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I have been following Barbara Liss, a senior paralegal and president of the Santa Barbara Paralegal Association (California) regarding limited licensure. Recently, I received a very interesting email from her regarding the California State Bar Civil Justice Strategies Task Force on limited licensure. While the entire email is just too long to reprint here, (she sure can write!) Barbara has made some very interesting and forward thinking thoughts.
Paralegals: here is a possible view of the future:
Today's Guest Blogger:
Barbara Liss Sr. Paralegal
California is unique! It is the only state in the union to have codified a definition of “paralegal” and created minimum educational standards to qualify. Unless California paralegals meet these standards, attorney fee reimbursement orders may not include paralegal fee awards. (See: CRC, Rule 7.703(e); additionally I have cases available on request.) Therefore, the task force has a starting point that isn’t from “the beginning.” It needs to be aware of it.
Just as not every nurse is qualified to be a nurse practitioner and must obtain higher training, education and skills; just as not every accountant is qualified to become a CPA but sits for a test to acquire that designation after years of preparation and work, so too might a lay advocate achieve such a designation, after meeting specific, predetermined requirements which might include a certain number of years of experience in an immersed law environment, level of education or alternatives similar to those contained in the Professional Fiduciary Act and the other materials referenced above.
The testing, licensing, monitoring and disciplining of lay advocates whose advanced skills are demonstrated through the new system established, should be independent too – to avoid the inherent conflict of interest that would exist if under the auspices of the State Bar, whose role it is to protect attorney interests, among other things. The California Department of Consumer Affairs, the Judicial Council or another arm of the AOC would be a more appropriate administrator for this new license’s oversight.
That too would help in determining other interrelated questions, such as would limited license lay advocates be bonded or would they be required to carry malpractice insurance? Would the prohibition against lawyers and non-lawyers, (such as the limited license lay advocates) owning law business ventures together be relaxed? (It would be beneficial to the public if lay advocates had easy access to refer cases beyond the scope of their expertise to lawyers in whom they had vested confidence and with whom they had a business relationship.) Avoiding conflicts (or even the appearance of them) by maintaining separation of interests when facing these issues will make them far less complicated to sort out.
As well, there are areas of the law where at present, it is not economically feasible for lawyers to provide services profitably but where lay advocates might if UPL statutes were relaxed or rescinded. For example:
Personal injury matters valued under $10,000
Small claims court consultations
Advance health care directives [many hospice social workers are involved in assisting/advising in this arena but paralegals in the estate planning area may not do so at present]
Landlord/Tenant (tenants often have difficulty obtaining advice if they don’t qualify for Legal Aid assistance)
While not every lay advocate might be appropriately trained in each of these areas, objective testing could be developed so that if one is determined to be qualified, one could be permitted to act in those areas in which testing demonstrates sufficient capability.
Perhaps least understood by most bar members is the degree of education received by paralegals and LDAs [Legal Document Assistants] today. In many ways, a paralegal certificate or degree emulates the education obtained in law school. Unfortunately, paralegal education, like law school education, also fails to adequately prepare the graduate for real life and it takes time and actual employment in the work to evolve into a fully operational professional.
Once a journeyman, however, a full-fledged paralegal may often be as able as a lawyer in many aspects to provide considerably beneficial direct services to the public and has great potential to significantly diminish the existing gap in access to justice in California. I look forward myself to being soon able to contribute my own services in that way when I am able to test and obtain a limited license as a California Lay Advocate.
Readers? Time to comment. (This is the risk taking portion of the program.)
Stress doesn't really scare me. It is part and parcel of our lives. Why, might you ask, would anyone say that? Probably because in the second half of my work life, I have found the secrets to a relatively stress free career.
Article after article has been written about stress. It’s the same old, same old: manage your stress, have a plan, stay positive, visualize your last trip to Hawaii in the sun-soaked terrain, exercise daily and get regular hot rock massages. That, or have a glass of good merlot, get in the bathtub with lots of Evelyn & Crabtree and listen to old Doris Day songs. I don’t know where some of these authors get this stuff, except to say that they must live in Dreamland, somewhere east of here. Have they ever worked in a law firm?
