How Much of a Career Risk Should You Take Switching Specialties?

Question.iStock_000011272724XSmallIt's a sure-footed, absolute and positive, no mistakin' it gamble. Switching specialties, that is. Bored with what you're doing? Fed up with a paltry salary? Peeking over the fence to see who makes more money? Seeking that enigma: better challenge?

Tonya Pierce addresses the topic today. She's making some good points. The main one being: THINK before you leap (and other relevant cliches). Enjoy!

The days of general practice law firms may have passed. Many attorneys are choosing to specialize to be more marketable. Law firms are following suit [pardon any puns] by specializing in one or two areas of law. An attorney who can advertise that he or she is an expert in a certain area has an advantage over an attorney who practices several types of law. In reality, clients who hire an attorney who specializes gets one that has the right experience and most likely, is on the forefront of current laws and trends.

Paralegals are following with some paralegals going into a specialty area directly from school. While this presents some benefits, I am glad that I did not. I worked for a general practice law firm that did mostly real estate and family law but took just about anything that came in the door with a few exceptions.

From working in a situation where I had to think on my feet, find resources, research various areas of law and remain calm while I had no clue what I was doing, I learned skills that have served me very well in my paralegal career.  Later, however, I specialized in bankruptcy law which I found to have tremendous advantages.

Why Paralegal Specialization?

  • Advantage over other applicants. When searching for a job, having a wealth of  experience in one area can give you an advantage over applicants with minimal experience. Attorneys love to hire paralegals who can walk in the door and hit the ground running with very little training. By working in one area, you automatically become a valuable asset to an attorney who is also specializing.

  • Becoming a Certified Paralegal. Several national paralegal organizations [such as NALA and NFPA] offering certification programs have added specialization certification. Achieving certification as a specialist demonstrates that you have attained a higher level of experience and skill giving you a distinct lead over other candidates. 

  • Advantage in certain areas of laws. Some areas of law are very specialized with fewer attorneys (i.e. bankruptcy or intellectual property). Therefore, there are fewer experienced paralegals. I can't even begin to tell you how desirable you become. 

  • Higher salaries. Just as attorneys who are specialists charge higher fees for their increased experience, paralegals who specialize can also earn higher salaries.

Disadvantages of Paralegal Specialization

  • Fewer job opportunities. Depending upon the area of law that you choose to specialize, you may have fewer job opportunities. If you choose an area that is highly specialized such as complex foreign litigation, there are simply fewer job opportunities than those more generalized because there are so fewer attorneys.

  • Disadvantage compared to other applicants. When an attorney is looking for a well-rounded paralegal, you may be at a disadvantage compared to that of a paralegal with experience in several areas of law. Here's where it backfires: You are not as marketable because you have limited your experience to one specific area.

  • Legal trends have a large impact on your career. If the specialized area of law experiences a decrease in business, your career is impacted more severely than a paralegal who has experience in several areas. For example, when bankruptcies dropped by 20% several years ago, bankruptcy paralegals had a very difficult time finding another job because staff was cut. Attorneys began to look for paralegals with experience in other areas to expand their practice.

Whether or not you decide to specialize, choose an area that you enjoy. Being a paralegal is very rewarding; however, it can also be very stressful. By choosing an area of law that you enjoy, you will find that during stressful moments you still enjoy your job rather than being filled with dread going into the office each morning. Doing something that you enjoy is much more fulfilling and sustains you during those days when you momentarily wonder why you ever decided to become a paralegal.

Tonya Pierce is a paralegal with over 24 years experience in several areas of the legal field (17 years as a bankruptcy paralegal and trustee paralegal). She regularly writes advice columns for AgileLaw, the industry leading provider of paperless depositions.

If you are seeking to expand your career, you'll need to get continuing legal education. Nothing impresses attorneys more than plenty of quality continuing legal education. For more opportunities, go to the Paralegal Knowledge Institute, a well-respected training organization designed specifically for the paralegal assignment. or contact me at and let's chat about how to be in charge of your future in the paralegal career. 


Limited-licensing for Paralegals: It's Finally a Reality

Eye.woman.blueLicensing paralegals has been talked about for years.  And years.  And years.  It’s been pushed back as long as I can remember.  One objection is that paralegals do not practice law and therefore do not need licensing.  They are supervised by attorneys and it is the attorney’s license on the line.

