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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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Ask Eula Mae: Social Media and Work

Posted By NALS Editorial Board, Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Dear Eula Mae:

 

I am a new legal secretary at a large law firm and even though the human resources department gave me a tour and an employee manual, nothing was said about our use of social media.  I try so hard to have a good profile on Facebook and post tons of photos.  My concern is that maybe some of the photos do not show me in the best light, perhaps not professional, but may look like I am a party girl, when I am not really.  What do I do about keeping a professional profile outside of the office?

 

Fun Girl

 

 

Dear Fun Girl:

 

We live in a world where information is everything.  That means we must be careful of our social media profiles.  A friend can “tag” you in an unflattering photo on Facebook and what if they tag you in your “freewheeling” days?  This is probably not the image you wish to project as a legal professional.  Remember, you are an extension of your boss and your firm.  It all goes back to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in that the attorney is responsible for the non-attorney personnel who work for them.  Avoiding even the appearance of impropriety is important to all the top professions.  In a large law firm, there may be a policy that describes what you should or should not post on social media—certainly not anything about any clients.  In a smaller office or a sole practitioner’s office, this might not be the case, so how do you manage that?  You could open a profile with a pseudonym to keep your information (somewhat) confidential and do not “friend” people that you do not know.  To guard your professional identity, choose carefully what you post and manage who can look at your profile.  Also, use your phone to access Facebook (on your own time and not on office time) rather than the computer on your desk at work.

 

Eula Mae

 


 

 

Submit Your Questions To Ask Eula Mae By Clicking Here.

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Career Corner: Being Thankful for Failures

Posted By Tashania Morris, MSHRM, ALS, CDF, CPC, Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Being Thankful for FailuresFear of failure sometimes keeps people locked in little boxes.  It is like having two monkeys on your shoulders, one saying, “You can do it” and the other saying, “You cannot do it!”  It will not work—stay safe and stop the madness.  For some weird reason, the monkey with the louder voice is the one telling you to be safe—it yells, screams, and tap dances on your shoulder, but most of the time it just will not shut up, simply because you will not let it.  Napoleon Hill once said, “Fears are nothing more than states of mind.  One’s state of mind is subject to control and direction.”  Failure begins and ends in the mind.  


This past year has been challenging.  I left a job that most people would consider a “good job” and, at the time I did it, I was convinced it was the best decision of my life.  Yes!  I stepped out, took the plunge, and then thought, “What now?”  In my mind, I had been planning it for years and finally I was able to silence the monkey on my shoulder and took action.  Truth is, while I really enjoyed the legal field, I fell in love with HR and really immersed myself in it.  I felt that my legal background was a perfect marriage with my HR degree.  I joined organizations, found mentors, and then the monkey—the one I silenced—came back.  It started to dance on my shoulder yelling even louder asking, “What are you doing?”  All my fears and insecurities resurfaced.  I remembered graduating from undergrad and not being able to find a paralegal job.  The monkey reminded me of how hard I worked, it showcased the career chances I had taken along the way, and I thought maybe, just maybe, I should have waited.  Maybe I should not have made the career move.  That other voice—the quiet one—would speak up once in a while.  The crazy thing is, when it spoke up, it was wise and firm.  It reminded me that if I had not taken the plunge, I would have regretted it five to ten years from now.  I would have always wondered, “What if?”


When my plunge did not really work out exactly the way I planned in my mind, I started to retreat and stay safe, becoming more and more risk averse.  Why?  The fear of failure.  Fear of failure keeps people at jobs they hate, in relationships they need to leave, and hinders progress.  I decided to research the reasons why companies fail and what makes people successful.  I realized that it is not allowing fear to paralyze your decisions—that sometimes you have to act even when you are fearful.


Starting over reminded me of what “no” felt like.  No’s can bring forth a certain level of insecurities; however, with determination, persistence, and a lot of self-talk, I really believe you can accomplish your goals by setting realistic expectations.


Failure lessons

 

Making mistakes is a part of life.  In a Harvard Business Review article, William McKnight, the chairman of 3M states, “The best and hardest work is done in the spirit of adventure and challenge . . . Mistakes will be made.” (Birkinshaw & Haas, 2016)  The article talks about experimenting with failure and how organizations can use failures to maximize their return if and when they fail.  The article lists three things that companies can use to get a return on failure: 

  • Learn from every failure 
  • Share the lessons 
  • Review your pattern of failure

(Birkinshaw & Haas, 2016)


Do not forget that being fearful to step outside of your comfort zone will hinder your growth.


