Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Paralegal Profile: Jaye Koch, ACP

Jaye Koch, ACP, is a Senior Paralegal at the Virginia Beach Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney where she enjoys doing any type of research (especially legal) and trial preparation.

Jaye has a B.A. Political Science, from Virginia Wesleyan College 1982 and a Paralegal Certificate, from Tidewater Community College, 1986. She earned her NALA Certified Paralegal designation in 2004 and her ACP-Trial Practice (NALA), in 2009.
She is a member of Tidewater Paralegal Association (TPA), Local Government Paralegal Association (LGPA),  Virginia Alliance of Paralegal Associations (VAPA), Virginia Trial Lawyers Association (VTLA) and National Association of Legal Assistants/Paralegals (NALA). She says the greatest benefit of her professional association membership is definitely networking, meeting paralegals in her specialty area as well as other areas of practice,  and many opportunities to earn CLE credits.

1.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  I was entering my senior year of college and considering law school. 

The college guidance counselor told me about this “new” paralegal profession, which peaked my interest even more when I became engaged to my (first) husband.  Then I started an internship in the Victim/Witness Office of my current employer.  That was it.  I knew I wanted to be a Paralegal!

2.    What has been the highlight of your career?  Earning the CP designation, passing the ACP-Trial Practice exam and serving on the NALA Certifying Board; and guilty verdicts on any cases that included me working in the courtroom with the prosecutor

3.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  eDiscovery, courtroom technology and back to focusing on soft skills

4.    Is there a quote that inspires you?  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

5.    What was your first car? Rambler (we called it root beer because it had a tan top and a brown body)

6. What fad do you regret being a part of? Balloon pants!

7.   What advice would you give yourself if you met you as a first-year paralegal? Never stop learning, look for training opportunities

8.    If you could not be a paralegal, what would be your dream job? Coordinating and leading mission teams

9.    What makes you lose your patience? Rude people

10.    Is there one thing in the world you wish you had the answer to? Curing cancer

11.    What fad do you regret being a part of? Balloon pants

12.    The riskiest thing I ever did was... Go zip lining in El Salvador (fun!), followed closely by taking a motorcycle class that didn’t go well

13.    Is there a philosophy you live by? Be nice to people, you don’t know what is going on their world

Bonus Question: You've been given a chance to have dinner with anyone living or dead. Who is it? My Dad. He passed away in 2007.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Paralegals: 6 Steps to Happiness

It’s time to do some soul searching. Do you see the glass as half empty? Are the majority of your posts on Facebook negative? Do you hold a grudge forever when you think you’ve been wronged? Are bad things always going to happen to you?
If you answered "Yes" to those questions, you're probably not a happy paralegal.  Do you want to be happy? Absolutely! But how? 

A person can’t just decide to be happy. So how are happy paralegals different from their miserable, pessimistic counterparts? They take actions that add up to a happy, well-lived life. 

These seven actions make the difference:
  1. Happy paralegals laugh often. Laughter generates positive emotions and sets the mood for your day. So lighten up, relax, and laugh to enhance your mood, as well as that of the people you associate with.

  2.  Happy paralegals F-O-C-U-S! Stop doing so many things at once. Happy paralegals can focus (not just on work, but on their family and friends) for extended amounts of time. When you multitask, your brain leaps from one unconnected thought to another, piling stress on your shoulders.

    Log off Pinterest and quit posting cute pet videos on Facebook. Happy paralegals understand that not everything is important. Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang said, “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”

  3. Happy paralegals don’t obsess over the small stuff. Happy paralegals take a take a long view of life and don’t obsess over every short term setback or problem. Are you having a bad day? Tomorrow will be better. You didnʼt win that election? Nobody will remember this time next year – and you may even get another chance. You didn’t pass the certification exam? Just try again. No one needs to know how many times you tried...passing is the big news.

  4. Happy paralegals engage in meaningful activities. Physical activity will reduce stress and boost your mood. There are many other “meaningful activities” that will also help with happiness. Time spent practicing yoga or meditation may work for you. For others, religious activities will be important. Reading, writing, quilting, knitting, scrapbooking, volunteering, etc. will give you a sense of calm.

  5. Happy paralegals develop positive relationships. Companionship and love create a sense of belonging that will enhance your life. When you have compassion for the people in your life and know you are cared for in return, you will be happy. Be sure you share quality time with others and nurture your friendships – reconnect with that friend you haven’t seen in years; plan a movie night; invite friends for dinner.

