Dedicated to the progress and advancement of all paralegals.

Mentor Blog

Welcome to our mentor blog. Here you will find posts from
industry professionals on such topics as:
  • Resume & Cover Letter tips
  • Interview Tips
  • How to succeed at work
  • How to get a Mentor
  • What every Mentee should know
  • I lost my job. Now what?
  • Healthy habits
  • 09 Sep 2020 10:17 PM | Deleted user

    In looking for an Entry Level Paralegal Position in Civil Law, NYC Legal Aid Society has open positions in Tenant Advocacy. My prior NYC Gov't experience in the SCRIE Program and familiarity with DHCR, I believe, would make me a very valuable Teammember, even though my Paralegal experience in this context is entry level. How may I be succinct and effective in my cover letter, in this regard?

    Thanks for your time,

    Harvey L. Simon, (Paralegal and MPA)       

  • 27 Aug 2020 8:29 PM | Deleted user

    By: Signe Whitson 

    The professional atmosphere of a typical workplace setting inhibits the direct and honest expression of emotions such as anger and frustration. Yet, even in the most business-like environments, employees experience these strong emotions over daily events. Couple professional pressure to mask emotions with the tone-obfuscating medium of email, and you have yourself a recipe for passive-aggressive behavior

     — the perfect office crime.


    In a recent survey, Adobe discovered the nine most-hated passive-aggressive email phrases used in the workplace. Below, I offer three steps that workers can take to avoid becoming entangled in no-win, passive-aggressive conflicts at work, along with suggestions for effective responses that de-escalate the bubbling hostility of a passive-aggressive office situation.

    Step 1: Know what you are dealing with.

    The first skill to effectively managing passive-aggressive email communication is to see beyond the sugarcoated phrasing and recognize the hostility that lies beneath. When you see the kind of  patterned wording cited in the Adobe study (e.g., “As previously stated” or “Please advise”), a red flag should be raised in your mind, and you should ask yourself if the sender of the message may be harboring some hidden anger toward you.

    Step 2: Refuse to engage.

    Once you learn to readily recognize the red flags of passive-aggressive communication, the next essential step is to resist the urge to mirror the sender’s hostility. The goal of the passive-aggressive person is to get someone else to visibly act out the anger that they have been concealing. Any time their covertly hostile email is responded to with overt hostility, the passive-aggressive person succeeds. Rather than mirroring passive-aggressive behavior and increasing the overall hostility quotient in the workplace, savvy professionals know to defuse the hostility instead with emotionally neutral, bland responses. For example:

    Passive-aggressive phrase: “Not sure if you saw my last email...”

    Don’t mirror the hostility by replying: “Not sure if you realize how busy I am…”

    But rather drain off some of the hostility by starting with, “Thanks for the reminder.”

    Passive-aggressive phrase: “Re-attaching for your convenience...”

    Don’t up the ante by replying: “I got the attachment the first time you sent it and don’t need you to clog up my inbox with your repeated reminders.”

    But rather model respectful communication by saying, “I appreciate that you re-sent the document.”

    Passive-aggressive phrase: “As previously stated...”

    Don’t jeopardize your own professionalism by replying with the first sarcastic thought that pops into your mind, such as, “Oh, did you state that previously? I must have missed it, because you talk so much that I usually just tune you out.”

    Rather, keep it classy and don’t take the bait. A simple, “Thanks for the recap” will go a long way in keeping a friendly workplace and rising above someone else’s covert anger.

    Passive-aggressive phrase: “Any updates on this?”

    Don’t engage in passive-aggressive behavior of your own by intentionally ignoring or delaying your response to their request for updates.

    But rather, offer a polite, factual response such as, “I don’t have any updates yet,” or even better, “I don’t have any updates at this time, but I will email you as soon as I do.”

    Passive-aggressive phrase: “Sorry for the double email.”

    Don’t respond with angry or aggressive language that will make you look like the office hothead (and help the passive-aggressive person look like your victim), such as, “That’s actually the third time this week you’ve bothered me with this, and if you email again, I’m going to break your typing fingers.”

