The World is Temporarily Closed: Communication, Onsite Work and Pandemic Productivity

Pandemic1The following is one attorney's view of how the pandemic has affected his work. Not everyone is having the same experience. There are some very scary stories out there, lots of successes, too many halls of shame and finally, acceptance. Here is Ted Wells, litigation attorney in Los Angeles.

 

Communication with Colleagues and Support Staff
 
I miss popping into my colleagues’ offices to chat or to hear their thoughts about how to handle this or that problem or motion. I miss impromptu coffee runs. But what I’ve lost in that sort of thing I’ve gained in group chats and Zoom happy hours. Now, instead of popping into a colleague’s office to get their take on an idea, I do so over the group chat. I miss the face to face, but this works. Much the same is true for communicating with support staff. E-mails continue to serve the same purpose as they did when everyone was in the office, and for those conversations where in pre-pandemic days I would walk over to my secretary and talk, I simply call. On that point, the pandemic made me do something I never thought I would, which is get a landline. My cell service is too bad at home to do business, so I got a landline at home that I use primarily for that purpose. It has really worked out and I recommend it.
 
Onsite Work
 
I don’t know of any firms that ask attorneys or support staff to work onsite, and given the ease of communication apparent from the last 10 months (has it really been that long?), I don’t see a good reason to do this. Opposing counsel in every one of my cases seems to have call forwarding from their office lines and some kind of work from home arrangement. Between cloud computing services, Microsoft Remote Desktop, and call forwarding, I see no reason to ask people to come into the office until we’re all vaccinated. There is real value in coming into the office, and it’s not just the impromptu coffees and chats with colleagues I mentioned earlier. However, these days, the risks of the virus pretty clearly outweigh the benefits of coming into the office.
 
Pandemic Productivity
 
I no longer have a commute. That saves me about an hour and a half a day. This has allowed me to dedicate more time to running, which is the primary way I blow off steam and deal with the stress that seems to be coming from every angle these days. As a litigator, I welcome the increased personal time, which is precious. If anything, my productivity has increased since I began working from home. I think this is the result of the increased personal time and consequent decrease in stress, but also simply not commuting has benefits of its own. It turns out that it is less stressful to not sit on the 101 twice a day, than to do so. I don’t look forward to traffic ramping back up once this is all over, but I do look forward to seeing colleagues once again. Here’s hoping that’s sometime soon.
 
Do you have a pandemic story you would like to share? Send it to chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com
 
TWells Teded Wells is an experienced Los Angeles litigator with Romero Law, an employment law civil litigation and trial firm located in Pasadena that specializes in representing whistleblowers and employees in harassment, retaliation, and discrimination matters. Ted had five published opinions by the 5th year of practice. His firm has been the subject of recent international press coverage with respect to ongoing high-profile litigation.
 
 
Estrin.2020Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top national and international staffing organization and MediSums, medical records summarizing. She is the Co-Founding Member and Vice-President of the Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award and a Los Angeles Paralegal Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient She is a former administrator at an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.
 

Stop Using the 37 Most Irritating Words at Work

I would love to hear some real work conversation from some real people.  I mean people who don't speak current workspeak.  You know the type:  the ones that desperately want you to think that they are "in the know", "up-to-date", savvy, synchronized but frankly, silly.

Sometimes, I wonder what some of the phrases really mean.  And, who started this stuff anyway?  Who is it that starts anything? Like the politicians who come on stage at a convention and point into the crowd with one finger shaped like a pistol to acknowledge unknown, unseen "someones."  For god's sake, there are 300,000 people there and the camera shows the politician making a surprised, "Oh, look who's here" face while pointing at that unseen person.  You can put $.25 on that it's going to happen at each and every convention. Who started that?

Back to the irritating words.  Once I hear these cliches, I actually tune out.  I don't hear what's coming next because I've mentally taken a vacation right from the first few words.  They didn't have me at hello.  They pushed me out the door.

Here's my list.  Feel free to add to it in the comment section.  I'm sure you'll have lots to say, particularly the next time someone has a work conversation with you and says something like, "I'm reaching out to you to see if, at the end of the day, you'll agree that we are the premiere law firm. Our key stakeholders will drill down and find issues not yet on your radar." Or, something like that.

