It does not really pertain to paralegals much, but just to show I’ve not been doing nothing:
Chapters 12 and 13 are clearly the high points!
It does not really pertain to paralegals much, but just to show I’ve not been doing nothing:
Chapters 12 and 13 are clearly the high points!
The topic of the “disappearing” paralegal is in the news a lot these days. It is a topic discussed on the American Association for Paralegal Education listserv with the goal of adjusting paralegal education to make sure that the paralegal profession remains not only viable, but flourishes. One of the best comments I have read so far on the topic though comes from Vicki Voison, the “Paralegal Mentor.” I often refer to Vicki and comment on things she writes here, but this time I’m going beyond referring and commenting, to re-posting her entire piece:
Recent headlines on the Internet have been alarming:
Instead of allowing these dire, attention-grabbing headlines to create a profession-wide panic, let’s give some common sense thought to these predictions.
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.
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:
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.
This blog has often suggested that it would be worthwhile for the U.S. to consider licensing paralegals for limited practice, perhaps modeled on the system in Ontario Province in Canada (See the “Canada” category.) Recently Washington state established a board charged with investigating the possibility, a board that is moving forward with paralegal help as Brenda Cothary, President of the Washington State Paralegal Association was appointed to the board. Janet Olejar, a member of the American Association for Paralegal Education was also appointed to that board.
Now another state is considering limited-practice licenses. The February issue of the California Bar Journal includes an article entitled, “State Bar to Look at Limited-Practice Licensing Program.” Unfortunately since this is a state bar initiative, the article casts the efforts in terms that I think somewhat misses the point. While there is recognition of the fact that such licensing would help resolve access to justice issues, e.g., “Trustee Heather L. Rosing said those who can’t afford the services of a licensed attorney are often forced to turn to non-lawyers because of cost,” but the bar seems primarily interested in improving the “State Bar’s regulatory function” and creating “an avenue of employment for law school graduates and legal technicians who haven’t passed the bar, board members said. Engaging in limited practice might be an avenue to eventually becoming a qualified lawyer.”
This focus on the bar and law students is not the best approach. The fact is that many paralegals are quite able to assist members of the public in a limited way and have no desire to becoming lawyers. The goal should be to match those competent persons with the people who need them in a way that protects the public. Improving the regulatory function of a state bar association or providing work for law students who can’t pass the bar should come fairly far down the list of priorities.
1. Yes, there is a Kindle edition of The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional. Not for the other two yet though.
2. I didn’t let those of you who had requested to be kept posted about the Kindle version know because I didn’t know until a reader pointed it out to me. This sort of thing is handled by the publisher, Carolina Academic Press, with whom I have been pleased to have worked since 2009.
3. I am not currently planning a new edition of TEP: Effective, Efficient, and Professional. Most of the materials covered in the book do not require frequent updating, although I do have some thoughts on the integration of discussion of new technologies, social networks, and the like into the discussion. If you are concerned about getting the present edition only to have it superseded in a few months, don’t be. If you think there should be a new edition, please let me know what you would want changed, expanded upon, added, etc.
4. I’m am presently working on Instructor Materials for TEP: Working with the Elder Client and a new book, The Empowered Paralegal Cause of Action Handbook. The latter was indeed delayed due to some health issues, but I seem to be back on track now.
5. I don’t know why only one reader has done a review on Amazon.com. I’m told that such reviews can be helpful on the Amazon end of things, so I encourage any of you who might be thinking about it to write a review of any of the books. However, my real interest is in your comments that might be helpful for improving future editions, future books, and/or future posts to this blog.
6. I have not looked into mugs and the like bearing the TEP logo. Thanks for the suggestion.
My thanks to all those who have emailed me!
Last year I keyed off a post by Judge Primeaux on his blog to write a serve as a post on Year End Professionalism Assessments. In yesterday’s post he encourages attorneys to use “the Christmas lull, that blessedly quiet period in the few days before and after Christmas.” This year I’m striking first spurred in part by an email exchange I had with a student regarding the student’s grades in general and a specific assignment in particular. As you are likely aware The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional focuses on the many elements of professionalism that go beyond dress and manners and there is a whole category here on professionalism. Yet, professionalism continues to have an aspect of “Je ne sais quoi: (something that cannot be adequately described or expressed) other than by giving examples and long explanations. One such aspect is the desire to do the best possible job in the time available given the circumstances rather than just what is needed to complete a task.
