From the NFPA LinkedIn Group board comes this reminder about the upcoming NFPA National Conference. I am a big advocate of professional associations in general and NFPA in particular (see the “Professional Associations” category) and encourage any of you who can attend to do so. I’d go myself, but I’m scheduled to moderate a panel on “Teaching in the Cloud: WIMBA” at the AAfPE National Conference in Baltimore two weeks later and there’s a limit to the number of days I can devote to conferences.
Posts Tagged ‘CLE’
“Friend of the blog” Chere Estrin provided this announcement through the KNOW: The Magazine for Paralegals LinkedIn Group board:
We are giving a heads-up and pre-announcing the opening of The Paralegal Knowledge Institute, an online, interactive Continuing Legal Education community designed specifically for today’s paralegal.
Paralegal Knowledge Institute drives talent transformation and paralegal excellence. This specialized Institute leverages an unsurpassed array of resources to unleash and develop hidden career potential within the paralegal.
The ultimate goal is to help paralegals tranform and further develop professionally through high performance, greater innovation and optimal results.
We have gathered together the very best in instructors, course designers, writers and resources. Please join us in this pre-opening announcement and visit our website. We officially launch on Monday, September 12th.
Thank you, everyone, for your continued support. It’s what has made this new adventure come to life. Your feedback is welcome!
“The New Orleans Paralegal Association’s educational seminar on Friday, October 7, 2011 offers a variety of legal topics ranging from the Who Dat and Charlie Sheen controversies to practical “how to” organize medical records or find out real estate information. Opportunities for career advancement, and information regarding national paralegal certification exams will also be available” according to a posting on PRWeb.com There are many good reasons to go to New Orleans (a daughter studying at Tulane tops the list at the moment), but it might be worth a trip just for this seminar!
Here’s more from the announcement:
Addressing everything from the controversies surrounding the Who Dat trademark and actor, Charlie Sheen’s tweets to the current trends regarding Green Litigation, NOPA made sure that this year’s seminar topics were current and relevant to paralegals. Additionally, there are practical “How To” classes on organizing medical records, obtaining real estate information and understanding criminal defense. “We wanted to make sure we touched on the varied interests of our growing profession,” Rolland said.
I’d mention the impressive luncheon speaker, but it isn’t I, so you’ll just have to read the announcement yourself.
Also this on a different topic:
Boasting a 50% growth in membership in the past two years, NOPA encourages its members to take advantage of the two national certifications offered through its parent organization, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. Rolland believes the Paralegal Advanced Certification Exam (PACE) and the Paralegal Core Competency Exam (PCCE) that will be available online December 1, 2011, will help paralegals gain an edge in a job market that does not focus on a paralegal’s experience or specific set of skills. “The job description ‘paralegal’ has lost its meaning in recent years due to the blending of paralegal, file clerk and secretarial duties and these certification exams are a way to gain it back.”
Chancery Judge Larry Primeaux has another excellent post today entitled, “Sweeping Dustbunnies.” I’m reposting it here because I think you need to read the whole thing to get the full picture and the judge as previously indicated he doesn’t mind me lifting his material. I recommend that any paralegal interested in understanding practice before a court to put his blog on their RSS. It is worth it for the checklists alone.
My only contribution will be this foreword to the post, partly addressed to attorneys and partly to paralegals:
Attorneys: A good, professional paralegal can save you a lot of grief. They are not maids, butlers, super-secretaries, who clean up the office. But as an effective member of the legal team they can greatly assist in preventing dustbunnies of the type depicted by the judge. For this to happen it is important that you understand, respect, and properly use the special skills a good paralegal brings to the legal team. Support your paralegals in this regard by providing them with the time and means to obtain appropriate CLE and membership in professional associations. Talk to your paralegals about what can be done to improve their skills in this regard, to improve the office to more effectively utilize those skills, and to improve the working relationship of the legal team. Together you can make a plan to manage the chaos.
Paralegals: It is, indeed, part of your role on the legal team to use effective and professional time, workload, workspace, docket, and client management skills, to prevent the accumulation of dustbunnies. Use examples such as this case to do a self-assessment and an assessment of your office systems. How many of these dustbunnies would have been prevented in your office and how many would likely have begun gathering in the small spaces between the files piled on the legal team members’ desks? Talk to your attorneys about what can be done to improve your skills in this regard, to improve the office to more effectively utilize those skills, and to improve the working relationship of the legal team. Together you can make a plan to manage the chaos.
OK, homily over, here’s the judge’s post:
Have you ever noticed that mistakes and missteps seem to pile up in some cases despite your best efforts, just like those dustbunnies that pile up under that buffet in your dining room no matter how hard you try?