  6. Happy paralegals manage their expectations. Do you remember being terribly excited about an event (say a New Year’s Eve party) and, once it was over, you were disappointed because it didn’t live up to your expectations? Managing expectations is about eliminating the gap between what you expect and what actually happens. Focus on simply enjoying the moment.

    Managing expectations isn’t easy but when you are realistic about what will probably happen, you will save time, energy and disappointment should your expectations not be met. Consider your expectations and determine what areas of your life are frustrating. Perhaps you should manage your expectations for those areas.
While you can’t decide to be happy, you can decide to engage in actions that will bring you happiness. Do your soul searching. Consider this list and decide what is missing in your life. Then choose to take steps to fill that gap. To quote Mahatma Gandhi, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
© 2015 Vicki Voisin, Inc.  Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? Feel f'ree to make your life easier and do that! Just be sure to include the following 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.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Why Writing Skills are Necessary for Paralegals

Paralegals and paralegal students often have difficulty developing their writing skills to the level expected in the legal industry.

Legal professionals rely heavily on both verbal and written communication, so writing skills are essential  for both lawyers, paralegals, and legal secretaries.

Because the other employees in a law firm will not tolerate inadequate writing skills, all paralegals need to learn to write in a concise and precise manner with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But how do they acquire those skillw?

In this episode of The Paralegal Voice, I interview Virginia (Ginny) Koerselman Newman, attorney and paralegal educator, about the importance of proper legal writing for paralegals and how they can improve their skills. Ginny provided the following tips:
  • Start by writing down everything you can think of regarding the case then choose only the important facts later to adapt to a legal framework;
  • Take classes on structure, grammar, and punctuation;
  • Purchase "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White; and
  • Practice! Use a practice textbook, edit mistakes in a magazine, and keep a daily journal.
She concedes that learning to write is particularly difficult, especially since technology has made us complacent, but it is better to improve your ability now than struggle throughout your paralegal career.

Ginny finishes the podcast with tips for demonstrating writing skills through a resume, cover letter, and a developed portfolio.

Follow this link to access this important free resource.

Virginia Koerselman Newman, Esq. graduated from the Creighton University School of Law and practiced for many years in banking and commercial litigation in Omaha, Nebraska before she “attempted” to retire in South Carolina. Before Law School, she worked as a paralegal for a number of years and was the first CLA in the state of Nebraska. Koerselman Newman is a frequent speaker at seminars and workshops and has authored, co-authored, and edited several other paralegal texts, study guides, and instructor manuals. She teaches communications, legal research, estates, and legal analysis at NALA school for paralegals.

Special thanks to our sponsors, NALA and Serve Now

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Paralegals: Minimize Interruptions for Increased Productivity

How can you get your work done if you have constant interruptions? You can't and it's very frustrating!

If you don’t take steps to minimize those pesky interruptions, your time will be wasted and your productivity will suffer.

Studies show that the average worker is interrupted every eight minutes. The same studies reveal that 15% of the interruptions are important, while the remaining 85% are a waste of time.Telephone calls and e-mail are major culprits, but even worse are the two-legged interrupters: your co-workers.
Here are five tips to minimize those two-legged interruptions and keep you in the productivity fast lane:
1. Stand up when someone enters your workspace
….or when they’ve over-stayed their welcome. When you stand, you send a message that the meeting will either be brief or that it has ended. This works every time. You start moving, they start moving…end of interruption.