Certainly the topic comes up when office year-end bonuses comes up. Paralegals wonder why they do not get a bonus when others do or get less of a bonus than others. After all, they think, “I’ve put in regular hours and done everything I’ve been asked to do.” They fail to understand that they receive their salary for putting in regular hours and doing everything they are asked to do. Bonuses are for… well, they’re for bonus work. Let’s take a look at the example derived from my email exchange with my student.
Here’s the assignment (slightly modified for this example):
Each of you should use your blogs at least four times a week to post regarding paralegal studies and the paralegal profession in general, or your paralegal studies activities in particular. For example, you could discuss your efforts to find an internship, apps and programs you are using, what works and what does not, or concerns about joining the workforce. Only blogs with ten or more posts will be graded.
Grading will be based on both quantity and quality, i.e., not just the number of posts but on how much thought has gone into the post and how well it is presented, i.e., organization, writing, clarity, conciseness, etc.
Here was the student’s concern:
Dr. Mongue, about the seminar class, I do not know why i received a 75 on my blogs. I did 10 and all of them pertained to information about me and paralegals.
And here the response (again modified a bit for the example:
You did the absolute minimum amount of work you could do and did six posts in one day at the very end of the semester. This, by definition is – at best – “C” work:
“A” indicates outstanding achievement; “B,” superior; “C,” average or satisfactory; “D,” the lowest passing grade; and “F,” failure.”
The work submitted, on the whole, is average, satisfactory – you just barely met the minimum requirements. It is hardly superior or outstanding. M (25), N (18), O (18) and P (19) quality posts did outstanding or superior work. A student cannot reasonably expect the same grade as those students who worked consistently, week after week, when the student rushes to cram in the minimum work in the last week.”
The professional paralegal strives to move beyond just “doing the job” – average or satisfactory work. So as we do our year end assessments, we should each ask ourselves, “Am I doing “A” work?” If you are, start documenting that fact and preparing for your year-end review.
I’ve received the following email from a paralegal student in Beaver Dam, WI:
I’m a student and I’m looking for a paralegal to interview. I was wondering if you could help me out or direct me to someone. I’m not having much luck locally finding someone so I just began searching online.
If you are willing to do an online interview (or an in-person interview if you are in or near Beaver Dam, WI), please contact me via email or comments. Thanks!
The NYCPA, one of the most active and professional of all paralegal associations, has sent out this link for those seeking assistance from the effects of Sandy or seeking to help. I’m just passing it along: http://www.mynewyorklegalhelp.com/hurricanesandynyassistance/
Imagining a new job is a wonderful pastime, if you’ve time to pass. But creating imaginary jobs can land you in jail. posts here. Those posts generally dealt with the problem of determining what it took to be “certified” as either a paralegal or paralegal supervisor in that parish. Those adventures appear to have come to an end with a guilty plea by Aaron Broussard to federal corruption charges. Unfortunately, it appears it will end without an answer to the certification questions unless someone is willing to stop by the parish offices, read the “Jefferson Parish Executive Pay Plan” and other documents, and report back to us.
According to WWLTV, Broussard met with other officials to “Karen Parker, a woman Broussard would marry eventually, a job.” Normally that in itself would not constitute corruption, but this is:
“Broussard specifically wanted to have other Parish officials, including Wilkinson, be the individuals who hired Parker, because he knew that once he took over the position of Parish President, he could not hire Parker, and there would be increased scrutiny as a result of their romantic relationship,” says the factual basis.
During the meeting, all three men agreed to get Parker a job as a paralegal supervisor at the parish attorney’s office. It was also understood by the men that the position created just for Parker would be unnecessary.
OK, so they create an unnecessary position and hire Parker for it. But I’m still confused. Did they also change the Executive Pay Plan to include the position or was there already such a position in the pay plan? If it was already in the pay plan, what was the job description for the position? Was it for a paralegal who could also supervise other standard employees ( a Paralegal/Supervisor) or a person that could supervise paralegals? If they created the position and put into the Pay Plan, why was “Her starting salary was $48,000 – “higher than the salary range allowed for the position of Paralegal Supervisor under the Executive Pay Plan for Jefferson Parish?”
Finally, while everyone now agrees “Parker, despite holding position she was unqualified for, was trying to collect overtime/comp pay claiming that she working from home – a violation of parish rules,” we still are no further along in our quest to find out what those qualifications were and what it means to be “certified” as having those qualifications.
From time to time I get emails informing me this blog has been chosen as a “top blog” by an organization or website, usually offering a badge to post on the site that links back to their site. Having grown up with a certain disdain for badges. I usually ignore them. But today Chere Estrin paid attention to one, so I figured I should also.
