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The official blog of the NALS docket, used as a timely resource for sharing content from our email newsletter. This includes Grammar Nuggets, Career Corner, NALS news, NALS Foundation, chapter and members spotlights, and more!


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Ask Eula Mae: Where Do I Begin? Some Basics of Becoming a Legal Secretary

Posted By NALS Editorial + Marketing Board, Thursday, March 22, 2018

Dear Eula Mae:


I’ve worked as a temp for a long time as a data entry person, receptionist, and typist for various legal offices.  Recently I had the opportunity to fill in for a few weeks at a law office as a legal secretary and as it turns out the person I was covering for won’t be back. The office has just hired me as a legal secretary and I’m so excited!  I want to do a good job and feel like there is so much to learn to succeed in this position. Can you give me some advice on where to start to build a career in a law office?



So New in New York



Dear So New:


It sounds like you have a natural ability to become a great legal secretary and the fact that you care will guarantee you a wonderful career in this interesting profession.  The first thing you need to know is what is expected of you in the office where you work. That means you need to have a conversation with your immediate supervisor and the office manager and/or human resources person.   


The next step is to read the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct because your attitude and behavior reflects your boss and the office.  Your attorney boss is responsible for your conduct and strictest confidentiality must be kept in your work. 


It is a good idea to have access to the Rules of Civil Procedure and your local rules, found on your county and state courthouse websites, One crucial skill to focus on in proofreading. You have to be exact on dates, grammar and punctuation within the various court guidelines.  For a quick reference, see http://proofthatblog.com/ by Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP. As part of proofreading, you will also need to know the proper way to type citations.  For this, refer to The Bluebook.  This is a book that you need to have at your desk, along with Black’s Law Dictionary, and the current edition of the Gregg Reference Manual.


One of the greatest resources is to get involved in your professional organization, NALS…The Association for Legal Professionals.  Your local chapter will help you establish connections with other legal professionals and provide educational classes too. The NALS website gives you access to publications, upcoming classes, reference materials, and great networking opportunities.  You can arrange for a mentor to guide you in your work and your career.


Examples of other resources include The Paralegal Mentor, Vicki Voison’s website and electronic newsletter. She offers a free e-book titled 151 Tips for Your Career Success (an excellent place to start); Paralegal Today Magazine, which should be later on your list, and remember to check to see if your local college has a paralegal studies program. 


From time to time, NALS offers wonderful training events, The Basic and The Advanced Legal Training Programs, which you should take in order. These programs will teach you about the law and your role as a legal assistant as well as prepare you to test for certification through NALS, an American Bar Association approved paralegal program.


All the best to you in your new chosen profession. You will love it. Every day there is so much to learn.

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For Want Of A Comma–The Oxford Comma Update

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Thursday, March 22, 2018

Nearly a year ago, I wrote an article about a case, the crux of which was the lack of an oxford comma. Here is the section of that article quoting the language missing the Oxford comma:

Here is the law’s wording about activities NOT meriting overtime pay:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:
(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.


Based on this language, is packing for shipment its own activity or is it packing for the distribution of the three things on the list? If an Oxford comma had separated “packing for shipment” and “or,” the meaning would have been much more clear. According to court documents, the drivers arguing for overtime actually distribute perishable food, but they do not pack it. That argument helped win the case.

The Oakhurst Dairy drivers who brought the case had asked for $10 million. Court documents filed last week indicate the case was settled for $5 million. All for the want of a comma . . .


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NALS Member Spotlight: Charniece Rollie

Posted By Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS, Thursday, March 22, 2018

NALS of Missouri - Charniece Rollie - Legal Professional SpotlightCharniece Rollie started her legal career 25 years ago and joined NALS a few years later.  She began as a legal assistant with experience in pro bono, employment law, and civil litigation. She now is Executive Assistant at Baker, Sterchi, Cowden, & Rice LLC, where she has worked for the past four years. She enjoys coordinating and planning staff events for the staff, and attorneys in the firm.


Charniece was first featured in the NALS docket eNewsletter in 2013. A lot has happened in five years. Legal careers can take many turns and experiences with NALS can grow too. Charniece has served in various capacities on the local, state, and national NALS chapters. On the local and state level, she has served as President, Vice President, and Secretary. She was the Membership Director for her home chapter, HALPA, the Heart of America Legal Professionals Association and Editor of The Briefcase newsletter for her state chapter, NALS of Missouri. Her favorite local and state event is the annual meeting when the newly elected officers are installed.


She joined NALS because she was interested in the organization and because of old and new friends. She said then she wanted to gain more knowledge about what NALS had to offer and now to continue to take advantage of the educational conferences.  “It is a great tool for furthering your career. NALS helps me to stay in contact with people.  If I have a question about anything, there is a connection, there are resources that I can use to either get my questions answered or just to have a friendly conversation.” 


She stays connected with NALS members from her local and state chapters too and feels that this is the most important part of sharing and growing the organization.  Charniece recommends finding out what made the member join and work as a team in the chapter to customize the offerings and communications. “All our members are valuable and have special talents to bring to NALS.”


Charniece is a natural leader with a positive outlook.  Her personal goal with NALS is “to be able to work with an awesome group of people and also to grow as a leader. “  All of this happened when she became a member of a NALS National Committee, where she served on the Webinar Committee and now is on the Leadership Identification Committee.  Charniece feels this is one of her greatest accomplishment at NALS.


Charniece says everyone at NALS is her role model because they are there for the same reason that she is and this is very motivational.  At the national NALS conferences, she enjoys the welcome reception where she gets to see old and new friends and participate in the NALS Foundation Raffles. 


