Archive for the ‘Professionalism’ Category

A Legacy of Professionalism / Mentoring

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Last Saturday the father of a friend, who is himself an attorney died. I only met his father a couple of time, but heard a lot about him. A few days ago, Judge Primeaux posted the following regarding Tom’s father’s professionalism and the role of mentoring. It is primarily addressed to attorneys, but applies as well to paralegals. After you read it, I’d like you to consider what role you can play as a mentor or a mentoree in one of the many mentoring programs supported by local paralegal associations. If your association does not have such a program, perhaps you can play a role in starting one.

Attorney Thomas Henry Freeland, III, of Oxford, died last Saturday…Mr. Freeland’s friends knew him as Hal. I did not know him, but from what I read about him he was one of those lawyers who set high standards for himself and demanded the same from those who worked with him. The respect he earned is clear in the comments on Tom’s blog.

One of those comments, by attorney Danny Lampley of Tupelo, brought me up short, and I hope he and Tom will forgive me for copying a part of it so you can read it here:

Small things I would overlook as an ignorant clerk were revealed to be important. I recall Hal crossing out incorrect phrasing in an acknowledgment and telling me the correct words to use; and he took the time to tell me why those words were better and explained how doing it one way would have an effect different from doing it the other way. I learned that just because everybody says “the law” is thus and such and “the cases say so” does not mean that is really “the law” nor is it necessarily what the cases said. I learned you gotta read ‘em and you have to understand what it is exactly that they say. I learned to always independently research an issue and to never assume that a rule is today what you thought it was yesterday. I learned how to be a lawyer; I only wish I could more often put it into actual practice.

Mr. Lampley learned how to be a lawyer from one who took professionalism seriously and who understood the care, devotion and attention that the law demands. Beyond learning the craft of lawyering, though, he learned the meaning of professionalism. And — this is important — there is a distiction between ethics and professionalism. Ethics requires that you practice in a way that conforms to both the letter and the spirit of rules of conduct. Professionalism is the style in which you approach and carry out those ethical requirements. Professionalism demands more than mere observance of the standards, Or, as Justice Mike Randoph told a gathering of chancery judges a few months ago: “The rules are the basic minimum. We expect much more than that.”

If you are a young lawyer, I encourage you to seek out a battle-scarred old warhorse who would be willing to be your mentor. If you are as fortunate as attorney Lampley, you will learn that mastery of the legal profession lies not in discovering the shortcuts, but rather in learning to love the hard work, devotion, attention to detail, study, creativity and long hours that it takes to achieve excellence.

Mr. Freeland left his family his own personal legacy, including two children who are, themselves, members of our profession. But far more than that, as those blog comments reveal, he left the legal profession richer by inculcating professionalism in those whom he mentored. I hope that someone will be able to write that about all of us when our days reach their end.

Professional Dress for Male Paralegals

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Last February I did a post on the dearth of fashion advice for male paralegals. Not long after , I accepted an invitation to connect on LinkedIn from the LinkedIn group – “Well-dressed Professionals” and posted about that here. Today, Vicki Voisin, The Paralegal Mentor, posted an email from one of her readers, Todd R. Noebel, SPHR Manager, Professional Support Services, with McGuireWoods LLP in Richmond, Virginia entitled, “10 Wardrobe Must-Haves For Men.” The list is a good one:

1. Tailored Suit
2. At least 2 Freshly Pressed White Shirts
3. Comfortable, dress shoes
4. Blazer/Sport Coat
5. High quality briefcase/laptop bag in good repair
6. Sweater
7. Gray dress pants
8. High Quality Leather Belt – Black, cordovan and dark brown.
9. A Silk Tie
10. A Watch

The reasoning and further descriptions are available at Vicki’s website which you can reach by clicking here.

I actually made it through the last few years of my full-time legal career without the white shirts, but I practiced in Maine. They are indeed de rigor in many locations. Now I have the luxury of not having to wear a watch – there seems to be digital time displays everywhere and I have my cell phone chronometer to fill in the gaps.

So check out this list. Also, do use the advice from both my book, href=”″>The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional, and from Vicki and Charlsye’s book, The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success

Master Your Ship

Friday, March 30th, 2012

In a post The Estrin Reportreprinted in the most recent issue of KNOW, The Magazine for Paralegals Chere Estrin spells out “10 Ways to Sink Your Paralegal Career – Guaranteed.” My position is that a sinking paralegal career can be summed up by “unprofessional” and letting yourself be managed by events rather than managing them. Hence a good part of my motivation for writing The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional,” providing (I hope) clear and concise information and techniques to be effective, efficient, and professional. Chere does a very good job here of emphasizing a “Top Ten” list, taking a paragraph or two to explain each, while summarizing my theory by advising that we all be the master of our own ships. I’m providing the link here. Just click through to the article or the magazine for the full article.