I used to be the most stressed-out person I knew. I averaged 90 hour weeks in the legal field as an executive in a $5 billion corporation, traveled three weeks out of four, answered to some big shots who thought they owned the planet, and managed hundreds of people. It wasn’t much different when I was a paralegal manager.
There were critical deadlines to meet, difficult attorneys to juggle, anxious clients to handle and something called a “minimum billable hours” requirement, now referred to as “suggested” hours in a more politically correct and less actionable environment.
I recently looked at a picture of myself during that era. I was holding my new-born niece, Cristina, a joy to behold and I looked like I just escaped from a train wreck and stopped by to say howdy.
Several years ago, California Lawyermagazine published an article by Richard Carlton, author of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” that cited: “Among members of the medical community, there is a growing acceptance that stress from long working hours, such as 70 hours a week or more, may contribute to the onset of clinical depression. A study of 10,000 adults by a team from Johns Hopkins University discovered that among all the occupational groups represented, attorneys had the highest prevalence of signs and symptoms of clinical depression.
In fact, the rate of depression among the attorneys studied was 3.6 times the norm for all occupations.” The article further stated that, “Psychologists observe that attorneys, who are trained to be impersonal and objective, often apply the same approach to their personal problems and are reluctant to focus on their inner emotional lives.”
Wow. Examining the state of mind of those around you in relation to why your atmosphere seems stressful is very revealing, indeed.
First, let’s debunk some myths about workplace stress.
Stress is not cured by working fewer hours.
Myth #1: Stress is normal for anyone working in the legal community. The stakes are high and when the stakes are high, so is the stress. Anything can go wrong at any time. Stress is even good for you because it pushes you to perform.
Some people think that if you’re not too busy, you’re not really crucial to the organization, particularly when you are rewarded for high billable hours. But stress does not mean you matter. It either means that something is wrong at work or that you’re not doing a good enough job of matching your tasks to your time. Worse, it also means that you get less work done, because stressed people are less efficient, worse communicators and worse at making good decisions.
To accept stress as a normal condition of work is bad for people and bad for business. There are also certain delusions we create for ourselves. Declaring that you thrive under stress is a justification for procrastination. Sure, there are people who can’t figure out how to deliver anything until the last minute. But this is a crisis in confidence (fear of starting for fear of failing) as opposed to stunning brilliance unlocked by stress.
Myth #2: Stress is caused by working too much. But then, why do some people work 80 hours a week and feel great, while some people work 30 hours and get seriously stressed? Here’s why: stress has nothing to do with the number of hours you work, and everything to do with how you feel during those hours. If you work 100 hours a week feeling great, having fun and taking pride in what you do, you won’t be stressed. If you work 30 hours a week feeling inadequate, bullied or unappreciated you will be stressed. Stress at the workplace does not always cause unhappiness. Your workplace happiness hinges more on whether or not you like your work than on whether or not your work is stressful, according to Alan Krueger, professor at Princeton University.
Myth #3: Stress is cured by working fewer hours. Most workplaces react to stress by reducing employees’ workloads, responsibilities or working hours and in serious cases by giving people long sick leaves. According to Danish medical researcher Bo Netterstrom who has studied workplace stress for 30 years, this is a mistake.
Netterstrom claims people hit by stress need to increase their confidence at work. While time off can be necessary to treat the immediate symptoms of stress, a long absence from the workplace does exactly the opposite. When people return, they’re even more vulnerable. Worse, some never return to work at all. Reducing work or leaving work temporarily doesn’t fix any underlying problems. When employees return to work or to “normal” work conditions, nothing has changed and the stress returns quickly.
Myth #4: Stress is cured by working more. Falling behind at work from time- to-time is a given in this 24/7, Internet accessed, Blackburied work world. Believing that if you work really hard for a while you’ll catch up and then stress will go away is a fairy tale. It won’t “just go away” for two reasons:
1. Workplace stress does not come from falling behind at work. It comes from how you feel about falling behind. 2. In most law firm environments, people will always be behind. There is simply too much work. Finishing all your assignments basically means getting more work along with the career enhancing opportunity to push your billable hours even higher.
