Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Paralegal Hiring Strategies

Are you ready to search for a paralegal job? On The Paralegal Voice Kim Wierzel, Esq., a reformed litigator and Placement Director with Special Counsel, joins co-hosts Lynne DeVenny and me to talk about everything you need to know regarding the paralegal job market.
Their discussion includes current paralegal hiring trends, educational and certification requirements, tips for paralegals just entering the job market [insert comma] and the top three areas paralegal job seekers most need to improve to be more marketable.

Kim also addresses a current “hot button” issue for the paralegal profession, i.e. whether employers are seeking inexperienced new attorneys instead of experienced paralegals
Also in this episode:
•  The most in-demand specialty areas for legal support staffers
•  The most in-demand computer and software proficiencies
•  The amount of experience typical legal employers require
•  Requirements for education and certification
•  Tips for paralegals just entering the job market
•  Traits of successful paralegal job applicants
•  How social media is used in the placement process
•  Tips for maintaining your LinkedIn profile
Page URL:

MP3 Link:

Internet resources and links mentioned during the podcast:
Special Counsel,,  
The 6Ps of the BIG 3 for Job-Seeking JDs: 60+ Ways to Get Hired Using Social Networking by Amanda C. Ellis
Amanda Ellis on Twitter:  @AELLISLEGA 
Special Counsel on Twitter:  @PGHLAW.JOBS 
Guest post by Kim Wierzel:
The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsors: Redact-It, NALA...The Association of Paralegals and Legal Assistants, and Clio.

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, March 21, 2012

Paralegal Profile: Mianne Besser

Mianne Besser is a Senior Paralegal with Otten Johnson Robinson Neff & Ragonetti, P.C., in Denver, CO where she specializes in Litigation Support. She has a Bachelor of Arts Management and Business Administration (University of Phoenix, Colorado Campus), as well as a Paralegal Certificate (Denver Paralegal Institute).
1.    Why did you choose a paralegal career?  I have always been fascinated with a career in law.  I wanted to become a lawyer, but there was a different plan for me that involved marriage and children.  After some time, though, I decided to find my way back to my passion and becoming a paralegal was a suitable fit given my circumstances.

2.    What is your favorite part of your job?  Being able to take a task which may seem “undoable” given the deadline and getting it done on/before the deadline.

3.    What professional associations do you belong to?
  • The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc.;
  •  Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association;
  • Colorado Bar Association, Paralegal Committee;
  • Colorado Trial Lawyers Legal Support Staff Committee;
  • Colorado Association of Litigation Support Professionals; and the
  • American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc.
4.    What has been the highlight of your career?  There have been so many opportunities afforded to me as a result of my professional associations and memberships, it’s difficult to specifically point to one specific highlight. 

I truly enjoyed the opportunity to be an Adjunct Instructor at Kaplan College and working with paralegal students and helping them more fully understand what it takes to be a paralegal.  The other important event that has significance to me is the recent publishing of my article, “The Many Faces of Paralegal Students” in the August/September 2011 National Paralegal Reporter.

5.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  Continuing evolution of eDiscovery, including certifications for eDiscovery; paralegal licensure/certification; how the economy is affecting career opportunities for paralegals; but, also, creating a new category of job “competitor”:  first and second year associates (hence, the recently coined term, “JD Paralegal”). 

6.    If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be?  Within the parameters of the current economy, paralegal opportunities are not as plentiful as they once were and employers have the ability to be far more selective regarding candidates; thus, it is up to you to invest in yourself and your career to educate yourself about the legal field and the paralegal profession and continue that learning process throughout your entire career. You should want to invest in yourself and your career; the moment it becomes a chore, it is time to find a new opportunity.

7.     You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?  I attribute my success to my family as they supported my choice to change my career and go to school to and become a paralegal. They have been patient and understanding when the work requires long hours; and helpful when I have come home appearing stressed and weary.   They’re also understanding about the time I put into my extra-curricular paralegal activities.  I am blessed to have a family that believes in me and supports my success.

8.    What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting?  A commitment to continued investment in one’s legal practice as well as other areas of interest by attending CLEs, subscribing to listservs, utilization of social networking, and scheduling “face time” with others in their area of expertise as well as other areas of the law which interest him/her.

9. What electronic device can you not live without?  My LG Touch cellphone (which I hope to upgrade to a “true” Smartphone very soon).

10. What is the one thing you wish you were better at?  Delegating.

11. What three items would you want if you were stranded on a deserted island?  My cellphone, my MP3 player, and a book.

12. What Web site do you visit daily?  There isn’t just one specific website that I reference daily; I keep the following websites open each day:  LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Hotmail. I visit the Paralegal Mentor, Practical Paralegalism and ParalegalGateway in addition to other legal and paralegal websites each day.

