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Posted By Christa M. Fuhrer-Warrington, PP, PLS, ALP, Tuesday, June 7, 2016

DESK BOOK: DINOSAUR OR DYNAMO?Note: This article will be available in a webinar format. Click here to register today!  

Imagine this: What if your attorney was on the phone with a client and wanted to know the new filing fees at the courthouse but the clerk’s office is closed for lunch and they had not yet updated their website.  Where would you go for that information?  Or one day on your way to work you are involved in an accident—an accident that leaves your return to work questionable and the date of said return uncertain.  Who would take your place and how would they know what to do?  Or, worse yet, what if you are one of those people—like me—who uses check sheets and progress lists to track your projects?  Where do you keep all those productivity tools?  There is one tool that can alleviate all of these anxieties.  It is the humble desk book. 

What is a desk book? 

I refer to my desk book as my “paper brain,” that place where I keep pieces of information, document templates, and forms that I may want or need quick access to.  If you were ever absent from work for an extended period and someone needed to step into your role, a desk book allows them to do so quickly and with minimal training.  Those of you familiar with the concept of a judge’s bench book have a grasp on the concept. 

Who needs a desk book? 

Who could benefit by establishing a desk book? Just about everyone who serves as support staff to a professional—whether that professional is an attorney, a CPA, or the executive director of a nonprofit—would benefit from the utility of a desk book.  Sadly, desk books are not as widely used as they should be.  I have yet to step into a support staff role where a desk book was already in place.  Every role in the law office, from the receptionist to the office manager, the word processor to the paralegal, lends itself to establishing and using a desk book. If you have information you regularly use, you need a desk book of some sort. 

Why is a desk book important? 

A desk book provides a place to keep everything you may want or need quick access to and in fact will limit stress in harried times.  Let’s say I am working with a form and that form says “circle the number that best represents your circumstance” and then lists one through five.  If I have the form instructions in my desk book, I can quickly turn to them to see what one through five represents so I can pick the best option.

A desk book provides two major benefits to today’s law office.  First, it allows someone to step in during an unplanned worker absence to complete a project that is in progress.  This ability to complete a project without time loss and without cost of extensive training or coaching is invaluable.  Second, an established desk book standardizes your own work process, thereby ensuring accuracy and efficiency.

How does one build a desk book? 

First, determine what needs to go in your desk book.  What do you regularly do?  If you do several child support actions in a week, but a real estate transaction only once in a blue moon, you could be forgiven for not having anything to do with real estate in your desk book; however, everything you use concerning child support actions should be included.  What materials do you frequently use?  If I were doing one or two real estate transactions in a week, in the state of Wyoming, I would have a copy of the Statement of Consideration in my desk book.  What information do you regularly look up or what information changes from time to time such as the form and fees for filing a will with the probate court or timeline, contact information, and fees for a Sheriff’s sale? 

Next, determine how you are going to organize your desk book.  A paralegal who focuses on substantive law could organize her desk book by practice area.  An office manager might organize by timeline with a section for daily tasks (getting the mail), weekly tasks (payables), monthly (receivables), and annual tasks (W-2s and corporate taxes).  An administrative assistant might organize by task, i.e., buying office supplies and then sub-sections for each vendor with a list of frequently ordered item numbers and quantities.

Then, establish someplace to collect the pieces-parts that will become the desk book:  a file folder, a stacking tray, or a digital folder for scanning them into.  For those of you who are technically inclined and not scared of the cloud, Microsoft Office OneNote is tailor-made for this task.  For a period of time—I recommend no less than four and no more than twelve weeks—put a copy of every resource you use into that collection space.  If you print a form, print off two copies.  If you think of something you want to include, jot it on a Post-it® note and drop the Post-it® note in the folder.  This allows you to make building and gathering your desk book more a part of your daily work than a hindrance to it.  Once all of the notes and materials are collected, it becomes a simple task of formatting and organizing the pieces you have gathered up into the framework you decided on earlier.  Yes, this will take some time, but I have always found it was offset in being able to find information faster and easier later.

Do not fear the minutia.  The more detailed your desk book is, the more helpful it will be, especially in your absence.  Every one of my desk books includes instructions for completing a certified mailing.  Why?  Because certified mailings are, apparently, not part of our social consciousness . . . yet.  Think of your desk book as a teacher that teaches in your absence.  Some folks may need their instruction to include “get on the Internet” before “go to irs.gov.”  Remember your desk book is there not only for your convenience, but also to prompt others that are not familiar with how things are done at your desk on a daily basis.

