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Making a Difference 101

Posted By Charlene Sabini, PLS, ALP, Monday, October 3, 2016
Updated: Monday, September 26, 2016

Making a DifferenceWe frequently see, read, or otherwise hear about people who have single-handedly “made a difference” in their communities, their counties, their states, or even at the federal level. Motivated by some compassionate force, a sense of fairness, or even personal desperation, they took it upon themselves to lobby for changes in laws, rules, regulations, or some similarly bold project at the legal or legislative level. Some have altered laws concerning their environment; some have altered laws protecting children, women, or the elderly; some have created new laws establishing fairness or expansion that benefit large groups of people. We might wonder how they did it and whether we, ourselves, are remotely capable of such large-scale projects—and do we have the patience and fortitude to see them to completion, accomplishing what we intended. The inspiration to do this seems to come from the wellspring of the human spirit and a sense of utter dedication to make changes that seem to solve problems or fill a need for the good of the many.

 

Having recently been influenced by two inspirations relating to my legal community, both local and statewide, I embarked on the following dedicated quests.

 

Two years ago I spearheaded a personal campaign to persuade our local Oregon Lane County Bar Association (“LCBA”) to create an “Affiliated Member” status of membership for nonlawyer legal support professionals.  This would allow membership in the LCBA, the ability to receive credit for CLE meetings they present, and admittance to other LCBA events, social or otherwise. The main purposes for the campaign were to expand ways of attaining CLE credit, because NALS requires us (not unlike attorneys) to maintain a certain level of CLE over a certain number of years for those of us holding certifications; and, where possible, to broaden our abilities to network with attorneys on their turf and be recognized as important—and visible—parts of the legal community.

 

I contacted the then president of the LCBA with the concept and she immediately favored the idea, and it went directly to discussion by their board of directors. The board then assigned the monitoring to one of their attorneys and board members, who dutifully interfaced with me for a couple of months while the concept was in committee sorting out bylaws changes and constructing new forms. 

 

On October 10, 2014, I received an email from then current Lane County Bar Association President Judge Mustafa Kasubhai confirming that an Affiliate Membership had been created for us, and we nonattorneys could now receive credit for seminars attended and would be able to attend other miscellaneous LCBA events and meetings as would any other member of the LCBA. 

 

So, after a little diplomacy, much enthusiasm, and a dollop of patience, NALS members and other legal support personnel in Lane County, Oregon, are now free to join the Lane County Bar Association—and reap the benefits—for a modest annual membership fee. I was thrilled at the success of the project and pleased to see that the Lane County Bar Association welcomed us so warmly.  It is a milestone, yes, but surely a win-win for all concerned as well.

 

My question is, have any of you looked into this matter (assuming you do not currently have a local Affiliate or Associate Membership available to you)?  If you do not, would you be willing to suggest it to your local bar association and make your case persuasively?  It is something to think about.

 

My next grassroots effort was far more daunting and bore far greater, wider-ranging ramifications. It involved attempting to convince the Oregon State Bar’s Minimum Continuing Legal Education Committee (“MCLE”) to alter their rules to allow our NALS education meeting speakers to earn one CLE credit for teaching our hour-long NALS monthly education classes. The MCLE assists and advises the Board of Governors on issues relating to the MCLE Rules and Regulations and operation of the MCLE program. The MCLE Committee consists of six active Oregon State Bar members and one public member appointed by the Board of Governors. Members serve three-year terms. The MCLE Committee reviews decisions of the MCLE Administrator that are challenged by members or sponsors. It also recommends changes to the MCLE Rules, Regulations, and operating procedures to ensure that the program is efficient and effective.

 

My CLE credit concept was a project that actually began much earlier in time, when one of our guest speakers assisted me and wrote a letter to the MCLE Committee on our behalf in support of the CLE credit concept. There was essentially no substantive resolution to the inquiry. End of discussion—for the moment. I did not feel defeated, however. Moreover, our guest speakers sometimes asked if they could receive credit for teaching our NALS education classes, and I very much wanted to someday tell them YES.

