Are Paralegals Meant to Survive This Decade?

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Is there a bright future for Paralegals?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is out with their 2020 Occupational Outlook for Paralegals and Legal Assistants.

Bottom line – it’s not a bad time to be in, or to be getting into, a paralegal or legal assistant position*.

Consider these findings:

o Median annual pay is $51,750, compared with $39,800 for all occupations in the US.

o 80% of paralegals and legal assistants earn between $32-82,000.

o The federal government, finance, and insurance sectors pay the most, with a median income above $84,000 per year.

o Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is expected to grow by 10% over the next 10 years, much faster than the 4% for all occupations in the US economy.

States with the most paralegals are CA, FL, NY, TX, and IL. The highest pay for paralegals and legal assistants is in DC, CO, CA, MA, and WA.

Bottom line – it’s not a bad time to be in, or to be getting into, a paralegal or legal assistant position.

If you’d like to “just get away,” consider these top-paying non-metropolitan areas for paralegals and legal assistants:

o Alaska

o Northwest Colorado

o Central New Hampshire

o North Coast of California

o Hawaii/Kauai

Or, the non-metropolitan places where there are the most jobs:

● Kansas

● North Carolina Piedmont area

● Central Kentucky

● Southwest Montana

● Southeast coastal North Carolina

The life of the paralegal is not all rosy, of course; here are a few cautions:

o Stress – The American Bar Association has recently discussed stress as a significant issue for paralegals. Unfortunately, stress among paralegal staff is not as well addressed as attorney stress. Good tools, such as a cloud-based matter management system, can significantly reduce stress among paralegals, especially those expected to bill by the hour.

o Limited ceiling – you very likely never will be the boss of a law firm if you do not have a law degree.

o Respect - routine tasks like repetitive data entry, invoice preparation, entering client and billing information, filing, and document management often fall upon paralegals. A cloud-based document management system can virtually eliminate these repetitive tasks and increase the time you have for higher profile matters.

If you are considering an exit strategy, the US Department of Labor has identified related positions that do not require a JD degree that offer greater compensation, including claims adjusting, mediating and conciliation services.

In the meantime, you can build both your expertise and job satisfaction by becoming proficient in a cutting edge technology, and/or gaining a new certification. Whichever direction you’re headed, the future looks bright for the paralegal profession.

By Aline Martin O’Brien!

Aline Martin-O’Brien has a Masters in Theory and Practice of Procedural Law from the University of Paris: Panthéon–Sorbonne. After practicing as an attorney for many years, she now lives and writes in Florida for Smokeball.

Chere Estrin is the CEO  of Estrin Legal Staffing and MediSums, medical records summarizing.


Will Paralegals End Up with Too Much Power?

Hot topicA few days ago, a thought-provoking article by the President of the Connecticut Bar Association, Mark Dubois, emerged causing much discussion in our LinkedIn group: Paralegal Group. Dubois raised a number of questions in regard to a recent report by a Connecticut Bar Association committee and the suggestion that the lack of access to legal services could be met by empowering paralegals to offer direct-to-the public service. 

This debate has been around for years and years. It is just now beginning to see some resolution, primarily because strong resistence to more paralegal power is being taken away from attorneys. By "taken away", I am describing the result of the public demand for lower cost legal services that is causing attorneys to back off. 

Dubois, of course, has to make sure that he cites a paralegal who stole some money as a possible example of why paralegals should not be given more power. Get real, Dubois. Paralegals in that kind of trouble are rare which is why it hits the news.  One only has to pick up any monthly magazine such as the California State Bar newsletter and see pages and pages of suspended or disbarred attorneys who have had licenses ripped away for stealing from client's trust accounts.

Read the article. It presents a number of good questions as to whether the field is ready to give more power to paralegals. The article goes on to address licensing; whether paralegals rather than attorneys should bear malpractice responsibilities;  UPL; and the definite need for continuing education - all good points to ponder.

Gray Loy, a Japan based in-house attorney for Mitsubishi, wrote a stirring response. In an email to me, Loy stated, "I work in a corporation in Japan where there are two American lawyers. I am the only one with a primarily legal function. The remainder of people are not legal professionals at all. Though I am quite fond of my present co-workers, were I to wake up one morning, go to work and out of the blue find four or five experienced paralegals working beside me, I would probably be a very happy person." 

Oh, Mr. Loy...Paralegals need more attorneys like you. It's not so much that paralegals need more attorneys who want to use paralegals,  it's that paralegals need more attorneys who will outwardly express appreciation and understanding of their worth. They are out there, aren't they?

Here is what Loy has to say:

"The problem is not so much one of power as responsibility. There are some paralegals who are very knowledgeable and more experienced than the average attorney. And, let's throw in ethical to a fault. We all know of attorneys who do not serve their clients so well. Human beings are diverse.

However, attorneys are required to pass additional hurdles and obtain additional education. Arguably, there are aspects of the legal profession that paralegals simply are never trained for. And I do know of paralegals who are quite convinced, most incorrectly so, that they possess the wisdom of a whole bench of seasoned appellate judges. It is sort of a risk hedging issue really.

