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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, chapter and members spotlights, and more! Articles are written and provided by our own members, Resource Center Staff, and our community of legal professionals. All content and articles will be published directly to our NALS.org website and linked to the NALS docket newsletter. This email venue for NALS will inform you of upcoming deadlines and monthly education product highlights from our online store. Copy + paste this link to sign up for updates: https://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/manage/optin?v=001JH2FKM034UVKDAYd6vkCfwIybKDCjBA-5dH7wJhSTjXN-eWSgRsnK6Q_LdfewGHvnwcVoakgipMvhoKPHed-94e5siy7js7FrJp_sV9e8Aw%3D


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How-To: Preparing Leaders for the Future

Posted By Barry Pickreign, B.S., ALP, Monday, April 24, 2017

Leadership development is crucial to the future of our association. It inspires new members, new and potential leaders, and provides current leaders with the tools they need to succeed. When I took office as the 2016-2017 President-elect of the Mississippi Legal Professionals Association, I wanted to do what I could to equip our members with the tools to help us grow. I was able to do that with the help of the NALS Foundation. I hosted an all-day FREE Leadership Retreat for the Mississippi Legal Professionals Association, which could not have been possible without the NALS Foundation Grant we received. I am going to tell you what I did so maybe you can do the same.


1. Find a good location that is cost effective. Fortunately, we found a college that offered nonprofit rates which allowed us to use a room and equipment at minimal cost. I requested a quote prior to presenting the idea to the members.


2. Decide how your schedule will look. Will meals be included? I scheduled each office one hour (i.e., an hour each for the duties of the President, President-elect, etc.). I even included committee chairs.


3. If you are going to have meals, you need to sort out the logistics. Some places require you to go through their in-house food service, but some allow you to bring food in, which you can do through a caterer or by having a member potluck.


4. Now that you have a proposed location, schedule, and meal plan, organize your thoughts so you can present this to your members. Consider how costs will be covered. Will you charge a registration fee to cover costs? Will the association pay for the costs? Will you get sponsors or will you apply for a NALS Foundation Grant? These are questions to consider. Having your ducks in a row will help the members easily understand your goal.


5. If all goes well with the membership and the retreat is approved, you may begin finalizing everything. Visit the venue and arrange to reserve the space. Finalize your schedule, line up your speakers, prepare a registration form, and arrange your meals.


6. When lining up your speakers, it is important to have people who are knowledgeable in the subject matter. I used the Past Presidents of our association to share their wisdom with everyone. Also, since there are multiple ways of doing things, I arranged each presentation as a panel discussion with three Past Presidents participating in each session. I felt that was vital to the success so members could see the different ways things could be done.


7. Once you distribute your registration forms and begin to finalize everything, you will need to plan the format. Will you have questions throughout or at the end? We decided to have questions throughout. Leadership is an active conversation, so we helped facilitate this by allowing members to ask questions or include additional information. Another thing to think about is if you will record the event. We recorded ours, placed it on our website, and included the handouts. This is a great way to reach more people, especially those who could not attend.


8. Now you are on the big day. Although you are the host, be sure to breathe and enjoy it. All your hard work has paid off.


Providing training to our future leaders is vital to the success of our association. We were fortunate enough to have great attendance. Find ways to keep the conversation of leadership active within your chapters. This will help inspire potential leaders to come forward and find ways they can help. Always remember that the NALS Foundation is here to help you succeed. You can obtain grants for a variety of chapter activities. I wish you all luck in doing this. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at barry.pickreign@gmail.com. I am available any time to help any member.


In closing, I would like to remind everyone that your success is determined by you. You have the ability to change the direction of your life and the events in it. 


Barry has over nine years’ experience in the legal field. During that time he has worked in various positions such as a file clerk, legal assistant, paralegal, and his current job as a Deputy Clerk. He is the Appeals Clerk for his office and processes the appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court. He has served in almost every office of his local chapter, the Gulf Coast Association of Legal Support Professionals, and served on various committees. In May he will be installed as the President of his state chapter, the Mississippi Legal Professionals Association. He has also served in every office and chaired various committees. Barry is the chair of the NALS Ed on Demand Task Force. He has an associate of arts degree in paralegal studies, a bachelor of science degree in justice studies with a concentration in law and legal process with a minor in psychology, and is currently working on a master of science degree in clinical and mental health counseling with a focus on forensic counseling. Barry is also a certified ALP and is working on his PLS/CLP certification. Click here to add Barry on SocialLink.