Another issue was there were no standard requirements to enter the field (i.e., anyone who wanted to could call themselves a paralegal) therefore, licensing would have no real meaning.  In California, some years ago, a stab at licensing called for governance not by the State Bar but under the Consumer Protection Board that also licensed dog groomers, manicurists, and similar professions.  The idea wasn’t well received by the paralegal community.

In a new twist, the Washington Supreme Court adopted the Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) Rule, effective September 1, 2012. Legal technicians are not paralegals.  They are document handlers who provide typing and form-filling services directly to the public for family matters, wills, adoptions, bankruptcy. This rule authorizes non-attorneys who meet certain educational requirements to advise clients on specific areas of law, which have yet to be determined.

With the rule, the Supreme Court established the LLLT Board to administer the program. In late December 2012, the Supreme Court appointed the first LLLT Board, which includes several non-attorneys and a legal educator. The Board must establish an area of the law in which to license LLLTs and seek approval from the Supreme Court for that area of the law within one year.  This includes regulations for professional conduct, exam procedures, continuing education requirements, and disciplinary procedures.

Meanwhile, the California State Bar is taking a hard look at limited-licensing.  According to an article in California Lawyer magazine,the Board of Trustees is considering a  similar program. The licensing program is targeted to legal technicians providing services directly to the public.  At this stage, legal technicians are regulated.  They provide document preparation services directly to the consumer.

The limited-licensing program would provide legal services to the public and allow law students and others who haven’t passed the bar to put their skills to use. Trustee Heather . Rosing said those who can’t afford the services of a licensed attorney are ften forced to turn to non-lawyers because of cost. Although legal aid, pro bono service and court-employed family law facilitators all try to fill this gap, too many people need legal assistance and simply cannot afford it at today’s legal market rates. A
 limited licensing program, in addition to helping clients, would create an avenue of employment
for law school graduates and legal technicians who haven’t passed the bar, board members said. Engaging in limited practice might be an avenue to eventually becoming a qualified lawyer.

“I advocate the position that non-lawyers should not be allowed to serve the public directly,” says Barbara Liss, senior estate planning paralegal in Santa Barbara, California, “unless they (1) have adequate education, (2) have worked for a specified period of time under attorney supervision -- such as a minimum of three to five years, (3) qualify by some form of testing (NFPA, NALA, AAfPE, OLP skills tests already exist which could be conformed as needed to meet this criterion); (4) maintain continuing education (MCLE) requirements that are pre-established and (5) meet bond requirements that are pre-established.

Bonding is not malpractice insurance coverage -- which could be costly, but bonding would provide a modicum of protection for any intentional abuses or improper action by the technician's over-reaching beyond the specified limitations established by the legislation creating the position itself.”

Looking to the future, the role of limited-licensed legal technicians can spill over into the law firm.  Take a look at the Nurse Practitioner.  Medical offices and hospitals offer the Nurse Practitioner  directly to their patients.  Entrance requirements include a higher standard of education and solid experience.  

The state bars implementing the limited-license must be aware that generally, legal technicians have nowhere near the education of traditional law firm paralegals now requiring a B.A. degree and paralegal certificate in many states.

It is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see that the legal field can leverage the limited-licensed legal technician by creating a new position within the law firm, perhaps a “Paralegal Practitioner.”  This new position can provide upward movement, demand higher educational standards, and provide more profit and better utilization of senior paralegals.  The paralegal position is not going to go away anytime soon. The history of paralegals from day one has been to keep pushing the profession to higher standards.  If executed properly, here’s a great possibility to keep paralegal upward mobility rocking and rolling.  

Only a few days left to register for the eDiscovery Project Management Certificate Program!  Don't miss out on a terrific opportunity to advance your career and move in the right direction.  For more info:






The Game Changer for Paralegals

IStock_000013170478XSmall[1]Anyone continuing their legal education encounters opened doors to new adventures and opportunities that are closed to those without the same benefits.

