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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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Why Join NALS?

Posted By Paula Steffey, PP, CLP-SC Civil Litigation, Thursday, November 10, 2016

Join NALSI recently hosted a rummage sale fundraiser for NALS of Greater Kalamazoo chapter.  After explaining to the customers what NALS is all about, I think I could give the speech in my sleep.  I have also been asked by members and nonmembers—why are you doing this?  It is so much work.  Well, not really.  That was one of the cheapest and easiest fundraisers to organize.  Besides, even if it was difficult, I would still do it because of everything NALS has done for me (especially my local chapter).   I am proud to say that I am a member of one of the best chapters in Michigan—NALS of Greater Kalamazoo. 

 

Every month we have a meeting where we can network with other legal professionals, obtain continuing legal education, and grow as individuals, both personally and professionally.  Of course, we also get to enjoy an amazing dinner and a different venue each month.  But there is more to this organization than just a dinner meeting and socializing.  

 

I wanted to join NALS for many years, but I could not afford the membership dues.  In 2014 I was working for a new employer who offered to pay the dues for me.  I did not take that benefit for granted.  I was determined to get involved in any way possible—from helping on various committees, attending legal education offered by our chapter and other chapters in Michigan, studying for my certification, and anything else that was available. 

 

In the past two years I have been mentored by many members at the local and state levels and have spoken with the staff at the national level on many occasions as I work to attain my goals within the organization.  Every level of this organization offers something valuable to its members.  

 

My local chapter, NALS of Greater Kalamazoo, has an excellent group of members who work hard for our organization. Because of everyone’s hard work, they have been able to provide benefits to their members that far surpass what I could have imagined when I first joined.  Currently, our chapter pays the examination fee to take the ALP, PLS/CLP, and PP exams, and it even pays for one retake.  Without the support, generosity, and hard work of the members throughout the year, I would not have been able to take the PLS/CLP exam (and the retake I needed to pass).  My chapter made it possible for me to sit for the PP exam at the end of September, which I passed! 

 

So what does that certification mean to an employer?  It means more than most employers will put into words.  My current employer loves the fact that his assistant wants a career and not just a job.  Since he and another attorney in our office helped me study, he sees what I am learning.  He is much more willing to share his knowledge and actually teach me.  Based on the change in my workload and the type of work I am now doing compared to when I first started, I believe he has found my certification to be very beneficial.  Even my former employers have assisted me with my studies and cheered for me.  One former employer has said numerous times how much change he has seen in me since I joined NALS. 

 

Okay, I have my certification, but then what?  In order to keep your certification, you need to complete 15 hours of continuing legal education every year in order to recertify when the certification expires. (To recertify every five years, the PLS/CLP and PP certifications require 75 CLE hours and 50 CLE hours are required for the ALP certification.) For any member who wants to go above and beyond, NALS now offers a Specialty Certificate so you can enhance your knowledge and skills in 21 different areas of law.  All you need is to obtain 50 CLE credit hours in one of those areas of law.  If you are going to work toward the Specialty Certificate, you might also work toward a CLE Award, which requires a minimum of 60 CLE credit hours within a three-year period.  This may sound like a lot of continuing legal education, but, trust me, it is well worth every hour.  Seeing the smile on my employer’s face when I showed him my CLE Award and Specialty Certificate was priceless. 

 

Maybe you want to get involved at the state or national level.  There are plenty of opportunities to do just that.  NALS of Michigan has a membership meeting every quarter and has an annual meeting and education conference.  NALS also has a national conference annually.  As a member of NALS of Greater Kalamazoo, I am able to take advantage of one more benefit—attendance at these events.  My local chapter not only makes certification possible, but they have made it possible to attend events at the state and national levels.  Thanks to our chapter, I was very excited to have attended my first national conference in October.

 

I could tell you so much about this organization, but this is just an article and not a book.  Every member has different goals and every member will take away something different from their experience.  That is part of what makes this organization a “must” for all legal professionals.  Come as a guest or bring a guest.  Tell your employer what this membership would mean to you and how you could give back to your employer.  Make an investment in your career and in your future.  It does make a difference!



Paula Steffey, PP, CLP-SC, has been a member since 2014.  She is currently the co-chair for the Programs and Reservations committees and the chairperson for the Attorney Directory project on the Ways and Means committee with NALS of Greater Kalamazoo in Michigan.  Paula is also very active at the state level and is currently serving as the Executive Secretary for NALS of Michigan and, for more excitement, is the chairperson for the Finance Committee.  In June she took over as the chairperson for the Marketing Committee.  After attending the national conference in October, she submitted her application for a secondary membership with NALS of Phoenix and hopes to be as active as possible from a distance.  She also joined the Editorial Board.  Outside of NALS she is a full-time legal assistant to attorney Garold A. Goidosik with Goidosik Morse Disability Law Group and has two other part-time jobs.  One of those part-time jobs is her own crafting company where she sells her hand-crocheted items.  Besides work and NALS, she is married with two children of her own, a stepdaughter, and two very spoiled golden retrievers who are retired show dogs. 

