The Paralegal Internet Association Now Forming -

As the world grows closer, so does the paralegal field.

Men and women.4 groupsIt had to happen.  With millions of paralegals around the world, a new association needed to be formed to bring paralegals together for one common purpose.  I thought. "What if there were an association where paralegals could share information; develop best practices; raise the awareness of the field; increase utilization; network with paralegals they never thought would be possible; learn from each other; all through the Internet?"  It was one of those work-related epiphanies as I began to meet and learn from paralegals across the world.

As I developed six LinkedIn Groups including KNOW, Paralegal Group, Paralegal Managers, Virtual Paralegal, Legal Vendors, OLP, the numbers grew substantially.  KNOW has over 8,000 paralegals - Paralegal Group has over 6,000 members.  Where are they from?  What are their stories?  It became apparent to me that there are times when we isolate - when we only know our own space.  The world isn't like that anymore. Paralegals are global. It's just that no one has attempted to bring them together in a world that changed practically overnight.  No longer are paralegals stuck in a slow, lumbering legal field.  The world has changed - and paralegals with it.

Forming the Paralegal Internet Association has been one of the most exciting experiences of my career.  In the first week, we had over 300 paralegals from around the world respond - from the U.S., Scotland, Canada, London, Saipan, Nigeria, Brussells, Israel, France, Italy and more. Paralegals who have a strong desire to exchange information, meet one another, learn from each other. That was the first week.

We held our first meeting a few weeks ago and laid out some goals.  Among them was to set up a Steering and other committees such as Membership, Events, Education, Newsletter, Business Partners, Strategic Alliances, Conference and more.  We sent out a survey asking what we should call ourselves, who should join, what is our purpose and mission, what impact do we want to make on the paralegal field?

The results so far have been thought-provoking, motivating and interesting.  Names range from International Paralegal Association, Internet Paralegal Association, Association of Internet Paralegals, Paralegal Internet Association and others. There's a wide, wide range of educational topics including international law, eDiscovery, information governance, litigation support, corporate, employment law.  There were concerns that we would only present American law and therefore limit opportunities for paralegals from other countries.  The ideas and suggestions were endless.

There's a website you can go to:  www.paralegalinternet.com.  It lists a whole host of terrific benefits the organization will be able to provide including: education, webinars, webcasts, white papers, ezines, newsletters, discussion forums, recorded sessions and more.  Our online resource library will include dozens of professional practice statements, sample documents, articles and more designed to help you get things done.  There are surveys to be created, resources, advocacy and most of all, convenience. There can be local chapters that meet locally, Skyping to bring others in - virtual job fairs -  the ideas are endless.  Here's an opportunity to get in on the ground floor and have a hand in developing and shaping an influencial organization.

While it would be nice to be free, a small membership fee of $50 has been set until January 1 when survey candidates felt that $95 USD would be appropriate individual dues.  Here at the Paralegal Knowledge Institute, we will provide a paid staff to administer the organization and guide it along with the input from all committees and members.  It is a place to be heard, a place to empower paralegals with a new kind of association - one that is frankly, riding the direction the horse is going.

If you would like more information or join this unique, progressive and creative organization, visit www.paralegalinternet.com.  Be sure to give us your feedback as we value your input.  Join and take the survey to give us comprehensive information about the meaningful and valuable contribution the association can make to the paralegal field.

Together, we can stand out from the crowd. 

Chere Estrin
chere.estrin@paralegalinternet.com

 

 

 


Paralegal Knowledge Institute Makes Its Debut

 Logo.PKI.medium Attention experienced paralegals!  There's a new outfit in town, the Paralegal Knowledge Institute (www.paralegalknowledge.com) that launches this week. 

Designed specifically for the paralegal assignment, the Institute is offering gold-standard courses, webinars and publications.  The purpose of the Institute is to bring to the paralegal community a new concept:  an organization dedicated strictly to the career advancement of the experienced paralegal.  The difference between the Institute and other training companies is that the Institute is strictly dedicated to paralegal continuing legal education while in other organizations, paralegal training is a division of a larger company, generally dedicated to attorney training.

