Closing the Gap with LLLTs

By now most of you are familiar with Washington state’s new LLLT program, a topic covered here several times. (See the link in “Categories” for “LLLTS, etc.,” a sub-category of “Regulation, Certification and Licensing.” I’ve long argued for a variety of methods of utilizing paralegals as part of efforts to close the access to justice gap in the United States. Now California may join Washington in closing the gap through LLLTs. According to an article in the California Bar Journal, “A State Bar task force last month proposed the development of a pilot program for limited licensing of legal technicians as part of a series of recommendations aimed at closing the so-called “justice gap.” The article is short, but provides a concise telling of the task force’s work, reasoning, and recommendation. As one member of the bar trustees said, ““Our recommendations are a start rather than an end.” There is a long way to go before the recommendation is implemented and, if it is implemented, there’ll still be a lot to do to close the gap.

The Researching Paralegal: “This Is So Wrong on So Many Levels”

I’ve often posted here about attorneys’ obligation to supervise paralegals, arguing that they owe that duty to the paralegals as well as the public. So, I’ve been intending to write about the story of a paralegal and lawyers involved in the case of Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, but have not found the time and energy to do so. Fortunately, my procrastination has paid often as Celia E. Elwell, The Researching Paralegal,” has not only posted a link to Tom Feher’s good post about the story, but has added commentary that raises both the supervision issue and the need for ethical education of paralegals. She also gave her post a title that I could use here, making my job even easier. So here’s the basics of the the story from Feher’s post on Lexology.com, “Florida lawyers face disciplinary charges after representing ‘Bubba the Love Sponge Clem’”:

Reports at the time suggested that, on the evening after the media-focused defamation trial started, the defense firm’s paralegal spotted plaintiff’s counsel at a local bar near his home. She contacted lawyers at her firm, returned to the bar with a friend, and sat down next to opposing counsel. Over the next two hours, the paralegal is reported to have lied about where she worked, flirted with opposing counsel and ordered drinks, including buying defense counsel a vodka cocktail and shots of Southern Comfort. She also stayed in touch with the three lawyers from her firm, sending them more than 90 texts and emails over the course of the evening. Later, opposing counsel’s lawyer stated that it was clear that the paralegal was in an undercover role and was making sure “all the parties knew exactly what was transpiring virtually every minute.”

Shortly after she first reported what was going on at the bar, a call was made by one of the lawyers to an acquaintance in the police department and an officer was posted outside the bar to wait for the plaintiff’s lawyer’s departure. When he eventually left, the paralegal convinced him to drive her car several blocks from a parking garage to a new parking space. As he did, he was arrested for DUI. The next morning, defense counsel touted the arrest to the media. Bar charges (a disciplinary complaint, not the tab for cocktails) accused the three lawyers of being involved in what appeared to be using the paralegal to set up opposing counsel.

The attorneys’ ethical violations didn’t end there as you can discover with a full reading of Feher’s post via the link provided above. But out focus is on the paralegal. That’s where I’ll let Elwell take over with an excerpt from her commentary “This Is So Wrong On So Many Levels:”

There has been a long, ongoing discussion in our profession about whether paralegals should have a certain level of paralegal education or whether it is sufficient to have experience alone. This article makes a good argument that, one way or another, in-depth education in legal ethics is critical for paralegals and all support staff. This subject deserves, and needs, special attention.

Washington OKs Fee Sharing and Joint Ownership Between Lawyers and LLLTs

I’ve posted here previously on Washington State’s LLLT program and hope to post soon about AAfPE’s Task Force on Legal Education’s report regarding similar proposals in other states. But, Washington continues to jump ahead of other states according to this report by Robert Ambrogi:

The Supreme Court of Washington has approved revisions to the Rules of Professional Conduct governing lawyers in that state that allow lawyers and limited license legal technicians to form partnerships and share fees. To my knowledge, this makes Washington the first state to allow fee sharing and joint ownership of a law practice between a lawyer and nonlawyer. (The District of Columbia also allows ownership and fee sharing by nonlawyers in limited circumstances.)

