduced me to my new favorite concoction: candy corn mixed with dry roasted peanuts.  Yum!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Latest in Court Technology for Paralegals

The current edition of The Paralegal Voice, “The Latest in Court Technology for Paralegals” co-hosted by Lynne DeVenny and me, is now available at Legal Talk Network.
Ted Brooks, Founder & CEO of Litigation-Tech LLC for his insight regarding the latest in court technology for paralegals.

He provides tips for paralegals getting ready for a big trial using extensive technology in the courtroom and explains how paralegals can learn the basics of commonly used trial software. 

Ted also gives his picks for blogs and online resources for paralegals interested in learning more about courtroom technology.

Follow this link to the page URL:

 Also in this episode:
  • How Ted became a trial presenation specialist
  • What trial software Ted prefers
  • What hardware Ted uses for trial
  • What’s in Ted’s trial emergency kit
  • Some newbie mistakes to avoid in trial presentation
  • How to get started in trial presentation
  • How to find a trial presentation vendor
  • Vicki’s practice tip and Lynne’s social media/technology tip
Internet resources and links mentioned during the podcast:
The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsors: Redact-It, and NALA...The Association of Paralegals and Legal Assistants.

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

Also, you can make 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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Paralegal Mentor Audio Tip: Always Have a Plan B

Paralegal Mentor audio tip focuses on planning for emergencies at trial.

Paralegals are in charge of covering all the bases, particularly when assisting at trial. I was reminded of this when Lynne DeVenny and I interviewed Ted Brooks, Founder & CEO of Litigation-Tech LLC, on this months Paralegal Voice produced by Legal Talk Network.
Ted discussed the latest in Court Technology for Paralegals. He is one of the most widely-recognized figures in Trial Presentation and Legal Technology. He is a successful high-profile Trial Consultant, author of the Court and Trial Technology Blawg which I highly recommend you check out and subscribe to…and winner of the Law Technology News Award for Most Innovative Use of Technology During a Trial. 
With that background I certainly listened when he talked about planning for emergencies at trial.
As Ted said, trial itself is an emergency so all planning should be designed around that. You go to a trial as fully prepared as possible  but you always have a Plan B --- and maybe Plans C and D --- just in case something goes wrong.
Follow this link to listen to this week's audio tip for some suggestions for your Plan B. It takes just 3 minutes.

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

Never Retire Your Paralegal Work Horses

Where are your old work horses?
Don't put them out to pasture! Make them leaders for life.

Where do the officers of your association go when their terms of office are completed?

Are they turned out to pasture like these old horses, simply roaming free and no longer concerned with the future of the association?

You may think your past officers have earned the right to roam free, but what they have really earned is the privilege of not working quite so hard.

These past leaders remain vital to the continuity of the association. Their leadership skills, talent and expertise are needed to keep your association moving forward.

Instead of squandering all that knowledge and experience, harness those old horses and bring them back to the barn. Appoint them Leaders for Life and keep them involved.
This doesn't mean the past leaders should be circulated back through the chairs, though. Your association will fold if the same old horses keep on doing all the work.

How should you use your Leaders for Life? This is simple. Tell them how valuable they are to your association and ask them what they'd be willing to do. You'll be pleasantly surprised that they're not exactly happy out in the pasture and are willing to help in any way they can.