"We see this as an opportunity to give paralegals cutting-edge skills training while at the same time keeping pace with a very competitive marketplace," says Allen Brody, General Counsel for the Institute.  "Paralegals today have much more sophisticated assignments handed to them than ever before.  The Institute prepares the experienced paralegal to stay competitive, get to the top and help their firm grow."

The Institute is offering online/interactive courses paralegals can take right at their computer.  Online courses are anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, meeting 1 to 2 times per week for two hours.  The lively, interactive format allows the student to feel as though they were right in the classroom.  There is a live instructor you can speak to as well as see.  You can also speak and see other students as well. 

What is an online/interactive course?  You simply sign onto the interactive website where you can see the presenter, and if you have a webcam, others can see you as well, presuming you are willing. (There's nothing like taking a professional course in your bunny slippers!).    The Institute has offerings for paralegals at all experience levels as well as offering immediate download of pre-recorded online courses in the event you missed a live session. 

 Logo.PKI.small The Institute also offers over 100 webinars per year.  It is the new home for KNOW, The Magazine for Paralegals, a favorite e-magazine among paralegals.  There are forums, ebooks, newsletters, publications, resources and blogs to be found.  The Institute offers discounts to the OLP's eDiscovery certification exam, discounts to join OLP and the National Association of Legal Professionals (www.naflp.com) and discounts to Lexis/Nexis webinars and LORMAN seminars. The amount of education an experienced paralegal can receive just through the Institute is overwhelming.

Just a few of the online/interactive courses include:
eDiscovery 101A
Legal Project Management
Litigation Support 101A
Advanced Litigation Support
eDiscovery & GARP
eDiscovery: The Master Series
Elder Law and the Paralegal
Introduction to Bankruptcy
Introduction to Trademarks
Introduction to Patents
Leadership Skills for the New Manager
The Paralegal's Role in Corporate Transactions & Securities
UCC Searches
eDiscovery for Techies and more.

Webinars include:

The 3 C's of Legal Writing
Legal Project Management
Elder Care
How to Review Title Reports
International eDiscovery
Advanced eDiscovery

Legal Project Management
International eDiscovery
Leadership Through Corporate Writing
Tech Talk Tuesdays
Corporate Formation
Cultivating Leadership Skills
Brave New Writer: Leadership Through Corporate Storytelling
When It Was Due Yesterday
Legal Research and Writing
Drafting Motions
The Paralegal's Role at Trial
The Art of Writing on the Job
Managing Multiple Attorneys & Assignments and more.

The Institute offers two types of membership:  Free and an Upgraded Membership to the Paralegal Plus category.  Free membership offers a host of benefits while Paralegal Plus gives you that plus a free six week course worth $495-$895; a free subscription to KNOW, and lots of free eBooks and publications. 

Paralegals can purchase an Annual Pass called The Paralegal Passport that gives their entire department a one year annual pass to over 100 webinars for their entire department for one flat tuition. Firms such as Orrick;Williams Mullen; Jones Day; Kaiser; Intel; and other prestigious firms have taken advantage of the Paralegal Passport.

The Institute is offering a free ebook, "What They Didn't Teach You in Paralegal School" if you sign-up for free membership and the free ebook along with a one year subscription to KNOW if you upgrade your membership.  Anyone can take courses without joining, however, they leave behind hundreds of dollars in bonuses and discounts.  The Institute also offers scholarships to those with financial hardships.

The Advisory Board consists of a blue ribbon panel of experts including Robert Mongue, Esq., Assistant Professor at Ole Mississippi's Paralegal Program; Janet Powell, Sr. Paralegal & Case Manager at Jackson Lewis; Jean Watt, Paralegal Manager at Mayer Brown in Chicago; Linda McGrath-Cruz, co-founder of the Florida Registered Paralegal Committee and senior paralegal; Katie Thoma, Portfolio Manager at Loeb & Loeb; Mark Gorkin, LICSW, The Stress Doc; Charles Gillis, MBA, Executive Director, Munsch, Hardt Kofp & Harr, P.C. and Beth King, RP, Sr. Paralegal at Vestas-American Wind Technology along with several other well-known icons such as Celia Elwell, RP and others in the field.

Oh, yes.  And if you're wondering if I'm involved, yes, I am.  Education and writing being my first loves.  Husband, children and dog Max excepted of course.