    But rather, acknowledge the person’s persistence by replying, “I have received both of your emails and will respond as soon as I have an answer for you.”

    Passive-aggressive phrase: “Please advise.”

    Don’t give in to the urge to inundate the person with more advice and work than they ever bargained for, such as, “I’m going to need you to cancel your weekend plans and stay here at the office to thoroughly investigate the situation and submit a 100-page report by Monday morning.”

    But rather, take the high road, and offer the advice they are seeking. For example, “Yes, please proceed with your idea,” or, “We have decided to move in a different direction. Please hold off on making any changes.”

    Step 3: Acknowledge the anger.

    If you feel like a co-worker is chronically hostile and using passive-aggressive communication across most situations with you, it might be worth taking the next step, which is to respectfully but very simply acknowledge their anger. For example, you might say, “It sounds like you may be feeling angry,” or, “From your email, I’m wondering if you are frustrated about something.” 

    Nine times out of 10, the passive-aggressive person will reflexively deny that they are feeling angry — and that’s OK. Your respectful acknowledgement marks a change in the dynamic; the passive-aggressive person now knows that you are a straight shooter who will not shy away from trying to resolve a conflict. With consistent use of steps 1 through 3, the passive-aggressive person will have no choice but to begin to relate to you in a more honest way.


    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/passive-aggressive-diaries/201809/how-respond-passive-aggressive-emails-in-the-workplace

  • 17 Aug 2020 10:56 AM | Deleted user

    By Samantha Vitone

    I am a huge morning person. I have a good start in the morning is doing my usual morning routine. One of them is saying ‘good morning’ to my work colleagues. It sets myself towards a great day. When I greet my co-workers in the morning, I notice how it brightens their mood. I know It does for me! Even if you are working remote from home or in the office, it can still play an impact. Not everyone is a morning person but I always say ‘good morning’ because I believe it is important and it can mean much more than you think. Below are a few reasons as to why saying good morning is critical.

    1. Manners: It is like you saying hello to someone but he or she does not say it back – it is just as courtesy. Saying ‘good morning’ is a way to acknowledge one another and it maybe can make someone’s day a little bit better. You are also wishing them well for the day.                                                         
    2. Improves Communication and Positive Among Workers: A 'good morning' acknowledges the presence of your colleagues and makes them feel welcomed. It also gives you a chance to interact with your colleagues for a few minutes or even seconds. According to https://www.thehappinessfirm.com, positive human interactions and communications lead to happier work relations especially when you’re trying to collaborate or to solve problems at work. According to Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, they say that social connections are not only vital to our physical health, but they’re key to improving our mental and emotional health, too.                                                       
    3. It is Quick - Saying good morning to your co-workers is painless and a fast way to interact with one another. It is a method to acknowledge each other’s presence, especially people we do not usually work one on one with or see too much of.

    Greeting and acknowledging one another is a way to help create positive overall atmosphere in the office. How do you create a happy workplace and boost employee engagement?

  • 21 Jul 2020 9:53 AM | Deleted user

    Getting hired right now, may seem daunting. The last time a pandemic occurred was in 1912 and there weren’t detailed records kept about how the economy bounced right back, let alone a manual written on how to get hired after a pandemic.

    Yet, several companies are hiring right now. Navigating these changing tides means adapting, like being ready for online interviews, longer waiting times and focusing on the things you can control.

    As for the question of, "Can you get hired right now?" the answer is yes. Companies are continuing to hire and rehire as the nation opens back up again. Just take a look at Disney who furloughed employees and now is projected to open on July 11th with employees back on board, safe and healthy. With the national re-opening a decrease in unemployment numbers occurred, down to 13 percent from the 17 percent immediately following the pandemic.

    You may feel ready to work. Guess what, companies feel ready to have you come work. You still have the capacity to do the job and companies adapt to tailor the job responsibility and description to meet these changing times, including ensuring employee safety and health.

