It’s been a very very very long time since I have posted here. I am pretty sure it was something I did but for over a year I was not able to find the blog. I’m not sure what I did but I most likely clicked when I should have kept myself from clicking ….. the blog went missing. I kept seeing your comments and your questions but I was not able to interact. I’m so sorry.
Again…. not sure what I did today but here I am. I have regained access to the blog and I am ready to go.
So……… without dwelling in the past and trying to figure out what happened, I want to concentrate on the future and figure out where to go from here. I know I want to post more about what it is that we, as paralegals do. I want to help you navigate the career development maze and help you learn from my mistakes so that hopefully it won’t take you as long as it has taken me to get ahead. Most of all, I want to work with you and be here for you. Please continue to send me your emails and your thoughts and your requests. I am sincerely happy to be back and I can’t wait to have a cup of coffee and a chat.
Recently I received an email from Online Paralegal Programs letting me know about a new study they have conducted regarding the job outlook and educational requirements for the paralegal profession. If you know me by now, I’m always always interested in those statistics.
Although those statistics are important to know what got my attention this time was the fact that they took the time to research some very important paralegals. Makes us all proud to belong to such a great profession.
I have been given permission to post the graph here on my site. I think it’s really important to share this type of information. One of the things I seem to always be saying is that I’m not a paralegal by accident. Some of us really enjoy what we do and we have carefully picked our profession. I am not a paralegal because I couldn’t be anything else. It’s true that I fell into the profession by a happy coincidence….. I needed a job and that small law firm was hiring. I was eager and they were willing to give me a chance. That’s all I needed. The rest is history and I have since fallen in love with what I do….. I’m one of the lucky ones.
Files seem to take on a life of their own and the problem is that most of them are not happy creatures. Left to their own devices files can grow into these incredible monsters. Trouble is that with so many other things creeping up on us every second of the day the time we have to dedicate to these monsters is very short. The file monster is not very forgiving either. It totally demands your attention, at least a few hours a week.
More often than not we can find new paralegals sitting on the floor of their office (or the paralegal area) totally bewildered looking down at a bunch of papers not knowing which end is up. How could this file have gotten like this? Good question. The attorney must have gotten to it. But he only had it for a couple of hours……. Yeah, it usually only takes them a few minutes. Especially if they are looking for something in a hurry, on the way to court or on a call with a client….. it doesn’t take much to get a file looking like it’s been through a hurricane.
Usually what I do is sit down on the floor with them and encourage them to cry if they have to. It’s ok….. I’ve cried too. Heck sometimes I still do!!!!!!! All those non-billable hours spent organizing a file to find it back at my desk looking like that? Anyway….. it wasn’t done on purpose. Filing and organization is not one of the classes in law school. That’s why they hired you. You got this.
First things first: Let’s separate the papers into piles that make sense. A legal file is made up of a few subsections:
1. Correspondence – you know what that looks like right? usually has a date up at the top with the name and address of the lawyer or sender way at the top of the page. Don’t worry about the dates for now. That’s not important, not at this stage.
2. Pleadings – This can be confusing for a new paralegal. Sometimes discovery can look like a pleading so the way I explain the difference to new paralegals as well as the way I learn it and keep it straight is by knowing that all pleadings get filed with the court. So, if it has a court stamp at the top or if it’s something that was sent to the court clerk for filing you can bet it’s a pleading. That goes into a second pile. Make sure you have all the pages. Usually the last page is the signature page and all pages are numbered. Easy enough right?
3. Motions – This is one is a tricky one. Some law firms file the motions along with the pleadings. After all, they are filed with the court. I don’t necessarily disagree with that. By doing it this way your pleading file will tell a story. Making it easier to figure out why a pleading has been filed with a court. However, I like to keep motions separate from the rest of the pleadings. My reason for that is that usually he attorney will need to pull motions out of the file or respond to a motion and he/she doesn’t necessarily need the whole pleading file. Also, sometimes the attorney needs to go to court to argue a motion. There is no need to have the complaint and the answer (it’s only going to cause the same chaos you are now facing if the attorney has to pull papers out of a file for one little motion). So for me, keeping it separate is key. If necessary I can make copies of the motions, mark them duplicate and note where to find the originals. Then I put a copy in with the pleadings and the original in a motion folder….. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.
