Posts Tagged ‘paralegalese’

Melissa Moves On

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Melissa of Paralegalese, one of my favorite paralegal bloggers, last posted in January. At that time she was, as she described i,t “pensive:”

I’ve been reflecting on my career a lot since starting school this past fall. Big life changes are typically followed by reflection, so there is no surprise there. Some of the questions I have been asking myself lately are questions the younger me glossed over, or would have answered with blissful ignorance of the way the real world actually works.

I still love working in the legal field, and I remain proud of my profession and the many wonderful people I get to call colleagues. I have learned so much, and I still crave so much knowledge that I cannot fathom taking any other than the course I chose for my career several years ago. But being back in school has broadened my network. I am associating with successful people from all sorts of fields, and I’m learning that my education could take me almost anywhere I want to go… should I choose to go there.

Recently, Melissa updated her LinkedIn profile indicating that she had in fact moved on! While this is likely best for Melissa and I wish her the best in her new career, it is a loss to the paralegal profession.

Coincidentally, Steven Dayton, the Director of Paralegal Studies at Fullerton College, posted on the AAfPE listserv this list of careers for those with a paralegal degree who might not want to do traditional paralegal degree. (Dr. Dayton does not claim credit for creating the list, but can no longer remember from whom he received – a position I find myself in more and more these days!)

Administrative Assistant

Arbitrator
Bar association administrator
Billing professional
Claims adjuster, administrator, appraiser, examiner and investigator
Compliance and enforcement inspector
Compliance officer
Computer consultant
Conflicts analyst or specialist
Contracts administrator
Corporate trainer
Corrections officer
Court clerk
Court interpreter
Court reporter
Design/developer of trial visual aids
Editor for a legal or business publisher
Equal employment opportunity specialist
Evidence technician
Fingerprint technician
Grant writer
Investigator
Judicial assistant
Jury consultant
Law librarian
Law clerk
Legal analyst
Legal secretary
Legal software representative
Legislative analyst
Loan closing coordinator
Loan interviewer and clerk
Mortgage processor
Municipal clerk
Occupational health and safety specialist and technician
Paralegal instructor
Parole officer
Patent database administrator
Probation officer
Property manager
Real estate agent, broker or assistant
Risk management technician
Securities analyst
Securities compliance officer
Small business owner
Tax Preparer
Technical Writer
Title examiner, abstractor and researcher
Title insurance administrative assistant
Trial court coordinator
Trust officer
Victim or witness advocate for county district attorney’s office or U.S. Attorney’s office
Virtual Assistant
 
 

Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

A lot has happened during my recent period of incapacitation. I doubt I’ll be able to catch up on it all, but should be at least post more regularly for awhile. One development I do want to mention is the return of Melissa to her Paralegalese blog. Interestingly, the return seems to have been precipitated by a message from her former  boss in which he acknowledges that “But, 22 months later (and moving on to my 5th paralegal since she left, by the way), I could not shake the feeling that I never properly said goodbye, or how much Melissa was appreciated while she was here (and even worse, how much she was unintentionally underappreciated).” I feel this is all too often the case. Many posts here have been addressed to law firms encouraging them to find real ways to learn and show appreciation for (mainly in terms of respect) the value of their paralegals as members of the legal team. I suspect, however, that since this is a “paralegal” blog (although not written by a paralegal) few attorneys ever hear my calls and I end up “preaching to the choir.” For those attorneys who do read this blog, please do also “A Message From the  Boss.” It could help keep you from being in that boss’s position.  It is true: all too often we do not know what we’ve got until it’s gone – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWwUJH70ubM (Sorry Counting Crows fans, Joni’s version is still the best.!)

 

Building the Paralegal-Attorney Relationship – An Aggregation

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

There are names for blogs that rely on other blogs and sources for their content and add nothing to that content. Depending on who is doing the naming they range from parasites through derivative to aggregators. Today I’m joining Google News, Yahoo, etc., as an aggretator because that’s what I’m doing in this post.
Let’s start with Lynne DeVenney at Practical Paralegalism who has a post about another blogger’s post:

At first glance, I thought John Cord’s post, “Be nice, and other ways to strengthen your legal team,” at the blog Generation J.D., was only going to yield a short quote with some timeless advice for new lawyers, “1. Don’t run up the Westlaw/Lexis research bill, and 2. be nice to paralegals and secretaries.”

