Archive for April, 2010

Braveheart Beware: Paralegals in Scotland on the rise.

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Melissa at Paralegalese has done a post on paralegals in Scotland that fits nicely into this blog’s International Paralegalism category as well as the ongoing discussion regarding professional identity. So, I am going to blatantly steal her punch line and give you the link to the whole post:

Our Scottish friends have the right idea. High standards and a unified identity promote the inherent value of any profession. All over the world, the similar paralegal news stories are popping up – from registration to certification, even to licensure of paralegals. The rising value of nonattorney legal professionals is hopefully driving down costs and allowing easier access to justice in countries that have implemented these programs. The comparison and contrast of the United States with all of these other countries makes me very interested to see where our justice system will be in relation to all the rest twenty years from now. I know one thing: I want to be right in the middle of it when I find out.
I plead guilty to this being another example of a paralegal doing the tough work and a lawyer taking full advantage.

A job well done

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
A job well done is worth talking about and recording. Yesterday Jeannette Motis posted this comment on the Paralegal Today listserv:
I’m doing my job well today, and even better yet, it’s entertaining me! I had a “witness” give me the third degree about how I got her number (I told her that I researched it and I finally said that it was part of my job and that I do my job well.)
Then Joe Quinn called, and I called him back and asked him how much he got paid to talk to attorneys about his “accident” and he told me that the only people who looked at that website were secretaries with nothing to do. Gold Star! (I remembered looking up the number previously and searched my sent mail, and sure enough, he called on 12/30/09 too.) He’s very gruff about talking to only the attorney and hanging up on you when you try to say otherwise after giving an order to have the attorney call him.
Anyone else have any calls from Joe Quinn? Any funny stories? I’d like to know what his real intention is. Marketing? Rankings? Annoyance? Just a paycheck?
(It’s that 866 number. Occasionally I’ll get a real client who will only speak with the atty, but they usually at least let me explain that I’m bound by the same confidentiality rules before saying they would feel more comfortable to speak with the attorney anyway. But a toll-free number? That would be a rarity.)
Legal Assistant

I was impressed for a number of reasons. First, Jeannette does appear to have done her job well. She was “proactive” and used her research, critical thinking and ananlytical thinking skills. In addition she was able to recognize her own success and compliment herself on it. All too often those in charge are short on compliments and we need to be able to “pat ourselves on the back.” As I point out in The Empowered Paralegal, “Empowerment does not come from the outside. It comes from within. It is not granted, it is earned. The empowered paralegal gains that power  and the confidence that comes with being professional, and by being a competent, effective and efficient member of the legal team.

That being said I would recommend that Jeannette go one step further – record the successes. This has several advantages. It provides a resource for review in preparation for annual evaluations and it can be useful in re-establishing self-esteem and self-confidence at the end of those (we hope infrequent) bad days. It is good to keep a notebook with copies of CLE certificates, thank-yous or compliments from clients and attorneys, certifications, volunteer activities, professional association activities, and every other honor you receive during the year, and bring that notebook with you to your annual evaluation. Include a section recording those honors that you have given yourself when you recognize you have done your job well.

Is there more to Canada than Ontario?

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

The answer is, yes.  I knew that, of course, since I lived for over 30 years in Maine and spent substantial time in Nova Scotia and Quebec. The reason for this post, however, is that I’ve been reminded of this fact by an email from Ann-Marie Allen, Editor-in-Chief of The  East Coast Paralegal Magazine. Yes, the east coast does extend beyond Maine and there are paralegals there! I’ve only had a brief opportunity to scan through the magazine, but there are several good articles including information about the Ontario efforts at paralegal licensing.  I’ve included the link to the ECP blog in “Links” and here

Paralegal seeks to be judge

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

The Alamogordo Daily News contains a story on Irene Mirabal-Counts, a paralegal running for the Otero County Magistrate Court Division II judge’s seat:

Mirabal-Counts said Magistrate Court is the “people’s court.”

“Magistrate Court is designed to allow people to come to court without an attorney and resolve their legal issues,” she said. “The court has a set of forms that people can take, fill them out and file them with the Magistrate Court clerk. As your judge, I won’t be concerned about missing commas or incomplete sentences.”

This is an interesting step for a paralegal, but she does have experience appropriate to the position.  She is a partner in a mediation firm and was a paralegal for the city:

“As a paralegal for the city, I met with citizens who wished to file complaints in Municipal Court,” Mirabal-Counts said. “After taking a statement from the person, I reviewed the city ordinances and identified the proper law. I then drew up a complaint for filing with the court. It was gratifying to help people get their legal issues before a judge.”