 

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Grammar Nuggets: Confused? Let's Choose to Show We Chose the Right Word

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Thursday, November 10, 2016

Grammar NuggetsI keep seeing the same mistakes over and over with misusing words that are similarly spelled or are forms of other words and cause confusion. I will try to make it more clear to make it easier to choose the right word.

Accept and Except—accept is to take or receive; except is to exclude.

§  She was able to accept the package for Jim. (She was able to RECEIVE the package.)

§  Everyone was invited except Joe. (Joe was EXCLUDED from the invitation.)

 

Affect and Effect—affect is to influence or to change; effect is the result or impression or to bring about.

§  The habit of coming in late had an affect on Sally's raise this year. (Sally's habit of coming in late INFLUENCED her raise.)

§  The effect of the rain was a beautiful rainbow and also several accidents on the rush hour drive home. (The beautiful rainbow and the accidents were the RESULT OF the rain.)

 

Choose and Chose—choose means to select; chose means you have already selected.

§  She will choose her car based on its color. (She will MAKE her selection of car based on color.)

§  She chose the red car. (She already MADE the selection of the red car.)

 

Ensure and Insure—ensure means to make certain; insure means to protect against loss.

§  He wanted to ensure the job was done correctly. (He wanted to MAKE CERTAIN the job was done correctly.)

§  She was able to insure her sports car. (She PROTECTED her sports car.)

 

Gibe and Jibe—gibe means a sarcastic remark or to scoff at; jibe means to agree.

§  The gibe about her hair color was hurtful. (The SARCASTIC REMARK about her hair color was hurtful.)

§  The figures did not jibe between the checking account and the accounting system. (The figures did not AGREE between the checking account and the accounting system.)

 

Its and It's—its is the possessive form of it; it's is the contraction for it is or it has. This is particularly confusing because most possessive forms use the apostrophe, but just remember if you cannot replace your word with “it is,” then you use “its.”

§  The dog chewed up its collar. (The collar BELONGED to the dog.)

§  It's the third collar they had to buy the puppy. (IT IS the third collar.)

 

Know and No—know means to understand; no means not any.

§  I now know the correct usage of it's. (I UNDERSTAND the correct usage of it's.)

§  He has no money to go on vacation. (He does NOT HAVE ANY money to go on vacation.)

 

Loose and Lose—loose means not bound or to release; lose means to suffer the loss of.

§  The dog got loose from its leash and ran out of the yard. (The dog is NOT BOUND by its leash.)

§  She was afraid she would lose her dog once it got loose. (Now that the dog is loose, she may SUFFER THE LOSS OF the dog if he does not come home.)

 

Their and There—their means belonging to them; there means in that place.

§  Their house is the nicest on the block. (The house BELONGING TO THEM is the nicest on the block.)

§  The car is there in the driveway. (The car is IN THAT PLACE in the driveway.)

 

Your and You're—your means that it belongs to you; you're is the contraction for “you are.” This one is misused by most of the people I see on Facebook who are teens or preteens and even some young adults and makes me question how they are teaching this in school.

§  I thought you said my phone was in your purse? (The purse BELONGS to you.)

§  You're going to the movies tonight, aren't you? (YOU ARE going to the movies.)

 

I hope some of the confusion is cleared up. If you would like a little extra reinforcement, take this quick quiz:

  1. He agreed to (accept, except) the award on behalf of his boss.
  2. Doing homework and studying hard had the (affect, effect) of getting an A in that class.
  3. He was ready to (choose, chose) the costume for the Halloween party.
  4. She worked hard to (ensure, insure) that the party would be a success.
  5. He was excited that the amount in his checkbook (gibed, jibed) with his bank statement.
  6. (It’s, Its) hard to be tolerant of mistakes in grammar.
  7. I (know, no) that if people would slow down, there would be fewer accidents.
  8. One person is required to (loose, lose) so another can win.
  9.  She sat (their, there) to be near her friends.
  10. (Your, You’re) car is a very nice ride.