    Those are only some of the changes that occurred. The government stepped in during this crisis, helping keep businesses afloat, and still plans to assist during this transition. There is also a predicted rise in a contact-free economy, with a rise in telemedicine, digital commerce and automation. Companies are faced with re-thinking business models entirely, looking to the future with innovation and pliancy to transform their companies in this dynamic world.

    What does this mean for you? Getting hired right now is reality. It may require flexibility, with time and growing new skills. This is a great time to invest in a class, book or training session to develop new skill sets that only set you apart as a candidate. It may mean taking some lifestyle changes, like working from home permanently. Facing the future requires reconstructing what was to create what will be.

    On the practical side of, "How do I get a job right now?" focus on the reality that companies may take a little longer but still practice what helped you land jobs in the past.

    1. Following up: It’s still okay to follow up on your application. Wait about one week before making contact as a general rule of thumb. If you don’t hear back from the company after following up, it’s safe to move onto the next lead.

    2. Interview prep: Prepare like you normally would for an interview (even if the interview is virtual), such as coming up with examples from past experience. Additionally, ask yourself “what skills did I develop during the pandemic that I can take into this next job?” Did you take a class? Did you learn time management skills? Spend time reflecting on this experience and applying it to the workforce.

    3. Keep an eye on the horizon: Keep your eyes out for new opportunities by continuing to search for jobs as well as talking with friends, family and past co-workers about your job hunt. Staying focused on what is out there keeps fueling the fire to move forward.

    Stepping back into work may provide challenges, especially during the changing economy. There are companies hiring out there right now. The process may look different than before, but you can do this.

    This article was written Danielle Beatty.

    Danielle Beatty is a copy writing intern at Nexxt. She brings her experience of exploring for the right job to help job seekers in searching for their next opportunity. She enjoys coffee, music and writing whenever she gets the chance. 

    https://www.theconfidentcareer.com/2020/06/can-you-still-search-for-jobs-and-get-hired-at-the-moment.html

  • 16 Jul 2020 8:51 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    Psst… these breakfast ideas taste so good you’ll wonder how they’re even healthy.

    By: Rebecca Jacobs

    Enjoying a healthy breakfast sets the tone for a healthier day. And, not only that but fueling up with nutrient-dense foods is a sure-fire way to give your body that much-needed boost of energy to conquer your daily to-do lists! 

    We’re sharing simple ways to ditch that sugary bowl of sugar and say yes to healthy and wholesome breakfast options to help set you up for serious healthy eating success all day long. 

    READ MORE HERE

  • 08 Jul 2020 8:53 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    How to Cope After Being Laid Off

    New York Times writer Holly Epstein Ojalvo speaks with Alison Stewart about managing the emotional impact of losing a job and takes listener calls in How to Manage the Emotional Impact of Getting Laid Off


  • 15 Jun 2020 8:52 PM | Deleted user

    By Samantha Vitone

    Times are tough right now and it is hard to ignore with what is going on in the world, especially in the United States of the year 2020. When I sign in to any social media platform or put the news on, what I usually see is fear. I love being informed and educated with current events but lately, it has played a negative toll on me. I have been feeling sad, upset and concerned. I bet you that I am not the only person who has hit that point during this craziness.

    I recently realized that I needed to make some active changes in my life to help keep my spirits uplifted and to have a sane mind. Below are a few tips and tricks that help me feel relax when I am upset and I want to share them with my readers. This is a time where we should help each other out and I hope my tips will help you too.

