Thursday, February 28, 2013

Surviving the Workplace Transition: Tips from NALA

How do you transition from school to the workplace – and survive once you are there?

On this edition of The Paralegal Voice, Vicki Voisin welcomes Elizabeth H. Nellis, ACP and Beverly A. Pace, ACP, NALA members and producers of NALA’s Professional Identity Project.

Vicki and her guests talk about the purpose of the Professional Identity Project, its availability as a free resource, and how it will benefit everyone from the paralegal student to the experienced paralegal.

Discussion includes the outlook for the professional profession and the challenges paralegals face.  Also in this episode:
  • The most important characteristics you must have to work as a paralegal;
  • The latest trends in the paralegal profession;
  • Do’s and Don’ts for drafting a great resume;
  • Tips for your job interviews;
  • Tips for surviving in the legal workplace;
  • How to dress for your job;
  • Why it’s important to be a “bitch buster”
  • And more!
Be sure to follow these links to access the program, as well as Internet resources and links mentioned during the project.

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

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Will Paralegals Disappear? The Paralegal Mentor Says "No"!

Recent headlines on the Internet have been alarming:
  • Paralegal Jobs are Vanishing....
  • Rise of Technology Causing Paralegal Jobs to Disappear?
  • Recession, tech killing middle-class jobs...
  • Paralegal jobs being overtaken by technology...
  • As technology evolves, jobs disappear...
Instead of allowing these dire, attention-grabbing headlines to create a profession-wide panic, let's give some common sense thought to these predictions.

Background Information:

As recently as 2010 the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, predicted there will be an 18% growth rate in paralegal jobs through 2020 and that this is one of the fastest growing professions.
In contradiction to that, The Associated Press released a report in January 2013 stating that 5 years after the start of the Great Recession, millions of middle-class jobs have been lost world-wide and will never return. Additionally, millions more are likely to vanish.
Further, the report states that, "Year after year, software that runs computers and an array of other machines and devices become more sophisticated and powerful and capable of doing more efficiently tasks that humans have always done." The analysis refers to jobs that are routine and repetitive in the service sector and examples used are paralegals, meter readers and travel agents.
In August 2012, The ABA’s House of Delegates approved updates to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to acknowledge that information is stored digitally as well as in paper files, clients communicate electronically as well as by phone calls, and email isn’t the only method of electronic communications.
New commentary language added to Rule 1.1 (the duty to provide competent representation) requires lawyers to keep abreast of the benefits and risks associated with technology, according to new commentary language added to Rule 1.1 on the duty to provide competent representation.
It is insulting that the work of a paralegal would be classified as a “routine and repetitive” job, similar to those of a meter reader. The American Bar Association defines paralegals as performing specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. Working as a paralegal is not just a job, but a career. It's doubtful meter reading can be considered a career.
The reality:

Paralegal jobs will not be obliterated by technology. Instead, technology will change paralegal jobs, as well as paralegal responsibilities and skill requirements. But what’s new?
From the time this profession emerged in the 1970’s, paralegals have had to deal with change. The unwritten rule has always been that you either kept up or you were out of a job.
From the manual typewriter to the good old Selectric to today’s desk tops, iPads, laptops, and smart phones, paralegals have accepted new challenges and met expectations. Often it is the paralegal who introduces the new technology to their employers and then trains the staff to use it.

One more thing: the legal field will always require the human touch. Software cannot soothe clients, decide what must be done, or run by itself. Software cannot deal with court staff. Software cannot be relied upon to be correct. A good example is your spell check! The training and expertise of the paralegal, as well as the ability to deal with people, will always be needed. 

What should you do?

Don't be frightened by these headlines. Instead, do what you have been told to do over and over again:
  • Observe trends in the industry. If business is slow in your focus area, take necessary steps ensure you will have a job, perhaps in another specialty area.
  • Never stop learning; take advantage of CLE opportunities.
  • Pursue professional certification.
  • Become an expert in your focus area.  This will require work on your part which might include pursuing advanced certification, returning to college, and keeping up with new rules and case law.
  • Be the one establishing systems and routines that will help your employer.
  • Watch for new technology, adopt it, and learn it. Never -- ever -- refuse to use it.
  • Prepare a great resume and keep it up to date.
  • Use social media. It's here to stay, folks, and it's a great networking tool, as well as an excellent way to learn about new trends, technology and tools.
The bottom line? Remember that headlines are designed to grab your attention. Lately, they have caused paralegals to fear for their future.
Don't fall for this! Instead, study and interpret the materials yourself so that you can make wise decisions. Then follow the steps above so your career will continue to move in the right direction: forward.
© 2013 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 is the co-author of The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success. Vicki publishes Paralegal Strategies, a weekly e-newsletter for paralegals, and 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 5, 2013

A Billable Hour Fairy Tale for Paralegals/Attorneys

Once upon a time, there were three paralegals who had billable hour goals to meet by the end of each year. This may sound familiar to you.

Hope. The First Paralegal adopted a strategy of 'hope' when it came to meeting her billable hour goals. She did her work and hoped she'd meet her goals at the end of the year.

The problem was that she disliked entering her time so she never did that until the end of the month ... and then she couldn't remember what she'd done during the month. She'd spend hours searching her computer and her files to come up with time entries but she never got everything. At the end of the year, she had not met her billable hour goals.

Then the Big Bad Wolf of Billable Hours came to her office and started knocking on her door.

"No, no, no, this can't happen! I'm here to be a successful paralegal!" said the First Paralegal as she continued to 'hope' she'd have enough billable hours to meet her goals...without adopting any new habits to make that happen.

Then "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll see you get no bonus this year! said the wolf.

