Walnuts on My Bookshelf: Memories of Living in Communist Russiais a book that I just couldn't put down. This compelling story engrosses the reader from the very first paragraph.
Written by an Alabama paralegal, Peter Kirchikov, the book brings a unique and brilliant analysis of life during the USSR from 1952 until 1991. Born and raised in Ukraine, he discloses the poverty, horrible working conditions and fear of the KGB he had known his entire life. Kirchikov and his family were exposed to a life where food and basic necessities were almost impossible to find.
Kirchikov shares his unique experiences living in Communist Russia under the oppressive regime in the Bulgarian ethnic community and elsewhere. His captivating story from the unforgettable years in his parents' house, his school and college years, death of one of his sons as a result of Chernobyl in April 1986, and black-listing by the KGB since the tender age of 12, is an emotional journey for both reader and writer. Included in overall conditions remained the daily fear by all Russian citizens that the KGB would banish them to Siberia. As an adult, Kirchikov became a linguist, writer and full-time translator but still under the watchful eye of the KGB. The communist regime was unwilling to let Peter and his family emigrate until 1991. The "Russian Dream" for most people was escape to a Western country. .
The title refers to Peter's current routine to keep walnuts on his bookshelf to remind him of his family's yearly forage to gather walnuts in anticipation of harsh, freezing winters where food was scarce and hunger was prevalent. Losing two children to starvation, Peter's mother and father worked seven days a week to feed their family. Peter is here, he is grateful but will never allow himself to forget the heavy burden communism inflicted upon him, his family and unfortunate captives.
Peter, his beautiful wife at the time along with two children, made it to the U.S. in 1991. His amazement at the enormous and bountiful choices of food, freedom of worship, ability to travel anywhere, choice of job and freedom to select whereever you wanted to live, remains as highlights for Peter. He recalls with humor being taken to his first supermarket. He had never seen anything like it. He thought that the market surely must be the only one in town. It couldn't possibly be that all this food was in just one store and there were many, many others just like it in the city of Birmingham.
The book needs a good strong edit. Some of the sentences reflect the Russian translation that leaves out "a, an, the". On the other hand, frankly, it endears you to the writer. His letter to the KGB would otherwise seem like ranting and raving if only it were exaggerated.
Today, Peter lives and works in Birmingham. Very importantly, Peter can choose whatever profession he wants without fear. He became a paralegal symbolizing his fierce desire to uphold the justice system that he had longed for his entire life. He's built a productive life filled with dreams that have been reached, goals that have been accomplished and most of all, freedom that can't be beat.
How many times have you set goals only not to achieve them?
Come on. You already know in your gut when you set the goal that you probably won’t reach it. Despite clichés such as “Shoot for the moon” and other psychobabble, you will most likely say to yourself, “Are you kidding? I’ll commit to xxx but I know it’s a stretch.”
On the other hand, goals are ingrained and give us targets, benchmarks and a sense of accomplishment. The difference between just setting a goal and accomplishing it is to have a strong “why” in place.
Let’s parallel this to a brick building that looks massive and powerful. Now let’s imagine that the building was built by a group of amateur builders in one day, had a poor foundation and the bricks were not cemented together. It looked very nice but wasn’t solid. One day, a kid tosses a spit ball smack into the middle of the building. What happens? The building crumbles. The little kid with the fastball knocked down the building that looked amazingly strong and powerful.
Why? The foundation was pathetic. No one paid the price so that the building could hold its own in the real world despite how it looked to the average person.
Let’s tie that into your goals. Your “why” is your foundation and roots. Your “why” must be stronger and bigger than you. Internalizing your “why” and knowing exactly “why” you do what you do helps you reach your goals. The most common goals in the history of the human race are to lose weight or make a lot of money. Then you are disappointed when you fall significantly short. Are you relating to that? How about setting the goal of changing jobs within a month and at the end of the month you haven’t even had a decent interview?
