Posts Tagged ‘respect’

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 – (Sorry Counting Crows fans, Joni’s version is still the best.!)


Paralegal Gains Woman of Excellence Award

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

The 17th Annual Women of Excellence Awards, presented by the Lafayette (Louisiana)  Commission on the Needs of Women, include the Founder’s Award to Nancy Goodwin. According to this report:

Mrs. Goodwin is a paralegal with the law firm of Ziegler & Lane.

Prior to becoming a paralegal, Mrs. Goodwin was the Director of the Louisiana Coalition on Jails and Prisons and Coordinator of the Louisiana Committee to Abolish the Death Penalty. She has spent many years as a paralegal working on prison abuse litigation and death penalty defense. She has also been a long time advocate for disabled people who have been denied Social Security benefits.

Her proudest achievement is that she was able to help continue Bill Ziegler’s law firm as Ziegler & Lane after Mr. Ziegler’s death. She says the best advice she ever received was, ‘Don’t let other people govern your reactions.’ Her motto is; It’s what you do with what you’ve got that counts. Others call her a true hero.

This, of course, follows nicely upon my recent post on pro bono work, but I was also taken by Ms. Goodwin’s dedication to Mr. Ziegler and Ziegler & Lane. I suspect this is in a large part due to respect paid to her by them. One theory is that this exchange of respect is more likely to occur in small firms than large, and perhaps this case illustrates that point, although there is some evidence of it occurring in slightly larger firms. In any case, Ms. Goodwin is clearly able to establish a good relationship with her attorneys. I also note that Ms. Goodwin is listed, with her photo along with two attorneys on the firm’s “About” page, as a “Non-attorney representative.”

Money and Communication Make Legal Professionals Happy

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

There are many posts here from and regarding paralegals who are either happy or unhappy with their jobs. Most often that status is determined by the amount of respect they get for what they do – respect that is shown to only a limited degree by the money they receive. It turns out this is true of other legal professionals, also – associates, for example. reports a Boston law firm’s associates are happier with the firm Midlevel associates since it “improved communications and raised pay.” The firm learned associates wanted more dialogue with firm leaders. “As a result, the firm’s executive committee meets with associates four times a year, rather than twice a year. Based on an associate’s suggestion, a committee gathers anonymous questions that are addressed at the meetings. The firm also holds informal monthly breakfast meetings with groups of associates and seeks to demystify the partnership process with clearly established expectations and goals.”

Guess what attorneys – midlevel associate are happier with more communication and other indicia of respect because they are people and they are professionals. You are quite mistaken, however, if you believe this phenomemon is limited to attorney. Take a look around at the other members of the legal team. Paralegals, too, are people and they are professionals. Ignore this and the result is unhappy paralegals. Unhappy paralegals lead to the same kind of flaws in the performance of the legal team (you may argue about whether the flaws are not of the same magnitude, but not kind) as unhappy associates. The same respect you give others in the firm will go a long way to making them happy and even more effective, efficient, and professional.

When A Plaque isn’t Just a Plaque

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

I’m a big fan of national, regional, and organizational awards, but often the sweetes honors come from those with whom and for whom we work. Here’s an example:

Caryn S. White recently was presented a plaque in recognition of her 20 years of dedicated service to the Spencer Law Firm, according to a SWF press release.

White serves as office manager at the firm. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in management and human resource management from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro and was granted a paralegal certificate from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Of course, I’m assuming that this recognition is not just a way to make up for having failed to treat Caryn with respect on a daily basis. Given the fact that she’s been there 20 years. For a short period of time I worked in a firm where the office manger was given a party and very nice “bonus” to recognize her 25 years of service and then forced into “retirement” about a  year later. Given my experience at the firm, I suspect that the latter treatment was much more representative of her treatment over the course of her career than the party and bonus!

Having no information to the contrary I’ll stick with my assumption that this is a well-deserved formal recognition of Caryn’s contribution to the firm that is in addition to the  regular respect and appreciation  to which she is likely entitled. Congratulation, Caryn!

By the way, paralegals are not granted certificates from good educational programs. The certificates are earned by the paralegals.