The case of Estate of Bellino v. Bellino, decided by the Court of Appeals on November 2, 2010, is one of those “dustbunny” cases, and it merits your attention. For ease of following this, we’ll mark the dustbunnies as they accrue with the international dustbunny symbol: ¤.
Stephen and Margaret Bellino were married in 1974. During the marriage, Stephen inherited $200,000 and opened a securities account with A. G. Edwards (AGE). In 1995, he and Margaret executed a joint account agreement declaring the account to be a joint tenancy with right of survivorship.
Alas, the marriage foundered, and the erstwhile blissful couple faced off in court. Their marriage ended May 2, 2006, with entry of a final judgment of divorce.
And that is when the discombobulating deluge of dustbunnies (¤) began to develop.
It seems that the divorce judgment made no mention of the AGE account. That would be the first ¤.
Stephen became aware of the problem when he tried to make a withdrawal and was refused by AGE, which took the position that it could not allow any withdrawals until the court addressed the ownership issue. Another ¤.
Stephen filed an MRCP Rule 59 motion to alter or amend the judgment to address the oversight. Only problem is that he waited until May 15, 2006. That would be a major ¤ because it was filed more than ten days after entry of the judgment, and so the motion was time-barred.
In all the hubbub surrounding the issue, Stephen never got around to changing ownership of the account. This is one of those ¤’s that spawns lots of other ¤’s.
Before the issue could be resolved by the judge, Stephen died on June 18, 2006. Regrettable as it is, this development was also a ¤.
Stephen’s estate was duly opened in July. There is no mention of the estate being substituted as a party in the divorce action under MRCP 25. Probably a ¤.
In November, the attorney for the estate approached the chancellor and, without any notice to Margaret or her attorneys, obtained an order directing AGE to pay the funds to the estate. No question this was a ¤.
To compound matters, the attorney for the estate never filed the order (or, it appears, any motion therefor) in either the estate or divorce file, and never served it on Margaret’s attorneys. That would be ¤ ¤ ¤.
They’re beginning to pile up, aren’t they?
At this point the attorney for the estate realized that the dustbunnies were getting out of hand, so he started trying to sweep them up. The problem is that when you sweep dustbunnies it tends to scatter them and they seem to proliferate, which is exactly what they did.
The attorney for the estate filed an appeal. Now, this is really a dustbunny because the issues are fairly straightforward and not really in doubt. Score another ¤.
Right off the bat the court of appeals criticized the attorney for the estate for not filing a statement of issues after being asked not once but several time by the appellate court to do so. That would be another ¤ ¤ ¤. The court even thought about not considering his brief, which is, of course a ¤.
The court of appeals ruled that Margaret got the money because Stephen never changed the account and it was hers by survivorship. A predictable ¤.
Stephen’s estate will be stuck with the cost of cleaning up all these dustbunnies, and will have nothing to show for it. That’s a ¤ right there. In the alternative, the estate could insist that its attorney bear the cost of the appeal, which would be his own personal ¤.
So there you have it. Too many dustbunnies and before you know it you have a mess too big to clean up.
Back in April I used the state of affairs regarding UPL in Wisconsin to launch a discussion of the possibility of licensing and regulating paralegals as a means of addressing the access to justice problem in the United States. As discussed in previous posts UPL laws and regulations of legal professionals exist amid tension between the need to provide the public with access to justice and the need to protect the public from snake-oil salesmen posing as legal professionals. I noted that what I read on the bar website does not deal at all with the access to justice issue. I do not favor unregulated snake-oils salesman practicing law – as attorneys or as paralegals. However, it does seem clear we must do more to allow if not provide access to legal services than we do now. A well educated, well trained, well regulated paralegal profession may just be the answer.
Today a paralegal from Wisconsin posted on the Paralegal Today Forum stating,
I’m in Wisconsin, a state which doesn’t license (or register, or certify) its paralegals. Anyone can call themselves a paralegal here, regardless of whether they’ve worked as one, or studied to be one (I’m getting a post-college certificate). In recent years, paralegals here have asked the state for permission to be licensed. The state courts declined the request. I’ve noticed lots of UPL articles and legislative proposals on our state bar website. I agree that UPL needs to be prevented, of course, but anyone who attends paralegal school knows how to avoid UPL. My questions to the list-serv are these:
1) Do you live in a state that doesn’t regulate paralegals?
2) How do you deal with this in your work as a paralegal?
This led to several interesting responses including these:
Ditto for Louisiana. We do have a state certifying exam administered by NALA, but a lot of paralegals do not avail themselves of this certification, because (1) it doesn’t automatically increase their salary, (2) you have to study to take the exam and pass, and then have to pass the CLA exam within 2 years to get the certification, (3) why bother when you can call yourself a paralegal even if you mostly do secretarial work.