Be sure to visit the website:  www.paralegalknowledge.com.  I think you will be very excited to finally see an organization strictly dedicated to the experienced paralegal giving you a broad range of resources and the community to support it.

Let me know your thoughts on this.

 

 


If You License, Will They Come? Licensing issue debuts in New York

Dreamstimecomp_19500966The other day, a paralegal sent me a panic email.  OMG!  Licensing of paralegals had been introduced as a bill in the state of New York.  Her reaction about the bill was pretty standard.  In a nutshell, she was saying, "What?????"

In short the bill:

    a) Requires mandatory licensing
    b) States that paralegals "practiced" (an ethical question, to be sure)
    c)  States that mandatory minimum standards for qualification into the field are required (but does not state what standards)
    d)  Establishes licensing fees not to exceed $100.00
    e)  Creates an independent board to adopt rules and regulations 
    f)  Is an amendment to the education law
    g)  Offers this justification:  "Every year more and more attorneys are allowing their paralegals to work extensively on important and complex cases: Cases that impact the life of their clients and other people involved. Some of these paralegals tend to commit errors that could lead to nightmares for the clients. This legislation would require paralegal[s] to have the qualification[s] necessary in order to provide improved and more professional services to clients of attorneys."

Taking a look at the bill, my response was:

If this particular document represents the ability of those who would a) pass such a bill and b) draft such a bill, we're all in trouble. It appears to have little thought, research or understanding of the paralegal profession. Further, it is drafted as a punitive action (or reactions) rather than progression of a 40 year old field. 

Generally, certification, licensing or mandatory education of paralegals comes about because too many misinformed and under-educated paralegals deliver markedly poor services directly to the public and consequently, steps are taken for protection. 

This document in particular references those paralegals who work under the supervision of attorneys. It sidesteps the consumer issue completely.

Licensing is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it is putting the cart before the horse. Before licensing any profession, educational standards must first be created. Not establishing mandatory education is the same as handing the keys to a brand new car to a 16 year old and saying, "Here are the keys to the car.  Please, don't take driving lessons, don't wear a seat belt, don't study the drivers rulebook and handbook and laws, don't get tested on your skills and bonus!  No one is looking as to whether you drink while you're driving." What happens? Hate to imagine.

The paralegal profession is one of the few professions where, in most states, anyone who wants to, can become a paralegal. It is to the credit of 13 states that so far, have created mandatory education, that the paralegal "job" has any chance whatsoever of rightfully being called a profession.  But mind you, that means 37 or 74% of all states say that anyone who wants to can become a professional (i.e., paralegal) without any training or educational standards whatsoever including the necessity of having a high school diploma.

In 1986 (yes - before some of you were born), I was asked to address CAPA (California Association of Paralegal Associations) on the issue of licensing paralegals. I took the same position then as I do now: There's nothing wrong with licensing as long as there is a solid foundation leading up to a sound, sensible and well-thought out program. Licensing cannot be accomplished successfully as a punitive reaction to a few complaints.

Regulation for mandatory continuing legal education originally came about in California as a result of continuous mishandling of services directly to the public by what was then called a paralegal. The resulting legislation, AB 1760 that became Business and Professions Code section 6450, took 10 years to pass. That bill sets forth regulation of education for paralegals and is not licensing. (Originally, when licensing was first proposed in California, the Consumer Board of Affairs was set to govern. That agency also governed dog grooming licenses, manicurists, even morticians. It didn't exactly appeal to too many people.)

Licensing or any other type of regulation such as certification starts with first setting down mandatory legal education. There are no other "helping occupation" professions I am aware of handling important criteria affecting the client's life that do not require mandatory education such as nursing, accounting, financial, even dental assisting.

I hope that New York paralegals step in and rally for a better situation than what appears to be careless and random actions by their state government.  Come New York!!!  Let's step up to the issue!

 


Florida Makes a Move to License Paralegals: Coming to your state soon?

 IStock_000007967580Small[1] FLORIDA BILLS PUSH FOR LICENSING, DEFINITION OF PARALEGALS

 

Companion bills in the Florida Legislature are currently under consideration to make Florida the first state in the country to require licenses for paralegals. The bills require the Florida Supreme Court to develop a licensing and continuing education scheme and make it a felony for unlicensed people to identify themselves as paralegals.