Here are some excellent ways to use the talents of your Leaders for Life:
  • Planning meetings and educational events. Past leaders are pros at planning and they usually have the connections to draw upon to make your conventions a smashing success.
  • Speakers. Past leaders usually have a wealth of professional knowledge and experience and make excellent speakers for your seminars.
  • Ad Hoc Committees. Do you have a short term issue that needs to be handled? Appoint the past officers.
  • Special Committees. Past officers make excellent members of special committees, such as those for scholarships and awards.
  • Liaisons. Appoint the past officers liaisons to special groups, such as the bar association and paralegal schools.
  • Officer orientation. Past officers have extremely valuable experience and knowledge, not to mention their finely honed leadership skills. Bring them in to share this with the new officers as they're taking the reins.
  • Mentors. The experiences of the past offices, as well as their tactful counsel, make excellent mentors for current and upcoming leaders.
  • Certification review courses or other certification-related issues. Your past leaders have "been there, done that" so they are perfect candidates for leading review courses and they're also great cheerleaders for those who are seeking certification. Their history makes them perfect choices when your association has certification-related issues.
There are also tips for the Leaders for Life who have been corralled:
  • Become a member of the team. Let them know you will help and assist any way you can. Be available when they need you.
  • Become a steady resource. Nurture, encourage and empower the members and officers. Be sure they're comfortable asking for your advice and direction but don't insist that they do everything your way.
  • Be gracious. You may not always agree with the new leaders, but allow them to forge their own future. Don't say "we did it this way" or "our way was better". Times do change...they need to change...and the 'old way' may not be the best way any longer.
  • Give only what you can. You may not have the time or the energy you once had. That's OK because you can help on many levels. Anything you do for the association is needed and will be appreciated.
  • Be miserly with your criticism and lavish with your praise. Leaders for Life boost members' self-esteem and help them reach their full potential. This is how future Leaders for Life get their training.
  • Set a good example. The members and current officers will learn from your style and your grace.
  • Try not to serve on the Board again. If it becomes necessary for you to take a Board position, do your job without taking over. Let the new leaders have the limelight.
Former officers and board members should not simply sit back and let the newer members fend for themselves. While their terms of office are over, they are still leaders of the association and the profession. Their knowledge and expertise, as well as the history they share, are still very much needed. It's up to the current leaders and members recognize their value, invite them back, make them useful, and insist that they be Leaders for Life.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Paralegal Profile: Linda McGrath-Cruz, ACP, FRP

Thanks to Linda McGrath-Cruz, ACP, FRP of Miami, FL for taking the time to answer The Paralegal Mentor's Thirteen Questions!

Linda is a Paralegal with Arnstein & Lehr, LLP. in Miami where she specializes in Litigation - discovery and trial practice. She works primarily in the field of products liability and wrongful death defense. She has her Paralegal Certificate and Bachelors Degree in Legal Studies from Barry University. She has also taken numerous advanced paralegal NALA and e-discovery courses through The Paralegal Knowledge Institute in addition to countless other continuing education courses.
1.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  I was always interested in the legal field but I never wanted to be an attorney. I had no desire to be “running the show.”

I knew that being a paralegal was a job that I could turn into a fantastic career if I dedicated myself to it. I saw endless possibilities and knew I could really make it my own.
2.    What is your favorite part of your job?  Well, I consider myself a problem solver and I like to find creative and out of the box ways to solve problems or issues that other people haven’t considered.

There really is no shortage of issues to resolve in litigation. I also love the challenge of fact finding through investigation and discovery. I really enjoy being a part of the team and playing my role in finding information and solving problems. I am so lucky to work with a wonderful group of attorneys and support staff, I really couldn’t ask for a better team.

3.    What professional associations do you belong to?  I belong to the Dade County Bar Association (DCBA) and was the inaugural vice-chair for their Florida Registered Paralegal Committee. This year, I have the honor of being the chair of that same committee. I am on the advisory panel for the Paralegal Knowledge Institute which provides an educational and networking community for paralegals. I am also registered with the Florida Bar - non-lawyers are technically not members but have a bar number and have access to the member website and member benefits.

4.    How has your membership benefited you?   My involvement with the Florida Bar and the DCBA has added significant value to my “professional profile”. I believe that it reflects my desire to continue my professional development and adds to the fact that I consider this a professional career and not just a job that is a hop, skip and jump away from becoming a lawyer.

It is an honor to be involved with two very prestigious organizations which only started allowing non-attorney participation in recent years. The networking opportunities and quality of CLE programs through the DCBA are bar none.