This one is from a website called “Paralegal411.” It does have some useful information, although I have grounds to quibble since the University of Mississippi paralegal program is not on its list of top paralegal programs. Of course even the Princeton Review, Forbes, and U.S. News and World Report‘s rankings of colleges are often challenged based on the criteria used by those organizations. I did not locate “Paralegal411′s” criteria for ranking programs. It does mention the ABA Approval list, but not the AAfPE Institutional Member list. (I’ve posted elsewhere on the advisability of relying solely on the ABA list.) Yet, the site itself cannot rely solely on the ABA list because (1) it names only a few schools and the ABA list has a lot of schools, and (2) the list includes George Washington University which is not on the list, noting that “The Georgetown paralegal program is approved by the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE), the International Paralegal Manager’s Association (IPMA), and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).”
In any case, I could find the criteria for including blogs. Basically it’s a matter of popularity based on the number of pages linking to the blog and – here is my downfall – the number of Twitter followers. I don’t Tweet, so I lose points. So I guess I should learn to tweet. (And I should learn whether “tweet” is capitalized or not.) I haven’t basically because I haven’t figured out how to say anything really meaningful in 140 characters. As you can see from this post and the others on the blog, I can be pretty long-winded. It may be my age (61). But also I’ve never figured out what I would tweet that anyone would want to “follow” or why people “follow” tweets like “Why am I awake?” today’s tweet from the #4 blog on the list.
Despite this “Paralegal411″ basically gets it right. The top three blogs are from Lynne DeVenny, who has recently ridden paralegal fashion to the top (I’m not much of a fashion buff. At the moment I’m just happy I get to stop wearing the outfit in the picture even though I had to become a cyborg to do it,) Chere Estrin, and Vicki Voison, blogs on my own RSS feed and the subject of frequent mention here. Number 4 is Haley Lobs Law Bomb, a blog I had never read before but will be adding to my Paralegal/Legal blogroll along with Paralegal Illuminati today so you can.
If there is a problem with the list, it’s that it contains some blogs on which there been no activity for several months. For example, I recently removed “Paralegal Hell” from my blogroll because there have been no posts since last December. Melissa H. (now Melissa K.) of “Paralegalese” not only stopped posting in May, has quite regrettably for the profession left the paralegal profession. I’ve kept the link to her blog anyway because much of what is there is quite helpful.
Be that as it may, I’m giving in. It’ll probably take some time, but I’ve resolved to learn to Tweet. Maybe over the winter break. The only problem will be the embarrassment that could arise if on next year’s list, I’m still losing points because while I’m tweeting, no one is following!
ABAJournal.comhas a post entitled, “Working with a Whiner” based on an article in the Wall Street Journal.I’m always interested in this type of article because they are helpful to me in preparing my students for internships and working in “the real world.” This one was good for more reasons though than its tips, e.g., “When a co-worker gripes about the boss, respond with this remark: ‘It sounds like you and he have something to talk about.’ Or ask this question: ‘What’s going well for you?’”
First, while I’ve been accused by some of being overly idealistic with my “One File at a Time” post on managing workload, at least my basic concepts and the name “The Empowered Paralegal are firmly based in reality, while the name of the group offering the tips is ” A Complaint Free World.” Now that is idealistic to the point of utopian!
More seriously, however, I was taken by the real prescription for constructive solutions:
One complainer and her boss managed to work out a constructive solution. Joan Curto, a national accounts manager for a pharmaceutical company, used to complain about the heavy travel needed for her job, the story says. Her then-boss, Trevor Blake, asked her what she planned to do about it. “Come to me with a solution,” he said.
Curto told the Wall Street Journal she was irritated at first. Then she developed a plan: She would travel to meet customers with the highest sales potential. A pharmacist could be hired to contact the others. Sales increased and Curto was able to spend more time at home.
Those of you who have read The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional will have noted already that this confirms the basic theorem of that book:
It is a proactive rather than reactive approach. It seeks to understand and manage even those aspects of practice that the paralegal cannot control. This principle involves taking a rational empowered approach.
While the specifics were different in each of the chapters, in each chapter of this book we identified the areas of concern, analyzed each aspect of that concern, set priorities that addressed those concerns, sought a greater understanding of the area of concern, investigated solutions and barriers to those solution, and established procedures for implementing solutions and removing or overcoming barriers to those solutions. We did so in a direct, rational and professional way. We did so in a way that honored our own need to be efficient, effective and empowered, and honored the interrelationships and responsibilities of the first principle.
When a paralegal applies these principles, that paralegal becomes empowered. The empowered paralegal is an essential member of the legal team in any office. In particular, the empowered paralegal not only survives, but thrives in the American law office.