The new Washington rule was part of a package of changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) proposed by the Washington State Bar Association to bring the rules into alignment with the LLLT program and to provide guidance to lawyers concerning their interactions with LLLTs and the clients of LLLTs. LLLTs are subject to a separate set of professional conduct rules.

For more information, read Ambrogi’s full post.

NFPA Scholarships

Received this notice through the AAfPE listserv:

Each year NFPA together with Thomson Reuters offers two scholarships for paralegal education. The deadline is July 1, 2015 so please share this information with your students so they can apply and possibly win one of the scholarships!  The first place award is $3000 and second place award is $2000.  The scholarships will be awarded at NFPA’s Annual Convention in Honolulu, Hawaii!

To access the scholarship applications, please follow directions below:

To download the 2015 National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. / Thomson Reuters Scholarship Application, go to www.paralegals.org. Scholarship and award winners will be announced at NFPA’s Annual Convention in October.

Important! Incomplete applications and nominations or those postmarked after July 1 will be ineligible for consideration. Please note when multiple copies of a document are specified, they are required.

The Day Jamie Quit

I haven’t been posting much recently (for reasons I will not go into here at the moment,) but when I did post regularly, I regularly posted items from or about Chere Estrin’s Estrin Report or Jamie Collins’ The Paralegal Society. So it seemed reasonable today to sign on and point you to a guest blog post by Jamie Collins on Chere Estrin’s Estrin Report weblog, “I Quit – In stilettos. (It was epic.)” You can find the whole thing at this link, but here’s a taste:

Today I’m here to tell you about one of the most powerful days in my life. It was transforming. Awe-inspiring. A day filled with tremendous personal freedom. It was the day I quit. I’m pretty sure you’re prepared to read some humdrum piece about a colossally awful job, with a dreadful boss, and the day I belted out a song that included the words, “these stilettos were made for walking.” This ain’t it.

The day I quit, my entire life began to change. I began to change. I realize it wouldn’t be fair to make a bold statement like that without telling you about that pivotal day in my life, so here goes: life changed…

The day I decided to have a great attitude and work hard.

The day I quit waiting for validation from other people and realized I needed to provide it for myself, instead.

The day I quit waiting for people and opportunities to find me and sought them out with a will to win….

It’s well worth the read. In fact, whether you have  already quit or still need to do so, it’d be good to print it out and hang it somewhere where it’d serve as a daily reminder.

Scholarship for Paralegal Students

I recently received the following email which I now pass on to you:

My name is Abigael Blumenthal and I am working on behalf of Andrew Moses and Jay Rooth at Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law (https://www.mosesandrooth.com/). This firm recently created a $500 scholarship for incoming and current paralegal students. I am reaching out to you to see if you would be willing to post this scholarship on your website to help us inform the largest amount of students possible about this opportunity. The scholarship information (and application) can be found here: https://www.mosesandrooth.com/2015-paralegal-scholarship/ The deadline for this is May 1, 2015, and the scholarship is intended for the fall 2015 semester.

Thomas H. Freeland, IV

It was less than two years ago that I posted about the legacy of professionalism/mentoring of Thomas H. Freeland, III. Last weekend the most direct part of that legacy left us as his son and my friend, Thomas H. Freeland, IV, aged 59, died. It is difficult to find new friends when you change careers and move to the South from New England where I lived and practiced law until I was almost the age Tom was when he died. Tom lived in Oxford since he was a boy, but he made it easy to be a friend. Tom was passionate about law, so many of our lunches or evening gatherings with Joyce Freeland and Denise Collier (my wife) over cocktails on The Square would start by him asking me to review a brief he was writing or discuss strategy on one of his cases or with me seeking his insight for my research or teaching. It was a joy to be able to discuss law with someone who was intelligent, analytical, passionate, and sane. Yet, the conversations soon turned elsewhere. Tom had a wide-range of interests – politics, food, music, history, family – and encyclopedic knowledge of each of them. When Tom became ill we frequently talked about the possibility of a sooner-rather-than-later death since he knew I had come to face-to-face with it myself not long ago. Even in those conversations, his concern was primarily about others rather than himself.