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Grammar Nuggets: None Is Singular, None Is Plural, None Is Both

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

The word none can be singular or plural depending on the number of the noun to which it refers. Back in my fourth grade English class, none was always singular. Again, grammar rules have changed and modern thought is that it can be either singular or plural. One way to decide is when you can replace the word none with not one, then none is singular. If you mean not any, then none is plural.


- None of the directions he gave to get to the grocery store is accurate (meaning that not one of the different directions he gave to get to the grocery store is accurate)

- None of the directions he gave are accurate (meaning that not any of the directions he has ever given are accurate)


Confused yet? How about these:


- None of his electronic devices is set up correctly (not one of his devices)

- Of all his electronic devices, none are using Wi-Fi (not any of his devices)

Whether you use is or are will let your reader know what you mean. By saying “None of his electronic devices is set up correctly,” your reader should understand that you mean that not one of his many devices is set up correctly. When you say “Of all his electronic devices, none are using Wi-Fi,” your reader understands that you mean that not any of his many devices are using Wi-Fi. The difference is relatively minor and regardless of which way you use it, some people (who learned that none was always singular back in fourth grade) will try to correct you. Know that as long as you are comfortable that you are using it correctly for what you mean, you can treat it like your mother-in-lawsmile, nod your head, and keep doing it your way.



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 http://proofthatblog.com

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Ask Eula Mae: What To Do When You Are Overwhelmed

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

Dear Eula Mae:


Can you help me?  It seems I have been getting busier at work and my workload has grown to the point that I am nearly confused.  The files on my desk have slowly piled up to where I cannot tell what is coming or going.  I am just working one file at a time and not sure where to start to get all of this straight.  I love my job, I want to do well, and the boss is depending on me to do a great job in supporting his efforts.  It is really a concern that I might be losing a grip on managing my job.  There has to be a way to figure out how to make it all run more smoothly.  Please help.


Overwhelmed in Omaha


Dear Overwhelmed in Omaha:


It takes a special person to work in a legal support position.  Part of having these special skills is the ability to handle a large workload, timing and scheduling everything well, and giving exceptional attention to details.  Quiet ambition and growth in the law firm can easily lead to the feeling of being overwhelmed.  Here are a few tips to help you get back to feeling in control of your duties.


First, you must know where you are to know where to begin.  Schedule time to clean and sort everything.  If that means staying a little late for a day or two, do it because the payoff will be great. 


·      Clean your work area.  Get your desk and files in order.

·      Batch like things together.  This can be a real time saver.  You only have to think out the procedure one time for what needs to be done next.

·      Make a list of your current projects and where they are in the process.  This information can help you develop a checklist so you can tell at a glance what needs to be done. 

·      Organize each batch by due dates and you will know what has to be done first.


If along the way you discover that there is really too much work for one person to manage, you need to have a conversation with your attorney.  Start by presenting a typed list of your current projects and the status of each.  Is it time to move some of the typing to the word processors or hire a new person, or does your boss want to pay you overtime?  Anything can happen and the goal is to do what is right and fair for all.


Note that if you feel overwhelmed at work, you may have that feeling at home.  The same process will work there too. Once you know where you are, you will instinctively know exactly what to do.  


Submit Your Questions to Ask Eula Mae By Clicking Here.

Tags:  administrative  legal assistant  legal career  legal job skills  legal office  legal professional  legal professional training 

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Grammar Nuggets: Oxford Commas and Winning Cases

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Friday, March 24, 2017

The Oxford comma is subject to debate. It is the comma before the word “and” in a series. For example, “bread, eggs, and milk.” The comma between “eggs” and “and” is called the Oxford or serial comma. It separates all of the parts of a list.

Some style guides tell you to use it and some tell you not to. The Gregg Reference Manual calls for the Oxford comma (¶ 162a).


The thing I always remember that encouraged me to use the Oxford comma was an example of a will that left property to John, Joe and Sarah. If you are literal (as most lawyers are), you could say that the property was left half to John and half to Joe and Sarah to share. If you add the Oxford comma between “Joe” and “and,” there is no question that the property is to be divided into three parts—one for John, one for Joe, and one for Sarah.

In my opinion, it is one small piece of punctuation that can make a huge difference in the meaning and intent of what you are writing. In fact, as most of you may have heard, just last week, an appellate court ruled in a Maine labor dispute based on the Oxford comma. The case was about dairy drivers who argued that they were entitled to overtime pay for certain tasks. The company said they were not entitled to that overtime. The appeals court ruled that the guidelines on activities entitled the drivers to overtime pay because the guidelines were too ambiguous due to the lack of an Oxford comma.

Here is the law’s wording about activities NOT meriting overtime pay:


The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish products; and

(3) Perishable foods.


