Articles

@Law

Here is a selection of past articles that were featured in @Law.  For access to our entire archives you must be a NALS member and log in to the Members Only area to see the full listing.

If you would like permission to reprint a specific article from @Law, you must submit your request in writing to the NALS Resource Center. Requests can be e-mailed to: collins@nals.org; faxed to: (918) 582-5907; or sent via postal mail to: NALS Resource Center, Attn: April Collins, 8159 East 41st Street, Tulsa, OK 74145.


You’ve Been Hacked!
These are words no one wants to hear, but that are becoming increasingly common in our cyber-connected lives, both at work and at home. Not only are these attacks becoming more frequent, but the variety and cunning of those creating them are also increasing.

Introducing NALS 2014-2015 Board of Directors
Putting together a puzzle is tricky business. Not only do you have to make sure all of the pieces fit together, but you must also do so in order to form a larger picture. So is the business of putting together a slate of candidates for the NALS board. This year’s board is diverse in age, region, and office environment and each board member possesses specific skills to lead NALS into the future.

Identifying & Ending Workplace Bullying Gains Momentum
Efforts are underway on several fronts to once again raise the standard of acceptable (and legal) behavior at work. The new area of concern is the elimination of workplace bullying. Quite frankly, if you are a workplace bully, your employment future does not look good.

2013 Award of Excellence Recipient – Reba Peden, PP, PLS
“Outgoing, fun, friendly, serious, hard working, determined” are words used to describe Reba Peden, PP, PLS, the 2013 NALS Award of Excellence (AoE) recipient. It is easy to understand why. Reba has worked in the legal profession for over 27 years and has been a very active member on all levels of NALS for 16 years.

VA Aid & Attendance: A Little Known Veteran Benefit
VA Aid and Attendance is a pension benefit veterans may qualify for under certain circumstances. Whether the veteran was injured in the line of duty or currently receives any type of VA benefit is irrelevant. This benefit is available to any and all veterans who served at least 90 days…

The JOBS Act, A Year Later
It has been almost a year since Congress passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act), which was a law designed to ease the securities law burdens on startups and high growth companies raising capital. The JOBS Act is divided into six main sections called “titles.” This article examines the impact that each title of the law has had over the last year.

Marijuana Laws Liberalized in Colorado and Washington – But Effect on Workplace Policies Likely Small The 2012 elections placed a number of marijuana initiatives before state voters around the United States ranging from efforts to legalize the sale and use of marijuana for recreational purposes to further expansion of the “medical marijuana” laws that currently exist in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Voters in Colorado and Washington passed initiatives directing their states to decriminalize the possession of marijuana by adults for recreational use.

The Lance Armstrong Confession: Lessons in Ethics & Compliance
As almost everyone in America knows, Lance Armstrong recently spoke for the first time about his performance enhancing drug use in a two-part television event on Oprah. On the first night, he admitted for the first time that he used performance enhancing drugs during his seven wins at the Tour de France.

The Sometimes Blurry Ethical World of Witness Preparation
So there I was, sitting at my desk having a perfectly enjoyable afternoon of responding to discovery requests  when I get a call from a friend asking if I could write something on the topic of ethics for her group of legal professionals. “Sure,” I say, “but what is there that your group members could possibly want to hear from me that they do not already know, noting they are undoubtedly already the cream of the ethical and professional crop?”

Introducing Doris T. Compton, PP, PLS, NALS 2013-2014 President
Doris Marie Compton, PP, PLS, lived in many different towns in the State of Arkansas, as well as in Enid, Oklahoma, and Abilene, Texas, before finally making her home in Little Rock, Arkansas.

What’s Mine Is Mine, Or Is It?
On May 5, 2010, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Public Letter Ruling 201021048 and CCA 201021050, which announced a change in the way the IRS was going to treat income earned by registered domestic partners (RDPs). This change attempted to bring the treatment of income earned by same-sex couples closer to the treatment of income earned by married opposite-sex couples.

How to Get the Most out of Your iPad: For Legal Professionals
It is the latest thing, the coolest, most stylish gadget, and it is here to stay. The iPad, in its all-familiar Apple design, is now an integral part of many people’s daily lives. But can it help you at work in the legal profession? Can an iPad really be a useful business device?

2012 Award of Excellence Recipient – Cheryl Summerhill, PLS
Meet Cheryl Summerhill, PLS, of Searcy, Arkansas, the 2012 NALS Award of Excellence recipient. The role of the legal assistant has evolved over the years, and we have all heard about how “back in the day” the legal secretary “did it all.” Well, in Cheryl Summerhill’s world, “doing it all” is still the order of the day.

