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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: How To Handle a Difficult Client

Posted By NALS Editorial Board, Monday, March 6, 2017

Dear Eula Mae:

Recently, our quiet office has had a series of nervous, disgruntled, and loud clients.  It shakes me up because I know my attorney really helps them, but my attorney has been on vacation for a week and some things are just moving a little slower.  Things will speed up and be completed when he returns.  I know I cannot say much to these clients because I am not an attorney, but they want me to.  They want some inside information and I really do not have that. I do not know what to do to handle these situations and it makes me uncomfortable.  I know my attorney wants me to be professional with the clients, but sometimes I just freeze when I know there is some action that could be taken to make it all better for the client.  Please help.

Steady in San Antonio
 
Dear Steady in San Antonio:

There will be many difficult clients in your career.  This response will only cover a few of them, but you will basically know how to deal with them.  If you can, talk with your attorney as soon as possible about how he or she wants you to handle these situations.  It is good to try to be prepared for such surprises. 

Sometimes there are criers.  This is usually in a divorce case and, really, it is not a good use of your attorney’s time to sit there with the client when all they do is cry, so that means you have the privilege.  There is not much you can say in this situation; however, it will really help the client if you will just sit with them, listen, and give them tissues.  It sounds like such a simple thing, and it is, because all anyone really wants is to be heard. 

Let’s say you answer the phone and the client is very upset about something that is taking longer than they expected.  The client is getting louder and louder and more angry, so what do you do?  The first thing, of course, is listen to them.  Let them vent, take notes, and say you will have the attorney call them back.  You know not to provide any advice because you are not an attorney.  In fact, “I am not an attorney” should be the first thing out of your mouth if you are pressed.  Follow this statement with, “I will immediately report your concerns to your attorney.”  See The Model Rules for Professional Conduct, Rule 5.3 Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistance.  Remember, all the client really wants is to be heard.  Listen carefully and try to find out what they really want.  Say as little as you can—just listen. 

The client may say things you do not want to hear.  That information is told to you in confidence and the only other person who should know about it is their attorney.  Be kind to them because, for a client, the legal process is scary and stressful.  They want answers now and it is up to the attorney to help them.  The best thing you can give them is your attention.

 


 

Submit Your Questions to Ask Eula Mae By Clicking Here.

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How to Be an Expert at Your Job and Build a Career

Posted By Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS, Friday, February 3, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2017

There is no such thing as instant success.  What may look effortless may actually take hours, even years, to achieve.  For example, Olympic athletes will train from the time they are small children until that moment of competition.  They will train four, eight, twelve hours a day to become elite performers. Even the day of the event will need more training for only a few minutes of competition.  The potential to win is there and the excellence of the training shows in all that they do—even the mistakes.  They are above average and their expertise shows.

 

The daily dedicated training is what turns your job into a career.  You must have the dedication to love it, even on the bad days.  You have to work it, develop it every day, whether you want to or not, and you need to constantly study everything about it.  Ask a million questions and make it a goal to learn every day.  You can learn from the people in your office and the clients you assist.  You can learn from the law itself and the documents you work on daily.  You can learn from your professional association.  Remember, with every profession, such as medical, legal, or competitive contracting businesses, confidentiality is of utmost importance.  No matter how great your skills are and how wonderful your customer service is, there is always room to grow and learn.  That is what makes every day so great.

 

This is the time of year for setting goals for all areas of your life and it is good to consider what you want to do to build your career.  Happiness is found in lifelong learning and it can make your job easier, better, and more enjoyable when you develop the skills you need.  Here is a list of ten things that can help with setting goals, improving your day-to-day life at work, and developing your expertise and career, therefore resulting in happiness:

  1. Proofreading

  2. Writing

  3. Accounting

  4. Analyzing and improving processes

  5. Reviewing the Model Rules for Professional Conduct annually

  6. Reviewing your skills annually with your attorney

  7. Volunteering to help others in your office

  8. Developing an educational plan in your office

  9. Networking with other legal professionals in your area

  10. Networking nationally through NALS

 

Expert skills will always be needed in any profession and these items, in particular, for legal work.  Proofreading will always be necessary and it goes hand-in-hand with good writing.  These are skills that can be developed but take a lot of practice.  To do this, read a lot and have resource books and Internet grammar sites handy for easy and quick access.  Accounting is a skill that will come in handy at work and in your home life.  All of these skills can be used for a lifetime.

 

Take some time to think about how you manage everyday processes.  Sometimes there is a better way to do things. A great challenge is when you have been in the office a long time and you can tell how to make a process more streamlined or how to make a checklist that will help you and a newbie in the office who works on similar cases.  When you take an idea or issue to your boss, be sure you can describe it and justify the reason for the action or the solutions to the problem.

 

It is a good idea to reread The Model Rules of Professional Conduct from time to time to underscore what is expected of you since those who work for attorneys are held to the same standards.  If you have any questions about the Model Rules, ask your attorney.