(The magazine has a number of worthwhile articles in this issue – as is often the case – including a good story on Marianna Fradman’s journey for a childhood in the Ukraine to President of the New York City Paralegal Association, one of the most active, vibrant, and professional such associations in the country.) Anyway, here’s the list:

Here are 10 top reasons why your career may be stalled, dead-ended or become routine and repetitious:

1. You Are Your Own Worst Career Manager

If you don’t watch out for your career and goals, no one else will and you may become a candidate for right-sizing, downsizing, merging or purging.

2. Breadth, Not Depth of Skills

You do not want to be a one-trick pony. In today’s paralegal field, there is a greater emphasis on the breadth of your skills not just on the depth.

3. Don’t Be a SMEL (Subject Matter Expert on Life)

We all know these folks – the ones who have the answer to everything. They’re annoying, really.

4. Not Being a Tall Tree

You want to be noticed in a positive manner. Do not try to blend into your paralegal department to avoid attention.

5. The Living Resume

You’ll hear over and over to keep your resume up-to-date. There must be a good reason.

6. The Written Word (and Picture) Remains

What you write in emails and instant messaging can be used both for and against you.

7. Don’t Burn Those Bridges

What a temptation it is to “tell all” in the exit interview! Telling your boss and colleagues what you really felt about them, particularly when you’re angry, is a potential future career buster.

8. Don’t Disconnect or Isolate

The reach of social networks and professional sites should not be underestimated – even for paralegals. Take a look at LinkedIn.

9. Technical Complacency, Ignorance or Denial

Never make the assumption that you have all the computer skills you need. New technologies are emerging at a furious rate and to remain relevant, you need to learn these new skills.

10. Lack of Soft/People Skills

In today’s market, paralegals that assume simply having updated skills will give them a ticket to career advancement, have their heads buried deep in the sand.

Above all, be responsible for your own career. Being the master of your ship instead denying what’s going on at the helm, guarantees a move forward in a growing, changing and fantastic journey.

The Professional Paralegal: A Guide

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

While in New Orleans at the AAfPE conference last week I had the opportunity to go through The Professional Paralegal: A guide to Finding a Job and Career Success,” a new book by Charlze Smith Diaz and Vicki Voisin, The Paralegal Mentor. It is a really good book for those starting out on a paralegal career and not just because it includes a screenshot of this blog (See page 33.) It covers a full range of topics from internships through preparing resumes, interviewing and negotiating a job to practical information on starting a job, organizing your time and organizing your office. I especially like the “Checklist for Success” at the end of chapters and the “In Practice” block liberally sprinkled in the chapters. All-in-all a good companion book to The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional!”

Well-dressed Professionals on LinkedIn

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Since my recent post on professional dress and the need for more attention to the issue from and for males, I accepted an invitation to connect on LinkedIn from Rebecca Hetzler, a paralegal/legal secretary at Steptoe & Johnson in the Columbus, Ohio area. She is a member of the LinkedIn group – “Well-dressed Professionals.” I have not yet joined or reviewed the discussions for the group, but here’s how it bills it self:

This is a group for those of us who (despite the trend towards casual attire in the workplace) still choose to dress well. – Todd Herschberg, Founder.

Discussions can be found on the group site:

Members of the group include a “Menswear Designer and Owner” and “President, Advance Image & Etiquette Consulting.” I agree with Vicki Voison’s comment that “it’s easier for guys, though: a navy blue sport coat, khakis and nice shirt (with or without a tie) will take them a long, long way,” but I also like to think that male fashion can extend beyond the “frat boy” uniform and still be professional. So, check out the “Well-dressed Professionals” group and tell me what you think. Also, do use the advice from both my book, The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional, and from Vicki and Charlsye’s book, The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success

Comfortable, Professional Shoes

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

I am sure most of you already know that Lynne at Practical Paralegalism has a long running feature on Paralegal Career Dressing. It is very well done. (Despite my tendency to read the titles as “Paralegal Cross Dressing” when feeling the effects of my medication.) I now note that Vicki, The Paralegal Mentor has provided a link to a posting at entitled, “Dress for Success: The 5 Shoes Every Woman Should Own.”

