When Bad Things Happen to Good Legal Professionals

     Blog.iStock_000012817538XSmall[1] The story of Cinderella is familiar to most of us.  Nice girl, horrible living conditions, probably violation of child-labor laws, happy ending.  When we are children, we believe this story and for some of us, it sets our expectations for the future.  And then, real life happens. 

     When we think of what the bad things are that happen to good legal professionals, it’s generally an event, incident, illness or other occurrence that was not within the control of that person. Here are two real-life stories: 

     #1:  When I heard the following story, I wanted to explore what occurs when bad things happen to good professionals.  Were bad things a result of a higher power?  Did we bring these events on ourselves?  Or, was this just the way of life and the end result was how we chose to deal with our set of circumstances? 

     Jim was all set and poised for a positive future.  A firefighter, happily married and living in Fresno, California, this young, well-liked man was expertly advancing his career when tragedy struck.  His young wife was unexpectedly diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Within 90 days, she died.

     Struggling with grief, Jim went back to work.  A short time later, he met an amazing woman in a golf chat room of all places and a couple of years later they married.  Back on track, he thought he had it all until he was injured on the job. Four surgeries in one year put an end to Jim's chances to  live out his career as a firefighter.  Devastated,  he believed there were few job options for a guy like him.  He did not have a college degree and firefighting hardly prepared him for other positions.

            “I had always been interested in the law,” he says, “so I thought I would give paralegal
school a shot.  I won Student of the Year and after graduation, I became the head Civil Litigation Paralegal for a small firm where the managing partner was head of the Central California Trial Lawyers Association.

     Motivated and enthused by the possibility of even bigger challenges, he went on to law school.  “I graduated and passed the California Bar on the first try,” he says.  "I actually surprised myself."

            Here's a guy who twice in his life had two serious choices. With either one, he could go through life as a victim or he could set himself up as a winner.  Fortunately, he chose the winning road.  I was curious.  What strengths do you need and what pursuits do you take to overcome overwhelming obstacles?  Why do some people survive, changed for the better and why do some fold, melt and shut down?

            In the 2004 controversial fiction and documentary film, “What the Bleep Do We Know”, a connection is made between science and spirituality.  At the core, are provocative questions about
how we participate, unconsciously or not, in an unfolding reality.  What was of particular interest was the theory about the brain.

     The simplest way to explain it is if we think a certain way for long enough, those connections between brain cells are strengthened and we automatically default to that way of thinking.  We make decisions about what events mean and what should be done.  We are not required to make a new decision with each new circumstance because with repeated experiences, our brain forms associations.  Thus, if we accept limited power for long enough, we begin to automatically go through life as a victim.

           #2  Phill is a seasoned veteran of the paralegal field.  A seminary student bound for the priesthood, he was told point blank by the headmaster that he just wasn't cut out to be a priest.  How on earth do you deal with that?  After a great deal of obvious angst, he changed his career direction to become, what else? A paralegal. With over 20 years of litigation experience, he is now a Senior Paralegal at a high-profile prestigious firm earning significant dollars and enjoying the perks.  Added to his long list of credentials is author of a well-selling book for litigation paralegals and teacher in a paralegal studies program.

            Married for over 30 years, his life had been relatively peaceful. That is, until the fateful
day his wife learned she had breast cancer.  “I was devastated,” says Phill.  “I had trouble comprehending the magnitude of the situation.  Until now, we had faced a relatively uncomplicated marriage.  I was scared, very scared."

     The next six months were filled with his wife’s treatments:  partial mastectomy, and chemotherapy followed by radiation. “I missed a lot of work,” he recalls.  “Being able to work from home, I was able to cover.”  His supervisors were extremely supportive, making it easier much easier to erase his fears of losing his job.

            What got Phill through?  “Resolve,” he says.  “There was not a damn thing I could do to medically improve my wife’s condition. I resolved to do whatever I could to help so she could concentrate on fighting cancer.” 

            Looking back, Phill’s attitude puts things in perspective. “It’s a bend in the road,” he says.  While that may sound too casual for a life changing event, this is not a laid-back mind-set.  It’s a reflection of staying optimistic and maintaining control over what he could control – his outlook. His wife’s illness changed his point of view about life and career. “I think work moved work farther down on the importance scale,” he says.  Strengthened by his wife’s upbeat attitude, the couple recently celebrated two years of remission.

