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April 2007
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August 2007

Fort Worth paralegal named Legal Professional of the Year

Hearty congratulations to Leslie Stokes for receiving this award reported by Pegasus News:

"Leslie G. Stokes, Certified PP, PLS, TSC-CL, at the Law Offices of Steven C. Laird, P.C., in Fort Worth, has been named Legal Professional of the Year for 2007-2008 by the Texas Association of Legal Professionals.

"Ms. Stokes, a native of Fort Worth, was presented with the award at the Texas ALP's recent annual meeting in Arlington. She has worked as a paralegal at the Laird firm for the past six years.

"Ms. Stokes works under the supervision of two attorneys on complex medical malpractice and personal injury cases. She is involved in every aspect of trial preparation, including handling upkeep of case files, meeting with clients, monitoring deadlines, coordinating and scheduling depositions, hearings, mediations, and expert interviews. In addition, she researches legal issues, drafts pleadings and discovery and does background research on witnesses.

"'Leslie is an invaluable member of our legal team,' says firm founder Steven C. Laird. 'Without her and our other paralegals, we lawyers wouldn't be prepared to set foot in a courtroom. She is very deserving of this honor.'"

Such welcome praise from a lawyer!


Womble Carlyle recruits for legal assistance project for veterans

This article from the Winston-Salem Journal sure sounds like a very worthy volunteer opportuity for paralegals (& others):

"A statewide pro-bono project started by Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC is recruiting licensed North Carolina attorneys, supervised paralegals, legal-support staff and law students to provide free legal assistance for military veterans."


"Critical Care Without Consent"

This article in today's Washington Post (5-27-2007), both surprised & shocked me. I'd dearly love to hear what med-mal paralegals think about these research studies:

"The federal government is undertaking the most ambitious set of studies ever mounted under a controversial arrangement that allows researchers to conduct some kinds of medical experiments without first getting patients' permission.

"The $50 million, five-year project, which will involve more than 20,000 patients in 11 sites in the United States and Canada, is designed to improve treatment after car accidents, shootings, cardiac arrest and other emergencies.

"The three studies, organizers say, offer an unprecedented opportunity to find better ways to resuscitate people whose hearts suddenly stop, to stabilize patients who go into shock and to minimize damage from head injuries. Because such patients are usually unconscious at a time when every minute counts, it is often impossible to get consent from them or their families, the organizers say.

"The project has been endorsed by many trauma experts and some bioethicists. Others question it. The harshest critics say the research violates fundamental ethical principles.

[snip]

"'We will never know the best way to treat people unless we do this research. And the only way we can do this research, since the person is unconscious, is without consent,' said Myron L. Weisfeldt of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who is overseeing the project. 'Even if there are family members present, they know their loved one is dying. The ambulance is there. The sirens are going off. You can't possibly imagine gaining a meaningful informed consent from someone under those circumstances.'

"Before starting the research at each site, researchers complete a 'community consultation' process. Local organizers try to notify the public about the study and gauge the reaction through public meetings, telephone surveys, Internet postings and advertisements, and through reports in local news media. Anyone who objects can get a special bracelet to alert medical workers that they refuse to participate."

The reader comments about this news are worth a look. Personally I'm in favor of getting one of those "refuse to participate" bracelets!


"Orrick's Staffing Moves Pay Off -- Will Other Firms Follow?"

So, would you want to work in Wheeling, West Virginia? Read all about the separation of staff from lawyers in this article from The Recorder:

"When Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe announced it would move scores of support staff to a small industrial town in West Virginia, lawyers inside and out were skeptical of the quality of work and the return on investment.

"Five years later, the 980-lawyer firm says it's saved more than $20 million thanks to the Global Operations Center in Wheeling, W.Va. -- all without diminishing its services.

"But even with the purported success, most other large law firms still haven't jumped to copy it for themselves. Leaders say savings wouldn't be significant for their firms and the cost of splitting attorneys from staff would be too high [emphasis added].

"'We're not like a big corporation,' said Francis Milone, chair of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, which employs 1,300 lawyers. 'We depend very heavily on personal relationships between lawyers and staff [emphasis added], and it would be a very substantial change and disruption if we told people you either don't have a job or you can move to wherever.'

"Consultants say that law firms will eventually have to bite the bullet, especially with the ever-increasing cost of doing business, amplified by the recent round of associate salary hikes.

[snip]

"The firm hung its "O" on the old Wheeling Stamping building in the spring of 2002 and fielded more than 6,000 applications for 73 positions [emphasis added]. Now with 160 employees, the around-the-clock center handles everything from computer network management and help desk services to billing and collections as well as library services, human resources administration and marketing research. Most recently, the firm even added paralegals to the mix [emphasis added]."

Really, what do you think about working in an office described as, "No lawyers practice here, just those who support them"?


"Commentary: A Career Not Measured in Billable Hours"

Author Debra Bruno (Special Reports Editor at Legal Times), ponders some interesting questions in this Law.com article:

"I grew up the child of teachers. Besides learning the obvious lack-of-privacy lessons ('Does your father know you left the house in that outfit?' my high school history teacher once muttered to me), I also internalized the idea that in the working world, people get home every day at 4 p.m. and have summers off. To this day, it feels to me as if spending a beautiful summer afternoon sitting in an air-conditioned office goes against the natural order.

"I'm getting a sense that more and more people are on the same page -- or a nearby one. Don't we all want more time away from work?