    • 1)      Healthy Activities: Step away from your smart phone and yes, you will be okay. “The vast majority of Americans who have access to the internet rely on social media to keep up with friends and current events.” Most of us can agree that social media is a fun and a colossal time-suck and addictive. It has become so easy to access anywhere and anytime and we feel compelled to pay attention 24/7 to what is taking place on our newsfeeds. According to Dr. David Greenfield, he said, ”staying away from social media makes you less prone to such high level of cortisol, leaving you more relaxed and focus. Choose more mentally engaging activity to banish your boredom instead of scrolling through your feeds such as reading a book or building something,” (I love reading books so if you need any book recommendations, let me know!). Once you stop scrolling through other people’s opinions or news, “you will likely find out more about what motivates you, activities you enjoy and it will help lead to the discovery of one’s self.” There are applications that can help keep you off your social media accounts such as Offtime, Moment, Forest and more.
    • 2)       Emotions – It is okay to open up and to seek help. Talk to your family or friends with your issues or even just vent to get some feelings off your chest. If you do not want to talk to anyone who is close to you at first, that is okay. There are several services that can help you such as therapy, find a support group and other helpful services. Or, writing your feelings and thought, can help you understand your feelings more clearly which can improve your mood. “Journaling can help you manage anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression.”
    • 3)      Staying Active – When I finish a work out, I feel happier and better from either doing a high-intensity work out, a run or the spin bike. Why is that? According to healthdirect.gov.au, regular exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin which makes you feel good. A recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that, “running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%.” In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing. Even a little bit of activity is better than nothing, take a few minutes out of your day and do a physical activity such as walking in your neighborhood, yoga, stretching and more.
    • 4)      Take A Deep Breath In And Now, Let It Out – What helps me sleep every night is doing deep breathing exercises. The way you breathe affects your whole body and breathing exercises are a great way to reduce tension, relax and relieve stress. Improper breathing can cause anxiety, panic attacks and fatigue. According to psychologist and breathing expert Alison McConnell, “taking 6-10 minutes each day using this breathing technique can help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.” There are several different breathing exercises that can help you relax. Do your research to find deep breathing techniques that works best for you.

    Difficult times can feel incredibly overwhelming and there are many things we can do to soften the blow. The tips above are ways that can help you be mentally strong during tough times. What helps you de-stress? To help others, let others know what healthy and safe ways that help you relax.

    Samantha is an Associate Member to the Paralegal Association of New Jersey, Inc. She is also the Social Media Coordinator for the New York City Paralegal Association Inc. She enjoys being active and involved in the legal industry, especially the paralegal world.

    Works Cited

    https://www.healthline.com/health/my-65-week-digital-detox

    https://www.thehealthy.com/mental-health/quit-social-media/

    http://www.psyweb.com/articles/mental-health/journaling-to-cope-with-depression-anxiety-and-stress/

    https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/exercise-and-mental-health-recovery

    https://greatist.com/happiness/breathing-exercises-relax

  • 10 Jun 2020 8:56 PM | Deleted user

    By: Bert Binder

    You love your job and have absolutely no interest in finding a new one or squandering your scant spare time monitoring the job market. Or maybe you are currently in an “under/over” job. That would be a job where you are: underutilized, underpaid, underappreciated, overworked, overlooked, and/or overwhelmed. If you are in that first group—lucky you! Just do not get too comfortable and complacent to remember that change happens. Don’t get so involved in your day-to-day routine that you lose sight of your long-term career goals. Being the master of your career includes being prepared for events that may impact your current job or work environment.

    Career management includes being prepared for the unexpected, whether that is a serendipitous job offer or any undesirable change(s) in your current job. This preparation can give you the power, confidence and ability to move forward in a more felicitous manner. Commitment to staying current about career options and researching the job market are excellent uses of your time and should be part of your long-term career plan. You should not be too busy to stay informed about career opportunities in case you decide or are forced to make a change.

    Consider these scenarios: your current employer could merge with another firm/company/agency resulting in a major culture and responsibilities shift; your boss, who is totally awesome, decides to retire or leave for another job and you are reassigned to a new boss who is definitely not totally awesome; a personal situation may require relocation to another city; an unforeseen pink slip due to restructuring or shifting business priorities—all job impacting events. Case in point: I was a Litigation Support Specialist at a large law firm, which had been in business for over forty years that dissolved because of management dissensions. I really loved that job. When it comes to your career, do not let the circumstances beyond your control force you into an under/over job.