A temporary push to reduce a pile of work or meet a deadline is fine. But all too often that temporary push becomes the new standard. So the solution to stress is not to work harder to catch up because in most law firms, this is impossible. The solution is to feel good about the work you finish and not to get stressed about the work you don’t finish. It’s not that you should stop caring or not look for a solution. It’s that you should avoid a vicious circle: being stressed makes you less productive which means you get less work done and become more stressed.
Myth #5: Stress is cured by focusing on stress. There’s a lot of the literature and training about workplace stress and the typical content is:
What is stress
Symptoms of stress
Health implications of stress
How to fight stress
This is often presented by stress consultants who privately garner their own list of stressors. At this point, I have one big ho-hum for all of that. Focusing on stress is not the way to remove it - it’s a great way to create more stress. A better strategy is to focus on what gives you peace and energy.
The Truth About Stress
Work does not give you stress. Feeling bad about work gives you stress. This means that changing your work hours, responsibilities, priorities or work environment is meaningless, unless it also changes the way you feel at work. Those stress management courses will not do the trick either, unless they can achieve just that.
Most common sources of stress for legal professionals undefined deadlines, lack of control over time, difficult clients, escalating intensity, no margin for error - are outside of a paralegal’s personal control. What truly determines how much stress these circumstances cause paralegals is the degree to which these “givens” are perceived or interpreted as threatening. Any perceived threat - real or not - triggers our body’s “fight-or-flight response.” Over time, it is possible to modify how your body reacts by paying attention to how you perceive situations as threatening. Ask yourself whether an issue really justifies your current reaction to it - or, whether or not it will matter at all a month later. Practiced regularly, you can keep matters in perspective so that stress is relative to the importance of the situation.
What Do I Do Now?
Given that I have knocked a number of standard stress articles, I do have a few suggestions that personally helped change my life around. Everyone can find a way out of stress and some may wish to seek professional counseling. Let me share a few things that I found helpful:
1. You can’t change things if you don’t acknowledge them. Ok, so I’m quoting a TV psychologist. But he hit it right on. When it was first brought to my attention that I was stressed out, I was in total denial. Because I was fearful of being accused of failing and I wanted to do a great job, I denied I was stressed-out. To me, it was a sign that I couldn’t deal with the job. What I really needed to change was my responses. Acknowledge what is. Without that acknowledgement, you cannot take action.
2. Learn to really laugh. How long has it been since you laughed out loud, long and hard? I mean a good belly-laugh. If you’re stressed-out, it’s probably been awhile. Laughter releases endorphins, natural pain-killers. It boosts immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gamma-interferon and disease-destroying antibodies called B-cells. In short, it’s great medicine.
3. Make a friend at work. When you have someone you can confide in, someone with whom you feel secure, trust, can share the ups-and-downs of the workplace, you feel better. The environment somehow doesn’t seem all that bad.
4. Make a decision. The only way to transform your life is to make a decision to change and honour that decision. Decide how you want to live your life and then set about with complete certainty to create it. The most critical time in my career came when I decided that I wanted to create the environment that was right for me. I no longer wanted a fancy office in a Class A building in the middle of a prestigious district. I wanted to own my own business, work from home and call my own shots. I haven’t looked back. And, I’m one happy camper.
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This popular post first appeared in The Estrin Report in 2013.
I started my paralegal career back in 1984 by cutting my teeth on the AT&T v. MCI Telecommunications anti-trust case. This is the case that broke up AT&T ("Ma-Bell") and allowed the world to go on and have all of the new telecommunication devices we now enjoy. I was on the "Damages Team" and we were able to prove damages caused by AT&T against all other competitors who were trying to enter the telecommunications market.
At that time, I was also attending Golden Gate University where I graduated summa cum laude in Political Science and Business Administration. Once I graduated and the case was over, I was hired by Gibson Dunn & Crutcher (a major law firm) and eventually became the Senior Paralegal of the firm. I brought Gibson what was then the new frontier of digital technology. The term "Litigation Support" was not a term-of-art at that time. The firm just did not know what to call me, so we used the term "Technical Paralegal".
Around 1989-1990, I introduced Gibson to scanning and coding documents. We used the first version of Concordance to keep track of a very large securities case for a very large client. The documents ranged in the hundreds of thousands of documents resulting in a few million pages.