 The bills, sponsored by state Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, and state Rep. Richard Steinberg, D-Miami Beach, were filed March 9 and have been assigned to the judiciary committees. They were written by the Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations, a consortium of paralegal organizations that first started talking to The Florida Bar about enacting some kind of mandatory licensing in 1996. The group wants to prevent legal secretaries and others from using the title of paralegal to market themselves and to for-mally define what a paralegal is.

"We're a group of professionals that want to protect the integrity of the profession and feel legislation is the way to do that," said Mark Workman, a Miami-based Gunster paralegal who is past president of the Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations and the South Florida Paralegal Association. "There are people out there that say to the public that they have those professional designations they don't have, and they dupe the public. We feel if we have the legislation in place, we'll have a means to avoid that and assist in defining who can and can't be a paralegal."

The group has hired a lobbyist, David Ramba of the Ramba Group in Tallahassee, who presented the bills to Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady and the Office of the State Courts Administrator for comment. He has not received any response.

But not everyone is a fan of the idea, including Florida Bar president Mayanne Downs. Some lawyers question why paralegal regulation is necessary. Currently, lawyers regulate the paralegals who work for them. If paralegals are licensed, it might be possible for them to work directly with clients and bypass the necessity for the public to hire lawyers.

Some lawyers say paralegals are motivated to pursue licensing for financial reasons, while some paralegals say lawyers are motivated to oppose it by the same thing.

'GOOD AND BAD'

"They are trying to raise the bar for paralegals," said David Rothman, a Miami lawyer and member of the Bar's board of governors. "Their intentions are noble. What has happened up till now is paralegals have operated under the auspices of lawyers. If they become independently regulated, they can act as paralegals with clients. There are lawyers that are concerned that some work that needs to be done by a lawyer will be done by a paralegal, and there may be gray areas, and that may work to the disadvantage of a client.

"We're watching this closely," he added, noting he is undecided on the law. "It has good and bad points."

Others say this is not the time to be adding new regulations in Tallahassee. Gov. Rick Scott, for one, has said he wants to deregulate more than 30 industries and professionals including yacht brokers, geologists and manicurists. "To put this extra layer of bureaucracy, I don't see where that is coming from," Miami solo attorney Lisa Lehner said. "In this day and age, we're trying to cut down on bureaucracy. Lawyers should be supervising their own staff and not put on an extra layer of red tape. What's next, are we going to be regulating our secretaries? Where does it end?"

The Bar board of governors has not taken a position on the legislation, which will be discussed at its Friday meeting.  Workman previously accused The Florida Bar of trying to protect its own voluntary paralegal certification program. State certification, which requires certification through one of the national paralegal associations and work experience or a bachelor's degree, costs $150 to renew annually. Nearly 5,500 paralegals have been certified since the program began in 2008.

"It's a cash cow for them," Workman said. "None of the money is going to programs that assist paralegals or paralegal education. It's going back to the general fund of The Florida Bar."

ENABLING LEGISLATION

But the paralegal associations don't feel voluntary certification is enough, Workman said, and want to be regulated through the Florida Supreme Court.

"We have a very successful paralegal registration program within The Florida Bar and have had a high number of participants," Downs said. "We don't believe that this is the climate for additional regulation, nor do we feel this is a necessary regulation. We understand legislation is often the starting place for talking points, and we welcome an opportunity to be a part of that discussion."

What do you think?  Would you want to be licensed?
Reprinted with permission from Law in Motion, Santa Barbara Paralegal Association.

 


National Association of Freelance Legal Professionals Doubles in Size

 Logo.naflp.correct.med
Have you heard about the NAFLP?  (www.naflp.com) It's not a new organization, it's just been a little bit quiet in the 3 years since it started.  No more!  Finally, there's an active, sensible, fun, proactive organization designed specifially for freelance attorneys, paralegals, interpreters, consultants, and others making a pretty darn good living working for other firms.

