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
  • 17 Jun 2012 8:37 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    Are You Sitting on the Bench? 7 Ways to Become a Real Player
    By: Vicki Voisin, ACP

    Sitting on the bench is not a lot of fun. All the other team members are participating in the excitement of the game while the bench warmers are just watching -- and wishing they could be more of a player.

    Paralegals may experience the "bench warmer" malady, too, when they would like to play a bigger role on the legal team and assume greater responsibility.

    Wanting and wishing will not make it so. Instead, you have to take action to get off the bench and out on the field. Here are 6 ways to make that happen:

    Perception is everything. Be sure you are perceived as a person who can take on more responsibilities. Is your office neat and organized? Even though you may know where everything is among the piles of papers and files, you may appear overwhelmed and unable to take on any more work. You may also appear disorganized and unable to keep track of a project. Give some thought as to how you can project a better image in the office.

    Upgrade your skills. If your employer will send you to continuing legal education classes, always go. If that is not an option, learn on your own time and dime. Your local paralegal association may offer classes. There are excellent learning tools available on the Internet. Read everything you can. Pay attention to how others in the office are doing their work and ask them to teach you.

    Become an expert. Has your office implemented a new software program? Learn it inside and out and then offer to train others how to use it. You may also want to draft training manuals and checklists to save everyone time. Whenever you become the “expert” in any area, you will be called upon to play a bigger part in the game.

    Volunteer. Want to take a more active role in a case, perhaps one that is going to trial? Anticipate what has to be done and take a stab at completing the work.

    For example, ask if you can prepare the witness and exhibit list or organize the trial notebook. Many attorneys prefer to do this themselves but there is no harm in asking if you can prepare a draft. When the final product is completed, compare it to your draft to learn how you can improve for the next “stab”. You may find that the attorney will gladly turn more responsibilities over to you IF he thinks you more things well.

    Do good work and meet deadlines. When you are given work, be sure to ask when it must be finished. Then do your best work and finish as soon as possible, perhaps beating the deadline. A word of caution: Never hesitate to ask questions if you aren’t sure how to do the work and never promise you will meet a deadline if you know you are not able to.

    Cooperate and pitch in to help. Cooperation is the act of working with others to complete a project. When you respond positively to requests for assistance, as well as take the initiative to solve problems and get the work done, you demonstrate a cooperative spirit and willingness to help everyone for the good of the team.

    Team players do not come in any particular style or personality, nor are they always the “Yay, Team!” cheerleader types. While they may be soft-spoken, they are not passive. They care about what the team is doing and they contribute to its success without being asked or pressed into action.

    Follow these 6 steps, to become an active and committed team player. You will find that warming the bench is a thing of the past.


    ============================

    © 2012 Vicki Voisin, Inc. 

    Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She is the co-author of The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success. Vicki publishes Paralegal Strategies, a weekly e-newsletter for paralegals, and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.

    More inf ormation is available at www.paralegalmentor.com where subscribers receive Vicki's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.

  • 05 Jun 2012 10:17 AM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    By: Jennifer MacDonnell & Gjineta Sulaj

     

    This article was reprinted with permission from The Paralegal Society
    a forum created to educate, motivate and inspire paralegals.
    Be sure to check it out at:
    www.theparalegalsociety.wordpress.com!

     

    When I was a child my worries were small. When will the sweet song of the local ice cream truck pass by my street? What stinky vegetable will I be forced to eat at dinner tonight? How many more agonizing days until summer vacation?  Will Santa bring me all the Christmas gifts I wished for this year? Okay, I have to admit I secretly worry about these things, but now as an adult with a demanding paralegal career and a family, my childlike worries have escalated into unchartered territory.   

    I constantly worry about whether my paralegal career and family will survive the onslaught of daily obligations. Will I finish the mediation brief on time so I can take the kids to the park and get dinner on the table? If I work a few weekends and late nights preparing for the big trial will I be able to finally take a relaxing family summer vacation? Can I manage without sleep tomorrow, labeling and organizing trial exhibits, if I shop the Toys R Us midnight madness Christmas sale tonight to buy the kids presents for under the tree? Seriously, at some point, you have to ask yourself how our parents effortlessly crafted the balancing act of sustaining a career and a family without voluntarily moving into Crazy Town as a permanent resident. 

    Indeed, our parents somehow kept their sanity intact and we survived our childhood. Although, I am quickly learning, our parents would have never had balanced a career and a family without a much needed sense of humor and taking note of a few of the following survival secrets.

    1.  Leave the Diaper Rash Home:  If you have ever read Winnie the Pooh books, you are familiar with the low drawl, whining tone of Eeyore, the gloomy and depressed old grey donkey. Don’t be that new or seasoned parent that spreads gloomy grumbles to everyone at the law office about your late night feedings, baby blowouts, and every little diaper rash in between. Whether you realize it or not, you will only be setting the stage to be alienated by your coworkers and ultimately your boss. Leave the diaper rash stories and the Eeyore attitude at home with the experts, your kids. 

