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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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THAT’S LIFE!

Posted By Wendy Carpenter, PP, PLS, Tuesday, December 6, 2016

On November 17, 2016, I was driving my car to the post office at the end of a work day with my driver’s side window down.  I was stopped at a red light.  There was a school bus in front of me.

 

All of a sudden something hit my left collar bone and bounced from there to somewhere in my car.  I did not see what it was; I only knew that it felt cold.  I thought “someone just threw something at me!  How rude!”  I felt my collar bone and it was dry.  I looked around my car (until the light turned green) and I could not see anything.  I just kept thinking “someone threw something at me!” 

 

I could not remember a car or truck passing me going the other way; I could not figure out how something from the school bus in front of me could end up in my car hitting my collar bone unless a kid in there had a terrific “right hook” when throwing something!  How rude!!

 

I woke up the next morning still thinking about it.  Driving to work I looked around at the floor boards of my car (when it was safe to do so) and still did not see anything.  I put my sun visor down because the sun was in my eyes and that is when I noticed something shiny near the visor and next to it there was a dark space.

 

It turns out MY OWN CAR threw a screw at me!  The “thing” that holds the visor to the roof of my car was missing a screw!  How funny is that?!  My own car!  When I got to work I looked closely at the driver side and passenger side floors and sure enough, on the passenger floor, there was the shiny screw that my car threw at me!!  Ha!  I am thankful that it did not bounce out the window!  Life certainly throws you off balance sometimes—or maybe life throws you a shiny screw once in a while to keep you on your toes and to keep a sense of humor!!

 


 

Wendy Carpenter, PP, PLS, worked at various law firms in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for many years before relocating with her son to Tucson, Arizona.  Wendy is currently the president of NALS of Tucson & So. AZ.  She has served as president twice, vice president (membership chair), secretary, employment chair, as well as in other roles.  She is a member of the Pima County Bar Association and she is the liaison for her local chapter and the Pima County Bar Association.  

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Paralegals in Prison: Careers in Corrections

Posted By Charlene Sabini, CLP, ALP, Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Paralegals in Prison: Careers in CorrectionsPerhaps an overlooked area of employment opportunity for legal assistants and paralegals is the area of corrections. Our prison and jail systems are a hidden market and one not at first considered by legal assistants as an opportunity to serve, but it is serving one’s community in a unique capacity. One can operate in an administrative support position or can function as a paralegal advocate for inmates and their families, looking out for their interests.   

Working in a corrections facility may offer duties that differ little from other legal office or general office situations. The setting is the difference and it is unique, but interesting, and a large part of our law enforcement system nationwide. A legal office assistant in a prison or jail might be called upon to prepare reports, correspondence, special studies, or research; make appropriate computer entries, update, or retrieve information; research, compile, and analyze data for projects; collect and assemble data for a variety of narrative or statistical reports; assist the public by answering questions; order office and operating supplies; keep inventory of supplies; or even assist in the training of new employees. But let’s look at some specialty specifics:

An experienced Correctional Administrative Assistant at a state-level institution, for example, may be responsible for collecting, maintaining, and processing fingerprint cards; classifying the cards; and maintaining general quality control. He or she might also review information for accuracy, make corrections on criminal records, notify the Department of Justice when errors do occur, and even provide training in fingerprint procedures to correctional staff. Other significant duties in this kind of position might be the collection of various types of DNA samples from donors, responding to outside agencies for records, maintaining files on released inmates, and assembling data for statistical reports—among many other things. A person in this position might even act as the Custodian of Records and may be required to testify in court regarding Custodian of Records.1

A full Litigation Assistant at a state corrections facility may involve aiding attorneys with screening and responding to prisoner correspondence, interviewing prisoner-clients, and preparing for prison monitoring visits. A certain amount of prisoner advocacy, under attorney supervision, might be part of this type of position. This is a position requiring analytical and organizational skills, the typical attention to detail, and possibly a driver’s license in order to travel from facility to facility. Some positions of this type may require or suggest bilingual skills. This type of employment may require some prior experience, but often less than five years’ worth, depending upon which state is offering the position.2