I am all for this coverage of this topic. I deal with the need to dress professionally in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional,” and have posted about it on this blog. But the example I use in the book relates to So, my question today echos that asked by Melissa H. long ago: Where are all the men? Of course, as Melissa points out, there are fewer men in the profession and few (if any) paralegal bloggers, but those in the profession do need to know how to dress professionally and fashionably. Lynne, perhaps you could throw a shirt, tie, and slacks on that bony friend of your and give some hints to the guys. Oh, and some comfortable, professional shoes!

The Proper Tone of a Professional Communication

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Because paralegals are licensed in Ontario and can engage in limited practice of law without attorney supervision, they are subject to the “Paralegal Rules of Conduct” which can be enforced by the Law Society through the same process as is used to discipline lawyers. When the reports of discipline come out it seems there are far fewer for paralegal than attorneys, but I have no data to confirm that (and, of course, even if it is true there may be as many paralegal disciplinary proceedings portionate to the numbers practicing under each type of license, but those that do come through are generally fairly similar to those for lawyers. Here’s one that is a bit more interesting though:

From: City of Mississauga, Ontario
First hearing: November 21, 2011
LSUC Counsel: Jan Parnega-Welch
Paralegal not represented
Particulars of alleged professional misconduct from the Law Society’s Notice of Application filed June 7, 2011:
1. Contrary to Rule 2.01(2) of the Paralegal Rules of Conduct, you communicated with your former colleague, M.S., in a manner that was abusive, offensive or otherwise inconsistent with the proper tone of a professional communication from a paralegal, including three separate electronic communications on November 3, 2009.
2. Contrary to Rule 2.01(1) of the Paralegal Rules of Conduct, in your communication dated December 7, 2009, you attempted to mislead the Law Society when you unequivocally denied that you posted information about your former employer, C.R.S., on-line, when this representation was not true.

The result of the hearing:        Decision: The Paralegal was reprimanded.

More specifically the Law Society of Upper Canada website reports:

By Decision and Order dated November 21, 2011 the hearing panel ordered as follows:

The Paralegal is to be reprimanded.
The reprimand is to be administered to the Paralegal in person at the offices of the Law Society on December 19, 2011 at 1:00 p.m.
Costs of $1,000 to be paid by the Paralegal within one year of the Paralegal curing her administrative suspension.
Should the Paralegal fail to pay the costs within the one year period, the Panel orders that the Paralegal be suspended until such time as the costs are paid.
Should the Paralegal fail to attend to receive the reprimand on December 19, 2011 at 1:00 p.m., the Law Society shall be entitled to make further submissions as to penalty.

 Further information regarding the details of this matter do not appear to be available and is probably not real helpful anyway. However, I suspect that this rule, if applicable in the U.S., would get quite a workout!

Drug Lords’ Paralegals: Not So Professional

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

In October of 2009 I did a post entitled, “Drug Lord’s Paralegal: “I have to be professional” about a paralegal’s effort remain professional while offering “company and conversation to convicted drug lords serving time:

Lulu makes a point of visiting on holidays. She’s careful never to be late. And she abides by ADX’s rules prohibiting her from showing cleavage or wearing skirts that fall above the knee. After all, she says, “I have to be professional.”

“These aren’t my boyfriends. I can’t be flirting or anything like that. They videotape our visits. There are a lot of eyes on me when I’m at my job,” she says.

Now the Miami New Times reports: “Miami’s Federal Jail Overrun With Strippers Posing As Paralegals, Lawyers Say.” Apparently these “paralegals” are not making many efforts to even pretend they are professional – or at least not professional paralegals:”

Multiple attorneys interviewed by Riptide say the FDC visitor rooms have been taken over by South American pole dancers posing as paralegals for wealthy drug lords inside. Lawyers hired by the accused narco dons allegedly list the scantily clad women as “legal assistants,” and the FDC lets them in. Meanwhile, attorneys who refuse to go along risk losing their clients to lawyers with busty beauties on staff.

“They take off their tops and let the guys touch them,” veteran defense attorney Hugo Rodriguez says. “The majority of these young, very attractive women are noncitizens brought in exclusively for the purposes of visiting the FDC. Any lawyer can sign a form and designate a legal assistant. There is no way of verifying it. The process is being abused.”…

Among the offenses allegedly committed by so-called paralegals: smuggling in a Playboy, feeding alcohol to an inmate by slipping a straw through a grate, and sneaking in $3,000 inside a purse.

