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Social Media – Communication for the Future

Posted By Lydia Goodner and Paula Steffey, PP, CLP-SC, CWCP, Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Social Media ArticleLocal chapters and state associations are faced with the need for increased community awareness.  NALS of Greater Kalamazoo’s President, Cathy A. Zackery, CLP, recently contacted Lydia Goodner at the NALS Resource Center expressing an interest in creating a social media chair for NALS of Michigan.   Their idea was not only to increase community awareness, but also to share and discuss content on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and a blog of articles. 

Members are encouraged to follow the social media content from their local chapters and state associations as well as chapters in other states.  Having a secondary membership is also a great way to find out what other chapters are doing and to get ideas that could be implemented in your own chapter.    Social media is a fantastic initiative that benefits NALS and legal professionals everywhere. 

The questions posed by NALS of Michigan were: 

  • Are you (Lydia) the only person managing the social media accounts or do you have a team?
  • Did you set up a special email address for those accounts?
  • How much time do you spend weekly managing the Twitter and Facebook accounts?
  • How often do you try to post something? Daily? Weekly?
  • How do you manage the “negative responses”? Do you just delete and block the user?


Before these questions can be answered, the chapter or state association needs to put some thought into their social media platform.   NALS members are volunteers, and many volunteers are strapped for time.  When it comes to  managing social media, you want to get the most bang out of the time spent.   The initial recommendation is to focus on a Facebook group and/or page and Instagram.   Twitter is a bit of a time-waster where much of your content will not produce a "return."   Facebook and Instagram will give you a better return on time invested. 

Once you have decided on your social media platform, the question of Administrators needs to be addressed.  At the NALS Resource Center, Lydia is the only person managing the social media accounts on a full-time basis.  However, she does have the Executive Director as an Administrator on the Facebook page and group. The Administrator placement is just as a back-up in case she is out sick or cannot fully answer a question, in which case the Administrator can step in and answer any potential questions.  Lydia uses her work email address for the accounts and setups.  If your chapter has a designated email address or something that is shared, then use that email address.  Just make sure you have the right access to the email for account confirmation.   It is not recommended to use a personal or work email address for these account setups.  If the accounts are compromised or deleted, then anyone who comes behind you can still access the account.   

The next step is probably the most important–deciding on a communication plan and setting goals.   A suggestion is to plan three months at a time so that you can still be flexible with communications, but still have goals.  

For example, NALS now has an Instagram account.  The sole focus and communication is on celebrating life moments among legal professionals everywhere.  Every morning Lydia spends about 30 minutes rummaging through hashtags like: #paralegal; #paralegallife; #legalpros; #NALSPALS; and #NALSorg to share other people’s posts to the NALS feed, congratulating them, and wishing them success.  She also uses an iPhone app called ‘Repost’ to do this. It is a great way to start conversations online with individuals who might not know your chapter exists. Check out the NALS Instagram account at: https://www.instagram.com/nalsorg/ 

Doing this for your chapter could be just as easy.  All you would need to do is search hashtags like #[yourcityname]; and #[yourstatename]. This is a good way to promote chapter awareness which can lead to potential partnerships, sponsorships, and community engagement.  

In maintaining the Facebook page, Lydia spends about 3-4 hours per week gathering information and creating graphic posts for three weeks.  She makes sure all of the NALS national events are placed on the page, first and foremost, so that she can share a reminder in the future without having to rewrite the information.  Posts are typically shared with links from the NALS website or images that she finds.  You can also share content directly from the NALS (national) page to support your chapter efforts. Here is an example:
 https://www.facebook.com/CobbCountyLegalProfessionalsAssociation/

A Facebook group is a FANTASTIC tool.  Typically any members you add will create their own conversation at their own pace, PLUS what they post can give you some content ideas.  Your main priority is to moderate the conversation. If you would like, you can see a ‘Pinned Post’ in the NALS Group here:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/associationforlegalpros . Feel free to copy the relevant bits for your own group. 

Facebook also launched a way to ask questions to those who want to join the group. This means you can ask where the person works, if they are a member, and if they are interested in being a member. These questions could give you leads and insight on those who join your group.

The main key to a successful social media campaign is consistency.  If members and non-members expect you to post once per week, be sure you do it at least once per week.  Lydia currently reposts about three images to Instagram every weekday morning.  She also posts in the NALS Facebook page about one time per week. She rarely posts in the Facebook group, but does moderate and monitor the discussions. 

