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September 2006
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November 2006

10 Tips for Effectively Recruiting a Team

Here's some good advice for getting people to work on a new project:

"Many times in your life you will make requests of others: to join a group, committee or team, to perform a task or to assist with a project. This month's question: How do you make the ask? Often the key to getting to 'Yes' involves how you make your request.

"Whether you are:

  • building a board of directors
  • forming a committee
  • enrolling others in your team or workgroup
  • seeking volunteers for a project

"Follow these ten tips to hear those magic words: 'YES, I'd be glad to!'"

BTW, you still must communicate effectively with your newly-formed team: "Credible leaders are credible communicators. They not only make 'the ask' so they get favorable responses, they also utilize their listening and team building skills along the way to strengthen their bonds with others."

By Craig Harrison, communication speaker, trainer, & consultant.


Legal Profession Web 2.0 'Treasures'

These legal-focused Web 2.0 apps -- described by Law Technology News -- look very helpful (& fun!):

"What started out as a two-part tour of Web 2.0 products and services of interest to the legal profession has easily turned into three parts. In fact, our journey could easily continue for several more columns, given the abundance and assortment of useful Web 2.0 sites. Fear not, though, the itinerary stops here.

"As noted in part one ["New Desktop Frontiers"], the Web 2.0 name refers to a broad range of Web-based tools that focus on functionality and often bear a close resemblance to desktop applications. In part one, we reviewed common office tools, including word processors, spreadsheets and calendars. Part two ["Cool Advanced Tools"] looked at more advanced tools for file sharing, bookmarking, project management, graphing and more. This time, we look at virtual meeting sites, online databases, presentation tools and more."

By Robert Ambrogi, a Massachusetts lawyer, media consultant, & member of the Law.com Legal Technology Editorial Advisory Board.


Editorial: 'Lawyers will regulate paralegals'

Another strong opinion about regulating Canadian paralegals:

"Ontario has passed a law that will regulate paralegals. This is good news. Until now, what has it taken to be a paralegal? Call yourself one. That's it. No training required. No liability insurance. No minimum standards. No discipline for bad ones.

"I've seen some good paralegals. I've seen some bloody awful ones too. Of course, the skeptics will say the same about lawyers. At least lawyers have certain minimum training, have passed competency exams, pay liability insurance in case they screw up, and they can get booted out of the profession if they are unethical. Until now, there was virtually nothing you could do about a bad paralegal.

[snip]

"With the Law Society in charge [PDF link], it will have to strike a balance that protects the public and preserves the roles of both paralegals and lawyers. I'm hoping that it will find the right balance.

"I don't consider paralegals to be competition for me in my practice. We are simply not going after the same work. On the other hand, there are paralegals doing some things that are way out of their league.

"In my view, paralegals should never be doing separation agreements or family law. They should not be doing wills and estate planning. They should not be doing real estate transactions. These are areas of law where the amateurs think that it is just filling in the blanks on a 'standard' form. It isn't."

By Ian Johncox, a partner with the Mason Bennett Johncox law firm in Whitby, Ontario.


"E-Mail Intelligence Eases E-Discovery Headaches"

First time I've heard about this software, but sounds like it works quite well:

"Juries don't always believe what people say, but they do tend to believe what is on paper. The difference that thorough e-mail review and analysis can make in the outcome of litigation is dramatic, and attorneys cannot risk overlooking key evidence that can make or break a client's case.

"More and more legal cases today involve the submission of e-mail as material evidence -- creating a phenomenon that law firms and corporate enterprises are struggling to manage. Across the industry, costs and workloads are spiraling out of control for law firms and their clients.

"On average, e-mail review and analysis now accounts for 20 percent to 50 percent of total case costs, with many firms billing over $1 million per month. E-mail review and analysis costs for high-profile cases involving unusually large volumes of e-mails and attachments, such as SEC investigations, can run as high as $5 million.

"At Pooley & Oliver, we have taken a preemptive approach in this area by offering a novel process for reducing cost and improving efficiency of the e-discovery process using the Clearwell Email Intelligence Platform.

"Clearwell has lowered our costs by as much as 82 percent, providing significant savings for our clients. It also allows us to reinvest the labor savings back into our practice by freeing up resources to better serve our clients."

Article by Scott Oliver, a partner at Pooley & Oliver LLP who has specialized in intellectual property litigation for more than a dozen years.


"Paralegal jobs decline"

Is this another example of how automation can negatively affect employment? I'm not sure there are really fewer paralegal jobs, particularly for people with experience or specific skills:

[snip]

"Thanks in part to new technologies that help law firms sort and scan documents, firms are hiring fewer paralegals than they did during the 1990s, when demand was so high that people with little experience or training could quickly land a good job."

So, is your legal future secure?


"Ten Tips for Successful KM in Law Firms"

Very helpful tips for tech-oriented paralegals interested in the challenging field of knowledge management (KM):

"Law firms struggle with knowledge management. On the one hand, law firms are classic examples of information and knowledge businesses. On the other hand, managing lawyers has often been likened to 'herding cats.' Combining 'knowledge' with 'management' in the law firm setting has proven to be surprisingly difficult.