The value of continuing legal education increases every year. Without a college degree, including a degree from two-year program, the prospects of finding a high-quality job with excellent earnings is difficult at best. Without a certificate in this marketplace, the prospects of finding a great job decrease even further.  The level of education for the average paralegal in the United States is increasing, making it essential to complete additional education beyond a paralegal certificate.

Back in the "old days" which can mean going back a mere six or seven years, a paralegal with a degree and certificate who demonstrated solid paralegal work experience, could pretty much be assured that she would find a job should the need arise.  Paralegals without either a degree nor certificate but who demonstrated years of experience, generally did not have to worry about going back to school in order to get a decent job.  With the advent of this current recession, all of that changed significantly.

Nowadays, even if you have a stellar resume, it's tough to get a job.  I hear from paralegals all over the country who tell me of the difficulties they are having.  One paralegal in Los Angeles is living in a motel and fighting the foreclosure of her house; another high-profile paralegal in the midwest who is considered an icon in trademarks, was laid off from her in-house position in June and has not found a position; and yet still another, with 26 years of experience has been laid off and out of work for a year.

These and other paralegals are missing one strong component for a productive and short job search: nothing in their resume indicates recent updating of paralegal skills.  Nothing.  While it is true that they are mid-level and senior paralegals, job duties listed on a resume do not always indicate the paralegal has made the effort to keep his skills fresh and up-to-date.  Simply the fact that you are working does not indicate that you have taken on new challenges nor increased your knowledge every year through a planned approach to stay current.

With the high level of education for the average paralegal today, law firms can be selective in who they hire. This means, more often than not, paralegals with a college degree are hired before those without a degree. This increases the value of continuing legal education.

Most people have heard of law firms closing overnight and layoffs without prior notice. This is another reason why it is essential to remain current in job skills, along with pursuing education in the latest trends and techniques related to the paralegal field. Waiting until a firm closes its doors or passes out layoff notices, may lead to long term unemployment.

According to a news release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Number of Jobs Held – A Longitudinal Study, June 27, 2008) the average person changes jobs 10.8 times during the ages of 18 and 42. These numbers indicate employment stability is unsteady at best for everyone, including those with college degrees and paralegal certificates.  Here is another reason why the value of continuing education remains a positive career step for paralegals.

However, the success of any paralegal is based strictly on personal performance, determination, and responsibility. Everyone in the workplace today needs continuing education because education is a valuable asset which should never be taken lightly. Obtaining additional education opens doors which remain firmly closed for those with less education.

These facts lead to the question - "Is there real value in continuing education?" The answer, Yes!

You have options when pursuing continuing legal education.  Here are five of many:

When people hear continuing education, they often immediately think of college. However, pursuing a bachelor, master's, or other degree is not always the answer. Consider a certificate program or a single course designed to improve paralegal skills. For example, completing an eDiscovery course increases your value to an existing or potential employer.  Planning for continuing legal education is essential to success, along with selecting the right courses.

When employees go back to school, they offer more expertise and value to their law firm or in-house legal department. This is why many employers help with the cost of continuing legal education. Some employers even offer courses on-site, because they understand the value of continuing education. Before beginning any continuing education program, check with your firm's human resources office to find out what support is available.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

Look to Your Community

Community colleges, paralegal programs and associations often offer low cost paralegal education courses. These courses generally focus on specific skills – anything from using a particular computer program to going to trial. Practice specialty courses are offered that often a paralegal can use to move upward on an often invisible career ladder.

Remember Scholarships.

When the economy is on a downturn, many continuing legal education courses and paralegal programs actually increase. This is because people want to position themselves for better jobs when the recession begins to loosen its grip.  Some CLE courses offer scholarships to attract students or tuition assistance programs designed to support paralegals who have been laid off from their jobs.

Two  good examples are the Paralegal Knowledge Institute and the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP).  (Disclosure:  I am involved with both entities. I cite these two organizations as these are the ones in which I have the most knowledge.)  In the past year, OLP has given approximately 40 scholarships to paralegals who have been laid-off long term.  Paralegal Knowledge Institute has also given a significant number of scholarships.

Beating the Cost of Textbooks

Textbooks, particularly those in the legal field,  increase the cost of continuing education. Pursuing online approaches to purchasing texts or materials cuts the cost.  You may also find used texts.  You can also check the book out from a law library or even borrow one from a former student.  Ask the instructor for referrals.