Here’s the reason: you must know “why”. Let's take the job change. It’s not really the money that drives you…it’s your “why”. What are you going to do with the additional money? Get a new car, buy a house, upgrade your standard of living, save for your kids' college tution, move your career upward or outward? “Why” have you set that goal to uproot your career? Where is the foundation of your goal? No one paid the price for that massive brick building and it fell. Be willing to pay the price and earn your way to your goal.
Let’s go over this again. Goals can be damaging to your future. If you don’t have your “why” in order, then you have no foundation to support you as you as head down your success path to completion. Without that foundation, you will give up and be discouraged from ever setting goals again.
It doesn’t matter what type of goal – physical, financial, social. Needing to know “why” you are setting your goals means paying the price to achieve it. If not, your goal could damage your career instead of assisting you in ultimately achieving the success you’ve always dreamed about. Commit to developing your “why” before setting any more goals.
Let's look at two questions to find your "why”:
1. If you didn’t have to worry about money, location, working hours, billable hours, specialty, education, stress, co-workers, bosses and could design your own job, what would it look like? Why?
2. Do you enjoy your career? If so, why? If not, why not? Your past does not control you! Your future should drive you because you see yourself successful.
There's no doubt you will encounter obstacles and challenges. That’s just life. If your “why” is strong enough, then unlike that building, you will stand strong against whatever tries to stop you. It's going to be very hard to knock you down.
Goals are damaging if you don’t have a foundation in place. My challenge to you today is to ask yourself the two questions, develop your “why” and set your goals. In the meantime, don't take any brick buildings.
Check out the Paralegal Knowledge Institute's all new Litigation Support Project Management Program. For beginners and veterans seeking to increase your skill level. It's online, interactive and live. www.paralegalknowledge.com.
Licensing paralegals has been talked about for years. And years. And years. It’s been pushed back as long as I can remember. One objection is that paralegals do not practice law and therefore do not need licensing. They are supervised by attorneys and it is the attorney’s license on the line.
Another issue was there were no standard requirements to enter the field (i.e., anyone who wanted to could call themselves a paralegal) therefore, licensing would have no real meaning. In California, some years ago, a stab at licensing called for governance not by the State Bar but under the Consumer Protection Board that also licensed dog groomers, manicurists, and similar professions. The idea wasn’t well received by the paralegal community.
In a new twist, the Washington Supreme Court adopted the Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) Rule, effective September 1, 2012. Legal technicians are not paralegals. They are document handlers who provide typing and form-filling services directly to the public for family matters, wills, adoptions, bankruptcy. This rule authorizes non-attorneys who meet certain educational requirements to advise clients on specific areas of law, which have yet to be determined.
With the rule, the Supreme Court established the LLLT Board to administer the program. In late December 2012, the Supreme Court appointed the first LLLT Board, which includes several non-attorneys and a legal educator. The Board must establish an area of the law in which to license LLLTs and seek approval from the Supreme Court for that area of the law within one year. This includes regulations for professional conduct, exam procedures, continuing education requirements, and disciplinary procedures.
Meanwhile, the California State Bar is taking a hard look at limited-licensing. According to an article in California Lawyer magazine,the Board of Trustees is considering a similar program. The licensing program is targeted to legal technicians providing services directly to the public. At this stage, legal technicians are regulated. They provide document preparation services directly to the consumer.
The limited-licensing program would provide legal services to the public and allow law students and others who haven’t passed the bar to put their skills to use. Trustee Heather . Rosing said those who can’t afford the services of a licensed attorney are ften forced to turn to non-lawyers because of cost. Although legal aid, pro bono service and court-employed family law facilitators all try to fill this gap, too many people need legal assistance and simply cannot afford it at today’s legal market rates. A limited licensing program, in addition to helping clients, would create an avenue of employment for law school graduates and legal technicians who haven’t passed the bar, board members said. Engaging in limited practice might be an avenue to eventually becoming a qualified lawyer.