     By thinking positively and staying the course, Phill and Jim were able to break free from victimization and experience happy outcomes. They reprogrammed so that positive thinking was the direction they defaulted. That’s not to say that positive thinking will cure an illness or get
your job back.  By positive thinking, we are able to choose how we live out a dreadful experience, no matter how long or how short our actual lives. By choosing fresh, creative responses, we begin to
experience a more positive, powerful life.

         In a bad experience, how does someone go from feeling wretched to absolutely rocking with self confidence?  The answer is quite simple really.  You make a decision.

         There’s a thin line between “fake it ‘til you make it” and behaving your way to success.  Jim and Phill are remarkable examples of legal professionals who, against the odds, took a positive approach to bad things happening - so much so that success was inevitable.  

     Although I can’t really say that I am a huge fan of Anthony Robbins (simply because I haven’t invested time in his work), I did run across a great quote.  “The only way to change your life is to make a real decision.  A real decision means that you cut off any other possibility than the one you’ve decided to make a reality.” 

       Everyday we are given the opportunity to make decisions.  Decide how you want to live your life and run your career and set about with complete certainty to create it.  When bad things happen to good legal professionals, it takes a decision – go down with the event or rise from it – and turn your life around.  Bad things happening are not ever really good.  Deciding how you’ll handle it can be the best life decision you’ll ever make.  

Seeking to improve your career?  OLP is now offering an excellent eDiscovery Project Management Certificate Program.  Starting December 4th, this online, interactive program teaches you the core competencies of eDiscovery and project management enabling you to become more valuable to your firm.  Register now.  Seating limited to 15 students.

Warning: Shift Ahead - Are You Ready?


A paralegal wrote in with this question:

Is it worth it for a paralegal to sit for the eDiscovery Certification Exam?

Of course, I jumped right on this question!

As Chairperson of the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP) and a co-founder of the International Paralegal Management Association, author of 10 books on legal careers and Editor-in-Chief of KNOW, The Magazine for Paralegals (ok, ok...lol), I have strong opinions about the value of getting the CeDP - certification in eDiscovery for paralegals and legal professionals.

The legal market is leaning towards less work done by lawyers and more work done by paralegals. Lately, its all over the news in articles, reports...I even just viewed an international expert on CNN claiming the same thing.

As this change occurs, paralegals are going to face even more competition for their jobs.  Employers are going to weed out and keep the best of the best.  Certification means two things:  you have the knowledge and experience to qualify as an expert in the core competencies of a given arena.

Think towards the future. Sure, you may be set for now - but let's face it. A few years ago, did anyone think (in the cushy economy) that a deep recession was coming and thousands upon thousands of legal professionals - in the very best law firms, mind you - would get laid off and to this day, may be having problems finding work? No.

However, in competing for jobs, the ones with the best experience and education stood a better chance of qualifying.  Yes, some may have had to take a cut in salary or a step back. But many, many did not. Why? Because they had the qualifications to beat out other paralegals for a highly coveted job.

Education means everything in the law firm environment.  Many times, it's how you are judged. Common questions that abound in the law firm include: Was your paralegal program ABA approved?  And for lawyers:  What school did you go to? Where did you rank in your class? These questions regarding qualifications are asked because law firms want the best of the best. No matter what law firm you go to. The best of the best wins every time.

OLP created a very strong certification exam, the CeDP. It took 18 months to develop by a team of 27 experts - attorneys, law professors, consultants, litigation support professionals and included paralegals. It is one of only two exams available today. I believe OLP is the only organization that saw the value of the paralegal's hands-on expertise and input in developing this exam. (I could be wrong.)

OLP developed the exam with Pearson Publications (a $7 billion company). Pearson provided the technology for the exam and OLP provided the content. Pearson provided the psychometrics (a science to ensure fairness and non-bias) and five Ph.Ds. Pearson also has expertise in highly valued exams such as the LSATs, GRE and GMATs.

Do yourself a favor. Think to your future in this field. As a member of the legal community for 25 years, I can assure you, education and the open acknowledgement of education (degrees, certification, etc.) and experience counts heavily in this field.

For more information, please visit OLP's website at www.theolp.org or contact me at chere.estrin@theolp.org.