Earn Extra Money for Continuing Education

If eligible financial aid is not enough to pay for classes or you cannot find scholarships, consider earning extra money in a side job to use exclusively for continuing education. Options range from getting a part-time job, starting a home-based business, or taking on freelance work. For example babysitting, dog walking, starting a website to earn money, or even renting out a spare room.  It's not as difficult as you may think.  For more information on how to become a freelance paralegal, check out the National Association of Freelance Legal Professionals (

Making Connections

There are a many options for people who perceive continuing legal education as too costly during a recession. Taking steps to improve your employment and financial future is important to overcome the impact of a recession. The benefits of continuing paralegal education for all paralegals are tremendous to improve and protect your situation and beat a recession and difficult and challenging marketplace.

Courses, webinars and seminars you should check out:

The Paralegal Knowledge Institute offers webinars, annual subscriptions for your entire paralegal department for one flat tuition, seminars and other educational opportunities including:
eDiscovery Basics: A Short Course (starts tomorrow - sign up today and get the discount)
eDiscovery and Record Keeping
Paralegal's Role at Trial
Litigation Support 101A
Trial Presentation for Paralegals
Three C's of Legal Writing
and over 100 webinars per year.

OLP offers courses in:
eDiscovery 101A
Advanced eDiscovery
Trial Presentation
International eDiscovery
Identification, Preservation & Collection
and over 100 webinars per year.  You do not need to be a member of OLP to take its courses.  However, membership that gives you over 100 webinars free per year is only $95.00 per person. You can't beat that anywhere.

Happy learning!

7 Steps to Overcoming Public Speaking Humiliation

 J0442332 The other day, I wrote the big reveal about public speaking.  Essentially, I wrote that fear of public speaking is not about public speaking.  It’s a fear of being humiliated.

I offered up 5 reasons why fear manifests itself.  As a speaker for the past 20 some odd years, I like to think that I've experienced it all. Maybe that's true. Until the next time, however, I guess we'll never know!

Today, I’d like to take those 5 “why we’re afraid” reasons and offer up 7 ways to cope.

 1.  In the past, you’ve been publically humiliated.  Welcome to life.We have a primordial reaction to being shunned publicly—perhaps because throughout our lives, it often meant being ostracized from our circle of friends and family. When it happens as a child, before we’ve learned to master critical thinking, the mark of humiliation can become permanent. But only if we allow it.

The famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" certainly is relevant in this instance.  No event defines who you are unless you allow it. You can choose to let an experience define your vulnerability;  choose to allow the past define your future—but that’s a choice. You don’t have to keep yourself safe and sound anymore.  You’re an adult and furthermore, you’re a paralegal or legal professional.  Translated: you can handle anything.

2.  You are self-focused not audience-focused. Instead of concentrating on giving beneficial lessons  to the audience,  we’re focused on getting approval – as if the audience were your mother.  This desperate reach for approval leads to a strong need to be perfect.  (Working with attorneys can really massage that need.)

Here’s the irony:  if we absolutely have to be perfect, we’re going to fail because—and this is not the first time you’ve heard this— being perfect is not ever going to happen.   At what point in your life do you accept that? How do you stop having to be perfect in front of an audience?  Change your purpose from “needing  to get” to “needing to give.”

In the New Model, you are involved with your audience in such a way that the audience, not you, becomes the star.  They feel it, crave it and like it.  When you are a public speaker, you are a teacher.  By creating that shift, a significant change occurs in how you view yourself. When you’re there to give (as teachers and paralegals are), your focus on self-importance vanishes.  Self-importance fuels fear. In this moment, you are not what’s important, it’s the audience.

Here’s the hardest lesson to accept:  You’re never going to please everyone. Someone in the room is bound to not like you. The question you need to answer is:  Is that okay with you?

If not, why not?

3.  Change the paradigm. Ask: what’s the worst that can happen if I forget something—or everything? Will the entire audience boo me?  Get up en masse and walk out of the room? Hardly. In your mind, run through what might happen.  Here's the reality: If  you forget what to say, the worst thing is you won’t be asked back to speak. And what’s the worst thing that could happen from that? Your career will not be over. You’ll have to  find a new group to speak to. The worst thing from that? You’ll discover that “the worst”…isn’t.