Here we go:

1.    At the end of the day

2.    If you will

3.    Premiere law firm/organization/company

4.    On our radar

5.    Drill down

6.    Going forward

7.    Touch base

8.    No brainer

9.    Best of the best

10.    Think outside the box

11.    Best in class

12.    Transparency

13.    Wheelhouse

14.    Deliverable

15.    Actionable

16.    Dive deeper

17.    Run the numbers

18.    Organically

19.    Circle back

20.    Move the needle on this

21.    I'll ping you

22.    The bottom line is

23.    Take it to a whole 'nother level

24.    I'm on it

25.    It is what it is

26.    Employee on-boarding

27.    Conversate (Really?)

28.    Shout out

29.    Synergy

30.    The optics don't look good (What are we - at Lenscrafters?)

31.    Trending

32.    Best practices

33.    It's all good

34.    Starting a conversation or answering a question with, "So..."

35.    Cutting edge

36.    Put a pin in it

37.    30,000 feet

 

Even though these are not necessarily business terms, I also hate it when I hear, "You go girl" or "You rock."  I don't rock.  Trust me.  I don't rock.

 

 

 


UNITIZATION: The Process of Separating Logical Boundaries from Physical Boundaries

IStock_000013570059Small Bob Sweat, a talented writer and eDiscovery expert is back today with another guest blog.  Bob, as most of you know, hails from the Great State of Texas where everything there is bigger - even the cases.

In the previous issue, I wrote about scanning as most cases still include a paper component; lots of it in some cases. As these two subjects (scanning and unitization) intertwine so closely it would be a good idea to tuck these guidelines on unitization away for future use with last issue’s article on scanning.

The purpose of unitization (logical document determination or LDD) is to locate and identify where each logical, self-standing document starts and ends.  Self-standing documents include letters, memos, reports, books, photographs, drawings, graphs, charts, or other compilations.  A self-standing individual document is determined by looking at its format and bibliographic information.  Bibliographic information refers to items that reside outside of the text (main body) of a document and include one or more of the following:

 Author:                    Person and /or Organization that produced or approved the document

Recipient:                Person and /or Organization that received the document

Copyee:                   Person and /or Organization that received a copy of the document

Title:                         Heading, subject or RE line of the document

Date:                        Date the document was originally produced  

In a typical paper collection, documents are found stapled, clipped or otherwise bound together.  For example, a fax cover, a letter and a report may be stapled together, but each is clearly an individual document considering each one has its own unique format and associated bibliographic data. The same principles apply to a group of images that have not been split into unique documents. It is important to get the logical documents determined for later use in databases, depositions, and trial.

Each paper or imaged collection is reviewed to find the beginning point and the ending point of each individual document.  A letter begins with the salutation and ends with the signature.  A report begins at the title page and includes all pages following thereafter in consecutive order including indexes, until the end of the report or last page included is located.

 Physical Attachments:

Physical attachments to a document should be considered a separate document from the parent (lead) document, if the document can stand on its own.  For example, a fax cover, stapled with a letter and report.  Each document can stand on its own, i.e., has its own bibliographic data that may be different from the attachment. You end up with three distinct logical documents for later coding purposes.

For example, you have a stapled group consisting of a fax cover, followed by a letter, followed by a report.  If you code them together, you may only get the information from the first document. If you code the information from all three, it can become confusing and laborious at search time.  If you use a vendor, they will code only the information from the first document as they cannot code information from all three for the price of one.  In the above case, if the fax is from Dick to Jane, the letter from Jack to Jill, and the report is about falling down the hill, then the information from the second and third document is lost and will not be found in a search.

 EXCEPTIONS:     Attachments to a contract are usually not separated (especially exhibits) and you should include appendices. In the case of Exhibits – these are typically kept together though they may include more than one document.  Data capture is typically performed on only the first document.  Addendums can be coded separate or together depending on the needs of the legal team.

Multiple Documents on One Page:

Some pages may have more than one document to a page. (For example: a photocopy of three different checks appears on one page.  Each check is considered a document, unless otherwise specified).  Each check may have the same author, but likely has different dates and payees (recipients).

Multiple Documents as One Document:

If a document has page numbers running consecutively, it is an excellent indication that all of the pages are part of the same document, even if the document contains other imbedded documents that would otherwise stand alone based on bibliographic information. This is particularly true with faxes where the fax line clearly shows the number of pages. Be careful as not all the pages may be there.

Duplicate Documents:

Duplicate documents are separate documents even if they follow each other in a group of pages.  (Documents that look alike may have minor differences in information that will affect the review or coding process).  In today’s world, exact copies of electronic duplicates may be deleted by matching their Hash Values.  Paper documents on the other hand can only be noted as potential duplicates from coded information or software programs that look at the document format fingerprint.  In the software case, you will get a percentage of confidence that a document is duplicative of another and have to hand compare.  Many times these end up being near duplicates.  None-the-less it is a technique that can help the reviewer determine whether scanned images are a match.

Distribution Lists:

Distribution lists should not be separated from the document they distribute.