Professionalism and Court Clerks

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Way back in September of 2009, Melissa at Paralegalese made the case that clerks were :”Good People to Know,” a point that I fequently make during workshops and seminars. As Melissa says, “On a daily basis, these ladies are life savers…That is why it is so important to get to know these people. If you have one good contact there, he or she will guide you through almost any procedural steps you may have forgotten or possibly never knew. Whether you are new, experienced, you need a good contact at the clerk’s office.”

For this reason if none other, you don’t want to “get on the bad side” of the clerk’s office or any of its members. But more important to the profession is that incivility to anyoneis unprofessional. Clerks especially are essential members of the legal system and entitled to respect.

In addition, because they are intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of the court system, they often know more about their particular area of expertise than the attorneys. This point was recently made with more than just a hint of sarcasm by Mississippi’s 12th District Chancellor on his blog. His story involves lawyers, but I am aware of many instances where paralegals have gone in with the same – very unprofessional – attitude and came out with the same egg on their faces. On the assumption that the judge won’t mind, I’m including the whole post here, but you can definitely take the time to review other posts, especially his “Trial by Checklists” posts, on his blog.

Twice this summer, the deputy Chancery Clerks in Lauderdale County have been confronted by lawyers wanting to probate original wills and demanding to retain the original. One was from another district with large cities to our west, and the other was, I am sad to report, from closer to home. The clerks, I am glad to report, stood their ground and demanded the original for filing. Both lawyers condescendingly made it clear that our clerks are backward ignoramuses, and one went so far as to say that ours is the only district that makes the ridiculous demand for the original will. Which is where I was called in — apparently it is the Chancellor’s role to determine as between eminent lawyers and lowly clerks just who is the backward ignoramus.

Now, in all my years in the law, I had never heard of a lawyer in Mississippi retaining an original will after its admission to probate. But then again, we are more or less country peasants in this part of the state, and some things do pass us by. As is my anachronistic, unsophisticated practice, I sought for the answer among the gnostic mysteries of the law that remain so seemingly inaccessible to most practicing attorneys: The Mississippi Code.

It only took me a few minutes to leaf directly to Section 91-7-31, MCA, which states:

All original wills, after probate thereof, shall be recorded and remain in the office of the clerk of the court where they were proved, except during the time thay may be removed to any other court under process, from which they shall be duly returned to the proper office. Authenticated copies of such wills may be recorded in any county in this state.

So there you have it. The statute unambiguously requires that the original must be surrendered to the clerk of the court where the will is probated, and the clerk is responsible to record it and keep it.

Even though the truth revealed in the statute would seem to be clear, I realize that I do learn something new each day, and I posited to myself that there might be some angle to this issue that was known only to these superior attorneys that neither I, nor the state legislature, nor nearly 200 years of Mississippi jurisprudence had taken into account. Accordingly, I raised the question at the Chancery Judges’ study meeting last weekend whether any judges were aware of any districts where the statute was not being followed, or of any exception to the rule, and the unanimous response was no.

In our own, primitive way here in the hinterland, we try to follow the law, and when we do so, we will look first to the Mississippi Code and the Chancery Court Rules and not to the lawyer’s interpretation. We know that is a backwards and so 20th-century approach, but that is the old-fashioned way we still do it. We apologize if that offends your more cosmopolitan sensibilities that may not allow you time between workouts at the gym to look up the law. If our humble practice is too “slow lane” for you, perhaps you should pass that estate off to a local lawyer who is more accustomed to our rustic ways.

Practice Tip: (1) Read and know the law. (2) Apply Practice Tip (1) before acting like a jerk toward the Chancery Clerks. Oh, and while you’re at it, refresh yourself on the Mississippi Lawyer’s Creed, especially that part that reads: “To the courts, and other tribunals, and to those who assist them, I offer respect, candor, and courtesy. I will strive to do honor to the search for justice.”

The Price of Appreciation

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

There is little doubt that attorneys frequently under appreciate those who work with and for them. Witness, for example, posts here such as Paralegal Unhappy. There are good ways to handle the feeling of not being appreciated, which for paralegals often hinges. Some of those ways are discussed on other posts here and in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional. There are also many bad ways of handling it. Here’s a story from WHTM in Pennsylvania regarding one of the worst. It involves legal secretaries rather than paralegals:

Two legal secretaries in Cumberland County have been charged with ripping off their boss.