 

For your personal knowledge and résumé building, make a list of all your skills and accomplishments or build on your current résumé.  Think about what you would like to learn. Schedule a time with your attorney to review your skills and set some goals.  Feedback can be tough to take, but listen, take notes, and then work on what is suggested.  You have to know where to start.  Next year, this review will go better. 

 

While you are in this meeting, ask your attorney about what is expected of you with regard to helping others in the office.  If there is ever an opportunity to help someone, whether it is making coffee, making copies, typing, answering the phones, or making a courthouse run, it can be a real morale builder in the office.  The firm probably aims to work as a team and sharing the load ultimately benefits everyone. 

 

Maybe you have the skills and office know-how to develop some training for others in the office.  If you are not bold enough to do this on your own, work with your local NALS members to hold a continuing education event at your office that will benefit employees in your firm and other NALS members.  Of course, remember to consult with your boss and/or human resources manager before doing this.  Look for what is lacking and try to provide transferrable skills.  This, too, will benefit the whole firm.

 

One of the most important goals you can achieve is to build your network.  If you need a process server in another area of your state or even one for an out-of-state case, your NALS pals are readily available and just a phone call away.  Working, learning, and visiting with your local and state NALS members will prove to be priceless.  It is also important to meet legal professionals outside of NALS.  You know you cannot talk about individual cases, but you might want to share legal education opportunities.

 

You can be an expert at your job and build your career.  Review the list of items in this article and challenge yourself to develop what you need to make your work life easier, better, and happier.  Be glad for your job and the opportunities that it gives you.  Be glad that you are a member of a professional association that knows what you are going through on your job.  NALS is here to engage, inspire, enhance, and promote the legal profession and you.  When you commit to achieving expertise, you will reap the rewards a million times.  

 



Allison Streepey, B.A., PLS, CRS holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arts and Humanities from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and graduated with honors.  She is a nationally certified Professional Legal Secretary from NALS…the association for legal professionals.  Allison holds UAMS Certifications in Grants Management and as a Research Specialist.  Currently she is the Department Business Administrator for the office of Educational Development.  She is the only person on campus who has experience in pre- and post-award grants management (CON and OED), grants administration for UAMS (ORSP), and served as an Institutional Review Board (IRB) Administrator.  Allison has been a member of NALS for ten years and has served on the NALS Editorial Board for five years.  She is grateful for her NALS Pals everywhere.

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Ask Eula Mae: Job Burnout

Posted By NALS Editorial Board, Friday, February 3, 2017

Dear Eula Mae:

 

I have been working in the same law office for ten years and have tried so hard to grow with the firm.  Lately, I have been too busy to figure out how to do all of this work and I just do it.  Every day is filled with surprises which bring more work and the days just drag on longer.  I try to do too much and have started making silly mistakes that take longer to correct than if I had taken the time to do it right the first time.  It is getting harder and harder to get up in the mornings to go to work.  I used to leap out of bed feeling full of purpose and so ready to get there and do this job.  I am not sure what happened or what to do.

 

Tired in Tennessee

 

Dear Tired in Tennessee:

 

Oh dear!  This sounds like you need to take action right away.  You might need a few days off to reassess your situation.  A good way to start is to make two lists:  what you like about your job and what you do not like about it.  You can tell where this is going.  If the longer list is what you do not like, you will need to dig deeper into solving that problem.

 

There are so many questions to ask yourself such as, “Do I really want to keep doing this type of work or is it time for a change?”  If it is time for a change, can you make that change in your office or will you need to move to a different area of law or a different law office?  Is it possible to have part of your job reassigned to a newer associate who needs to move to the next phase of their career?  (Teaching is rewarding and can lead to other things.)  Or has your workload increased to the point that it is time to hire another legal assistant?  Either way, it is time to talk with your boss.  Remember, you need to be really well prepared before having this conversation and there will always be things about any job that you do not like. 

 

If it turns out you need to move to a different law office, that could bring more immediate stress and this plan might need to wait.  If at all possible, work with your boss to see how your job could change and grow.  Let them know you need some time off.  Sometimes even a few days can boost your energy back into happiness on the job.  

 

 


  

Submit Your Questions To Ask Eula Mae By Clicking Here.

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Career Corner: Creating Your Résumé

Posted By Tashania Morris, MSHRM, ALS, CDF, CPC, Friday, February 3, 2017

You’ll never get a second chance to make a good first impression ~ Anonymous

Writing a résumé can sometimes be hard, especially if you have no experience or are currently transferring from one line of work to another.  Your résumé is a marketing tool designed to get you an interview.  The interview is what gets you the job.  Most recruiters do not spend a lot of time reading through résumés.  The information should be presented in a clear and concise manner that is attractive for a recruiter to review. 

It is important to note that everyone has their own preferences when it comes to résumés.  At the end of the day your résumé should represent you and you should be proud to hand it out.  If you are not comfortable doing so, then your résumé is not a reflection of you and your work product.  It is not a good idea to have someone draft a résumé that does not represent you.  During the interview process you might have difficulty talking about something that is not a clear representation of you.  Make sure you have some input and understand what is being drafted.

Make sure:

·      Your résumé is no more than 1-2 pages long.

