Thursday, August 30, 2012

Paralegals: Are You Stuck in the "Someday" Trap?

When opportunities come your way, do you say, "I'll do that when I have time!"?

When you consider your career goals, do you usually think, "I'll get around to that sometime in the future!"?

When the sticky notes and piles of papers and files accumulate in your office, do you usually think, "I can't be bothered with that so I'll ignore the clutter for now!"?

You may be stuck in the 'someday' trap!

The 'someday' trap brings your goals to a standstill. It plays havoc with your future. It kills productivity. It causes procrastination. If you allow yourself to let 'someday' be a part of your thinking it will be very difficult to move your career forward and reach your life goals.
  • Someday you'll sit for a certification exam.
  • Someday you'll move to that area of the law that really interests you.
  • Someday you'll join your local association, join a committee and run for office.
  • Someday you'll attend a national convention.
  • Someday you'll take a few continuing education courses.
  • Someday you'll present a CLE course.
  • Someday you'll write an article for a professional journal.
Someday...someday...someday. Stop! Someday is NOT a day of the week. How about a new way of thinking? How about having 'someday' be today?

Here are some simple suggestions for turning 'someday thinking' into 'today thinking'

List your top 5 short term goals. What you want to accomplish in the next 90 days? Examine those goals to determine the steps you'll take to reach them. Once you've done this, schedule the steps on your calendar. Treat these as appointments so that they really do get done.

List your long term goals. Once you've determined your short term goals, use the same process to determine and accomplish your long term goals (say in the next 3-5 years), and your really long term goals...what do you want to accomplish in your lifetime. As you're doing this, don't hesitate to dream and to think big. Do not limit yourself.

For all these goals, make an appointment in your calendar to get each step done and don't let the 'someday trap' stop you.

You can't do everything at once, of course, so you'll have to make choices. Choose to do the things that are important to you and your goals and let the other things go.

When you change your thinking to 'today' instead of 'someday' you're not only going to feel better about yourself, but you'll move your career in the right direction: forward.

Imagine seizing opportunities when they come your way. Imagine your office without clutter and piles. Imagine being able to find documents when you need them. Imagine the feeling of accomplishment as you reach your goals. When you imagine that it feels wonderful, right?

Actress Camryn Manheim said it best:
"Waiting, waiting, waiting. All my life, I've been waiting for my life to begin, as if somehow my life was ahead of me, and that someday I would arrive at it."
You can't wait for your life to begin or for your paralegal career to be what you want it to be. You have to operate on the premise that you can't wait for someday to make changes. You have to take steps today to make those changes.

What are you waiting for? You have the ability to transform your career and your life beginning today. It's up to you to make that happen and to stop waiting for someday.

What changes will you make? How will you make those changes?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Michigan Paralegal Stars in Video Spot With Fellow Veterans

Erin Meadows was happily going about her job as a paralegal at Ford Motor Credit Company, LLC, being a wife and mother to two daughters (8 and 11), and serving in the U.S. Navy Reserves.

That all changed when she received her orders to report for duty and found herself on a base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where she dressed in combat garb and carried 40 pounds of equipment - including a weapon, even though her duties consisted of paralegal work on an investigative team.

Erin is now back in the U.S. with her family and, again, back at her paralegal job. Recently she participated in a Ford-sponsored video spot where she talked about her deployment to Afghanistan and the support she received from her family of coworkers. She is one of eight Ford employees featured in the spot that thanks veterans for their military service.

“Ford has a big veterans networking group and they asked everyone to go to a casting call. They took photos of us in our dog tags and Ford badges,” Meadows recalled, adding that she was asked to return the next week for filming. “It was pretty fun. The film crew said I did a good job. It was neat to go through all the things they do in film — hair, makeup. I was there six or seven hours that day. They taped all of us showing our (military) pictures. My interview was 20-25 minutes.”

“It's a pretty good show,” Meadows said, adding that during the first episode, the women celebrities reported for duty “all prim and proper and with their hair done. In 120-degree heat that hair in Afghanistan would not be all done up,” she quipped.