10 Ways to Sink Your Paralegal Career - Guaranteed

Surprise2It's a game, really, this business of careers.  If you think about it, every move should be strategic,  every decision made carefully, and  each accidental event acknowledged as it affects your outcome.  To top it off, the results are win, lose or draw. 

Why we make the bad choices we do can sometimes be thrown into the mystery category but other times, it's because we're just plain unaware that these actions (or non-actions) are guiding the outcome of our careers.

Here are 10 top reasons why your career may be stalled, dead-ended or become routine and repetitious:

1.           You Are Your Own Worst Career Manager

If you don't watch out for your career and goals, no one else will and you may become a candidate for right-sizing, downsizing, merging or purging. A critical task for all paralegals is to examine your current skills.  Check current job listings to find out what you may be missing. You must identify and evaluate your skills to determine if they are still relevant and in demand. If your skills are not relevant, are in low demand or if you have gaps in your skills, start making a plan to update them immediately.  Your action plan might entail self-education, classes or a new or additional practice specialty. Develop and implement this plan with realistic and measurable objectives that will solidify and enhance your skills. This holds true for professional knowledge as well. Read trade journals, paralegal publications (KNOW, the Magazine for Paralegals is a good one- www.paralegalknowledge.com), attend conferences, take online courses (avoid travel and expense), learn what new products vendors are offering; join your local paralegal association; attend office meetings, read law blogs, and join forums.   

2.         Breadth, Not Depth of Skills

You do not want to be a one-trick pony. In today's paralegal field, there is a greater emphasis on the breadth of your skills not just on the depth. Many new and emerging technologies and practice specialties have recently emerged.  Law firms expect you know in-depth about many things instead of the old, "knowing just a little about a lot of things."  Skills are now a blend of what were once separate and distinct. As an example, litigation paralegals are now expected to not only understand the process of litigation but to thoroughly understand eDiscovery and related technology.  In most cases, you cannot have just one skill. This means it is the breadth, not the depth of knowledge and experience that wins - or keeps - paralegal jobs. Ask yourself, “Why set myself up for extinction?”     

3.         Don't Be a SMEL (Subject Matter Expert on Life)

We all know these folks - the ones who have the answer to everything.  They’re annoying, really.  There is a vast difference between self-confidence and overwhelming arrogance; the former can be an asset, whereas the latter can be a career buster. If you are viewed as unable to work as a team player (either from your end or your colleagues refusal to work with you) you can be creating a Resume Generating Event (RGE)  and promoting yourself as a candidate straight into the career-ending avenue of the field. If you find that managers and coworkers are making excuses to avoid working with you, wake up!  Do not make a habit of claiming sole credit (or pass the blame on to others) for the success of an assignment. Make sure others are mentioned. Seek input from your team; your colleagues will not only feel as if they have contributed to the project but may surprise you with unique solutions.

4.         Not Being a Tall Tree

You want to be noticed in a positive manner. Do not try to blend into your paralegal department to avoid attention. Even though the economy appears to be recovering, layoffs have not diminished and consolidations, mergers and splitting up are still occurring.  Don't try to go unnoticed.  Even though it may seem to be a good idea; it most likely will backfire. Be noticed, but in the right context. Becoming more proactive, showing initiative, motivation and participation is important. Be positive. High-profile assignments at your firm can offer a prime opportunity to prove your value and demonstrate unique skills to attorneys and supervisors. Don’t be shy about acknowledging your achievements and be sure they are known by higher authorities.

5.         The Living Resume

You’ll hear over and over to keep your resume up-to-date. There must be a good reason. Your resume may be viewed by people who are not familiar with the paralegal position nor your specialty, so you need to sell yourself (and a resume is your sales brochure) in non-technical terms. Describe the scope and types of projects that you've worked on. While providing examples and quantifying the success of the project is a good idea, don’t go overboard!  For example, saying that you worked on a winning team in a $6 million award is one thing but  to claim victory as the sole hero is not too kosher.  

The accuracy of your resume is important. There is always the temptation to "enhance" your education, accomplishments, titles and roles. If a prospective employer investigates the veracity of your resume, you might have a potential career-ending situation. If you are not an expert on a particular skill as stated in your resume, you will have a hard time fulfilling that role once on the job.  Busted again!

