Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Today's News Headlines ~ Tuesday, January 31, 2011

Paralegals need to stay on top of legal news and trends, as well as what their fellow paralegals are doing. The following caught my eye when I opened my Google Reader this morning:
Illusion of Protection. Barbara Liss, an estate planning, trust administration and probate paralegal at the law office of Christopher C. Jones, and current president of the Santa Barbara Paralegal Association, opposes a proposal by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission on the closure ordinance for mobile home parks. Full story at the Santa Barbara Independent.

Once helping claimants, former paralegal now is one.  For 26 years Paula McIlduff worked as a paralegal for the Connecticut claims commissioner, assisting those seeking reparations from state government. Now, a few months after retiring, she's one of those people.  McIlduff, who left her job in September, 2011 has filed a claim with her old office because the state is refusing to pay her the full $15,000 she believes she is owed for accrued vacation time. Full story at the Connecticut Post.

Sweet iPad App for Paralegals: Allrecipes, Your Kitchen Inspiration. Lynne DeVenny, NCCP, who blogs at Practical Paralegalism, provides information about the Allrecipes iPad App. She’s even upgraded to the pro version! Read more here.

How To Get More Substantive Work  Misty Sheffield, CP, owner of Atlanta Paralegal Services says, “One of the top complaints I hear from paralegals is that their supervising attorneys are not utilizing the paralegal’s full potential. This scenario leads to boredom, frustration, and low job satisfaction. It is a lose-lose, for the paralegal and the firm.” Misty shares 3 three ways to help you get more substantive. Follow this link for this video paralegal career tip.

Awards snowball in 2011 for Longmont paralegal. Longmont, CO paralegal RoxAnn Mack won the 2011 CBA Pro Bono Paralegal of the Year Award after rolling up her sleeves to give back in all sorts of ways: by donating blood six times a year, researching arrest warrants for homeless people in Denver, leading a team in the annual Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Race for the Cure and more. Still, she was surprised when her pro bono paralegal work and community service won recognition from the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Bar Association and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. RoxAnn is profiled in the Longmont Times Call.

If you have breaking news of interest to the legal industry, be sure to let me know: vicki@paralegalmentor.com.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Paralegal Profile: Sami Hartsfield, ACP

Sami Hartsfield, ACP is a freelance paralegal and writer from Houston. She blogs at Legally Blog which you really should check out...it's a wonderful resource.


1.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?   I took a legal secretary course when I decided to go back to school around 2004. I enjoyed it so much, and was really good at it, so I decided to attend paralegal school.

2. Where did you receive your paralegal education? I have an AAS degree in Paralegal Studies, ABA-approved Center for Advanced Legal Studies (4.0); UH Law Center’s Summer 2008 Prelaw Institute (4.0); BS Political Science, University of Houston Downtown, graduating summa cum laude

3. Do you have any professional certifications? Yes, I have NALA Advanced Paralegal Certifications: Trial Practice; Discovery; Contracts Management; Individual and Entity Medical Liability; and Social Security Disability Law; I am also WestlawNext Certified.

4.    What professional associations do you belong to?  NALA; American Association of Notaries; EDEN -- Electronic Data Extraction Network (electronic data forensics group).

5.    How has your membership benefited you?   Networking; CLE; also I volunteered for board positions which I recommend for myriad reasons such as the aforementioned two activities, and also opportunities to work on public speaking and other desirable skills.

6.    What has been the highlight of your career? 
Being the first person in my family to earn a college degree and have a professional career—hopefully I will start a new trend! Also, interning with Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals under Chief Justice Adele Hedges in 2007 was a fascinating, eye-opening experience.

7.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  I always keep my eye on new technology as the technology industry is so dynamic.

Many attorneys and law firms seem “old school,” that is to say slow to embrace these efficient devices, but I was fortunate enough to work at a medium sized firm that was paperless and utilized the latest technology.

There are so many time-saving and exciting technological devices out there, such as document management systems and trial presentation software, that I’m excited to see what comes out next to help us do our jobs faster and more efficiently, ultimately freeing our attorneys to work on tasks only an attorney may do.

8.    Is there a quote that inspires you?  “The ultimate measure of a [person] is not where he stands in moment of comfort and convenience but where [she] stands at times of challenge and controversy.” –Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

9. What advice would you give yourself if you met you as a first-year paralegal? Try to find a mentor to emulate; listen and learn; write all you can, volunteer for as many assignments as you can at work or will be given to you; join your local paralegal association and go to meetings and/or volunteer; and hang out with the winners.