13. You've been given the chance to have dinner with anyone living or dead. Who is it?  This is tough.  With all the choices I could think of, I pared my list down to these three: John Lennon, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Martin Luther King.

Bonus Questions:

What was your first car? A 1977 Chevy Vega (bright orange with beige interior). I loved that car!
The riskiest thing I ever did was... Taking my 1977 Chevy Vega four-wheeling; having to have it towed because it was stuck; then providing my mom’s credit card number for the tow bill (without telling my mom in advance [there was some explaining to do when the credit card bill arrived]).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Your Paralegal Career: 6 Simple Steps to Stay on Top of Your Game

Has this happened to you? You wake up one day and realize you're no longer the youngest kid on the block.
  • You've worked as a paralegal for a decade or more. 
  • You're feeling a bit stale.
  • You wonder if you've made the right career choice.
  • You consider your options and see only limitations.
  • You don't feel quite at the top of your game.
It's time to change your mindset! Staying on top of your game requires some work...and I don't mean the kind of work that keeps you behind your desk from 9:00 to 5:00 (or later) every day. I'm talking about the work you must do to keep you and your mind fresh and energized.

Here are some simple steps you can take to do just that:
1. Make yourself available to those who may be newer to the career field. If you've been in the profession for a while, you should welcome, encourage, mentor and praise those who are coming after you.

They will look to you for advice and direction. Be there for them. They are the future but guidance from those with history is crucial. Kristina Duncan and Melissa Highnote, CP joined me for this picture at the NALS Conference in Cincinnati. It's great to know that the future of this profession is in such capable hands!

2. Never say, 'I can't.' There's absolutely nothing you can't do once you put your mind to it. When you're offered a challenge at work, tackle it with gusto. Ask for help and guidance if you need to. Learn everything that will help you in meeting the challenge. Dig in and work hard.

Repeat the mantra of The Little Engine That Could: "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can." Then change that to "I KNOW I can!" You WILL reach the top of the mountain...success is waiting on the other side.

3. Never stop learning. Always embrace change and stay in the know! People who are always learning something new are not only more interesting, but also happier in general. There's always something fresh and exciting going on: new rules, case law, and procedures, as well as new books, courses, technology, and vocabulary. Make a deal with yourself to learn something new every day to keep your motivation in high gear.

4. Credentials do matter. Credentials say a lot about you: your depth of knowledge, credibility, determination, diligence, and more. Don't kid yourself...if you're in competition for a job with a person who has the same amount of education and work experience, your credentials will give you the leg up you'll need.

Be sure to pursue all of the credentialing you can...then be sure to toot your horn. Let people know you have those credentials and how hard you worked for them. Also, put the designation on your business cards and firm letterhead. If you're curious about the authority to do that, see Peel v Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Committee of Illinois, 110 S.Ct. 2281 (1990).

5. Join an association...local, state and/or national. My mother always said, "Birds of a feather flock together." This is certainly the case with professional associations.

An association will provide you with continuing education opportunities, as well as connections that will enhance your career. You will make lifelong friends that you can count on for assistance when you need contacts or information from their neck of the woods. This will happen more often than you might think.

6. If joining is good, being a contributing, hard-working member is even better. Just carrying your membership card isn't enough. You'll reap the benefits of belonging to an association when you jump in with both feet, get really involved, and take on responsibilities: write articles, speak at seminars, plan a generous with your time, your ideas and your enthusiasm. When you do this, you'll find your voice, you'll make a difference in the profession, and you'll be more 'professional.'

Your challenge: Think about the steps you can take to stay on top of your game. Go new places, nurture your friendships, accept challenges, embrace goals. Never stop until you're at the top of the mountain...I know you'll like what you find on the other side.
© 2011-12 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, March 6, 2012

Paralegal Profile: Pamel J. Starr

Thanks to Pamela J. Starr for taking the time to answer The Paralegal Mentor's Thirteen Questions!

Pamela is a paralegal entrepreneur with her own business, Starr Paralegals, LLC. She is a Certified Bankruptcy Assistant (CBA) and specializes in Bankruptcy & Creditors’ Rights, Restructuring, UCC, CM/ECF Filing. 
  • What prompted her to choose a paralegal career?
  • What quotes inspire her?
  • What professional association does she belong to? There are 14!
  • What does she see as trends in the paralegal profession?
Find out below...and be sure to follow Pamela's blog: Session's with a Starr. Thanks, again, Pamela!
1. You're a true paralegal entrepreneur. Tell us about your work. I am the CEO/Paralegal Extraordinaire ('s printed on my business cards!) at  Starr Paralegals, LLC.

