Posts Tagged ‘training’

Who is he talking about?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

JAG Flag Course Focuses on Legal Team

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

A public affairs notice from the Maxwell Air Force Base reports on a JAG/paralegal training course held there in May. The course sounds fascinating just in terms of the law being taught: “During the operational law course, students receive lecture and seminar instruction in deployed fiscal law, contingency contracting, law of armed conflict, legal assistance before and during deployments, deployment-related claims, rules of engagement, joint and combined operations, and civil law issues during deployed operations.”

However, I found most interesting the fact that the course focuses on building the legal team. “This ten-day course trains judge advocates and paralegals to identify and analyze legal and political implications of international military operations, teaches students how to apply legal principles and reinforces the JAG paralegal team concept.” (Emphasis added.)

I also like the method of teaching:

Upon completion of classroom and seminar instruction, students then deploy in judge advocate-paralegal teams to the exercise, which provides a field environment where students apply their classroom learning to specific deployment-related legal scenarios while under the direct supervision of senior judge advocates and paralegals with deployment experience. …The scenarios the students face vary and can sometimes prove cumbersome. During one scenario, the students find themselves in a foreign country attempting to establish whether a person captured by a simulated CIA agent can be detained under the Laws of Armed Conflict. They must assess the situation, establish the person’s rights and then implement their decision. A marshal, played by a senior judge advocate, then discusses the scenario with the students, identifies the proper legal solution and critiques what the students did right and wrong.

It seems to me that more legal teams should be trained in this fashion. It often seems artificial to be training paralegals and attorneys totally detached from each other and then trying to meld them into a team later. I would prefer to have more paralegals programs connected directly to law schools rather than located in separate business schools or departments. At the vary least, there should be more programs where paralegal students work side-by-side with law students during the clinic experience. My recent research indicates that this may indeed by the trend at this time.

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!

Update on OLP e-discovery Certification

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

The Organization of Legal Professionals provides this update on e-discovery Certification:

  • The certification exam for non-attorneys in e-discovery core competencies is well underway.  A certification exam is a complex undertaking and many important decisions are made in the planning and development phase.  We expect to roll out the first exam by March 1st.
  • Training for e-discovery is being made available to The OLP members and non-members. Be sure you are on the mailing list for the most recent courses.
  • As previously discussed  here the need for expertise, and thus training and certification, in the e-discovery field continues to grow. So, watch for the opportunities provided by OLP.

    In the interest of full disclousure, I am on the OLP Advisory Council.

    Some Thoughts on California

    Monday, August 24th, 2009

    California’s legislation relating to paralegals has come up in previous posts, particularly Independent Paralegals and UPL. The legislation capped “CAPA’s [California Alliance of Paralegal Association] longtime goal of obtaining a statutory definition of the paralegal/legal assistant titles came to fruition in 2000 with the passage of AB 1761, now codified as California Business and Professions Code sections 6450 et seq..”

    The definition itself does not add much to that agreed upon by ABA and NALA:

    6450. (a) “Paralegal” means a person who holds himself or herself out to be a paralegal, who is qualified by education, training, or work experience, who either contracts with or is employed by an attorney, law firm, corporation, governmental agency, or other entity, and who performs substantial legal work under the direction and supervision of an active member of the State Bar of California, as defined in Section 6060, or an attorney practicing law in the federal courts of this state, that has been specifically delegated by the attorney to him or her. Tasks performed by a paralegal include, but are not limited to, case planning, development, and management; legal research; interviewing clients; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting and analyzing legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent decision and recommendation to the supervising attorney; and representing clients before a state or federal administrative agency if that representation is permitted by statute, court rule, or administrative rule or regulation.

    However, the legislation puts some meat on the bones of the phrase “who is qualified by education, training, or work experience,” stating,

    (c) A paralegal shall possess at least one of the following:
       (1) A certificate of completion of a paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association.
       (2) A certificate of completion of a paralegal program at, or a degree from, a postsecondary institution that requires the successful
    completion of a minimum of 24 semester, or equivalent, units in law-related courses and that has been accredited by a national or
    regional accrediting organization or approved by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education.
       (3) A baccalaureate degree or an advanced degree in any subject, a minimum of one year of law-related experience under the supervision
    of an attorney who has been an active member of the State Bar of California for at least the preceding three years or who has
    practiced in the federal courts of this state for at least the preceding three years, and a written declaration from this attorney
    stating that the person is qualified to perform paralegal tasks.
       (4) A high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, a minimum of three years of law-related experience under the
    supervision of an attorney who has been an active member of the State Bar of California for at least the preceding three years or who has
    practiced in the federal courts of this state for at least the preceding three years, and a written declaration from this attorney
    stating that the person is qualified to perform paralegal tasks. This experience and training shall be completed no later than December
    31, 2003.
       (d) Every two years, commencing January 1, 2007, any person that is working as a paralegal shall be required to certify completion of
    four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in legal ethics and four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in either
    general law or in an area of specialized law. All continuing legal education courses shall meet the requirements of Section 6070.
    Certification of these continuing education requirements shall be made with the paralegal's supervising attorney. The paralegal shall
    be responsible for keeping a record of the paralegal's certifications.
       (e) A paralegal does not include a nonlawyer who provides legal services directly to members of the public, or a legal document
    assistant or unlawful detainer assistant as defined in Section 6400, unless the person is a person described in subdivision (a).

