Sloppy or Misleading

I’ve posted several times about judicial reprimands for sloppy work. Indeed, there’s a “Consequences of Sloppiness” category. Above the Law notes a recent “benchslap” for sloppiness on the part of government in a post entitled, “Judge Loses Patience With Government’s Sloppy Work.” However, the article makes it clear that the judge’s concern went beyond mere sloppiness. She writes that the government exhibited a pattern of “sloppiness” that “in sum” the sloppiness “represents a systematic pattern of the Commission picking the wrong conclusion from the evidence.” If this is the case, the problem goes well beyond sloppiness to a matter of serious ethical concern.

There used to be a commercial in which the tag line was “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature>” The fact is that most judges are fairly intelligent. It’s not nice to attempt to fool them in this way and they are not likely to be fooled by it. The consequences may go well beyond the consequences of mere sloppiness.

According to an article at, “the South Carolina Supreme Court issued an Order which gives legitimacy to Rule 429 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR) and creates the Board of Paralegal Certification where paralegals can voluntarily apply to become certified with the State of South Carolina. According to the Supreme Court, ‘The purpose of certification of South Carolina’s paralegals is to assist in the delivery of legal services to the public by identifying individuals who are qualified by education, training, and experience and who have demonstrated knowledge, skill, and proficiency to perform substantive legal work under the direction and supervision of a lawyer licensed in South Carolina.’ ”

There are a lot of reasons why this is good, most of which are well stated by the article (which at times reads more like an opinion column than just a news report,) “South Carolina has taken a huge step toward filling the gap to making legal services more affordable to the economically challenged. Hopefully, the future will be brighter for paralegals with degrees that are forced to compete with non-degreed paralegals for jobs while carrying the burden of an ever increasing student loan with aspirations of making their mark as a paralegal with a law firm or corporation. Today, many have found themselves hopeless in their never ending quest to find an employer that would recognize their talents and creativity in legal matters. South Carolina should be applauded for creating the Board of Paralegal Certification which may someday be like the program in the State of Washington which has Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) who represent clients before judges in small claims, divorce, and probate proceedings. The State of California and several other states are seriously considering an LLLT program to bring the cost of legal services down and make it more affordable for those in need with very little resources.”

Washington State Bar Board Members Resign

According to the Washington State Bar Association’s Practice of Law Board has been hit with mass resignations and departures as a result of a long-running feud with the bar association’s leaders. The article states, “On Monday, former board members released an 11-page letter (PDF) accusing the executive director of the state bar of pursuing “a campaign to eliminate the Practice of Law Board” over differences in philosophy on how to bridge the access-to-justice gap in the state.”

So why does this matter to us and why am I posting about it here? It’s this part of the story, “The letter traced the POLB’s problems with the WSBA to the debate over the Limited License Legal Technician Rule, which allows non-JD legal professionals to deliver limited legal services in certain designated practice areas. The rule, proposed by the POLB and opposed by the bar’s Board of Governors, became state law in 2012.
“The Washington State Bar Association has a long record of opposing efforts that threaten to undermine its monopoly on the delivery of legal services,” the four resigning board members wrote. The 13-person POLB is now down to four as a result of resignations and terms that were not extended.”

This is a battle being fought in several jurisdictions. One take on the issue is whether Bar Associations can ethically take positions that favor the interest of the bar over the interest of the public the bar is supposedly serving. But, my take is that fighting programs to solve the access to justice problem in the U.S., is not in the interest of the Bar.

Jamie Collins Strikes Back

Yesterday at The Paralegal Society website, Jamie Collins posted a response to an attorney who predicted the death of the paralegal profession. As usual, Jamie is right on target. There is no doubt that the practice of law is changing (as it always has) and that the paralegal profession must change with it (as it always has,) but there is nothing to indicate that the role of the paralegal will be made obsolete by technology. Jamie addresses this point well:

Have things changed? Absolutely. Will they continue to? You better believe it. The roles of paralegals will continue to evolve based upon firms’ and societal needs, more advanced skillsets and education, occupational trends, and yes, with the rise of technology and its continued immersion in our daily work lives. We will be doing far more with less.

But does that equate to the death of the paralegal? No. (Trust me, if the stress, deadlines, workload, and attorneys haven’t killed us yet, nothing will.) The role may change. The tasks may evolve. You may get new software or better systems. You may learn how to do things faster or better. Heck, one day, your attorney may even learn how to locate his own files or properly format a legal document—it could happen. One day, they may even potentially call us by an alternate title. But don’t go picking out your career tombstone just yet…

I’ll also let her conclusion serve for mine – other than suggesting that you use the link above to go read the entire post:

The day the robot can actually field phone calls like a living, breathing, caring human being, act as a liaison to clients, work on trial strategy, prepare clients for depositions and trial, make clients over for trial purposes which includes a hell of a lot of shopping, read an esquire’s mind, find inconsistencies in case-related matters, make the attorney look damn good, and fetch all those missing files/documents, along with my sanity—do send it immediately. I’m all in. I will seriously begin to contemplate my severance package and cabana rental at that time.