    2.  Just Say No to Saying No:  The daycare supervisor will charge you $20.00 for each minute you are late picking up your kids and there are only thirty minutes left of your workday. Out of nowhere your boss approaches you and desperately asks, “Can you work until 6:30 p.m.?” Of course you can’t, so immediately you say “No.” Wait!!  When does the word “no” actually enter the vocabulary of any paralegal?  Aren’t we trained to rationalize every detail of a case in the client’s favor?  Ultimately, you should have informed your boss about your daycare pickup duty prior to this predicament, but since you are forced to explain your situation, offer a compromise of coming in early or working late tomorrow. You are better off professionally if you attempt to negotiate with practical options, rather than just saying “no.”           

    3.  Excuses are for Sissies:  So really, how do superstars Brad Pitt and Angela Jolie balance their professional careers and manage to raise six children with such ease. Okay, okay, they do have a gazillion dollars to spend on nannies, personal assistants and private chefs. But you also never witness a glint of blame casted upon their children or themselves for the reasons why they can’t have more productive professional careers. In fact, they appear to strongly embrace their family unit, as if this is what fuels them to carry on. On the other hand, I have observed parents with larger-than-life sad puppy eyes openly place blame on their children for their shortcomings in the professional paralegal arena. Instead of using your children as a definitive excuse for the lack of a paralegal career, rather find the strength in your family to set a positive example by accepting your current career status or choosing to move forward with your paralegal endeavors. 

    4.  Will Work for an Adult Escape Every mom has seen the Nyquil commercial depicting a woman in bed with the worst cold in her life. At her bedside, the loving husband convincingly says, “After all, if you take Nyquil, you will sleep like you did before we had kids.” [Insert your over exaggerated eye roll here] Really? Nyquil will help you escape parenthood and give you a good night’s rest? Any parent understands there is no escaping or forgetting about your 24 hour a day family obligations. Although, diving into your paralegal “adult” work-life, for example, by drafting a trial brief can be a great escape, even if it is just for a little while. That one small moment of escape will rejuvenate the “adult” in you, and reclaim your inner works of a paralegal professional.

    5.  Bad Attitude Disease Have you ever walked into work wearing your happy paralegal game face, only to be greeted with a severe case of bad attitude disease? The receptionist fails to return your cheery morning hello, the legal secretary is threatening a mass email alert if her stapler is not returned, and your supervising attorney is on the hunt for whoever stole his blue pen. This is all within the first five minutes of your day, and you are pretty confident that you will be the next victim of the bad attitude disease, only to eventually infect your family after work. Instead, don’t be an active participant of the problem. Sure, you can lend a sympathizing ear, but then put on your happy paralegal game face and move on. In the scheme of the day, these petty attitudes and complaints are not your own.    

    6.  Stop the Blame Game As hard as we try, parents often find themselves in unfortunate situations beyond their control. For instance, missing your child’s acting debut in the school play because you worked late to meet a court filing deadline.  Yes, this would make any parent feel like jumping off the proverbial deep end, and believe me, you are not alone. Although, crying real tears or playing the “blame game” is simply no way to diminish the fact that you missed a memorable family moment.  Obviously, planning ahead would have saved the day, but as many paralegals know, the best plans can be hijacked. Don’t be afraid to tell your boss that you cannot work late, but then make sure to offer a compromise. Otherwise, if you must work late and miss the school play, stand tall, meet your filing deadline, and stop the blame game, as you will have future opportunities to witness many memorable family moments.           

    7.  A Paralegal’s Job is Never Finished You firmly believe the next episode of A&E Network’s reality series, ‘Hoarders’ will feature your home unless you come up with a solution, and fast. Endless piles of laundry are strewn across the family room waiting to be folded, the kitchen sink is stacked with dirty dishes, the kid’s toys are scattered everywhere, bills are piled up waiting to be paid, and the bathroom needs a full overhaul. To top it all off, your paralegal briefcase is loaded with a 200 page trial transcript for your review. Don’t panic! Take a deep breath!! After all, you are a paralegal, right? Put on your paralegal game face, remain calm while prioritizing, and then divide and conquer the situation. I know you thought you left your paralegal tool bag at work, but by utilizing your savvy paralegal organizational devices, you will be able to resolve the most overwhelming family home conditions. 

    8.  The Big Picture Strategy It’s 6:30 a.m. and you have already started to break a sweat over your work/family to-do list for today. As you rush to get ready for work, prepare breakfast for the family, make lunches for the kids, and herd everyone towards the door, you say to yourself, “Why didn’t I grow up be a fortune teller and join the circus.” Since fortune tellers can see the future you could at least build a strategy on becoming less stressed out! Take your blinders off my paralegal friends, because we are conditioned to foresee potential problems and then distinguish those fires before they start. Through simply calendaring your family’s routine activities, you will clearly foresee the big picture, predict your daily stress triggers, and then alleviate them with a preplanned strategy.      