    Many persons within the paralegal profession argue against regulation of the profession. On the other hand, independent paralegals may point to the fact that this legislation was sought by CALA and question the motivation behind the legislation. Still other note that the preference given to ABA approved programs is intended to create or advance a monopoly by the ABA on the legal profession.

    So the question remains, does minimal regulation such as California’s benefit the paralegal profession? Whether or not it does, does it benefit the public?

    Sharpening the Line Between Lawyers and Paralegals

    Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

    A previous post entitled “The Line Separating ‘Lawyers’ from ‘Paralegals’ Becomes Blurred” noted a post by Lynne at Practical Paralegalism entitled, “Paralegals, Watch Your Backs! Out-of-Work Lawyers Want Your Jobs. ” I had intended to follow up on that issue by noting the differences between paralegals and lawyers to explain why it is a mistake for lawyers to take jobs as paralegals. It is not just a matter of protecting paralegal turf. The fact is that lawyers and paralegals are trained differently for different roles.

    However, that territory was covered quite well by Lynne in a comment she posted on a blog post on law.com – Should You Work as a Paralegal if You Can’t Find a Job as a Lawyer?.  Carolyn Elefan, who did the post answered in the negative stating,

    In general, lawyers are either over-qualified or under-qualified for many of the available non-lawyer positions. For example, one firm that advertised for an administrative assistant was inundated with lawyer résumés. But the firm declined to hire a lawyer because it felt the candidate would simply leave once a better job came alongIn general, lawyers are either over-qualified or under-qualified for many of the available non-lawyer positions. For example, one firm that advertised for an administrative assistant was inundated with lawyer résumés. But the firm declined to hire a lawyer because it felt the candidate would simply leave once a better job came along.

    The point is not, however, that the lawyer is over-qualified. The lawyer is simply not qualified by training or experience to do what paralegals do. For example, the paralegals role in client management is quite different from that of an attorney.

    Lynne summed the training aspect up well in her comment to Elefan’s post:

    While lawyers’ training is usually a three-year immersion in case study and analysis, many paralegals have undergone two to four years of specific paralegal training which is much more practice-oriented and very different from most law schools’ current curriculum.

    Chere Estrin, Editor-in-Chief of Know: The Magazine for Paralegals handles the experience issue in another comment,

    Besides differences in training – lawyers are trained in the practice of law while paralegals are trained in procedures and processing – few lawyers have the on-the-job experience to be a paralegal. In fact, while lawyers can delegate a paralegal assignment, very few can execute it. The awarding of a law degree does not guarantee knowledge of the finite and detailed responsibilities of paralegals.

    And Melssa H. from Paralegalese, who I have previously quoted in an encouraging sequel on the topic “Does Your Attorney Understand What You Do?” makes an point that may be even more important:

    Also, we need to stop tiering in the legal world. When we say that paralegals and attorneys are trained differently for different jobs, we are not saying that the attorney’s job requires a smarter or more capable person. We are saying the attorney’s job requires a person with a law degree and license to practice, while the paralegal’s job has other requirements (which I personally feel need to be more uniform as we move forward). If I were a lawyer, I would want the most capable, intelligent person I could find to assist me in my practice. After all, if the paralegal is doing work that, absent the paralegal, would be done by the attorney, I would hope the paralegal is at least as competent as the person who chose to go to law school would be.

    I am so thankful I have an attorney supervisor who views me and my education as valuable resources to his firm. While technically, he is the boss and controller of the work product, he places a ton of faith in my abilities. At some point, when I have a few more years under my belt, I expect he may even trust me more than he will trust himself in some areas. This says nothing negative about his own abilities and intellect. It just means that our daily jobs are slightly different, and I come into contact with some situations more often than he does. Over time I will develop a more detailed knowledge of some parts of the legal field that do not require a licensed attorney. Rather than a viewing this as a problem, I like to compare it to the different jobs nurses and doctors do. The doctor may be fully capable of performing the duties of a nurse in a technical sense, but the nurse’s experience and training probably make him better at the job.

    The attorney and paralegal are parts of the legal team. The attorney, like a quarterback, directs that team.  Except in exceptional circumstances, the quarterback is not expected to play the role of the other team members – primarily because he is not trained or experienced enough to perform those roles. No one want the quarterback responsible for protecting against a 300 lb defensive lineman. The same applies to the protection a paralegal gives from many clients through skillful and professional client management.