As if a legal career doesn’t keep Charniece busy enough, she has two children, Jasmine 31, and Jereme 26, and two grandchildren, Mario, 4 and Nichyi, 7.  Any spare time she has is spent reading, shopping, planting flowers, hanging out with family, and going to the movies.  Her favorite book is the Holy Bible “which builds your character, you find out the plan that God has for your life and teaches you how you should conduct yourself in your everyday life.” Charniece also volunteers frequently at “Harvesters”, the Community Food Network, and is a “Lead to Read” Volunteer at Garfield Elementary School in the Kansas City, Missouri School District.


In 2013, she said “Leadership is service. Service is leadership. Do what you can wherever you can.” This motto is still serving her well at work, at NALS, with her family, in church and in the community. This statement truly describes Charniece and her connection to all people.

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I AM EULA MAE: Individualism

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Monday, February 19, 2018
Updated: Thursday, February 22, 2018

The next piece of this series on the Spirit of Eula Mae (stolen from the Disneyland Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln display) is Individualism.  The definition of individualism is “a view that stresses the importance and worth of each person.” 


I imagine that in Eula Mae’s time, being a working woman was much tougher than it is now. She had hurdles we can’t even fathom. According to an American History USA article1:


. . . [W]ith the rise of the corporate office, a number of other types of jobs opened up. Typists, filing clerks, stenographers, and even some secretarial roles all became possibilities for the ambitious young woman. In an era with absolutely nothing in the way of mass data storage, entire floors of office buildings were filled with the sound of typewriters and filing drawers.


In most offices, desks were lined across a central room in rows, with no cubicle walls and often not even a window. Tasks consisted of things like listening to dictations and typing their contents, of creating and updating ledgers, or of creating bills and sending out requests for payment.


I imagine it is hard in a sea of typists to let your individualism shine, but I have a feeling Eula Mae did that. She took the advice of a court clerk and used that to make herself and her peers better legal professionals.


It is possible to be an individual in a sea of other office workers. Only you can decide that you will be the best you can be. Only you can use your time to learn more about your career. Only you can do whatever you can to make youself better at your career of choice. Only you can use your money, your time, your energy, and your desire to be what some might call the cream of the crop of legal professionals.


You spend so much of your lifetime working that you should spend it doing something you love. If you spend your energy being good at it, it should pay off for you.


NALS helps its members develop their own individualism through CLE, networking, and certification. Having the knowledge and resources to answer questions and solve problems for your firm and your co-workers with information you’ve learned at a NALS conference, meeting, webinar, or printed article help make you part of the “cream of the crop.” Being able to get the name of a process server, get a judge’s specific likes and dislikes for an out-of-state court, or setting up a conference room with people that you’ve met through your NALS membership shows that you are working at this like it is your career.


Studying and sitting for a certification exam is a true show of individualism. The percentage of legal support professionals who are certified is small, so if you are certified, you definitely stand out from the crowd and are showing your “importance and worth.” Will being certified guarantee that you will see an increase in pay? No. But I can tell you that when you obtain certification, it shows your employer or potential employer that this is your career and that you are proving that your interest in learning as much as you can about it. It proves to your co-workers that you are learning as much as you can and can help them learn it too. It proves to you that you are worth it and that you are making a huge difference in your own life. It shows your individualism in improving your knowledge, your network of like-minded peers, and your position in your field among a sea of average legal support professionals.


How do you show your individualism to prove that #IAmEulaMae?

  1.  https://www.americanhistoryusa.com/working-voting-women-1920s/

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How To Present a Problem to the Boss

Posted By NALS Editorial + Marketing Board, Monday, February 19, 2018

Dear Eula Mae:


I’m a legal assistant who works for two attorneys in a small office that has a receptionist, paralegal and office manager.  I’ve only been here for six months, but as time goes on, there are more surprises that crop up nearly daily.   I’m not so sure how to deal with these problems and not very comfortable with interrupting the attorneys to ask about solutions because I don’t want to waste their time. Although it is a small office, it is a busy one.  Do you have any advice?


--Hesitant in New Hampshire

Dear Hesitant in New Hampshire:


This is a very important question.  You know bosses don’t really like problems, but they are asked to solve them every day.   The issue of presenting problems is really about planning and management.  There are different types of problems and each requires different solutions.  Problems could be urgent, priority, or your work problems.  An urgent problem must be dealt with immediately and, typically, this would need to be solved by the attorney boss. A priority problem is important but can be dealt with later.  Your problems on the job are also important, but you will need to do the thinking toward a solution first, then present to your boss if needed.  First, we will think this out and then prepare for a conversation with the boss.


To begin preparing for how to present problems to the boss, think about situations that you have had on your job or that could possibly happen. What do you consider urgent and immediate?  What are some examples of problems that are important but could be solved later?  Do you have ideas about problems on your job that affect your performance?  Write these down in the three categories and prepare to have a conversation with your boss on how the boss would like to handle these issues and consider these questions:  What if they are on their way to work, or in court, or going to the airport? What if they are in a meeting at the office? Is there someone else in the office that could manage the problem until the boss is available?


Now, how to manage your problems, issues, or concerns?  One wise boss said, “Don’t just bring me problems, bring  me solutions.”  When you have an issue, think about three solutions to it.  This takes a lot of thought, maybe some research, maybe visiting with the office manager or other legal support people who might have had the same problem.  Remember, this cannot be specific to any client, just a problem in general.  When the boss is receptive and has the time, present the problem and solutions.  The boss will give you a wise choice of a solution and you will both have peace of mind toward a successful outcome.


Having this conversation with your boss could save you both a lot of grief later.  Start by considering a time most convenient for your boss to talk about this and when they might be most receptive.  Do you need to schedule a meeting with them or do they have a more open-door policy?  Be thoroughly prepared for this meeting and you both will have a greater understanding of working together.

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