 

As you can guess, this task was a bit more complex and challenging a project than chatting with my local bar association principals and discovering that they are fully supportive of us as Affiliate Members. This MCLE project was a rather rarified state-level bit of business with highly qualified perfect strangers, with several levels of approval needed, and requiring a clever, dignified approach on my part. I composed a serious written proposal, a hopefully persuasive writing, explaining why the concept was valid and why it would benefit both our meetings’ attendees and our guest speakers alike. I cited some examples of current Rules where the benefit could conceivably be inserted or where some creativity could be applied to allow the benefit. In the course of my research, I discovered that many states’ bar associations did NOT allow teaching credit when nonlawyers were the recipients of the teaching. I found this a bit astounding, but that made the effort all the more important and passionate. Oregon has been a vanguard for many other state-level issues (its environmental stance being no exception, as well as its residents’ commitment to volunteerism), so why not on the legal stage. For some reason, Idaho has long offered teaching credit to its attorneys who instruct nonlawyers:


An attorney who teaches an accredited course shall receive three (3) credit hours for each hour of teaching. No credit will be given for preparation time; time spent in introductory remarks, coffee and food breaks, business meetings, or other activities that do not involve educational aspects of the CLE activity; presentations by attorneys that include the promotion of goods or services; or CLE activities for which the attorney is directly compensated other than as an honorarium or for expenses. An attorney who teaches an activity that meets the accreditation standards under Rule 403(a) that is directed primarily to nonlawyers shall receive only one (1) credit hour for each hour of teaching.


This sets a fine example and a decent precedent for the Pacific Northwest. I urge Washington State NALS chapters to approach their state bar association and lock up the Pacific Northwest as a progressive and dynamic region when it comes to the value of pro bono teaching to nonlawyers.

 

The growth of the legal assistant/paralegal profession is now, in some firms, greater than merely a secretarial slot. We are no longer simply assistants to a profession—we are a profession unto ourselves. The gradual expansion of the position has not only influenced NALS to evolve over the years, but has inherently changed the legal support professional’s relationship to his/her attorneys and his/her local and state bar associations. Change is healthy. Laws change all the time. Allowing a closer relationship between support professional and the persons they answer to—beyond the office—is the direction the industry is taking. I was counting on this to support my petition to the Oregon State Bar.

 

On April 19, 2016, after the long wait, and the necessary deliberation of the powers that be, the MCLE Program Manager forwarded me some of the areas of the Rules which had been altered. The following is the pertinent Regulation that applies to the credit available to those persons teaching nonlawyers.

 

Regulation 5.300 Category III Activities.

(b) Other Volunteer Activities. . . . volunteer activities for which accreditation is not available pursuant to Rules 5.3, 5.4, 5.6, 5.7, 5.8, 5.9, or 5.10 . . . may be claimed at a ratio of one credit hour for each two hours of uncompensated volunteer activities provided that the MCLE Program Manager determines the primary purpose of such activity is the provision of legal services or legal expertise. Such activities include but are not limited to:

               (iii)  Teaching a legal education activity offered primarily to nonlawyers high school age and older.

 

We could start a movement nationwide. If your state bar association’s rules do NOT happen to allow your education meeting speakers to receive CLE credit for teaching nonlawyers, it is time the topic of that credit was persuasively presented to them. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Imagine the incentive you can offer your professional speakers that was not there previously if your persuasiveness is taken seriously. Locate someone in your chapter who likes to write and let them be your vanguard with this concept. It is so very simple. If I can do it, anyone can.  

 


 

 

Charlene Sabini, PLS, 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 September 2016. 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.

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Grammar Nuggets: Answers to NALS Webinar Questions

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Monday, October 3, 2016
Updated: Monday, September 26, 2016

On April 26, I did a NALS Webinar entitled “Proof That! Improving Your Proofreading Skills One Typo At A Time." Due to some technical difficulties, I was busy running the webinar all by myself and could not answer some of the questions attendees were asking. While I have been negligent in answering those questions, I want to answer them here.

 

1. Are the terms “per se” and “duces tecum” italicized?

 

Foreign phrases that have been so integrated into English as to be established as part of the English language are no longer italicized. Finding a comprehensive list of such phrases is difficult. According to Gregg Reference Manual, ¶ 288, “per se” is specifically listed as a frequently used expression that does not need to be italicized. The California Style Manual lists phrases that should no longer be italicized and another list of those phrases that should be italicized (http://www.sdap.org/downloads/Style-Manual.pdf at pp. 146-48). That resource specifically lists “duces tecum” as not italicized. I think those phrases are both used so much in English to be considered part of the English language.