Until paralegals across the nation realize that education and continuing education is what puts them above the run of the mill employee, anyone and everyone is going to apply for a paralegal job and give the rest of us a lot of disrespect when they can’t do the job.
AND before we get into that age-old debate about education vs. experience, ALL JOBS, including paralegal jobs include OTJ training and always will. Education only enhances skills.
I often see a lot of misunderstanding, misperception, and misinformation about ‘regulation’ of paralegals. There is only one state that has any sort of mandatory regulation of paralegals and that is California. Interestingly enough, the California regulatory scheme doesn’t have any kind of agency, board, or other such entity to administer or oversee the regulatory scheme. There is not one single state that requires paralegals to be licensed, certified, or ‘registered’ in order to function as a paralegal.
NFPA has a section of their website devoted to the regulation issue: http://www.paralegals.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=795 Scroll down the page and check out their comprehensive chart that details the efforts towards regulation for each state. Some states offer a voluntary certification program through the state Bar, e.g. TX, OH, and NC. Florida offers a voluntary registration program. The WI Supreme Court recently rejected a proposal for mandatory regulation and suggested the proponents look at the Florida FRP scheme as a possible alternative.
Personally, I believe that the UPL issue and regulation of paralegals are two separate and distinct issues. Most every state has UPL laws, statutes or Bar rules prohibiting UPL by anyone. Florida has an aggressive Bar and UPL Committee that investigates and prosecutes UPL claims. The Florida Bar Rules specifically state that non-lawyers offering services directly to the public cannot use the title of ‘paralegal’. Mandatory regulation of paralegals (who by definition work under the supervision of a licensed attorney) will not prevent ‘John Doe’ from setting up his own shop and offering his services directly to the public.
Whether one agrees with mandatory regulation or not, it would be helpful if we all spoke knowledgeably on this issue. I think the dissemination of inaccurate information clouds the issue and distorts the message.
Elona M. Jouben, FRP
NWFPA Parliamentarian/Membership-Student Liaison Chair
Wilson, Harrell, Farrington, Ford
Pensacola, FL 32502
Several months ago I posted a Call for Papers for an anthology on paralegal professionalism. One article submitted is a very good statement of the current status of regulation in the United States and two articles argue in favor of regulation. No one submitted an article opposing regulation – which means I’ll probably have to do that one myself!
I do agree with the last paragraph of Elona’s response above: Whether one agrees with mandatory regulation or not, it would be helpful if we all spoke knowledgeably on this issue. I think the dissemination of inaccurate information clouds the issue and distorts the message.
I am often impressed with and post about the work done by local paralegal associations. They provide their members with CLE, networking opportunities, and the opportunity to present their profession in the best light to both the bar and the public while satisfying their ethical obligations to the legal system and the community. Here, for example, is recent information received from the New York City Paralegal Association:
The NYCPA board is gearing up this month to present a Legal Writing and Analysis seminar being led by Cicely Barber, Esq., who has been teaching Practices and Procedures for the paralegal program at Emory University since 2005. Later in the month we will be presenting a CLE on Advanced Adobe Acrobat for Legal Professionals with the help of Barkley Court Reporters.
Through our Pro Bono program, led by pro bono chairperson Stephanie Yuzzi, NYCPA members will be volunteering this month to assist in an immigration clinic for Haitians living in the NYC area who would like to file for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Last month, Stephanie helped to organize the delivery of two care packages for the Military Paralegal Program benefiting paralegals who have been stationed overseas and coordinated nineteen NYCPA members who participated in immigration clinics held by The City University of New York.
The NYCPA board is looking forward to presenting a Paralegal Career Fair and/or NYCPA Paralegal Week programs this coming Fall. If you have any ideas to share with us on how we can make it a successful event, please contact us, we would love to hear any suggestions.
The NYCPA has also taken a step not often taken (to my knowledge) as indicated by this:
While the NYCPA board is comprised of dedicated and experienced professionals, we are seeing to add a new level of expertise to our governing body with the creation of the NYCPA Advisory Panel>
The latest issue of the NYCPA “Paralegal Buzz” indicates that 14 “professionals, attorneys, educators and innovators accepted the association’s advisory panel. I am pleased to be one of those 14 and look forward to assisting NYCPA in their work for their members and the paralegal profession.
Some professional associations just talk the talk, but LAPA also walks the walk. It not only has a webpaage at its site dedicated to pro bono activities, it has announced it’s annual pro bono fair. This is an excellent idea for paralegal professional associations, although it likely works better in larger metropolitan areas. Here some info from the announcement and the link to the LAPA site where the announcement appears:
LAPA’s Pro Bono Section presents its annual
Pro Bono Fair
June 19, 2010
5245 Pacific Concourse Drive, Suite 301
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Admission: $5.00 and a new unwrapped toy to be donated
Must pre-register for event. For additional information, contact email@example.com.