6.         The Written Word (and Picture) Remains

What you write in emails and instant messaging can be used both for and against you. It is very easy to send a message, but will that message be received and understood by your recipient with the same intent you had sent the message? This message is a permanent record of communication, which may be archived under State and Federal mandates. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, all electronic correspondence can be used as evidence in legal proceedings, both for and against you. There is an assumption that electronic communication is private between you and your recipient, unless the recipient decides to forward on to someone. If you must discuss personal or confidential matters, this might be a time to use a phone or discuss it in person. Any inappropriate emails, texts or pictures (even if just forwarded) may become a Resume Generating Event.

7.         Don't Burn Those Bridges

What a temptation it is to “tell all” in the exit interview!  Telling your boss and colleagues what you really felt about them, particularly when you’re angry, is a potential future career buster. People talk to other people. Good references must always be available.  Bear in mind that the paralegal profession is a very small world. Any comments you Tweet, Blog or post on a Social Network site (positive and negative) are easily searchable. You don’t know when you will need a former boss or colleague to help you land a great position, so don’t alienate them. Your reputation is a precious commodity, one that you do not want placed in jeopardy.

8.         Don't Disconnect or Isolate

The reach of social networks and professional sites should not be underestimated – even for paralegals. Take a look at LinkedIn.  It is quite common for contacts to see if you are on LinkedIn or Facebook. There is some current controversy over potential employers who invite candidates for an interview and during the interview, ask for their Facebook password.  These potential employers want to see what you’re really saying now before you have a chance to cover up some of the not-so-great stuff. However, you are doing yourself a professional disservice by not creating an account on these sites. You do not have to be an avid Facebook or Twitter fan and create 5 posts a day. Besides, it cuts into billable time. You do need the visibility for your professional reputation. These sites are perfect for updating professional activity. It’s just no longer possible to remain a paralegal wallflower and advance your career.  That’s sooo ‘90’s.

9.         Technical Complacency, Ignorance or Denial

Never make the assumption that you have all the computer skills you need. New technologies are emerging at a furious rate and to remain relevant, you need to learn these new skills. The latest hot field is the Cloud (and also the Private Cloud) along with Predictive Coding.  Law firms are now clamoring for paralegals that have these skills. On the other hand, demand for support staff is rapidly diminishing as support for desktop OS is almost over. If you want to have a viable career and you do not want to worry about becoming extinct; find out what your firm is currently utilizing or find out from legal software vendors what is coming up. They have a handle on it. If you don't learn new skills, you run the risk of getting a reputation as technologically incompetent. 

Check out the Organization of Legal Professionals  eDiscovery certification exam and its upcoming Litigation Support Certification exam. Also, check out the Paralegal Knowledge Institute  for webinars and excellent online, interactive paralegal continuing legal ed courses.

10.       Lack of Soft/People Skills

In today’s market, paralegals that assume simply having updated skills will give them a ticket to career advancement, have their heads buried deep in the sand.  Today, the successful paralegal also has to have excellent people and communication skills. We all know of the paralegal that walks on water – can do any assignment, in fact.  But there are times when it is the paralegal that walks on the grass who is promoted over the water walker. This is due to soft skills. Paralegals with excellent communication skills, that interact with colleagues, clients and attorneys, are those in demand. If you want to move into the ranks of the MVPs (Most Valuable Paralegal), get involved in areas that emphasize your people skills in addition to your paralegal skills.

Above all, be responsible for your own career.  Being the master of your ship instead denying what’s going on at the helm, guarantees a move forward in a growing, changing and fantastic journey.

(With thanks to Randy Muller, MCT, MCTS, MCSE, CEH's for inspiration from his article.)

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.



Going On's.....This 'n Thats.....

Fighting computers
Tough week?  Take a few moments to enjoy our guest blogger, Celia Elwell, RP and senior paralegal, who sends us interesting links and articles.  Enjoy!

