Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

New Year, Old Issues

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

It’s always nice to start out the new year with new stuff, but, alas ( a very old word but it works here  – besides I also am old), the first item that has caught my attention this year is (1) left-over from a Paralegal Jobs & Continuing Education group LinkedIn Discussion Board, and (2) about an issue that seems to re-occur on a regular basis despite efforts from Marianna Fradman of the NYCPA, myself, and many others at clarification.

The discussion starts when a prospective paralegal student asks, “I am looking to go back to school to be a paralegal. Can anyone give me some inexpensive school names? … Also interested in schools that do payment plans. Thank you in advance.” The first response states, “Depending on where you live, it is best to check the American Bar Association, and the section that shows ABA Accredited, meaning that they approved that school and you will be hired once out of school. These days that’s important…” and another adds, “Accrediatation is everything. if if isn’t approved by the ABA its NOT worth the money.” These comments are incorrect on several levels.

First, the ABA does not provide accreditation of paralegal schools. Accreditation is provided by regional accreditation organizations. For example, the University of Mississippi and other SEC schools are accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The ABA approval is obtained by some paralegals on a voluntary basis. If a school claims to by accredited by ABA or that graduates are ABA certified, the school is, at best, misleading its students.

The ABA does not even provide certification. Here’s Marianna Fradman on that topic:

I’m on my soapbox today with a pet peeve. I noticed that some paralegals are putting “ABA Certified Paralegal” on their resumes, social media or announcing it to friends and employers. Here’s a suggestion: Stop now while you still can! Save yourself some embarrassment or even keep yourself from getting rejected from a job!

The ABA does not offer certification. Certification is a process of taking a very rigorous exam that is based upon work experience and knowledge. It is not your final exam in paralegal school. Generally, you need to meet certain educational and work experience requirements, submit an application for approval, pay a fee and take the exam in a secured environment.

For example, The Organization of Legal Professionals, OLP, offers a certification exam in eDiscovery.

Second, as I’ve stated here before, many ardent discussions occur on the internet as to whether ABA approval is beneficial to programs as a marketing device or to graduates as a tool for gaining employment. I suspect that the answer depends on more on geography than anything else.  This is not to say that there should not be some firm criteria for assessing a good paralegal program. Indeed, I argue in many posts here for the need for uniform educational standards.  However, it is not at all clear that the ABA should be the organization making these determinations, at least not in isolation. AAfPE does have representatives on ABA committees and does provide members for site review committees, but has little to no control over final decisions by ABA regarding its conception of the proper way to educate paralegals. Within AAfPE (American Association for Paralegal Education) there is some ongoing discussion about whether the ABA is the correct institution to be “approving” paralegal programs: does it make sense to have lawyers rather than educators determining what makes a good educational program, even if the topic being taught it law? (AAfPE has some good information on choosing a paralegal education program and a list of its members here.)

Third, the fact of the matter is that ABA can often be out of step with advances in education. For example, the Masters Degree program at George Washington University – one of our country’s most prestigious institutions (and I think at last count the most expensive to attend) cannot obtain ABA approval because it relies on online education. Yet, it would seem that if online education was in itself bad, GWU would know about it. Many other institutions meet all of the ABA requirements for approval but do not seek it because it is a tremendous drain on resources, both in terms of money and personnel. The costs of obtaining ABA approval are substantial and must be either passed on to students or deducted from other parts of the budget.

This is confusion is just one of the many problems arise from the current state of the paralegal profession’s development. As I previously noted here, and more extensively in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional, even attorneys can be confused leading to must frustration for both paralegals and attorneys on the legal team.

Those interested in paralegal professional identity, regulation, certification, and education should check out the fine articles included in The Empowered Paralegal Professionalism Anthology.

New AAfPE President

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Tennessean.com now carries an announcement of Loretta Calvert’s presidency of the American Association for Paralegal Education. This is no surprise to active members of AAfPE, especially those attending the AAfPE National Conference when Loretta became President-Elect a year ago when I was elected as Secretary. But for the rest of you here’s a bit about her and AAfPE from the announcement:

Loretta Calvert is the new president of the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE).

The national organization promotes quality paralegal education, develops educational standards and encourages professional growth.

Calvert is coordinator of paralegal studies at Volunteer State Community College.

Calvert graduated from New York University School of Law in 1998.

She has been an AAfPE board member, a reviewer for the Educator magazine and an active member of AAfPE’s Alternative Delivery Task Force.