    9.  Cartoons are for Kids I remember when cartoon heroes like the Super Ninjas, Super Friends, and Scooby-Doo dominated Saturday morning television. I would watch these cartoon characters solve the world’s problems, assuming that it was perfectly normal that they never had any real life responsibility. As a busy parent, with a demanding paralegal career, it is all too easy to transform into the cartoon heroes of our youth, solving everyone’s problems, but your own, and without accepting any help. Temporarily put your pride in your back pocket and pass your hero costume to a family member, friend, neighbor, or even coworker. By accepting a little help, you will effectively manage your time to solve life’s responsibilities.       

    10.  Work Anxiety Buster Once again, you are stuck sitting in after work rush hour traffic with a full blown anxiety attack. Did Susie Secretary follow my direction and schedule the transcriber for the mediation tomorrow? I think I received a confirmation email. Did my supervising attorney receive the message that the mediation was pushed back one hour? I think he confirmed he received my message. The banter inside your head could go on for hours or worse, all night!  Instead of torturing yourself, unwind your day at the office.  Just take a few minutes to check your calendar or email, speak to the support staff or your supervising attorney, and you will surely minimize future anxiety attacks.       

    In a single fleeting moment, most parents humbly realize they are not superhuman. It can happen anytime between the daily race to get home from work, the rush to drop the kids off at soccer practice, the moment those dinner plates hit the table or as you sink down into the comfy cushions on your couch for the first moment of quiet time around 10:00 p.m. So before you jump the next train to Crazy Town, recognize your sense of humor and keep your practical decision making in the forefront. You can either allow the daily frustrations of a career and family life call the shots, or you can prevent them. In any event, remaining positive and proactive will help you survive the daily balancing act of a family and a career.

     

    © The Paralegal Society – All Rights Reserved – Reprinted with Permission
  • 05 Jun 2012 10:12 AM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    By Mariana Fradman, MBA
    (Part II of our Resume Series)

    This article was reprinted with permission from The Paralegal Society™ a forum created to educate, motivate and inspire paralegals. Be sure to check it out at: www.theparalegalsociety.wordpress.com!

    In Part I of this series, we started to speak about the evil in our lives: “the resume” and how to write a winning one.  I got a lot of responses and would like to answer some of the most common questions in this article. 

    One or two pages? I personally prefer a one-page resume. Your resume is your ticket for an interview. Your job is to grab reader’s attention as they all are busy people and the likelihood that your resume is the only one that came their way is close to null. Unless you are applying for a C-level job or a teaching position, most of information provided will be disregarded if the reader lost interest after 10 seconds. Can you read two pages in 10 seconds? Neither can the employer.  The resume must be a marketing piece that compels your reader to pick up the phone and give you a call or to send you an e-mail. It should be concise, crisp and to the point.

    Should I use Arial, Tahoma or Times New Roman. What about pictures and colors? We are in a professional world. Entering (and staying) in the field is not an easy job and you should know that documents need to be in a certain format using certain guidelines. Your resume is one of those documents. While you may be a very creative person, using hearts for bullet points, animation and fancy colorful frame or headlines won’t put you on top of the pile…unless it is a recycling bin. Don’t take a risk.

    Remember: most of the time your resume won’t be printed out, but reviewed on-screen. Use the most conventional fonts used in the legal word. Times New Roman and Arial are a few of them. Your font size shouldn’t be less than 11 pt and your heading shouldn’t be more than 14 pt. I am not a fan of tables – ever. The document may look great when printed out, but on the screen it just won’t look crisp and concise. Period.

    Why I can’t use one resume for all positions? They are all law related. The key word is “Focus.” Do you want to get that job? Focus on THAT job. Never use a “one-size fits all” resume. There are no “one-size fits all” jobs, so, your resume won’t work. I know great candidates who couldn’t land a single interview until they revised their resumes. I know mediocre candidates who were getting interviews just because they had a winning resume (not necessary a job, but the resume is your ticket for an interview, isn’t it?).

    I won’t use an “Objective” statement on my resume. We all have one objective, don’t we – to get a job!  However, a nice summary statement or qualifications summary at the beginning may help. The idea is to grab reader’s attention. Don’t forget that your summary should be tailored for each position you submit your resume for, but you statement should be clear…and short. I saw summaries that were running from two to ten sentences. Your summary shouldn’t be more than two lines long. If you can’t write it as short as two lines, omit it. Save it for your cover letter. It will look much better there.