 

2. How do you know if a word has been incorporated into English usage? Would a dictionary help?

 

One article I found (and an easy gauge) said that in American usage, check Merriam-Webster because if a foreign word is included there, it need not be italicized. I assume it is because Merriam-Webster has become the dictionary that best reflects English vocabulary. If the writer feels that his/her intended audience will be unfamiliar with the word, it may be easiest to italicize the word.

 

3. Does résumé really need the accent marks?

 

The Gregg Reference Manual lists “résumé” with both accent marks. It seems to me that it is helpful to differentiate it from “resume” (to begin again after stopping). I realize that context would make that obvious, but your goal is to make it easy for your reader. It is also the first preference in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, which then lists “resume” and then “resumé.”

 

4. Why does a comma not go after “M.D.’s” and “Esq.’s”?

 

The example in question here was

 

–Jim Jones, M.D.’s diagnosis

–Jim Jones, Esq.’s opinion letter

 

In researching an answer to the question, I find that I was in error in these examples (it does happen!). BOTH of them should have the professional title surrounded by commas, so “Jim Jones, M.D.’s, diagnosis” and “Jim Jones, Esq.’s, opinion letter” are correct. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

 

5. I see that your example of “attorney Jim Jones” was different than what I would have thought to be correct. I would have used “Attorney Jim Jones.” Which would be correct?

 

While personal titles (such as Mayor or Attorney General) before a name are capitalized, the term “attorney” is more of a job description than a title, so it should not be capitalized. It would be more like saying “paralegal Susie Smith.” You would not capitalize “paralegal” in that instance, so you should not capitalize “attorney” used the same way.

 

6. You said capitalize the names of documents already filed. What if the original document was “Motion for Summary Judgment or in the Alternative Motion to Dismiss” and your attorney refers to it as the Motion to Dismiss? Does the document name have to be exact to be capitalized?

 

According to The Bluebook, the title of a court document where the document has actually been filed in the specific matter and the reference is to the exact title or a shortened form thereof, it should be capitalized. You would not capitalize a reference to a generic name of a court document. My concern with the specific example above is that it is a “Motion for Summary Judgment” and only titled a “Motion to Dismiss” in the alternative. But if the attorney specifically indicates that the “Motion to Dismiss” is the shortened name of the specific document, it should be capitalized (although it might be helpful to define it as “Motion to Dismiss” in parentheses and quotation marks to be safe and make it clear to your reader).

 

Thanks to everyone who attended the Webinar and I have included the link for anyone who did not get to attend, but would like to view the replay (at no cost to members).



 

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

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Gossip in the Office? How to Avoid It and Why

Posted By Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS, Monday, September 19, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Office GossipWorking in a law office is a serious job which takes a lot of focus and brain power to get through the day.  The job is sometimes stressful (or maybe a lot stressful) and the atmosphere of the office needs to be as calm as the sea, if possible.  That has to do with people’s behavior and behavior is a choice.  One of the first things you learn about working in a law office is the importance of confidentiality with regard to attorney-client relationship.  That type of ethical behavior emphasized in the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.6(c), Confidentiality of Information states:  (c)  A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.

 

In the office, this same kind of respect should be given in the coworker-to-coworker relationship—respecting each other to the point that you aim to keep the calmness in the office by minimizing problems.  The need for orderliness and focus are essential every day because of the demands of the job.  Why would anyone add insignificant stress, i.e., gossip, to the office environment?

 

What Rule 1.6(c) describes relates a lot to gossip and spreading rumors.  Typical phrases that open a gossipy conversation are “I’ve got a secret,” “Get this . . .,” “Guess what? . . .,” “You would not believe what I just heard . . .,” etc.  What is going on here is essentially disclosing private information about another person.  Really, it is just hearsay.  How do they know what was really done or said?  How would you feel if they were talking about you?  Are you willing to pass along the gossiper’s perception of what could be totally inaccurate and harmful information?

 

Remember, ethics is about your personal behavior.  Behavior is a choice and you have a choice at all times.  It is crucial to take the time to choose wisely.  Getting involved in office gossip is really an ethical misstep that could hurt you in the long run.  Gossip is something to be avoided if at all possible because the outcome is never good.  Here is why:

 

  • It makes you look like the bad guy if you pass it along. 
  • You appear to be very judgmental and manipulative.
  • People hearing it are really thinking—what are you telling others about me?