Also, being associated with the Paralegal Knowledge Institute has allowed me to take numerous educational courses which have increased my value as a paralegal. It has also allowed me to explore my interest in getting more involved with publishing and educating others.

5.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  E-Discovery! Anyone who isn’t learning about e-discovery at this point is going to be behind right out of the gate. It’s a hot topic right now and is only getting hotter. Even if your office isn’t currently involved in e-discovery, the odds are that they will be in the future and anything you can do to advance your own value and skill is a big plus.

6.    If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? Do your homework and know what you are getting in to. You should make sure to research your local market to see what employers are looking for as far as experience, education and/or certification. Please don’t sign up with the first “school” looking to make a quick buck and think you will be making top dollar the week after you graduate. You also need to have reasonable and clear expectations as far as the availability of jobs and salary range for new paralegals to avoid a nasty surprise later on. It is a wonderful and very rewarding career, but it is a lot of hard work and requires dedication.

7.    What makes you lose your patience? Oh gosh, this is a loaded question. Instead of telling you what makes me lose my patience, I will instead offer this advice:
If you ask a question pay attention to the answer - take notes if you need to, clarify if necessary and ask follow up or related questions.  Don’t come back later and ask the exact same question as if the prior conversation had never happened.

If you want to ask someone to do you a favor, make sure you have fully thought it through and know what you want before you ask it. If you aren’t sure, make that known when you ask for the favor so the person has the whole story. If someone is going out on a limb for you, make sure you aren’t wasting their time.

8.    You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?  I absolutely attribute my success to the lessons my family taught me – especially my mom and dad, sister and husband – sorry I can’t pick just one!

They taught me to dream big and always aspire to be my best, to never let obstacles stand in my way, and to be myself. They taught me that the things you want are not just going to fall into your lap, if you want to accomplish something, hard work and dedication is the best way to go about it. They also taught me to be independent and that I should always help myself before asking others for help. I am the person that I am today because of my family.

9.    What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? I can kind of sum it up by saying “get involved!” The easiest way to lose interest is to be stagnant. If you really want to spice up your career, attend networking events, join a paralegal group or local bar association, write an article, be a mentor, continue your education. You should never stop learning.

10. What was the last movie you saw in the theater? Shark Night 3D – I am a crazed fan of cheesy ‘horror’ flicks. My husband, who is much less of a fan, took me to see it the morning of my last out of town trip for work. It was his idea, so I know he still loves me despite my love of cheesy movies and occasional out of town work trips!

11. If you could not be a paralegal, what would be your dream job? Well, I love to cook and it has always been a dream of mine to own a restaurant. It would be a home-style comfort food type of place and probably not the kind of place to go if you’re watching your calories. I’ve also dreamed of owning a doggie-daycare type of business. Really random, I know. So, if I ever hit the powerball (I don’t actually play the lotto so don’t expect this any time soon) be on the lookout for a dog friendly home-style restaurant. You can enjoy your meal while your furry friends romp next door!

12. What college classes did you love?  I really loved art and philosophy. As an elective, I took an art course where we actually created art – as opposed to an art history type of course. To be clear, I have no artistic talent to speak of and none of the art that I created would ever be hung on the wall of any sane person. However, I had such a fantastic time and have really fond memories of those classes. I also took several philosophy classes and really enjoyed them - I found them intriguing.

13.  Do you have any paralegal certifications? I am an Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) through NALA and a Florida Registered Paralegal (FRP) through the Florida Bar. I also plan to take the Certified eDiscovery Professional (CeDP) exam in the near future.

Bonus Question: What unusual item do you own? I actually don’t think I own anything at all that is unusual. I am owned, however, by three unusual dogs. They aren’t items although they are generally fixtures around my feet.

My three dogs are a breed called the Chinese Crested. Two of them are hairless, and one of them is a powder puff.  Generally, people I encounter have never heard of this breed but most people have seen them before and just don’t realize it. The winners of quite a number of ugly dog competitions are generally a Chinese Crested mix, and they have had parts in more than a few movies. My three boys would never win an ugly dog competition, and as any good mom would, I think they are gorgeous!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Paralegal Mentor Audio Tip: When is your peak productivity time?