The what? you say.  The NAFLP.  Started in 2008 by two attorneys, the NAFLP was a small organization brought about to create some standards and best practices in a booming new cottage industry - what we used to call contract attorney or paralegal.  Melody Kramer, co-founding member and IP attorney in San Diego, CA started the organization with a colleague.  They felt strongly that freelancers needed a central place for resources, networking, education and recognition.

I was given the opportunity to take the organization over from Melody. What a fantastic experience this has been.  The organization offers  over 100 webinars, a great digital magazine called FREELANCER, publications and more to its members.  There are individual and premium membership vehicles.  Premium membership offers members a one year free subscription to FASTCASE, the antidote to Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw.  FASTCASE usually costs an individual $995.00 per year.

NAFLP is also working on providing group health and dental insurance for its members as well.  Pretty exciting stuff if you're working at home in your jammies.    Here is why you want to join this dynamic and powerful association:

NAFLP's mission is to -

  • Promote, enhance, and create standards of practice for the freelancing segment of the legal industry
  • Educate and inform the legal profession about how to use outsourcing to legal freelancers as part of their business model
  • Increase the quality of freelance legal services through education and business training


NAFLP's goals are to -

  • Educate and coach legal freelancers in sound business practices, including marketing, service product development, and financial planning
  • Educate legal freelancers in the art of developing high-quality freelance service packages for law firms
  • Increase the visibility and credibility of NAFLP and its members in the legal community
  • Offer training sessions to law firms in effective uses of legal freelancers within their law practices
  • Create a network of relationships with affiliated organizations to provide member benefits
  • Provide support to legal freelancers through networking
  • Create a searchable database for NAFLP members for access by law firms
  • Build a strong national association with quality resources
  • Create best freelancer practices and cannon of ethics

For the $65.00 introductory membership, you can have access to over 100 webinars, teleconferences, free membership in the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP), publications, telecoffee teleconferences once a month on first Wednesdays, incredible networking and the opportunity to get your name on the membership directory, the Freelancer magazine and more.  Sounds like a bargain to me!

Members have a voice in what's going on - and we listen.  I invite you to come with me on this adventure.  Somehow, I have a feeling it's going to be a good one.

 


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.

 


eDiscovery Paralegals Network Merges with KNOW

Knowlogo2 Los Angeles: Dec. 5 2010:  Estrin Education, Inc., the parent company of KNOW Magazine for Paralegals is pleased to announce that eDiscovery Paralegals Network  (EDPN) has merged with KNOW Paralegal and given memberships in The Organization of Legal Professionals  (OLP).  eDiscovery Paralegal is a website and blog designed specifically for paralegals specializing in the eDiscovery arena.

Founded by Robin Margolis  two years ago and formerly directed by Danielle Marbury, Litigation Support Manager for WilmerHale, the blog took off giving paralegals in this new field an opportunity to discover new resources and reach out to other trail blazers. Use of electronic information in litigation is a relatively new area of legal practice created by the widespread use of computers and the arrival of the Internet.

E-discovery has created many new career niches and learning opportunities for paralegals and other legal professionals. It has also created a steep learning curve for many paralegals and attorneys, who were trained in paper-based discovery — obtaining or producing boxes of documents during litigation, sorting them by hand, and Bates-stamping them.

Paralegal training programs are gradually incorporating e-discovery into their curriculums. There are also a growing number of CLE (continuing legal education) programs on e-discovery specifically for paralegals. Some of the litigation and information technology organizations that have a focus on e-discovery issues have welcomed paralegals into their memberships.

The E-Discovery Paralegals Network (EDPN) mission is to:

1.  Network with other eDiscovery Paralegals 

2. Explore and examine e-discovery training programs

3. Discover and share resources such as books, podcasts, videos and other media

4.  Create a job bank for paralegals interested in e-discovery work

5.  Provide information about updates and new e-discovery software packages  and

6.  Offer information to locate vendors and consultants.

All members of eDiscovery Paralegal Network will be given a free one-year membership in the Organization of Legal Professionals where they will have access to membership benefits such as free webinars, publications, seminars, networking, eDiscovery certification exams and more.