Judge Throws Out RICO Claims Against Johnson & Johnson, by Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer

Federal Judge Dismisses BP Oil Spill Fraud Lawsuit, by Maureen Cosgrove, JURIST

Jury Awards $900 Thousand In Age Discrimination Case, by Ellen Simon, Employee’s Rights Post Blog

Third Circuit Okays Collection of DNA from Criminal Suspects, by Nathan Koppel, Wall Street Journal Law Blog

Preparing Americans for Death Lets Hospices Neglect End of Life, by Peter Waldman, Bloomberg

LegalZoom Sued by Alabama Bar Group for Unauthorized Practice, by Stephanie Rabiner, Strategist, The Findlaw Law Firm Business Blog

The Grey Area of Unauthorized Legal Practice, Law Librarian Blog

Handle Loaded E-Discovery Tools With Care, by Sean Doherty, Law Technology News

Are Student Cell Phone Records Discoverable?, by Joshua A. Engel, Law Technology News

Conn. High Court Dismisses Criminal Case for Discovery Abuse, by Christian Nolan, LTN Law Technology News, Law.com

Writing to Persuade, Legal Writing Prof Blog

So Your Screwed up That Research Memo to the Partner, Now What?, Legal Skills Professor Blog

Typography for Lawyers - the book, by Raymond Ward, the (new) legal writer

The Importance of Printing it Out, by Raymond Ward, the (new) legal writer)

In a Field of Reason, Lawyers Woo Luck Too, by Benjamin Wieser, The New York Times

10 Reasons Why Most Lawyer Blogs Are Boring, by Cordell Parvin LLC, JD Supra Blog

Why Facebook's Facial Recognition is Creepy, by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, PCWorld

Spies Like You?, by Josh Hyatt, CFO Magazine

5 Tips for Selecting PPC Keywords, by Jason Tabeling, Search Engine Watch

Gmail’s New Features: A First Look, by Eric Mack, PC World

Google Plus for Lawyers, Legal Skills Professor Blog

Online CLE Session: 60 iPhone and iPad Apps in 60 Minutes for Lawyers, iPhone J.D.

MoreLaw Lexapedia (includes Verdicts and Decision, Recent Case Law Updates, and other valuable links)

Plain Language (a federal government website - check out Tips and Tools)

Asset Search Blog published by Fred L. Abrams, Attorney

Municode (free access to most municipal codes)

Research, 'Riting & Resources (Ok, it's a stretch - I agree)

Elwell.celia Celia Elwell, RP, is a very experienced paralegal in Oklahoma.  An avid researcher and writer, Celia sends me these wonderful listings filled with interesting articles, posts and valuable tidbits.  The light finally went on inside my head (where else?).  I thought, "Why am I not sharing these our readers?"  Enjoy!

SCOTUS Justices on the Language of Law: Advocacy and Legal Writing (and by Implication Legal Research, Too), Law Librarian Blog

Standard of Review in Five Easy Steps, by Raymond Ward, the (new) legal writer


The Winning Wal-Mart Brief: Six Returns, by Ross Guberman, Legal Writing Pro


New Examples of Good Legal Writing, Legal Writing Prof Blog

Legal Writing 201: 30 Suggestions to Improve Readability or How To Write For Judges, Not Like Judges, by Judge Mark P. Painter, Ohio First District Court of Appeals

Oops, Thou Shalt Not Know How to Use One's Electronic Calendar without Risking Missing Court Filing Deadlines, Law Librarian Blog


ABA Ethics Panel Strikes Sensible Balance on Online Marketing, Robert Ambrogi’s Law Sites


Connecticut becomes first state to require paid sick leave, by Sheri Qualters, The National Law Journal, Law.com


Favorite E-Discovery Links, FloridaLawFirm.com and E-Discovery Team


"eDiscovery" in Domestic Relations Mutual Scheming: Digging up Dirt by "Friending" Ex-Spouse, Law Librarian Blog

Facebook Discovery in Litigation, by Ronald B. Miller, Jr., The Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog

MySpace, Facebook, GPS and other e-Discovery: Coming Soon to a Texas Divorce Proceeding Near You, by DiscoveryResources.org Reporter

Are Facebook and MySpace Messages Subject to Discovery?, by Doug Cornelius, Compliance Building

10 Trial Practice Blogs Worth Bookmarking, by Gyi Tsakalakis, Lawyerist.com

Top Encryption Techniques for Lawyers, by John Edwards, Legal Technology News, Law.com

Top Ten Tips for Leveraging Cutting-Edge Legal Research Technology to Control Legal Costs and Drive Client Value, by Lydia E. Flocchini, Association of Corporate Counsel (with hat tip to Bill Statsky)

Data: Driving Force in Web 3.0, EDD Update

In Trio of Big Business Cases, Justices Sharply Divide, by Marcia Coyle, The National Law Journal, Law.com