Paralegal Mentor audio tip will help you determine your natural productivity cycles.

When it is best for you to work on things that challenge you…that might be a little tough for you … that you need all your brain cells functioning at full capacity for.

So grab a piece of paper…I have 4 questions for you. 
Your answers will determine your natural productivity cycles. You should build your work schedule around them. If you do, you will get more done in less time…and probably do better work in the long run.

Follow this link and take just 3 minutes to listen to today's audio tip to find out when you do your best work.

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

7 Strategies for Your Successful Job Search

I hear daily from paralegals who are just out of school and others who have been downsized and find themselves updating their resumes and hoping for a new position before their unemployment benefits end.
When they come to me for advice, the first thing I tell them is that they DO have a job: they’re now self-employed and their job is finding a job. They have to treat this new job as though it is their own business and go to work every day. This is serious hard work!

Here are 7 strategies for making your new "job" of job hunting a success:

1. Know Your Market. Do some research to determine what employers are looking for. You should craft your resume and your job search to be the perfect candidate for those jobs.
Also, remember that many jobs are never advertised, but exist in the minds of the partners or Human Resources Director. If they view you as the perfect candidate for that position, they may hire you without ever interviewing any other candidates.

2. Do an inventory. Make a detailed list of your skills, experience, accomplishments, interests, goals and values. What are your strengths and where will they fit? You will need to be able to communicate, both verbally and in writing, how you are the unique and perfect candidate for a job.

Your inventory should also serve as a road map to other areas where your skills and experience would transfer. Also, know your salary expectations and be prepared to have that discussion. Communicate this in a such a way that the value you would bring to the position is commensurate with that salary level. Know also that you may have to get real about what your next job will pay. It may be more important to get your foot in the door and have those all-important benefits.

3. Develop a Plan. Begin with a clear, concise resume and a concise cover letter that states how your qualifications match job requirements. Both your resume and cover letter should be designed to catch the potential employer’s attention.

Identify potential employers and start sending those resumes, whether they are advertising open positions or not. Consider using an appropriate employment agency but sure you understand what the agency will do for you and if there is a cost. This can be an excellent job lead resource. Also think about doing some temporary or freelance work that may result in

(a) additional contacts;  
(b) new skills and experience;  
(c) additional income to tide you over while you’re unemployed; and  
(d) put you in a position to be available when a full-time job is available.

4. Get the word out. Let everyone you can think of know that you are looking for employment. That includes friends, colleagues, neighbors, members of your professional association, former professors and classmates. It does not matter if they are located right in your hometown or living in Timbuktu, let them know. This network is an important piece of your job search plan. There is always someone out there who knows someone who knows someone else who might help you.

5. Boost your network. Sign up for job search newsletters and e-mail blasts. Post on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Take the time to actively participate in Internet discussion boards and forums. Done the right way, social networking can be priceless job search tool. Just remember that everything you post is public in some way and that, once on the Internet, it does not go away. These sites are used by people who are hiring to screen potential job candidates. You will want your posts to say positive things about you.

6. Do not wait for opportunity to knock on your door. This most likely will not happen. Instead, make your own opportunities by being persistent, assertive and proactive. As intimidating as it may be, make those cold calls to potential employers. This is important for two reasons: first, you need to beat your competition to the draw; and second, it demonstrates to the potential employers that you are serious.

7. Keep track of your progress. Maintain detailed records of the jobs you have applied for. This would include communications, interviews, referrals, and any follow-up actions you take. You are building a list of valuable contacts for current and future job searches. During this process, be sure to mind your ‘P’s and Q’s’ by writing thank you notes and speaking positively about the people who have interviewed you. Remaining polite and positive is key.