Contact:  OLP  www.theolp.org  info@theolp.org

 


First Online, Interactive 8 Week eDiscovery Courses Hit the Market

J0285137 Every paralegal today, no matter what your practice area, needs to be acutely aware just how essential thorough eDiscovery knowledge has become to your job. Whether you are in litigation, corporate transactional, in-house, government, risk management or other related practice areas, eDiscovery is going to apply to various aspects of your position.

If you take a look at any of the job postings, you'll see that a new position, the eDiscovery Paralegal, has zoomed up in open positions.  Problem is, say many employers, is that it is hard to get a paralegal who truly understands every aspect of eDiscovery.

Why?  This is a relatively new and constantly changing arena. Most people are taught this topic in piecemeal:  You take a seminar here, a webinar there and piece the puzzle together.  Or, you are taught on-the-job.  However, no matter how good your on-the-job trainer is, if they have not been taught properly, you will learn their mistakes and apply those to your work.  You have no way of knowing what those mistakes are until you make one. Chancey and ripe for malpractice problems at best.

The Organization of Legal Professionals  (The OLP) together with The Center for Advanced Legal Studies, an ABA approved paralegal program, is launching eDiscovery@Work -  three new online, interactive 8 week courses:
1. eDiscovery 101A: The Fundamentals
   For those just entering eDiscovery or those who have pieces of information
2. eDiscovery, The Next Level
   For those who understand the basics and need to move up to the next level
3. eDiscovery for Non-Legal Professionals
   For those technology professionals who transitioned from another industry to the legal field.

These intensive courses are taught by seasoned pros.  The courses offer state-of-the-art technology.  The instructors will be able to see you and you can see and talk with other students. The classes meet twice a week for two hours each and are recorded in case you miss one.  It's groundbreaking, fun and of absolute necessity to any paralegal seeking to stay current.  I highly recommend that you check into them. It's worth the time, the minimum expense and the career advancement this knowledge can bring.


New Association for Bankruptcy Paralegals Forms

Man and woman with book We've seen a number of new associations spring up lately.  This is a great sign!  It means that paralegals are getting much more involved in the profession, are more interested in ever in promoting the field and are developing more leaders.  While it's nice to have the old standby's, it's even more exciting to see fresh, new ideas, concepts and organizations entering the marketplace. It means positive change and moving forward.  Hard for some to accept, I know. 

Here's a press release we received about a new bankruptcy paralegal association.  Since bankruptcy is one of the hottest areas in this recession, you might want to check it out even if you are not a bankruptcy paralegal. It's always good to know other practice areas and meet other professionals.

Turea Simpson, a senior paralegal with Houston-based law firm Hughes Watters Askanase L.L.P. (www.hwa.com), has formed the Houston Association of Bankruptcy Paralegals (HABP). The HABP is the first association of its kind in Texas and just the second of its kind in the nation.

Simpson explained that she established the HABP because she saw a strong need and desire among Houston bankruptcy paralegals for continuing education and for face-to-face communication.

“Hughes Watters Askanase often sent me to bankruptcy seminars geared toward attorneys, but not paralegals. It came to me during one of these seminars that bankruptcy paralegals do not have our own events or workshops that help us continue our education which in turn enables us to be more successful at our jobs.  Because bankruptcy paralegals work with paralegals at other firms on a daily basis, the opportunity to meet colleagues face-to-face is especially important.”

Simpson said that response to the new organization has been excellent. The group hosted its first social event in May, and many attendees commented to Simpson that they were delighted to meet colleagues with whom they had worked with for years, but had never met in person.

The HABP governing board includes paralegals and an attorney from several leading Houston law firms. Board members include: President and Chairman Turea Simpson, HWA; Vice President Kinni Saldaña, The Law Office of Pamela L. Stewart; Secretary Tina Pavlock,  HWA; Treasurer Sandra Olivarez, HWA; Assistant Treasurer Karen Dockens, HWA; Parliamentarian Casey Mucha, Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P.; Mentorship Committee Chair Yola Galvin, Jackson Walker, L.L.P.; Membership Committee Chair Mary Shiloh, Butler & Hailey, P.C.; Newsletter Editor Dru Graves, Adair & Myers, P.L.L.C.; and Board Advisor Marjorie Britt of Britt and Catrett, P.C.