“I advocate the position that non-lawyers should not be allowed to serve the public directly,” says Barbara Liss, senior estate planning paralegal in Santa Barbara, California, “unless they (1) have adequate education, (2) have worked for a specified period of time under attorney supervision -- such as a minimum of three to five years, (3) qualify by some form of testing (NFPA, NALA, AAfPE, OLP skills tests already exist which could be conformed as needed to meet this criterion); (4) maintain continuing education (MCLE) requirements that are pre-established and (5) meet bond requirements that are pre-established.
Bonding is not malpractice insurance coverage -- which could be costly, but bonding would provide a modicum of protection for any intentional abuses or improper action by the technician's over-reaching beyond the specified limitations established by the legislation creating the position itself.”
Looking to the future, the role of limited-licensed legal technicians can spill over into the law firm. Take a look at the Nurse Practitioner. Medical offices and hospitals offer the Nurse Practitioner directly to their patients. Entrance requirements include a higher standard of education and solid experience.
The state bars implementing the limited-license must be aware that generally, legal technicians have nowhere near the education of traditional law firm paralegals now requiring a B.A. degree and paralegal certificate in many states.
It is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see that the legal field can leverage the limited-licensed legal technician by creating a new position within the law firm, perhaps a “Paralegal Practitioner.” This new position can provide upward movement, demand higher educational standards, and provide more profit and better utilization of senior paralegals. The paralegal position is not going to go away anytime soon. The history of paralegals from day one has been to keep pushing the profession to higher standards. If executed properly, here’s a great possibility to keep paralegal upward mobility rocking and rolling.
Only a few days left to register for the eDiscovery Project Management Certificate Program! Don't miss out on a terrific opportunity to advance your career and move in the right direction. For more info: www.paralegalknowledge.com.
Paralegal jobs are vanishing according to a recent analysis. In fact, out of the top disappearing jobs, paralegal is in the top 7 positions.
For years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that the paralegal position was one of the fastest growing fields. In fact, as recently as 2011, the BLS predicted that from 2010 - 2020, paralegals would have an 18% growth rate (average). No longer.
The position is being obliterated by technology according to a recent analysis by the Associated Press. "Year after year," the analysis states, "software that runs computers and an array of other machines and devices becomes more sophisticated and powerful and capable of doing more efficiently tasks that humans have always done. For decades, science fiction warned of a future when we would be architects of our own obsolescence, replaced by our machines." Here's a great example: travel agents - similiar to paralegals in that it is a "helping" position. Now, gone due to technology.
Unfortunately, paralegals are included in the millions of middle-class paid jobs vanishing, the most vulnerable being those jobs that are "routine and repetitious." That particular phrase was actually in the ABA definition of a paralegal some years back. How little we knew.
"There's no sector of the economy that's going to get a pass," says Martin Ford, who runs a software company and wrote "The Lights in the Tunnel," a book predicting widespread job losses. "It's everywhere."
Most of the jobs will never return, and millions more are likely to vanish as well, say experts who study the labor market. What's more, these jobs aren't just being lost to outsourcing and they aren't just factory work. Increasingly, jobs are disappearing in the service sector, home to two-thirds of all workers.
They're being obliterated by technology.
What is effecting the paralegal field in addition to technology? Law firms today are seeking highly sophisticated and experienced paralegals. Those without technology knowledge and ability are at the highest risk. Those who are not updated on the latest laws, procedures and who are not innovative or motivated are also at a very high risk.
Additionally, the five-year recession has seen associates dropping their level of assignment to cover paralegal duties in order to put forth enough billable hours. Rocky law firms, rather than see paralegals as cost-efficient and saving attorneys time, view the higher associate rates as more beneficial to the firm despite the fact that paralegals cost less and are frequently more profitable. It can make the top line more impressive resulting in the potential for higher bank loans, revolving credit lines and more.
