"Paralegal receives mixed verdict"

So, is this good news? Or bad news for the paralegal profession?

"A Wailuku paralegal who said she 'filled in the blanks' for a customer on a divorce form has been acquitted [emphasis added] of a charge of unauthorized practice of law.

"Kitty Atchley, 54, was found guilty [emphasis added] of two misdemeanor counts of unsworn falsification to authorities for documents she filed in court as part of a divorce case in 2005.

"Atchley said she filed a document indicating the woman’s husband had been served with divorce papers in Kihei, even though Marten-Naidenko had told her he was in Russia.

"She continued filing documents even after Marten-Naidenko called Atchley to 'pull the plug on the divorce,' Atchley said, because she believed the woman was in an abusive relationship and feared for her safety. Atchley said she was following the woman’s earlier instructions not to stop the divorce proceedings no matter what she said."


"Paralegal licensing is good news"

After a hard-fought legislative battle, independent paralegals in in Ontario will become a regulated profession on May 1. This Toronto Star article outlines why licensing is needed:

"In recent years, the need for regulating paralegals has been the subject of considerable comment by Ontario judges and in two Ontario government reports. The most recent comment occurred in a Superior Court decision of Justice Deena Baltman last October. It was published last month in the Ontario Reports.

"In December 2002, Pamela Elliot received an eviction notice from her landlord claiming rent arrears of $2,700. Shortly afterward, the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal issued an eviction order against her.

"Elliot contacted Vince Chiarelli, a paralegal, to stop the landlord's eviction. He promised her in writing that for a fee of $1,200 plus expenses he could file an appeal to Divisional Court and obtain a stay which would 'prevent or significantly delay the eviction proceedings.'

[snip]

"Eventually, Elliot sued Chiarelli in Small Claims Court to recover the money she paid him, based on professional negligence, breach of contract and alleged violations of the Business Practices Act.

[snip]

"'As a legal service provider,' Justice Baltman wrote in her decision, 'Mr. Chiarelli had a duty to provide good advice. Instead, Mr. Chiarelli advised Ms. Elliot to pay him nearly $1,800 so that he could postpone her eviction by what he knew could only be a matter of weeks. That was bad advice.'"


Canada's new paralegal regulations study grads

It will be most interesting to compare U.S. regulation with Canada's approach:

"She will be among the first students to graduate from Humber College's first bachelor degree programs. As a newly minted paralegal, Sheelagh McLellan will also be among the first in Ontario to benefit from groundbreaking legislation that will regulate the often-misunderstood profession.

"'I was interested in becoming a paralegal because one of their objectives is to provide legal services for people who may not be able to afford a lawyer,' McLellan says. 'I think the regulation of paralegals is a positive. It definitely gives creditability to our profession and I think it will help me if I decide to one day open my own office.'

[snip]

"But the profession is undergoing an important transformation. Under new Access to Justice Act legislation, paralegals in Ontario will be regulated by the Law Society of Upper Canada. For the first time in Canadian history, they will be required to receive training, carry liability insurance and report to a public body that can investigate complaints. The regulation comes into force May 1.

[snip]

"Mary Selvanathan, a senior legal consultant with Access Legal Services, lauds Humber's program. 'I personally find that Humber's bachelor program is way ahead and once the law (requiring paralegals to be regulated by the Law Society) comes into effect, they are well ahead.'"


"Virtual Workers Cut Overhead at Law Firm"

How often have you dreamed about working remotely for your law firm?

"Like most firms, at Traverse Legal we constantly grapple with dilemmas about staffing. The uncertainty of workload always creates a serious quandary. Understaffing can fuel burnout, and can leave otherwise necessary billable work undone. It also can lead to client friction. How many times have your staffing problems caused partners to do associate level work, and/or associates to do legal research best handled by law clerks, and/or document summaries that could be handled by paralegals?

[snip]

"Offering virtual jobs helps us find capable workers. Virtual workers are often highly qualified, self-motivated people who, for one reason or another, choose to work outside the walls and employment structure of the traditional law firm.