I first met Loretta at AAfPE’s Southeast Regional Conference several years ago and have been impressed with her ability, energy, and dedication to improving paralegal education at Volunteer State Community College in her capacity as an instructor and coordinator of the paralegal program and nation wide through her work with AAfPE. I look forward to working with her on the Board Directors this year.

 

 

Who is he talking about?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

According to ABAJournal.comVermont Law School Plans to Downsize Staff; Dean Says Nonlawyer Specialists Will Do More Legal Work The dean and president of Vermont Law School states:

The field of health care has been transformed with more cost-effective treatment by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and the legal field will follow with less work being done by lawyers, according to a law dean who is preparing for changes ahead by downsizing…

Mihaly told AP that law firms will no longer be staffed only with lawyers. ‘‘The market and technology are going to take that model and shake it,” he said. Firms will instead give more work to specialists who have less than three years of legal training, he said.

This is not surprising.  As regular readers of this blog know I view paralegals as a large part of the solution to the access to justice problem in the United States. However, the profession will not be able realize its full potential until it is recognized as a profession in the same sense that physician assistants and nurse practitioners are in the medial field as mentioned by Mihaly. There has been great progress in this regard, usually lead by paralegal professional associations such as NALA, NFPA, and NALS.

But let’s talk a bit more about  who these “specialists who have less than three years of legal training” are as it presents quite an array of opportunities for paralegals. For example, I am presently schedule to present as part of a six part webinar sponsored by the Organization of Legal Professionals on the Role of the Trial Technician. This edition starts in February of 2013. (It was last presented at the end of 2011 and this will be a “new and improved” version.) OLP also provides training and certification in e-discovery specialties.  In short, Mihaly is talking about a paralegal with specialized experience, training, and certification. If he sees the future correctly (and I think he does), the world is just beginning to open up for the effective, efficient, and professional paralegal.

Disclosure: I am also on the OLP Advisory Board although OLP seems to do quite well with little advice from me!

AAfPE

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

I’m in San Diego for a meeting of the American Association for Paralegal Education Board of Directors Meeting. What issues in paralegal education do you think should be on our agenda?

NFPA

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Several items of interest today from NFPA (National Federation of Paralegal Associations.) They serve to illustrate the benefits to paralegal professionals and the paralegal profession of active membership in paralegal professional associations such as NFPA, NALA, and NALS. Check out this blog’s blog roll for links to many of these fine organizations.

1. Through Patricia Lyons of Roger Williams University on the AAfPE (American Association for Paralegal Education) listserv:

The NFPA-Thomson Reuters Scholarship deadline is fast-approaching!  All scholarship packages must be submitted to NFPA by July 1, 2012!  The first place scholarship is $3000 and second place is $2000 plus a stipend for travel to attend the NFPA Convention in Anchorage, Alaska!

The link to the application, etc. is at href=http://www.paralegals.org/associations/2270/files/2011content/2012_Thomson_Reuters_Scholarship_Application.pdf<

Also, for those who work with practicing paralegals or know of lawyers who work with paralegals, there are additional links to awards information so that paralegals can be recognized for their accomplishments to the paralegal profession.  They can be found at: href=http://www.paralegals.org/associations/2270/files/2011content/2012_Awards_Brochure.pdf

2. From NFPA through a LinkedIn announcement:

The new NFPA website (www.paralegals.org) is a complete redesign…We designed for both the technology of today and tomorrow…Behind the scenes, there are many ways the new website design will help NFPA HQ be better able to serve you and many more additions will be worked on over the summer.

Moreover, the new site’s technological underpinnings are very extensible. We will be able to add new features and enhance existing ones using HQ resources, not expensive web design firms. We feel that what we are unveiling is great in its own right, but more than that, we see it as a foundation to build upon for even more member value in the future.

3.  From  a LinkedIn discussion forum post by Rebecca Vazquez:

Statistics project…anyone’s stats would be greatly appreciated!!

I’m doing a Statistics project with regard to paralegals/paralegal students. Can anyone weigh in with the following stats:

1. Did you go to school for a certificate or degree?
2. What area(s) of law do you work in?
3. How many years experience do you have?
4. If you are no longer a paralegal but were once, how many years did you work before you quit?