    Does your attorney understand what you do? – An Encouraging Sequel

    Thursday, August 6th, 2009

    Melissa H. over at Paralegalese takes Time Out for a Moment of Encouragement starting with:

    When I first decided to enter the paralegal career, I geared up to constantly be on the defensive. I just knew that many attorneys, especially young ones fresh out of law school, would look down on me and my lowly position on the legal totem pole. In a few instances, my assumption turned out to be correct. Fortunately, ignorance is usually the proponent of such attitudes, and ignorance is fairly easy to cure. I remember talking to one baby lawyer last year about my studying for the NALA certification exam, and how I excited I would be to be able to add “CP” or “CLA” to the end of my name. All of a sudden, an understanding came to his face, and he said, “So that’s what those letters mean! I thought our staff was just making it up!” I do not know whether he appreciates the staff members at his firm more because of my revelation, but I believe that conversation revealed to him that paralegals, while we usually have not spent three years in law school, take our jobs and roles very seriously.

    Do not assume that your attorney really understands what a paralegal is. Here are just some of the reasons they may not understand:

    • Some attorneys do not understand the distinction between a legal secretary and a paralegal. In some small firms, especially a single attorney office, all the staff is used to doing about everything. There is no file clerk, so everyone just does the filing when they are using a file. While there are differences in the positions of the staff, there are no clear job descriptions. This blurring of lines in daily practice can cause confusion.
    • Often the problem goes deeper than that. There is substantial confusion in the legal system itself. The ABA and NALA may have agreed upon a common definition. You know this from school, but few attorneys know the definition much less understand it. In fact, while many attorneys, paralegals and legal assistants feel there is no difference between a paralegal and a legal assistant, others draw a rather unclear distinction. For them there is an hierarchy that runs some thing like this: receptionist, secretary, legal secretary, legal assistant, paralegal. Almost nobody has a clear idea of exactly where the lines are drawn between the various stages in the hierarchy. In areas where this distinction is made, generally the paralegal is more educated and/or more experienced than the legal assistant and is often paid more. Similarly, the paralegal is given more responsibility for substantive legal work while the legal assistant may have more clerical and/or secretarial duties.
    • Your attorney may be aware that paralegals are more than legal secretary and less than an associate attorney, but be quite vague as to where they fall between those two goal posts. As a result, the attorney may expect you to do work that is really attorney work and give you less guidance and supervision that you need and deserve. Or she may be unaware of just how much help you can be and give you tasks you feel underutilize your talent because she views you as a “fancy” legal secretary or “just” a legal assistant.
    • The ABA/NALA definition does not help such attorneys much. Unlike the attorney who must meet specific educational and licensing requirements, how a paralegal becomes a paralegal is a bit of a mystery to many both in and outside the profession. There was a time when a person could become an attorney just through experience by “apprenticing” to an established lawyer, or by studying and passing the bar exam, but those days are long gone. So it can be unclear to an attorney (and almost everyone else) just what qualifies a paralegal to be a paralegal.
    • The definition says “education, training, and/or work experience,” but how much of each is needed? Not long ago, there were no formal paralegal education programs. Most paralegals simply moved up the receptionist, secretary, legal secretary, legal assistant ladder by gaining more and more responsibility as a result of more and more experience which gave the attorney more and more confidence in their ability to handle that responsibility. At what point did they become paralegals – after five years? Ten? Fifteen? At what point did the responsibility level become that of a paralegal rather than that of a legal assistant? What is “substantive legal work?”
    • The present status of paralegal education is no less confusing to many attorneys. What is the difference, in terms of the work the paralegal can perform between a paralegal certificate, an associates degree in paralegal studies and a bachelors degree in paralegal studies? What does it mean to be certified? Is being certified the same as having a certificate? Who does the certification?

    When I am asked to give advice to attorney on training their paralegals I soon discover that it is the attorneys that need to be trained! They are perfectly competent, sometimes extremely competent, attorneys, but know little about the capabilities of their own staff.  (Excerpted from The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient and Professional)

    Paralegal-attorney communication

    Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

    The following comments are excerpted from a post on South Carolina Trial Law Blog, :

    Dear Attorney:
    You could make my job easier and I could be a more effective employee by considering the following:
    1. Not everything is an emergency. Please prioritize my work.
    2. Return phone calls the same day.
    3. Do not micro-manage me, you hired me for my brain and ability to do the job.
    4. Do not ask me to lie to the client or anyone else, if you don’t want to take a call. (I have a solid rule: Lie to me, because I won’t lie to your wife when she calls.)
    Sincerely,
    Your overworked Paralegal

    Effective communication with the you attorney is an important component of paralegal professionalism. The topic is covered extensively in The Empowered Paralegal. One comment on the SCTL blog puts it this way:

    I think it boils down to training and communicating. The attorney trains the paralegal. Then it’s time for the paralegal to train the attorney. Attorneys forget that paralegals can’t read their minds. Trust me were good! Most of the time, we can read your mind, but every once in awhile we need to meet with you! Once a system is developed for communicating and meeting everything flows — sort of like that VISA commercial (where everyone uses the credit card and all is flowing nicely. Watch out for the one paying with cash).