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October 2006
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December 2006

Paralegals miss out on 15% Christmas bonus

Not expecting much holiday cheer at this firm's year-end parties!

"Paralegals and professional support lawyers at Slaughter and May will receive a bonus this year of just 3%, despite the rest of the lawyers at the firm pocketing a 15% boost under the firm’s recently introduced scheme.

"Slaughters’ new system will see a flat-rate bonus of 15% of salary paid to all fee-earners; however, paralegals and professional support lawyers are not included in this category. The magic circle firm confirmed they will receive just a fifth of this amount, taking home just 3%."

Click here to explore what this London firm (founded 1889) looks for in paralegals. Just don't expect much of a bonus...


Firm Discovers 'Associate' Is Not a Lawyer

Despite many "red flags," it took Anderson Kill & Olick almost three years to find out this 'associate' was a paralegal!

"While Brian T. Valery 's legal education is in question, he could likely graduate with honors from the Frank Abagnale Jr. school of deceit.

"Valery is under fire for his pro hac vice appearance in a 2005 complex litigation case heard in Stamford, Conn. His motion to appear, which went unopposed, was based on his affidavit stating he was an attorney in good standing at the New York City firm of Anderson Kill & Olick. He also claimed to be a member of the New York Bar with no history of discipline.

"As it turns out, Valery not only isn't a member of the Bar, there's no record that he ever applied or sat for the bar exam in New York or even set foot in a Fordham Law School classroom, which he told Anderson Kill partners he was doing at night to advance his career beyond that of a paralegal, Connecticut grievance officials say.

"Abagnale, a notorious con artist on whom the 2002 movie 'Catch Me If You Can' is based, was convicted of passing bad checks worth millions of dollars while working in the Louisiana attorney general's office. He got that job thanks in part to a forged Harvard Law School transcript.

"In an apparently similar display of dupery, Valery, after working at Anderson Kill since 1996, told the firm in 2004 he had passed the New York Bar. Partners at the 132-lawyer firm have conceded to Connecticut grievance authorities that they regrettably took Valery at his word."

I think Anderson Kill would be wise to update its Vault [PDF] listing, particularly those comments from associates about why they like this firm. It has "since modified our procedures for doing...admissions checks to prevent this from happening again."

UPDATE: Note a somewhat different take on this story here: "Paralegal Dupes a Law Firm." Of course, the paralegal was quite wrong to claim lawyer credentials (& actually 'practice law'), but I thought law firms would have been smart enough to check.

What do you think?


Paralegal now jury coordinator

It's all about making jury duty sound like fun -- or at least time well spent:

"Most people aren't thrilled to be called for jury duty. They think they are too busy, can't afford to miss work, or need to be home caring for their children.

"Mary Poston considers it her job to change their mind -- or at least make them feel like their time in the courthouse is well-spent.

"Poston, 56, is Mecklenburg County's jury coordinator. She summons 66,000 Mecklenburg County residents for jury duty each year.

"She's also the person you contact if you can't make it the day you were called. She's the one who checks you in when you arrive, tells you how the system works, and makes sure you get paid.

[snip]

"'I want you to know that the time you spend waiting is being put to good use,' she said. 'Just you being here in this room changes what happens in those courtrooms. You are one of the most important parts of the system.'"

[snip]

"This is Poston's second career. She spent 25 years at Pillowtex.

"When the company closed, she went back to school to become a paralegal. Poston, who lives in Kannapolis, did an internship with Mecklenburg's jury coordinator and then applied for the job when he was promoted.

"She said she'd always liked it when she got called for jury duty. And she hoped to land a state job after Pillowtex because she thought it would be more secure. She's been coordinating Mecklenburg's juries for about two years."


Paralegal: “A Fairly Well-Educated Chimp Could Practice Law”

Like the creativity involved in this paralegal's pursuit of a law degree, but truly enjoyed all the comments following the blog's post [link in original]:

"A Connecticut paralegal has sued the state’s bar exam committee because it won’t let him take the bar, despite his earning a degree from an unaccredited Internet correspondence law school....

"Mel Thompson took law courses at West Coast School of Law, an Internet correspondence law school based in Downey, Calif., not accredited by the ABA. The school’s program — which has graduated ten students in its brief history — is designed for students who want to practice in California; it requires out-of-state students to sign a waiver before enrolling.

"Connecticut has filed a motion to dismiss the claim. Meanwhile, Thompson has some choice words for the legal profession: 'A fairly well-educated chimp could practice law. It’s not hard to understand. For [the defendants] to put [the legal profession] on this pedestal . . . it’s a lie.'”

No offense to lawyer friends, but here's my favorite comment: "I personally would hire a chimp to represent me than any lawyer."


Salary Range: Paralegals

Just happened to run across the Ask Dr. Salary blog where I found paralegal salaries charted [links in original post]:

"I was reading AboveTheLaw and noticed David's Request for Paralegal Salaries. To help him out, I've posted a few charts from PayScale's Research Center about Paralegal Salaries that he might find interesting to compare against. I used our new Embed tool (see links next to charts in the Research Center) to post these charts on our blog. It's our latest attempt at blog content syndication. Let us know what you think!"