I first learned about paradigm changes years ago from my dad long before paradigm shifts were in vogue.  I was 19 years old and urgently needed a car.  So Dad and I went down to the local Chevrolet used car lot to pick out the vehicle that was to announce my social status to the world.  We chose a 1961 white Corvair with a rich red interior (most of you have not heard of this short-lived classic) for a great price of $400.  It was a small car with the motor in the trunk and the trunk where the motor should be.

“It’s perfect,” I sighed.  I drove away, excited, fully liberated, and loving every second of my newfound independence.  Driving down the street, I suddenly spotted a car right in front of me about to make an illegal left-hand turn.  I stepped on the brakes.  Nothing much happened except that my entire life flashed before me.  Two milliseconds later, I ran smack dab into the car in front of me.  The Corvair, with the trunk in the front, motor in the back, curled up, hiccupped and died right there in the middle of the street. 

After exchanging information with the other driver, I hiked over the nearest 7-11 and called my dad. (There were no cell phones in those days.)  Sobbing into the phone, I tried to grasp how the car I owned for a total of 16-½ minutes was now a mere memory.  Nothing could console me.

“Dad,” I wailed while looking at the crumpled mess that was now attracting attention from the entire neighborhood, “I wrecked the car.  I stepped on the brakes. It…didn’t stop! I rear-ended the car in front of me.”  There was a pause on the other end of the phone as my father absorbed this information.  Finally, he said, “Honey, it’s not your fault.  She was in your way.”

He taught me a valuable lesson:  Learn to look at things differently. 

4.  Finally—if you aren’t perfect? People love when speakers acknowledge their own mistakes. Not doing so, however, allows an awkwardness to hover in the room-not exactly good energy-management. So, make a joke about yourself and move on. Your audience will feel what you feel, so the more confidently and nonchalantly you handle an embarrassing moment, the more confident they will feel about you.

5. You didn’t prepare. Practicing is common sense. But too many speakers think their improvisation makes them a better speaker, and often they don’t bother to practice at all.  But even those who fear speaking don’t realize the incredible power of knowing theirmaterial cold. The greatest fear comes from not knowing the material; that your brain will go blank. So, rehearse! Practice looking in the mirror, on the way to work in the car, doing dishes— wherever you can. You will walk on stage full of complete confidence that will be communicated to the audience.

6. You’re mimicking old school speakers: The New Model method tends to mitigate fear because it is about creating energy in the room, being empowered and expressive. Let’s discuss some old ways of public speaking that can bring about fear:

a) Opening with your name and a “thank you for coming” is a bad move.  Most likely, you've already been introduced.  Opening by stating your name puts an emphasis on you, which adds to the fear you already have, and thanking the audience for coming puts you in the weaker position of gratefulness that the audience took time out of their busy schedules just to listen to little ole you. That alone can generate fear.

b) Drowning your audience in too much information while you think they are listening attentively. This approach only emphasizes you and your requirement to get approval which increases anxiety and the necessity to get it right.

c) Believing you must present yourself as a serious intellectual, particularly to an audience in the legal field.  The thought of “having to be” anything is going to jangle your nerves but feeling you must appear important or studious is going to cause you to claw at the windows in a frantic attempt to get out of there quickly. And finally,

d) Standing behind a podium or sitting behind a table – the worst move you can make. Any physical blockade symbolizes an emotional barrier between you and the audience. The more physical and emotional distance between you and your audience, the more nervous you are going to be. Get out from behind and get closer to your audience.

7. You’re unsure about the value of your message. Little else can make us as anxious as being unsure if others want to hear what we have to say. I’m going to be straight with you: make sure you’re talking about something they want to hear. Know your audience.  Do your factual research.  Make sure that you really are giving value. Too many speakers talk above or below their audiences; provide clichés and old or boring material.  They don’t help the audience to see how the material is valuable in their lives. If you think your message is content free, you may be right.