By forcing a person to go through what is essentially extra screening/training, we obtain a better result on balance for the client. I agree there are things that paralegals can do now better than attorneys,  given their experience,. The problem is that human beings are what they are, especially we Americans, and there is no shortage of people who are going to take advantage of a new status.

Ethical considerations always become most real to us when someone gets really hurt. People get hurt relying on attorneys as well but as attorneys, we have it particularly drummed into us what this means. We could drum it into paralegals but if you do enough of that sort of precautionary training, they might just as well become attorneys and be done with it.

The point of being a paralegal is to do certain very important legal work at a certain locus in the legal system without being subjected to the full gamut and cost of a legal education and certification. If we add to the paralegal's powers, we are going to have to add to the paralegal's responsibilities and costs as well (and they quite understandably are going to expect to be and need to be paid a little better, at least where they are bearing more responsibility).

I am not dogmatic. There is no holy writ requiring that only the anointed set foot in court with a client in tow. We do this because it works, gives people what we believe to be optimal protection and we are familiar with it. Now there are pressures for change and indication that the people we serve could be better served with a shift of some responsibilities to a lower cost classification. We should consider this. It is probably inevitable.

However, we should be very careful about what tasks are additionally permitted for unsupervised paralegals. We should be clear what education is required. We should decide this with input considered carefully and in good faith from the paralegal profession. It should be the fully enfranchised who makes the call. We should consider what the impact of the costs of this education -initial and ongoing- will have on the price of paralegal services (we must be both realistic and fair) and we must have strict penalties for violation.

Finally, I must emphasize that while this should be a partnership between the two professions, there should be no question as to which partner is senior. That is, until such time as the requirements for entry and maintenance of status in the two professions have so radically changed that the present rules no longer make sense.

There is additionally a question of taking work away from attorneys. One could argue whether an attorney's services are properly priced for the market. We have no shortage of attorneys and yet there is a very real demand for this sort of paralegal participation. Price and supply and demand may be off kilter here. But that argument would just confuse the above so I save it for another day."

Readers: These are the kind of issues that are changing your very jobs. Where do you think the profession is headed? Where will it be in another five or ten years? Will you be required to be licensed? Will there be universal entrance requirements? You're the ones in the drivers seat responsible for your own career path. Not attorneys. You tell me.


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:  www.paralegalknowledge.com.

 

 
 

 

 

 


Paralegal Knowledge Institute Makes Its Debut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Webinars include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know your thoughts on this.

 

 


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.

Readers also enjoyed:

How to Work with a Jerk!
An eBook from Paralegal Knowledge Institute

Forensics & The World of eDiscovery for Beginners
An eBook from Paralegal Knowledge Institute

Introduction to Predictive Coding
An eBook from Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP)

 


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!

 


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.

 


"Mock trial helps students learn more about the legal system"

This most gratifying article in the Jackson Hole Star-Tribune details how Wyoming paralegal students are showing fifth-graders how the U.S. legal system works:

"With a polite but stern tone, fifth-grader Jacob Colman interrupted Robert Novak, reminding him to just answer yes or no.

"Dressed in a dark blue suit like a miniature lawyer, Colman again asked the question to Novak on the witness stand.

"'Well...,' Novak said.

"'Just answer yes or no please,' said Colman, 11, once again interrupting the adult.

"The exchange Thursday was part of a mock trial Casper College's paralegal department held with fifth-graders from St. Anthony's Tri-Parish School as part of a service learning project. The students from both schools, parents and faculty acted out the case in U.S. District Judge William Downes' courtroom after a semester's worth of preparation.

"'You really learn by teaching,' said Mary Kubichek, who has been organizing mock trials for more than 10 years as director of the college's paralegal program."


ABA Reapproves Penn College's Legal Assistant Majors

This good news is reported in PC Today about the Pennsylvania College of Technology:

"The American Bar Association has granted reapproval to Pennsylvania College of Technology’s legal assistant majors, one of only 14 programs in Pennsylvania to be recognized in that fashion.

"The college’s School of Business and Computer Technologies recently was notified of the action by the ABA’s House of Delegates, which follows a successful site visit early last fall and a recommendation by the association’s Standing Committee on Paralegals.

“'This notification reaffirms the high quality of the instruction, advising, work-based experiences and job placement provided by our paralegal studies faculty and college for our certificate and associate- and bachelor-degree-seeking students,' said Edward A. Henninger, dean of the school."


"University of Miami Launches New Online Paralegal Program in Spanish"

Good news for paralegals wanting to add add another language. This course is expensive -- $6,995! -- although the fee includes all books and materials:

"Coral Gables, FL.--(HISPANIC PR WIRE - BUSINESS WIRE)--April 2, 2007--The University of Miami is launching a new online Paralegal Studies Program in Spanish, geared to reach Spanish-language speakers worldwide.

[snip]

"Because the program deals exclusively with the U.S. legal system, students are required to have a working knowledge of English. However, all instruction is conducted in Spanish, including exercises and examinations. Students will be assigned a Spanish-speaking online instructor who will answer questions and supervise instruction."