One of the highlights of my life was when I was invited to have lunch with President Reagan up at his office in Century City (California). This was back in 1993. While I was at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, I was the paralegal who assisted with the building permits of the Reagan Library and secured the permits for his burial there. He wanted to meet and thank me personally.
Several years later, I was recruited by Chere Estrin for a case that took me to another law firm. I landed in the island of Guam where I sharpened my technology skills. I was exposed and embraced the world of Trial Technology. I learned the popular software program, Trial Director, when it was in its separate component format. There I was, supporting a construction defect case trial on the Island of Guam that lasted 366 days.
Not only did I run the trial but ran the servers, acted as the Help Desk for work stations at all of the attorney desktops and staff computers. While in Guam, I managed the network and VPN. I also managed an ongoing coding project that involved approximately a dozen paralegals in our Los Angeles office. This was a big challenge and a great case. Our firm won a very substantial sum of money for our client.
I have had the honor to work on or successfully manage some of the largest litigation matters in our country's history and work alongside of some of the most well-known and respected attorneys. It has been challenging but I have always learned new methods and have been able to test and prove my own metal in the heat of litigation wars. It has been rewarding on many different levels including job satisfaction, challenges and yes, financially.
I have embraced litigation support tools and applications and am certified in many different applications. When asked by students what is my single most important key to success (besides skills), I tell them that I leveraged my experience and knowledge. I had to. The legal world is moving very rapidly and staying ahead of the game is vital to your career. I am now in the process of getting my eDiscovery certification from OLP! I have found OLP to be one of the best online training organizations for the advancement of your career.
I love this career but it does have the same unlawful circumstances as all others. At a recent position, I found myself in the terrible situation of age discrimination. I was basically led out the door. My supervisor remarked to me on two separate occasions that I may be "too old" for the type of work I was doing. At the time he said this, I had reached the age of 54. The supervisor was 46.
A few weeks after the second “you’re too old” remark, I was let go - even though my reviews were excellent. In California, you can be let go for a reason or for no reason. You cannot be let go for illegal reasons. I have yet to be informed why I was dismissed but I don’t think it takes a brainard to figure it out.
After that potentially career-busting experience came the interviews. I was pretty discouraged because I was not receiving the type of offers I am accustomed to, even with a pretty extensive work history. Although the average age of entry-level paralegal is 36-38, unfortunately, it has been my experience that age does matter.
After being let-go and experiencing several rejections for jobs, I refused to let myself sit around. I gave myself another opportunity by opening my own shingle called "Encore Litigation and Trial Technology Services".
Not only can I consult and manage databases, oversee processing and transfer of data into usable databases such as Concordance and Relativity but I also consult and instruct with attorneys and paralegals on effective and efficient ways to work with these applications. Thus far, it has been great! In the past four months, I have already successfully completed three trials and consulted with two different law firms on various software and databases.
Going solo as a hired gun can be scary but with a little smart marketing, leveraging of your background and skill set, remaining competitive in pricing and rates, you just never know where you can end up. Recently, I have been retained by a large court reporting agency for a very large international client. I am their "go to" guy for everything involving trial technology and litigation support.
Ageism is definitely out there - even in firms where people ought to know how to adhere to the law. The struggle against it remains. You won't win this battle by yourself, it takes a community. However, I have found that life can be good on the other side. You just have to believe in yourself and try.
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This business of licensing paralegals is a hot topic. I wrote about this some time ago and interestingly, received a number of comments but not to The Estrin Report. The e-mails came to my business address. Why?
It may be a touchy area for some paralegals who don't want their colleagues knowing how they feel about licensing. It's a bit like like letting your workplace know whether you are Democrat or Republican. It affects your business relationships.
I have always maintained that this still relatively new field (about 40 years old) did not go about establishing itself correctly. It's been piecemeal, guessing or improvising at best. Why? Originally, no formal training was required and in most states, still isn't. The position originated from the legal secretary until administrators and attorneys finally figured out that there were secretarial duties that could be billed. The problem was, clients would not pay for secretarial duties and the assignments evolving were more sophisticated than the typical secretarial job. Although there were some pretty fine educational institutions that developed, basically anyone who wanted to could call themselves a paralegal - and did - in all 50 states. This went on for years and years - and still goes on in the majority of states.