Tina Garlinger of Enola and Bethany Noss of Honey Grove, Juniata County, were arraigned Tuesday on theft, conspiracy and forgery charges. Police allege the woman stole $94,000 from Camp Hill attorney Patrick Lauer over the last two years by racking up false overtime and cashing forged checks from his office account. Lauer employed the pair as legal secretaries.

“They were just stealing checks, writing them to cash, forging my name, writing them to my own name and cashing them,” said Lauer. ABC 27 Talkback:
Click Here to Comment on this Story

Lauer said he caught on to the scheme in April when one of the women mailed a personal bill using a metered stamp from his office.

… Lauer said he was told by police they did it because they felt unappreciated.

There does seem to be something to the thought that it is OK to steal from unappreciative employers. See for example this from John Dierckx who, according to his website, assists employers in reducing the risk of employee theft:

While opportunity is most important, there may be other relevant factors. Low morale can lead employees not only to steal, but can also lower productivity. Feelings of being wronged or mistreated may ust offer that rationalization when the opportunity presents itself. The same applies to feelings of under-appreciation.
Lack of punitive measures in place or there is a lack of preventative and detection measures including but not limited to appropriate policies and procedures and control measures are similarly factors that could lead to an increased risk of employee theft and fraud.

However, one commentator who collects stories of employee theft mocks the idea and notes:

Hourly, salary, blue collar, white collar, rookie, or professional are all represented in the stories above. One individual was even a weekend pastor at a small church. At what point do people decide that taking things that do not belong to them is acceptable? Many will attempt in vain to justify inapt conduct with a Robin Hood justification thought process of taking from the “haves” by the “have nots” as being the way life is. Spend a little too much time surfing the net during work? Cheat on your taxes? Keep excess change that is not yours? Steal an identity? How would you answer the question “Are you honest”?

That question is, of course, important for everyone, but especially for professional paralegals. After all, professionalism is all about standards.

Not a Dead Horse

Monday, March 8th, 2010

The Paralegal Todaydiscussion forum has an thread started by a post entitled, “Not to beat a dead horse, but….” Here’s the gist of the post that started it:

Sad to say I had a conversation with one of the lawyers I work for and he said “don’t get caught up in titles, you are no different than the administrative assistants”. What do you think I should do? …

Now, please do not get me wrong, I think admins are marvelous  but I have a 4 year Bachelors, an Associates and a certificate as a paralegal. …

I am so discouraged. I was hired as a paralegal (I specifically mentioned how important that was to me) I do excellent work and don’t understand why there is still this attitude. I have worked so hard for respect and to create a niche where I add value.

Normally, I’d go into a long comment on this topic, since it is really what The Empowered Paralegal is all about, but on this one I’ll let some of the comments on the thread do the talking:

Obviously the attorney needs to be educated and is ignorant of the fact of what you REALLY do and what the profession REALLY does.
 IMHO, it’s up to you to educate him (depending on if he’s actually educatiable or is too set in his archaic mindset).  That or find another firm/attorney with a bit more modern mindset that gives you the respect you deserve.
 Course that’s MHO.  People like this are working on a mindset of 20 years ago.  Prehaps it’s time he came into the 21st Century.
 I understand his comment about not getting caught up in titles, but having a sit down discussion with him about his comment and letting him know you don’t mind helping him with a letter now and then, but that your work as a paralegal has deadlines that take priority and a secretary is more likely to be able to get the correspondence work out for him.  Don’t get discouraged, this is where you stand and fight for your turf.  Draw the line (but do it succinctly and professionally) letting him know you are the consummate professional and you have his clients’ best interest at heart.
not to beat a dead horse… but why do you think there are paralegal utilization studies and the constant fight to get paralegals certified and blogs about The Empowered Paralegal?
Yes, we have to be team players and I do my share of copying (etc.) to manage the work flow for the day, but paralegals must continue to do the job of distinguishing themselves from the great assistants out there who have, by definition, a different job than we do.  They are good at what they do, assist the attorneys and other timekeepers.  We are good at what we do, provide substantive legal services that would otherwise have been provided by an attorney, under the supervision of an attorney.
I volunteer and am a board member of my paralegal association and obtained the PACE certificate for these very reasons.  To continue what I feel is a very strong need to further this profession – my profession – one paralegal at a time.  I want to continue to distinguish paralegals from secretarial assistants.
In all fairness, I do believe that a lot of it comes down to the size of the firm, the area, and the age of the attorneys that you’re working with.  If you go with a sole practionier, you’re going to have to be a jack of all trades, including clerical/it/legal.  I can very vividly remember even here in Va. where 20-25 years ago, attitudes were the same as what Alison has stated.  Then a curious thing happened.  As the paralegal profession started to grow, and the more trained and educated paralegals that entered the profession, attitudes slowly changed.  The younger attorneys “grew up” with professional paralegals and they slowly replaced the dinosaurs with the attitudes Alison talked about.  There was also a difference between the eastern and western parts of the state and the way we were viewed.  The eastern part of Virginia had a more progressive attitude.  The western part was, shall we say, more conservative and old fashioned.  However, that’s changed too.  But again, it’s all in the size and progressiveness of the firm.