    Why can’t I put “all” my experience on the resume? “Everything?” You can order a bagel with “everything.” You can’t add everything to your resume. I know what you are thinking: I have 25 years of experience and if I don’t list everything, they would think that I don’t have enough experience. The answer is “yes” and “no.” It is all in presentation. Your most current job should take the biggest chunk of your resume. It is also recommended to keep your experience to your last ten years of employment. If your past two-three positions were similar, if not the same, be creative. Don’t just copy and paste. And leave out your part-time job while in college, if you graduated…ten years ago.

    My husband said that my resume is boring! If he said it, he is right. Trust him! Don’t be the one who is boring. Don’t just list down your daily routine and (as I mentioned above) copy and paste it from one job to another. You must use action words and highlight your achievements. Don’t say “assisted in preparation of exhibits for a trial.” Say “prepared exhibits.” You drafted documents, managed people, ran events and created presentations. So, say so!

    How can I organize my resume? I can’t stress enough how important it is for your resume to be organized. It is not only important for your resume, but it is an integral part of our profession. If you rushed and created a messy resume with your experience, education and skills strung together here and there, what will an employer think about your organizational skills?

    There are a few sections of your resume that are a must: Education, Experience, Membership and Associations, and Skills. Depending on your situation, the first two can be switched; however, all of your education should be listed under Education and all your experience should be listed under Experience. Period.

    I also recommend bullet points for your job description. Start off each bullet point with a strong action verb. Stand out on your resume. Show your actions and your organizational skills.

    Miscellaneous. No, this part is not about some random additions to your resume. It is about those extra things that need to be taken out: your hobbies and past activities. I spoke about them in my first article, but I see this on nearly every resume. You may not believe it, but this is the last thing candidates typically agree to take off of their resumes. They are okay with the majority of my comments and suggestions…except for when it requires them to take off their extra-curricular activities.  They seem to cling to the activities.  Why?  Let’s discuss this further.   

    So, you were an active member of a civic group in the 80’s. Not only will you give up your age by listing that, but the activity is irrelevant to the job you are looking for today. I understand that this was part of your life, but you never know the outcome. It can either assist you or hurt you undefined it’s a toss up. There is no middle ground.  Don’t take any chances.

    You were a “prima donna” at your high school musical. Congratulations! But we are not competing here for a role in the next musical. Paralegals don’t sing…at their desks or in a courtroom. 

    I understand that you need to fill up your resume and put as much as you can in order to convince an employer to give you a shot, but you never know what he or she has in mind. Stick to boring activities like volunteer-paralegal for a divorce clinic or immigration clinic. By the way, they are not so boring – and actually related to your profession.

    Spelling and Grammar.  Last, but not least undefined and one of the most important subjects on resume writing is proper spelling and grammar. What would you think about a candidate who can’t spell? It is very easy to miss a word here or there. Even if you re-read your resume a few times, it is easy to miss a typo or fail to spot a grammar mistake. Get someone else to look at your resume. I heard that if you read backwards, you would spot your mistakes (and yes, the human brain can accept backward information – try it and let me know if it works for you).

    I encourage you to review your resume again. Take the time needed to make sure that you have a winning resume. If you would like me to take a look at your resume – don’t be shy! Email it to mentor@nyc-pa.org and I will do my best to assist you.

    © The Paralegal Society – All Rights Reserved – Reprinted with Permission

    This article was posted at http://theparalegalsociety.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/%e2%80%9care-you-sure-you-have-a-winning-resume-part-ii%e2%80%9d/

  • 29 Apr 2012 11:15 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    The role of a Paralegal can be defined various ways, some of which are as follows:

                            Bureau of Labor Statistics defines paralegals or legal assistants as individuals that “assist lawyers by investigating facts, preparing legal documents, or researching legal precedent…conduct research to support a legal proceeding, to formulate a defense, or to initiate legal action.”  (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm#nat)

                            American Bar Association:  “A legal assistant or paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.” (http://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals.html)

                            National Federation of Paralegal Associations: A Paralegal is a person, qualified through education, training or work experience to perform substantive legal work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and is customarily, but not exclusively, performed by a lawyer.  This person may be retained or employed by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency or other entity or may be authorized by administrative, statutory or court authority to perform this work.  Substantive shall mean work requiring recognition, evaluation, organization, analysis, and communication of relevant facts and legal concepts.” (http://www.paralegals.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=788)

                The above definitions beg the question of which definition is correct and which one fully defines a paralegal. Which definition fully states what we believe to be a paralegal? What definition should associations adopt across the United States?  Which definition will the Courts accept? Each definition stated above stresses the importance of education, supervision by an attorney and substantive legal work (that is non-clerical in nature) that would otherwise be completed by an attorney.  So, what can a paralegal really do? What are our limitations? Here is the short list:

                            A.     Paralegals must communicate to the client that they are not an attorney;

                            B.     Paralegals cannot be partners in a law firm;

                            C.     Paralegals cannot share legal fees;

                            D.        Paralegals are permitted to have business cards, their name on firm letterheads and sign correspondence as long as it has the appropriate designation;

                            E.         Paralegals cannot give legal advice; and/or

                            F.         Paralegals cannot sign pleadings, appear in court, set fees or receive bonuses that are tied to a particular case.