4. Discovery – This is going to be all the other things that look like a pleading but don’t get filed with the court. These are answers to interrogatories, responses to document requests. The funny thing is that sometimes some of these may look like correspondence. So you will have to read the first and second paragraphs of the letters to make sure it’s not a letter supplementing answers to interrogatories.
5. Misc. – Depending on what type of file these could be anything so you will have to label the folder accordingly. If it’s a personal injury file this is probably going to be your medical records, your accident report, the retainer agreement (very important that you find this one) and all other papers that do not fall nicely into any of the above four categories.
Ok, you see, not so bad. Now you have a more organized chaos on your floor and a little bit more room to move around. So we can move to a different area to dry our tears.
Next you are going to one pile at a time. Let’s say you picked the correspondence file. I usually pick this one because it’s usually the largest pile and because after reading the correspondence I’ll more of less know what should be in the other piles. I will also know the story of the file a little bit better. So go ahead, read on. It can be fun. I have found some really funny letters written by the clients or the adversaries and it always makes for some good humor while doing a really boring job. While you are reading this file make sure you put it chronological order. At this point, if it’s a very old file, I start making piles with the correspondence. I separate it by year. Make sure you start with the oldest correspondence. Work your way to the present. Now the correspondence is done. Have you noticed? There aren’t that many more papers. All the other stuff is just bulky but usually not as much as the correspondence.
By doing the largest pile you will feel more accomplished and you will feel like you can conquer any other task thrown at you. Be ready, other tasks will be thrown at you….. Just a thought.
Now pick up the pleadings. You also want to make sure you file these in chronological order. Most firms file pleadings in pronged folders. If this is the way your firm operates then go ahead. They are less expensive than three ring binders so usually that why they do it that way. I like the three ring binder because if I have to get a pleading out of the file I don’t have to get all the other pleadings out. Anyway, in this case you have to go with what you’re given. Wait… Don’t put them in yet. At this point, punch holes in the the papers and organize them. Next sit at your computer and let’s start the pleading board.
For those of you who don’t know what a pleading board is….. it’s not a scientific term. Yeah, I know, lawyers like to speak in their own language. I find it interesting. A pleading board is a table of contents. Begin by entering the name of the first pleading and with number tabs separate each of them. So your pleading board will look something like this:
1. Complaint ………………………………………… January 1, 2014
2. Answer to Complaint ………………………….. March 15, 2014
So on and so on and so on….. continue until you’ve listed all the pleadings. This always gives me such satisfaction. By the time you’re all done it will look so pretty and the file starts to take shape. It’s starting to look more like a legal file and not so much like a crazy pile of papers and you are taming the monster.
Once you are done with the pleadings move on to the motions. For me, each motion resides in it’s special folder. I worked at a law firm where the motions had a special color folder….. actually all documents had special color folders. I liked that very much. It made it easy to find the documents you were looking for. However, if that’s not what you have then a regular manila folder is fine. Just make sure you label each folder appropriately and include the date the motion was filed with the court. All corresponding documents go into that file. So when you pick up the motion file you have the entire history of that motion.
Same thing goes for discovery. The only difference is that discovery (answers to interrogatories, responses to document productions) will have to be broken apart. Reason? Well, answers to interrogatories and responses to production of documents come with large documents. If this is a personal injury file you will have medical records and these are very bulky at times. So what I do is keep the responses neatly in the folder and then right behind those I put in files for each of the records received with the responses. So I will have hospital records, doctors’ notes and records, auto accident…. etc.