·      There are no typos or grammatical errors.

·      It is not too wordy (everyone battles with this).

·      There are no lies.

·      You are including the right keywords.  Your résumé should be tailored to the job for which you are applying.

·      Information is bulleted and easy to read.

·      When using an ATS system to apply for a job, stay away from fancy résumé designs.  Fancy résumés can be emailed.

Types of Résumés

Chronological

It is easy to read and the dates are easy to follow.  Your most recent jobs are listed first and it showcases your achievements and promotions.  This is great if you have had a stable work history and are looking to advance in your career.  It is not the best choice for entry-level candidates with little or no experience.

Functional Résumé

The functional résumé emphasizes skills, abilities, and strengths rather than the length of time you have been at a job.  It is a great way to cover any gaps in your résumé and can be used by recent graduates who lack the required experience. 

Combination

This is a combination of both chronological and functional.  It emphasizes your most recent jobs and showcases your accomplishments.  It is great for individuals looking to change career paths and have the transferable skills to do so.

Heading

 

Please include your name, address (may include just city or state), telephone number, and email address.

 

Career Objective/Summary of Qualification

 

Every résumé should have a summary statement or a career objective to catch the recruiter’s attention.  There are a lot of different opinions about whether a career objective is still necessary.  If you choose to use one, make sure it is tailored specifically toward the job you are applying for.  A summary, on the other hand, informs the employer about what you can do for them.  It is a great way to sell yourself in a couple of sentences in order to get the recruiter interested in what you have to offer. 

 

An example of an objective statement:

·      Seeking an entry level legal assistant position in a family law firm

·      To secure a position as a corporate  legal secretary in a growing law firm

An example of a summary:

·      A dedicated and results-driven professional with over 10 years’ experience as a legal administrator.  Proven track record of excellent leadership skills and business acumen.

Skills/Abilities

This section should include the skills you have developed over the years.  List both your soft and hard skills. 

·      Lexis Nexis 

·      Timeslips

·      Pro Docs

·      Excellent Communication Skills

·      Landtech

Experience

This may be the most challenging part of preparing a résumé.  Instead of just listing duties and responsibilities, try listing your major achievements, contributions, and accomplishments.  You should also include the title, company name, city, and dates of employment.  This section can include paid/unpaid positions.  Try to quantify where possible.

·      Managed a caseload of over 100 cases monthly.  (This gives the recruiter an idea of the amount of work you can handle.)

·      Managed a team of 20 employees including attorneys and support staff.

Education

 

List your degrees, certifications, and academic achievements

 

Professional Organizations

 

List the professional organizations you are currently a part of and any leadership role you took on.

 

Here are some resources to help with your job search:

 

·      This can be used to see if your job matches the job description of the position you are applying for.  https://www.jobscan.co/

·      http://rickgillis.com/job-sample-documents/

·      http://www.jobhuntersbible.com/

 

Once your résumé is completed, have someone review it to ensure there are no errors.  It is hard to spot errors because you are the one working on it.  If writers have editors, why shouldn’t you?

 


 

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.

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Grammar Nuggets: Capitalizing State

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Friday, February 3, 2017

As an addition to December’s NALS docket article, I found that the capitalization of the word “state” is obviously very confusing depending on your preferred resource.

 

According to The Gregg Reference Manual, “state” should be capitalized:

 

·       When it is part of the full name of the state as in the State of Arizona

·       When the word it modifies is capitalized as in the State Corrections Director

·       When referring to the state as a party to litigation or a governmental actor as in “The State filed a Motion to Dismiss.”

 

Most other sources I have found disagree with Gregg’s first example and say that “state” should not be capitalized when used as a proper noun but is capitalized when used in place of a particular state or referring to a specific governmental body:

 

·       The residents of the state of California have a reputation for being healthier than most.

·       The corporation, registered to do business in the state of California, is actually an Arizona corporation.

 

According to another favorite resource of attorneys, The Chicago Manual of Style, “where the government rather than the place is meant, the words state, city, and the like are usually capitalized.”

 

·       The State of Florida’s statutes regarding corporations are codified at Title XXXVI.

 

Another resource simplifies it as when you are using “state” as a common noun, you would not capitalize it:

 

·       She loved visiting the Northwestern states because she loved the rain.

·       The state of California has a beautiful coastline.

 

But do capitalize “state” if it is part of a proper name:

 

·       I love visiting Washington State (as opposed to Washington, D.C.—although I love visiting there too).

·       I have visited New York City, but not the rest of New York State (capitalized to differentiate between New York City and New York State).

 

All resources agree that “state” should be capitalized when it is a party to litigation.

 

·       The response to the Motion to Dismiss was filed by the State yesterday.

 

The only comfort in all this confusion is that obviously everyone is confused. In fact, in many recent U.S. Supreme Court cases, “state” is capitalized in different instances, which may be a holdover from style from the eighteenth century when many common nouns are capitalized. Remember, however, that if you are studying for a NALS certification exam, The Gregg Reference Manual is the resource used, so learn those examples for the capitalization of “state.”

 


 

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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