    Effective career management includes being open to learning about the diverse career opportunities that are evolving in today’s job market. Staying informed about the job market is not a negative reflection on your current employer, it is vital to your career. You may not be unhappy or dissatisfied, just curious. Have you ever wondered what else is out there? Are you really as competitively paid as you think you are? Are you ready for some new challenges and learning opportunities? What additional skills or knowledge would you need to move your career in a different direction? What direction is that? Also, reviewing job postings that are comparable to your current position can provide insight to any evolving trends in skills or technology that are becoming standards or requirements sought by other employers. This information can help you to determine if you need to update your skills or knowledge just to be competitive in your current job classification.

    If you are contently employed, you can be more objective and selective in perusing job postings since you will need to be impressed and inspired to consider making a change. If the moment arrives and you realize it's time to move on, by keeping your job search in motion, you will have real time insight to the job market. There’s a difference between always looking for a better job and always switching jobs. Just because you’re always looking doesn’t mean you always want to make a change. The more you review job postings, the more opportunities you’ll uncover. With more opportunities, you can be more discriminating about which ones best meet your interests and career goals. Furthermore, consider that the postings can support and reinforce that you are currently in the right job because nothing else really piques your interest.

    It is important to look not just at the positions you are currently qualified for, but also for the next step job to see what qualifications, training or certifications you could pursue. This information can provide you a sense of what the industry standard is for education and skills as well as the salary range in that new direction. It helps to know what’s out there and what employers are identifying as their Requirements or Preferences. Staying in the hunt helps you chart your progress at your current job and evaluate whether or not it’s offering the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge that you need to advance to the next one. Before you decide on the jobs you want to pursue, you have to analyze the aspects of your current job that you are passionate about, those you don’t mind, and those you wish you never had to do again. Successful people change jobs many times during their careers; and it is good career management to always be on the lookout for divergent opportunities.

    You do not need to spend an inordinate amount of time job searching; just keeping up to date with the market. This can be easily accomplished by signing up for job notifications/alerts. If your career plan includes a transition to a different job type than you currently hold, you will need to do some work to determine job titles to use in your searches. Nothing is worse than looking for a job when you’re desperate. Your anxiety level and your unhappiness can result in being willing to settle for a new job that is just good enough—not one that you really want or deserve. So if you find yourself unexpectedly needing to find a new job, you can improvise a course of action without a predetermined plan (aka, wing it); or you can make informed, calculated decisions because you have been monitoring the job market for your next career opportunity.

    One of the commitments I made when I became a Career Coach was to publish an electronic newsletter of job postings that I cull from diverse sources. The jobs that I share focus on positions for paralegals, legal assistants, and law office support staff; as well as alternative career positions that require legal skills, knowledge and abilities. While my job postings are for the Metropolitan Phoenix Az area (the 11th largest by population in the U.S.; 2017 Census), individuals across the country subscribe to get insight to the diversity of jobs available in a large metropolitan area for those with legal education, knowledge, experience and skills. I have helped a number of clients who wanted to make a career transition to a job that they never knew existed until they saw a job posting for it. So whether you’re looking to learn more about job opportunities or just finding out what is out there, sleuthing around the job market can be the smartest career move you can make. Exploring your potential with other employers could also reignite your career fire.

    Paralegal Career Options Are Diverse ------------------------ If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else. ~~ Yogi Berra The future depends on what you do today. ~~Mahatma Gandhi

    About the author: Bert Binder is a nationally recognized Career Coach with a diverse range of expertise in the legal field. Her education includes: A.A.S., Legal Assistant; B.A., Justice Studies Administration; and M.A., Human Resources Management. She has been a member of the adjunct faculty of an ABA approved Paralegal Program since 2001. Her career evolved from traditional paralegal jobs in the government and private sector to litigation technology consulting and court management. As a Career Coach, Bert works with entry level through senior level Paralegals, Legal Assistants, and legal support staff to define, plan and pursue their career goals. If you would like to receive her free e-Newsletter of job postings for the Metropolitan Phoenix AZ area, you can contact her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paralegalcoach/ or at ParalegalCareerCoach@gmail.com