The job of searching for a job is hard work. It may be the most difficult job you have ever had and it is essential that you maintain a positive attitude. If you take steps to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the job-hunting crowd by developing some effective strategies and defining what you want and need, you will be on your way to losing your current job-hunting job (hurray!!!) and landing that full-time position.

© 2012 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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Paralegal News Headlines - February 14, 2012

Dress for Success: The 5 Shoes Every Woman Should Own by Lauren Roso  was posted at on February 3, 2012  Lauren discusses shoes that are wardrobe staples every woman should own. While I mostly stick with black, Lauren has inspired me to branch out a bit. Follow this link to learn more.

Fix Formatting Fast: Five Microsoft Word Tricks
by Deborah Savadra was posted on on February 14, 2012  When you’re under the gun with a brief or something else that’s due ASAP, the last thing you need is Microsoft Word creating some formatting snafu that defies logic. You need to fix that formatting fast and get back to the business of legal writing. Follow this link to read about all the quick tricks Deborah suggests you try.

Seduction in the Office  Vivia Chen  posted this article on February 13, 2012 at  As she says, "You know the rules: Do not fool around in the office. It's risky. Unprofessional. Riddled with conflicts. And so Newtonian. But dating in the office is rampant, says Career Builder. Almost 40 percent of workers say they've dated people from their office. And almost one in five say they've dated their boss. Sadly, however, firms and companies—scared of potential conflicts and harassment claims—have all sorts of rules about romance in the office. " Vivia believes that true lust will provail. Follow this link to head her advice to help you snag that object of desire at work while enhancing your career.
Traveling Light in a Time of Digital Thievery This article by Nicole Perlroth appeared at on February 10, 2012 and provides information about digital espionage as a real and growing threat — whether in pursuit of confidential government information or corporate trade secrets.  "When Kenneth G. Lieberthal, a China expert at the Brookings Institution, travels to that country, he follows a routine that seems straight from a spy film. He leaves his cellphone and laptop at home and instead brings “loaner” devices, which he erases before he leaves the United States and wipes clean the minute he returns. In China, he disables Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, never lets his phone out of his sight and, in meetings, not only turns off his phone but also removes the battery, for fear his microphone could be turned on remotely. He connects to the Internet only through an encrypted, password-protected channel, and copies and pastes his password from a USB thumb drive. He never types in a password directly, because, he said, “the Chinese are very good at installing key-logging software on your laptop.” To read the full article, follow this link.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Paralegal Job Opportunity in Idaho

I've always wanted to visit Idaho so if I were in the market for a new job, I'd jump at this paralegal job opportunity sent to me by Jeremy G. Ladel, General Counsel at Potandon Produce, LLC.
Potandon Produce LLC, the largest marketer of fresh potatoes and one of the largest marketers of fresh onions in North America, is seeking a paralegal that will report to Potandon’s general counsel.
The position requires a professional who exhibits enthusiasm, advanced organizational skills, competency, and constant attention to detail.
The candidate should have a degree or certificate from an accredited paralegal program and 2-5 years experience as a paralegal. Candidates without a degree but with extensive relevant experience will be considered.
The candidate should also have excellent drafting, computer, and research skills. The ideal candidate will have transactional, litigation, and IP experience. Applicants should send a cover letter, resume, and references to
 If you contact Potandon, tell them The Paralegal Mentor sent you!

Paralegal Profile: Jennifer MacDonnell

Thanks to Jennifer MacDonnell for taking the time to answer The Paralegal Mentor's Thirteen Questions! Jennifer is a Probate Paralegal at the law office of Kathleen D. Crane, Esq. in Torrence California. She is a 2009 Graduate of the ABA approved El Camino College Paralegal Studies Program, earning an Associates of Science Degree in Paralegal Studies and a Paralegal Certificate.


1.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  While I enjoyed a successful career in the restaurant industry, which spanned almost 20 years, I began to feel as if something was missing. I decided to go back to college so that I could reinvent my career path.  I longed for a career that would provide me with daily challenges and allow me to offer a valued service to the public.