But Cord’s article is well worth a closer look – by all members of the legal team, from the senior partner right down to the part-time runner and that lady that comes by once a week to make sure the plants don’t die. His article is really about appreciating everyone’s contribution to getting the job done.

And what legal staffer wouldn’t heartily agree with the following advice for attorneys?:

  • Say please and thank you.
  • Be effusive in your praise for jobs really well done.
  • Be unexpected and reward exceptional work – a lunch out of the office, baseball tickets, or some other recognition.
  • Shut the office down early sometimes. Even 4 p.m. on a nice Friday is a good perk.
  • Get to know the people behind the workers – take an interest in their families and activities.
  • Don’t limit your website bios to just attorneys – include pictures everyone on the team.

But unlike this post, Lynne actually adds something. She points out:

But strengthening the team is a two-way street, and when we’re fortunate enough to be part of a great work environment, we should also be appreciative employees. There are a number of ways that we can show our employers that we don’t take their “work, energy and input” for granted:

  • Say please and thank you, whether it’s for great mentoring, having expenses paid for a CLE or conference, getting the opportunity to do more substantive work, or receiving a raise or surprise luncheon treat.
  • Be effusive in your praise for cases really well handled and problems quickly resolved.
  • Be unexpected and reward exceptional supervisors – do more than you’re asked, fetch a cup of coffee or a soda when you can tell they really need it, share the candy from your secret stash (all the attorneys I work with know which drawer has the Hershey’s chocolate) or bring baked (even if not at your house) treats once in a while for the whole office to enjoy.
  • Offer to stay late in a pinch, or come in on the weekend, especially when you can tell your supervising attorney needs your help but is reluctant to ask.
  • Get to know the people behind the bosses – take an interest in their families or activities (without being nosy).
  • Market your firm, even if your bio is not on the website, by telling people what you do and how proud you are of the work your firm does.

One of the nicest things my supervising attorney repeatedly says when he takes extended vacations is, “I couldn’t do this without you!” When I think of all the wonderful career opportunities I’ve had during 15 years of working for him, I honestly have to say, “I couldn’t do this without you!”

Now if all I did was to give you, as I have, Lynne’s work in its entirety, I’d just be a rip-off artist. What makes me an aggregator is that I noticed there were other posts and stories on the internet that go with (sort off) Lynne’s. Here’s the next, from Chere Estrin of so many sites I could not name them all – KNOW: The Magazine for Paralegals, Sue Magazine for Women Litgators, Organization for Legal Professionals, etc. – with more advice on maintaining a good relationship with attorneys:

Establishing a good relationship with your boss is critical for success. And frankly, it’s sometimes hard to talk with these folks. If you have a distant relationship with him or her, you probably have no idea what to informally chit-chat about. You don’t want to cross any boundaries but when your boss starts small talk with you, it becomes even more important that you make a good impression.

Small talk is defined as light and easy conversation about common, everyday things. Hard to do if you have no clue what to say. Yet, a hidden key to success is the ability to carry on small talk. Why? Because small talk establishes rapport. It builds trust and allows the other person to get a chance to know you without delving into anything personal. You simply cannot get ahead in your job if you cannot establish trust with your employers. It’s not going to happen.

Attorneys, in particular, must have an excellent grasp of expressing themselves because mostly, that’s how they make a living. And, since raises and promotions are built on whether your firm likes and trusts you, it probably behooves you to do well in this arena. Conversations give a human dimension to the employee/employer relationship.

I got this excerpt from the KNOW Magazine LinkedIn Group feed, but you can read more at http://estrinlegaled.typepad.com. By the way, the most recent feed from that group contains review letters praising Chere’s new book, The Successful Paralegal Job Search Guide. Given the current market you may want to check it out.