  • 10 Jun 2020 8:50 PM | Deleted user

    By: Bert Binder, Paralegal Career Coach

    Have you heard the comment: “being a paralegal is a dead-end job?” The people who I have heard make that comment were focused on having a paralegal titled job at a law firm, corporation, or attorney based government agency, as that was generally their interest and intent when they decided to become a paralegal. Recently, I read a post stating that the paralegal profession is doomed by technology (I wholeheartedly disagree). If concern about having a deadjob or doom and gloom is not causing you trepidation, are there other factors that are making you feel well beyond the need for a significant change in your paralegal career?

    I have participated in numerous discussions in the office, at organization meetings, and at happy hour about the negative characteristics of the paralegal profession: high stress, underappreciated, over worked/under paid; not respected; crazy hours; expected to meet impossible deadlines; inadequate communications; etc. Those issues as well as feeling burned out, frustrated, stagnant, in a rut and cultural dissatisfaction are all drivers for paralegals seeking diverse career options. And there are actually some paralegals who just have a curiosity as to what else is “out there” that they are qualified to do and could pursue if so inclined.

    It has been my privilege and pleasure to be a member of the adjunct faculty of an ABA approved Paralegal Program (my alma mater) since 2001. I spent over a decade as their Paralegal Internship Coordinator, helping students prepare for their entry into the paralegal career field. From 2014 - 2016 I took over the Job Bank Coordinator position to provide an electronic newsletter of local job postings (Phoenix Arizona Metropolitan Area) to students and graduates of the program. So I am very familiar with a large metropolitan area job market and the skills, knowledge, abilities and education that employers seek. The Program Director asked me to expand the job postings beyond the traditional paralegal jobs to include career opportunities for paralegals desiring more diverse career options. I was amazed and inspired by what I found.

    So how did I determine which jobs could be possible career options for paralegals? I compiled a database from over a thousand paralegal/legal assistant/legal support job postings to determine the most commonly required skills/knowledge/education in the job postings. Some of the most frequently listed were: detail oriented, excellent oral/written communications, organized, effective time management, multi-tasking, excellent interpersonal skills, analytical, legal/general research, work with limited supervision, and problem solver (sound familiar?). The vast majority of those jobs required at least an associate degree. Then, I started searching for the Required and Preferred qualifications for a wide range of job titles and found many job opportunities that require those same skills, knowledge, abilities and education.

    Job opportunities are definitely out there for those with these skills and abilities; some without additional education or training required, and some require additional skills, knowledge and/or education to meet the job qualifications (i.e., advanced degree or certifications). Since many paralegals embrace continuing legal education and lifelong learning, they would not find it difficult to embrace pursuing more education or skills development to expand their career opportunities. I have found Paralegals, as a group, to be highly competent and career focused individuals.

    One of the key events that created a number of career opportunities for paralegals is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, a federal law that set new or expanded requirements for all U.S. public company boards, management and public accounting firms. The law was enacted as a reaction to a number of major corporate and accounting scandals, including Enron and WorldCom. The growing maze of laws, regulations, licensing and permits increased the need for compliance positions to make sure companies and governing bodies stay in line with internal policies and regulatory requirements. For example, here is a portion of a job posting for a Compliance Specialist: advanced understanding of litigation and federal and state agency proceedings; ability to analyze and understand legal and business concepts related to compliance issues; excellent communications; excellent analytical skills; detail oriented; well organized; effectively manage high volume workload; high level of professionalism; confidence; integrity; ability to build relationships (sound familiar?).