10. What is the one thing you wish you were better at? Math and statistics (thank you calculators and actuarial tables!)

11. What’s more important to you – comfort or style? Why not have both?

12. How do you deal with work-related stress? I listen to Mozart.

13. What is one thing about you that most people don't know? I have a very discreet, well-hidden tattoo of my kids' names somewhere on my body.

Bonus Question:
Are you a cat person or a dog person? Definitely "cat"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Paralegal Profile: Patricia E. Infanti, PP, PLS

Thanks to Patricia E. Infanti, PP, PLS, NALS President 2010-2011, for taking the time to answer The Paralegal Mentor's Thirteen Questions! Patti was a terrific guest on this episode of The Paralegal Voice where she discussed the value of professional association membership with her and Kathleen Amirante, PP, PLS, NALS President Elect.

1. Where do you work and what is your job title?  I am a Legal Administrative Assistant with Ballard Spahr LLP in Philadelphia.
2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? In essence, I have been doing paralegal duties for my entire 34 year career, though my title has been legal secretary for most of that time.

I chose a legal career because I was intrigued by what happens in a law office, and I stayed because the work is challenging and stimulating - no two days are the same.

3. What is your favorite part of your job? I have two: interacting with clients and completing projects.

4. What professional associations do you belong to? NALS. . . the association for legal professionals, NALS of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Legal Secretaries Association, and the Philadelphia Bar Association.

5. How has your membership benefited you? Without a doubt, NALS has supported me in my belief that the legal secretarial field is a viable and exciting career path. NALS has provided me with many avenues within which to further my education and professional development, including voluntary certification.

6. Do you have any professional certifications? Yes. I am a certified as a Professional Legal Secretary and as a Professional Paralegal.

7. What has been the highlight of your career? Without a doubt, passing the Professional Legal Secretary certification examination was a career-altering event for me. At that time, it was a two-day, seven-part examination, and it was empowering to receive the letter congratulating me for passing the exam. The second highlight was being installed as NALS 40th President in March 2010.

8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? I believe you will see more and more paralegals being asked to do more administrative tasks as legal secretary numbers are reduced.

9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? Yes, I have. Here are my links:

10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? First, I would tell them how exciting it is to be in the legal field. Then I would advise them:
(i) not to believe whatever preconceived notions they may have learned about paralegals through television and movies;

(ii) that a paralegal career is rewarding and challenging, and consists of quite a bit of behind-the-scenes work with attorneys and staff;

(iii) that they should master software programs (such as Word, Excel, case management software, calendaring software, etc.);

(iv) that they must possess excellent organization skills and be willing to do whatever is necessary to meet deadlines;

(v) that they must master the art of working with all different types of personalities who have different work habits and preferences; and

(vi) that they must be willing to take on administrative tasks when asked to do so.

11. Is there a quote that inspires you? I have two: 'Can't' never did anything. 'Can't' never could. (I don't know exactly whose quote it is, but it seems that most mothers in my generation would utter this one in one form or another); and 'For nothing is impossible to God' Luke 1:37.

12. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? Mary E. Scarduzio, legal secretary and office manager to the founding partner of the first law firm I worked (Saverio R. Principato, Esquire), who had the patience to teach me what I needed to know to work in the legal field.

13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Do not rest on your laurels. Always seek to learn something new (including new legal practice areas) or to tackle a complex project. It will help you grow and hone your skills.

Bonus...just for fun questions: 
  • What electronic device can you not live without?  My Droid! Love it!
  • If you had to be in any other profession other than a paralegal, what would it be? Personal coach. I would find it very rewarding to help others in their careers.

New Paralegal Voice Podcast: A Fun Dose of Paralegal Ethics

The latest edition of The Paralegal Voice, “A Fun Dose of Paralegal Ethics” co-hosted by Lynne DeVenny and me, is now available at Legal Talk Network.
Can paralegal ethics be fun? On this podcast, lawyer/humorist Sean Carter, founder of Lawpsided Seminars, shares his comedic approach to legal education, the biggest challenges for legal staffers today, and his thoughts on his popular talk, "Thou Shalt Not Lie, Cheat and Steal: The 10 Commandments of Legal Ethics".
Also in this episode:
  • Why Sean became a lawyer
  •  How he became a popular legal humorist
  •  How paralegals can find greater job satisfaction
  •  Dealing with difficult supervising attorneys and colleagues
  •  How to avoid ethical breaches when talking about your job
  •  How to stay abreast of new practice and technology skills
  •  Keeping yourself together mentally and physically
  •  Vicki’s practice tip and Lynne’s social media/technology tip
Page URL: http://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/paralegal-voice/2012/01/a-fun-dose-of-paralegal-ethics/
MP3 Link: http://legaltalkmedia.com/LTN/PLV/PLV_011712_Ethics.mp3

Internet resources and links mentioned during the podcast:
The Paralegal Voice also thanks its sponsors: Redact-It, Clio, 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 TheParalegalVoice@gmail.com.

