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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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Using Foreign Words in Legal Writing Is Not Necessarily Your Pièce De Résistance

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Grammar Nuggets: LanguageA good friend asked if I would write on the use of foreign words/languages in English writing, particularly whether we should include the foreign characters, accent marks, etc. in our legal writings.


The basic answer is sometimes.


If a foreign word has become a part of the English language, like résumé, it does not need to be italicized. NOTE: I am using italics here just to emphasize the words I am talking about. Some words and phrases will retain the diacritical marks, such as the accent marks in résumé, vis-á-vis, and the circumflex in paper-mâche, but the words are not italicized.


According to The Bluebook A Uniform System of Citation, foreign words and phrases that are used often in legal writing and are familiar to the legal community are not italicized, but foreign words and phrases that are very long, obsolete, or uncommon Latin, should be italicized. For instance, do italicize:

  • Ignorantia legis neminem excusat ("ignorance of the law does not excuse")

But not:

  • quid pro quo

Note, however, that id. is always italicized (including the period), but e.g. is only italicized when it is used as a signal as in See, e.g., Smith v. Brown. In re and ex rel. and other such procedural phrases are always italicized.


Avoid using Latin or other foreign words and phrases where it is not necessary and where an English word or phrase will work just as well and that will avoid the issue altogether; but when you do use them, if it is well known to the legal community or well-integrated into the English language, retain its diacritical marks, but do not italicize.

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Foster Care: A History

Posted By Charlene Sabini, B.A., PP, CLP, ALP, Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Updated: Monday, December 18, 2017

The history of foster care in the United States had beginnings elsewhere and at other times. Very early documentation of children being cared for in foster homes can actually be found in the Old Testament and in the Talmud. Caring for dependent children was established as a duty under law. Early Christian church records also show children were boarded with "worthy widows" who were paid by collections from the congregation.1 The Quran also carried on this tradition of caring for orphans and widows. It was English Poor Law, however, that lead to development and eventual regulation of family foster care here in the United States. In 1562, these laws allowed the placement of poor children into indentured service until they came of age.2 Even though indentured service permitted exploitation, it was an improvement over almshouses where children didn't learn a trade and were exposed to unsanitary conditions and abusive caretakers.

At this time, children were placed into these homes because their parents or guardians were deceased rather than because they had been abused in their home, as child abuse was largely socially accepted and legal. Today, foster children are usually removed from a home due to abuse rather than because they were orphaned.3 In 1853, a minister named Charles Loring Brace, founded the Children's Aid Society in New York City, where he observed many immigrant children sleeping in the streets. Brace subsequently initiated the Orphan Train Movement where over 150,000 orphaned children in New York City were sent by train to farms across the country, primarily in the Midwest. Some children were treated with love and respect in these locations, while others were treated as slaves, even abused, and were often found to be working overly long hours. But as the emphasis was on providing abandoned children some semblance of family life, Brace's system became the foundation for today's foster care system.4

Slowly, the foster care program began to take shape. Our government became interested and involved itself in finding and providing homes to homeless children. Even licensing evolved to ensure the children were taken care of in a respectable, responsible, and caring way.

In the early 1900s, social and governmental agencies began to actually monitor and supervise foster parents. The practice of placing a child with just any willing family was over. These agencies took the child’s welfare and needs into account and began a system of reports and records.5

Along the way, common sense suggested that emotional security was vital to children’s health and welfare, and science produced evidence to support this concept. Research on attachment and loss and studies of maternal deprivation in infancy influenced policies of placement and generated a more pro-adoption climate after 1940.

By 1950, statistics showed that children in family foster care outnumbered children in institutions for the first time. By 1960, there were more than twice as many in foster care. By the late 1970s, the foster child population exceeded 500,000, roughly where it stands today. Foster placements could be numerous and lengthy in practice, but in theory they were temporary because children maintained ties to their birth parents. Between the 1930s and the 1970s, as foster care became more common for more children, adoptions increasingly involved practices like matching, policies like confidentiality and sealed records, and placements of infants and toddlers rather than older children. Adoption aspired to the wholesale substitution of one family for another, unlike foster care.6