Shining a Light to Improve the Way We Respond to Sexually Abused Children
It is horrible to consider child sexual abuse—yet it is a social ill we read about every day. The fact that we read about it, in some sense, is good news. A dear friend of mine often reminds me that it is not impossible for darkness to exist in the light. Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) strive to bring light to the darkness that is child sexual abuse, a crime that is perpetuated in secrecy, manipulation, and shame. Arguably, we cannot say we are a civilized society when we tolerate the abuse of our children. CACs attempt to shine the light on child sexual abuse and brighten the path for survivors.

Health Care Reform and the Supreme Court
“On March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law.” That is how the article “Health Care Reform Made Simple” by this author began in the spring 2011 edition of @Law. In that article, I sought to distill down the essence of the hundreds of pages of the ACA as passed by Congress and the tens if not hundreds of thousands of pages of rules, regulations, guidance, and analyses that have been generated since that spring day in March two years ago. Despite the inherent complexity, at its core, the ACA is focused on two goals: (a) maintaining health insurance coverage for those already insured, and (b) expanding coverage to individuals and families that are, at present, uninsured.

Who Inherits My Facebook? Estate Planning For Digital Assets
What are digital assets? Technically, digital assets are intangible personal assets formatted into a binary source. This includes all files and information stored in any online accounts, such as email accounts, social networking sites, blogs, photo- and video-sharing sites, online music, online video games, online storage accounts such as “cloud” storage, and online sales accounts. It also includes domain names and any intellectual property rights (such as copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets) associated with your digital property.

Does Your Attorney Suffer From Technophobia?
Attorneys have been historically slow to adopt new technology, and now is no exception. Many attorneys of the “Baby Boomer” and earlier generations are accustomed to creating, using, and storing paper documents despite the greater efficiency afforded by electronic media. Many paralegals find themselves doing more work to accommodate requests that could be performed more efficiently with computers and computer software programs. Could it be that your attorney suffers from the dreaded disorder “technophobia”? Has your work flow been affected by this disease?

I-9 Dos & Don’ts in the Workplace
Form I-9 has been a part of the American workforce since November 6, 1986, when the Immigration Reform and Control Act (the “Act”) was enacted. Pursuant to the Act, employers are required to verify the employment eligibility of their employees; a verification that takes place through the use of the Form I-9. Failure to properly verify the employment eligibility of employees can lead to significant civil and criminal sanctions. Fines can range anywhere from approximately $300 to the tens of thousands of dollars.

Introducing Helene L. Wood, PP, PLS-SC, TSC-RE, NALS 2012-2013 President
Helene believes being a member of NALS and taking advantage of the educational opportunities provided by her membership have enhanced her role as a legal secretary. Because of the educational benefits of being a NALS member, firm attorneys and employees respect her opinion and will seek her input. Helene willingly shares the information received at NALS conferences with attorneys and support staff in her office. Helene says the biggest benefit of her NALS membership comes down to the professional and personal support of the members. “The incredible members of NALS are right there with you when you are down and out. If you want to achieve something, they are right there cheering you on. When you reach your goal, they party with you.”

Defense Strategy in Casey Anthony Trial of the Century: Tweaking Social Media Tactics
The trial of Casey Anthony in the death of her daughter, Caylee, lasted six weeks in 2011 in Orlando, Florida. The case, dubbed the “social media trial of the century” by Time magazine, attracted a significant amount of national and international media attention.  While it drew the largest ratings for many cable news channels and network news programs, social media sites exploded with activity, especially when the verdict was read. People took to Facebook and Twitter and other social media outlets to express their views throughout the entire trial.

2011 Award of Excellence Recipient – Cathy Hankins, PP, PLS
When Harrison Ford received the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2002, he wrote two speeches, a long one and a short one. When Cathy Hankins won the NALS Award of Excellence, she wrote one speech. She gave a short one—thank you!

Contracts & Taxes in the Online Shopping Revolution
Times have changed. As recently as the early 1990s, few people had any clue the Internet existed and the only way to shop was to travel to physical stores, browse through physical merchandise, and deal with actual people of varying competence. Some enjoy the process. For others, it is a tribulation. Regardless, shopping on the busiest days of the year can test the patience of even the most devoted shopaholics.

Changing Tides: The Evolving Media Coverage of the Gulf Oil Spill
The April 2010 explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig and the subsequent leak of nearly 5 million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico dominated the national media for months. Coverage focused on the oil spill and the potential devastation it would cause in the surrounding ecosystem. The media was not the only outlet for commentary. Scientists, policymakers, and others also forecast serious environmental implications in the aftermath of the spill.

Alphabet Soup: Unraveling the Mystery of Document Extensions
Many of us in the legal profession are fortunate in that we work in environments where a document management system (DMS) shields us from the confusing details of how and where a document is stored on our computer, or how the computer even knows which program to use when we want to work with the document. It is pretty simple for us. We just provide the document’s name and a few other details in the profile information for the DMS and click OK. Then, every time we need to work on the document, the computer somehow knows where to find it and what program is used to work with it.