Something to think about…

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Not much commentary here, so I’m going to take a chance that won’t complain much if I just re-post its post:

A former legal secretary at a BigLaw firm wondered why her new boutique employer didn’t pay her overtime, since her former firm did.

That led to federal lawsuit against an Ohio intellectual property boutique, reports the National Law Journal in an article reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.). And the Northern District of Ohio suit has now been conditionally certified as a class action.

An estimated group of 40 legal secretaries could proceed against Turocy & Watson, the NLJ states. Represented by attorney Anthony Lazzaro of Cleveland, they allege that the IP firm misclassified the workers as exempt to avoid paying overtime required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“I think that there are plenty of law firms out there that are paying secretaries and paralegals a salary without overtime,” Lazzaro tells the NLJ. But, although they may not realize it, this violates the FLSA, he says.

OK, so I can’t let it go without comment. Is this really about the money? Perhaps, just perhaps, when it comes to paralegals it may really be about respect.

It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying, and hearing, again.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010 has a good article by Mary L. Creekmore, a practicing paralegal entitled, “Top Essential Skills and Assets for Paralegals.” It describes the standard skills discussed in most paralegal textbooks, but goes on to discuss areas like time and workplace management that are the focus of “The Empowered Paralegal.”

With my current focus on professionalism and the paralegal profession I was particularly taken by this passage especially as it too echoes The Empowered Paralegal:

The last asset is the ability to be self-motivated and work with minimal supervision. This means knowing what has to be done and doing it without having to be reminded. Managing your workflow, keeping track of assignments and deadlines, assertively asking when a project needs to be completed, asking for more responsibilities and being willing to do more than what is expected all fall within this category. These actions are all indicative of your work ethic and desire to be a success.

Let’s not forget perhaps the most important aspect of being a paralegal: being a professional. The national and local paralegal organizations have fought long and hard to get our profession recognized. The paralegal profession is still relatively young, and we need to continue to fight the battle, not only on a local and national level, but every day at our jobs, to be recognized and respected as professionals.

This places a huge responsibility on each and every one of us every day. Being a professional means acting like one. Your demeanor, the way you speak, the way you dress, the way you act, how you tackle the challenges that you face and your attitude are all indicative of whether or not you take being a professional seriously.

Follow the link above for the whole article. ALM Media, Inc., who published it thinks highly of it also. According to its “Permissions and Reprints” link if you want to make 30 copies for educational purposes it will cost you $60! (I didn’t check to see what the price would be if you were trying to make money off of it.) In any case, my students will have to read it online.

Guest Blog Post – Paralegal Utilization

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Coincidences abound in the blogosphere. (What a word!) As I posted regarding unhappy paralegals and the prospect of improving their plight through proper utilization, a discussion entitled “Paralegal Utilization” began on the Paralegal Today discussion board. One post particularly caught my attention and I asked the auther, Sharon Lunsford, to provide a Guest Blog Post on her experiences for The Empowered Paralegal. She agreed and this is it. You may find it helpful to share some of it with your attorney:

Sharon Lunsford has spent her in-house paralegal career working for international retail corporations with a mix of corporate and franchise locations. Having also dealt with corporate maintenance, trademarks, real estate and other corporate matters, she currently specializes in franchising. Sharon holds a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in comparative politics.