The present foster care system within the United States has taken on the nature of a complex bureaucratic apparatus. As Bass, Shields, and Behrman have written: "When entering foster care, or the 'child welfare system,' a child does not enter a single system, but rather multiple systems that intersect and interact to create a safety net for children who cannot remain with their birth parents;" and the organizations involved in this larger system include "state and local child welfare agencies, courts, private service providers, and public agencies that administer other government programs."7 Within the court system, an attorney or qualified person known as a court appointed special advocate (or CASA) is often designated to assure that the foster child's voice is heard when it is relevant to decision making.8

So, the history of child welfare in the United States can be characterized by a continuous shift between family preservation and child safety. “The 1970s saw efforts to reduce children’s time in foster care and expedite paths to permanency. The 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) (P.L. 105-89) marked the first occasion where issues related to permanency were explicitly stated in legislation. . . . This law connected safety and permanency and demonstrated how each factor was necessary to achieve overall child well-being. While ASFA made clear that child safety was paramount, it also provided a new way of defining permanency for children and youth in foster care. The law specified that states had to improve the safety of children, promote adoption and other permanent homes for children who needed them, and support families. ASFA also required child protection agencies to provide more timely assessment and intervention services to children and families involved with child welfare. Additionally, ASFA paved the way for the legal sanction of concurrent planning (simultaneously identifying and working on a secondary goal such as guardianship with a relative) in states by requiring that agencies make reasonable efforts to find permanent families for children in foster care should reunification fail.” 9

In 2015, over 670,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care. On average, children remain in state care for nearly two years and six percent of children in foster care have remained there for five or more years. Despite the common perception that the majority of children in foster care are very young, the average age of kids in foster care is nearly 9.  In 2015, more than 20,000 young people aged out of foster care without permanent families. Research has shown that those who leave care without being linked to forever families have a higher likelihood than youth in the general population to experience homelessness, unemployment, and incarceration as adults.10

Many social workers currently report that most children enter the foster care system as a result of abuse and/or neglect, and that drug abuse by parents is a major reason why it is not possible for some parents to care for their children in an effective way. For the past several decades, the foster care system has confronted substance abuse, AIDS, and other adult epidemics that trickle down to children.11 Those of us who work in juvenile law see drug and alcohol abuse as a dominant factor in removal of children from the homes in which the abuse is evident.

1.National Foster Parent Association, http://nfpaonline.org/page-1105741.
2.  Ibid.
3. Foster Care: Background and History, http://family.findlaw.com/foster-care/foster-care-background-and-history.html.
4. Ibid.
5. TLC Child and Family Services, http://www.tlc4kids.org/blog/admin/09-05-2014/brief-history-foster-care, courtesy of Adoption.com, September 5, 2014.
6. Ellen Herman, The Adoption History Project, http://pages.uoregon.edu/adoption/topics/fostering.htm, February 24, 2012.
7. Bass, Sandra, Margie K. Shields, and Richard E. Behrman, "Children, Families, and Foster Care: Analysis and Recommendations." Children, Families, and Foster Care, 14.1 (2004). Web. 23 Jul. 2015, http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=40&articleid=132§ionid=865.
8. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/the-history-of-the-foster-care-system-in-the-united-states.html, August 12, 2015.
9. https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/permanency/overview/history/
10. http://www.childrensrights.org/newsroom/fact-sheets/foster-care/
11. Herman, loc. cit.

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Figuring Out the Dress Code

Posted By NALS Editorial + Marketing Board, Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Updated: Monday, December 18, 2017

Dear Eula Mae:

I’m new in the legal field and proud to be 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 don’t know where to start or what will work as a daytime wardrobe. I’m 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 co-workers’ 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, no face piercings, and no sandals.

Dressing as a legal professional doesn’t take a lot of money, just some carefully chosen pieces that you can blend in to the wardrobe that 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 and 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’m sure you will do well.

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Chapter Spotlight: NALS of Northeast Ohio

Posted By Antoinette B. VanSchaick, PP, SC, Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Updated: Monday, December 18, 2017

In 1977, while driving back from a NALS meeting, NALS member Marlene Oiler and her friend, Nancy Suvak, talked about forming a chapter.  Marlene had the knowledge of how to organize and accomplish starting a chapter, while Nancy knew the community.  They invited individuals working in the legal field in the Medina County area to meet.  A few months later, on August 13, 1977, the Medina County Legal Secretaries Association was formed and chartered.  Medina County is located about 30 minutes south of Cleveland and east of Akron.


Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the local membership and Ohio membership were strong.  As life changed, however, so did the membership.  One of the changes occurred in 2008 when the Medina County Legal Secretaries Association changed its name to NALS of Northeast Ohio.


For a chapter with only 16 members, however, it wields a powerful punch.  Sarah Twyford, PP, PLS, SC-Civil Litigation, serves as President; Sarah Wilk serves as its Secretary; Deborah Smith serves as Treasurer; and charter member, Marlene Oiler, PLS Emeritus, serves as Parliamentarian.


Currently, NALS of Northeast Ohio handles all notary testing and renewals in Medina County under the direction and assistance of Probate Judge Kevin W. Dunn.  The revenue raised from this venture is the chapter’s only source of income and is used to provide funding for members to attend seminars and for legal education.  NALS of Northeast Ohio also awards annual scholarships totaling $5,000.00 to two high school or college applicants going into the legal profession and their local bar association has raised its scholarship to match the scholarship award given by NALS of Northeast Ohio.


NALS of Northeast Ohio is also a very civic-minded and charitable organization.  Each year, NALS of Northeast Ohio members nominate local charities that they want charitable contributions made to, and some of their notary revenue is donated to groups such as animal rescue, hospice, and their local drug court.  They also donated a stone at long-time member Rose Costigan’s favorite local wildlife center in her memory after she passed away.  In addition, for the past two years, its members have rung the Red Kettle Bell for the Salvation Army at Thanksgiving and Christmas. 


Not only did Gov. John Kasich recognize NALS of Northeast Ohio as an important resource for legal professionals in Northeast Ohio, but the Office of the Ohio Attorney General also issued a proclamation in honor of NALS of Northeast Ohio’s 40th anniversary!


NALS of Northeast Ohio is proof-positive that you don’t need to be a big chapter to do great things.  I hope you will join me in congratulating NALS of Northeast Ohio on its 40th anniversary and wishing them the best as they continue to engage, inspire, enhance, and promote legal professionals in Northeast Ohio.

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What Does NALS Leadership Look Like: A series to discuss leadership characteristics

Posted By Leadership Identification Committee, Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Updated: Monday, December 18, 2017

Leadership can mean many different things. To some, it is a state of being or a position, but to others, like the NALS Leadership Identification Committee (“LIC”), it is a demonstrable characteristic of actively guiding a group or an organization. The LIC was created to identify potential future leaders for service on the NALS Board of Directors and assist leaders (NALS members) in finding other leadership roles within the association as committee and task force chairs and/or members. To that end, the LIC has identified a short list of desired attributes for future leaders of the organization that will best allow NALS to thrive. We as an organization need people who embody each of the following:

  • Financial Guru
  • Strategist
  • Relationship Builder
  • Tech Savvy
  • Visionary/Innovator

In order to help the membership better understand what each of these characterizations means and how they fit into the future of NALS, the LIC will be hosting Zoom Calls (https://zoom.us/) in alternating months. We will introduce you to the LIC and our role in identifying and preparing future leaders of the organization. We will also provide tips about developing the leadership qualities within each of us and honing them for use within NALS.


Our first introduction call occurred on Thursday, November 30, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern/12 p.m. Pacific via Zoom meeting. Listen below to our introduction to this series. 


On each call you will hear from an LIC member who cares about and is invested in the future of the organization and you will be able to ask questions about where you can help. The meetings will be brief—under 30 minutes for those who will need to join over a lunch hour—and informative. If you believe you are a leader, want to become one, or have been told you have what it takes, we hope you will join us.


If you have questions, please contact us (Brandi Hobbs, ALP; Kerie Trindle Byrne, PP, PLS, CP; and Sherry Baran) at LIC@nals.org

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more Calendar

3/21/2018 » 9/15/2018
NALS Traveling Gavel Challenge

4/1/2018 » 5/15/2018
NALS Foundation Full Circle 5K

4/6/2018 » 4/7/2018
Adventure Tulsa 2018

Tara Hughes PP-SC ACP RP2018 NALS Board of Directors
Carl H. Morrison PP-SC RP AACP2018 NALS Board of Directors

CLE Opportunities
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