"The legal landscape is littered with the debris of abandoned brief banks, ineffective document management systems and little-used practice management tools. We have reached this point not through lack of effort or failure to make the required investments, but rather because of difficulties inherent in today's practice of law. Some of these difficulties are well-known – emphasis on billable hours, lack of incentive structures, and the legendary 'busy-ness' of lawyers. Others are more subtle and perhaps less subject to change.

"Walk into the office of almost any lawyer. What are you likely to see? A desk piled high with files and scattered papers. Files and papers covering the floor, credenza, chairs and any other available space. A computer monitor covered with Post-it notes. The lawyer's secretary's cubicle may look no different. How realistic is it to think that we can transform this picture into a sleek, well-oiled, computer-based knowledge management system?"

Sounds oh-so-familiar, doesn't it?


Ontario paralegal must reimburse client

Cases like this undoubtedly supported the fight to regulate paralegals in Canada:

"It was a dream payday for Brampton, Ont., paralegal Vince Chiarelli: He made $1,800 for just two hours of work.

"But for his client, Pamela Elliot, that contract with Mr. Chiarelli would represent her lowest point in a year of sheer hell.

"Having already lost her husband and her job, the 39-year-old single mother was facing eviction from her basement apartment. Until Mr. Chiarelli arrived on the scene, that is, and promised to win her a lengthy reprieve.

"Five weeks later, a bailiff threw her out. Ms. Elliot ended up living in her car for two weeks in wintry conditions, separated from her children, until a Salvation Army shelter took her in.

"In a Superior Court of Ontario ruling that seethes with controlled outrage, Madam Justice Deena Baltman [scroll to end for bio] has ordered Mr. Chiarelli and his company -- Total Management Services -- to reimburse Ms. Elliot's fees, plus interest and legal costs.

[snip]

"Judge Baltman noted that Ms. Elliot was so desperate that she had to borrow money from her mother to pay Mr. Chiarelli's fee. 'It doesn't take a lawyer, or even a paralegal, to figure out that spending $1,800 to buy five weeks of time is throwing good money after bad,' she said.

"By a coincidence of timing, Judge Baltman made the ruling within hours of a long-awaited bill to regulate paralegals becoming law in Ontario on Thursday. Under the new law, paralegals will be required for the first time to receive training, carry liability insurance and report to a public body that can investigate complaints."


"Paralegal breaks the fashion law"

Can't quite figure out if this story is mostly funny or sad. Of course, 'dress for success' is usually a good idea, right?

"A colourful Toronto paralegal is seeing red after his forceful ejection from court for a 'fashion crime.'

"Ex-lawyer Harry Kopyto alleges that a Toronto cop 'manhandled' him out of a Scarborough court yesterday after a justice of the peace adjourned a case because of Kopyto's attire.

"When city prosecutor Janet Stoeckl complained about Kopyto's multi-coloured, open-neck shirt and his textured burnt-orange jacket, speeding charges against Kopyto's client, Paul Lamy, were brought to a screeching halt.

"According to Kopyto and Lamy, the JP - whose identity neither man can provide - said Kopyto's jacket 'clashes' with his shirt and was 'a breach' of court decorum.

"Kopyto said the JP suggested a white shirt and a dark suit.

"When Kopyto retaliated and complained about Stoecki's 'spike-heeled, pointed shoes and loud purple top,' the JP ordered: 'Mr. Kopyto, leave this courtroom.'"


Ontario regulates paralegals, 'puts lawyers in charge'

This news is not a surprise, but it does sound like the battle continues:

"Ontario became the first province in Canada to regulate paralegals Thursday, but many in the profession worry they could be forced out of business because they will be regulated by lawyers - the very people they compete against for most of their work.

"The Liberal government had to use its majority to out-vote the Conservatives and New Democrats, who stood in opposition to the Access to Justice Act - a new law that puts the Law Society of Upper Canada in charge of regulating paralegals [PDF link].

"For the first time, paralegals will be required to receive training, carry liability insurance and report to a public body that can investigate complaints.

"'We are really witnessing the birth of a new profession,' said Attorney General Michael Bryant. 'Paralegals are joining the ranks of doctors, lawyers and teachers as a regulated and respected profession in Ontario.'

"But the Paralegal Society of Ontario is fearful the Law Society will stop paralegals from providing a low-cost alternative to lawyers for civil cases, incorporations, wills, divorces and other family law disputes.

"'This legislation is going to hurt the public, as they're going to be limited in choice because it's going to go back to just being lawyers,' warned spokeswoman Susan Koprich.'"


Law firm offers reward for missing paralegal

Oh, no, this news sounds like a tragedy coming:

"St. Paul police have asked Minnesota and Wisconsin authorities to be on the lookout for a 43-year-old woman who has been missing since she left her home Thursday without telling anyone where she was going or packing anything.

"Nancy Gee's family and friends are also hoping the public will keep an eye out.

"While there aren't suspicious circumstances surrounding Gee's disappearance, people are worried because she has been depressed, said Elliot Olsen, an attorney at the Minneapolis law firm where Gee is a paralegal.

"We really don't know what happened," Olsen said today.

Pritzker, Ruohonen & Associates is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the discovery of Gee's whereabouts, Olsen said."

Updated news is indeed bad: Ms. Gee was found dead Friday afternoon.