Negativity is unavoidable.  Never just ignore and/or delete a negative post.  That can typically come back to bite you.  Ultimately, stay calm and be polite. Professionalism is key; remember you are representing your chapter and what that means to the profession and to you. 

If someone posts a negative review or comment, there are three things that can be done.  Thank them for their opinion (Try not to be formal. Just a short comment saying “thanks for reaching out to us” should be fine.), apologize for the inconvenience (“sorry to hear that you’re having problems with our product / you didn’t like our services”), and encourage them to send you a private message to discuss further solutions. If the consistent negative posting continues, you could then go through measures to remove and block, but only if necessary. 

As a national association, the health of state and local chapters is important so anything the NALS Resource Center can do to encourage community will be welcomed.

Has your chapter or state association found any helpful tools for social media?  Comment below! 

 

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Peggy Bennett: Where Is She Now?

Posted By Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS , Monday, July 24, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 24, 2017

The oldest living retired NALS legal secretary, Peggy Bennett, soon to be 98, is still physically and mentally active and busy traveling to receive more and bigger awards.  There was an article in April 2013 in the NALS docket when Peggy was only 95. Remember, she competed in the Senior Olympics (and still does) and performed regularly with the TNT Tappers dance troupe (and still does).  Peggy reads five newspapers a day, volunteers daily and tirelessly, and still has time for visiting family, playing bingo, cooking for friends, and going to the movies.  Amazing!

Peggy was raised in Brooklyn, New York, and is the last surviving member of her family of 16 siblings.  In 1946 she moved to Newburgh, New York, to raise her family.  She worked as a legal secretary and was a member of NALS for 38 years before retiring.  Life has been full all the way.

When Peggy was a member of the National Association of Legal Secretaries, now NALS…the association for legal professionals, she served as president of her local chapter—among other offices—but the national NALS conferences were the highlight of her professional life.  Peggy traveled to every state possible (and to Mexico) for the NALS educational conferences.  NALS had members from Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada.  During that time, she met Eula Mae Jett, the founder of NALS, at a NALS educational conference in Florida. “What a nice gal from California!” Among the original networkers, Peggy had NALS pals from all 50 states, and this was before social media.  Thank you, Eula Mae. 

Being so active is the secret to Peggy’s happy, long life.  This includes meeting new friends and public service.  Sharp as a tack, Peggy worked until she was 72 and has volunteered ever since.  She still walks to work to volunteer at the Newburgh Police Station in the records department.  She thinks of the cops as “my kids” and the policemen think of her as “mom.”  She has known some of them for 35 years.  

Peggy enrolled as a RSVP volunteer in Orange County in 1993 and has volunteered in 14 different areas, such as the Orange County Senior Advisory Council to Disaster Preparedness, delivering meals to the homebound, assisting with tax returns, providing entertainment and physical activities for seniors, among many more opportunities.  So far, Peggy has logged over 6,530 total volunteer hours!

Where is Peggy now?  She has been traveling the state to be recognized for her volunteer work.   On May 9, 2017, Peggy attended the New York State Office for the Aging 2017 Older New Yorkers’ Day celebration in the Hart Lounge @ The Egg in the Empire State Plaza in Albany, New York.  She was recognized by Greg Olsen, Director of the New York Office for the Aging, where he thanked Peggy for “donating [her] time, experience, and expertise to improving the lives of others.”

On May 15, 2017, Peggy received the Orange County Outstanding Contribution by a Senior Award presented at a spring luncheon in Middletown, New York.  Sherry Zambrzycki, an RSVP Coordinator for the Orange County Office for the Aging, describes Peggy as “dedicated, hard-working, intelligent, compassionate, athletic, energetic, reliable, warm, and friendly.  [These] are just some of the words that apply to this wonderful woman.  Peggy is a treasured resource here in Orange County.  She is a cheerful inspiration and a great example for us to know what is possible in life and to give all we can to help others.”  

Also on May 15, 2017, New York state senator William Larkin, Jr. wrote a letter of congratulations to Peggy enclosing a certificate of appreciation and a State of New York Legislative Resolution honoring her for special recognition by the New York State Office for the Aging, and said, “Thank you for enriching our community all these years.” The Resolution is a beautifully written document and the highest honor.  It describes Peggy’s personal and professional life briefly and focuses on her volunteer work for the aging community.  This Resolution describes her well by stating, “Whereas, Throughout the entire period of her community service, a period of constructive involvement, Peggy Bennett has stood constantly in dignity, good grace, and humor . . .  Rare indeed is the impressive dedication shown by an individual for the benefit of others which Peggy Bennett has displayed throughout her life.”  