Do absolutely make this fun too.  If you decide that a three-ring binder is your tool, get a cool designer one and have fun with the divider tabs.  Getting in touch with your artistic side serves the dual purpose of making it fun to use and distinctive so your eye can find it quickly, whether it is on the shelf or buried on your desk.  If you do an electronic desk book, have fun with graphics or font types and colors.

Where does one keep a desk book? 

The answer is—that depends.  Are you more comfortable with a digital or a paper book?  Is your practice digitized or paper based?  For quick response, is it easier to right click + print or flip and photocopy?  Do you live or work in an area where power outages are an issue?  If you are responsible for ordering-in lunch on deposition days, a paper book that includes take-out menus might be useful.  If you work in a forms-based practice such as bankruptcy or child support, a digitized desk book may be more practical.  Another factor to keep in mind is how often you might use your desk book at someone else’s desk! 

So when is the best time to build a desk book? 

Ideally, when you start a new position, your predecessor will have one in place and it will only need a personalizing tweak.  If you are not so fortunate, or you are in a new role with the office, I advise giving yourself a month or two to settle into the position and learn about both the job and the office a bit, then start collecting your materials as outlined above.  This should have your desk book completed within the first six months.  For someone already in their role and who already has a grasp on the necessities of the job, it is just a matter of collecting materials and assembling them and may only take a few weeks. 

Which begs the question, when is the best time to update the desk book? 

When do you update your desk book?  The short answer is whenever something changes.  But, we all know that is neither realistic nor reasonable.  The long answer is the bigger the change is and the more it directly affects your day-to-day work, the sooner that change should be reflected in your desk book.  Code changes should be reflected immediately.  Internal changes, such as billing rates, should be updated within a shortened timeframe.  Inconsequential changes, such as the operating hours of your favorite office supply store, can be made by hand in the paper book or at your leisure in a digital book.

A Few Miscellaneous Tips . . . 

Designate an area in the book for update materials.  I reserve the back pocket in my three ring binder as “update materials.”  If you keep forms in a paper book, it is helpful to keep one original and one copy to use.  The original should be marked as such—I like to mark it with yellow highlighter.  Yellow does not show on a copy machine, whereas other colors such as green, pink, and blue will copy.  Do not think that keeping two books is overkill.  I always have one paper copy and one electronic copy.  The paper book keeps things like menus from local restaurants, while the electronic copy keeps items such as letterhead, envelope templates, and pre-built notary blocks.

So let’s revisit our scenarios:  If your attorney needed those updated filing fees ASAP, it would be as simple as a page flip or a mouse click to access them.  The desk book provided instant answers for your attorney, instant value for your client, and instant credibility for you. 

If you were in an accident that kept you from work for an extended period of time, anyone could step into your role because you could direct that person to your desk book for guidance.  Even more important, you could focus on your recovery and healing instead of being worried with issues at work. 

What about those checklists, progress sheets, and task matrices?  Well, one could be forgiven for thinking desk books were almost purpose made to corral all those sheets and other tools. 

While they may seem like Jurassic-era technology, desk books are as relevant today as they were at the dawn of the legal profession.  I encourage everyone to look at how they can utilize a desk book in their role in the law office.


Christa M. Fuhrer-Warrington, PP, PLS, ALP, is a resident of Elko, Nevada, with her husband Shawn and son Levi.  She is a paralegal and holds certifications through NALS as a Professional Paralegal, an Accredited Legal Professional, and as a Professional Legal Secretary. She is also a notary public. Christa holds a bachelor of arts in social sciences from Washington State University with a major in sociology and a minor in psychology. She also holds an associate of applied science with honors in paralegal studies from Columbia Basin College. 


Christa began her career in the legal field, first with a prominent, local personal injury attorney as a legal research assistant and later with a top construction law firm. She learned the ropes of being a paralegal on everything from developer/contractor disputes to large public transportation projects. Christa plans to continue her professional education by earning her credentials as an alternative dispute resolution mediator.

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Word Tips & Tricks: Hard Drive Folder Shortcuts

Posted By Susan C. King, Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Microsoft Word: Tips & Tricks

Microsoft Word: Tips & Tricks Header 


Here are two forms of shortcuts to access folders on the hard drive:




CLICK on the folder at the bottom ribbon of the Desktop.  


Microsoft Word: Tips and Tricks 


Locate a favorite folder.

Microsoft Word: Tips and Tricks


CTRL {Hold} + CLICK on folder.