Hairstyling was the least of her concerns while serving as a paralegal, assisting the Army in Afghanistan from April 2010-May 2011. She was stationed on a base in Kandahar that often drew rocket attacks. Sometimes she flew to other bases on an armed Black Hawk helicopter, aware that it also was a target.

“We probably had more than 100 incoming rockets. They happen when you least expect it — in the middle of the night, during dust storms, Meadows recalled.

According to the story published by the Observer & Eccentric it wasn't exactly the scenario Erin, 41, had envisioned when she entered the Navy 22 years ago. The Dearborn, Michigan native was majoring in travel and tourism at Eastern Michigan University, but growing tired of her armchair excursions. After watching a Navy commercial on television one night, she surprised her parents by announcing her intention to talk with a recruiter.
She signed up and worked in communications for four years, spending time in Iceland and in San Diego, Calif.

Erin was in the Navy Reserves when she married. She used her GI benefits to earn a bachelor's degree in English from Madonna University and completed paralegal studies at Eastern. Both her day job at Ford and her Reserve assignments involve paralegal work. As a senior paralegal with the Navy, she manages other paralegals in the Reserves.

Thanks, Erin, for your service to the United States and for your dedication to the paralegal profession.

To read the full story, follow this link.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Paralegals: Will Revised Jury Instructions Deter Juror Use of Social Media?

Juror use of social media during trial has increased and has caused mistrials in some high profile cases. In an effort to stop this behavior, a Judicial Conference Committee has updated the model set of jury instructions (pdf) federal judges use to deter jurors from using social media to research or communicate about cases on which they serve.

The new guidelines provide detailed explanations of the consequences of social media use during a trial, along with recommendations for repeated reminders of the ban on social media usage.
The update comes in response to a national survey of federal trial judges by the Federal Judicial Center at the request of the Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM).
"The overwhelming majority of judges take steps to warn jurors not to use social media during trial, but the judges surveyed said additional steps should be taken," said Judge Julie A. Robinson, CACM Committee chair.  
"The judges recommended that jurors frequently be reminded about the prohibition on social media before the trial, at the close of a case, at the end of each day before jurors return home, and other times, as appropriate. Jurors should be told why refraining from use of social media promotes a fair trial. Finally, jurors should know the consequences of violations during trial, such as mistrial and wasted time. Those recommendations are now part of the guidelines."
 Along with the guidelines, trial judges are provided with a poster stressing the importance of jurors making decisions based on information presented only in the courtroom. The poster is designed to be displayed in the jury deliberation room or other areas where jurors congregate. 
"The Committee believes that the more frequently jurors are reminded of the prohibition on social media, whether the reminders are visually or orally given, the more likely they are to refrain from social media use during trial and deliberations," said Robinson.
To read the full article regarding the updates, including access to the pdf version of the model set of jury instructions, follow this link:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Paralegal Profile: Nita Serrano, RP, FRP

Nita Serrano, RP, FRP is a Paralegal with Ogden, Sullivan & O'Connor, P.A. in Tampa, Florida. Her work focuses on medical malpractice, personal injury and nursing home.Nita has a Bachelor's Degree and is a PACE Registered Paralegal through NFPA, as well as a Florida Registered Paralegal. 
1.    Why did you choose a paralegal career?  I was always interested in the law. I also worked in a Level 2 Trauma Center in Tampa for approximately 9 years and the two areas seemed to flow together.

2.    What is your favorite part of your job?  Investigating and trial.

3.    What professional associations do you belong to?  Tampa Bay Paralegal Association, Inc. National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc.

4.    How has your membership benefited you?   I have made wonderful friends and the networking has been a huge benefit.

5.    What has been the highlight of your career?  Being elected President of the Tampa Bay Paralegal Association, Inc.

6.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  Regulation.

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

8.    What time in the morning do you first check your email?    7 a.m. when I am getting ready for work and having my coffee.