There is no indication in the story of the qualifications of the other candidates in the June 1 primary. I’ll check back in June for the results.

Training Paralegals in Afghanistan

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

The NATO Training Mission reports on a new program for training Afghan National Army paralegals in computer literacy:

The training, instructed by a contracted Program Analyst, provided foundational computer lessons such as Introduction to Computers, IMA Windows XP Course and Windows Outlook Overview. Both ANA and ANP Legal personnel attended the instruction.

A group of seven personnel, three ANA Paralegals, one ANA LEGAD, two ANP Paralegals and one ANP LEGAD, arrived at Camp Eggers and stayed for the half-day course. The level of experience in the group varied greatly from not ever touching a computer to requesting further training on networking. During the lessons students were provided laptop workstations to interface along with the instruction.PIC_2_BLOG

This course showed the Afghan Paralegals that with expanding their computer knowledge they can be entrusted with further duties and responsibilities that will advance them both professionally and personally. Having the LEGADs present for the presentation illustrated the leadership support these Paralegals have in their respective offices.

This one-day seminar traveling on unmarked territory was a groundbreaking event. The vision of the Paralegal Mentorship is to assist in the professional and personal development of Afghan Paralegals as efficient, effective, competent and confident Non-Commissioned Officers.

Plans are underway to hold similar one-day training seminars for Paralegals at the ANA Legal School.

There, as here, expanded knowledge leads to duties and responsibilities that will advance paralegals professionally and personally. The goal, as always is paralegals who are professional, efficient, effective, competent and confident.

Imagine being a paralegal who had never touched a computer!

Professional Association Membership Benefits

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

The benefits of belonging to a paralegal professional association have been discussed often on this blog. (See Professional Associations category) They are also the subject of a recent post on the Paralegal Today discussion forum: “Hello, I am about to complete my BA in Criminal Justice and plan to pursue a Master of Professional Studies (Paralegal) in January. Do you think it would benefit me (networking, possible scholarship opportunities, etc.) to join an organization like NALA as a student?” I agree with the answer given by Tina Medlock,

I’d suggest joining a national association and your local affiliate of that organization. Networking at the national level is always great, especially if you want to relocate, or you work throughout the country, or national involvement is part of your professional goals. However, your networks built through local affiliate will give you a much more specific chance to learn and grow as a professional. You’ll have more chances to meet people within your local legal community; more chances to volunteer; and more chances to be able to pick up the phone, call across town, and say “Hey Alice, how do you do this?

Benefits of membership are also the topic of a Paralegal Voice podcast that I recommend:

On this edition of The Paralegal Voice, co-hosts Lynne DeVenny and Vicki Voisin welcome Patricia E. Infanti, PP, PLS, President of NALS, the Association for Legal Professionals, and Kathleen R. Amirante, PP, PLS, the association’s President Elect, who discuss the opportunities provided by membership in a professional association. They look at the history and mission of NALS, what NALS is doing to attract a diverse membership and how they are informing attorneys and the general public about the qualifications for using the title ‘paralegal’.

However, I’d like to emphasize that paralegal professional association provide more than just networking and similar benefits. They provide opportunities – opportunities to advance not only oneself, but the paralegal profession itself and the communities to which the paralegal professionals belong.  So, yes, join paralegal professional associations, but do not just join them – participate, volunteer, lead those associations.

By the way, NALA 35th Annual Convention and Exhibition will be in Jacksonville, Florida July 14-17, 2010, the NALS 59th Annual Education Conference & National Forum is scheduled for October 21-24, 2010 in Branson, MO, and the 2010 NFPA Regulation / National Leadership / PACE Ambassadors Joint Conference will be June 4-6, 2010 in Washington DC.

Real Paralegals in Louisiana.

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Lest one gets the wrong impression regarding the paralegal profession from the goings-on in Jefferson Parish, I am taking this opportunity to point out that NALA’s new president elect is Karen Greer McGee, ACP, First Deputy Clerk for the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport, and a member of both the Louisiana State Paralegal Association and the Northwest Louisiana Paralegal Association. NALA’s announcement was made on March 26th, but I’m just getting to it, inspired by being in New Orleans for a visit and planning taking a look at the paralegal studies program at Tulane University tomorrow.