A Unit Secretary in the federal prison system could be expected to do some of the following: maintain subject matter files and records, ensure that files include all required documents and that all documents are properly signed, use word processing technology, maintain Bureau of Prisons Program Statements, operations memoranda, administrative and regulatory requirements, including correspondence files. He or she may also be responsible for a variety of administrative support duties, such as taking and transcribing meeting minutes, photocopying, and filing and disposal of sensitive documents.3 This type of position may require a full college education or a significant period of study at an accredited business college or technical school.

Our justice system is one that functions on checks and balances. Advocates for the prosecution are matched by advocates for the accused. Interviewed in Paralegal Today, North Carolina prison advocate Sharon Robertson says she takes pride in her role, keeping the balance from swinging too far against prisoners’ rights. “Without someone to look out for prisoners’ interests, she says, the system can become brutal and unjust.” Robertson says that part of the job she loves is the ability to explain the law and the prison system to inmates and comfort them if needed.4

Because of potential dangers and other factors, inmate assistance is not at the top of most paralegals’ employment wish lists. “A lot of people don’t want to do this job,” said Daryl Johnson, Legal Access Monitor at the Arizona Department of Corrections, noting that the Arizona program only employs three contract paralegals for 30,000 inmates. “It takes a real special person to do this job,” Johnson said. “There’s always the potential for some kind of risk, but you’re able to help people who can’t afford to have an attorney. I think it’s a very rewarding position because it’s a challenge.”5

Mr. Johnson adds further, “. . . we provide an alternative program like paralegal assistance.” And so following the landmark Supreme Court decision in Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996), which originated in Arizona, the state decided that paralegal assistance to inmates was indeed permissible and became the first to use paralegals and legal assistants for inmate assistance. Many of the paralegals who provide assistance to inmates there help with filling out forms and guidance with legal research, but do not dispense legal advice. “They provide active assistance in the initial hearing stage, making sure that complaints get to the proper court and that forms are properly filled out,” Johnson says.6 This is a program that is already over nine years old.

Tabitha Sedillo, Contract Paralegal for the Arizona Department of Corrections, says “I make sure that inmates are familiar with the rules that apply to their situation and point them in the right direction at the library.” Much of their paralegals’ work deals with convictions or inmates’ accommodations and treatment in prison. Ms. Sedillo, a five-year veteran of her department, has previous experience in criminal law and so handles mainly criminal matters. “You’re dealing mostly with inmates that have been convicted of felonies,” she says. She adds that it is not like working in a conventional law office or any other office, “but the most rewarding part of the job is getting that long-awaited thank you from an individual I helped.”7

Given Arizona’s success with paralegal and legal assistance programs, a few other states have followed, notably New Mexico and North Carolina. Other states are showing serious interest in similar measures and online research can help you find work at these locations. One thing is certain about this type of work: non-attorney legal staff who assist inmates in particular can be sure their work is valuable and needed by many who just cannot get help via other means. You might just be someone who also finds satisfaction in this area of legal support work. 


Charlene Sabini, CLP, ALP, is legal assistant for attorney David Vill in juvenile law matters in Eugene, Oregon. She is Director of Education for her local chapter, NALS of Lane County in Eugene, and has enthusiastically occupied that position for over four years. She is editor of her chapter’s bimonthly newsletter, NALS in Motion, which has been published unfailingly for nearly four years. She has earned three successive NALS CLE Awards and plans to sit for the PP exam in March 2017. She is a proofreader on the NALS Editorial Board and has contributed articles/essays for the NALS docket and @Law. Charlene is an affiliate member of the Lane County Bar Association and was responsible for initiating that level of membership with the bar for nonlawyers in 2014. She also petitioned the Oregon State Bar Association to allow guest speaking attorneys at nonlawyer education meetings to receive CLE credit (which was formerly not allowed in Oregon) and was successful. She is also a 13-year volunteer with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office in Eugene, has served as the county sheriff’s newsletter editor, and is currently serving as the county jail librarian. The Oregon State Sheriff’s Association/Jail Command Council awarded Ms. Sabini the Jail Volunteer of the Year award in 2009.