Based on this language, is packing for shipment its own activity or is it packing for the distribution of the three things on the list? If an Oxford comma had separated “packing for shipment” and “or,” the meaning would have been much more clear. According to court documents, the drivers arguing for overtime actually distribute perishable food, but they do not pack it. That argument helped win the case.


The circuit judge said that had the language used the serial comma to mark off the last of the activities in the list, “then the exemption would clearly encompass an activity that the drivers perform.” Since the serial comma was not there to mark off the last of the activities, the judge obeyed the labor laws which, when ambiguous, are designed to benefit laborers and the case was settled.

“For want of a comma, we have this case,” the judge wrote.

But even worse than that is the fact that there are guidelines on how Maine lawmakers are to draw up their documents that do NOT include Oxford commas, so they followed the guidelines they were given. At least they followed the guidelines last week. This week, that guideline may have changed.


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 http://proofthatblog.com

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Chapter Spotlight: NALS of Central Alabama

Posted By Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS, Friday, March 24, 2017

Anything is possible! In 2014, there were five local chapters of NALS in Alabama and now there are six. NALS of Central Alabama was formed in 2015 by five members-at-large of the state association, Alabama AALS. These founding members had been active in the state association as well as on the national level of NALS and carved their own path to form their chapter online:  NALS of Central Alabama.


What started with five members now has nine. How did they do it?


The online chapter idea came out of need and desire. With the demands of work and family, the original five members from all over Alabama needed more time to get to chapter meetings. Another problem they faced was the distance to get to a meeting. The members still wanted so much to be active members of NALS on a local level that they decided to build a support network through online communications with other members-at-large in Alabama who were also having difficulty attending meetings and who wanted to be an active presence in the association.


After the decision was made to start an online chapter, NALS of Central Alabama decided to communicate through email and hold online meetings via chat to discuss business as well as ideas to promote the chapter and organization. They are able to add to the continuing legal education (CLE) that they receive in person at the state board meetings by following NALS webinars and other online resources offered through NALS. To keep everyone current, the chapter also reminds its members of the upcoming CLE opportunities. NALS of Central Alabama makes arrangements to meet briefly in person at the state board meetings held during the year. 


In forming the online chapter, the members initially adopted the standard bylaws, standing rules, and rules of procedure designed by NALS and AALS, but are slowly working through the documents to adapt the rules more specifically to the online chapter and members’ needs. The chapter now has contact information on the AALS webpage at www.alabama-als.org and also has a Facebook page.


The current membership has many past presidents of the state and local chapters in Alabama and a NALS past president, Susan Turner, PLS. Talley Brathovd, PP, PLS, from Grand Bay, Alabama, was the first AALS member to join the online chapter in April 2015 and currently serves on the AALS state board. She will serve as AALS president-elect for the upcoming year.  NALS of Central Alabama also has members who serve on both state and national NALS committees.


NALS of Central Alabama Image OneEven though the chapter is online, NALS of Central Alabama has received numerous chapter awards from AALS for attendance at state chapter meetings and membership retention. This is probably due to their creativity in making this online chapter blend with the chapters that meet in person.


One of the greatest things about having an online chapter is that the members can organize and meet at any time.  They can accomplish so much and do it quickly with the same great results as an in-person meeting.


One of the first projects that NALS of Central Alabama developed was an electronic voting option so that the Alabama State Association (AALS) could have online voting for all members at election time versus just those members present at the winter board meeting elections. To be sure it would work, the voting system was rigorously tested by NALS of Central Alabama and other members of AALS. The voting system they designed worked so well that it can be used by the AALS board members for business and the individual chapters of AALS could use it for its online elections. This electronic voting system is still in the testing phase and there are hopes that it will create a future transition into electronic voting for all chapters of AALS.
NALS of Central Alabama Members


NALS of Central Alabama has co-chaired two AALS state board meetings with the Montgomery Association of Legal Secretaries (MALS). One was a winter board meeting in Montgomery in January of 2016 and a fall board meeting in Prattville in September 2016. At the September meeting, NALS of Central Alabama and MALS had a very successful donation drive for the WellHouse “needs list.” WellHouse is a local group that provides a safe residential environment for women who have been rescued from human trafficking and sexual exploitation.


This online chapter does not yet have a logo, but it does have a presence that can easily be shared. Here are photos of the water bottles with NALS of Central Alabama labels and the NALS of Central Alabama members attending the AALS Annual Meeting in Daphne, Alabama, just after forming the online chapter.


It will be interesting to see how the online presence of NALS of Central Alabama will influence current chapters with electronic voting and inspire other “at large” members to form online chapters.

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Amylyn Riedling PP PLS-SC2019 NALS Board of Directors
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