Technology & Ethics: A Deadly Combo?
Ethics issues are important to attorneys. If they are charged with unethical behavior, they may be subject to reprimand, suspension, and even disbarment. But why should you be concerned with ethics? You do not have a license to lose. You cannot be reprimanded, suspended, or disbarred by the State Bar. There are several reasons why good ethical behavior is important to you. Read this sneak peak from Vicki Voisin, our Keynote Speaker at the 60th Annual Education Conference & National Forum.

Introducing Kathie Amirante, PP, PLC – NALS 2011-2012 President
Kathie first joined NALS in 1969 because Mr. Farhat thought it would be the best way for her to learn the ropes in her new job. He was a NALS supporter and encouraged all the staff to become members. She became captivated by NALS as she was receiving the education necessary to be a legal secretary and was a member until 1972. She left the firm of Farhat, Burns & Luoma to marry her wonderful husband and did not return to the work force again until 1985, when she began working with Kitch Drutchas Wagner Valitutti & Sherbrook. In 1990, she came back to NALS because her dream was to be certified and she has been a member ever since.

Legal Apps for Smart Phones
Applications for smart phones have been a hot topic for a while now. Smart phones now typically include e-mail, Internet access, a GPS, and other services, but the apps make the smart phones shine. I cannot pretend objectivity here as I love my iPhone, but it is clear the apps are now huge for every phone platform.

Health Care Reform Made Simple
On March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “Act”) was signed into law. Comprising of approximately 2,000 pages, the Act, commonly referred to as health care reform, has dozens of programs and initiatives. Some of these began taking effect almost immediately after health care reform was passed with the others becoming operational over the next ten years.

2010 Award of Excellence Recipient – Mary Jo Denman, PP, PLS
A few years ago, a NALS President named Mary Jo Denman presented the NALS Award of Excellence to a humbled Patti Infanti, PP, PLS. This year, it was a humbled Mary Jo Denman receiving the NALS Award of Excellence from NALS President Patti Infanti.

LEED: Overview & Issues for Legal Professionals
Sustainable or “green” construction is here to stay. Future energy requirements, environmental issues, and government mandates either require or will soon require that construction professionals and their attorneys deal with a brave new world of building.

Deciphering Social Media for Your Business
The year of the Social Media Tipping Point is 2010–the year when social media becomes mainstream and if you take note, you will see social media buttons being added to web sites and business cards everywhere. For the first time in history, President Obama proved that the easiest way to stay in touch with constituents is through social media. Pepsi declined television advertising during the Super Bowl for the first time in 25 years to invest instead in social media campaigns. Companies like Volkswagen, Victoria’s Secret, and Ben & Jerry’s message their customers via Facebook Fan pages. We learn of hurricanes in Haiti and deaths in Hollywood first on Twitter, and national sports leagues rush to write policy to keep up with changing player communication habits. Small business patrons favor businesses that are hip to location-based platforms like Foursquare and Yelp that allow them to share locations, experiences, recommendations, and reviews with networks of friends.

Green Technology Moves to the Fast Lane
Since its founding in 1790, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has issued more than 7 million patents and has facilitated a tremendous amount of technological and economic progress in this country. However, this long, successful history stands in sharp contrast to today’s PTO. Faced with declining budgets and high turnover rates among its patent examining corps, the PTO faces a backlog of over 1.2 million pending patent applications, 700,000 of which have not yet received a first review from the PTO.

Legal Ethics After Enron
Since the Enron bankruptcy, the ethics of lawyers have often dominated the financial news. In response to Enron’s bankruptcy and the involvement of the legal and accounting professional, Congress enacted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Among its various reforms of the financial markets, Sarbanes-Oxley imposed new duties on lawyers. While the massive Enron fraud was unfolding, people asked: Where were the lawyers?

White-Collar Criminal Defense: An Overview of the Paralegal/Legal Assistant’s Role
You’re in college when your stepmother asks you to hold some money for the family in your new bank account.  Two years later, you’re starting your first job as a consultant with a security clearance when FBI agents knock at your door asking about money laundering and bribery charges…

Energy Development in Indian Country
American Indian tribes have the potential to play an increasingly important role in the nation’s energy supply.  Large reserves of traditional energy resources such as oil, natural gas, and coal exist on Indian lands.  Further, tribal lands encompass large tracts of land in prime wind and solar areas, as well as other renewable resources.  Developing these energy resources could generate revenues for the tribes and tribal members and create jobs both on and off the reservations while providing energy needed for the national economy…

Conducting Foreign Discovery for Civil Litigation
You are about to leave your desk for lunch and the phone rings. It is your boss calling from court. The judge just made a favorable ruling that expands the case, but that means your firm needs to get testimony and documents from witnesses in Kansas, Utah, Brazil, Denmark, and Indonesia. Your boss wants to tell the judge after the lunch break whether your firm can get the discovery done in all those places and how long it will take. Your boss says to call him back in 45 minutes with the…