  1. http://prisonlaw.com/about-us/job-opportunities/
  2. Ibid.
  3. https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/447562900/
  4. http://work.chron.com/reasons-prison-advocate-paralegal-30751.html, by Fraser Sherman, studioD
  5. http://www.lawcrossing.com/article/972/Behind-Bars-Paralegals-Provide-Valuable-Legal-Assistance-to-Inmates, by Ursula Furi-Perry
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.

 

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A Message from Saundra 'Soni' Bates, Membership Services Manager

Posted By Soni Bates, Membership Services Manager, Friday, November 18, 2016

Soni Bates - Happy Retirement!To Tammy, all of my coworkers, and NALS members,

 

After many weeks of thinking about it, I have finally decided to retire from NALS effective December 30, 2016. This was not an easy decision, but my husband and I felt that now was the right time for me to move on to the next stage of my life and take the time to enjoy my family.

 

These last 17 years have been a wonderful experience for me and I cannot thank you enough for your friendship and support.  I have enjoyed travelling to the NALS conferences from Hawaii to Buffalo, New York, and grateful for the opportunity to have a rewarding and fulfilling career. 

 

With mixed emotions, I wish all of you farewell and Godspeed.  I have made many friends here at NALS and I am hoping to remain in contact with all of you.  If you would like to contact me, send me a message on Facebook.  Your messages and conversation will always be welcome.

 

- Soni Bates, Membership Services Manager

 

Tags:  All the best! You are a true picture of what NALS 

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Grammar Nuggets: Who Is That To Which You Refer?

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Friday, November 18, 2016

Grammar Nuggets: To Which You ReferWho and that are used when referring to people. Who is for a person or the individuality of a group and that is used when you are talking about a class or type.

 

Which and that refer to places, objects, and animals. Which introduces nonessential clauses which could be removed from the sentence and not change its basic meaning, and that introduces essential clauses.

 

Keith’s car, which is a red sports car, was stolen last week.

Keith’s car that was stolen is a red sports car.

 

For my animal loving friends, you will be happy to note who is now often used when a pet is identified by gender or by name.

 

It is also now appropriate to use either which or that to introduce an essential clause. Which is preferred when (1) there are two or more parallel essential clauses in the same sentence, (2) that has already been used in the sentence, or (3) the essential clause is introduced by this . . . which, that . . . which, these . . . which, or those . . . which.

 

Mary is working in a law office which is what her education has prepared her for and which was her dream job all through high school.

 

That is a restaurant which you must try.

 

If you would like a little extra reinforcement, take this quick quiz:

 

QUIZ:

 

1.     Our team, (who, that, which) has authority to set its own work schedules, tries to rotate the hardest jobs.

2.     Amazon.com is known as an organization (who, that, which) emphasizes innovation and customer service.

3.     Jeffrey has a dog (who, that, which) likes to eat cold pizza.

4.     Any person (who, that, which) buys a lottery ticket has a chance of winning.

5.     Managers are looking for people (who, that, which) have good vocabularies, grammar, and manners.

 


Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, has been a member of NALS for over 30 years, is the current President of NALS of Phoenix, and is the Vice Chair of the NALS Editorial Board. Kathy is currently the Administrator-Arizona for Sacks, Ricketts & Case in Phoenix, Arizona. Kathy earned her Associate of Applied Science degree in Legal Assisting (with distinction) from Phoenix College. In her spare time, when she is not spending time with her husband, two kids, and seven grandchildren or celebrating something with friends, Kathy writes a blog on proofreading tips at http://proofthatblog.com.