2. Do you specialize in any one area? I am a Certified Bankruptcy Assistant (CBA). I specialize in Bankruptcy & Creditors’ Rights, Restructuring, UCC, CM/ECF Filing.

3. Tell us about your education. I have a BA from the University of Texas at Austin, a Paralegal Certificate from Southwestern Paralegal Institute, Houston, have done Post-Baccalaureate work at the University of Houston and Kennesaw State University, and have a Master of Science of Law from Thomas Jefferson School of Law (2012).

4.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  In all honesty, I had never even heard of paralegals until I graduated from college. The plan was to go to medical school. Like most college students, I changed my major a few times (and ended up with two minors - Psychology and Classical Civilization). I finally settled on Political Science and pre-law.

Life got in the way and I decided to put law school on hold while I got my bearings. I did some research and discovered this ‘new’ program - paralegal training. I signed up; figured I’d work as a paralegal for a few years and then go to law school … the rest, as they say, is history.

5.    What is your favorite part of your job? Now that I am on my own - everything!! Seriously, it is hard to define my favorite part. Being a paralegal is almost like being a professional student; I am always learning something new.

6.    What professional associations do you belong to? Georgia Association of Paralegals (“GAP”) and also:

  • National Federation of Paralegals Association (“NFPA”)
  • Commercial Law League of America (“CLLA”)
  • American Bankruptcy Institute (“ABI”)
  • American Bar Association (“ABA”)
  • Association of Bankruptcy Judicial Assistants (“ABJA”)
  • Atlanta Bar Association (“ABA”)
  • National Association of Freelance Legal Professionals (“NAFLP”)
  • International Women's Insolvency and Restructuring Confederation (“IWIRC”)
  • American Association of Notaries (“AAN”)
  • Ladies Who Launch
  • Delta Phi Epsilon Alumna (Chi Chapter – University of Texas at Austin)
  • Atlanta Scholar Kollel (“ASK”)
7.    How has your membership benefited you?   In so many ways - networking, CLE, meeting my peers, sharing war stories, speaking engagements

8.    What has been the highlight of your career?
  There have been several - all relatively recent. I was named as a 2011 Paralegal Superstar  by ParalegalGateway; nominated as a 2011 Georgia Paralegal Superstar by the Georgia Association of Paralegals; and was the Spotlight featured professional in the December 2010 edition of Bankruptcy Professional (

9.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Working virtually - we are definitely seeing a shift away from brick and mortar law practices and a growing list of paralegals who are ready to move out of ‘biglaw’ and into the cloud.

10.    What advice would you give yourself if you met you as a first-year paralegal?  Don’t be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes.

11.    Is there a quote that inspires you? I have three - two are inspirational, the other just makes me smile”
"A Legal Goddess is a high achiever who does not feel like a fraud - she is smart & successful - not just lucky!" ~ Dorothy Pritchett
“I could have been a Doctor, a Reporter or a Scientist. Instead, I am gifted with crisis management skills. I am a problem-solver, an innovator, a sympathetic ear, the reassuring presence, and a professional. I am a PARALEGAL!” ~ Allen Mihecoby
"...books are where you can experience the law, not in a synthesized computer." Samuel T. Cogley, Attorney at Law (Star Trek, The Original Series: "Court Martial")

12.     You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?  It’s hard to limit it to one event or influential person. I’d have to say that losing my job is the event that kick-started my real paralegal career and gave me the courage really grow and succeed.

13. Is there a philosophy you live by? "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I only care for myself, what am I?" (Hillel, Babylonian Talmud, Avot 1:14)

Bonus Question: How do you deal with work-related stress? There are two ways I deal with stress: (1) simply walk away and/or (2) call a friend.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Paralegal Checklist for Merger Filings

Checklists are a great way to establish routines and take the guesswork out of your projects.
For those of you working with mergers, the key to sucess is organization. With this in mind, CT Corporation is providing a complimentary copy of its latest tool: Merger Filings Checklist.  

This convenient three-page resource provides a step-by-step overview of the items that need to be considered during pre-merger planning, merger filings and post-merger clean-up.

CT Corporation is a leader for registered agent, corporate compliance and governance solutions.  CT Corporation's expertise defines every customer contact. Law firms and corporate legal departments turn to its reliable service organization and intelligent technology for the precision and speed they need.

In addition, throughout my paralegal career, CT has been known as a supporter of paralegals and their continuing education.

More information about CT Corporation is available here.

Paralegal Planaphobia: What is it? Do you have it?