For many years, I would not allow myself to “think” that I had chosen the right career path because I wanted to be absolutely certain of that fact.  It wasn’t until I started working solely as a probate paralegal that I realized I had, in fact, chosen the right career path.  I thrive in the probate realm. I truly love the personal fulfillment that it gives me to help our clients with their legal issues.

2.    What is your favorite part of your job?   I simply love helping clients work through their Estate Plan or Post Death Administration.  Estate Planning or the death of a loved one is difficult enough.  I am very lucky to work for an attorney who not only shares my compassion for a client’s unfortunate situation, but honestly cares about the outcome, which I find creates a positive yet rewarding work atmosphere.  

3.    What professional associations do you belong to?  I am an active member of the El Camino College Paralegal Advisory Committee, Committee Member of the Los Angeles Paralegal Association - South Bay Section, and a Mentor at The Paralegal Society.

4.    How has your membership benefited you?   I could say that my initial intent to join professional associations was primarily for my benefit, but it wasn’t.  Early in my career I noticed that the paralegal profession lacked support.  It was unfortunate.  As a Mentor at The Paralegal Society, I now have the platform to help motivate and inspire paralegals all across the country.  With the help of The Paralegal Society’s Founder, Jamie Collins, I have found my “writing” voice.  I now love writing articles geared toward new paralegals.  I really enjoy being able to help motivate and inspire their journey in the early stages of their legal careers.  I find it very rewarding and personally fulfilling.

5.    What has been the highlight of your career?  I have been very fortunate to work with some very influential people in my career.  One of them is Vi Pham, Paralegal Program Director at El Camino College.  Together, in 2008, we developed the El Camino College Paralegal Club to provide an on-campus support system for future paralegals.  I am proud to say that the club continues to provide students individual and group support with things such as drafting resumes, interview techniques, and job search tips.  

6.    If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be?  Keep an open mind and remain humble throughout your daily interactions with clients, classmates, associations, and coworkers.  As soon as a person begins to close their mind to new possibilities or becomes overconfident, the best and most interesting people, experiences or career opportunities will pass them by.  I feel it is key to keep an open mind and be open to any opportunities that may come your way.

7.    Is there a quote that inspires you?  “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.” — Tom Brokaw
8.    What advice would you give yourself if you met you as a first-year paralegal?  It is okay that you don’t have any previous experience in the law profession. 

Many first-year paralegals do not realize that they possess practical qualities that can be developed into indispensible law office work traits.  As impossible as it might sound, you will find your own niche in the profession.  Just be yourself and work to learn all you can as fast as you can!

9.    What was your first job?  My first job was at the young age of 14 working as a counter waitress at a local breakfast house.  I continued to work in the restaurant industry for almost twenty years! It wasn’t until then that I decided to take a chance, complete college and make the career switch to the legal profession.

10.    What is the best live concert you’ve ever attended?  I have seen Heart two times at The Greek.  Ann and Nancy Wilson performed a great rendition of “Love, Reign o’er Me” by The Who.  Very memorable and unforgettable!

11.    What sports team are you passionate about?  The Kings!  Hockey has been a passion of mine for quite awhile.  Although I love watching the games on TV, I most enjoy going to the games at the Staples Center.  There is no other feeling like the anticipation of the game, the feel of the cold air coming up off the ice, and watching an exciting game!  Go Kings!

12.    What time in the morning do you first check your email?  Typically I get up early in the morning to peruse my personal email before work.  If it is an emergency, I answer the email right away.  Otherwise, I wait and group my responses and reply all at one time.  At work, I check and respond to my email as soon as I walk in the door.  My philosophy is that during the work week, work email is priority over personal email.  In fact, unless I’m on a break, I don’t have the link to my personal email active at work. 

13.    What unusual item do you own?  I own multiple lint rollers that are placed in different locations like my car, kitchen, desk drawer, and purse.  My two cats love me so much, that they follow me everywhere I go – so does their hair!