On June 1, 2017, Peggy received a Proclamation from the Orange County legislature in recognition of her achievements and good works, “so that all citizens of Orange County may be mindful of her efforts and example, and accord to Peggy Bennett all due esteem, respect, appreciation, and honor.”  

Thank you, Peggy Bennett, for showing us all how great life can be for legal professionals after retirement, enjoying volunteerism, and being dedicated in service to others.  



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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Ask Eula Mae: Figuring Out the Dress Code

Posted By NALS Editorial Board, Monday, July 24, 2017

Dear Eula Mae:


I am new in the legal field and proud to be a legal secretary at a small law firm.  There are only ten of us.  We do not have a human resources office, only a paralegal who also serves as our office manager.  I want so much to be the consummate professional and want to look professional too.  I do not know where to start or what will work as a daytime wardrobe.  I am new to the workforce and only have a few pairs of dark slacks and kind of floaty tops that seem to look more casual than my coworkers’ dressy outfits. I need some advice.

Concerned in California



Dear Concerned:

What a great question!  Remember that you now are a representative of your office and need to look the part as well.  You could visit with the office manager about what is expected in your wardrobe at work.  Before you do that, look around at the professionals in your office.

Like most professions, the clients must have absolute confidence in hiring your firm. If you look sloppy, it gives the appearance that the work will be sloppy. Try to be neat, clean, and polished. That means muted colors (navy, gray, black, white), well-fitting clothes (not tight), and clean (no pet hair, lint).  If you look around in your office, you will see that there is no cleavage, no visible tattoos, face piercings, and no sandals.  

Dressing as a legal professional does not take a lot of money, just some carefully chosen pieces you can blend into the wardrobe you have.  Start with a navy or black jacket, a skirt and slacks to match.  These muted colors can be brightened with a colorful blouse, a colorful scarf, or a little jewelry.  Choose your best color and try to find different shirts and blouses in your color to mix-and-match with your suit.  Add in a cardigan, some gray, brown, or khaki slacks or skirts and you are done.  Shoes need to be reasonable and cover the feet, such as black flats and black low heels.

When you look good, you feel good, and you will do good work too. Good luck in your new chosen profession. I am sure you will do well.

 

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Here a Resource, There a Resource, Everywhere a Resource

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Monday, July 24, 2017

The best way to improve your proofreading skills is practice. But there are other resources available to help you learn or refresh your knowledge of grammar to improve your proofreading. Here are resources that I use regularly:

1. The Gregg Reference Manual. (Available at www.amazon.com). This book is always on my desk (and on my Kindle app) and is the first place I go when I need information. There are also some worksheets available if you really want to get your “learning” on. This is the resource for the Written Communications sections of NALS’ certification exams.

2. A dictionary. With all that is available online, there is no reason to misspell a word or not know what the word means. In addition, http://www.merriam-webster.com/ not only will define a specific word for you but gives you a word of the day and various quizzes to help you improve your vocabulary. There is always a hard copy dictionary as well. Every desk should have access to a dictionary—either book form or electronically.

3. A thesaurus. I use the one that is part of Microsoft Word, particularly when I am not sure whether the word being used is correct, such as affect/effect. It also helps if you are not familiar with a word to make sure that it is being used in the correct context.

4. Black’s Law Dictionary (or a more portable legal dictionary). I have a Barron’s Law Dictionary on my desk so I can prove to an attorney that it is a statute of limitations (among other legal words) or to look up a legal term that I do not understand.

5. Microsoft spell checker and grammar checker. While this is certainly not the “do all be all” of grammar, it can be helpful. Just do not rely on Microsoft. As great as the Word program is, sometimes the operator has issues all his/her own. For instance, I have a terrible problem typing "doe snot" instead of "does not". Since both "doe" and "snot" are correctly spelled, it does not come up as an error. If I did not actually read the document, that kind of error would not be caught. The grammar checker can also be helpful but, again, is not enough.

6. Websites. There are lots of websites, blogs, and other online information available. As with all things Internet, however, the authors of these websites and blogs are not incapable of making errors, so get the information and check it against another resource if necessary. My personal favorite is Grammar Girl (http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/). Some other fun sites I have found are Grammar Bytes (http://www.chompchomp.com/) and Grammar Slammer (http://englishplus.com/grammar/), although I am sure there are plenty of others out there. Of course, I hope Proof That Blog (http://proofthatblog.com/) is on YOUR list of resources.