It is only in the past 10 years or so that some states such as California, set up mandatory undergrad and continuing legal education requirements. Several other states followed but only in the past 2-4 years. There are about 13 states now requiring some form of mandatory education for paralegals. This means over 75% of 50 states employing approximately 300,000 paralegals or paralegal type positions allow anyone who wants to call themselves a paralegal. We haven't even mentioned document processors or folks who deliver legal services directly to the public.
Recently, licensing paralegals came about in Ontario, Canada and created a new set of standards for paralegals. Washington state has come face-to-face with it and California has it under consideration. However, most licensing considerations in the states involve those who provide services directly to the public and are no longer considered paralegals. They have brand new names such as legal technician or Legal Document Assistants. (Definitely a topic for another post.)
Maybe it's because I've gotten older that I've also gotten more patient. The field needs to take one step back before states can jump into the river and demand licensing. Given the paralegal field is getting a late start with entry requirements, licensing should wait. It doesn't seem to be able to fit into most states structures somehow set in concrete.
California, for example, considered licensing paralegals some years ago but the agency that would oversee the licenses was to be the California Department of Consumer Affairs. That agency licenses dogs, cosmeticians, morticians and others except, of course, attorneys. Before anxious paralegals start crowding into testing rooms demanding to be licensed, why wouldn't the field make sure that first, paralegals were evenly and equally trained and that certain admission standards are set in place to become a paralegal? Isn't licensing putting the cart before the horse?
Generally, to be a lawyer, a candidate must complete eight years of education before getting a license. That's the accepted standard throughout the US. A nurse must complete certain educational requirements before obtaining a license. How can paralegals obtain a license with inadequate training or education? Just because they pass one test? That hardly looks at the whole picture of what a paralegal is about.
True, Florida now has a certain number of CLEs required per year for paralegals but when did that start? A few years ago? So, let me think........Hmmm.......if a state such as California demands four CLE units every two years that means in the past 4 years, a paralegal would have 8 hours of training. (One day in four years.) That training could consist of one hour webinars, CLE approved, that quite possibly were overviews of generalized topics given by a vendor whose underlying purpose is really selling software. Not a comforting thought.
Sure, you might say. But the paralegal has on-the-job training. Not so fast, here. The biggest negative about on-the-job training is degenerative training. Most paralegals are in firms that do not have a formal training program or, they are included in the firm's in-house attorney CLEs that do not address the paralegal assignment. In fact, very few firms have training programs. The big training dollars are usually spent on associates who will eventually make big revenue generating partners - not on paralegals nor staff. Let's explain degenerative training:
A seasoned paralegal who may have a lot of knowledge but is not trained as a qualified teacher is given the task of training a new paralegal. The seasoned paralegal says, "Well, I'm a 10, you're a 10 - everyone in the room is a 10. I don't really need a 10 to do this job." So the 10 hires and trains a 9. Time goes on. The 9 is now given the task to hire and train someone and says, "I'm a 10, you're a 10, everyone in the room is a 10. I don't really need to train someone as a 10." So the 9 hires and trains an 8." The 8 says.......and hires and trains a 7. You get the picture. Pretty soon you walk into a room full of 4's and you don't know what hit you.
Paralegals need to come together to accomplish a standard of training and education first before licensing is even considered. While licensing may accomplish a seemingly higher standard, you can't get anywhere in this world today without comprehensive training. The paralegal field is no exception. These are not the days when the duties of a paralegal are Bates stamping 1,000 documents and arranging them in chronological order. Responsibilities for many now include assignments previously performed by first and second year associates.
It's a whole different world out there. Putting things in order is one of the basic duties for paralegals. Let's clean our own house first before we go on to others. Education first, regulation second, licensing later - maybe.
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LOS ANGELES – The Organization of Legal Professionals, an industry group that includes some of the most respected legal technology thought leaders in the field, announced today that it has finalized preparations for its Litigation Support Certification Exam. The exam, developed in conjunction with Pearson Learning Solutions, a $7 billion company that specializes in certification examinations for a wide variety of industries, incorporates content created by OLP members including eDiscovery and legal technology lawyers, consultants and experts. OLP is the first organization to offer a Litigation Support Certification Exam.