 

ANSWERS:

 

1.     which – introducing a non-essential clause “which has authority to set its own work schedules,which, if removed, does not change the meaning of the sentence

2.     that – introducing an essential clause “emphasizes innovation and customer service” is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

3.     that – referring to an animal not introduced by name or gender and introducing an essential clause

4.     who – referring to a person

5.     who – referring to a person

 

 

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NALS Member Spotlight: Barry Pickreign, ALP, B.S. Candidate

Posted By Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS, Friday, November 18, 2016

Barry Pickreign - Member SpotlightBarry Pickreign, ALP, B.S. candidate, is the Appeals Clerk for the Harrison County Circuit Court in Mississippi, but you might recognize him as the Chair of the WebEd Committee for NALS.  His purpose in joining NALS was to educate himself further and “to become a better legal professional and help make a difference in the legal support professional community.  NALS provides many tools to help make this happen with various leadership opportunities.”

 

Barry says that the highlight of his leadership service to NALS is by “continuing to serve as Chair of the WebEd Committee” where he has served for the past five years—two years as a member and three as chair.  “This committee is very near and dear to my heart, as I love learning.  The WebEd Committee allows me to help find educational opportunities for our members so they can enhance their careers and themselves.”

 

This is supported by what Theresa Marchese, PLS, Chair of the NALS Editorial Board, says about him:  “The Editorial Board and WebEd Task Force work together to educate our members.  I am always so impressed with Barry’s enthusiasm and his commitment to education.  He said, his ‘brain never shuts off,’ which means that his great ideas are constant.  I think he has done a great job!”

 

After joining NALS in 2011, Barry hit the ground running as a dedicated member.  He says, “My membership in NALS has taught me many things.  One of the most important things is how to be an effective leader and team player, which has helped in various tasks I have been given in my career.”  Leadership and team member opportunities have presented themselves in the local and state chapters.  Barry has been very active as a member of the Gulf Coast Association of Legal Professionals (GCALSP) of Gulfport, Mississippi, serving as Treasurer, Vice President, and President.  He is the current winner of the GCALSP Award of Excellence and has won Member of the Year twice.  Barry is also active in his state chapter, Mississippi Legal Professionals Association, and served as Treasurer, Executive Secretary, Vice President, and President-elect.  In both local and state chapters, Barry has been chair on various committees throughout the years.

 

Barry has been in the legal field for eight years and for the past five years has worked as an Appeals Clerk with Connie Ladner, the Circuit Clerk of Harrison County.  He also helped to implement the e-Filing system in Harrison County.  This is the only county in the state of Mississippi that has an appeals department and produces more than 50% of the appeals that the state Supreme Court reviews.

 

Even though Barry has an associate of science degree in paralegal studies from Virginia College, he pursued his legal education further and will graduate in December with a bachelor of science degree in justice studies with a concentration in law and legal process and a minor in psychology.  Barry achieved his NALS Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) certification and is now working to obtain his Certified Legal Professional (CLP) certification.  His personal goal is to follow this with the NALS Professional Paralegal (PP) certification.  Right now Barry’s life is full with schoolwork and NALS work and, to relax, he uses his creative abilities with cross-stitching and other relaxing activities.

 

Considering Barry’s achievements in NALS, his education, and his personal goals, it is clear that he is the kind of leader who models by example and encourages everyone to work to achieve their dreams.  “There is no goal or dream that is not obtainable if you really want it.”

 


 

Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS, is the Business Administrator for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Office of Educational Development. She has over 15 years’ experience in pre- and post-award research grants administration and in serving as the Senior Grants Administrator for the UAMS Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. She also served as an IRB Administrator in the Institutional Review Board office for the protection of human subjects in research. Her current legal experience involves federal and state grants and contracts, employment law, and federal research grants administration. Allison is thrilled to be a member of the NALS Editorial Board and enjoys reading all the articles and writing.

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