"Yet at the same time, the office seems to be increasing its demands on our hours. One of the stickiest elements of the traditional working world is the often intractable and sometimes irrational insistence that people put in plenty of face time. The problem is especially acute in law firms -- places where associates [& paralegals?] actually worry about taking a 10-minute bathroom break. (Is it billable?) It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see a link between attrition and the legal world's obsession with the clock.

[snip]

"'But are the law firms listening? They have done a brilliant job of creating initiatives with fancy-sounding names. More than one firm boasts that it offers flexible schedules, sabbatical time and varieties of telecommuting. Press releases tout all these wonderful programs. But try to find a lawyer who's made partner and worked a truly part-time schedule: It's about as rare as getting a seat on the bus at rush hour."


Helen Raschke Pro Bono Award

Must read this very inspiring article from the The Black Hills Pioneer (SD)

"If you were to talk to Helen Raschke of Lead, she would tell you that the best years of her life were spent doing pro bono work because she was helping people in trouble.

"In April of this year, Raschke was honored as an award was given in her name for the work she did for 16 years as a Private Attorney Coordinator -- a job that didn't exist before she started at West Texas Legal Services in Wichita Falls, Texas. The Helen Raschke Pro Bono Award will be awarded annually to the most helpful legal assistant/secretary for a pro bono attorney. In her speech before announcing the first recipient of the award, Raschke said, 'They all need to be valued and appreciated for enabling more legal services to be provided to the poor [PDF]. This new award will be a token of our admiration, respect and appreciation.' She also added, 'The secretary could make or break your day.'"

Helen's sure got that right!


Paralegals 'Adopt' Military Paralegals

This article from the Richmond (KY) Register -- "Showing you care may be easier than you think" -- shows how you can help support US troops:

"Receiving a package from someone special is always exciting, but for troops serving overseas, it’s a little piece of home.

"Many people may think it’s a good idea to send some goodies to our men and women who are at war, but don’t know where to begin. One Richmond woman said it’s easier than you might think.

"Lee Williams is a Richmond citizen and a member of the Greater Lexington Paralegal Association, an organization which provides resources to paralegals in Lexington, Richmond, Winchester and other surrounding areas. Since 2005, Williams and other GLPA members have adopted other paralegals who are in the military. They send them care packages and keep in contact with them until they come home.

"'It is a very simple thing to do,' Williams said. 'We have a military-issued list of what we can send to them and everybody has a copy of it. We donate to the box and when it’s full, we send it on. We always get responses that it makes them feel like Christmas and how thankful that they are that they have not been forgotten.'"

You can see the list of approved items at the article's end.


"Senior Legal Hotline connects seniors with the experts"

Sounds like a good volunteering opportunity described in this Chico, CA newspaper article. Does your local government or bar association offer similar programs?

"The Senior Legal Hotline is surely one of the best kept secrets. The hotline provides California residents over the age of 60 with fast, accurate advice on any legal subject by phone, from Social Security issues to age discrimination, housing and elder abuse.

"Sound too good to be true? The service is provided by a team of lawyers, paralegals [volunteer info PDF], interns and volunteers who help more than 10,000 callers a year solve problems faced by seniors, and may offer limited extra assistance when required. Perhaps a child custody problem arises, where a grandparent is held out of the health care system. Or, as many of callers can attest, seniors are pressured to obtain a loan they neither need nor can afford, and require extraction from deals that further place them in financial jeopardy."


"The Data Boom: Can Law Firms Profit?"

Yeah, oh, yeah! Read how in this Legal Technology article about how MoFo responded when a small client was hit with a huge discovery request:

"In the fall of 2005, a small Israeli technology startup came to San Francisco's Morrison & Foerster with a lawsuit -- and, soon enough, a problem.

[snip]

"The stakes weren't particularly high -- just a few million dollars. But after the case was filed, the defendant hit back with an electronic discovery request -- every relevant e-mail, Microsoft Word file, spreadsheet, you name it -- so onerous that its cost alone would take a fair chunk of any judgment.

"'We saw that it was going to take several hundred thousand dollars to do this,' says Oz Benamram, director of knowledge management and Israel practice counsel at MoFo. In fact, there was nothing terribly unique about this situation. As more correspondence and information is stored electronically, e-discovery is requiring more time, and more dollars, than ever before.

"What was different was MoFo's solution. Realizing that the standard way of reviewing documents -- having teams of associates, or lower-priced contract attorneys, sift through anything that could be relevant, deciding what was responsive and had to be turned over, and what was privileged and needed to be kept -- wasn't going to cut it, the firm suggested a radical approach: automate almost everything."

Be sure to read the PROFIT CENTER? section at the very end of this article.


"Law firms looking for help"

Good news for job-hunting paralegals in this Philadelphia news article which cites a Robert Half Legal survey:

"Despite the old joke asking what 1 million lawyers at the bottom of the ocean represent (answer: a good start), a recent national survey found that law firms and corporate legal departments actually need more attorneys.

"California-based staffing service Robert Half Legal recently found 94 percent of the 300 U.S. and Canadian lawyers they surveyed said the size of their companies will stay the same or increase in the next 12 months. Almost half plan to hire additional lawyers, paralegals or other professionals.

"The biggest needs are in the fields of corporate governance, intellectual property and litigation, said Maura Mann, manager of training and development for Robert Half Legal's northeast region."