Answers: 1. Accept, 2. Effect, 3. Choose, 4. Ensure, 5. Jibed, 6It’s, 7. Know, 8. Lose, 9. There, 10. Your


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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Ask Eula Mae: Work v. Law School Decision

Posted By NALS Editorial Board, Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ask Eula MaeDear Eula Mae:

I have an ALP certificate and work part time for an attorney as an office clerk but lack the hours needed for a four-year law study program in lieu of going to law school.  Most of my duties are as a personal assistant and I do not have much to do.  I am taking the Multi-State Professional Exam (MPRE) this week “just for fun.”  How do I get my foot in the door without much legal experience?  Should I bite the bullet and go to law school or stay on my current path and hope to find work in a more robust office?

New Hampshire Newbie


 

Dear New Hampshire Newbie:

Well, you have a lot going on and a lot of questions!  This is good!  There are several things in your letter to consider:  (1) you need hours for a four-year law study program, (2) you need more to do in your job, (3) it sounds like you really want to work in a law office, and (4) you are trying to decide whether or not to go to law school.  Let’s take these one at a time.  

  1. You need hours for a four-year law study program.  Are you in college or looking for certification hours?  Either way, if you love the law, you can find classes to attend through professional organizations such as NALS, technical schools, or online classes at your local university.  

  2. In your current job, start with the boss.  The boss needs to know you need more to do and you are willing to learn.  Bosses are a great resource for legal professionals for career ideas and maybe as a mentor.  You could interview the boss about his experience in law school.

  3. If your goal is to work in a law office, there is much to learn right where you are.  If you have exhausted the resources there (after talking with the boss, of course), then it might be time to move on to a busier office.  Legal work can take place in many areas.  You can work directly for an attorney at hospitals, corporate offices, title companies, insurance companies, utility companies, etc.  As your own research project to help you decide your next step, it might be good to look at other areas that have legal assistants.

  4. A big decision such as whether or not to go to law school is not one to make quickly.  There are many reasons for this and the main one is to absolutely know why you want to go to law school.  It is a big commitment.  First, you will have to finish your undergraduate degree and then secure the funding to pay for law school.  This is a job in itself.  Then you will need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).  All of this could take some time, but that is really not a problem because you can go to school any time in your life.

 

What makes your main question difficult is the fact that there are so many options!  Now, how to make a big decision:  make a comparison chart with a list of what you could do (law school v. legal assistant, paralegal certification, etc.).  For each item, make columns of time involved, resources available and needed, costs, and list the positives and negatives of each.  You have plenty of time to decide.  You can always go to law school and working as a legal assistant until you are ready will better prepare you for law school.  The real answer to your question is for you to follow your heart.  You will be fine whatever you choose to do.

 

Eula Mae Jett

 

Submit Your Questions To Ask Eula Mae By Clicking Here.

 

 

Tags:  ask eula mae  legal  legal education  legal job skills  legal jobs  legal professional  paralegal 

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Avoiding Conflict of Interest

Posted By Ask Eula Mae, Wednesday, October 26, 2016

 

Dear Eula Mae:


Good morning.  I am a new receptionist and typist at the biggest law firm in our city.  My goal is to be a paralegal, so I spend lots of spare time observing, reading, and preparing to take the NALS ALP exam.  My boss is out of town and our caseload is being monitored by a paralegal in our office until he gets back.  Today we had several people come into the office to meet with various attorneys and paralegals.  I recognized two of these visitors and, of course, spoke with them in the lobby.  I know I need to report to my boss if I know anyone who comes in the office.  Since my boss is out of town, whom do I need to tell that I know these people?

 

Learning in Louisiana

 

 

Dear Learning in Louisiana:

 

That is a very good question because that can be a difficult situation.  Reporting you know visitors to the office is one of the first things you should have learned as a receptionist.  In this case, you will need to report to your paralegal supervisor as soon as possible that you know the visitors.  If the paralegal is not available, report this to the office manager or human resources director as soon as you can.  The point is to keep the client’s information confidential, so do not be offended if you are not allowed to work on their case.  Imagine if you were in their shoes.  Confidentiality is of utmost importance for all legal personnel.  See Rule 1.6, Confidentiality of Information in the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

 

Eula Mae Jett

 

Submit Your Questions To Ask Eula Mae By Clicking Here.