 Microsoft Word: Tips & Tricks

LEFT CLICK {Hold} Mouse and scroll up to hover over Favorites.

Microsoft Word: Tips and TricksRelease  

Folder will be listed under favorites.  

Select “Favorites” and double click your favorite folder.    

Note:  Folder on bottom of ribbon will open to the last folder accessed.    





CLICK on the folder at the bottom ribbon of the Desktop.  


Microsoft Word: Tips and Tricks 


Microsoft Word Tips & TricksMinimize Window {This will keep your folder window but also give access to the Desktop – you will need to minimize or shut down all other applications.}  


On Desktop, scroll to Folder which needs the shortcut.  

Microsoft Word: Tips and Tricks 



[CTRL {Hold} DRAG Folder to the Desktop + RELEASE.]

Shortcut for folder is now on Desktop.  DOUBLE CLICK on Desktop Folder to access Folder and files.


Susan C. King, Legal Word Processor, was hired by Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP as a floater secretary in 1994 and soon thereafter advanced into a legal secretarial position. Three years later, she transferred into the Word Processing Department and is continuing her journey toward becoming a software specialist with strong ties to training and macro development. If you would like Susan to cover a particular Word topic or have any questions, please email her at Susan.King@wallerlaw.com.  



Tags:  administrative  legal education  legal professional training  microsoft word  technology training 

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Digitization, Intellectual Property, and Legal Access to the Public Domain

Posted By Bryan Eichner, Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Legal - Intellectual Property - Public DomainWith the advent of computers and the Internet, it has become harder to legally obtain copyrighted materials. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) restricted access to copyrighted materials by outlawing circumvention measures and creating Digital Rights Management Provisions (DRM) to protect intellectual property on the computer. The DMCA1 also limited the liability for public forums, creating safe harbors for service providers if they comply with stricter rules for regulating piracy. For example, in order to qualify for safe harbor provisions, the service providers must make an effort to block access to potentially infringing material. They must notify the content provider of the infringing material before the intellectual property providers can take down the content on copyright grounds. It is essentially a race to locate the potentially infringing material before the other party. The winner of the race can claim immunity from liability by presenting the content provider with a cease and desist letter.

These cease and desist letters have been used frequently in the digital world to stop piracy, but the intellectual property holders do not always differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate use of their materials. Fair Use2 is such an exception when it comes to the rule of illegitimate use. According to fair use, in order for a work to be non-infringing, it must be of a non-commercial or educational use, the portion of the work used must not be substantial, the nature of the work must not be unethical, and the market value must not suffer because of its use.

There are many instances where would-be infringers can claim fair use. For example, using an insignificant portion of intellectual property for educational purposes can constitute fair use under the law if the users are not profiting from their work (providing a review of the intellectual property may also constitute fair use if it acknowledges the original creator and does not use a significant portion of the property). A user can also claim fair use for an informative work, such as a top 10 list.

A user can also attribute the work to the intellectual property owner through the Creative Commons3, an alternative to intellectual property protections, created by Yale professor and lawyer, Lawrence Lessig. The Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/about/, is a nonprofit organization that uses copyright tools and licenses in an effort to appease the intellectual property holders. It is an effort to reform intellectual property law to make it more feasible for content owners and community members. 

Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page, is another resource for public domain materials4 (materials that are no longer protected by intellectual property laws). This is a media file repository vetted by the online community in connection with Wikipedia. The images and articles must be used in conjunction with verification tools because the online community is not always reliable. Vandalism can be a regular occurrence on the Wikimedia Commons.

In order to verify that the images and articles are in the public domain, it is important to use origin tools, such as TinEye, https://www.tineye.com/. This site allows the average user to search for origin of the materials on the Internet.5 Based on the attributes, someone can then determine if the selected materials are infringing and if they require attribution.  

Many libraries, including the New York Public Library, also have public domain images that you can use freely without repercussions. These images are previous intellectual properties that have expired. Unlike the Wikimedia Commons, these images are verified and vetted by experts.6 The following link has more information about the collection: http://www.nypl.org/research/collections/digital-collections/public-domain.   


On video streaming websites, however, the line between infringing and non-infringing materials is not as clear cut. Channels like YouTube are notorious for blocking or taking down videos that are deemed infringing (without a proper investigation). They create bots or spiders to surf the web and collect possibly infringing materials, but these bots do not differentiate between legitimate and non-legitimate use. As a result, legitimate channels are blocked and the accounts are terminated. This has a chilling effect and stops would-be content providers from producing videos for YouTube. When legitimate users are targeted by bots and spiders from intellectual property owners, creativity can be stifled. 