 

Copying behavior is human nature.  It is easy to follow the crowd.  It does not even take any forethought.  Gossip brings with it the temptation of acting on “I know something you do not know” to begin the game.  The person spreading the gossip imagines themselves in a position of power but look again—it really is a position of weakness of character.  Doesn’t it make you wonder if they have anything valuable to say at all?  Remember, you have a choice.  You can choose not to repeat a rumor.  Be brave.  Break the mold.  You do not have to do anything just because everyone else does.

 

Gossip is really just meaningless chitchat that has become a large part of our culture.  There are magazines and television shows that exist because of it.  Notice that gossipy information is, for the most part, very insensitive.  It does not help anyone or better their situation.  When gossip spreads, it makes everyone uneasy.  The person being gossiped about knows people have been talking about them because everyone treats them differently.  What kind of good can come from this?  Nothing good.  Gossip is inappropriate in a work situation where everyone is busy and probably stressed anyway. 

 

I have a friend who is so disciplined that she never gossips about anyone or anything.  I have watched her to see how she does this and handles the situation.  I admire her greatly and want to behave like that.  It really takes a lot of self-discipline to develop a new habit of changing your typical reaction.  A typical reaction to gossip is probably without much thought. It is a lazy reaction.  You can change this behavior and respond in a different and better way, rather than do what you have always done.  It will take a little work, but you can do it. There is a ripple effect to your behavior.  The outcome is that everyone will be happier, less stressed, and more productive.  It will be a better place to work.  At some point, people will notice the change in the environment and the nitpicky bad behavior will stop.

 

So what do you do to get back on track and stop the gossip? 

 

  • When someone comes up to gossip, try to change the subject. Let them know that you are really busy and cannot talk right now.  It takes two to play this game, and the best advice is to not be a willing partner.  Sooner or later, the gossiper will stop telling you things.  That could be such a relief.  Remember, nobody is perfect.  Everyone says or does ignorant things. They may not know they are being hurtful.  It is not worth risking your reputation to pass along irrelevant information.
  • You could defer the gossiper back to the person they are talking about.  You could say, “_____ could clear up any question you might have.  Why don’t you ask them?”

 

If the gossip is really important—meaning that it could affect the business and therefore your job—you will hear about it anyway.  If you hear something that could possibly threaten your job, it would be a good idea to ask your boss about it.

 

Just like confidentiality is one of the keys to legal practice, confidentiality should be a key to your personal work ethic.  After all, don’t you really want a positive work environment?  You can have it with a conscious change in one little habit of behavior.


 

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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CHAPTER SPOTLIGHT: Houston Association of Legal Professionals

Posted By Diane M. Stanley, RP, Monday, September 19, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Houston Legal Professionals

 HOUSTON ASSOCIATION OF LEGAL PROFESSIONALS

2016-2017 OFFICERS AND BOARD


Front row, left to right: Kip Hall, Suzanne Beatty, Katrina Husmann, and Rita Alesi

 

Back row, left to right: Lida Vega, Jeanine Broyles, Helene Wood, Mica DeScioli, Diane Stanley, Vickie French, Marty Olson, and Cherilynne Owen

 

Not pictured: William Kesman, Myra Miles, Norma Rios, and Patricia Phelps

 

2016-2017 Officers: Katrina Husmann, President, Suzanne Beatty, President-elect, Kip Hall, Vice President, Mica DeScioli, Treasurer, Diane Stanley, Director and Secretary, Helene Wood, Executive Advisor, Myra Miles, Parliamentarian

 

Awards: Legal Professional of the Year Award 2016, Katrina Husmann, Mentor Award 2016, Vickie French, Inspiration Award 2016, Katrina Husmann, Rookie of the Year Award 2016, William Kesman, Boss of the Year Award 2016, H. Miles Conn, Esq.


 

In 1955, a group of 13 legal secretaries decided to establish a local association for legal secretaries.  With the help of Judge Arthur C. Lester, Jr., Florence Sandy and Patricia Nelson formed an association to be known as “Attorneys’ Secretarial League.”  Application was made to the Secretary of State for a charter.  While corresponding with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General in complying with the rules of the formation for the association, an ad was noticed in a secretarial publication regarding a national association of legal secretaries.  The group wrote for information about the national association and learned of the newly formed Texas Association of Legal Secretaries.  After notification in the Houston newspapers, 13 legal secretaries attended the first public meeting in an assembly room in the Chamber of Commerce Building in downtown Houston on November 15, 1955.  The group decided at that meeting to join the Texas Association of Legal Secretaries and thus become a member of the National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS).  The Houston Association of Legal Secretaries (HALS) received its charter from NALS as Chapter No. 0055 on January 25, 1956, with 33 charter members.  With the progression of time and the industry, HALS is now known as the Houston Association of Legal Professionals (HALP), and the rest is history!