 


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Some Great Office Tips

Posted By Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS, Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Whether you are just starting a job or have been working a long time, there are always great tips to help you better manage yourself and your job.  The work environment takes up about a third of our lives and is essentially our daytime home.  Treat it as such.  Be kind to your work family and you will be happier too.  Here are some random great tips to help you along the way:

  • A lot will be expected of you and you can rise to the occasion.  Get ready to learn how to do almost anything in an office setting.  It is a fine place to learn and grow as a professional.
  • Always keep your files in such good order that if you are unavailable, someone else could pick it up and work it. ~ Linda Adair, PLS
  • Always have paper and pencil in hand because someone may have a request and you have a lot on your mind, so write everything down!
  • Go to the boss first—for everything.  If you find a problem, before complaining, think of some solutions to present to the boss.  The same process will work for opportunities.
  • Keep your sleepless nights and other woes to yourself.  If you are constantly complaining or making excuses about the little things, it adds up.  You might be pegged as unreliable.
  • If you leave your current position, the best thing to do is not to burn bridges.  You do not really know how many people your coworkers know who could affect your career.
  • Always do the important things first.
  • Keep good notes in your file and in your “brain.”  The “brain” is your personal office manual of how to do everything.  It should include the employee manual or employee memos and human resources policies.  It could be a binder or in an electronic folder.  It is really great to have one—especially if there are tasks that you handle infrequently.
  • Always dress appropriately even on casual days.  Find out if there is a dress code.  If there is not or when in doubt, keep it covered.  You will be comfortable and so will everyone else.
  • Continue to work on grammar and writing skills.  There are so many great resources available for quick access via the web and the gold standard book is, of course, The Gregg Reference Manual.  There is also the website titled Proof That Blog by Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, at http://proofthatblog.com/about-proof-that/
  • To improve writing, read a lot and write as much as you can.
  • Take a little time at the end of the day to plan for the next day.  Planning time is never wasted.  It avoids indecision and chaos.
  • If you make a mistake, own it and get with your boss immediately on how to resolve it.  Mistakes really increase the capacity to learn.  Mistakes will occasionally happen, so always do your best and do each task with great care.
  • Expect conflicts.  Try to rise above personal issues and deal with the task at hand.  It is not so much what happens but how you deal with it that matters.
  • When you get to work, smile and say “good morning.”  If you do not feel well, either stay home or act like you are glad to be there.  This pays the bills, you know.  Be glad to have a job. If you do not like it, spare others your misery and leave.
  • Look at your company’s website or other marketing materials.  Learn everything you can about where you work.
  • Ask a lot of questions—about anything.  It is better to find out on the front end when taking on a project than it is to mess it up and have to go back and correct it.  Asking for instructions first and being sure you understand them will make the process much easier.
  • Self-management and self-control are highly valued skills.  It is called professionalism.  At a certain point, we are all expected to act as adults.  You know what that means:  do the right thing.  It may not be fast or easy, but do the right thing.
  • Face it, you are not going to like everyone and everyone is not going to like you.  You are both at work to do a job.  Focus on the job and be civil.  Remember, they may be your boss one day.
  • Remember, attitude is everything.  You never know who you will meet or what you will be asked to do.  Answer with enthusiasm and curiosity.  Loving to learn will take you a long way in your life.
  • Keep track of special projects that you do to use for résumé building.  Remember, in legal work, never talk about the cases in your office.  Confidentiality always comes first.
  • Keep a file of emails, letters, and notes from people thanking you for a job well done.  This is a good thing to read when you need a boost.
  • That old adage is true:  be nice to everyone on your way up because you will see the same folks on your way down.  It just makes good sense to be nice to everyone anyway.  It makes for a better world.
  • Remember to back up your documents and always have a contingency plan.  Anything could happen and does from time to time.  Be ready.
  • Take advantage of professional development opportunities that are offered in your office.  These opportunities are provided to the employees for a reason:  they want you to be the best you can be.
  • Look for skills that you can strengthen.  Make a list of what you want to learn.  Watch for opportunities to arise in a class, seminar, or online to achieve these goals.  When you have that rare moment of “down time” at work, you could take a webinar or read a chapter of a book.
  • Keep your desk and files in order.  This may seem obvious, but this act will help keep your mind clear as well.  At least clean your area on Friday afternoons as the last task of the day so you can come in fresh on Monday.

Can you think of some more?  If so, I challenge you to write an article about them.  You could take one idea and expound on it or tell us some history about it or how you came to learn about it or use it.


Every day is what you make of it, so try to make it a great one!

Allison holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arts and Humanities from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and graduated with honors.  She is nationally certified as a Professional Legal Secretary from NALS…the Association for Legal Professionals.  Allison holds UAMS Certifications in Grants Management and as a Research Specialist.  Currently she is the Department Business Administrator for the office of Educational Development.  She is the only person on the UAMS campus who has experience in pre- and post-award grants management (College of Nursing and Educational Development), grants administration for UAMS (Office of Research and Sponsored Programs), and served as an Institutional Review Board (IRB) Administrator.  This is her 10th year as a member of NALS and every year gets better with more NALS Pals and more challenges.  Allison is a member of the NALS Editorial Board and loves working with the board members, finding attorney authors, and encouraging other writers.

Tags:  Excellent. A refresher is always helpful and appr 

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