    We can likely all agree that change is hard (easier to complain than change), but change can also be stimulating and rewarding. Whether you are burned out, bored, or just curious, maybe it is time to get inspired and focused to develop a strategy for your next career move. If you are ready for a change and a challenge, here are just a few of the job titles I found that listed requirements that many paralegals can meet from entry to senior level. Some of the jobs requiring senior level experience are more relevant depending on the experience obtained working in a specialty area of law (i.e., real estate, criminal law, trusts/wills/estate planning, immigration, etc.). None of the following jobs were listed by law firms; they are from the private and government sectors. Very few of the job postings contained salary information as that was a factor that I also considered whenever possible. Remember that changing jobs always has multiple factors and aspects to consider well beyond just salary. So if a new job is something you are contemplating, hopefully this information will help you expand your search for options:

    Senior Experience: Health Plan Compliance Specialist; Contract Compliance & Training Officer; Mitigation Specialist; Medicaid Compliance Officer; Contract Administrator; Medical Marijuana Program Legal Liaison; Contract Management Specialist; Code Compliance Officer; U.S. Pretrial Services Officer; Compliance Supervisor; Contracts Administrator; Legal Support Supervisor; Controls & Compliance Analyst; Immigration Services Officer; Subrogation Team Leader; Real Estate Lease Administrator; Fiduciary Investigator; Environmental Compliance Specialist; Risk Management Administrator.

    Entry Level (0 -2 Years) Experience: Operations Legal Specialist; Legal Coordinator; Legal Administrative Specialist; Operations Legal Clerk; Legal Staff Assistant; Fraud Support Representative; Credentialing Assistant; Case Processing Specialist; Initial Services Assistant; Justice Systems Clerk; Legal Support Assistant; Victim Notification Clerk; Assets Researcher, FOIA Information Specialist; Custodian of Records Assistant, Legal Social Media Specialist.

    -----------------------------

    Bert Binder has been employed as a Paralegal in both the government and private sectors. She has been a member of the adjunct faculty of an ABA approved Paralegal Program since 2001. Her career has evolved from traditional paralegal jobs, to Litigation Technology Consultant, Director of Courtroom Technology for the fourth largest court system in the country, and currently, Career Coach. Check out www.ParalegalCareerCoach.com for services and career information. Contact Bert if you would like to receive her e-Newsletter job postings.

  • 10 Jun 2020 8:40 PM | Deleted user

    By: Bert Binder

    The use of electronic presentation of evidence in a trial first came to my attention in the early 1990’s. There was a civil trial in Arizona involving a savings and loan violating federal antifraud laws and defrauding tens of thousands of people out of their savings. I started following the trial because I knew someone who had lost most of her life savings in that scandal. The trial went on for months and involved over 50 million pages of documents. My fascination with that trial was one of many experiences I had as a litigation paralegal that inspired me to continue learning more about litigation technology (evidence presentation software, case and document management databases, graphics design applications, etc.).

    In the late 1990’s I got a job as the Litigation Support Specialist for a large law firm in Phoenix. I used Summation to manage large document cases, and TrialDirector, Visio, and PowerPoint to prepare the cases for hearings or trials. When there was a trial, I had to transport equipment to the courthouse and set it up in the courtroom. The usual setup included a projector, large screen, VGA cables, power strips, extension cords, computers, and audio speakers. Many of the attorneys at the firm were quick to embrace electronic evidence presentation since they had me to prepare and handle the technology in the courtroom for them; and they received very positive feedback about their presentations from the jurors after the trials. It was generally accepted that visual presentations aided in the comprehension and retention of the information presented.

    Using evidence presentation technology in the courtroom got much easier for me in 2001 when Maricopa County Superior Court opened their first e-courtrooms in downtown Phoenix. Hallelujah! Not only was all that equipment I had toted already there, but much more was available including: annotation monitors, video conferencing, document camera, and a VCR/CD player. Also installed in these e-courtrooms was an audio/video recording system that digitally recorded the trial. (There was a court reporter present who took down the official record.) The lawyers really liked the ability to get a daily copy of the trial recording on a CD so that they, or their associates, could review testimony back in the office. Sometimes the attorneys had me make audio/video clips of witness testimony that we would play during closing arguments. We also used clips of the opposing counsel’s witness when they waffled in their testimony during cross examination—definitely more effective at holding the jurors’ attention than reading from the transcript.

