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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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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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Grammar Nuggets: Confusing Contractions

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Contractions are used to indicate where letters are missing in a word. I think that because there may be apostrophes involved, contractions and possessive pronouns are often confused. If the word shows possession, use an apostrophe as necessary to show that possession. If letters are missing from a word, the apostrophe shows where those letters are missing. Some of the most confusing examples are:


its (possessive)

their (possessive)
theirs (possessive)
your (possessive) 

it’s (it is OR it has)

they’re (they are) OR there’re (there are)
there’s (there is OR there has)
you’re (you are)


If you’re not sure which is correct, test substituting “it is, it has, they are, there are, there is, there has, or you are,” whichever is appropriate, in place of the word that is confusing you. If the substitution does not make sense, it is not a contraction, so you should use the appropriate possessive form.


The dog was chewing on its paw. (“Chewing on it is paw” does not make sense.)

HOWEVER: It’s time to get ready to leave for the party. (“It is time” does make sense.)

He said, “Your car is leaking oil.” (“You are car” does not make sense.)

HOWEVER: She said, “You’re welcome” when he thanked her for the gift. (“You are welcome” is correct.)

Their house was beautifully landscaped. (“They are house” does not work.)

They’re in their house with all the lights on. (“They are in their house” is correct.) 


Try the substitution test if you aren’t sure if a contraction is appropriate. If it is not, use the proper possessive word. In legal documents, contractions are not used as they are really used for more informal, friendly writing. A legal document is more formal and in an effort to avoid any confusion and keep it more formal, contractions are rarely appropriate. Again, however, this may be a matter of style and preference for a specific attorney. So go out and use contractions at will—except in legal documents and where it isn’t a contraction. 

 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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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


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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