That is my short list.

 

What is on your go-to list of proofreading resources?



Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, has been a member of NALS for over 30 years, is the Immediate Past 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 ProofThatBlog.com and a blog on life advice gained in growing older at 60istheNew60Blog.com.

 

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Men at Work

Posted By Charlene Sabini, BA, PP, CLP, ALP, Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 24, 2017

NALS - Association for Legal Professionals - Men at WorkThe vocation we call “paralegal” made its debut about 45 years ago. And, back then, the legal industry employed women primarily as legal secretaries; the early paralegals were, in fact, highly and specially trained legal secretaries. It is understandable, then, that the term “paralegal” has been connected primarily with professional women rather than men. There are reasons for that association. Women have traditionally worked in support positions to attorneys; a paralegal is a support position to attorneys; there were very few female attorneys at the time this vocation was created. Interestingly, however, men have increasingly become paralegals in recent years and, certainly, we have seen more and more women in the position of attorney during this time as well. 

Paralegal Bob Davidson, in an article entitled, Why Are There More Female Paralegals, remarked: 'Clients would ask me if I planned to go to law school. The shareholder of my firm thought I should attend law school. I mean, I am a male; certainly, I do not plan to be a ‘paralegal’ all my life! Or else clients thought I was an apprentice learning my trade with ‘lawyer’ as the goal. They did not understand that, even for men, being a paralegal is its own career.'1

Then there is the mistaken ignorance regarding males working in a traditionally female role. Male paralegals are sometimes strangely viewed as failures or losers. The unenlightened may erroneously think male paralegals failed their law school admissions test or even failed in law school altogether. Some male (and female) paralegals have indeed earned a Juris Doctor (“J.D.”) degree, which may imply their goal was to become a lawyer. It is not uncommon to meet paralegals who actually hold J.D. degrees and J.D. degrees have been seen on paralegal résumés.2


Males, despite stereotypes and misperceptions, are making definite inroads into the traditional female paralegal occupation. The percentage of males employed as such is noticeably rising. A 2012 article noted that in 2005 the percentage of males in the paralegal/legal assistant workforce was 10.9 percent; in 2011 it was 15.7 percent—a 44 percent increase during those six years. In 2013, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, that percentage had dropped slightly to 13.9 percent, but that was still an improvement over 2005. But at 86.1 percent, women still dominate the ranks of paralegals and legal assistants.3


Men are also seeing the advantages of working as paralegals or legal assistants. Men can use their analytical or organizational skills, work in a challenging and exciting profession, and actively deal with clients. Again, the paralegal profession is not simply a “glorified secretary,” and men are finding the position’s challenges attractive. 

Daniel Hagel, a male legal assistant currently in Eugene, Oregon, happened upon the legal field somewhat by accident, answering a notice in a local newspaper. His practice area is mainly personal injury, and a past history as a U.S. Army medic has provided insight into understanding medical records and injuries. He also has a technical degree in computer science. His duties typify a legal assistant’s job and include answering phones, having client contact, communicating with insurance adjusters and other law firms or employees, doing research, ordering medical records, drafting demands, creating correspondence, and seeing to file management. When others ask him about occupying a nontraditional role, he reflects, “Similar to a male nurse. Men typically don't hold this type of position.”  He has been in the legal field now for ten years and plans to continue. “I will stay in the legal field. I have gained great satisfaction in what I do. I feel in the personal injury field that I am helping people who are going through an extremely difficult period in their life and I enjoy helping them.” Daniel currently works with one other legal assistant and one attorney in a small law firm setting.4

On the other hand, William Sewell, a longtime legal assistant in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, area, is a very assertive fellow with strong opinions about his profession.

“I am 6’2” and over 275 pounds and I shave my head. I am very loud sometimes and I simply require different working arrangements than are typically offered to paralegals as suitable work environments (compared to some females).” As a male paralegal, he finds the gossiping and office politics to be intolerable, “. . . and I have left positions for that very reason.”

When asked if he felt or noticed any kind of discrimination in the paralegal field by being a male, he responded, “I remember back in the early ’90s when I would temp as a legal assistant that attorneys would come out of their office just to see the ‘male legal secretary’ or the ‘male legal assistant’ or ‘Hey, that’s a guy!’ You got me there. I’m a guy.”