                What is the difference between a paralegal and a legal document assistant? According to the Alliance of Legal Document Assistant Professionals, “A Legal Document Assistant (LDA) is a non-attorney, qualified by experience and education, who is authorized to provide self-help legal services to a consumer who is representing himself or herself in a legal matter. A Paralegal is authorized by law only to perform substantive legal work for a licensed attorney, law firm or in-house legal department. Paralegals are not permitted to provide services directly to members of the public.” (http://www.aldap.org/ethics.htm) 

                Some states have already adopted definitions for legal document preparers, but have not clearly defined paralegals.  Who should make these types of decisions?  The Courts, the States - should there be statutes and legislation or reliance upon case law?  Who will ultimately respond to these questions?

                What are the educational differences and requirements to sit for the various tests offered by the following organizations:  National Association of Paralegals (NALA) (http://www.nala.org/) - the Certified Paralegal/Certified Legal Assistant Exam (CP/CLA) and the Advanced Paralegal Certification (APC); National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) (http://www.paralegals.org/) - the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam (PCCE™) and the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE®); American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. (AAPI) - the American Alliance Certified Paralegal application (AACP); National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) (http://www.nals.org/) - the Professional Paralegal Exam (PP)?  Which test is the right test?  Will any of the tests be approved by the Courts to certify a paralegal?  Who will monitor the UPL requirements of paralegals?  States like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina are some of the few that have Certification programs through their state bar associations.  States like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware have Certification programs through their state or local paralegal associations.  Other states like Florida, Ohio, Kentucky and North Carolina are some of the few that have Certification programs through their state bar associations.

                There are three (3) types of regulation:  Registration, Certification and Licensure.  Why is regulation important?  As attorneys confront challenges in their daily practices to provide quality legal services to their clients, attorneys need to be assured that the paralegals they employ to assist in their practice are better educated and qualified to provide legal services.  Members of the public indirectly rely on the work performed by paralegals and many times directly rely upon information given to them by paralegals.   Paralegals should know and understand their ethical duties, their limitations under the Unauthorized Practice of Law statutes, and meet minimum standards of paralegal competency. Although most states with a regulatory scheme have a voluntary program, it does give the attorney a much-needed benchmark to assist with hiring practices and hopefully reduce ethical violations, unauthorized practice of law violations, and malpractice claims.  Regulation will not prevent attorneys from hiring any non-lawyer as a legal assistant or paralegal but it will help attorneys to identify qualified candidates and allow the attorney to publicize the employment of a certified or registered paralegal

                There seem to be more questions than answers; more gray areas than clear    black and white ones.  How can individuals hold themselves out as professional paralegals when no one knows or even understands what that role means and entails?  What should the requirements be? Should someone right out of school hold the same position and salary recommendation as someone who has been in the legal field for over ten (10) years and is just now getting the recognition they deserve?  What are the educational requirements, degrees or certificates which should determine becoming a paralegal?

                Some of the benefits for employers to utilize paralegals are reduced costs to clients, lower legal fees, increased client contact, court approved paralegal fees, pro bono opportunities, liaison with Court personnel, proficiency in electronic filings, specialized services and competitiveness in legal community (http://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals.html).  Some of the issues facing the paralegal profession include outsourcing, disbarred/suspended attorneys working as paralegals, cutbacks, work satisfaction and growth/promotion opportunities.  However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The number of jobs for paralegals is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. Law firms will hire more paralegals to help lawyers prepare their cases.  More people and businesses will need legal help.  Many people like these jobs, so new workers are expected to face competition.”

                A student and/or a working paralegal should be interested in these issues and many of the other issues facing the paralegal profession.  A way to do that is to make professional development a part of your daily program or schedule.  Remember VIPER:

                            A.        Volunteer - for pro bono or community service projects or assignments

                            B.         Involve - get involved in a committee or group with the local paralegal association

                            C.         Participate - in a luncheon or special event in the legal community or local paralegal association

                            D.        Educate - continue your legal education through seminars or conferences

                            E.         Respect - continually have respect for your chosen career     

               

    Valerie A, Dolan, R.P.®, Pa.C.P. is a litigation paralegal with the law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller and currently serves as Region IV Director of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA®). NFPA is a non-profit professional organization representing more than 10,000 paralegals and is headquartered in Edmonds, WA.  NFPA’s core purpose is the advancement of the paralegal profession.  Information about NFPA can be found at www.paralegals.org.