When you know that you’re giving tremendous assistance to your audiences, your mood will soar.  This goes back to the giving vs. getting issue: If you’ve got value to give but you’re still more focused on getting approval, fear will nail you. But giving great value because you can’t wait to give it? You’ll be unstoppable.

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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!


New Concordance course worth the investment

MP900409615[1] Emerging Litigation Technologies, LLC and Spectrum Consultants are pleased to announce a joint venture in providing legal professionals with a series of E-Learning Modules on Concordance® document management software from LexisNexis®. Colette Perkins and Sara Youngers are certified professionals with over fifteen years of combined, hands-on experience applying and educating on nationally recognized litigation technology software applications.

Concordance Fundamentals – Module One

  • Introduction: why Concordance?
  • ESI: easily load all your data on one review platform
  • Navigating: how to navigate your data
  • Viewing: viewing your images and electronic documents
  • Sorting Techniques: making viewing easier
  • Searching: finding the needle in the haystack
  • Integrations: integrate with many powerful products
  • Editing Data: how to code, load, and edit your information
  • Tagging: organizing the case facts
  • Depositions: reviewing, issue coding, annotating
  • Printing: extract the information you need
  • Concatenation: joining your databases
  • Taking your data on the road: connect to your Concordance databases from anywhere thru FYI and Replication

    When:  Tuesday July 26 and Thursday July 28th


$295.00 per student (discounted rates for two or five attendees)


  • Free 30-day Application Support.
  • Certificate of Completion.
  • 10% Discount towards another course.
  • Miss a class? Slide decks and recorded sessions will be available 24/7, on-demand, for 30 days after completion of course.

When you sign up, please check the box notification from OLP or KNOW.  The proceeds go to OLP's fund for scholarships for legal professionals who have been out of work for the long term.

Here is the link for EST classes:

Here is the link for Pacific time classes

Thanks so much!

Why Did I Become a Paralegal?

Guest Blogger:
 Jamie Collins is a senior level paralegal working in a small firm in Indiana. 

PayeJamie I currently work as a Litigation Paralegal in arguably one of the most renowned personal injury firms in the State of Indiana. Our firm’s founder, Louis "Buddy" Yosha has earned legendary status during his impressive career as a trial lawyer, which has now spanned more than four decades. He is a fierce and dedicated advocate for the injured and has garnered himself a reputation as a witty, "tell it like it is" attorney. He is a formidable foe and a real pit bull in the courtroom. He has been featured on the cover of The Wall Street Journal and in other well-known publications, including Forbes, The New York Times and Cosmopolitan. He has assembled a team of brilliant legal minds to work alongside him.

 I find myself in a nice window office, staring at my flat screen television with cable, at a job I love -- and I cannot help but wonder -- how did I get here? I can tell you it was certainly not by chance or coincidence. Rather, it was through the creation of my own personal tapestry; one woven tightly together by threads of luck, fate and a culmination of strategic, professional choices which I made as I navigated the paralegal waters of my career.

 One day, not long ago, I found myself staring at my computer screen while perusing one of the "Paralegal Network" forums on LinkedIn. My eyes became affixed upon one seemingly simple, yet inherently complex question that was posted by Karen George, FRP, a respected colleague. One simple and thought provoking question: Why did I become a paralegal?

 Whew. This is a tough question and one that has taken me some time to ponder over. The reason I initially began in this field is not the same as the reason that I choose to remain a paralegal. I started out answering phones and wanted a "professional" job, so I sought a position at only law firms and medical offices. As luck (or fate) would have it, I was hired by a small personal injury firm. My role grew into that of a paralegal over the six years that followed at that firm. From there, I branched out to another firm where I remained for six years, honed my skills and learned some additional areas of law. There are so many reasons I love being a paralegal. Yes, it remains true that I love having a "professional" job and one that comes with a one word title that conveys exactly what I do when I utter the word "paralegal." It is certainly a respectable position and one that is earned over time with advanced knowledge, skills and expertise. Then there is always that memorable moment where the verdict is being read and you go into a bit of a "fog" and your hearing somewhat "goes out" and renders you unable to fully comprehend what is being said --when in reality, you know your hearing is just fine, you just care so much about the outcome that it "fogs" your listening abilities. You just care so much about the outcome that it "fogs" your listening abilities.