Next we go to Linda Whipple who reports on the Paralegal Today discussion forum (in response to another post, not just out-of-the-blue), “Actually I will be 62 in September and I have been at this for 36 years now. I have lawyers all the time asking me if I am happy working for the attorneys I have been working for because if not they want to talk with me about hiring me.” Apparently, she is still happy with her present attorneys. This in itself is not news, but another posts reminds us, “Hey, Linda – FINALLY got around to reading my January-March issue of PT and saw the nice interview with you and your boss. Isn’t it wonderful having that sort of working relationship with an attorney?” So if you still have your copy of the January-March issue of Paralegal Today, feel free to add that interview to this aggregation. It ought to say a lot about how to build and maintain a good relationship with your attorney.

Now a previous post from this blog. This might seem like I’m adding my own content and not just aggregating, but this post is itself mostly aggregation. It is included to gives some sense of what a well-oiled attorney/paralegal relationship can do when that relationship comes up with a plan.

Finally, I’ll send you directly to Melissa at Paralegalese. The relevant posts are down a bit where Melissa describes the angst that goes with leaving a paralegal/attorney relationship built on mutual respect and trust – End of an Era Parts I, II, and III. Melissa has been quite busy working on her relationship with new attorneys, paralegals, and clients (I assume) so she hasn’t posted as regularly as she once did, but I am looking forward to the time when she regains her old blogging form!

Volunteering Opportunities and Stories

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Today’s post returns to a frequent topic here – volunteering as an essential part of being professional. (See the “Volunteering” category.) But today instead of the sermon coming from me, I’m relying heavily on two posts from other blogs. First, Lynne DeVenny at Practical Paralegalism has a post entitled “Be the ONE – Message to Paralegals,” that reports, ” Kathy Para, an attorney for Jackonsville Area Legal Aid in Jacksonville, Florida and the Jacksonville Bar Association’s Pro Bono Committee Chair, is looking for legal professionals to be “The One” to help make a difference, even if it’s in a single pro bono case.”

This post is excellent not only for the report, but for the additional information Lynne provides including these links:

The National Pro Bono Volunteer Opportunities Guide
Directory of Pro Bono Children’s Law Programs
The National Domestic Violence Pro Bono Directory
CASA State and Local GAL programs

Finally, Lynne provides her own story as encouragement:

It is an incredible feeling to make a difference in the life of a person who could not otherwise afford representation in the legal system. Volunteering your time will make a difference in your life, too. The years I spent as a Guardian ad Litem changed the way I see the world forever, and may have contributed to a decision I made years after I submitted the report in my last case: to adopt a child from the foster care system.
 
Which brings me to the second post. Apparently coincidentally Melissa at Paralegalese also tells of her recent experience in a post entitled, “Giving Back, Paying Forward.”  I’ll not repeat the entire post here, but here are the first and last paragraphs, which echo Lynne’s feelings about volunteering:
 
 
I’m ashamed to say that it has been years since I sought out volunteer work of any kind. But I broke that streak recently when I volunteered at the monthly Saturday legal clinic sponsored by the Memphis Association of Legal Services (MALS). Thank goodness that I did.
 
….

I’ve decided to make the MALS Saturday clinics a monthly habit. It feels good to be donating time toward the field I love. If you are a legal secretary, paralegal, law student, or attorney in the Memphis area, and you are interesting in volunteering, visit the MALS website.

 

Many of my posts here have pointed out that volunteering is an opportunity to network, gain experience, and satisfy ethical obligations. The bottomline though is that it is an opportunity to do good. Networking, experience, satisfying ethical obligations and feeling better about oneself are just terrific side-benefits that contribute to professionalism.

Melissa’s Magic Paralegal Wand

Friday, April 9th, 2010

I do hope you have been following Melissa at Paralegalese as she goes through her (somewhat painful) transition from an one-attorney firm in a small Alabama town to a larger firm in Memphis. Her most recent post, The Calm After the Storm,  records some of her efforts to adjust. I am sure her adventure will end well. Here’s the part of her post that most supports my confidence:

Back to my original point in the above paragraph: I have realized that I have the power to make my job mean more. After all, it is what it is, and perception is subjective. If the task doesn’t have inherent meaning beyond completing step 42 of steps 1,894, then I will grab my magic paralegal wand, wave it in the air, and remind myself that every step in the long litigation process is one move toward the end game. 