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
Insights. These major organizations are going to be providing useful information about the services they deliver to their clients
Connections. Take advantage of the great opportunity to meet and learn about volunteer positions or paralegal internships in one location.
Opportunities. Find your match here and learn how you can meet your volunteer goals.
Alliance for Children’s Rights
Bet Tzedek Legal Services
California Women’s Law Center
Disability Rights Legal Center
Inner City Law Center
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
Learning Rights Law Center
Public Counsel Law Center
My old stomping grounds provides another story of a paralegal embezzling from the law office in which she worked. This time it’s only $80,000 – small change compared to some. These stories are always disheartening, even outside of the legal profession, but are especially so when they involve the attorney/paralegal relationship. On the one hand it is good that attorneys are recognizing the abilities and independence of the paralegal professionals who work with them. (In this post I won’t go off on a tangent about whether or not this individual paralegal was actually qualified to bear the “paralegal” title.) However, the attorney/client relationship ought not to be one of two individuals working separately for a common purpose.
Attorneys and paralegal, at least under our system, are a legal team, each with their own role. The role of the attorney continues to be that of supervisor. That role requires that the attorney verify the work done by the attorney, including the work they do with client and office accounts. Thus, it is always a mystery to me how paralegals can embezzle so much without getting caught. (This is in no way a criticism of this particular attorney. I do not know him or any of the circumstances other than what is in the story.)
I attribute much of this to the continued confusion on the part of the bar regarding the proper role for paralegals as part of the legal team and the attorney’s responsibility to supervise the paralegal. I’ve previously posted that I view the duty to supervise as one that is owed to the paralegal as well as the public. It would be helpful for both the paralegal and the attorney professions for the attorneys to have an increased understanding. Thus, I encourage both bar and paralegal associations to include these topics in CLE presentations designed for attorneys. There is, after all, no rule saying that paralegal associations cannot educate attorneys. Paralegals do it in law offices hundreds of times every day. I am quite sure that I and many of may colleagues at AAfPE would be willing to assist in this effort.
Angie F. Laird, ACP, TBLS, posted this invite on the Paralegal Today discussion forum:
The Southeast Texas Association of Paralegals (SETAP) is hosting its annual Spring seminar on April 9, 2010 at the MCM Eleganté Hotel & Conference Center in Beaumont, Texas. We have a full line-up of great speakers and topics. SETAP is an affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Full attendance will qualify you for 6 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) credit toward the maintenance of your NALA certification. In addition, credit from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS) will also be granted in various specialty areas of law.
Our seminar is being held in conjunction with the Texas Alliance of Paralegal Associations’ (TAPA) Conference that will be held the next day and attended by Presidents and Presidents-Elect of various paralegal associations across Texas.
Also, we are hosting a welcome social Friday evening after the seminar. Please join us for an evening of fun and entertainment! This will also be a great networking opportunity for you! We have chartered a bus to transfer us to and from the social. You won’t want to miss it!
All are invited to attend the seminar and the social. Go to www.tapa2010.webs.com for seminar and social details as well as the registration information.
Active, cooperative associations with events like these will go a long ways to establishing a professional identity for the paralegal profession.
One of my basic propositions is that professionalism, or at least its components can be taught. This is the basis of my course in Professionalism and Empowerment, my presentation to regional and national conferences, and an article I’ve written for The Paralegal Educator. The belief that elements of professionalism can be learned prompted my writing The Empowered Paralegal.
Professionalism and education go together in anothe respect – a professional is educated (sometims academically, sometimes through experience) in both the process and the substance of their field, and they stay educated through (for paralegals and lawyers) CLE.
All of this is an introduction of sorts to the latest episode of The Paralegal Voice, hosted by Vicki Voison, The Paralegal Mentor, and Lynne DeVenny of Practical Paralegalism. This edition is entitled, “The Power of Paralegal Education”, and is available at Legal Talk Network. It’s approach appears to be to emphasize another aspect of paralegal education – its role in a successful paralegal career. Here’s how they put it:
Education is vital to a successful paralegal career. On this edition of The Paralegal Voice, [we] welcomed Linda J. Wolf, ACP, the current President of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and Attorney Elizabeth Mann, Department Head of the Paralegal Program at Greenville Technical College, to focus on the importance of paralegal education. Discussion also focused on entering and growing in the career field, as well as what employers look for when hiring paralegals.
I’ve not yet had the time to listen to this episode, but given the co-hosts, the guests, and the topic, I suspect it is well worth so doing.