What can paralegals do to reverse the trend? Maybe not much given the trend affects just about every service and manufacturing position. However, you can leverage your paralegal background and propel yourself into new or hybrid positions. Here are just a few:
Become a technology wiz in your specialty. Software programs come and go and are updated frequently. Being a wiz also means you are on the prowl every day for the latest trends and new programs.
Hot jobs are hot as long as the economy holds up, the specialty doesn’t cool down or schools do not answer the call to churn out trained candidates. How familiar are you with the future of your specialty? If you were previously an ERISA paralegal, chances are you no longer hold that position. Mergers & Acquisitions specialists were big losers in the recession. If you were in M&A, did you prepare for an upcoming recession with a second specialty? Cross training is one way to make yourself more valuable in a firm. You may be the best paralegal the real estate department has but if that entire department is being shutdown, it won’t matter. But if you are also good at litigation, you may find yourself being moved into that department. If not, you know why you may have been out of work for a long time.
What transferable skills do you have? Take a good, hard look at your background. Medical background? Construction? Insurance? Teaching? Police? Accounting? How can you combine your skills and leverage that background - even in a different field.
Use social media to get your reputation well-known. We've said for years: network, network, network. Use LinkedIn. Make sure you have tons of connections. You just never know who knows what and where.
Expand your skill sets. Are you a litigation paralegal without comprehensive eDiscovery knowledge? You're on the target list, believe me. I have listened to many, many paralegals declare that their firm does not "do" eDiscovery, so therefore there is no urgency to learning about it. These buggy-whip, short-sighted paralegals are in for a big surprise if their firm starts losing business as a result and they are the first to go. (BTW, the Organization of Legal Professionals, OLP, offers many online courses in eDiscovery and Litigation Support: www.theolp.org).
Be prepared to move into a different position all together. For example, the Litigation Support field has a shortage of professionals schooled both in law and in technology. Who better than a paralegal to move into a Litigation Support position? The pay is excellent, the opportunities for the future very good. The field will eventually evolve into something that we probably have not even envisioned, particularly since the legal field was one of the last to get on the band wagon.
Don't be short-sighted. Change is here to stay and in this century, most of us are not prepared for how fast it is happening. My strongest suggestion is to ride the horse in the direction it is going. You'll be glad you did.
Have you ever considered that those extra pounds that sneaked up when you were just “having an extra bite” might be holding your career back?
Some years ago when I worked for a major Los Angeles law firm, the Director of Administration asked me to lunch. Since this was rarely done for non-attorneys in those days, I was delighted. He took me to the Yorkshire Grill where he insisted that I have the pastrami sandwich piled high on rye bread along with a generous helping of potato salad. Who can refuse their boss? Career buster for sure.
After lunch, he hit me with “You’re doing a great job here.” Wow. I liked that. “However,” he proceeded, “if you’re going to succeed, you’ll have to lose weight.” To this day, I could tell you exactly where we were standing, what I was wearing and the time he gave me the news.
What many employees fail to recognize is that this is a new workplace. We are, rightly or wrongly, visually judged everywhere: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn. Then there are the constant pictures from iphones, iPads, emails, websites, videos and more. We’re no longer a society floating in a world of the anonymous. We are judged not only by who we are but unfortunately, how we look.
Robin Thompson, Chairperson of the Association of Litigation Support Professionals, knows first -hand about weight discrimination. She’s lost 200 pounds. “As a thin person,” she says, “I am greeted with much more friendliness and taken more seriously. I have even had people comment that people who are overweight cannot control some aspect of their life and that it’s a reflection on how they would perform in a professional situation.”
You don’t have to be 100 pounds overweight to be discriminated against. “Chunkies” might take a look at the progression of their career over “thinnies”. Have those around you advanced while you remain at the same level? Sure, maybe they are more qualified but truthfully, are they thinner? Does a glass ceiling exist at your workplace because of weight? Is there anyone really heavy in upper management? Of course, there’s an exception or two but it’s really that – an exception.