Planaphobia is a common malady I've identified while studying time management issues. It strikes large numbers of our population, even paralegals.

What is it? Planaphobia is the fear of planning.

Planaphobia stops you in your tracks and keeps you from enjoying many of the things you'd really like to do but are afraid to plan for. Perhaps you'll be too busy at work. Perhaps something better will come up. Perhaps you won't feel well that day. Perhaps a volcano will erupt and you won't be able to fly. The excuses are endless.

Do you envy the people who always know in July what they're doing over Christmas vacation? Who purchase concert tickets months in advance? Who make flight arrangements early enough to use their frequent flier miles? Who have standing appointments for 'high maintenance' activities like manicures and pedicures and getting their hair done?

They're never scrambling at the last minute hoping they can be 'worked in'. They never miss the opening of the new play. They never have to take the 'left over' seats on the airplane and end up monitoring the toilets. They're simply not afraid to make those plans in advance...and usually their plans work out just as (ahem!) PLANNED.

Let me tell you about my friend Michelle who definitely DOES NOT have Planaphobia. She traveled to Ireland with friends in 2009. They had such a fabulous time that they wanted to return to see the rest of the country and visit some of their favorite sights....and soon because they're not getting any younger: they want to enjoy walking in the countryside and the grounds of castles, cathedrals, villages and other landmarks.

How did Michelle...who's a single, hard working paralegal...make this happen? Is she just 'lucky'? No!

One of her favorite quotes is from Abraham Lincoln:
"Commitment is what transforms promise into reality."

She lives by this quote. She made a commitment and then she made her plans. She and her friends set a date, made flight reservations and hired their driver well ahead of their departure date. Then she started her 'Ireland fund' to set aside money from each paycheck and any bonus that came her way.

The volcano in Iceland did erupt just before Michelle's scheduled trip. Did that stop her? Why would it? Of course she held her breath until the plane touched down in Dublin...but she just figured if she got stuck over there she'd use her Irish background to buy a pub and put her prior bartending experience to good use. She was 'going with the flow'.

In the end, the trip went off without a hitch, and Michelle returned to her paralegal job savoring many happy memories. She has absolutely no regrets...except perhaps that she didn't get her Irish pub.

Time marches on. The months and years go by in spite of your hesitation and fears. If you have Planaphobia, there are steps you can take that will help you make plans and enjoy life to the fullest:
  • Always have a bucket list. Almost everyone has seen the movie 'Bucket List' starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, two men who are facing death so they go about fulfilling the items on their list of things they want to accomplish before they 'kick the bucket. You should have an ongoing 'bucket list' of things you want to accomplish or do during both in the near future and as your life goes on.
  • Routinely update your bucket list. A bucket list is a work in progress that will change as you cross things off or think of new things to add. The lesson to be learned is don't wait, or waste, another minute. Make your list, clarify what is important to you, and start living a more fulfilling life TODAY.
  • Remember, the creation of a list of life goals allows you to imagine a life that is rich in possibilities. You always have something to look forward to. When you declare your goals, you declare your intent and raise your level of awareness of opportunities that are there for you.
  • If making a plan is too overwhelming, break it into small steps. If you're paralyzed by a big goal, you should consider the steps you must take to achieve the goal and then work on accomplishing each step. Plan when you will do each one. Little by little, you'll reach the big goal just like Michelle who contributed to her 'Ireland Fund' with each paycheck.
  • Use your calendar to make your plans. A calendar offers you a year of endless possibilities. Days and months with nothing on them give you permission to make commitments. For instance, the Charlevoix Waterfront Art Fair has taken place on the second Saturday in August every year for 52 years. It's a given that in January I'll enter that date in August on my calendar so I can attend.
If this is still difficult for you, one thing that might help is to put optional meetings or anything else that comes up on your calendar. They'll go on with or without you, but if your event or travel is canceled, you'll be able to pick up where you left off and attend the event you originally thought you had to miss.
  • Don't hesitate to accept invitations. If you have nothing else on your calendar, go ahead and RSVP immediately. If you hesitate, you'll wait until it's too late and you'll have another missed opportunity.
Retain your spontaneity. Life is all about seizing the moment. Everything doesn't have to be planned down to the minute. If something you'd like to do comes up on the spur of the moment, don't hesitate to say 'YES!' and enjoy.

When you get past your Planaphobia, be ready to be amazed at the joy you'll feel. You'll be doing more of the things you really want to do. You'll be more calm, happier and you'll always feel 'ahead of the game'. Remember this quote from Peter F. Drucker: "Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans." Promises and hopes aren't the same as actually doing...and life is about doing."
© 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.