In my 21-year paralegal career, I have always worked in-house. This is my fourth corporation so far. They have all been national retail businesses; at least two of them were Fortune 500 companies. I hope the following gives you a good idea of the typical corporate law department environment as I have experienced it.

Working Environment:

In every position I have spent most of my time on substantive legal work, except that in one job the paralegal part was half the job and running certain aspects of the department’s operation was the other half. Although I have sometimes had to do all my own copying, filing etc., I have not been asked to split my time between secretarial and paralegal assignments for an attorney.

I have been treated as a professional at three of the four positions, including the job with one of the smaller companies where I was actually a member of the “company management team” and attended periodic meetings of that group. My job at the other company (one of the smaller departments) was an odd situation as far as secretarial support, and the less said about that the better. At the same job, although the only relevant qualification for the job was that I had to be familiar with a computer keyboard and have reasonable word processing skills, they insisted on giving me a typing test the day I got there, after I was hired and had already left the other job. (I don’t even deal with agencies that require typing tests of paralegals, so you can imagine how I felt about that little surprise. Come to find out, their idea of treating a paralegal as a professional was not to complain if we took time off for a medical appointment.) I had some good people around, including the other paralegal and some of the businesspeople I worked with, but the company as a whole was not a pleasant work environment at that time in its history. I did, however, gain considerable experience in franchisee default issues and unusual state examiner issues, and the timing of my bankruptcy-related layoff put me in the right place for my next job.

 Office Space:

 At one job I went from a desk in the “bullpen” (room with 5 desks) to a cubicle to a glass office along the outside of the building. (Some years after I left, that office or the one next to it was shattered by a tornado after normal working hours.) In one I had a cube first in line from the corporate floor elevators. People kept thinking I was the receptionist. In another I had an office (no windows) the whole time, with lots of cabinet, shelf and worktable space. At the other I started with half of a large double cube area with extra shelving and then moved to an inner office.

 Secretarial Support:

 In each of the four positions I have had some level of secretarial support. This has included, in order of support level, not chronological order:

 1.   someone to bring my mail to me unopened and do nothing else for me (and act as hybrid secretary/paralegal and support the general counsel);

 2.   someone to open my mail, date-stamp it and hand it to me; type up documents that involved filling in very simple forms; make copies (large batches only); answer my phone if needed and send out mail and express items (and support the general counsel and one other paralegal);

 3.   someone to open my mail, date-stamp it and bring it to me; make copies; send faxes & bring me faxes; use a signature machine to apply management signatures to contracts as authorized; copy or scan contracts and contract amendments and send copies of the signed documents to franchisees; file correspondence and contract documents and index contract files; occasionally pull files; occasionally set up meetings and send out invitations on the email system; scan large batches of documents (e.g. contract files) for me to send to outside counsel as needed; take default/termination notices and other non-routine documents to executives for signature; occasionally assist in generating contract documents and inventory files for storage (and support one to three attorneys and one or two other paralegals); and

 4.   someone to check the tickler list every morning, pull the files diaried for that day and bring them to me; open my mail, date-stamp it and bring it to me; answer my phone when needed; make copies; send faxes & bring me faxes; send mail and express items; file; occasionally set up meetings or appointments; inventory files for storage and occasionally draft letters (and support the lead deputy general counsel). I could have asked her to bring coffee and it would have been considered part of the job. (Yes, our secretary was well paid.)

 Title and Pay Grade:

 In-house paralegals may be hourly non-exempt or salaried exempt employees. At one of the smaller corporations we had two levels – Corporate Paralegal (me) and (if I remember correctly) Senior Paralegal; at the other, there were also two levels – the hybrid secretary/paralegal (I don’t remember her exact title) and me, a Senior Paralegal. At one of the larger corporations we had two levels; one for paralegals trained on the job, titled Administrative Assistant–Legal Department and one for paralegals holding paralegal certificates from accredited colleges (not necessarily ABA-approved, because they weren’t aware of that process), titled Paralegal. Both were referred to verbally, and introduced to outside counsel, as paralegals. At the other there are three levels – Paralegal, Senior Paralegal and Senior Corporate Paralegal or Manager depending on the standard titles in place when the paralegal moved into that position.