Roberts Court extends line of permissive First Amendment rulings in video game case, by Tony Mauro, The National Law Journal, Law.com

Clarifying personal jurisdiction . . . or not, by Howard Wasserman, PrawfsBlawg, http://bit.ly/iLFwqg

D.C. Divorce Lawyer, Nobel Laureate Feud, by Zoe Tillman, The National Law Journal, Law.com

And in case you thought tort reform was slowing down . . . ., Civil Procedure and Federal Courts Blog

Great Reading for the Week of July 4th, 2011, Jim Calloway's Law Practice Blog

National Conference of Bar Examiners

iPhoneJD - a blog for lawyers using iPhones and iPads
10 iPhone Apps Every Lawyer Should Have, by Erin Geiger Smith, Business Insider Law Review
Adding Bates-numbers in Acrobat is easy (and powerful), PDF for Lawyers
Ready for CM/ECF Changes: Conforming Existing PDF Files to PDF/A, by Rick Borstein, Acrobat for Legal Professionals

LitSupport Salary Survey: Do Paralegals With Tech Skills Earn More?

339055g26uicqq4[1] OLP invites you to participate in the first Litigation Support Salary & Utilization Survey to provide legal professionals with unparalleled insight into salary and career performance information.  We’re committed to helping people make the most of their careers, so we will provide a free salary survey to give you inside information about your market value, directly from your peers.  

  This same set of data is used to help legal professionals make more informed career decisions.

           Most employees don’t have the information they need to make informed career decisions.  While there are plenty of opinions, anecdotes, and generic statistics, there hasn’t been a place to turn for personalized career information based on data and facts.

                OLP’s goal is empower people to make the most of their careers by providing personalized career information, giving them better insight into the implications of their decisions. 

“In this field, you can get more information on a book to read, a car to buy or food you eat than you can on the very career that pays for everything you have or do.”
For example, the survey will replace generic statistics such as “people with paralegal certificates earn, on average, 20% more over their careers than those with Bachelors degrees” with smart  comparisons  (based on your education, experience, career goals, work ethic, and more) earn, on average, 34% more over their careers by attending a top 25 paralegal school, feel 42% more satisfied with their career, work 26 hours more per week, and feel 14% more stressed.” 

                Companies are using data to earn larger profits, sports teams are using data to build better teams, and now it’s time for legal professionals to start using data to make the most of their careers.

     OLP has partnered with CareerNumbers.com, an innovative company providing sophisticated salary surveys to the community.  CareerNumbers partners with leading organizations that want to provide their members with free data-driven career and salary information. Employees appreciate that surveys are simple and easy.  The surveys also provide powerful multi-dimensional reporting tools that puts the full-value of the information back into the hands of the people and partners that helped us obtain it.

               OLP’s goal is to help people make the most of their careers by empowering them to better understand themselves and the types of opportunities that are available to them. 
                The best way to achieve this is by providing deeper and more meaningful career data. You probably haven’t struggled to access valuable and relevant information for other decisions such as buying a car or even a book. However, when it comes to one of the most important components of your life, your career,there is a consistent struggle to find the information you need to make informed decisions. OLP wants to help solve this  problem for legal professionals because there’s no reason that, as a society, we should have more valuable information about the books we’re buying than the careers we’re living.

Participate in the survey today.   Survey data is free to participants.  It’s anonymous and confidential. Don’t get left out!

Go directly to the survey:    www.theolp.org.  Use invitation code:  Estblog.

Legal Tech West Coast: A Wealth of Information

Dollars Risk & Responsibility vs. Cost Control:
Managing eDiscovery’s Great Balancing Act
A Session Presented by Bill Speros 
LegalTech West Coast 2011

Guest Blogger:  Raul Estravit

Legal Tech West Coast – what a wealth of information! On Wednesday, May 18, I attended the session given by Bill Speros, lead counsel handling all of the e-discovery and litigation processing matters related to the Madoff case. Certainly a case that gives him great credibility.  Speros concentrated on risks and responsibilities in the management of the ediscovery process such as what to look for in keeping costs down and the allocation of responsibilities to all parties concerned. 

He covered solutions on predictability vs. consistency; the merging of responsibility with authority; management of ESI attributes; and providing visibility into asymmetric knowledge and skills.