Things that failure taught me during this season 


Perfection—You do not have to be perfect to step out.  The idea of pure perfection can keep you from trying anything.  You might never be good enough.  

 

Procrastination—Failure to act will leave you stagnant.  Before you know it, you will be stuck at a job you promised yourself would only last a year.


Comparison—Most of us base our feelings of failure on other people’s definition of success.  You might see someone else climbing the ladder; however, you do not know what struggles that person had to overcome to get to the top.  Figure out what success means to you and be brave—own it and be your authentic self. 


Fear of Success—Believe it or not, some people fear success.  They will sabotage their own work by being mediocre. 


Criticism—People are going to have an opinion and you have to know how to filter constructive criticism from “haters.”  It is always wise to seek counsel from mentors and people that have walked the path.  Try not to be too hard on yourself. 


During this period of uncertainty, I had to remind myself that even though I did not necessarily get everything I was hoping for, I accomplished most of my goals.  The no’s taught me resilience, perseverance, and, most of all, that sometimes it is okay to fail as long as you learn from them.  “Failure is less painful when you extract the maximum value from it.  If you learn from each mistake, large and small, share those lessons, and periodically check that these processes are helping your organization move more efficiently in the right direction, your return on failure will skyrocket.”  (Birkinshaw & Haas, 2016).  Failures are just lessons you needed to learn.  



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



 

References 
Birkinshaw, J., & Haas, M. (2016, May ). Increase Your Return on Failure. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2016/05/increase-your-return-on-failure.

 

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Uh oh . . . You made a mistake

Posted By Paula Steffey, PP, CLP-SC, Tuesday, January 3, 2017

You Made A MistakeAs legal support staff, we should all strive for perfection.  However, sometimes mistakes will happen.  As my current boss has told me several times, everyone makes mistakes.  It is how you handle the mistake that makes the difference. 

 

What would you do if you discovered a mistake after a document was sent out?  Would you make the corrections, resend it, and not say a word?  From my personal experience, I have found it better to “fess up” that you discovered a mistake and ask your attorney how this situation should be handled.  Chances are that, if it was in a simple cover letter, the attorney will just say do not worry about it.  If it is in a document that will need to be signed, then I can almost say for certain your attorney will want to send a separate letter outlining the correction and provide a revised document.

 

Was the mistake you made a missed deadline?  In the pit of your stomach you know that it could be thrown out or not be admissible.  Once you realize you missed the deadline, would you file it anyway and not tell your attorney?  If the document was a response to a request for admissions, which must be filed with the court within 28 days or they are deemed admitted, that is a consequence that could make or break the case and the attorney definitely needs to know.

 

What if your mistake was by omission such as forgetting to attach the document to an email or enclose it in the envelope?  Do you quickly resend the email with the attachment, but not copy your attorney on the email hoping he will not figure it out?  This usually backfires because that new email you sent will likely get forwarded to your attorney with a reply.  He is going to find out and it would be better to have him find out from you personally.  This example may sound ridiculous, but I worked for an attorney who would get very upset when one of his support staff would do that and she did it frequently which irritated him even more.

 

Also, you should always double-check the attachments and enclosures. Attach them to the email first before you begin writing and add the email address for the recipient last so it does not accidentally get sent before you are ready to hit send.  When processing the outgoing mail, it is always a good idea to reread the letter to make sure you are enclosing all of the attachments.  

 

It is not just the support staff who can make a mistake.  Attorneys are starting to type and/or edit more of their own work.  Attorneys are human and can make mistakes too.  Do you correct the letter or document before it gets sent out to make your attorney look and sound better?  Do you tell your attorney that you did it?  If it just needs some typos or punctuation corrected, that may be okay with him, but did your corrections change the substance?  It may or may not have so it is important to bring the corrections to the attorney’s attention.

 

I am sure we have all seen a letter come into the office with grammatical errors and typos.  Is it the legal support staff who made the mistake or possibly the attorney who wants it that way no matter what?  That is hard to say, but I would not criticize too much because you never know when a letter you drafted will come across their desk.  Will yours be perfect?