Our focus is education!

Our Mission:  “We are committed to delivering quality legal services through continuing education and increased professionalism, promoting a standard for members, and recognition in the legal profession through the certification program, and providing networking opportunities for members.”

Dorothe A. Monell Memorial Scholarship Fund

The Houston Association of Legal Professionals scholarship program has been in place almost since inception in 1956.  Following Past President Dorothe A. Monell’s death in 1990 from cancer, the scholarship was renamed to honor her memory.  Under the program, a scholarship is periodically awarded based upon merit and financial need for a scholarship.  In years past the scholarship was awarded annually and open to high school graduates or students reenrolled in a school of advanced education seeking a career in the legal field who met the criteria for the program.  Currently, a scholarship is awarded four times a year and is directed to the graduating students of the paralegal classes at the University of Houston.  The scholarship program exists through the generosity of association members, law firms, personal contributions, bequeaths, and special projects.

2016 Super Saturday CLE

Each year Houston ALP hosts a Super CLE Saturday seminar series.  As you might imagine, a great effort is undertaken to organize the event.  The 2016-2017 Super CLE Saturday sessions will include:

Nuts & Bolts of Texas Real Estate, September 10, 2016, 7.0 hrs.

Nuts & Bolts of Business Organizations, October 15, 2016, 7.0 hrs.

Nuts & Bolts of Intellectual Property, November 5, 2016, 7.0 hrs.

Texas Civil Litigation (Advanced), January 21, 2017, 7.0 hrs.

CLE Lagniappe, February 25, 2017, 7.0 hrs.

 

2016 Preparatory Course for the NALS Accredited Legal Professional Certification Exam

This four-week preparatory course is geared to the person who has completed a paralegal training course with a solid foundation in substantive law and wishes to sit for the NALS ALP certification exam.  The course focuses on the non-substantive law portions of the NALS ALP exam, including grammar, written communications, office procedures, ethics, computers in the law firm, billing and basic accounting procedures, preparation of legal documents, human relations, and judgment.

Professional Development Mixer

Houston ALP is committed to educating and providing valuable tools necessary for our student members to grow and become successful in the legal community.  With the help of our corporate sponsors, vendors, and members, HALP offers a class on topics to address résumé preparation, dress for success, interview techniques, professional conduct, ethics, and oral and written communications.  The 2016 “Professional Development Mixer” is to be held on Saturday, October 22, 2016 covering the topics: A career in the paralegal field and membership in a professional association.

Court Appreciation

Houston ALP takes pride in its display of appreciation for our courts each year during “Court Appreciation Week.”  In line with NALS’ 2016 theme, “More than Words,” Houston ALP will be highlighting the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona at our monthly membership meeting to be held on October 11, 2016.

Headlines Newsletter

Houston ALP’s newsletter, Headlines, highlights current and upcoming events, birthdays, member news and spotlights, and other noteworthy communications received from our members and in concert with our tri-level association.  This publication is e-distributed to the membership and friends of our chapter.

Houston Bar Association Book Drive

Houston ALP members and local law firms support the Houston Bar Association’s annual book drive.  Gently used books are collected for people of all ages.  Drop boxes and flyers are placed at designated locations, gathered by HALP members at the conclusion of the drive, and delivered to the HBA office for distribution

Wreaths Across America – Houston

Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring and thanking our military veterans for their service and sacrifice.  In 1992, Wreaths Across America began the tradition of placing wreaths on the headstones of our nation’s fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery.  This ceremony is now performed at military cemeteries around the country.  The Houston ceremony will take place at the Houston National Cemetery on December 17, 2016.

Houston ALP has joined this worthwhile project through creation of our fundraising page.  Wreaths are purchased for $15 each.  As well as supporting a worthy cause, our association can raise money by selling wreaths.  We are eligible to receive $5 for every wreath purchased through our fundraising page.  The money received is designated as scholarship funds for the Dorothe A. Monell Memorial Scholarship Fund to support the scholarship awards provided throughout the year.