I’m trying to determine the percentage of years that paralegals who graduate with a certificate/degree work in the field compared to the percentage of years those who don’t have a degree or certificate work.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

I can’t vouch for the scientific validity of a statistics project done through LinkedIn, but the results will be of interest in any case. If you’d like to add to the data, post a comment here or email me and I’ll forward the info to Rebecca through LinkedIn. Or you can do it yourself through the NFPA LinkedIn group.

2012 NFPA/Thomson Reuters Scholarships

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

I’ve received this notice from several sources, so you probably have already seen it also, but just in case….

2012 NFPA/Thomson Reuters Scholarships!

NFPA will again co-sponsor the 2012 Scholarships with Thomson Reuters! Over the years, these scholarships have assisted many students in AAfPE programs obtain paralegal degrees.

This year there are two (2) scholarships to be awarded: First Place Scholarship is $3000 and Second Place Scholarship is $2000! A travel stipend will also be provided to scholarship recipients to travel to the NFPA Annual Convention to be held in Anchorage, Alaska from September 27-30, 2012!

I have provided links below for the Scholarship Application and procedures. Please share this information with your students. Scholarship winners will be notified by August 17, 2012!
Note: The deadline to submit the Application and all required documentation is July 1, 2012! If all documents requested are not included in the application package, the candidate will be disqualified!

Scholarship Application
http://paralegals.org/associations/2270/files/2011content/2012_Thomson_Reuters_Scholarship_Application.pdf

Scholarship Procedures (Scroll towards bottom for Scholarship):
http://paralegals.org/associations/2270/files/2011content/Award_Procedures_20110331.pdf

AAfPE South Central Conference

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I recently traveled to New Orleans for the American Association for Paralegal Education South Central Conference admirably hosted by Tulane University’s School of Continuing Education Paralegal Studies Program directed by Sallie Davis. My own presentation, I believe, went well. The conference overall was an excellent example of what professional associations can do for the profession – in this case the profession of educating paralegal students by providing opportunities for members to meet, network, and share knowledge.

I particularly benefited from the presentation by Ernest Davila, J.D., Paralegal Program Director, San Jacinto College, Houston, TX, on getting the most from time and financial resources, the Using Media in the Classroom presentation by Joni Johnson, Adjunct Instructor, Tulane University, and the Teaching E-Discovery: Practices and Pitfalls presentation by Lois Elliot, also an Adjunct Instructor at Tulane University.

Even though I’ve been through fairly extensive time management training, it seems as though I pick up something new at every time/resource management presentation. For those practicing paralegal who could use time and workload management assistance (and who cannot!) I suggest, of course, my own The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional”
and posts here in the related categories.

E-Discovery, of course, is becoming ever more important and complex. Practicing paralegals involved with e-discovery may want to join the Organization of Legal Professionals an organization that focuses on e-discovery training and certifications and The Paralegal Knowledge Institute’s courses on e-discovery. In the interest of full disclosure, I am associated with both of these organizations. I am on the OLP Advisory Council, although it seems to do quite well without my advice, and I have taught in a PKI webinar.

Perhaps though the best lesson I learned is that it is possible to go to New Orleans and have a great time without straying too far from my medical restrictions on sodium and alcohol!

NALA Certified Paralegal Scholarship Award nominations – Deadline Extension

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Deadline Extension – April 1

The deadline for submitting student nominations for the NALA Certified Paralegal Scholarship Award has been extended to April 1. The award will recognize two graduating paralegal students who excel in their academic paralegal studies, have demonstrated strong leadership, and plan to take the CP Exam.

Visit www.cengage.com/community/paralegal for complete award details and guidelines.

Submit your student nomination today!

The Legal Process Relationship to Trial Presentation

Monday, November 28th, 2011

This Wednesday I’ll be trying something new: part of a live video webcast presented through the Organization of Legal Professionals. I’ll be presenting Part B: The Legal Process.

Part B: The Legal Process
The Legal Process Relationship to Trial Presentation
Effective Assistance in the Presentation
of Evidence

Learn how each stage of trial presentation relates to
the actual trial.