The HABP has attracted over 40 members since Simpson introduced the organization in April. The HABP offers several levels of membership, including voting and non-voting levels, with annual dues of $50. All membership dues have been waived for 2009 applications. Additionally, the HABP has received significant sponsorship. Businesses that currently support the group include: Waldron & Schneider, L.L.P., Robert Half Legal, Hughes Watters Askanase L.L.P., Britt & Catrett, P.C., and Mach 5 Couriers Inc. Apart from banner and representative recognition at HABP events, sponsors will enjoy Website recognition and advertising space when the HABP publishes its official Website.

According to Simpson, the HABP plans to maintain an active schedule of events and programs. Plans include monthly Continuing Legal Education (CLE) events with guest speakers, an annual conference, pro bono opportunities, a peer-to-peer training and mentorship program, and an online job bank. HWA partner Dominique Varner spoke at the group’s first CLE event on June 12, during which she discussed “Proofs of Claim: How to Protect Creditors’ Rights.” Other guest speakers scheduled for this year include: Diane Livingstone, assistant U.S. Trustee; Hugh M. Ray, partner at Andrews & Kurth, L.L.P.; and The Honorable Judge Jeff Bohm, United States Bankruptcy Judge.

Simpson said the HABP board has been actively seeking several accreditations and affiliations that will connect the organization to both state and national resources. Simpson is petitioning the Texas Board of Legal Specialization to begin the process that would allow paralegals to become certified as bankruptcy paralegals. She has also applied for a National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) Affiliation that will give the HABP a vote within NALA, access to national continuing education conferences, and the opportunity to promote the HABP on the NALA Website.

Simpson plans to expand the HABP statewide and nationally within coming years. “This organization is being a model for other organizations,” Simpson said. “I set the bar high for everything I do.”

About Turea Simpson
A Houston native, Simpson has been a bankruptcy paralegal for Janet Northrup, Of Counsel with Hughes Watters Askanase L.L.P., for the past eight years and has been in the bankruptcy field for over 10 years. Simpson has been a certified bankruptcy assistant since 2007 and is an active member of the American Bankruptcy Judicial Assistants (ABJA).  For more information on Hughes Watters Askanase, go to www.hwa.com.

About the Houston Association of Bankruptcy Paralegals
Established in April 2009, The Houston Association of Bankruptcy Paralegals offers members monthly CLE events, an annual conference, opportunities for pro bono work, a mentorship program and an online job bank. For further information on the HABP, please contact Simpson at tsimpson@hwa.com or phone 713-328-2833. 

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New Organization for Healthcare Paralegals Launches

J0399159 Robin Margolis is at it again.  This industrious paralegal has started another organization for paralegals that fits the current trends in the field.  The Healthcare Paralegal Federation has been formed to meet the needs of healthcare paralegals, paralegals interested in learning more about healthcare law specializations, and legal professionals who are interested in the growth of paralegals in this field.

Margolis, an experienced paralegal from Washington DC and New York, has started two other paralegal organizations that are going strong:  e-Discovery Paralegal Network and The Association for Intellectual Paralegals. Why healthcare? 

"At the time that the paralegal profession originated in the early 1970s," says Margolis, "paralegals interested in healthcare primarily worked in medical malpractice for law firms. But over the last thirty years, healthcare paralegals have expanded into other incredibly diverse niches."

These niches include:

* healthcare law, legislation, regulation, and lobbying within law firms;

* insurance and corporate matters in health insurance company offices;

* legal nurse consultant businesses;

* medical malpractice groups in law firms;

* healthcare newsletter and website editing for law firms and legal publishing companies;

* patent counsel of pharmaceutical companies;

* disability law firms specializing in ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and other relevant laws;

*  Social Security law firms with practice areas devoted to this field;

* elder law (Medicare, Medicaid, trusts and estates, elder abuse, guardianship issues) ;

* Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other  pharmaceutical and drug law practices within law firms;

* the general counsels’ offices of hospital systems and health maintenance organizations (HMO);

and many other settings, including government agencies dealing with healthcare issues.

  The Healthcare Federation for Paralegals plans to provide a job bank, networking opportunities, newsletter, healthcare forms and up-to-date information on the field. And, it is free to join.