While many victims of weight bias have suspected their appearance has been hurting their careers, two past studies analyzing decades' worth of research showed just how pervasive the problem is. The bulk of research has shown that the bias tends to be felt most by overweight white women, who are battling both the glass ceiling and the stigma of being heavy.
A 2004 study by Cornell University Associate Professor John Cawley found that when the average white woman puts on an additional 64 pounds, her wages drop 9%. (Some studies have shown that overweight white women are evaluated more harshly than overweight African American women and that African Americans tend to be more accepting of large body types.)
In 2004, Charles Baum, of Middle Tennessee State University, reported in the journal Health Economics that obesity could lower a woman's annual earnings by as much as 6.2% and a man's by as much as 2.3%.
“Fat, lazy and unproductive” might be some of the stereotypes that ring true to employers who reject an obese applicant despite a stellar resume. Published last month in the International Journal of Obesity, a new study examined the role anti-fat prejudice plays in workplace hiring practices.
A group of 95 reviewers acting in the role of employers were shown a group of resumes with an attached photo. To avoid biased results, the true reason for the study was concealed from participants, said lead researcher Kerry O'Brien of Monash University in Australia. Asked to determine the likelihood of selecting a potential candidate and her starting salary, the “employers” were shown a group of resumes with equivalent skills, experience and education.
What the reviewers did not know was that the pictures clipped to the resumes were of the same six women before and after weight loss surgery. The study results showed that obese women received more negative responses on leadership potential, predicted success, likelihood to select, salary, total employment rating and rank order of preference relative to other candidates.
Employers today want to keep healthcare costs down. The heavier you are, studies show, the more days off you take and the more vulnerable you are to certain illnesses. While your work may be excellent, chances of promotion may be slim. (Pardon the pun, please.) Have you been in the same position for 20 years while being told that you are an excellent attorney, paralegal, manager, etc.? Surely there must be somewhere upwards you could travel. If it hasn’t happened and your work is terrific, ask yourself, why, why, why?
Fat is one of the last bastions of discrimination with very little done to curb prejudice or intolerance. Being overweight does not mean a person is unmotivated or lazy. Chances are if you made it into in a law firm environment, you are smart, good at your job and ambitious. In fact, because of excess weight, people may even be more driven than others.
Up until recently, I did very little in terms of losing weight. Oh, I was up, I was down, I was going to lose those “last few pounds” but frankly, despite a very satisfying career, I never really did see the light. Until recently, that is, when I took Draconian-like steps to cure a lifetime of ridicule and bias. Sure, people want to be accepted “just the way they are and for whom they are” despite any well documented health risks and concerns - as so they should be. But that’s not the reality. Excess weight can kill you. It can be a social and career barrier and despite anyone’s sincere efforts to change the world, this kind of discrimination probably isn’t going stop anytime soon. Fair? Absolutely not. Make you want to rebel? You betcha. But consider this: the world has changed. It’s visual now. And, being in shape can bring nothing but good things. That’s the reality.
By the way, while I’m on my soapbox, please beware of those of us who have recently started weight loss programs. They can be righteous and annoying; preach, lecture and moralize – all the while (for those who succeed) advancing their careers just splendidly. But those remain other stories and meant for other days.
Reminder: OLP is offering its well-received certificate course in eDiscovery. February's five-month course has sold out! Gain professional acknowledgement and move your career forward. Register now for the upcoming course and earn a certificate in eDiscovery.
When I was eleven years old, the flu collided with Christmas dinner and forever dampened my enthusiasm for holiday food.
So, every year I sit back with a glass of wine and watch the mayhem unfold as my multigenerational and multicultural family of cooks and foodies barter and (mostly) good-naturedly bicker over which foods will take center stage on our holiday table. Bread stuffing or cornbread dressing? Canned or fresh cranberries? Turkey or Cornish hen? Sweet potato pie or pumpkin pie? What was that?