The job has so much to offer. There is so much to learn and every day is different, as is every case. Sure, there are litisome mundane tasks (there always are), but there is so much diversity that boredom is difficult to come by.

It is a job that involves daily sprints and weekly or monthly marathons. When it comes down to it…there is nothing more satisfying than standing up for a client whose adversary is a big company, police department or some other textbook Goliath in the legal arena. Then there’s slipping key notes to your lead attorney during an opposing witness testimony, quietly at first (and then once the jury takes notice of the smoking gun testimony you help to elicit), tearing the notes intentionally more loudly and placing them in front of your attorney with intent as you watch the jurors faces and know they can’t wait to hear the next question that will be read off of that paper…comments written by you to help seal the deal.

There’s satisfaction in knowing that in that court room on that day at that time, you and your firm left it all "on the floor." There was nothing you could have done any better. You executed everything that came your way like a tactical legal assault ninja. It is truly the highest level of personal satisfaction and gratification I have ever known as a human being.

Granted, these glory days which I speak of so fondly are sparse. They are few in number and far between. On most days, I am doing the "real" paralegal work that needs to be done: pushing paper, organizing files, speaking with clients, potential clients, attorneys and court staff, creating pleadings, medical chronologies, demand letters and discovery, all while attempting to navigate a minefield of deadlines and managing to keep my boss organized and sane (i.e., looking for the keys to his BMW when he loses them, locating "missing" documents, and for all practical purposes -- making sure he is where he is supposed to be when he needs to be there). It’s a tall order. One not always associated with a lot of "glory."

No one ever won an award for finding the keys to a Beamer. Yet, these tasks remain of the utmost importance. Cases are won, in large part, by what we, as paralegals, do each day. We do the work. We are in the trenches. We lay the foundation that great cases are built upon.

I guess, when it comes down to it -- I stand ready and willing to do what I must do for the 349 days per year that are required to earn my proverbial golden ticket to the 10-16 days that I will likely spend at trial in any given calendar year.

Some of the greatest moments of my professional career have occurred in the courtroom. It is a grandiose place; a place where one can truly engage in the pursuit of excellence. Put simply: it is where I was meant to be.

Once you have had an opportunity to fully participate and partake in the final fruits of your labor as a paralegal and reaped the personal satisfaction and rewards that come along with it, there is no going back (even on days when your job may mirror what is portrayed on "The Devil Wears Prada"). Being a paralegal is in the fabric of who I am as a person…and a paralegal I will remain.

My story is just one of many. We, as paralegals, have each written our own chapters in the book of life. These chapters tell an interesting story of where we have been thus far in our legal careers and provide some foreshadowing as to the paths we will walk in the future.


Read this and other stories in the latest issue of KNOW, The Magazine for Paralegals  due out on Tuesday.

The Florida Paralegal by Wm Statsky, Robert Diotalevi and Pam McCoy Linquist

Man carrying documents They send me books.  Lots and lots of books. Who??? you're asking?  The publishers, that's who.  They seem to think that we're going to review every book that's come our way.  I haven't gotten to Ludicrous Laws & Mindless Misdemeanors yet.  The Inspiration Factor was uninspiring and Fame 101 was content -free.  What the heck did they expect me to do with The Florida Paralegal, I ask you.

Turns out that The Florida Paralegal, a resource guide written by William P. Statsky, Robert N. Diotalevi and Pam McCoy Linquist could be a very good textbook.  I would prefer that the layout and design made more sense.  The book serves as a reference containing a great deal of information that is essential for paralegals. It is Internet-rich with resources that will help paralegals in many aspects of their day-to-day classes and jobs.  Even if you're not in Florida, you'll find this book helpful when dealing with cases out-of-state.

Statsky, of course, is the prom writer of paralegal text books.  Hardly anyone these days goes through a paralegal course without running into at least one Statsky book.  I remember meeting Bill at a Los Angeles Paralegal Meeting some years ago that took place in the Marina del Rey.  When I finally realized who was speaking, I was blown away.  Here was a good-looking guy wearing tight jeans, a camel color sports jacket and boots  He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen.  Addressing the audience, he took command and showed up as a real leader. Because he had written so many books at that time, I was expecting someone else entirely.  Someone well, scholarly perhaps.  Tweed jacket with leather elbows, that sort of thing.  Ever since that meeting, he and I have kept up via e-mail.  Flash forward and now, I have a picture of him with his grandkids.  I'm not sure where the time has gone - except I still see that good-looking guy with the sports jacket and jeans, blond hair rippling in the wind, blue eyes twinkling.....wait! Snap out of it, Estrin!  But I digress here.