It is difficult for law firms to determine or even guess the exact cost of discovery with regard to predictability versus consistency.  A set of data often thought to be manageable, often grows into a huge endeavor when ediscovery and labor costs escalate during the culling process.  This is a critical point where the framing of the issues and negotiations between the opposing parties can help make culling options easier and less costly to manage.

Speros referred to the “what if costs”: those costs based upon fear or extortion factors generated by an aggressive opposing side.  These factors add costs that are surprisingly reported to be about 40% -60% of the total costs of an ediscovery project. This statistic has raised concerns that expanded discovery could force settlements based upon costs rather than law. Often, cases have been settled as soon as one of the parties figures out it would be far more economical to pay rather than play.   

Management of ESI Attributes
Law firms frequently give responsibility for managing a case to pivotal core people in the ESI phase such as a seasoned paralegal, staff attorney or onsite project manager.  These professionals have hands-on experience running large document intensive ESI and database driven projects.

Provide Visibility in Asymmetric Knowledge and Skills
Personnel staffing ESI projects should be given clear lines of responsibility and be part of ESI planning and strategic management.  They should be given a voice in meetings.  Analysis of projects reveals teams that are successful are those that have been included in the execution of the project.

Knowing the source of the data can give you a certain idea as to the amount of data a particular custodian may have but it is not a definitive way of knowing the total amount that could be mined.

Starting off eDiscovery with a date range and a set of key words will certainly limit the amount of data at the “first bite of the apple” or at the source.   However, if you do not get exactly what you are seeking and need to go back to the third party e-discovery vendor to re-run the data search with a more modified set of terms and date ranges, you’ll most definitely rack up costs. Clearly, here is a situation to be avoided.

I was amused at the frankness from Speros.  One way to keep costs down, he said,  is to try and squeeze third-party vendors.  In this new economy, this technique could now become the norm. These days, vendors are struggling to keep a constant work flow.  Therefore, they are willing to negotiate price more than ever when you go back for a second bite at the apple.

The value of the content must be weighed against costs.  Is the data current or archived?  When data is archived, the data is sprawled and spread out over various formats. Piecing it all together could cost quite a bit of time and technology.  Even if the data is on a hard drive, it could have sections deleted and need more forensic handling. Forensic data can look like “confetti” which in turn becomes more costly to produce.   

How do you produce ESI data without the proprietary database or application? Exporting from certain types of applications make it virtually impossible to use without the application itself.  In this scenario, the data is incomprehensible.

In certain cases, courts have placed the burden of purchasing the application on the requesting party.  If they want the data that badly, they should be ready to pay for it.

Does the data you are seeking go so far back that it was once owned by a different corporation?  Many corporations and companies are bought and sold over time. One would think past records are kept but actually, that is not always the case.  If the data goes far beyond the time the present corporation has been running  operations, you may be out of luck. There is no real obligation to keep records from the last business that operated the company.  However, if the data is accessible, you have to produce it unless it is just too expensive.

Quite often, lawyers ask the court for relief from the cost of producing documents electronically.  Just as often, they come to court without a specific example of costs, driving judges crazy. No lawyer enjoys being singled out for wasting judges’ time when the judge sends them back to figure out the costs.

I am a big fan of one of the topics covered by Speros. We call it weekly meetings but he calls it “trial-logue”, a great phrase for constant communication between the team members. I really cannot count how many times the lack of communication created a monster of an issue that could have easily been resolved by a phone call.  Hopefully, this phrase will become widely used in the language of legal technology.

Speros concluded by reminding us that a cohesive team is one that is utilizing the talent of each member for the successful operation of a well-run and less costly ediscovery project.  These are some of the finer points that lead us in the right direction and allow for the timely production of data without sacrificing quality.  That is the art of Litigation Technology and well run ediscovery projects.

OLP eDiscovery Certification Exam & Courses - More Information

Innovation2 The Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP), a non-profit organization, will roll out its eDiscovery certification exam the second week in July. This certification exam has been in development for 18 months. It is a combined effort with some of the top eDiscovery experts throughout the U.S, Canada, U.K. and Taiwan.

OLP has partnered with Pearson  VU, a $7 billion global education corporation with a highly sophisticated division dedicated to certification exams. We have a team of Ph.D.s from Pearson on board who apply the science of psychometrics - balancing the exam so that it is fair, unbiased and properly given. There are no affiliations with vendors, law firms or other entities. OLP provides the content, Pearson provides the Ph.D. team applying the science of psychometrics and the technology. 