When asked why he did not become a lawyer—that common question asked of male paralegals—he replied, “There are too many lawyers as it is. Having more lawyers per capita than anywhere else in the world is having a tangible and negative effect on this country. The future of the legal industry compels an expanded use of paralegals.” Perhaps that can be interpreted as a left-handed statement of support for the legal assistant profession.

But Sewell had a way of explaining the relationship with his attorneys: “I equate the occupation of a paralegal as similar to nursing as far as the necessary education, testing, etc. When people ask me what a paralegal is, I say ‘A Doctor has a Nurse and an Attorney has a Paralegal,’ and they immediately get it.”

Here is Mr. Sewell’s advice on self-improvement: 

Utilize every opportunity to sharpen your skills. Take a class, even if it has to be at your own expense. Learn or get certified somehow on the newest version of the software that your firm utilizes.  Sometimes a refresher course can offer you a shortcut or trick which can prove to be invaluable. I try to add to my arsenal of skills, tips, and tricks as often as I can.5

In an interview on the LegalTalk Network, two male paralegals, Carl H. Morrison, II, PP-SC, AACP, a senior paralegal at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and a member of the NALS Board of Directors, and Zachary W. Brewer, CP, a litigation paralegal at Hall Estill, discussed working as paralegals in a traditionally female career.  In the interview, Morrison shared a positive view of working in the profession. Morrison said, “More men are starting to see that it is a rewarding profession.” On the advice he would give to men who are considering a career as a paralegal in a female dominated profession, Morrison said, “I would say go for it. I think that there are a lot of great opportunities out there. It is a rewarding profession. I absolutely love what I do.”6

The career path is becoming attractive “particularly in areas where industries have been hard hit and it makes sense for people to retrain and find new professions,” notes John Shupper, chair and director of the legal studies department at South University in Columbia, South Carolina. “I’m seeing more men in my classes recently. It’s an opportunity to get involved in an area where there’s a future. The skills you need to be a paralegal these days are skills that would translate well whether you’re working in a law office or a bank or an insurance company.”7
 
One positive conclusion is that additional male paralegal presence in the workplace is establishing more valuable diversity therein and changing even the social fabric of the office. Legal assisting also offers alternative employment for males looking to leapfrog into different careers due to changes in local economies. The obvious growth of the paralegal profession nationwide, too, has brought new attention to the paralegal/legal assistant profession, and many male paralegals are finding satisfaction, education, dignity, and advancement opportunities within this line of work. 

 



Charlene Sabini, BA, PP, CLP, ALP, is a legal assistant for attorney David Vill in juvenile law in Eugene, Oregon. She is Director of Education for her local chapter, NALS of Lane County in Eugene, is editor of her chapter’s newsletter, NALS in Motion, and has earned three NALS CLE Awards. She proofreads on the NALS Editorial Board and contributes articles/essays for the NALS docket and @Law and is an Affiliate Member of the Lane County Bar Association. She also successfully petitioned the Oregon State Bar Association to allow guest speaking attorneys at non-lawyer education meetings to receive CLE credit—formerly not allowed in Oregon. She was a finalist for the NALS of Oregon Award of Excellence in 2017 and was selected as Member of the Year, 2017. She is also a 14-year volunteer with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office in Eugene, has served as the sheriff’s newsletter editor, currently serves as the county jail librarian, and earned the Jail Volunteer of the Year award in 2009 from The Oregon State Sheriff’s Association/Jail Command Council.

 



1. Bob Davidson, “Why Are There More Female Paralegals?”, July 25, 2014, 
https://theparalegalsociety.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/why-are-there-more-female-paralegals/ 
2. Id.
3. Id.
4. Email from Daniel Hagel, legal assistant, Dwyer, Potter, Williams et al, Eugene, Oregon, to Charlene Sabini, NALS of Lane County (December 8, 2016, 12:06 p.m., on file with author).
5. Male Paralegal Questionnaire, July 18, 2015, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/male-paralegal-questionnaire-william-sewell 
6. Brian Craig, More Men Finding the Benefits of Working in the Paralegal Profession, July 9, 2012, http://www.globeuniversity.edu/blogs/paralegal-programs/paralegal-more-men-are-making-it-a-career/
7. http://source.southuniversity.edu/paralegal-field-not-just-for-women-23807.aspx, June 2013 

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