Important Paralegal Traits

Amy Bowser-Rollins used the NALS LinkedIn discussion listserv to bring an article entitled “5 Most Important Paralegal Traits.” The article, written by Tonya Pierce and posted on’s blog has an interesting start in which the author appears to deny the implication of the title:

Can we just choose five traits as the most important paralegal traits that you must possess to succeed in a paralegal career? In my opinion, the answer is “no.” The paralegal profession has grown and expanded over the last few decades to encompass so many different positions and roles that it would be impossible to choose just five traits as the most important traits you need to have in order to be a successful paralegal. Furthermore, paralegals now work in numerous related fields that go far beyond a law firm. Therefore, the skills and paralegal traits a person needs to succeed depends more on the type of job, the industry, and the paralegal’s role than the standard definition of a “good paralegal.”

But it goes on to make a good case for five important personality traits for paralegals – good judgment, ingenuity, logic, persistence [which, I hasten to point out, is not the same as stubbornness,] and patience. A case can be made for other traits and I’d like to hear which you think are the most important.

In any case, the article’s final point is a good one.

However, attorneys will be attorneys and they love paralegals with these traits, skills, and characteristics. They’ll consequently look for paralegals who display these types of skills and personality traits. Learning coping skills to tame my problem with patience improved my efficiency and quality of work, which helped me obtain my position as project manager.

The real trick to becoming a great paralegal is to be honest enough with yourself to identify the areas where you need to improve. Take those necessary steps – that is a true sign of a great paralegal.

Tonya Pierce is a paralegal with over 24 years experience in several areas of the legal field (17 years as a bankruptcy paralegal and trustee paralegal).

The entire article is worth reading. You can see it at the link posted above.

Air Force Paralegal of the Year


BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – An Airman from the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing legal office recently won the title of Air Force Paralegal of the year, proving she is the best legal aide in the Air Force.

Master Sgt. Natasha Hoglund, 455th AEW legal office superintendent, demonstrated excellence throughout the year earning her this prestigious award. Hoglund, deployed from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, has performed exceptionally at home and in the Area of Responsibility.

Congratulations, Master Sargeant Natasha Hoglund!

For the full story click here.

Paralegal Student Wins Back-to-Back LEX Scholarship Contests

The Deer Park Broadcaster reports:

San Jacinto College paralegal student Karen Cardenas’ essay about parental rights of same sex couples recently earned a $500 scholarship awarded by the Lambda Epsilon Chi (LEX) national paralegal honor society.

Cardenas became the first-ever repeat winner in the national scholarship contest, which attracts applicants from nearly 200 universities and colleges throughout the nation. The LEX honor society awards only five of the national scholarships annually.

“This is the first time in the LEX scholarship history that we have had a repeat winner,” commented Mary Flaherty, LEX national coordinator. “Karen deserves a great deal of credit for this impressive accomplishment.”

In 2014, Cardena’s essay about a legal procedure known as “Replevin” earned her a LEX essay scholarship. Replevin is a complex legal action used to have property returned to its rightful owner when it is being held unlawfully by someone other than the owner. The Replevin procedure frequently involves cases in which someone buys stolen property without knowing it is stolen.

You can read the full article here. Congratulations, Karen!

40 Years at NALA

A highlight of the NALA conference was the festive retirement send-off given to Marge Dover, CAE, NALA’s Executive Director since 1975. I was impressed by the honor, respect, and collegiality shown to Marge by all those present – members, officers, and staff. It is clear that she will be greatly missed by all. I only met Marge a couple of times, but her contribution to the growth and stability of NALA well-known. This is from the program for the banquet:

Marge Dover, CAE, has been NALA’s Executive Director since its inception in 1975. She has been a part of the growth of NALA and an observer of the developing paralegal field for almost 40 years. The NALA Board of Directors presented Marge with the 2000 NALA Founders Award to recognize her extraordinary leadership and her devotion to NALA.

Marge’s career focus prior to leading NALA in 1975 was her work with nonprofits including the Association of Petroleum Geologists in Tulsa. Marge also served on the boards of directors for several nonprofit organizations in Tulsa, including the Zoo Friends and the Retired senior Volunteer Program.

Congratulations, Marge, and best wishes for your well-deserved retirement!

NALA Excitement

I’m enjoying the NALA National Conference. Interesting Immigration Law Institute is very informative and will be a big help when I teach an Immigration Law course this fall.

I attended the forum yesterday where the candidates for offices spoke. A strong crew. NALA will do well whoever wins. As I sit back and listen to members speak to each other in between sessions, I am impressed with how pleased and confident they all seem to be in NALA, its mission, and its leadership.

I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting three current leaders of the Mississippi Paralegal Association. They’ve added some excitement and vitality to that organization and I look forward to working with them and helping them connect to our students and recent graduates. They were scheduled to make a presentation this afternoon, but it was disrupted by another type of excitement – a bomb scare that led to the evacuation of the conference center for a couple of hours. Nothing like standing out in the hot Tulsa sun to make you appreciate air conditioning and a cool beer at the local pub!

NALA 2015

Heading to Tulsa for the NALA 2015 National Conference. Looks like there’ll be several paralegals from Mississippi and from Maine there! I’m looking forward to mingling with some of the best paralegal professionals in the country and getting up to date on the paralegal profession.