So the wolf huffed and puffed until it became clear that even though the paralegal had worked very hard all year, sometimes staying late and coming in on weekends, she didn't have enough billable hours entered in the system to demonstrate her hard work. The First Paralegal would get no year-end bonus.

Ignore. The Second Paralegal adopted a strategy of 'ignore' when it came to meeting his billable hour goals. He did his work and ignored the billable hour issue.

The problem was that he was frequently interrupted by his co-workers (and even by himself) and he constantly stopped his work to answer e-mails and take phone calls. He had trouble keeping track of all the 'tiny time' he spent on those tasks. He ignored the fact that 'tiny time' can add up to 'big time'

Then the Big Bad Wolf of Billable Hours came to his office and started knocking on his door.

"No, no, no, this can't happen! I'm here to be a successful paralegal!" said the Second Paralegal. But he continued to ignore all of the small tasks he handled each day and didn't enter them in the system....and when his email notification sounded, he stopped everything to check it.

Then "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll see you get no raise this year!" said the wolf.

So the wolf huffed and puffed until it became clear that even though the Second Paralegal had worked very hard all year, he didn't have enough billable hours entered in the system to demonstrate his hard work. He would get no year-end bonus.

Decisions. The Third Paralegal had writer's block. When she tried to enter her time, she couldn't decide what to write. The process was laborious and took too long.

Her time entries didn't demonstrate the value of her work. Much of her time was written down or written off by the billing attorney. Often clients refused to pay for the work she did because it sounded 'clerical' and not important to their case.

You can guess what happen! The Big Bad Wolf of Billable Hours came to her office and started knocking on her door.

"No, no, no, this can't happen! I'm here to be a successful paralegal!" said the Third Paralegal. But she continued writing pitiful time entries, not knowing that there were formulas and phrases she could use that would demonstrate the value of her work. Her billable hour totals continued to dwindle.
Then "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll see you lose your job!" said the wolf.

So the wolf huffed and puffed until it became clear that the Third Paralegal could not draft time entries that confirmed value and demonstrated her hard work. She lost her job.

What about you? While this may sound like a fable, it happens all too often and to paralegals you know...maybe even to you.

Falling short of billable hour goals is usually the result of at least one of the following:
1. Lack of planning for billable hour goals and devising a strategy to meet them.
2. Forgetting that 'tiny time' must be adds up to 'big time'.
3. Drafting time entries that do not demonstrate valuable.
4. Neglecting to enter billable time until the end of the week or the end of the month.
5. Spending too much time on non-billable work.
And there are many more reasons. They can all be traced back to not establishing a clear plan for your time. A plan that keeps the Big Bad Wolf far away as you move steadily toward your billable hour goals.

Are you worried that the Big Bad Wolf of Billable Hours is going to come knocking on your office door? Be sure to check out Turn Your Time into a Billable Hour Gold Mine.
Join me on Wednesday, February 6th to learn how to keep the Big Bad Wolf of Billable Hours away in 2013!
©2013 Vicki Voisin, Inc

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Rest of the Story

Can you relate to this message I received from a paralegal?
"I personally struggle with the entry of my billable time. After 18 years as a paralegal, you'd think it would be second nature to just do it as I go along but I HATE it!   
"If I don't do it daily (sometimes I'm masochistic and don't enter it for stretches of time) then I'm sitting for hours at the end of the month recreating my time from e-mail and file searches which is a total drudgery! 
"I need a billable hour intervention!"
 OK...I'm here to do the intervention with Turn Your Time into a Billable Hour Gold Mine!

You see, keeping accurate records of your time is perhaps the most important thing you do! Regardless of your experience or expertise, this may also be the most difficult thing you do.
While there is no 'magic formula' for this process, there are simple steps you can follow...simple habits you can form...that will help you so that you...
  • Do not have to work harder!
  • Do not have to work longer hours!
  • Do not have to sacrifice your quality of life!
Instead, you must learn how to make time work for you, not against you. I call that discovering your billable hour inner power!
Join Vicki Voisin, The Paralegal Mentor, nationally recognized paralegal author and speaker, as she shares valuable 'How To's' for reaching your billable hour goals.
 You’ll also receive 'Your Billable Hour System Guide' with a common sense approach to making time work for you, not against you, to effectively reach your billable hour goals.
Wednesday, February 6th
1 pm ET / 12 noon CT / 11 am MT / 10 am PT 
Whether you are new to the paralegal field...or have been a paralegal for a long's never too late or too early to work on those billable hour habits.
Now you can make the billable hour process as easy on yourself as possible with these ideas and techniques.
  • During this call you will discover the strategies for determining...
  • What's stopping you from reaching your goals...
  • Why you aren't getting your hours entered...
  • Why it takes planning to reach those goals...
  • Why you may be 'losing' time...
  • And you’ll receive 'Your Billable Hour System Guide' with the steps and strategies to effectively reach your billable hour goals.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This call is for you no matter how much experience you have or where you are with your billable hour goals. Why? Well as motivational speaker Brian Tracy put it:
One of the best uses of your time is to increase your competence in your key result areas.
Your key result area is the careful entry of your billable hours so you get out of stress and overwhelm. Your hours are entered by the end of the month and at the end of the year your goals have been met.
Let's work to increase your competence in this key result area! You need to have these steps and strategies in place NOW so you get the results you want LATER!
Bottom line: It's never too early -- or too late -- to get control of your billable hours.
So join me for this information-packed call:  Turn Your Time into a Billable Hour Gold Mine
Wednesday, February 6th -- 1 pm ET / 12 noon CT / 11 am MT / 10 am PT
Reaching your billable hour goals doesn't have to be difficult. By applying these easy strategies, you can get yourself on track and stay on track.
I really look forward to sharing these ideas with you!
Remember...I'm dedicated to your success!