The book is a good resource for paralegals in every state.  It is Internet-rich with resources that will help paralegals in many aspects of their day-to-day responsibilities.  Some key features:

  • Introduces the reader to the paralegal career in Florida
  • Provides a comprehensive legal dictionary
  • Provides ethical opinions governing paralegals
  • Covers the unauthorized practice of law in the state
  • Explains the judicial, legislative and executive structure of Florida government
  • Provides time lines for typical civil and criminal cases in Florida courts
  • Provides examples of local citation rules

It is a text book.  However, if you are a practicing paralegal, you're going to want to have this book on your desk in arm's reach.  It can help you shine as a paralegal and serves as a mecca of information for those searching to get the assignment absolutely, positively correct.

Delmar Cengage
ISBN 13 978-1-4180-1292-2.
560 pages
Purchase: www,

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.

Why Would the S.C. Bar Stifle Competency Improvement?

Man and woman with book According to the Carolina Paralegal News, South Carolina paralegals won't be seeing voluntary certification and registration any time soon.

The South Carolina House of Delegates has tabled a proposal for paralegals to start a voluntary certification program for paralegals.  The delegates referred a proposed Certified Paralegal Program back to the Paralegal Task Force which had billed it as an effort to improve the competencies of Palmetto State paralegals.

A five-month study by a 12-member task force explored the possibility of setting up the state's first paralegal registration system.

Michael J. Howell, a delegate, said he supported the concept but said the proposal needed to include a code of ethics and a method for enforcing it.

" order to provide high-quality legal services, you need professionals," Howell said.  "You've got to have some sort of code of ethics in this thing, like Florida does."  The proposal would require certified paralegals to take seven hours of Bar-approved continuing legal education each year, far more than California paralegals who are required to take 4 units of substantive CLE and 4 units of ethics every two years.

The proposal called for eligibility standards based on work experience and education accomplishments.  Violation of the program's rules would mean loss of certification.

The fees would include a $50 application fee and a $20 annual renewal fee from each certified paralegal, issue certificates and maintain a paralegal registry on its website.

It was interesting to read the reaction to the rejection in this article.  One person claimed that next "we're going to have certified secretaries and then certified runners and then certified mail people".  Another feared the program would "burden" Palmetto State practitioners as those firms might not find it economically feasible to shell out "big" bucks.  (Good lord, $50.00 per person per year? Cut down on the Starbucks and give us education.) Another attorney felt that with with 5 - 7 paralegals the fees were too high for the worst economic conditions.

Four paralegal organizations had said in position papers that paralegals expected to pay their fees themselves.  Apparently, the delegates didn't read that part.

Seven states, including North Carolina have voluntary certification programs similar to So. Carolina. Two states have voluntary registration.

To have certification in the legal field without requiring ethics would not have constituted a certification exam that ensured the paralegal was aware of one of the most important components of required learning.  I'll give the delegates that.  Too many mistakes are made through assumptions of what's right and ignorance of what's wrong. If the paralegals in South Carolina try again - and I hope they do - I encourage them to include the ethics portion of the exam.  That said, rather than rejecting the proposal, the delegates could have requested a rewrite and resubmission.

Voluntary certification ensures law firms and clients of delivery of higher quality legal services.  Since many paralegals can call themselves a paralegal without any training whatsoever, an employer takes a huge malpractice risk hiring paralegals who are not well trained or trained at all.  A test is no guarantee the paralegal is an excellent employee but it does set a baseline of core competencies the paralegal is expected to know, something this field needs desperately.  

The majority of paralegals are not legal secretaries who are moved into a paralegal position as was the case 30-40 years ago. It's not your mother's paralegal field.  Things have moved so quickly in a short  span of this profession that to encourage no barriers to entry to field no longer makes sense.