Tri-level Association

 

We are exceptionally proud of our members and their service to the Houston Chapter, as well as those members who also serve on the national and state levels:

Rita Alesi, TALP Treasurer

Helene L. Wood, NALS Education Products Committee Member; TALP Communications Chair

Vickie French, NALS Certification Board

Diane Stanley, NALS Editorial Board; TALP Director

Marty Olson, TALP Education Chair

 

Houston ALP comprises 101 members at this time and we continue to grow thanks to our dedication and commitment to our student members in association with the University of Houston Paralegal program.  The future of our association lies within the youth of our industry and Houston ALP pledges to grow, prosper, mentor, and encourage these students to successful careers and productive lives, respect for oneself and others, discipline and leadership.     

 

As you can see, Houston ALP is serious about quality education, training, and leadership.  Our officers and board work tirelessly to provide each member the opportunity to meet and achieve their personal and professional goals!


Diane M. Stanley, RP, is a recently retired legal professional with over 50 years of successful progressive work experience in the areas of banking, finance, real estate, oil, and gas and legal.  She began her career in banking while in high school, in an after school work program for career development.  Diane continued in the banking industry upon graduation from high school for 15 years, while attending junior college, progressing from general banking to loan administration.  The substance of her banking career piqued her interest in the legal profession, so Diane enrolled in a paralegal program through Texas Paralegal School, Houston, Texas.  Upon graduation, she was anxious to transition to the legal field and, two years later, Diane finally had the opportunity.  Her legal career, encompassing corporate legal and real estate, generated her desire to expand her knowledge in the real estate realm, so she attended Champion School of Real Estate School, Houston, Texas, and obtained her real estate sales certification.  So the story goes, check sorter, bank teller, loan administration officer, legal secretary, legal assistant/paralegal.  Just took her 50 years, but what a ride!

 

Education is the key and Diane is proud to say it served her well.  Diane very proud of her legal association, Houston ALP, and continues to serve as Director.  She is also a past president of the association, president-elect, and secretary.

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Career Corner: Personal Financial Plan—Do You Have One?

Posted By Tashania Morris, MSHRM, ALS, CDF, CPC, Monday, September 19, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Most people work to earn a living in order to take care of their families and create a better future.  Compensation is sometimes used by companies as a strategic advantage to attract and retain the best candidates.  It can be a great motivator when rewarding employees. If money is so important, why do so many people know so little about it?  According to a report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2015, “31 percent, or approximately 76 million adults, are either ‘struggling to get by’ or are ‘just getting by.’”1  The report also states that “[n]early half of adults are ill-prepared for a financial disruption and would struggle to cover emergency expenses should they arise.  Forty-six percent of adults say they either could not cover an emergency expense costing $400, or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money.”  The statistics are staggering; it is no longer enough to say, “I am not a numbers person” when it comes to your personal finance—you need to become one.  If you spend 40 hours helping to build the bottom line of your organization, you need to do the same for yourself.  My father once told me, “It is not how much you make. It is how much you save.”  Too many people are working for 20-30 years only to reach retirement and not have enough to live on.  Remember, this is about “Corporation Me.”  Money is one aspect of personal development that is not talked about enough.  If you are creating a business plan for “Corporation Me,” a financial plan is a major part of it. 

What are your values?

It is important to figure out your relationship towards your money and the role it plays in your life.  What is your value system based on?  For some, money means power and to others it is just a necessary evil.  Dave Ramsey states that financial management is “80% behavior and 20% know how.”  During my undergrad years, I spent most of my money on clothes.  Since then, my value system has changed and I am much more frugal than I used to be.  During that phase of my life, I learned a valuable lesson that if I did not learn to manage my money, it would surely manage me.  Think about what is important to you and make a list.  Does your spending reflect what you value?  Take this quiz to find out what kind of spender you are—http://goo.gl/biJaG4.

Understand your current net worth:  become aware of your situation

In order to understand how to move forward, you will have to know where you are today.  Evaluate your current situation.  Too often people have a skewed vision of their finances until the numbers are on paper.  Write it down or type it up—just get it out of your head.  Calculate your net worth.  In order to calculate this, you can easily use an Excel spreadsheet or go online and use a calculator.  I found a really cool calculator to get you started—http://goo.gl/wIm6Z2.