This insightful course will guide you in your courtroom trial presentation assignments by exploring various stages of the trial process and how it relates to your trial presentation. Learn from a seasoned trial attorney and Associate Professor of Paralegal Studies

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN:

  • Find out how to apply the legal process directly to your trial presentation
  • Understanding and communicating basic concepts: facts, evidence, and proof
  • Obtain practical tips for the handling of evidence
  • Understanding the role of causes of action in:
    Interviewing
    Investigaton
    Pleadings
    Discovery
    ADR
    Dispositive motions
    Pretrial preparation
    Trial
  • The Rules of Procedure as a Guidebook to Successful Litigation
  • Effective Assistance in the Presentation of Evidence
  • Ethical considerations in trial presentation
  • Identify the most common mistakes in trial presentation
  • Learn psychological tips to convince the jury

While Peter Phaneuf, President of TrialTek Consulting, LLC Washington, D.C., a trial consultant with 23 years of litigation experience will present Part A:

Part A: The Lab
Trial Technology in Today’s Courtroom
Using Trial Director

 
 More and more litigation support professionals along with paralegals and other legal professionals are asked to use electronic trial presentation software to present evidence in court. If done well, the exhibits can improve the odds of winning a case. Poorly presented evidence, however, can risk both the case and your career.

 As courtrooms adopt new technologies, IT professionals, courtroom personnel, and trial presenters can find a wide range of equipment available in each new situation. Being organized and knowing how to work both old and new systems are your two best strategies.

 Attending the Trial Presentation Professional Workshops will enable you to stay at the top of your game by recognizing what to present and how to present it. Experience in trial presentation and familiarity with trial presentation software is a plus for this program, but certainly not a requirement.

 Learn the inside secrets to presenting trial exhibits that can persuade judges and juries to decide in your favor.

How your trial exhibits are presented to the judge and jury in this highly visual day and age, can cause you to win or lose your case.

This valuable course shows you how to effectively utilize Trial Director to maximize the effect of your trial exhibits. Taught by one of the top Trial Presentation Consultants in the country.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN:

  • Options for evidentiary presentation in trial:
    A discussion about the range of your
    options from boards to full tech support.
  • Creating concepts for demonstrative evidence
    development;
    Evaluating the evidence. Discussions include how to
    present options for presentation based upon factors such
    as type of case or the legal argument to be made.
  • Audio and video facts that affect your presentation of
    evidence.
    A discussion of how to set up the courtroom.

Although I’m Part B, I go first with a two hour session on Wednesday, then alternating with Peter for the rest of the six week course. More info here.

AAfPE and ABA

Monday, November 14th, 2011

One task assigned to me in my new position of Secretary of AAfPE is updating the list of our member institutions – over 330 of them-in terms of which have and which do not have ABA approved programs. Since there are only 260 ABA approved programs, it is clear that many AAfPE members are not ABA approved. Yet, my experience has been that AAfPE programs are programs every bit as good as the ABA programs. Certainly it is impossible to distinguish the many Program Directors and faculty members attending and presenting at AAfPE conferences as being from either an ABA approved or a non-ABA approved program.

Many ardent discussions occur on the internet as to whether ABA approval is beneficial to programs as a marketing device or to graduates as a tool for gaining employment. I suspect that the answer depends on more on geography than anything else.  This is not to say that there should not be some firm criteria for assessing a good paralegal program. Indeed, I argue in many posts here for the need for uniform educational standards.  However, it is not at all clear that the ABA should be the organization making these determinations, at least not in isolation. AAfPE does have representatives on ABA committees and does provide members for site review committees, but has little to no control over final decisions by ABA regarding its conception of the proper way to educate paralegals. Within AAfPE (American Association for Paralegal Education) there is some ongoing discussion about whether the ABA is the correct institution to be “approving” paralegal programs: does it make sense to have lawyers rather than educators determining what makes a good educational program, even if the topic being taught it law?

The fact of the matter is that ABA can often be out of step with advances in education. For example, the Masters Degree program at George Washington University – one of our countries most prestigious institutions (and I think at last count the most expensive to attend) cannot obtain ABA approval because it relies on online education. Yet, it would seem that if online education was in itself bad, GWU would know about it. Many other institutions meet all of the ABA requirements for approval but do not seek it because it is a tremendous drain on resources, both in terms of money and personnel. The costs of obtaining ABA approval are substantial and must be either passed on to students or deducted from other parts of the budget.

I’ve suggested in past posts that perhaps we need for all interested groups to chose a representative to a committee to establish a model act regarding paralegal regulation – ABA, NFPA, NALA, NALS, AAfPE.  It may be there should even be a seat at the table for a group representing “independent” paralegals. It seems that the same may be true for paralegal education.

In any case for those persons seeking a paralegal program, I continue to suggest that they start with AAfPE and see if the program they are interested in is in its membership directory.