2. Never ask “How are you?” when someone stops by your office. This is an open invitation to chat. Do you really want to hear about their gallbladder surgery? Instead, ask “What can I do for you?” This will get you right to the point of the interruption.
3. A bit of creative workspace re-organization goes a long way. If your desk faces the door, turn it so you don’t look right into the hallway at everyone who passes. Once they make eye contact, they always stop to chat. Can you remove your chairs? If not, stack some files on them so the office pest (IE time waster) can’t take root for a half hour of blah blah blah. Last, NEVER have a bowl of candy on your desk. Who can resist a handful of M&M’s…and a little conversation to go along with them?
4. If you’re asked to answer a ‘quick question' or someone wants ‘just a minute’ of your time, beware! Your first question should be, “How much time do you need?” If you have the time available, go for it and hold them to the deadline. If you don’t have a spare fifteen minutes, schedule an appointment with them later.
Rehearse a few lines like: “I’m sorry but I need to finish this deposition summary in the next hour. Can we talk later?” or “Attorney X is waiting for this research. I can spend some time with you at 2:00 this afternoon.” If you use lines like these, you’ve turned the tables and you’re now meeting on your own terms.
5. Urge co-workers to accumulate their questions. They should save all but urgent issues to discuss with you in one chunk of time. It’s much more productive to spend twenty minutes discussing five client matters than it is to talk about one client matter for ten minutes every hour.
BONUS TIP: Don’t interrupt yourself! Determine the time of day you are most productive (early morning? mid-afternoon?) and make yourself unavailable to the world during that time every day. Shut your door. Turn off anything that might be noisy or distracting. Stock your desk with all the supplies you need to eliminate unnecessary trips to the supply room. Practice what you preach: gather your questions and assignments and interrupt your co-workers only once.
Your challenge: Make a short list of the interruptions you will allow. For all the rest, decide which of today’s tips you can implement to minimize them. Once that decision is made, take the necessary steps to curb those interruptions and you’ll find yourself on your way to a more productive day.

©2015 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 achieving 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 a weekly ezine titled Paralegal Strategies and hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by
Legal Talk Network. More information is available at where new subscribers receive Vicki's "!51 Tips for Career Success."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Paralegal Voice: Attorney Lin Wood Representing High-Profile Clients

John and Patsy Ramsey, Richard Jewell, and Gary Condit are names everyone has heard because they were all on trial in the court of public opinion.

While none of these individuals were never arrested, the public judged them as if they were guilty and this was fueled by the media.

They needed legal representation just to fight for their reputations so they turned to Atlanta Attorney L. Lin Wood  known as an expert in First Amendment litigation and management of the media in high-profile cases.

Mr. Wood is determined and passionate in his representation of his clients. He was referred to by newscaster Dan Rather as “the attorney for the damned.”

Mr. Wood has developed a national reputation during his more than 36 years as a trial lawyer focusing on civil litigation, representing individuals and corporations as plaintiffs or defendants in tort and business cases involving claims of significant damage. More information and contact information for Mr. Wood can be found at

On this episode of The Paralegal Voice, I interviewed Mr. Wood about the benefits and difficulties of representing high-profile individuals and how a paralegal can most effectively assist with this representation. We also discussed:
  • How he protects his clients from the media;
  • How he controls media coverage;
  • The difference between libel and slander;
  • The paralegal's role in assisting with media coverage.
Special thanks to our sponsors. NALA (, a professional association for paralegals providing continuing education and professional certification programs for paralegals. Also, visit for a nationwide network of trusted, prescreened process servers. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Paralegal Profile: Lori Stewart, PP, PLS

Lori Stewart, PP, PLS, is a   U.S. Patent Paralegal at Fish Richardson, PC in Washington, DC, where she specializes in patent prosecution. She has a B.A. in Fine Arts from CSU Bakersfield. She has also earned her NALS PLS and Certified PP.
1.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  It kind of chose me.  I was looking for a job back in 1990 and found one as a patent legal secretary at a law firm.
2.    What is your favorite part of your job?  I like all the different things I do – document preparation, electronic filing, research, contacting the patent office, creating a relationship with our clients
3.    What professional associations do you belong to?  NALS
4.    How has your membership benefited you?   It has opened my eyes to the enormousness of the legal field; given me a passion to continue learning every year; and gotten me involved on all three levels:  national, state and local.  I have wonderful, lifelong friends I met through NALS that I would never have known otherwise.
5.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  I see lots of articles about paralegals working under their own “shingle” these days – opening their own shops without benefit of an attorney.  This intrigues me and scares me at the same time – the unauthorized practice of law comes to mind as something that scares me!
6.    If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be?  Being a paralegal is a very rewarding career, but it is very demanding.  You need to be able to think and react quickly, multi-task, and deal with all types of people.  You need to devote yourself to it – it is a career, not just a job.  Once you find the right firm, it will be a great career.
7.     You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?  Becoming certified kickstarted me into this career – before that, it was just a job.
8.    What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting?  Keep learning.  Go to the seminars that NALS or other associations offer to find out what is happening in the legal world.
9.    What’s your favorite vacation getaway?  The Beach
10.    If you could not be a paralegal, what would be your dream job?  Something in the arts
11.    What college classes did you love? Orchestra, Wind Ensemble and Choir
12.    You've been given the chance to have dinner with anyone living or dead. Who is it?  Mandy Patinkin – I have a HUGE crush on him!
13.    What fad do you regret being a part of?  Disco!
Bonus Question: Is there a philosophy you live by?  The Golden Rule:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Paralegal Voice: How to Revitalize Your Career

Are you bored with your job? Are you questioning your choice to work as a paralegal? Are you considering changing positions or leaving the profession altogether? You may be experiencing burnout!