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 http://legaltalknetwork.com/rss-feeds/.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Paralegals: Thursday's Trivia Question

Thursday, January 19, 2012: What is the best answer to this ethics trivia question?

What is the most ethical (and safest) action to take if you receive a privileged document from opposing counsel that is not intended for you?
A. Keep it and do not tell anyone you got it.

B. Read it, make a copy for yourself, and then send it back to opposing counsel.

C. Stop reading as soon as you realize it is privileged and contact opposing counsel for instructions on what to do.

D. Don't worry about this; your firm can handle the issue in court.

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Paralegal Mentor Audio Tip: Dealing with Change

Today's Paralegal Mentor audio tip provides ideas  for dealing with change.
 The legal world -- and society in general -- is always changing. You have to continually develop new skills and strategies to keep pace. If you don't, you'll be lost in the shuffle.

If you find you're...
  • working faster and faster trying to keep up with this frantic pace;
  • feeling like you're ruled by electronics
  • working on 2 or 3 things at a time trying to get more done;
  • needing more structure in your life... 
I'd love to hear how you will use these tips to cope with your ever-changing world. Leave a comment below.

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

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Paralegals: Thursday's Trivia Question

Thursday, January 5, 2012: What is the best answer to this ethics trivia question?

A lawyer who delegates too much authority and discretion to a paralegal/legal assistant may be disciplined for:

A. aiding in the unauthorized practice of law

B. failure to perform competently

C. failure to exercise independent professional judgment

D. all of the above

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Paralegals Can Cook: Double Chocolate Mousse Cake

New Year's Eve 2011 was the Celebration-That-Didn't Happen! The Don and I planned to have two couples for dinner. The menu was set -- stuffed pork loin roast, brussels sprouts, salad and this Double Chocolate Mousse Cake for dessert.

All plans went haywire when I came down with the worst cold ever and was unable to prepare the meal -- and none of our friends wanted the cold either!

When I mentioned the menu in Paralegal Strategies, I had lots of requests for the dessert recipe. I clipped this from Good Housekeeping in 1989 and have made it several times over the year. It is soooo good and absolutely sinful. Enjoy every bite!

Double-Chocolate Mousse Cake
Simply the best chocolate dessert ever –
and so easy to make!
Good Housekeeping Magazine ~ Sept 1989


2 8oz packages semi-sweet chocolate squares (16 1oz squares)

2 cups butter (4 sticks)

1 cup sugar

1 cup light cream (half and half)

1 tablespoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

8 large eggs

Chocolate Glaze (see below)

1 cup whipping cream

Early in the day or the day before serving: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10”x3” spring form pan.

In a 3quart saucepan over low heat, heat chocolate, butter, sugar, half and half, vanilla and salt until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth, stirring constantly.
In large bowl, beat eggs slightly. Beat chocolate mixture into eggs; pour into spring form pan.

Bake mousse cake 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from the edge comes out clean. (Vicki’s note: Bake as directed; 45-55 minutes is adequate)

When cake is cool, remove sides of pan; wrap cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled.

Prepare Chocolate Glaze (see below). Spread warm glaze over top and down side of cake. In small bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Pipe whipped cream around edge of cake.

Refrigerate if not serving right away. Makes 16 servings – about 585 calories per serving. (Vicki’s Note: This is very rich so cut into small pieces)

Chocolate Glaze: In 2quart saucepan over low heat, heat 1 6oz package semisweet chocolate pieces (1 cup) and 2 tablespoons butter until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove pan from heat; beat in 3 tablespoons milk and 2 tablespoons white corn syrup.

 ~Vicki Voisin/January, 2012

Paralegal Profile: Mary Harwood Bullard, ACP

Mary Harwood Bullard, ACP resides in Woodway, Texas where she works as a Legal Assistant at Deaver & Deaver. She has an Associate in Arts and Sciences from Richland College in Dallas and a certificate from the Legal Assistants Program from Southern Methodist University.  

Mary specializes in Texas real estate and business law and has her Advanced Certified Paralegal credential in Land Use from NALA.      

1.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  I was a legal secretary at Dresser Industries in Dallas in the 1970's and an attorney in the tax law department suggested I consider becoming a paralegal.

I was very fortunate to be employed by a company that would pay for my education so I enrolled in the legal assistants program at SMU.  I discovered I loved the profession.