Table of Contents:

A table of contents, when combined with the sections that follow make up one document.  The trailing sections or documents that follow the table should be examined as to whether the documents/sections that follow the table are actually part of the table of contents.  If the pages are consecutively numbered, that is an excellent indication it is one document.  If the pages are not consecutively numbered, the contents of the trailing documents must be examined to see if they logically match the subjects or topics listed in the table, and if so, consider it one document.

 Appendix:

An appendix or an index is not a table of contents. In most cases, a list of documents to follow is not enough of an indicator to group all the documents on the list as one document.

 A Word of Caution:         Care must be taken when reviewing reports, patents and other documents where the pages are typically text followed by drawings, pictures, or graphic representations then back to text.  These documents are not typically split up just because the format changes.  Pagination is a good way to determine the beginning and ending of these types of documents.

About our guest blogger:
Author of numerous articles, Bob remains a popular speaker and presenter of CLE webinars and seminars. He works currently as a Project Manager and Partner at Open Door Solutions, LLP, Dallas, Texas.  He is best known for his down to earth explanations and approaches to complex matters.  Bob holds a place on the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP) Advisory Council.

Bob holds a Paralegal Certificate in Civil Litigation with Computer Emphasis, a major in Business and minor in Economics, several certificates from studies at Purdue University and has worked both as a paralegal and paralegal placement manager.  Bob has 20 plus years experience working with local and national firms on complex litigations and document management matters, especially as they relate to discovery, review and production. Email your questions or call: bsweat@opendoorsolutions.com (214) 643-0000.


There's No Tellin' - Can't Find a Job and Can't Figure Out Why?

 

 

J0442363   
If you are not connected to LinkedIn, you are missing one of the most important career tools you can possibly get. KNOW has a group on LinkedIn called, KNOW Paralegals. We have almost 1500 members throughout the U.S.. Canada, Belgium and other countries who share their experiences, thoughts, hopes, wants, dreams and desires.

Several sent me their resumes for review. Other members of the group sent in suggestions - good ones, I might add - and offered to review resumes as well. While the economy has certainly been one contributing negative factor in the ability to land that first position, I found that there were other mitigating factors.

In several resumes I looked at, there were typos, inconsistent grammar and formatting and more.  One woman left off all employment dates and got p.o'd when I said she can't do that.  Another in New York tried to say that he received a B.A. from a community college in California.  Not only do community colleges not give B.A.s, it just happened to be a community college where I had taught. More than one resume spelled Bachelor Degree: Batchelor. The mistakes don't have to be blaring to get bounced but come on, fellas!

Here are 10 tips that might wake some folks up:

 1.   The resume is poorly written and you either don't know it or think it will pass anyway.  After all, Ginny down the street liked it.  You've been using it this whole time.  Most of the resumes that have been sent to me to review are just not up to par.  The problem is, the candidate thinks it's just fine.  Bounce your resume off  someone who is experienced enough with hiring and can tell you the truth. 

 2.  Your location.  Some people are simply located in areas that are traditionally difficult for entry-level paralegals such as Louisiana or still suffering from the mass destruction of the recession.  Find out how others got their jobs. It's done.  People are working.  Someone found the magic key.  There's one for everyone.  Go find the person with the magic key and make nice.  They will be thrilled to share their success with you and possibly help a fellow colleague.  That's why they made Starbucks.

3.  Not really trying.  Oh? You say you are?  I'd really scrutinize that if I were you. Some people would have you believe they are really trying to find a job.  However, if you review their attempts, they really didn't spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week seeking a job.  In fact, they got very discouraged after one or two rejections or not hearing back from a resume submission.  Or, they send the same resume over and over and over to the same employer hoping something will change.  Resumes do get trashed simply because they've been around way too long.

4.  Salary requirements are too high.  Most paralegals, believe it or not, never checked to find out how much entry level salaries are for the city or town they live in.  They heard a national average or just didn't think about it or thought it would be the same as they are making now.  Wrong!  You need to take a position at the going market rate.

5.  Can't get past the gate-keeper.  Many paralegals send a resume and do no follow-up whatsoever via phone call, e-mail, or anything.  They just wait to hear. Christmas is coming too. Go meet these employers somewhere else:  Bar meetings, association meetings, the golf course, Facebook, LinkedIn, seminars, trade shows, call-in radio shows.  Find them on You Tube. 

6.  Refusal to join the community.  If you ask whether some paralegals have joined an association, taken a seminar, webinar, read a paralegal publication, the answer is no.  Whether they feel that it won't do any good or they are too shy or it's not worth the effort, is up for discussion.  However, let me tell you this:  The secret to finding a paralegal job is through other paralegals.  Paralegals know where the jobs are.  Your best friend on the job is not going to go running down to HR and say, "Gee.  I don't like it here.  I'm thinking of finding another job."  No!  But they will tell colleagues on the job.  Those are the people in the know.