    Fast forward to 2006 and I found a new job (of course technology was involved): Director of Courtroom Technology for the Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County, the fourth largest court system in the country that encompasses over 9,000 square miles. This court system includes Superior Courts and Justice of the Peace Courts which currently have over 185 judicial officers in 19 courthouses throughout the county. Yep, the courtrooms I was frequenting for years were now my responsibility to support and assist in the renovation of, as well as the design of new courtrooms. I also provided training for attorneys and paralegals on the use of the equipment. During the eight years I was there, we built and renovated dozens of courtrooms, and expanded and improved the technology in the courtrooms to meet evolving needs.

    Today, electronic presentation of evidence has become the status quo in many jurisdictions; however, there is much more technology in some courtrooms that can be extremely useful. While most of my professional experience is in the Arizona state court system, I have spoken with vendors working on courtroom technology projects nationwide, and they affirm that other states have included many of the features that we have available. In addition to evidence presentation systems, additional technology in our courtrooms includes:

     Audio/video recording systems that digitally record the proceedings. Note: anyone can purchase a copy of any trial/hearing recording that is not sealed. So, if you are interested in other cases which may have relevance to your case, this is an inexpensive way to get copies of recordings of trials/hearings (much less costly than a transcript).

     Free Wi-Fi. Today cell phones and other mobile devices are commonly used to provide attorneys with the ability to communicate with their staff or vendors outside the courtroom. Public Wi-Fi can be a convenience, and sometimes a necessity, to attorneys during hearings/trials.

     Assistive listening headsets available for anyone in the courtroom (jurors, parties, witnesses, and observers in the gallery). I had attorneys tell they removed their hearing aids to use the headsets as they provided better audio coverage of the courtroom.

     Video conferencing. While there are various options available today to have a remote witness appear in the courtroom, a video conference system installed in the courtroom can be integrated into the other technology and provides stable, high quality audio and video of the witness.

     To improve audio, lavalier mics are available for the attorneys who prefer to move around the well of the courtroom during a proceeding; and hand-held, wireless microphones are available for jurors to use during voir dire (jurors can be very hard to hear in a large courtroom).

     Remote Interpreter equipment. A court interpreter can be in any courthouse on the court network and connect to a tilt/pan/zoom camera and the audio system in a courtroom at another courthouse. This provides them with the capability to see and hear the person needing interpretation services. The person in the courtroom wears a headset and mic so that they can directly communicate with the interpreter.

     Audio/video feed from the courtroom to a victim room adjacent to the courtroom. During criminal trials, there may be times when a victim prefers not to sit in the courtroom but wants to see and hear the proceedings live.  Large, flat-panel monitors in jury deliberation rooms and a portable, multi-component technology cart available to connect to the monitor so that jurors can review digital exhibits that were admitted during trial.

     Ability to stream the audio/video recording system from a courtroom to an overflow room in the courthouse so the public can view the trial live—very useful in high profile cases that receive a lot of media attention.

    Court systems (federal and state), judges and attorneys across the country have taken notice of technological developments and evolution of equipment that can improve efficiency and enhance the trial/hearing process in the courtroom. While preparing for your next trial, check with the court staff to find out about any technology available in the courtroom that can be beneficial to everyone involved. 

    About the author: Bert Binder began her legal career in 1988 and has been employed as a Paralegal in both the government and private sectors. She has an A.A.S. in Paralegal Studies, B.A. in Justice Studies Administration, and an M.A. in Human Resources Management. Bert has been a member of the adjunct faculty of an ABA approved Paralegal Program since 2001, offers local workshops on diverse paralegal career topics, and has been a keynote speaker at Paralegal Conferences and Seminars. Her career has evolved from traditional paralegal jobs to Litigation Technology Consultant, and Director of Courtroom Technology. Since December 2014, she has been a nationally recognized Career Coach. Bert maintains memberships in the Arizona Paralegal Association and the Maricopa County Bar Association Paralegal Division. She can be contacted on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paralegalcoach/ or at ParalegalCareerCoach@gmail.com

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