"The Inside Scoop on Law Firm Outsourcing"

Practical advice about law firm outsourcing from White & Case's administrative partner:

"Although law firms have traditionally outsourced services like security, travel or mail, the allure of Thomas Friedman's 'flat' world has some law firms looking hard at whether to outsource other functions. The options are no longer limited to an outside vendor running a service in-house. Instead, firms face an impressive array of options offered around the globe, from Chennai, India, to Wheeling, W.Va. Navigating these decisions requires thoughtful consideration of your business goals and careful planning.

[snip]

"When White & Case expanded its outsourcing arrangements to include its word processing, creative design and publishing functions, the critical factor aside from cost-efficiencies was the significant potential for improving client and lawyer service. By moving these functions to an outside global vendor, the firm eliminated duplication of staff and equipment, consolidated and cross-trained staff, improved cost efficiencies and set a better firmwide support platform to leverage its global capabilities and 24/7 service. Smaller offices are now able to access improved service on a 24/7 platform that notably upgrades their ability to serve both lawyers and clients.

[snip]

"Carefully research a vendor's history, capabilities and competitors and definitely follow up with their references. Speak to your peers at other law firms to see what works and doesn't and get additional referrals. Friends outside of the legal profession can share a wealth of information from their experience, since corporations have been outsourcing functions for longer.

[snip]

"Once the vendor has been selected, a detailed roll-out plan must be created. Thoroughly evaluate the work product during the transition phase -- including setting up a 'shadow' team that performs the same tasks for comparison. Consider having an on-site project manager from your vendor who will be available for daily communications and who will understand your business.

"It must be acknowledged that outsourcing decisions always make staff anxious -- and understandably so. It's crucial, therefore, that staff who are affected by the decision, whether they are moving or staying, be communicated with frankly and supportively. Once the dialogue gets past the anxiety stage, people are eager to look forward to the future and the new opportunities that may unfold."

Author Karen Asner, a commercial litigator and an administrative partner at White & Case in New York, oversees all administrative aspects of the firm's 36 offices and helps shape firm culture, policies and strategic business objectives.


"Should Associates Vote on Partnerships? Latham's Do"

Don't you think paralegals have just as much to contribute to partnership decisions as associates?

"Making partner usually means stiff competition with other associates.

"But at Latham & Watkins, associates are asked to put down their swords and shields and objectively evaluate whether their peers have what it takes to make partner.

"Most firms wouldn't do it. They'd be looking to prevent scheming associates from using any power they have to benefit their own chance at partnership.

"But at Latham, associates are selected to serve a two-year term on the associates committee, which makes partnership recommendations for the firm's partners to vote on. The committee has 45 members -- half are partners, and half are associates.

"'Empowering associates and having them involved in decision-making is terrific for employee morale," said Latham partner Richard Bress, who chairs the committee. 'It's also good for partners on the committee because associates have grassroots ways of knowing things.'"

I mean, really, who's better placed in a law firm's "grassroots" than paralegals? Okay, maybe secretaries....


"The Dress Shops"

Should I be pleased that The New York Times mentioned paralegals in a fashion article or peeved because of how it's worded?

"COLLETTE LOVULLO had some qualms about decorating Coco & Delilah, her year-old boutique on St. Marks Place near Avenue A. 'I was trepidatious about the chandelier,' she said, eyeing the multi-tentacled fixture dangling from the ceiling. 'I worried that people would think that it was maybe too much.'

[snip]

"'Overall there is a retail boom in the area,' said Jonathan Krieger, a commercial real estate agent. Young adults and families are moving in, foot traffic has picked up and new merchants are vying for store space, Mr. Krieger said.

[snip]

"Meg and Cornflower, also on East Ninth, are among the handful of shops offering original or one-of-a kind designs by their owners. But rarely do these boutiques venture near the cutting edge. Like most East Village merchants, they tend to stick with the same current, and sometimes interchangeable, fare that appeals to stroller-pushing moms, would-be rockers and blazer-clad paralegals all over town."

Really, "blazer-clad"!?!


"WNS bets on legal outsourcing"

More outsourcing of legal work, this time in Sri Lanka:

"WNS, a NYSE-listed business process outsourcing (BPO) major, is seeing a huge momentum in legal services.

"Riding high on the legal process outsourcing wave, WNS has started legal services in Sri Lanka about eight months back and now has over 30 lawyers there. It has also scaled up the existing Pune operations, with more than 80 lawyers to handle the legal services, says Smita Gaikwad, company spokesperson for WNS.

"Global spending on legal services is estimated to be at least over $250 billion, with the US accounting for more than two-thirds of the market. Conservative estimates of the current market potential for legal services outsourcing from the US alone are pegged at $ 3-4 billion. This comprises paralegal and research support, contract drafting and revising and contract management, library services, patent and trademark prosecution and litigation support."