The Pearson Ph.D.s on our team were responsible for developing the LSAT, GRE and other well-known exams. This is not a situation where you go to a two day seminar at a vendor's facility and afterwards you are tested on what you learned in the past couple of days and pronounced "certified".  The purpose of a certification exam is not to qualify someone as an expert.  Rather, it is to test on an individual's core competencies.  For example, once a person graduates law school and passes the bar, there is no guarantee that person is an expert in law.  The passing of the bar indicates that this person understands and has the core competencies necessary to practice in the field.

The exam meets with strict standards from the National Association of Certifying Associations. It will be given in over 1000 secured environments around the world.

Who takes the certification exam?  Attorneys, paralegals, litigation support professionals, case managers, consultants and vendors. The test is tough. You must have at least 3 years of hands-on ediscovery experience, 40 CLE units in the past five years or 5 years of hands-on eDiscovery experience. You must submit a resume that will be verified.

OLP also offers comprehensive, indepth programs offering a certificate of completion. These online, interactive courses (you can see and talk with instructors and other students) are anywhere from 3 weeks to 8 weeks long. You are given homework assignments and quizzes. The courses are taught by active practitioners and are highly rated. Instructors take months develop a course in order to bring students the very best education possible.

Since OLP is a non-profit organization, people are not involved with it for the reason of driving revenue. (Of course, non-profits can and should be profitable.) The purpose of a non-profit is to get as much quality education to as many people as possible, not as much revenue to the bottom line as possible.  Therefore, the passing rate is tough.  It serves no purpose for a non-profit to pass as many people as possible.  With that attitude, the purpose of the certification exam then becomes meaningless.

While law firms do look at relevant experience, firms also look seriously at a person's education. On the job training has a lot of drawbacks - if that's all that you have. Combine on the job training with highly rated education and you will always have a winning combination.

For more information, please go to www.theolp.org. Thanks for your continued support. Because of it, OLP is able to grant a number of scholarships to well deserving students!

Legal Project Management - The Next New Area for Paralegals to Conquer?

 MP900446464[1] It seems that suddenly, law firms have woken to the fact that the corporate world has a whole new technique out there to manage projects.  Simply called Project Management, the area is booming.  And, as always, the legal field tends to be the last to get in on the bandwagon.  But for argument's sake, let's just say it arrived.

Legal Project Management by Steven B. Levy (DayPack Books), is a study in how to manage your case, control costs, meet schedules, manage risks, and maintain sanity.  It's a process by which you can take control of your project.  Prior to the concept of Legal Project Management, there were no standardized methods to manage a case.  However, Project Management, in and of itself, has been around for years in the corporate arena.

Here is a great way for paralegals to pick up yet another useful skill and turn it into a top job.  Project Managers are team leaders who can size up a case, establish a budget for doing so, create the work flow chart and see the project through to the end. 

Levy's book gives you the tools to approach the job.  Since this emerging field offers a powerful new approach to managing a case, it is not an alien discipline, full of jargon and process overhead.  Rather, it's designed for the specific world of legal professionals.  It respects the way attorneys and paralegal work, enhancing their success by playing to their strengths. 

The book is easy to read dispersed throughout with quotes from Shakespeare.  While Levy attempts to explain why those quotes are in the book, it remains a mystery exactly why although it does lend for interesting reading.  Levy explains budgeting, analysis,work flow, execution information radiators, metrics and learning.  It's a whole new world out there in terms of what happens when that new case comes in over the transom.

If you are looking to expand your position, it's time to explore the world of Project Management.  The Organization of Legal Professionals is offering an 8 week on line, interactive, live class on Project Management starting December 15th.  (www.theolp.org).  Here is the perfect way to ensure your value to your firm, learn the skills of the hottest area right now and probably put more dollars in your pocket as a result.

Do remember the history of paralegals:  No one sat down one day and said, "This is a paralegal job description.  Now, let's go get some paralegals."  That's not what happened.  What happened was the position emerged from another position (legal secretary) when attorneys figured out that 1) secretaries could perform higher level tasks and 2) you could bill the client for someone called a paralegal but you couldn't bill for a secretary.  Now, between eDiscovery Paralegals and Project Management Paralegals, the field is creating its own career path.  More power to it.