9.    What’s your favorite food?    Italian – Lasagna, Stuffed Shells

10.   What three items would you want if you were stranded on a deserted island?    My cell phone, my iPad and toothbrush

11.   When you listen to your iPod, is there anything on it that has you hitting the repeat button?  Yes! Anything Ricky Martin or ‘80’s

12.    What college classes did you love?    Research and writing

13.    What TV channel do you most often have on?    SoapNet

Bonus: What's your dream car? Mustang

Monday, August 6, 2012

Best Billable Hour Practice for Paralegals

Are you looking for answers about billable hour practices? You will find them on this month’s episode of Paralegal Voice!

My co-host, Lynne DeVenny, and I discuss billable hour practices with Jennifer Karns, Legal Professional Training Manager for Snell & Wilmer L.L.P. Jennifer emphasizes the importance of meeting billable hour goals and adding value to time entries. She also shares essential tips for improving your billing descriptions and capabilities.

Important points included in this episode:
  • How Jennifer’s career moved from Paralegal to Legal Professional Training Manager and what her job entails.
  • Why billable hour goals are important to both the employer and employee
  • The most difficult billing concept for paralegals and attorneys to grasp
  • The two things you must include in every time entry
  • The time you must not miss
  • An important time keeping habit to adopt.
  • How to write time entries that show value.
  • How to do the “billable hour math” to reach your goals.
  • And more!
Be sure to listen to this episode. It’s easy…and it’s free! Just click on the following links:

Page URL:

MP3 Link:
The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsor: 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

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Paralegal Advice: How NOT to Ask for a Raise

Paralegal Angles for Raise: A peeved paralegal wrote to "Dear Amy" with this question. You may have seen it on the Internet:

DEAR AMY: I've been working for a small law firm for six years now. I'm a paralegal and work up all the attorneys' documents.

I've made a lot of money for the firm. Recently because of all my hard work, the firm has hired two new attorneys (one is part-time).

By accident my manager gave me the part-time attorney's paycheck, and I was floored. She makes way more than I do!

What do you think I should do? Should I find another job or talk to my manager about getting a larger raise?

I don't want to get the manager in trouble, but it's just not fair that this other person is part-time and making more than I am. -- Peeved Paralegal

Here is Amy's answer -- please note that The Paralegal Mentor DOES NOT agree with Amy...see my advice below.

DEAR PEEVED: I appreciate your confidence and self-assessment, but it's possible that your firm's success is due to more than your efforts alone.

Regardless of your opinion of your own worth, you seem to have the idea that the pay structure in your workplace should be fair -- according to your calculation and relative to your own compensation.

This is not the case. The marketplace determines your worth. You are comparing apples to wheelbarrows.

Even if you could easily perform the lawyering tasks your part-time colleague performs, you and this lawyer have different educational qualifications and credentials. This lawyer's ability to negotiate a generous compensation package for herself has nothing to do with your relative worth to the firm.

The way to negotiate for more money is not through competing with your co-workers, but by receiving an offer for a paralegal job from another firm and leveraging that into an offer for more money at your home firm.(which, by the way, would not be my answer...check back next week to read what I would say.)  Amy

Dear Peeved Paralegal: In retrospect, I wish you did not have this information. Is difficult to work when you do not feel you are being treated "fairly".  No one has promised "fair" but what we are paid is directly related to our feelings of value.

Remember, though, that you are not comparing this information to what another paralegal is being paid. You should never compare your value to that of an attorney, part time or not, because (as Amy says), you are comparing apples to wheelbarrows.

I do not agree with Amy's advice to look for an offer from another firm and then leverage that into an offer for more money at your current job.

Instead, I urge you to compile information about your value to the firm -- number of billable hours? certification? education? longevity? skill set? If that information demonstrates you deserve a raise, schedule a meeting with your manager and use your informationto ask for an increase. If you do not get what you want, you have 2 choices: remain at your current job or look for another,

DO NOT give your employer an ultimatum you will quit if you do not receive more money unless you're willing to make good on the ultimatum. You do not want to find yourself out in the apple orchard without a wheelbarrow!  Vicki


What is your opinion regarding this paralegal's situation? Should she follow Amy's advice or mine? Or do something else? Let me know.