The indiscriminate use of bots and spiders to control piracy can have a devastating effect on the online video community, especially when content providers are targeted for potential infringement when they are not liable. Technology has not evolved to the point that it can recognize the exceptions to the intellectual property laws. As such, it is not a reliable way to combat piracy without disrupting the activities of the community as a whole.

It does not help that many channels like YouTube offer ways to combat false accusations of infringement. In order to have access to this remedy, content providers must have a good standing with the service provider. Otherwise, they cannot appeal a rejected complaint.7 The following link has the features associated with good standing on YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2797387?hl=en. In order to have good standing with YouTube, the content providers cannot have any copyright strikes or community strikes (strikes that are against the account not for infringement, but for gratuitous sexual content or violence). Content providers also cannot have a global Content ID strike against them (the bots and spiders identifying infringing material). This is easier said than done as a strike can derail a fledgling channel.

In order for videos to be recognized for the same protections as images and articles, the technology has to catch up to the law. Until then, posting videos can be costly for new content providers. There is always the risk that the technology will be used to locate videos and falsely apply takedown notices to non-infringing content. In this case, the accused should make a good faith effort to understand the difference between infringing and non-infringing materials. They should also use verification tools to determine the protections associated with the materials. At least, then, they can attempt to argue that their material was non-infringing when they are hit with a takedown notice (difficult as the appeal may be to argue).

Bryan Eichner is a paralegal student and a research analyst for REMCO Energy Solutions, where he assists with filing complaints, as well as locating rate cases from the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and numerous Public Service Commissions. He works mostly in Administrative Law, but also has a passion for Intellectual Property and Family Legislation. 

[1] U.S. Copyright Office, <http://www.copyright.gov>, “Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998: U.S. copyright Office Summary” December 1998, <http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf.  accessed on March 21, 2016.

[2] U.S. Copyright Office, <http://www.copyright.gov>, “More Information of Fair Use” March 2016, <http://www.copyright.gov/fair-use/more-info.html> accessed on March 21, 2016.

[3] Creative Commons <https://creativecommons.org/> “About” March 2016 <https://creativecommons.org/about/> accessed on March 25, 2016.

[4] Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page> accessed on March 25, 2016.

[5] TinEye <https://www.tineye.com> accessed on March 25 2016.

[6] New York Public Library <http://www.nypl.org> March 2016, <http://www.nypl.org/research/collections/digital-collections/public-domain> accessed on March 26, 2016.

[7] Google, <http://www.Google.com> “Keep Your YouTube account in Good Standing” March 2016. <https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2797387?hl=en> Accessed on March 27, 2016.


Tags:  creative commons and legal  intellectual property  legal  legal access  legal professional  public domain 

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Posted By Tashania Morris, ALS, CDF, CPC, Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Paralegal Career Corner

Paralegal Career Corner Header 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't—you're right.”  ~ Henry Ford


Self-confidence is believing in yourself.  It is knowing that you have the ability to get the job done.  Being able to articulate your strengths and abilities to your potential boss is the key to get from where you are now to where you want to be.  Most people advance in their careers because they know what they want and they go after it.  If you do not believe you can get the job done, how will you be able to convince the person in the interview to hire you?  Good sales people are confident in the product they are selling.  You are your own product—sell it well! 

Study your craft


If you are new to an industry and feel a little intimidated, this is natural; however, you will have to study your craft to become great at it.  Some people feel that learning ends once they have graduated from college.  Continuing education and personal development should never end.  In the legal world, things change constantly.  Judges’ requirements and laws are constantly updated and it is extremely important to keep up to date with these changes.  Seeking out learning opportunities on your own will be one of the best things you can do for your career.  In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become an expert.  Sometimes you will have to be the first one in and the last one out.  As a newbie in the legal field, I used to volunteer for everything at my firm whether I knew how to do it or not.  I wanted to be on every project even if it meant coming in on the weekends and staying late at night.  After overhearing a conversation, I remember volunteering to prepare title claims and deed in lieu documents.  At the time I did not even know what they were—I had never seen or heard of them before.  It was a steep learning curve and I made a couple of errors along the way, but I had a great boss who enjoyed my enthusiasm and desire to learn. 