What should you do? Instead of taking drastic actions, you should first explore ways to revitalize your paralegal career. In this episode of The Paralegal Voice, I spoke with Patti Infanti, managing editor of Paralegal Today Magazine, about the many different steps a paralegal can take to build confidence, increase experience, and simply enjoy his/her job more.

To learn more about how you can vitalize your career follow this link to Legal Talk Network to access this free resource:

Patricia E. Infanti, PP, PLS is a member of The Association for Legal Professionals (NALS) and served as President from 2010 to 2011. A past president of both her local chapter and state association, she is currently serving as Parliamentarian of NALS of Pennsylvania and is the Website Chair of NALS of Philadelphia. She is also a member of NALS Leadership Identification Committee and the NALS Genius Bar. Infanti has been employed in the Corporate Real Estate department of Ballard Spahr LLP in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania since 1990.

Special thanks to our sponsors, NALA and Serve Now.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Paralegal Profile: Jay Williams, TBLS

Jay M. Williams, TBLS, is a Litigation Paralegal with Dallas law firm Miller Weisbrod, LLP. He specializes in Civil Litigation, Personal Injury, and Medical Malpractice. Jay is also a Board Certified Paralegal – Civil Trial Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization.


1.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?   I was in an accounting class in college, and the instructor told us that (at that time) the hottest job market would not be accounting, but the paralegal industry.  I checked it out, spoke with a couple of friends who were legal secretaries at the time and they said I would be a great fit for the legal profession.

2.    What is your favorite part of your job?  Communicating with my clients to better understand their situation.  I also enjoy the interaction with my co-workers, professional colleagues on both sides of the case, and ironically, communicating with court personnel.

3.    What professional associations do you belong to?  Dallas Area Paralegal Association (Past President, 2008), Paralegal Division – State Bar of Texas (current District 2 Director), National Federation of Paralegal Associations.

4.    How has your membership benefited you?   The amount of CLEs available to paralegals is nothing short of amazing.  I’m blessed that my boss and my firm are very encouraging of my attending CLEs as I bring back valuable information to share with my co-workers.  And my association involvement helps to market my firm to the possibility of new cases.

5.    What has been the highlight of your career?  I have to list two highlights: first, gaining the respect of my peers to serve as DAPA President in 2008.  To me there is nothing that spells success more than gaining the support of your peers no matter what your profession.  Second, working with the president (and good friend) of another local paralegal association to create an all-day CLE event for Dallas paralegals.  Unbeknownst to me, the planning and event evolved into an article published in Legal Assistant Today in January 2009.  This has since evolved into an annual event known as “Diversity University.”

6.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  Technology remains a hot trend.  The constant changes require us to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to either working our cases, or determining the terms of a contract.  Now with courts in Texas mandating electronic filing, technology is becoming more and more important in the way firms run their offices.

7.    If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? After dancing the “Snoopy Happy Dance” for their decision, I would extol on the amazing opportunities that lie ahead for them.  I also wouldn’t sugarcoat anything and tell them it requires hard and dedicated work on their part.  But if they are willing to put forth the effort, they will be successful and I would do everything I could to aid in their success.

8.     You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?  Wow!  Tough to narrow this to a single person or event.  I owe my career success to many people:    first my partner Ken who has seen me at both the high points and low points of my career; to Allen Mihecoby and Lou Bugarin who introduced me to the values of being a leader in a paralegal association; and finally to colleagues such as Allen Mihecoby, Michele Boerder, Cynthia Minchillo, Wendi Rogers, and Kristine Farmer who in each of their own individual styles, continue to inspire me as a paralegal and to continue to strive for success.

9.    What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Education.  I firmly believe educating oneself is the best way a paralegal can keep their career challenging and interesting at the same time.  I always take something from a CLE event to try and instill in my daily work.  And since CLEs are usually through a professional organization, networking within that organization runs a close second.  Having the personal contact with your peers can open many doors of opportunities for paralegals.

10.    What sports team are you passionate about? Texas Rangers.

11.   What was your first car? A 1947 Willys Jeep.  Admittedly I wasn’t thrilled about it until I started driving it to school.  Then it was fun.