The family vegans have offered to prepare a delicious meatless, eggless and gluten free holiday meal for the entire family?! Argh!
Somehow, we negotiate who will cook and what will be served and magically, a feast appears for all to enjoy (including the vegans). But, in the midst of the feeding frenzy, uh, festivities, I often wonder if we forget that the days beforeand after the big celebration are just as special as “the big day.”
After all, I challenge anyone to name an occasion more special than enjoying life with those you love. Before you dismiss me as a holiday Pollyanna, may I share a story with you?
My husband has a small collection of wonderful wine. I noticed, however, that when we would invite family over for casual dinners, he would make a trip to his favorite wine shop to buy the evening’s bottles instead of serving wine from his collection. One day, I asked him why he did this and he replied - almost amazed that I would ask such a silly question - that he was saving the good wine for a special occasion. After considering his answer, I asked what could be more special than enjoying a good meal with the people you love? Instantly, he smiled and his eyes sparkled - he'd had a V8 moment.
Did he share the good stuff that night? Not a chance! But, it didn't take long for a man who loves family above all else to embrace the idea that simply being with those you love is indeed a special occasion. And now, whenever the family gathers for no particular reason, he eagerly opens the good wine, and I smile.
Yes, the holidays are a special time of year filled with ritual and parties, admittedly, special occasions. But, don't you think that limiting such an outpouring of goodwill and love to just a few days a year is a shame? I know that I do. So let’s remember after the holidays that the food on our plates – whether it is macaroni and cheese or an expensive steak - is a blessing, and if we are sharing the meal with someone we love - or even just like - we are doubly blessed, no matter what day of the year it is.
Finally, I offer my favorite manners tip to all of the holiday foodies: Try a little bit of everything offered to you, compliment what you can and be kind and diplomatic about the rest. And of course, resist the urge to begin any sentence with "When my mother/dad/wife cooks the….”
Happy Holidays from Spencer Crane Etiquette, LLC (www.spencercrane.com)
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.
Seeking to improve your career? OLP is now offering an excellent eDiscovery Project Management Certificate Program. Starting December 4th, this online, interactive program teaches you the core competencies of eDiscovery and project management enabling you to become more valuable to your firm. Register now. Seating limited to 15 students.
“My boss’ secretary looked up and said the words that may have well been nails scratching a chalk board. “That’s not my job.”
I'm sure it has happened to most of us, at one point or another, during our professional lives. For most of us, a normal day at the office has its share of stress, angst and the occasional juicy gossip exchange.
And no matter what you do, I don't care how many organizational books or methods you try to follow, the work never seems to get done. To make things worse, your patience will be tested when you least expect it. Here’s the formula: you routinely dodge bullets, put out those pesky fires and expertly channel your pleasant phone voice to assuage even the nastiest of clients. As you roll along on your pings and pongs, beware, you may get blindsided by these four little words: "That's not my job".
These words have been known to cause neck stiffness, jaw clenching, cold sweats, and involuntary choke holds of the speaker that dares to utter those words. I may have over-exaggerated. You may not actually experience cold sweats.
Allow fourteen seconds to pass or you may experience whiplash as you jerk your head around to identify who had the audacity to tear away at the fibers of time had honored truths on which we rely. I mean, didn’t this person get the memo on terms like, “There is no "I" in team”, “We are in this together,” or “In union there is strength” and stuff like that.
Well, it happened to me and my neck has never been the same since. It was a simple issue, so I thought. My boss asked me to cover a hearing in a courthouse one county away. I dutifully prepared for the 50 mile trip and the hearing. I arrived on time, found parking in the 3 story garage, tip-toed down two flights of stairs in heels, crossed the parking lot, cleared security and marched up to the Judge’s chambers. Except that the Judge was not in, she was on vacation. Odd.