As a lawyer, Tom was what I hope all my students will become whether as a paralegal or as an attorney: smart, insightful, extremely knowledgeable, and devoted to helping people rather making money. Tom was always working on appeals for indigent death row prisoners, FAPE (fair, appropriate, public education) hearings for autistic children, and wills for people with little to leave their family and nothing to pay him. I was thrilled when he agreed to act as local counsel on my first case in a Mississippi federal court. Our collaboration on that case was the best I’ve experienced.

Tom and his wife (and law partner) took on interns from the law school and our program who had difficulty finding other positions and mentored them until they reached their full potential. When our youngest, now a 1L at UC Berkeley, was still at Tulane, they provided her with a summer experience in law that will remain an inspiration to her throughout her legal career.

As individuals, we will all eventually move on from the loss, although I’ll likely be asking myself, “What would Tom say about this?” for the rest of my life. But the State of Mississippi will never fill the gap left by his death.

Being Mentored

I’ve mentioned Mariana Fradman on this blog several times. She’s a top-notch paralegal with over twenty years experience who continually gives back to the paralegal profession. She’s an officer of the New York City Paralegal Association, but this post arises from her role as Chairperson of the NYCPA’s Mentor Committee. In that capacity she coordinates the Mentoring Program, matches students in paralegal studies, paralegals changing practice areas or paralegals who are new to the community with an experienced practicing NYCPA members who are willing to be a resource and make an affirmative effort to get the newcomer oriented to the legal environment. While I’ve occasionally spoken about the value of mentoring here, I have not focused on the role of the person being mentored. Mariana recently started a discussion regarding the role of the person being mentored on The Paralegal Society’s LinkedIn discussion board by posting an article entitled, “This Is Why You Don’t Have a Mentor” by Ryan Holiday that started on 99u.com. The article is good, but of more interest is the discussion found in its comments section on the extent to which the personal life of the person being mentored should be brought to the relationship.

The article draws a bright line, stating that personal life should be left at home: “Your personal life is irrelevant. Your excuses aren’t going to fly. If you get asked to do something, do it the way it was asked. If that means staying up all night to do it, then ok (but that’s to stay your little secret). No one cares what’s going on with you, or at least, they shouldn’t have to.” There is a lot of truth to this and it is a general approach to your obligations as a paralegal, a student, a mentor or a mentee. However, the line may be a bit too bright as pointed out in several of the comments. The gist of those comments is, “Yes, leave drama at home, and if you have no drama at home, don’t create it in the office. No one likes to be involved with drama. But a mentor relationship is built on sharing life experience. An aspiring person in a new field looks up to someone successful thats (sic) doing exciting things.”

Where do you come done on this? In any case, the article and the comments are worth a read. Join the conversation!

The Realities of a Career in Law

My last post passed on a “gentle rebuke” from a federal judge that included a video by Scott Greenfield. Today the judge had a new post with a link to an article by Greenfield that elaborates on the point. Greenfield states, “”The primary enablers are academics, who have given away their classrooms to their special little snowflakes.” My undergrads seem to have little problem coping with the studying the realities of life that legal professionals must confront as part of their career. Maybe it’s just that their lives have contained more of those realities than those of students at high end law school?”

What do you practicing paralegals think? Does Greenfield have a point, do the students have the better point, or is the answer somewhere in between?

Here’s a link to Greenfield’s article.

A Judge’s Gentle Rebuke

The judge in question is a federal district court judge whose blog is entitled, “Hercules and the Umpire.” His rebuke was directed at Columbia University law students. The point made by the judge and by Scott Greenfield in the video at the end of the judge’s post is also applicable to paralegals. Law and paralegal students should take the time to read the post and watch the video. Practicing paralegals will appreciate the points made in both and likely recall instances where they had to set aside personal trauma and do their job. The judge starts:

Dear Columbia Law Students,

I mean this in the kindest way possible: If you postponed your exams because the Garner and Brown cases “traumatized” your psyche, there is a distinct possibility that you are unfit to practice law. If you are one of those who claimed “trauma,” and you still want to practice law, you must toughen up before you agree to take on a client. The practice of law is not about you.

The reset, including Greenfield’s video is here. You can go directly to the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FW8D8xIiKBw#t=61