OLP’s two-hour certification exam covers five primary areas in Litigation Support. Professionals wishing to sit for the exam may apply by going to the website and downloading the Candidate Handbook at www.theolp.org.
Over 32 high-profile attorneys, law professors, litigation support managers, consultants, and Ph.D.s have contributed to the development of the content of OLP's Certification Exam. The process took over 18 months of development.
OLP’s goal in developing and administering a Litigation Support Certification Examination is to establish a standard that can be immediately recognized as a symbol of excellence and signify that an individual has demonstrated the knowledge and skills required to perform competently in today's complex legal technology. The CLSP or Certified Litigation Support Professional designation will be awarded after the candidate passes a rigorous test, has their backgrounds and work experience checked and submits an extensive application.
The CLSP is also available through the Paralegal Knowledge Institute, an excellent continuing legal education organization created specifically for experienced paralegals (www.paralegalknowledge.com).
About The Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP)
The OLP drives education and best practices and provides certification for those involved in complex litigation support. Through its programs, the OLP ensures the requisite level of competency in complicated disciplines -- including trial support, eDiscovery and legal technology -- is met. It is the only organization whose members represent all sectors of the legal profession: attorneys, paralegals, technical support staff, litigation support professionals, consultants, legal service providers, software developers and the judiciary.
Here's a terrific way to push your career forward and get the recognition you deserve for your expertise. Litigation Support Managers can make salaries of $150,000 or more. This is an exciting and forward-thinking action you can take to move up an otherwise limited climb up the paralegal career ladder.
Sign-up for the Certification Exam today! Become a charter member of certified CLSP®’s! www.theolp.org
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The story of Cinderella is familiar to most of us. Nice girl, horrible living conditions, probably violation of child-labor laws, happy ending. When we are children, we believe this story and for some of us, it sets our expectations for the future. And then, real life happens.
When we think of what the bad things are that happen to good legal professionals, it’s generally an event, incident, illness or other occurrence that was not within the control of that person. Here are two real-life stories:
#1: When I heard the following story, I wanted to explore what occurs when bad things happen to good professionals. Were bad things a result of a higher power? Did we bring these events on ourselves? Or, was this just the way of life and the end result was how we chose to deal with our set of circumstances?
Jim was all set and poised for a positive future. A firefighter, happily married and living in Fresno, California, this young, well-liked man was expertly advancing his career when tragedy struck. His young wife was unexpectedly diagnosed with a brain tumor. Within 90 days, she died.
Struggling with grief, Jim went back to work. A short time later, he met an amazing woman in a golf chat room of all places and a couple of years later they married. Back on track, he thought he had it all until he was injured on the job. Four surgeries in one year put an end to Jim's chances to live out his career as a firefighter. Devastated, he believed there were few job options for a guy like him. He did not have a college degree and firefighting hardly prepared him for other positions.
“I had always been interested in the law,” he says, “so I thought I would give paralegal school a shot. I won Student of the Year and after graduation, I became the head Civil Litigation Paralegal for a small firm where the managing partner was head of the Central California Trial Lawyers Association.
Motivated and enthused by the possibility of even bigger challenges, he went on to law school. “I graduated and passed the California Bar on the first try,” he says. "I actually surprised myself."
Here's a guy who twice in his life had two serious choices. With either one, he could go through life as a victim or he could set himself up as a winner. Fortunately, he chose the winning road. I was curious. What strengths do you need and what pursuits do you take to overcome overwhelming obstacles? Why do some people survive, changed for the better and why do some fold, melt and shut down?
In the 2004 controversial fiction and documentary film, “What the Bleep Do We Know”, a connection is made between science and spirituality. At the core, are provocative questions about how we participate, unconsciously or not, in an unfolding reality. What was of particular interest was the theory about the brain.
The simplest way to explain it is if we think a certain way for long enough, those connections between brain cells are strengthened and we automatically default to that way of thinking. We make decisions about what events mean and what should be done. We are not required to make a new decision with each new circumstance because with repeated experiences, our brain forms associations. Thus, if we accept limited power for long enough, we begin to automatically go through life as a victim.