In a scene straight out of a porno, one woman was caught on video stripping for an inmate in the jail’s Special Housing Unit, attorneys say.

As noted in the original posts, these people are not actually the drug lords’ paralegals, but the attorneys’ paralegals, if they are paralegals at all. The problem is that there are no regulations establishing who qualifies as a paralegal or what qualifies as a paralegal function. The ABA definition of paralegal does refer to “substative legal work” but leaves the final designation of titles to “supervising” attorneys. If this story is true, it is an indication that more is needed, as some attorneys cannot handle that responsibility.

A Professional Reality Check

Monday, October 24th, 2011

It is no surprise I am sure that the New York City Paralegal Association has a LinkedIn group, nor that Mariana Fradman, President of that wonderful group, continues to post links to great materials and sites there. And certainly it is no surprise that Karen George, FRP, would produce a well-written article. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprise at Mariana’s link to Karen George’s article at The Paralegal Society entitled, “WANTED: Paralegal, No Experience Necessary. A Professional Reality Check.”

This is a very good article that is well worth a full reading. I particularly liked her emphasis on the paralegal as a professional:

A paralegal is a professional position. By becoming a paralegal, you have stepped away from the subordinate positions in the work world and stepped into a new realm on the employment list. You are a professional and that means there’s a new and harder set of rules in the “game of employment” for both sides: the employee and the employer.

…Whatever your expectations, you have them because you are A PARALEGAL. You now hold a certificate or a degree, you have studied long and hard, and incurred loans to become and be able to call yourself A PARALEGAL.

The employer seeking a paralegal has certain expectations as well: that the paralegal dress in a professional manner, conduct himself professionally, not have to be micromanaged, and to not be directed in an assignment the same way his legal assistant or receptionist or file clerk is directed. The attorney expects the paralegal to come to have those abilities and knowledge that are instantaneously helpful to the attorney. In sum, he is seeking a partner, not exactly an equal partner, but a partner in the representation of the client.

…The bottom line is this: by becoming a paralegal you have stepped out of the regular job market. You are no longer looking for the “regular job” you may have previously held. You are now a professional and the playing field is different. You bring not only your education to the application table, but you must also bring proof that you can fill a very important role in the firm from the moment you enter it – and for the most important person in the office — the attorney. A paralegal is not hired to be “taught” how to be a paralegal. A paralegal is hired to fill a position that is intricate to the process. The position requires critical thinking based on experience, which is knowledge.

Of course, Karen does not stop there. She goes on to explore the implications of seeking employment and experience as a professional and adds some sound advice.

As a side note, this is my first trip to The Paralegal Society and I have added it to my Paralegal Blogs list. While you are there reading Karen’ article, look around at the rest of what it has to offer.  Mariana’s LinkedIn profile states she is a “Mentor at The Paralegal Society.” Perhaps one day soon I can get her to do a guest post discussing The Paralegal Society mentors.

FAPP’s Essential Piece

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Until a couple of weeks ago I did not know about FAPP – the Foundation for the Advancement of the Paralegal Profession despite numerous trips to the NFPA website. Fortunately, I received an email from Kathleen Miller, R.P. who clued me in. For those of you who might also be unaware of this excellent venture, here’s some info from the Foundation’s website:

The Foundation for the Advancement of the Paralegal Profession (the Foundation or FAPP) resulted from the desires of the member Associations of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) to create a repository for the profits from the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE) to be administered by an independent organization. Through NFPA, the Foundation became the benefactor of the PACE proceeds.

Mission Statement
The Foundation’s mission is to promote and advance the professional and educational standards of paralegal professionals. In furtherance of the foregoing, the purposes of the Foundation shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

To promote higher professional standards within the paralegal profession;
To increase competency among paralegal professionals by sponsoring and conducting educational seminars and classes;
To sponsor publications devoted to issues relating to the paralegal profession; and
To serve as a resource for the public and private sector interested in the
paralegal profession.

But  the real purpose of this blog is to bring a particular FAPP program to your attention. This program just went up on the site so you are less likely to be familiar with it. As Kathleen put it to me Essential Piece is , “a new campaign the Foundation is developing–the Essential Piece–which is designed to impress upon all paralegals nationwide that they are an Essential Piece to the advancement and promotion of the paralegal profession.” This is, of course,  a point I’ve been making on this blog since I started it, so I was very pleased to see NFPA, which has always made this point implicitly through its work and programs, through FAPP take on the task of advancing the premise formally and expressly.  There’s even a lapel pin!

Read more about the program here.