  • 15 Apr 2012 2:17 AM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    WHAT MAKES A GOOD LEADER?

    Cindy Welch, NFPA Region II Director
    (iidir@paralegals.org)

                We can all name several people, locally or nationally, who we admire for their leadership qualities, and it always interests me how they acquired those skills.  Unfortunately, there’s no exact recipe; 1 tablespoon of intelligence, ¼ teaspoon of wit, ½ cup of respect, because none of us come to the table a blank slate.  We have both personal and professional life experiences in our history so we are left to figure out what we need more of and in what quantity!  Oh, yes, that’ll be easy… What I can offer is some suggestions of the “ingredients” needed – the quantities will be up to you.

    • THE ABILITY TO LISTEN.  When someone says something, it isn’t just the words they are sharing; it’s a feeling or a passion or even a lack of passion.  If you’re unsure what the other person really means by their comments, repeat their statement back to them in your own words to see if you’ve got it. 

    • THE ABILITY TO “NOT SPEAK.”  What?  While serving as a member of my local association and as a current member of the NFPA board, I’ve watched observed leaders “not speaking.”  This not only creates more opportunities for others to voice their opinion but it gives everyone a moment to reflect on previous discussion.

    • THE ABILITY TO SHARE.   No one person makes up a board or committee so when your goal is reached or the event is a success, share the accolades with the others on your team.  Maybe even incorporate the royal “we” into your vocabulary now and then.

    • TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.  Whether you are the committee chair or the president of your board, if a project fails, take responsibility.  Everyone know that typically it’s not just one person’s fault when an action is unsuccessful, so the members of your team will respect the fact that you are willing to step up and not point fingers at others.  You and your team can disect the situtation in private so you can do a better job next time.

    • BE OPEN TO IDEAS.  Just because you didn’t think of it first doesn’t mean it isn’t a great idea.  Consider the new team member who makes a suggestion and three or four of the long-time members immediately shut it down “because we tried that and it didn’t work.”  Talk it out-while it may not have been successful many years ago, that same idea might work now if tweaked a little.

    • LEARN ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION.  While I had been a member of my local association for over a dozen years before I became president, I was truly surprised at how much I didn’t know about it.  I made a point of visiting specialty sections I hadn’t attended before, welcoming each new member (via email,) meeting the attendees as they arrived for meetings, reading and re-reading the procedures and the bylaws and helping our executive director with registration,

    • TRUST IN THE OTHERS ON YOUR TEAM.  Trust that since they volunteered for that job or position, that they feel they can handle their duties.  Give them a chance to succeed – they might surprise you.  If you feel they need some assistance, give them a “buddy” on the board.  Likewise, find yourself a buddy or mentor if you need help in a specific area.

    • RESPECT OTHERS.  There is no rule that says you have to be best friends with those on your team – or even like them - but you do need to respect them.  Respect their ideas, their commitment to the board, and their time and efforts.

    • LEAD BY EXAMPLE.  Just as children learn this way, so do adults.  Your respect and trust of others will be reciprocated.  If you expect your team members to finish their assignments on time, then you need to do the same.  The supervisors that I respected the most always got in the trenches with their employees.

        Try tackling one of these attributes every month and even ask for some suggestions from your group.  Make it a safe place for them to speak their mind and for you to shine as a leader.

  • 18 Mar 2012 9:07 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    Five Reasons Why Double Is Better
    By Vicki Voisin, ACP

    A question was posed to me recently while I was doing one on one coaching with a paralegal who wanted tips to get her career off dead center and moving forward. She asked me:

     "Vicki, do you think I should get state specific certification or take a certification exam offered by a national paralegal professional association?"
     
    My answer? "Both!" Double is always better. Here are five reasons why you should double up on your certifications.

    Credible. Certification typ ically consists of the "3 E's": Education, Experience and Exam. You are not able to take a certification examination unless you meet certain criteria. It is a career-long commitment that demonstrates to your peers and your employers that you have mastered core principles and that you are dedicated to staying current in your profession.

    Certification gives you expert status which translates to credibility. Having that on a state level is definitely a plus. You double your credibility when you take that expert status to the national level, showing advanced analytical abilities and writing skills, as well as a broad understanding of laws and procedures nationwide.
     
    Marketable. Whether you're job hunting or job hopping, you are more valuable if you have doubled up on your certifications. Thi nk of it this way:

    (a) almost everyone acquires a certificate or degree in paralegal studies prior to entering the profession; if everyone has a paralegal certificate, they have identical qualifications and are on a level playing field;

    (b) state specific certification hikes you up a notch and gives you a leg up on someone with only their basic education;

    (c) doubling up with your national certification puts you on top of the heap.

    Portable. Your state specific certification will serve you well so long as you never move to another state. For instance, if you move from North Carolina or Ohio to Texas, you will be competing with paralegals who may already have that state's certification.