The Empowered Paralegal concludes with this thought: “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 conficence that comes with being a professional, competent, effective and efficient member of the legal.” Melissa realizes this (realized it before reading the book) and, as a result, will do fine whether she stays in Memphis or moves on at some point.

In any case, we’re rooting for you, Melissa. Hang in there!

Professionalism and Dangling Modifers

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Today’s New York Times online edition contains an article entitled, “Loose Connections,” billed as Notes from the newsroom on grammar, usage and style. In essences, it is a self-assessment by the Times. Here’s an example of what they found:

 Sometimes ambiguous antecedents and dangling modifiers are merely distracting (or mildly comical); sometimes they are potentially misleading. A couple of recent cases where we didn’t really say what we meant:

  [Online summary] Maine to Consider Warnings on Cellphones

 Under a state bill, cellphone buyers would be warned that they may cause brain cancer, despite conflicting evidence.

 All right, I know what we meant. But the pronoun problem was distracting (it was fixed later). The only plural noun for “they” to refer back to is “buyers”; “cellphone” is used as a modifier and could not properly be the antecedent.

The point for professionalism here is not necessarily the grammar correction. Having lived most of my life in Maine I read this article and noted the problem when it first ran – it was distracting, but hardly disruptive to the point of the article. Not nearly enough to qualify for this blog’s Consequences of Sloppiness category. Although the importance of using correct grammar and punctuation has been the discussed here, it is the act of self-assessment itself that I think is most important.

Self-assessment is as simple as proof-reading what we write and as complex as doing our own year-end evaluation before the office annual evaluation. (I advocate quarterly or more frequent meeting with your supervisor for evaluation purposes and self-assessment.) It also includes willingness to recognize legitimate criticism from the outside and using that criticism as a springboard for improvement. A incident recounted by Melissa H. at Paralegalese comes to mind. It is worth re-reading by clicking here together with a follow-up here.

Finally, one key to both professionalism and a successful career is taking charge of yourself. You cannot set career goals and make a plan for achieving them without indepth, sincere, and objective self-assessment. So, kudos and thanks to the New York Times and Melissa H. for their examples!

Paralegals Stepping Up Professionally

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Somewhat overwhelmed by unexpected Thanksgiving break guests and end of semester grading I, like most attorneys in such circumstances, look to paralegals to take up the slack. Fortunately, Patty Deitz-Selkie on Paralegal Gateway with an assist by Melissa H. at Paralegalese, has stepped up to the plate with a post entitled, “Paralegals Are Professionals.” It’s a long and very good post. Here’s the meat closest to the bone:

It starts on the individual or personal level with how each of us are perceived and what each of us does to promote the “professionalism” of the Paralegal occupation. 

 Next, it goes to the national level and how Paralegals as a group and, in particular, how our national organizations work in cohesion….in unity!…..to promote our profession. Do we speak with one voice, with one mission/purpose, for the common good of our profession? In that endeavor, the Paralegal profession needs to stop abrogating responsibility for itself – we have to stop relinquishing control to Attorneys, the ABA, and other organizations or professionals!

Paralegals need to step up. We may work for and with Attorneys, but we need to take ownership of our profession starting with the education of our new/prospective members (Paralegal education/certification).  We need to determine our own destiny, set our own course and resolve to approach the legal business/environment from the standpoint of being valuable and significant contributors. When that happens, I believe we will not have this discussion on professionalism again. As ParaMel stated, “stepping off the soap box now” and closing my comments.

Those of you who are regular readers here know that this blog revolves around establishing paralegals as the professionals they are through many of the steps mentioned by Patty. Ultimately paralegals will be treated as professionals when they uniformly present themselves as professionals, take control of their profession and educate both the bar and the public.

So take a few minutes and read Patty’s post. Then ask yourself, “What can I do?”