Self-Doubt and Pep Talks


Self–doubt is inevitable—everyone feels this at some point in their lives.  Questioning yourself and your abilities will occur occasionally.  The problem is allowing self-doubt to linger.  Napoleon Hill once said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it will achieve.”  You will have to learn the value of self-talk and become your biggest cheerleader.  Do not allow self-doubt to eat away at your self-confidence.  As a way of overcoming self-doubt, some people say affirmations in the morning or read scriptures that help to center their thoughts and renew their confidence within themselves.  It is about changing your mindset.  Even if you have family and friends cheering you on, if you do not believe you can do it you will not.  It starts with you.   


I am currently in transition from being a paralegal to becoming an HR professional.  This is new to me and I often feel I am starting over.  Sometimes this comes with a lot of self-doubt—I am leaving something I am familiar with to enter a world that is new to me and, while it is challenging, I love HR and the passion drives me.  Ultimately the biggest battle you will have to fight and win is with yourself. 


Creating a Good Support System


Find an advocate at work, someone who is willing to mentor you in your professional development.  They can help you navigate the workplace and give you tips on how to improve.  It is always great to build connections within your place of employment.  Having external mentors is essential to your career development as well.  This gives you someone you can vent to about what is going on at work and never have to worry about it getting back to the boss.  When you are down, it is wonderful to have people around you to remind you of how great you are.

Starting a new career and/or looking for new job opportunities can be scary, but self-confidence and perseverance can take you far.  I was encouraged by an interview I saw with Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba.  In his interview he spoke about the importance of not giving up.  He is quoted as saying, “I failed 3 times in college.  I applied 30 times to get a job but I have always been rejected.  When KFC came to China for the first time, we were 24 to apply and I was the one to be dismissed.  I wanted to go into the police and 5 postulants, I was the only one not to be accepted.  I applied 10 times to return to Harvard University USA and I was rejected.”  It takes a lot of self-confidence to be able to pick yourself up and move forward after being rejected so many times.  It all starts and ends with you.  Had he given up or allowed self-doubt to take over, he would not be enjoying the success of Alibaba right now. 



Tashania Morris, 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.

Tags:  administrative  career corner  legal  legal assistant  legal networking  legal professional  paralegal  paralegal career 

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May Grammar Nuggets

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, AC, Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, May 17, 2016

NALS Paralegal Professionals - Grammar Nuggets - Proof That Blog KathyPretty Is As Pretty Does


One of the important pieces of proofreading is making sure your document looks good (in addition to being accurate). Here are some tips for aesthetically pleasing documents:


Avoid widow and orphan lines. Those are the single lines or words at the top of a page (widow) or at the bottom of the page (orphans). In a Word document, use the para widow orphan control feature to keep widows and orphans away.

Check to see if the entire document is justified or not justified. Particularly where there is a lot of cutting and pasting or several people working on the document, you may see that some paragraphs are justified while others are not. Consistency is what matters. Decide which to use and make sure all the paragraphs are that style.

Is the spacing even? Some paragraphs could be double, some could be 24 space, some could be 1.5 lines. To some people, that would all look “close enough,” but to someone checking how a document looks, it will be noticed (and judges and opposing counsel may well notice it too).

Are the margins even on every page? Make sure the margins match paragraph to paragraph and page to page. Something I see a lot is where someone pulls the right-hand margin in for a quotation and it does not get changed back to the original margin.

Do the headings line up at the same tab stop consistently throughout the document and are they numbered consecutively? This is an important step in the process. Sometimes one last run-through just to check paragraph numbers is worth it. It is much better than opposing counsel objecting to a paragraph because there are two paragraphs numbered 3 and no number 5. It is best to set up styles and number that way, but no matter which way you go, at least check it.

Are the headings that are supposed to be centered actually centered? If there is a tab set on the same line as the heading, it will center between that tab and the end of the line. Be sure to check there are no tabs set on that line.

If you, the author, or the client insists that a document line up with pleading paper line numbers, try to get it there. It takes time and can be highly frustrating, particularly if there are headings that are single spaced when the body is 24 space, but you can get close. And it really does look much nicer to have it all aligned with the numbers (and it is easier to refer back in a subsequent document to a page and line number if necessary).


Following these steps will help you have a document that looks like someone cared enough to make it look right—because YOU cared.


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 has a blog on proofreading tips at http://proofthatblog.com. If you have specific grammar issues you would like covered in future issues, please send them to Kathy at proofthatblog@gmail.com.


Tags:  Accredited Legal Professional  administrative  grammar  grammar nuggets  legal  legal professional  office procedures  paralegal 

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