 Examples of Substantive Legal Responsibilities:

 During part of my time working with franchise matters I have managed an annual interdepartmental franchise disclosure update process similar to the manner in which an in-house securities paralegal might manage a 10-K update process. Franchise contracts I have worked with have ranged from short fill-in-the-blank documents prepared by the franchise department to fairly complex documents prepared (usually by me) in the law department. At one company I have managed a franchise contract database and have been the “go-to” person for what’s in a franchisee’s contract (business and legal provisions) for a certain location. Franchise documents I have drafted at the different companies include franchise agreement amendments, release documents, default and termination notices, franchise inventory buyout agreements and international master franchise agreements. Another part of the job has been negotiating disclosure document issues with state franchise examiners. In addition, I have drafted transfer documents and managed franchise transfer closings either in person or by phone, email and fax.

 When I handled trademarks for one company I drafted all documents to be filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (applications, notices of opposition etc.) and worked directly with international outside counsel on international filings. When I handled trademarks for another company I just told our U.S. or Canadian law firm what we needed and they handled everything; the U.S. firm dealt with international matters through their international law firm connections. I much preferred being able to draft documents myself but different companies handle things different ways. At both companies I reviewed the U.S. Trademark Gazette for possibly infringing marks. When I handled real estate matters I drafted subleases, prepared or corrected Estoppel certificates and negotiated legal points with landlord’s counsel. At one company I tracked the details of several levels of subsidiaries, drafted written consents in lieu of board meetings and handled state corporate maintenance filings and state merger and acquisition filings.

 Examples (just the highlights) of the utilization of in-house paralegals in various areas of law include trademark paralegals who write the company brand use guidelines, transactional paralegals who assist in negotiating mergers and acquisitions and draft some or all of the needed documents; labor and employment paralegals who represent companies at mediation proceedings and draft responses to agency inquiries and litigation paralegals who gather information and respond to subpoenas, draft answers to interrogatories and draft responses to requests for production. (Sometimes this responsibility is shared; at one company I drafted the answers and responses for franchise litigation.)


 An in-house paralegal position can be as specialized or as varied as you want. In one position I handled all general corporate, franchise, and (for a while) trademark matters – basically anything that was not litigation (except some franchise litigation) or agency claims. At another I handled franchise and trademarks. At another I handled domestic and international franchise, real estate and odd state filings formerly handled by the tax department. Currently I handle franchise matters only.

 Other Opportunities:

 An in-house paralegal may be in a position to learn certain aspects of law department management. There is a small chance of jumping over to the business side, for those interested in that route. Among my four paralegal jobs, for instance, I have handled most facets of running a law department (network administration and documentation, budget process management, clerical staff training and/or supervision etc.). Law department administration is one of the alternative careers possible to someone with that type of experience. Another, in my case, would be contract administration. A real estate paralegal could move to a lease administrator position in a company real estate department, and I know one who did exactly that. Much larger companies of course may have paralegal managers; I have not worked with that additional management layer but it offers another type of opportunity for an experienced in-house paralegal

Continuing Legal Education:


I believe each of my employers has paid for at least one paralegal association membership. One even paid for ABA associate membership for several years. And one employer has paid the travel and registration costs for me to go to national legal conferences in my area of law.




I can’t discuss in-house positions in detail without adding this warning. I have interviewed for two different jobs where the paralegal was the only person in the law department and the decisionmaker/gateway for documents to be reviewed by outside counsel. I was very leery of those positions; in one case the company was just coming out of Chapter 11 and in the other the people conducting the interview were consultants with an accounting firm (???!!) and not lawyers. Fortunately I was not called back for a second interview for either position. I know someone who is constantly being put into an awkward spot because she is asked to handle certain contract and compliance matters without appropriate experience or training or the assistance of outside counsel. I would avoid that environment like the plague unless you are a highly experienced paralegal who knows where the line is and has the clout to require the use of outside counsel as needed.


If you’re not asleep yet (!), I hope this has been helpful.


Sharon Lunsford

Thank you, Sharon!