[snip]

"Even when virtual employees are hired full-time, overhead is still lower than traditional employees. This means no office space, no secretary, no staplers, no computers, no phone bills. Virtual law clerks, paralegals and even associates are billed just like non-virtual. Their hourly rate is marked and billed to the client. Because overhead is low, these workers can be paid more and the client is billed less. Each virtual worker is a profit center for the firm, without the need for an ongoing commitment."

Author Enrico Schaefer is the founder of Traverse Legal, based in Traverse City, Mich.


Temp Staff Demand Greatest for Paralegals, Legal Support Staff, Attorneys

Isn't it just great to be in demand?

"Temporary legal staffing is the most consistently fast growing segment of the contingent workforce in the United States and is largely driven by merger and acquisition activity and litigation-related work, according to a new report by Staffing Industry Analysts, the premier provider of market intelligence about the contingent workforce.

[snip]

  -- Over the next decade, volume demand is expected to grow annually by 6% for paralegals and legal assistants [emphasis added], 5% for lawyers, and 4.6% for legal secretaries.  Lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries make up roughly 85% of the temporary legal workforce.  Of these, the fastest growing occupation is paralegals.

  -- Temporary legal staffing remains concentrated in the 25 largest metropolitan areas, as well as state capitals.  Overall, one in six legal jobs are located in just two cities:  New York City and Washington D.C.  New York City accounts for 10.4% of all legal employment and Washington D.C. 5.7%.


"She puts her name in the papers"

Real case managed by a bonded & registered Legal Document Assistant in Califormia:

"In 2004, an anxious young husband and father approached Just Document Preparation in Riverside to help him file a domestic violence restraining order against his wife.

"He wanted to protect himself and his young daughter from his wife's abuse stemming from her refusal to take medication for schizophrenia.

"Annette Gomez, owner of the firm, interviewed the client. An assistant quickly typed up the court papers, filing them within 24 hours. 'He got temporary sole custody of his child,' Gomez said.

"Gomez is bonded and registered as a legal document assistant [PDF] in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

"For 10 years, she has prepared legal documents for pro per litigants at her Just Document Preparation."


"Virtual Paralegal Services Introduces Virtual Workspace"

Well, this new paralegal business feature sounds interesting, dontcha think?

"Virtual Paralegal Services, LLC, a provider of affordable, on-demand, experienced paralegal assistance exclusively for lawyers and their clients, today introduced its new Virtual Workspace.

"VPS Virtual Workspace gives lawyers access to a highly secure collaborative environment for creating, storing and retrieving documents and records without the commitment of a capital-intensive technology investment."

To see how a sample Virtual Workspace operates, log in at the top of the site's home page with user name: llegal & password: ll1122.


"How to Turn Paralegals Into Franchisees"

I LIKE this idea! Nice follow-up to the post about independent paralegals, hmm?

"Since July 1986, Paralegal Services of Allenhurst has been matching freelance paralegals with New Jersey-area attorneys.

"Now, it wants to expand the business into a nationwide franchise system, essentially by giving paralegals working for firms a model to become independent contractors.

"Last month, the name was changed to Paralegal Services USA, and it now offers training, branded materials, advertising and other services for paralegals who want to go it alone.

"'Paralegals who have a freelance practice want to focus on their work instead of worrying about issues like marketing, human resources and advertising,' says Dorothy Secol, who runs the business along with her partner, Peggy Stalford."


'Ways to get along without lawyers'

Did you know that the CA Legal Document Assistants Association is now 20 years old & has 225 members?

"Ed Sherman started a revolution 35 years ago when he wrote How to Do Your Own Divorce in California. Since then, millions of people have found they needn't resort to the adversarial and expensive step of hiring a lawyer to reach a divorce settlement. A new industry — independent paralegal services — was born.

"Sherman, 68, an attorney since 1971 and co-founder of Divorce Helpline, which has an office at 615 Mission St. in Santa Cruz, is still going strong. The author of 18 books, he has a new one coming out to help couples stay together.

"He will be among the featured speakers at the annual conference of the California Association of Legal Document Assistants Friday through Sunday in Ontario. The group has 225 members and will mark its 20th anniversary this year."