The Rise of “Good Samaritan” Statutes
THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN
Upon being asked the question “who is my neighbor?” from an “expert in the law,” Jesus responds with a story of a severely injured man who had been robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road. As the man lies there, passersby, including a priest, went out of their way to avoid helping him. The man received no help until a Samaritan, upon feeling compassion for the man, tended to him. The Samaritan placed the man on his own donkey, took him to an…

The Magical Mystery Tour
Privacy/data security is one of the most critical legal, compliance and public relations issues facing companies today. All businesses now have obligations to implement data security measures to protect the personal information (“PI”) the business maintains and to disclose breaches of data security when required by law. In addition, public concern continues to grow over how much PI is collected, transported, and used—making responsible privacy/data security practices and policies a…

The Deemed Export Rule
In today’s uncertain economic times, businesses are grappling with an abundance of issues that could potentially “break” the company. On top of the many day-to-day financial concerns businesses face, government regulators impose a host of requirements that tend to drive up expenses with a negative impact to a company’s bottom line. Depending on the industry, compliance with U.S. Government regulations – everything from employment and safety to environmental, accounting and trade controls – can…

The Paralegal’s Guide to Vaccine Litigation
Think of this as a roadmap you don’t have to re-fold. You, as a paralegal, are entrusted with navigating the road of vaccine litigation efficiently and skillfully, encountering as few roadblocks and pit stops as possible, in order to bring your attorney to the ultimate destination; resolution.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Act of 1986 was enacted in an effort to streamline the resolution of vaccine injury claims and as an alternative to the traditional courts, while compensating those…

Changes to HIPAA Could Impact Legal Professionals
On February 17, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“ARRA”), a law that is poised to revolutionize parts of the healthcare industry.  Title XIII of ARRA, called the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (“HITECH”), significantly modifies the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”), making it the most comprehensive federal information security and privacy law…

Once Upon a Termination
In this economy, even employees in an otherwise stable workforce are finding themselves suddenly unemployed and facing issues they had previously only heard about in stories.  When you have lost, or are about to lose, your job, there are so many unanswered questions, the answers to many of which are governed by varying state laws.  “Why?” is typically the first inquiry of the terminated employee. While most states do not require an employer to provide any explanation for a termination, there is no state that prohibits an employee from asking.  A former employee can ask…

Personalities in the Office
Have you ever heard anyone say, “There’s one of every kind in that group!”  Sometimes that statement is made in reference to a family, sometimes to a committee or association, and sometimes to political groups.  However, it is very applicable to an office.

Regardless of what size the group is within a law firm, legal department, or other organization, there is diversity in personalities.  At times the personality differences seem to arise from family backgrounds…

Why Information Security Matters to the Legal Professional
The purpose of information security is to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information.  This is especially important for those who possess, transfer, store, license, or otherwise use sensitive information belonging to, or relating to, others.  Lawyers and law firms are entrusted with some of people’s most sensitive and confidential information, whether it is clients’ or other parties’…

Delays in Construction Projects Present Huge Risks for All
“Construction Law,” for the most part, is merely an extension of contract law.  But the characteristics of construction projects have led to the creation of many legal principles that don’t often come up in other industries.  These characteristics are…

Internet Crimes
As an attorney who specializes in intellectual property transactions, I’ve seen the Internet develop from something few people had heard of to something that affects almost every aspect of our daily lives.  Unfortunately, anything as prevalent and widely used as the Internet is going to attract the attention of criminals.  The Internet is certainly no exception.  This article is designed to give you a basic overview of Internet crimes and suggest some common-sense tools that you can employ, hopefully to avoid becoming a…

Making the Most of Multiple Generations in the Workplace
Although we know there are at least four generations in most workplaces, for our discussion she separated them into two: the Traditionalists and Baby Boomers in the over 42 age group, and the Gen Xers and Millenials in the under 42 age group.

The first thing I asked her about was “Reverse Mentoring.” Have you seen the commercial where the kids are putting their parents in the cab, explaining to them all the features of their cell phones and what they need to do in case something happens during the day? (It brings a smile to my face when I see it.) So what about when they get to the office? How many Boomers and Traditionalists are smiling when the “children” at the office explain…

From One Battleground to Another
For the past several years, U.S. service members have learned to cope with significant hardships as a result of multiple – and often extended – deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.  As is often the case with war, these challenges come in many forms.  Some are the result of physical wounds, while others can be psychological.  Then there are the emotional hardships caused by lengthy separations from one’s family and friends.  And, of course, there are the financial hardships faced by many U.S. service members, who generally are paid far below their civilian counterparts.  Unfortunately for today’s service members…