Congratulations, Karen! The demonstration of your qualifications and dedication to the profession could not have come at a more opportune time for the paralegal profession in Louisiana.

Solicitor Shortage in the Shires Promotes Paralegals

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Since traveling to London to study the paralegal profession there I have continued to monitor developments there. The legal educational system there causes some problems for the bar, paralegals, and the public. The study of law requires a four year undergraduate degree in substantive law followed by more study on procedural law followed by an apprentice type contract with an existing law office. Unfortunately, the universities are pumping out about twice as many law graduates as there are apprentice contract slots. Many of those graduating will become paralegals of a different sort than we have here.

In England people retain a common law right to select the person from who they obtain legal services, so as long as these paralegals disclose the fact that they are not barristers or solicitors, they can maintain their own offices and give advice to clients. In some areas such as immigration they can gain permission to represent clients before tribunals.

Meanwhile there is a separate education track for what we would call paralegals here in the states. The two primary institutions providing certification and education tend to battle a bit as discussed in this post.

Anyway, the Law Society Gazette reports that a shortage of child care solicitors has led to a rise in the use of paralegal staff to present cases on behalf of local authorities. The Gazette uses the phrase “unqualified paralegal staff.” Apparently this is also a trend among those prosecuting crimes for the Crown. But not everyone sees it in the “unqualified” light:

However Uma Mehta, chair of the Law Society’s children law sub-committee, said the provision to grant rights of audience to unqualified staff was ‘not a problem’.
She said: ‘Local authorities don’t send just anyone to court – only those with adequate experience and under supervision. They are very experienced people doing routine stuff.

It seems to me that this is just another example of paralegals filling an access to justice gap. While there is not likely to be a shortage of attorneys in the United States, there can be (and are) shortages in particular areas (geographical, economic, and legal) leading to gaps in access to justice. While paralegal cannot replace lawyers, by filling those gaps in the areas and for tasks where they are qualified the can provide access to justice and free up the available attorneys to do what only attorneys can do.

NFPA Regulation Conference

Friday, April 16th, 2010

NFPA is holding a “Regulation / National Leadership / PACE® Ambassadors Joint Conference” on June 4-6 in Washington, D.C. This conference will tackle some important issues. Here are some of the topics on the agenda:

Types of Regulation
Tracey L. Young, RP®
NFPA Vice President & Director of Positions and Issues

Status of Regulations Efforts
Lisa Vessels, CP, FRP
Regulation Review Coordinator

Lessons Learned: What paralegals can learn from
the regulation process of Nurse Practitioners and
Physician Assistants
Nicole Gara
American Academy of Physician’s Assistants

Florida – A case study in implementing Regulation
Lisa Vessels, CP, FRP
Regulation Review Coordinator

Selling Regulation
What to Say to the Naysayers
Georgette M. Lovelace, RP®
NFPA President

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend this conference, but I encourage any of you who can to do so. Details are here:

If any of you do go, I would appreciate hearing your reports on the proceedings.

Also, I encourage each of the presenters listed above to commit their presentation to article format and submit it for consideration in paralegal professionalism anthology described in this Call for Papers. If you know any of the presenters, please let them know of this request.

Kopyto Canadian Challenge Continues to Churn

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

My post regarding a legal challenge to paralegal regulation by the Law Society in Ontario received a pingback from none other than Harry is challenging the legality of that regulation in the context of the regulators denial of his request to be licensed based on his “lack of good character.”

In my previous post I saw the issue in terms of the choices that have to be made in balancing the increased access to justice that can be provided by paralegals and the need to provide protection to the same public that needs that access to justice. The challenge itself posits the thought that lawyers and paralegals in Ontario are competitors and this attempt to regulate paralegals is an attempt by the Law Society to prevent that compeition. Unfortunately, it does not seem that this challenge will lead to any real discussion of those issues in the near future, if at all.

Here’s on describes the issues involved in this proceeding:

You know the background. Toronto paralegal Harry Kopyto is on trial facing professional capital punishment. The charge? Lacking “good character” to work as a paralegal. The real reason for the charge? Speaking truth to power for 35 years in Ontario courtrooms.

The proceeding is presently mired in what might be characterized as a discovery dispute. The hearing on that issue was scheduled for April 6 and 7, but has been postponed.

I will continue to follow this proceeding for whatever insight it can give to the regulation/licensing issue, but it does look as though real insight will most likely come from another source.