12.    If you could not be a paralegal, what would be your dream job? Singer. What is your favorite kind of music? I grew up listening to all kinds of music, but since I country music would have to be my favorite since I perform it most.

13.    You've been given the chance to have dinner with anyone living or dead. Who is it? My Mom.  So many things have happened in the year and a half since she passed that I’d love to talk with her about.  I miss her every day.

Bonus Question: What’s your most treasured possession or keepsake? The U.S. flag given to my family at my Father’s memorial service; my rings for bowling a perfect 300 game (I have two rings – so far); the picture of me and Ken taken on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco where we “officially” became life partners in 2003).

Monday, February 2, 2015

Career Planning for the New Year

The New Year signifies a time to turn a new leaf, to make changes for the better in the months ahead. It’s a time to make those New Year’s resolutions.

Most resolutions focus on personal improvement: eat less, lose weight, start an exercise program, sleep more, etc.

While personal improvement is a great goal, the New Year is a perfect time to look at your career and set some career goals for the next 12 months. This time of self-reflection and evaluation should result in stepped up efforts to move your career forward.

When you set your career goals for this year, first pay attention to hiring trends. For this article, I am including information from the 2015 Salary Guide for the Legal Field published by Robert Half Legal (

According to this survey, hiring in the legal field continues to accelerate, with law offices competing for specialized training in lucrative practice areas, including corporate and general business, compliance, litigation, intellectual property, and real estate law.

It’s not just law firms that will be hiring. This survey projected that corporate legal departments will be expanding internal teams to handle more legal matters in-house and also to control spending on outside counsel.

What skills and expertise are in demand for paralegals/legal assistants? The survey says:
Law firms want paralegals who can perform multiple job functions and deliver quality results at cost-effective billing rates for clients. 
Companies would like paralegals with experience in compliance, contract and lease administration, and eDiscovery to support corporate transactions and litigation matters. 
Insurance and financial services companies, real estate firms, and healthcare organizations are among the many businesses looking to capitalize on the varied skills of legal assistants.
The survey also reports that employers’ requirements are seeking applicants who possess:
A four-year degree and a certificate of completion from an American Bar Association-approved paralegal education program.
Advanced technical skills with experience with Microsoft Office, and also litigation support, billing and case management software — such as Summation, Relativity, TrialDirector and Time Matters – plus the ability to learn other legal software platforms.
The terms “hybrid” or “blended” paralegal/legal secretary roles are growing in popularity as entities continue to overhaul legal support structures and consolidate positions.
The survey states that in-demand practice areas and positions include:
Litigation. An increase in litigation is fueling demand for skilled litigation experts from document reviewers to nurse paralegals and trial lawyers — at many law firms. Legal specialists with backgrounds in insurance defense, medical malpractice, commercial litigation and employment law are in greatest demand. 
 General Business and Corporate Law. Legal professionals are needed to support commercial transactions related to renewed business activity. 
 Compliance. This area is also is a high-demand specialty due to federal mandates, such as the Dodd-Frank Act, and various state regulations.  
Healthcare. A tremendous amount of legal work is stemming from compliance activities connected to the Affordable Care Act. Medical providers, insurance companies and government agencies are among the many organizations seeking paralegals with knowledge of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.\ 
Intellectual Property. Protecting intellectual property is a priority for all companies, and the need is especially pronounced in the biotechnology and high-tech sectors.  
Real Estate. As the economy continues to improve, the commercial and residential real estate markets are rebounding in many areas of the country. Companies and law firms are seeking legal support professionals who can provide legal services related to commercial development, residential sales, property management and leasing.
As you consider your career goals for 2015, the information in this survey will be helpful. There are exciting times ahead for paralegals but you may need to sharpen your skills with additional education and training to move ahead. This isn’t unusual for any profession.

Your career goals will require planning. Setting your big goal (i.e. “I want to work in contract administration.”) is just the beginning.

That big goal should then be reduced to the steps you need to take to make it happen and plan when you will complete the steps.  Any goal is doable – you just have to plan what you have to do to reach the goal and then actually do the hard work it takes to build any career.

To help you reach your goals, I have prepared a new resource for you: 2015 Strategic Career Planning: The Paralegal Mentor’s Guide to Setting Goals for Career Success. This guide is available at no cost. Just follow this link to download your copy:

Best wishes for much success in the year ahead!