Bonus Question: What fad do you regret being a part of?  Wow, that’s an easy one.  Anything involving the 80’s: big hair, neon earrings, WHAM!, turquoise eyeliner, and stirrup pants!  Just embarrassing!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Paralegal Mentor Audio Tip: Do you have listless lists?

Today's Paralegal Mentor audio tip asks: Has your list become listless?

You’ve created lists of things you need to do in the order of importance.
You’re excited and you feel in control.

Then, over time, your excitement fades. You only look at the list once in a while and only because you think you should.
Soon  the happy feeling is gone and you just ignore your list altogether. You're in productivity purgatory!

Why does this happen? Follow this link and take just 3 minutes to listen to today's audio tip to find out and learn how you can stop the listless list syndrome.

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


Today’s question for you: Has your list become listless?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Paralegal Profile: Misty Sheffield, CP

Thanks to Misty Sheffield, CP,  for taking the time to answer The Paralegal Mentor's Thirteen Questions! Misty is the Founder and Lead Paralegal at Legal Kick, LLC in Canton, Georgia where she specializes in civil litigation.

She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Georgia (majoring in Political Science) and graduated with honors from ABA-approved National Center for Paralegal Training in Atlanta, GA. She earned her Certified Paralegal credential from NALA in 2010.
1.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  I had an interest in law and government from the time I was in high school.  A friend of the family who was a local judge took the time one day to explain to me the different career paths in law.  She allowed me to spend the day in her courtroom and in her chambers.  That day set me on the path to being a paralegal.

2.    What is your favorite part of your job?  I enjoy helping people solve their problems.  People don’t enter into civil litigation unless they have a problem that cannot be solved any other way. I enjoy walking them through the process and hopefully seeing a positive resolution.

3.    What professional associations do you belong to?  I belong to The National Association of Legal Assistants, The Organization for Legal Professionals, and the National Association of Freelance Legal Professionals.

4.    How has your membership benefited you?   My memberships have connected me with other paralegals. I work as a freelance paralegall, not in a firm or corporation with other paralegals so associations have allowed me to form relationships with paralegals who share my interests.

5.    What has been the highlight of your career?  Earning my Certified Paralegal credential is one of the brightest highlights of my career.  I prepared a detailed study schedule for myself and stuck to it.  I had to make sacrifices in my life to carve out time to study, but it was all worth it.  I am now looking forward to earning my Advance Paralegal Certification.

6.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  Of course I see virtual paralegals as becoming more widely used ~ or I would not be working as one.  I also believe more paralegals will become E-discovery specialists.

7.    Is there a quote that inspires you?  I love inspirational quotes so it is difficult to narrow it down.  Here are a few favorites
“I don’t need easy; I just need possible.” Bethany Hamilton, Soul Surfer
“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” Unknown
“It costs nothing to dream and everything not to.” Unknown
8.     You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?  My Dad always encouraged me to do everything to the best of my ability.  He also taught me to value people more than possessions, which has helped me in my life as well as my career.

9.    What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting?  I am glad you asked because I am passionate about this one:  DO PRO BONO WORK!  Helping those in need should be a given in the paralegal profession.

I do not do any paid work in criminal law, but I volunteer as a Victim and Witness Advocate.  It is a big change from my usual work in civil litigation and I can help those who are unfamiliar with, and intimidated by, the court system. You can broaden your career while helping someone else when you do pro bono work.  It is a win-win.

10.  What Web site do you visit daily? Twitter!  Vicki, you are the one who sparked my curiosity about Twitter, now I could not live without it.  I have made many valuable connections with attorneys, paralegals, bloggers, and just plain interesting people.

After only a few months on Twitter, I acquired a wonderful new client who found me Twitter.  I can keep up to date with legal technology, make connections, and get a dose of legal profession humor all in one place on Twitter.  I now consider Twitter one of my lifelines to the legal community.