#2 Phill is a seasoned veteran of the paralegal field. A seminary student bound for the priesthood, he was told point blank by the headmaster that he just wasn't cut out to be a priest. How on earth do you deal with that? After a great deal of obvious angst, he changed his career direction to become, what else? A paralegal. With over 20 years of litigation experience, he is now a Senior Paralegal at a high-profile prestigious firm earning significant dollars and enjoying the perks. Added to his long list of credentials is author of a well-selling book for litigation paralegals and teacher in a paralegal studies program.
Married for over 30 years, his life had been relatively peaceful. That is, until the fateful day his wife learned she had breast cancer. “I was devastated,” says Phill. “I had trouble comprehending the magnitude of the situation. Until now, we had faced a relatively uncomplicated marriage. I was scared, very scared."
The next six months were filled with his wife’s treatments: partial mastectomy, and chemotherapy followed by radiation. “I missed a lot of work,” he recalls. “Being able to work from home, I was able to cover.” His supervisors were extremely supportive, making it easier much easier to erase his fears of losing his job.
What got Phill through? “Resolve,” he says. “There was not a damn thing I could do to medically improve my wife’s condition. I resolved to do whatever I could to help so she could concentrate on fighting cancer.”
Looking back, Phill’s attitude puts things in perspective. “It’s a bend in the road,” he says. While that may sound too casual for a life changing event, this is not a laid-back mind-set. It’s a reflection of staying optimistic and maintaining control over what he could control – his outlook. His wife’s illness changed his point of view about life and career. “I think work moved work farther down on the importance scale,” he says. Strengthened by his wife’s upbeat attitude, the couple recently celebrated two years of remission.
By thinking positively and staying the course, Phill and Jim were able to break free from victimization and experience happy outcomes. They reprogrammed so that positive thinking was the direction they defaulted. That’s not to say that positive thinking will cure an illness or get your job back. By positive thinking, we are able to choose how we live out a dreadful experience, no matter how long or how short our actual lives. By choosing fresh, creative responses, we begin to experience a more positive, powerful life.
In a bad experience, how does someone go from feeling wretched to absolutely rocking with self confidence? The answer is quite simple really. You make a decision.
There’s a thin line between “fake it ‘til you make it” and behaving your way to success. Jim and Phill are remarkable examples of legal professionals who, against the odds, took a positive approach to bad things happening - so much so that success was inevitable.
Although I can’t really say that I am a huge fan of Anthony Robbins (simply because I haven’t invested time in his work), I did run across a great quote. ““The only way to change your life is to make a real decision. A real decision means that you cut off any other possibility than the one you’ve decided to make a reality.”
Everyday we are given the opportunity to make decisions. Decide how you want to live your life and run your career and set about with complete certainty to create it. When bad things happen to good legal professionals, it takes a decision – go down with the event or rise from it – and turn your life around. Bad things happening are not ever really good. Deciding how you’ll handle it can be the best life decision you’ll ever make.
Paralegal Knowledge Institute (I am the founder and CEO) is presenting 4 Surefire Steps to Great Paralegal Management, a 4-part webcast. Cultivate new skills or brush up on current ones. Either way, you can't lose. For more info: www.paralegalknowledge.com
Paralegal Career Guide 4th Edition By Chere Estrin If you've ever had those middle of the night terrors wondering if you've made a mistake by choosing a paralegal career, pick up The Paralegal Career Guide.
This book packs a lot of information about career pathways and is chock full of information covering trends, career options, creating value, salary negotiations, getting along with co-workers, and other career resources.
There is practical advice such as how to get higher level assignments where you are now or how you can leverage your experience.
One comes away from the book with a sense of what's possible.
Caution: Reading this book will make you giddy with enthusiasm
The Successful Paralegal Job Search Guide An absolute must for anyone interested in Paralegal employment, this book covers it all. Gain knowledge of the profession and marketplace as well as providing the "how-tos" on resume writing, Internet searches, follow-up letters and managing the first 100 days of the new job. This guide will assist paralegals in their goals for achieving success in their paralegal job search.