The last thing you have left on your floor will be the misc. stuff. These can be anything. There will be attorney’s notes, which I suggest you keep in a separate file. Attorneys sometimes take notes on post-it notes, napkins anything they can get their hands on when they’re on the phone or speaking to a client on the way out of the court house. make sure you put all these in the folder. I normally make a copy of the post notes so they are the same size as the other papers in the file. It ensures that these little papers are not going to get lost and the file looks neater.
You will have deposition transcripts and these although not necessarily misc. stuff need their own folders. Most of the time there will be a manuscript and a regular transcript. I keep both together with my summary.
There you are. In a few hours we have organized a file. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you longer than a few hours. My suggestion is that you do it when it’s a quiet in the office and you have a few straight hours to do it. Remember most of it is going to be non billable time so make sure you can afford to do that. It needs to get done so you will have to find the time to do it. Maybe it can be done over the course of a few days. This way you are not losing that much time on your billable hours. Also remember some of it can probably be billed.
1. Are you reviewing the medical records as you go along? If you do, remember to bill for review and analyze medical records pertaining to …..
2. Are you going to respond to document productions? or Interrogatories? Then bill time for the review of documents (name the documents) to assist in the preparation of responses to…..
Most of all, have fun. Organizing a file is a boring job but you can make it fun. See if you can tell a story. See if you find something no one else has found. I would always compete with some other paralegals when working on large files to see who could come up with the best story or the better angle.
Being a paralegal can be and is fun if you take pride in what you do. I have been doing it for 20 years and I still think it’s one of the best career choices I ever made.
Let me know how you do and if you have questions, please feel free reach to to me. I’d love to hear from you.
Last month I received an email from, Jessica, a representative of Burk & Company LLC, asking me if I would do a review of a software application called RedactIt. At the time I was getting ready to go on vacation so I asked that she contact me after vacation and I would look into it. As promised, Jessica emailed me when I got back and we scheduled a meeting with a representative of RedactIt. The meeting took place over another application called GoToMeeting, and because I work a full-time job and cannot be available during the day while I’m at work (I don’t think the boss would appreciate it) we scheduled it for Good Friday. I know, I know, not very christian of me. But one’s gotta do what one’s gotta do.
I want to thank all that were present at the meeting for taking the time on a holiday weekend to walk me through the application, which I have to say; looks amazing.
For about one hour I was able to see and experience a small sample of what the software is capable of and came away not regretting my decision to agree to do the review. So why have I not done a review yet? I still have not had the time to download the application onto my computer. I am hoping to do that this weekend and then test it for 15 days. Jessica did mention that if I needed more time I could just call and they would allow me more time on my trial period. I intend on taking full advantage of the application and provide you with a thorough review of it. Just give me a few weeks.
My initial thoughts? Well, during the meeting I was advised that the software is not Mac compatible and although I can download Parallels on my Mac, I do not want to go that route. In this house we are Mac people and the only PC I currently own is a notepad that I absolutely hate. I stressed that this is a very important upgrade for me and if it is important to me, some of my readers may feel the same way. Despite this Mac compatibility problem my first impression of the application is good and I am looking forward to testing it on my own.
It feels like forever since I’ve been here. There has been so much going on which should not be an excuse but…. since this is my blog I’ll make it an excuse just so I can feel better about not being here :).
I want to thank all of you who have stuck around waiting for the next post and I promise that this time it will be coming very shortly. I’m working on doing some software reviews and will be doing some reviews of Apps on the iPad. I may even review some fun apps just because I can.
Seriously, though. I have been really busy at the office and even though I probably could have found the time to post here, I have to admit that I am so tired by the time I get home that I am not able to think of anything to talk to you about. We have had a few paralegals leave to pursue other opportunities and for a while there we were trying to hire as well as keep up with the influx of work. It looks like we’re ok now and my head is finally above water.