When I arrived back at the office 2 hours later, I asked, “Hey, did anyone confirm the hearing?” My boss’ secretary looked up and said the words that may have well been nails scratching a chalk board. “That’s not my job.” I paused and wondered if she responded this way because she was having a bad day, maybe she was not a team player or perhaps she thought she could get away with it because I am a woman and my boss is a man.
Her statement and my reaction to it brought into focus the unmistakably, fine line women in practice must walk between assertiveness and, quite frankly, bitchiness. There is the old adage that female attorneys tend to be bossy, mean and cold. Secretaries even shudder at the thought of working for female attorneys because they have preconceived notions that we are all monsters that constantly exhibit symptoms of PMS. In fairness, some of us do and you know who you are.
Then I thought that it should not matter whether or not this particular secretary would speak like that to my male boss. It matters that she spoke to me that way and it was unacceptable. I heard my mother’s voice and how she used to say, “Always come from a place of strength.” Then my father’s voice interrupted, “You teach people how to treat ou.” A third voice said, “Hmm, I could o for a chocolate martini!” I resisted the martini and listened to my parents.
I took a deep breath and, instead of growing fangs and claws, I requested that she confirm all future hearings. She agreed and that was that. That was easy! I chalked it up to a lesson in communication and anger management. Next time I am faced with an issue I don’t think I can solve, I will listen closely to the voices in my head - in moderation, of course.
Ms. Mier is a partner with the Florida law firm, Robinson Pecaro & Mier, P.A.
Recently, I had the opportunity to be a guest lecturer as part of the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP) Paralegal Management Certification Program. As a former paralegal, I always welcome opportunities to speak with today’s paralegals about how they can enhance their management skills. While the topic of the session was law office management, my presentation focused on Managing Effective Relationships with Vendors and Preparing RFPs. After all, we depend on diverse services and products to do our jobs successfully. And we must have different options available to us.
In my view, the ability to effectively manage vendor relationships and the RFP process are skills that are much needed in any industry including legal. And there are several reasons for this. So as a follow up to my OLP presentation, I have decided to write a series of blogs on the importance of strategic partnering. I prefer to call it strategic partnering and not vendor management. While paralegals are in a good position to add-value to the overall vendor management program, strategic partnering skills are also needed by attorneys, managers and litigation support professionals. As I pointed out in my presentation, a successful vendor management program helps organizations to be more competitive and strategic in managing their legal operations.
As I kick-off this series of blog posts on strategic partnering, let me state at the beginning that the legal industry must eliminate the word vendor from its vocabulary and replace it with the word partner. This was the topic of a previous blog post I wrote (see Do You Have the Right Business Partners?). The word vendor is a thing of the past. Yes, I recognize that this will require a change in the legal industry culture but one that is long overdue.
When it comes to strategic partnering, an important exercise that must be undertaken is what I like to call synergy analysis. That is, you should conduct an evaluation of current partners by looking at:
The strengths and weaknesses of current partners The benefits that current partners provide to your organization The impact on your organization if you lose any current business partners
This same synergy analysis should be conducted whenever you evaluate new business partners. The key is to understand how any partner fits into the organization.
You should also break out your business partners into the following three key categories:
People partners refer to service providers, forensic and eDiscovery companies, consultants, advisors, subject matter experts and staffing firms. Process partners refer to those companies who can support the key processes defined by the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM). Technology partners refer to companies providing software and service providers with the ability to work with several leading applications.
And yes, some partners may fit into more than one category.
Why are business partners needed How do you find business partners What makes a good business partner What can partners do for you How do you best manage partner relationships Are RFPs really necessary Types of services and products you will need Why use RFPs The three phases of RFPs Conducting due diligence on business partners Partner pricing considerations
My key conclusion is that partners can help you manage the business side of law involving people, process and technology. However, strong strategic partnering or vendor management skills are a must to achieve success in today’s legal environment.
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.