    Since you will need all the ammunition you can muster to land a job in a place where virtually no one knows you, your very portable national certification will give you the credibility you need for employment in your new location.  

    Profitable. Salary surveys illustrate the value of your certification. If you're a paralegal with one credential, you will certainly earn a higher salary than a paralegal with none. However, if you're a paralegal wi th double certifications, you are in a position to demand an even higher salary. In this case, certification makes both sense and cents.
     
    Recognizable. Certification is a standard by which employers can judge the competency of a potential employee and the value of a current employee. You can be very proud of the letters displayed after your name. They demonstrate your advanced abilities, your depth of experience, and your knowledge.  Double the letters translates to double the recognition of your advanced skills and knowledge.  

    A handful of states have state specific certification. There are different qualifications for taking each. Some require you to have up with national certification to qualify, others do not. Wherever you live, national certification is available and acces sible.

    How do you "double up" if you have no state certification available? Move on to advanced certification (NALA has 17 ACP areas; NALS has a Specialty Certificate Program) or work on some other industry certifications. For instance, if you work in insurance defense, a CRM (Certified Risk Manager) might be helpful. Do you work with employee benefits? You might look into a PHR (Professional in Human Resources).

    There are also certifications in the computer and medical fields that could be beneficial. You will want to be sure that the certification you seek has value in your specialty area and enhances the scope of your work. The only other precaution is to be sure the certification is professionally managed and administered.
     
    Do you want to move your career in the right direction? A single certification will do that. Double certification will make you more credible, marketable and noticeable. You will find it is both portable and profitable. Double certification will move you miles ahead. Double is definitely better!

    © 2012 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

    Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determining the direction they will take their careers.

    Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes a weekly ezine titled Paralegal Strategies. Information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com

    She also co-hosts a monthly podcast on Legal Talk Network (www.legaltalknetwork.com).

    You may absolutely share this newsletter with people you think might enjoy it. When doing so, please forward it in its entirety, including the contact and copyright information. Thanks and enjoy!

     

    Vicki Voisin, Inc.
    PO Box 743
    Charlevoix, MI 49720
    support@paralegalmentor.com
    www.paralegalmentor.com

  • 31 Jan 2012 5:56 PM | Deleted user

    Law.com posts Christine M. Flynn’s list of Top 10 New Years Resolutions for Paralegals.

    Christine is a defense litigation paralegal at Swartz Campbell with more than 20 years of experience in the field and President of the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals as well as chair of the litigation committee.

    I’ve re-posted the items from the list here. Check out the article for the reasoning behind her suggestions. Do you have anything you’d add or change?

    1. Get a checkup.
    2. Join a professional association.
    3. Learn something new.
    4. Take the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam and obtain your PACE RP credential.
    5. Join your local bar association. Some paralegals will read this and ask why. Well, there are
    numerous reasons.
    6. Participate in pro bono/community service.
    7. Mentor, mentor, mentor.
    8. Manage stress.
    9. Use GoodSearch.
    10. Identify a weakness.

    Christine ends with this reminder:

    As we turn the page from 2011 to 2012, we should keep in mind the words of the poet Edith Lovejoy Pierce, who said: “We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called ‘Opportunity’ and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

    So take a few moments today to seize the opportunities to enhance your professional status in 2012. Best wishes for a safe, happy and healthy new year.
  • 29 Jan 2012 10:13 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    Certification: Which Credential Is Right for YOU?
    By Vicki Voisin, ACP

    In last week’s issue of Paralegal Strategies, I discussed the reasons why you should pursue certification.

    There are many choices for certification credentials, so today I’m focusing on how to choose the one that is right for you. This is a very personal decision.

    Choices:  National paralegal associations provide certification examinations (ie NALA, NFPA, NALS).There are also several levels of examination, which provide you with the opportunity to obtain basic certification and then move on to more advanced certification. For instance:

    NALS offers

    • ALS ~ Accredited Legal Secretary
    • PLS ~ Professional Legal Secretary
    • PP ~ Professional Paralegal and
    • The Specialty Certificate Program

    NFPA offers

    • RP ~ Pace Registered Competency Exam
    • CRP ~ Paralegal CORE Competency Exam

    NALA Offers

    • CLA/CP ~ Certified Paralegal
    • ACP ~ Advanced Certified Paralegal (choose from 19 ACP designations)

    In addition to the national associations, there are voluntary certification programs offered by some states...examples are Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky and Florida (there are others!). And even some cities: in Houston you can become a Professional Houston Paralegal (PHP).

    All have different structures and eligibility requirements, as well as different continuing education and re-certification requirements.