It has been a really busy couple of months in the financial industry. 1) a lot of the laws that were passed due to the financial “fiasco” have come to fruition this year, so we are being bombarded with regulations and audits; 2) Because the economy is bound to get better (keeping my fingers crossed) we are positioning ourselves to take advantage of the upturn as soon as it happens and this leads me to why the past 4 months have been feeling like I was run over by a Mac Truck.
An opportunity presented itself for me to take on a new type of work. Currently, along with being the paralegal supervisor and the lead paralegal on all regulatory matters I have also developed a new role as a corporate and foreign registration compliance paralegal. The position never existed at the firm and I have been lucky enough to make it into what I want. Although I’m having a really good time with it and learning a lot, I am exhausted by the time I get home. There are a lot of things to learn and plans to put into practice. I am hoping to be able to write a couple of posts about it but still don’t know exactly how to do that.
Anyway, I just really wanted to say hello to all of you and thank you for sticking around. Please feel free to come by and kick my tired butt so I get on here, Facebook and Twitter more often. After all, I really do enjoy talking to you all and should make the time to do it.
For now, I’m going to have some dinner and I will try to work on a post for next time.
Much has been said about this Smart-Cover for the iPad2. I will review it in depth, shortly. However, I feel compelled to give you my immediate thoughts now.
Two weeks ago I decided that I “needed” an iPad 2. I don’t think there will be much more the iPad 3 will be able to do that I can’t do with the ipad2 so, before my first generation iPad is worth nothing I thought I’d get myself a second generation. Besides, the Smart-Cover is so cool. I got the pink (“girly”). Now working is fun and ohhh so sexy ;).
Anyway, the cover is great. The magnets work very well. Although I have to remember to store it in my purse facing down otherwise if the cover slides backwards the iPad turns itself on and wastes battery. That’s an annoyance, although not my biggest gripe. The biggest gripe I have is the fact that it does not seem to want to stay at an angle when I want to type on my lap. Yes, it’s true that you can fold it and turn it into a convenient typing angle, if you’re at a table. If it’s on your lap, as I often am when typing on the iPad, it slides all over the place. I find myself using my thumb to holding the iPad in place. I place my left thumb at the bottom of the ipad and type with only two or three fingers, ok, four fingers (both index fingers and both middle fingers). Takes some getting used to and it’s not very comfortable. I have small hands and the reach is not all that comfortable for the left hand.
These are the only two issues I have found with the smart cover. It’s difficult for me to EVER find anything wrong with Apple. I love their products and, I guess you can say, I’m addicted to anything Jobs and now Cook. However, I am hoping they come out with a new and improved cover that works for the ipad2.
Have you bought an iPad2? If so, what do you think of the Smart-cover?
Stay tuned for a more in-depth review of the ipad2 as well as how my workflow has changed in the past year since I became an iPad addict.
In today’s economic times everyone is looking for most economical way of delivering services. The goal is to maintain the same type of client service for less cost. Ultimately, we all want to deliver the same product while spending less. For a law office, be it small or large, the best way to accomplish this goal is hire paralegals.
Ok, so you went ahead and did it. You put out an add in the local paper or called your local college and hired one paralegal. Now what?
The first thing I’d like you to consider is that paralegals are professionals. Let me repeat that … Paralegals are professionals. Most of us have career goals and aspirations as much as that first year associate you also just hired. As paralegals we would like, again just as that first year associate, to have a career path and know that there is a career track. Being a paralegal is not the end of the road for most of us. It is just the beginning.
So, this area of my blog is for the lawyers. See the tab up-there titled “For Attorneys.” These will be posts created especially for the hiring partners of the HR specialists that want to bring their practices to the next level.
In these posts we will discuss how to hire your paralegal staff, how to develop a paralegal program and how to train your paralegals to achieve optimum results. I say WE because the intent is to have this be an interactive discussion.
I look forward to working with you even if only virtually 🙂
“Mistakes happen.” We hear this all the time and yet when we make a mistake we feel terrible and sometimes beat ourselves up over it. I am here to tell you that mistakes are expected. We are all human and we all make mistakes. It’s what you do with those mistakes, after the mistake is made, that matters.