 

Obviously, the key to avoiding mistakes is taking your time—even when there is not time—and proofread your work. 

 

When I was 18 and started my first full-time job, my supervisor had a sign in his office with a very catchy quote.  I have always remembered that quote:  If you do not have time to do it right the first time, when are you going to have time to do it over?

 


 

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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Ask Eula Mae: First Day on The Job

Posted By NALS Editorial Board, Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Dear Eula Mae:

 

I am so excited because I just started a new job at a large law firm.  My previous job was as a typist and now I am a legal secretary!  There is so much to learn that it is a little intimidating.  I really do not want to give the office the impression of how nervous I really am, but rather that they hired the consummate professional.  I am proud to be a legal secretary and want to learn and grow with this opportunity.  Can you tell me how to not project how anxious I really am about this job?

 

Signed,

Nervous Nelly

 

 

 

Dear Nelly:

 

Well, how exciting that you have a new job.  Everything will be all right.  Think about this:  of all the people that were interviewed, they chose you!  That means they feel certain that you can do the job.  So now what can you do to alleviate some of your nerves?  Be sure that you eat healthy foods and sleep well before your first day.  The most important tool for you to have when you start your new job is a notebook and pen.  Keep it with you at all times.  It will be kind of like a journal, a map, and the beginnings of your personal reference manual.  You will need it to learn everyone’s names and who does what, where the files and supplies are, what kind of filing system the office uses, where the form books are housed, how you are to answer the phone, etc.  It is a good idea to take a few moments to review this first thing in the morning and you will soon be comfortable on the job.

 

Eula Mae


Submit Your Questions To Ask Eula Mae By Clicking Here.

 


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Grammar Nuggets: Capitalization in Legal Documents

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A reader asked about capitalization in legal documents. It sounds like it should be simple but research shows lots of people have their own ideas about what should be capitalized. The Gregg Reference Manual says there is no uniform style for capitalization in legal documents, but common practice is to capitalize key terms such as the parties and the type of document you are working on. Since we are talking about legal documents, I checked The Bluebook (19th ed.). Here is a quick breakdown of capitalization “rules” according to both sources:

 

Court—The word “court” is capitalized in these instances:

  • Always when referring to the United States Supreme Court
  • Always when the name of the court is spelled out, i.e. the United States District Court.
  • When your document is talking about the specific court that will rule, i.e. “We ask the Court to rule in favor of the Plaintiff.”
  • Do not capitalize the word “court” when talking about a ruling in another case, i.e. “The court in Roe ruled . . .” 

Parties—When referring to the parties in your particular document, capitalize their designation:

  • “The Plaintiff files this Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss.”
  • However, “The defendant in Smith v. Jones used the unclean hands defense.”

Titles of Documents—When referring to a document that has been filed in the same matter in which you are filing your document:

  • In the Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff alleges . . .
  • Under the Court’s February 10, 2014, Order . . . 

As for other defined terms in legal documents, I personally think it is much clearer if a term is defined and then capitalized throughout:

  • ABC Corporation (“Corporation”) hereby agrees . . .
  • The doctors employed by St. Joseph’s Hospital (“Doctors”) . . . 

This can be tricky when a defined term is used in describing another case. Only capitalize the defined term in YOUR case. If you can substitute the full name of the defined term, you can capitalize it. For instance, using our definition of “Corporation” above:

  • “At all times relevant hereto, Corporation was engaged in business in the state of Arizona.” Here, “. . . ABC Corporation was engaged in business . . .” is correct since you are talking about the defined Corporation.
  • HOWEVER–“In Smith, the corporation was engaged in the business of providing license plate holders through Internet sales.” Note that in this example, the corporation you are referring to is a corporation in the Smith case, not ABC Corporation. 

The same basic rule applies to defined documents:

  •  In its Motion for Summary Judgment (“Motion”), Plaintiff is attempting . . .. The Motion is untimely

This makes it more important to not just do a global search and replace. It may replace quoted words or other cases where the words should not be capitalized with the capitalized version.

 

One thing I did learn is that in legal documents using Bluebook style, words in headings are capitalized except for articles, conjunctions, or prepositions of four or fewer letters unless they begin the heading. This is different than the Gregg style for regular writing. See Things Are Coming to a Head[ing]! at proofthatblog.com.


 

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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