2.    What is your favorite part of your job?  The favorite part of my job is drafting documents to suit unusual real property situations.  I discovered early in my career that I have an aptitude for writing.

3.    What professional associations do you belong to?  NALA and NALS…the association for legal professionals, and its chapters the Texas Association of Legal Professionals and Waco Legal Professionals Association

4.    How has your membership benefited you?  One of the best benefits of membership is networking with other legal support professionals.  Over the years I have been fortunate to develop lasting friendships with other paralegals.  Membership has also provided an avenue to achieve paralegal certification and afforded me with opportunities for timely, contemporary legal education.

5.    What has been the highlight of your career?  The highlight of my career was being awarded the designation Certified Legal Assistant by NALA.  After being seriously ill for many months, I chose to pursue certification as a mean of restarting my legal career.  I knew that I had my new beginning when I received the certificate reading CLA!

6.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  As corporations look for new ways to reduce legal fees, many have begun outsourcing their legal work outside the United States.  While there are ethics issues that need to be resolved with international outsourcing, outsourcing could make it more difficult for the smaller law firm to survive.  It will become even more critical for paralegals to keep their knowledge and skills, both technology skills and legal skills, at the highest level to justify being retained during reductions in staffing.

7.    If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be?  My advice would be that a paralegal career is an interesting and rewarding career but requires dedication to education, which will require time spent online, in the classroom, or at conferences.  I would also stress the importance of pursuing certification.

8.    Is there a quote that inspires you? Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul; And sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all. ~Emily Dickinson
9.     You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?  I attribute my success to my Mother who was my mentor and told me to strive to be The Best at my career.  She inspired me to never do things half way but to take pride in my work no matter how small the task.

10.    What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting?  Never stop learning!  Reading about current trends and opportunities keeps the job fresh and new which always make it more interesting.

11.   What electronic device can you not live without?  My iPad which I use as a book reader, to play Scrabble, to send and receive email, and to reach the internet.

12.   What was your first car?    A 1962 AMC Rambler with a push button transmission.  The button to put the car in Reverse had fallen through the dash making it necessary to use a screwdriver with a long shank to change to that gear.

13.   What was your first job?  My first job was with the Dallas Public Library.  My title was "Page" and my duties included shelving books and obtaining periodicals for library patrons.

Bonus Question: What is your favorite hobby?  Genealogy.  I have been seriously doing research for the past 20 years.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Paralegal Strategies: New Year...Fresh Start

As 2012 begins, it's tempting to make resolutions for the New Year.
Organize your office? Increase your billable hours? Lose weight? Be on time for work? Sit for a certification exam?

Whatever you have in mind, read on...
It's common knowledge that resolutions rarely work. All those good intentions seem to fall by the wayside by the middle of January...all that's left are guilt and regret that once again you're not able to keep your resolutions. By next December you'll be making the same resolutions all over again.

It's time to change the pattern. Resolutions don't work because they're usually a very broad statement: This year I'll lose 20 pounds. This year I'll learn to speak French. This year I'll look for a new job. You've got the want down...you know what you want to do. The problem is, you're only looking at the big picture.

Instead of making resolutions, set goals. A goal is something you commit to fully and work toward all year long. Take a few minutes right now to visualize your top three goals for 2012. Then write those goals down on a paper.

Make a plan. Once your goals are set, decide what you have to do to reach each one and then plan each step toward your goal from beginning to end. For instance, if you want to learn French this year your first step might to be to search for a class. The next step might be to enroll in the class. The next step might be to buy your your study materials. The next steps would be to attend each class and do your homework.

Do you see how each step you take helps you reach your end goal? This process will work for any goal you might want to reach.

Take this one step further. Schedule each step in your planner...make an actual appointment. This ensures you will set aside the time to accomplish each step. Don't make the mistake of putting the steps on 'to do' lists because a 'to do' list is just a wish list and you will invariably run out of day before you run out of list. The 'to do' list just goes on and on. Your planner is a real guide for accomplishing your goals.

Your challenge: Plan to make 2012 your best year ever. Take a few minutes to set your goals. Break the goals down into achievable mini-goals. Decide when each mini-goal must be accomplished to reach the main goal by the end of the year. Enter those mini-goals in your planner. Make appointments with yourself for completing each one.

If you do your planning and then do your scheduling, you can accomplish absolutely anything you want and this time next year you'll be celebrating the fact that you actually reached your goals.

Here's to out with the old...in with the new...to a new year and a fresh start. Happy New Year
© 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 www.paralegalmentor.com where subscribers receive Vicki's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.