11. The riskiest thing I ever did was...Start my own freelance paralegal business.  No salary, no benefits, just me and my computer.  I started my first paralegal business in 1995 with only three years of experience under my belt.  It was scary, but very exciting.  I took some time off when my children were young, and then started a new freelance paralegal business in 2006.  It was just as scary the second time around.

12. What is your favorite kind of music?  I am a big country music fan.  It goes well with my love of all things Southern such as sweet tea and pecan pie.

13. What electronic device can you not live without?  My laptop!  It allows me to work from anywhere, which I love.  My laptop recently had to undergo surgery (new hard drive)  I felt like I had lost a limb.

Bonus Question: If you could not be a paralegal, what would be your dream job? I would be a country music singer/songwriter.  I would also be married to a hunky male country music singer.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Paralegal Strategies: Are you a one man band?

Do you have too much to do and not enough time to get it all done? Do you run out of day before you run out of list? Do you try to do everything yourself?

If you answered 'Yes!' to any of those questions, you are operating like a One Man Band.
There is a solution: delegate!

It may be difficult to give up control of some of your responsibilities but that's the only way you'll get off the merry-go-round and stop being a 'one man band.'

Get over the idea that you, and only you, are capable of handling a job....that it will just not be good enough unless you do it yourself. While there may be critical issues that require your personal attention, remember that everything isn't critical.

If you delegate, you'll take a giant step toward relieving the stress and overwhelm of having too much to do.

B. Eugene Greissman, author of 'Time Tactics of Very Successful People,' said: You should do only that which only you can do.' It's true: decide what you have to do that takes your unique talents and expertise and then allow someone else to do the rest!

When you delegate, there are several steps you need to take to be effective:

1. Plan. Review the work you have to do and map out the steps that need to be taken to finish the project. From that map, determine which steps 'only you can do' and which steps can be done by someone else.

You'll find it easier to delegate if you use the 80% rule: you think that no one can do the job as well as you, so delegate when the job can be done to 80% of your satisfaction. Now, 80% of your satisfaction may not be perfect but remember that you now have two goals: 1) getting the job done and 2) taking some pressure off yourself.

While you're mapping out your plan, be sure to eliminate anything that doesn't have to be done at all. Don't waste our time...or someone else's...doing jobs that aren't necessary.

2. Decide to whom you're delegating. Select the person who's ready to do the job...or someone you're willing to train so that they can ultimately do the job. You shouldn't delegate to people just because they're standing next to you. Consider their abilities, experience and eagerness.

It's one thing if you impose your high standards on yourself, but you shouldn't impose them on someone who can't live up to your expectations. We all have different degrees of talents and skills. You can't expect yourself or others to operate beyond the current level of ability.

3. Give clear directions. Communication is the key here. If you don't give clear directions, you'll be setting the other person up for failure. The person you are delegating to must understand exactly what you want to get the results you're looking for.

No one can read your mind. If you want a document or a file set up a certain way, let them know. This clear direction should also include deadlines for completing the work. If the work can't be completed by your deadline, that needs to be resolved up front.

4. Follow Up. Make notes in your planner (either electronic or paper) to remind you when the job should be completed and to schedule 'appointments' to check on the progress of the work. This will keep everyone on task and avoid any surprises when the deadline arrives and the work isn't completed.

5. Reward success. Praise is often the most effective reward. Some occasions even call for a thank-you note for a job well done or perhaps a special treat.

If there is an unsuccessful, or just partly successful, result, use a positive approach to review the errors and make your expectations clear so that future results will be satisfactory. This is important if you expect this person to do work for you again. Always remember: praise in public and correct in private.

Your challenge: Resolve to stop thinking that you're the only one who can do a job that meets your standards. This may mean you have to reconsider your standards. Then look at all the work on your desk and determine what can be done by someone else. Remember that you should be working on things that only you can do. If the work can be done satisfactorily by someone else, you should delegate it.

Follow the five steps to successful delegating and you'll be on your way to reducing your workload and relieving much of the stress in your life.
© 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.