When you make a mistake you should give yourself a few minutes to feel sorry for yourself and beat yourself up if that’s what you want to do. However, you should not dwell on it and after a short time you MUST spring into action.
Figure out why – Why did this mistake happen? Was it because you are understaffed? Sometimes when we get really busy and there are a lot of deadlines on our plates we tend to rush through our everyday work and mistakes usually happen. If you notice, most mistakes happen in the simplest tasks; making copies, counting days for a response, missing a deadline on discovery etc. Make sure you understand why you made the mistake.
Make a plan – come up with a plan to solve the mistake or at least correct it. Sometimes we get so caught up in the mistake and how badly we feel that we forget that the mistake still needs to be remedied. Don’t dwell on what’s been done. Think about going forward.
Going forward– come up with a few ideas to implement that will ensure the mistake won’t happen again. Could you get another paralegal or secretary to look at your documents to make sure that all the copies are there and the Bate Stamp numbers are in order? Could you implement some check points to make sure the deadlines are not missed? Maybe recording the dates on two different calendars, one that you carry with you at all times. I use my smart phone and have a calendar dedicated to “work.” could you set your email to send you reminders?
Report your mistake – this one, I have to admit, is the most difficult one. I don’t like letting people down and I really like my attorneys so when I make a mistake I feel I let them down. Of course this is not the right thinking, I am, after all human, and am bound to make mistakes. However, letting them know you made a mistake is the most important step.
The last one is, in fact the most important step to remember. Even if you think you can correct the mistake you made, and for most of us, this is the case. It is always important to let your manager know about it. Who knows there may be other issues of which you are not aware that may be involved if something went wrong.
If you want your manager to take you seriously as a professional you need to demonstrate that you are working on improving your skills. Making mistakes, is a part of the growing process of a good paralegal, of a good professional, for that matter.
“I’ve learned that mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success.” Jack Welch.
When you walk into your manager’s office, armed with the reason as to why the mistake happened and a plan of attack to improve the process and remediate the mistake, you demonstrate that, although you missed something you have taken the time to think about what happened and thought of ideas to fix the problem. On top of it all, you were not afraid of admitting your error which shows maturity and professionalism on your part. In my book, that counts for a lot.
What was one mistake that you made and how did you handle it?
I am just a paralegal who goes to work every day. Some days I’m really excited about going to work and there are days that I’m not so excited. However, I have a place to go every morning and do something that I cho0se and love to do.
While I sit here tonight, after a very long day at the office, I am trying to relax and watch the news about the latest occurrences in Japan. Earthquake, Tsunami and now the fire in the nuclear reactor. There’s a reporter on the news talking about how the after-shocks have not stopped and how stressful it is for the Japanese people. I cannot help but think about all the young women that would give anything to be able to get up tomorrow morning and head to the office just like I will. I have always heard about “paying it forward” and “he to whom much is given much is expected.” I cannot help but think that it is my time to finally pay it forward and give some hope to those who I’m sure are feeling like hope is lost.
I made a decision, sitting here on my couch. At the end of April I will be donating some money to help the people of Japan. I have a proposition to make to all of you. I will be opening up a PayPal account (I will let you all know when that’s done) and would like it if you sent money, it doesn’t have to be much, as much as you can spare, and I will send it to an organization of our choice. I would ask that with your donation you send me the name of your blog or website, in whose name you would like me to send the donation, and what organization you would like to have the money sent to. During the last week of April I will post all the organizations and the one that gets the most votes will be the one to whom we will donate.
As a thank you for your donation I will add your blog and/or website to my blog as well as invite you to be a guest blogger on my blog or I can be a guest blogger on your blog. Let’s see what we can do together.
I know this is unorthodox but I feel like we need to do something. Thank you so much in advance for participating and for the inspiration.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment below.