7.  If you join an association, you have to go to the meetings.  It's funny how people answer questions.  You ask, "Did you join your local paralegal association?"  And the person says, "Yes, of course."  Aha!  You usually have to ask, "Do you attend the face-to-face meetings?"  Usually, the answer is no.

8.  You are not aware just how badly you do in an interview.  You just don't.  And who is going to tell you?  The person who interviewed you?  Nope!  No one.  It may be just one, teeny, tiny thing that sets employers off that the candidate is not aware of that keeps him/her from finding a position.  Do mock interviews with someone who is very familiar with paralegals.  Take the critique to heart.  It could help, not hinder.

9.   If you are temping, are you getting good reviews?  Common complaint heard:  "I do lots of temp jobs.  That's not the way to find a job.  No one has offered me anything. " Let's examine that. Are you going down to HR and asking, "Can I leave my resume with you in the event something comes up?"  Probably not.  Most people just wait to see if someone is going to spot them out of the crowd, like them and automatically offer a job.  It just doesn't happen that way.

10.  Networking:  Are you really annoying?  Do people tend to run the other way when they see you coming?  No, really!  Sometimes, we are so desperate.  But sometimes people can't help us. They tend to run the other way when they see you coming because they can't help you and frankly, don't know what to say to you any longer.  Your networking begins to backfire.  Figure out a way to be part of the circle.  Join a committee with your association.  Get to know folks.

 I wrote a book called, The Successful Paralegal's Job Search Guide.  It's been a best seller for 10 years and is still up-to-date.  You can get it on amazon.com.  It has 250 questions you might be asked in the interview.  It also has 250 questions you can ask (Uh, don't ask all 250). 

Form a support group and meet via Skype once a week.  It's free. You can see each other. Share experiences.  Share tips.  Support each other.  Invite successful headhunters and paralegals to come in and talk with you.

The OLP has a great deal going now to take eDiscovery 101A or Creating Legally Defensible Records Retention online interactive courses.  These are gold standard courses taught by expert legal professionals. Take the courses and bring new skills to the table.  More than your competitor. Remember:  Employers pay for knowledge.  Not for years of experience nor whether you can make it to work on time, are a team player, dress well, hunt for assignments or worked at prestigious firms.  They pay for knowledge.

Join an association such as your local paralegal association or The Organization of Legal Professionals or the National Association of Freelance Legal Professionals and go get some real contacts who can help you.  Get certified in eDiscovery through the OLP and offer employers something brand new that is sweeping the country.

 You CAN do this.  I know it's hard, it's stressful,  it's anxiety provoking. It's also exciting, challenging and positive. I guarantee it.

 


"Firms Predict More Work, Less Equity"

What does this news mean for paralegals? I'm guessing higher required billable hours & maybe higher salaries too:

"Although law firm leaders at a recent conference publicly pooh-poohed predictions that industry profitability would stumble, in a new survey they say increasing expenses will cut into their bottom line this year.

"Lawyers can expect to be pushed for more billable hours while facing a harder struggle to make equity partner. And the ranks of associates and nonequity partners will rise much faster than any increase in equity slots, law firm leaders said.

"The first managing partner confidence index [be sure to check the comments to this post!] -- a survey of more than 100 Am Law 200 firm leaders -- was released this week by Citigroup Private Bank, which serves as banker to 550 law firms, including many of the nation's largest.

[snip]

"Am Law 200 firms reported big growth last year. But while most respondents predict revenue will continue to climb, they also expect expenses -- led by lawyer salaries -- to do the same. More than 90 percent said lawyer salaries would be the primary rising cost this year -- and that was before the recent round of associate salary raises that brought first-years up to $160,000 in New York and $145,000 most everywhere else.

[snip]

"Non-lawyer staff salaries and real estate costs are also expected to grow at a faster clip [emphasis added] than last year, [Danilo DiPietro, client head of Citigroup's law firm group] said."


"Associate Suspended for Offering Information to Opposing Party for Fee"

Simply amazing! Was potentially losing a legal career worth $2,000? Or even $20,000?

"A former law firm associate who offered to provide information to an opposing party for a $2,000 fee has been suspended from the practice of law for five years.

"Glenn A. Kiczales, a former associate at landlord-tenant firm Ingram Yuzek Gainen Carroll & Bertolotti, began representing real estate firm Stahl Associates in 2002 in an action to recover an apartment from a tenant and a sublessee named Rajiv Gosain.

'Gosain offered at various points in the action to pay Kiczales, 36, for help in the case, including $20,000 in the event of a favorable settlement.

"Though Kiczales was unable to accept that fee because he was too junior a lawyer to influence his client on a settlement, he offered for a $2,000 fee to provide Gosain information about how certain audiotape evidence would be used."


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?


"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....