    The credentialing organization you choose must be a bona fide entity. A certification examination is not something that is thrown up overnight. This process takes a great deal of planning. Further, there are standards for certification exams. It is crucial that

    • the organization prepares an examination under the guidance of professional testing consultants,
    • the exam be continually reviewed for accuracy, and that it be updated on a regular basis.
    • the exam be administered under rules and regulations in accordance with governmental acts and with such issues as anti-trust and fairness. 
    • the organization agrees to keep applications and records confidential

    Now that you understand some of the things to look for in a certifying entity, there are some things to think about that relate just to you:

    • Which credential is most recognized in the area where you live?
    • Which credential will be of most use to you in your work? For example, if you focus on litigation, you probably would not pursue certification in bankruptcy.
    • Will you have adequate study support? Is there a study group available through your local association? Does the national association provide a study course?
    • What expenses are involved? Be sure to consider whether you have to travel to take the exam and what study materials you need to purchase

    There are some wrong reasons, too:

    • Do not look for easy. If certification were simple, everyone would have the credential. You want your credential to set you apart, to say that you are special.
    • You're not doing this for an increase in pay. While a nice raise may be a result of certification, you cannot depend on it. Instead, pursue certification for your own satisfaction and, remember, it may help you get a new job down the road.

    Your challenge: If you already have a professional credential, congratulations! If you don't, please put that at the top of your list of professional goals and start thinking right now about which credential would be right for you.

    ==========================
    © 2012 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

    Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determini ng the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes Paralegal Strategies, a weekly e-newsletter for paralegals, and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.

    More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com where subscribers receive Vicki's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.

  • 08 Jan 2012 8:32 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    by Charles Sipe on June 10, 2011

    We asked leaders in the paralegal profession to share the best career advice that they have ever received. To find their responses, visit:

    http://www.criminaljusticedegreeschools.com/best-paralegal-career-advice/

  • 02 Jan 2012 9:52 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

      New Year...Fresh Start
                                                          Vicki Voisin, ACP



    As 2011 ends and 2012 begins, it's tempting to make resolutions for the New Year. Organize your office? Increase your billable hours? Lose weight? Be on time for work? Sit for a certification exam?

    Whatever you have in mind, read on...
    It's common knowledge that resolutions rarely work
    . All those good intentions seem to fall by the wayside by the middle of January...all that's left are guilt and regret that once again you're not able to keep your resolutions. By next December you'll be making the same resolutions all over again.
     
    It's time to change the pattern. Resolutions don't work because they're usually a very broad st atement: This year I'll lose 20 pounds. This year I'll learn to speak French. This year I'll look for a new job. You've got the want down...you know what you want to do. The problem is, you're only looking at the big picture.
     
    Instead of making resolutions, set goals. A goal is something you commit to fully and work toward all year long. Take a few minutes right now to visualize your top three goals for 2012. Then write those goals down on a paper.
     
    Make a plan. Once your goals are set, decide what you have to do to reach each one and then plan each step toward your goal from beginning to end. For instance, if you want to learn French this year your first step might to be to search for a class. The next step might be to enroll in the class. The next step mig ht be to buy your your study materials. The next steps would be to attend each class and do your homework.
     
    Do you see how each step you take helps you reach your end goal? This process will work for any goal you might want to reach.
     
    Take this one step further. Schedule each step in your planner...make an actual appointment. This ensures you will set aside the time to accomplish each step. Don't make the mistake of putting the steps on 'to do' lists because a 'to do' list is just a wish list and you will invariably run out of day before you run out of list. The 'to do' list just goes on and on. Your planner is a real guide for accomplishing your goals.
     
    Your challenge:</> Plan to make 2012 your best year ever. Take a few minutes to set your goals. Break the goals down into achievable mini-goals. Decide when each mini-goal must be accomplished to reach the main goal by the end of the year. Enter those mini-goals in your planner. Make appointments with yourself for completing each one.
     
    If you do your planning and then do your scheduling, you can accomplish absolutely anything you want and this time next year you'll be celebrating the fact that you actually reached your goals.

    Here's to out with the old...in with the new...to a new year and a fresh start. Happy New Year!
     
    ==========================
    © 2011 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

    Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes Paralegal Strategies, a weekly e-newsletter for paralegals, and co-hosts T he Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.
    More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com where subscribers receive Vicki's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.

     

    Do visit www.paralegalmentor.com where new subscribers can access the special report titled "Is Your Computer Talking Behind Your Back'" This report is available at no cost and offers inside information on how the careless use of technology can result in the disclosure of confidential client information and/or privileged documents and information.

    The Paralegal Mentor Blog is now available. I'll be looking forward to your comments as I post more information and pictures there.

      

    Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determining the direction they will take their careers.

    Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes a weekly ezine titled Paralegal Strategies. Information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com

    She also co-hosts a monthly podcast on Legal Talk Network (www.legaltalknetwork.com).

    Vicki Voisin, Inc.
    PO Box 743
    Charlevoix, MI 49720
    support@paralegalmentor.com
    www.paralegalmentor.com

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