Monthly spending plan

Creating a monthly spending plan is essential to achieving your financial goals.  In order to get an accurate account of where your money is going, you will need to know your spending habits.  A part of creating your monthly spending plan will be tracking your daily activities.  You will need to figure out where your money is going.  Record every expense no matter how small.  I love doing this even though it can be tedious.  Recently I fell off track and began buying lunch on a daily basis instead of taking my lunch to work as I am accustomed to doing.  At $10 a day, I was spending $50 for the week, which adds up to $200 a month, not including having dinner with family and friends.  This realization prompted me to do something about it.  I simply started bringing my lunch again and treating myself on Fridays or on payday.  You will need to know your fixed expenses, variable expenses, and discretionary expenses.  Creating a spending plan will allow you to figure out your needs and wants.  Believe it or not, it will be a true reflection of how you value your money.  I cannot begin to tell you how shocked I was when I realized once again how much I was spending on food.  A great resource to help track your money is mint.com or you can download an app like Money Lover or Expense IQ.  www.mint.com

Create a SMART money plan

Based on your spending you will need to create a plan of action.  This will require discipline and constraint.  By reviewing your budget, you will get an accurate view of your money.  It is important to note that money problems don’t just affect you, they also affect your family members and your state of well-being.  Create financial goals and celebrate each win.  Track your successes and failures.  Learn from your failure and make the necessary adjustments to move forward.  A money plan should include paying off debt, your financial goals, building wealth and, most importantly, retirement planning.  If you died tomorrow, would your family be protected?  Would they know exactly what to do or would they have to figure it out on their own in addition to grieving?  This is a great website to access a host of financial information and forms you can use for the planning process—http://www.balancepro.net/forms.html.

Getting out of debt and understanding how credit works

Sometimes being in debt can be suffocating.  It is important to get out of debt and taking baby steps is also important.  Some people ignore it with the hopes of it going away but it hardly ever does.  Being in debt can affect your career and/or your work productivity.  If you are not in the best frame of mind, you will not be able to do your best work because your thoughts will be preoccupied with your money situation.  Sometimes as a result of being in a bad financial situation, good people will make unethical decisions in order to make additional income.  It might be getting entangled in a quid pro quo situation they had no business being involved in.  It impacts more than just your pocketbook. 

Most people have credit cards and have used credit; however, they do not really know how credit works.  They have no idea how to clear up inaccuracies on their credit report or how to improve their credit scores.  Some people are not even aware that they are entitled to a free credit report every year which can be accessed at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.

Get a financial advisor

At my previous job I signed up for a retirement account and it was then I realized how little I knew about investments and/or retirement planning.  I chose a couple of stocks after briefly listening to a representative speak about what the company offers.  I remember feeling so unsure because I did not understand what I was doing.  I had no guidance or wise counsel to help me in the process.  I figured I would leave it up to time.  I did not know the value of having a financial advisor until I had to find one for a family member.  One of the most important things we looked for was finding someone with a teacher’s heart—someone who wants to act in the best interests of the client.  I also prepared a list of questions to ask and I suggest you do the same.  Some advisors welcomed the questions and others were not so welcoming.  They were more concerned about the amount of the investment.  Some advisors get paid by commission, fee based, or fee only.  You need to understand the differences.  How they are paid might change the service you are given.  If you need additional information on how to get a financial advisor, visit this site, http://www.letsmakeaplan.org/learning-center, or do a quick Google search.

Remember, “Corporation Me” needs to understand how money works—your retirement depends on it. 


1. http://www.federalreserve.gov/2015-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201605.pdf


 

Tashania Morris, MSHRM, ALS, CDF, CPC, started her career as a paralegal.  She has over six years’ experience in the legal field specializing in the areas of foreclosure and bankruptcy.  She recently completed her master’s degree in human resource management which has equipped her with the tools needed to think strategically and develop creative solutions to problems in the workplace.  As a Certified Professional Coach and Career Development Facilitator, she loves all things career and personal development.  She is able to recognize people’s skills and abilities and enjoys working with individuals to figure out their “why.”  Her mission is to engage, empower, educate, and promote change from within.  If you have any questions about any of the articles written, suggestions about something you would like Tashania to write about, or enjoyed reading the article, send her a quick note.  You can reach Tashania at Tashania_m@hotmail.com.

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