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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: Work v. Law School Decision

Posted By NALS Editorial Board, Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ask Eula MaeDear Eula Mae:

I have an ALP certificate and work part time for an attorney as an office clerk but lack the hours needed for a four-year law study program in lieu of going to law school.  Most of my duties are as a personal assistant and I do not have much to do.  I am taking the Multi-State Professional Exam (MPRE) this week “just for fun.”  How do I get my foot in the door without much legal experience?  Should I bite the bullet and go to law school or stay on my current path and hope to find work in a more robust office?

New Hampshire Newbie


 

Dear New Hampshire Newbie:

Well, you have a lot going on and a lot of questions!  This is good!  There are several things in your letter to consider:  (1) you need hours for a four-year law study program, (2) you need more to do in your job, (3) it sounds like you really want to work in a law office, and (4) you are trying to decide whether or not to go to law school.  Let’s take these one at a time.  

  1. You need hours for a four-year law study program.  Are you in college or looking for certification hours?  Either way, if you love the law, you can find classes to attend through professional organizations such as NALS, technical schools, or online classes at your local university.  

  2. In your current job, start with the boss.  The boss needs to know you need more to do and you are willing to learn.  Bosses are a great resource for legal professionals for career ideas and maybe as a mentor.  You could interview the boss about his experience in law school.

  3. If your goal is to work in a law office, there is much to learn right where you are.  If you have exhausted the resources there (after talking with the boss, of course), then it might be time to move on to a busier office.  Legal work can take place in many areas.  You can work directly for an attorney at hospitals, corporate offices, title companies, insurance companies, utility companies, etc.  As your own research project to help you decide your next step, it might be good to look at other areas that have legal assistants.

  4. A big decision such as whether or not to go to law school is not one to make quickly.  There are many reasons for this and the main one is to absolutely know why you want to go to law school.  It is a big commitment.  First, you will have to finish your undergraduate degree and then secure the funding to pay for law school.  This is a job in itself.  Then you will need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).  All of this could take some time, but that is really not a problem because you can go to school any time in your life.

 

What makes your main question difficult is the fact that there are so many options!  Now, how to make a big decision:  make a comparison chart with a list of what you could do (law school v. legal assistant, paralegal certification, etc.).  For each item, make columns of time involved, resources available and needed, costs, and list the positives and negatives of each.  You have plenty of time to decide.  You can always go to law school and working as a legal assistant until you are ready will better prepare you for law school.  The real answer to your question is for you to follow your heart.  You will be fine whatever you choose to do.

 

Eula Mae Jett

 

Submit Your Questions To Ask Eula Mae By Clicking Here.

 

 

Tags:  ask eula mae  legal  legal education  legal job skills  legal jobs  legal professional  paralegal 

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Avoiding Conflict of Interest

Posted By Ask Eula Mae, Wednesday, October 26, 2016

 

Dear Eula Mae:


Good morning.  I am a new receptionist and typist at the biggest law firm in our city.  My goal is to be a paralegal, so I spend lots of spare time observing, reading, and preparing to take the NALS ALP exam.  My boss is out of town and our caseload is being monitored by a paralegal in our office until he gets back.  Today we had several people come into the office to meet with various attorneys and paralegals.  I recognized two of these visitors and, of course, spoke with them in the lobby.  I know I need to report to my boss if I know anyone who comes in the office.  Since my boss is out of town, whom do I need to tell that I know these people?

 

Learning in Louisiana

 

 

Dear Learning in Louisiana:

 

That is a very good question because that can be a difficult situation.  Reporting you know visitors to the office is one of the first things you should have learned as a receptionist.  In this case, you will need to report to your paralegal supervisor as soon as possible that you know the visitors.  If the paralegal is not available, report this to the office manager or human resources director as soon as you can.  The point is to keep the client’s information confidential, so do not be offended if you are not allowed to work on their case.  Imagine if you were in their shoes.  Confidentiality is of utmost importance for all legal personnel.  See Rule 1.6, Confidentiality of Information in the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

 

Eula Mae Jett

 

Submit Your Questions To Ask Eula Mae By Clicking Here.

 


Tags:  ask eula mae 

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Some Great Office Tips

Posted By Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS, Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Whether you are just starting a job or have been working a long time, there are always great tips to help you better manage yourself and your job.  The work environment takes up about a third of our lives and is essentially our daytime home.  Treat it as such.  Be kind to your work family and you will be happier too.  Here are some random great tips to help you along the way:

  • A lot will be expected of you and you can rise to the occasion.  Get ready to learn how to do almost anything in an office setting.  It is a fine place to learn and grow as a professional.
  • Always keep your files in such good order that if you are unavailable, someone else could pick it up and work it. ~ Linda Adair, PLS
  • Always have paper and pencil in hand because someone may have a request and you have a lot on your mind, so write everything down!
  • Go to the boss first—for everything.  If you find a problem, before complaining, think of some solutions to present to the boss.  The same process will work for opportunities.
  • Keep your sleepless nights and other woes to yourself.  If you are constantly complaining or making excuses about the little things, it adds up.  You might be pegged as unreliable.
  • If you leave your current position, the best thing to do is not to burn bridges.  You do not really know how many people your coworkers know who could affect your career.
  • Always do the important things first.
  • Keep good notes in your file and in your “brain.”  The “brain” is your personal office manual of how to do everything.  It should include the employee manual or employee memos and human resources policies.  It could be a binder or in an electronic folder.  It is really great to have one—especially if there are tasks that you handle infrequently.
  • Always dress appropriately even on casual days.  Find out if there is a dress code.  If there is not or when in doubt, keep it covered.  You will be comfortable and so will everyone else.
  • Continue to work on grammar and writing skills.  There are so many great resources available for quick access via the web and the gold standard book is, of course, The Gregg Reference Manual.  There is also the website titled Proof That Blog by Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, at http://proofthatblog.com/about-proof-that/
  • To improve writing, read a lot and write as much as you can.
  • Take a little time at the end of the day to plan for the next day.  Planning time is never wasted.  It avoids indecision and chaos.
  • If you make a mistake, own it and get with your boss immediately on how to resolve it.  Mistakes really increase the capacity to learn.  Mistakes will occasionally happen, so always do your best and do each task with great care.
  • Expect conflicts.  Try to rise above personal issues and deal with the task at hand.  It is not so much what happens but how you deal with it that matters.
  • When you get to work, smile and say “good morning.”  If you do not feel well, either stay home or act like you are glad to be there.  This pays the bills, you know.  Be glad to have a job. If you do not like it, spare others your misery and leave.
  • Look at your company’s website or other marketing materials.  Learn everything you can about where you work.
  • Ask a lot of questions—about anything.  It is better to find out on the front end when taking on a project than it is to mess it up and have to go back and correct it.  Asking for instructions first and being sure you understand them will make the process much easier.
  • Self-management and self-control are highly valued skills.  It is called professionalism.  At a certain point, we are all expected to act as adults.  You know what that means:  do the right thing.  It may not be fast or easy, but do the right thing.
  • Face it, you are not going to like everyone and everyone is not going to like you.  You are both at work to do a job.  Focus on the job and be civil.  Remember, they may be your boss one day.
  • Remember, attitude is everything.  You never know who you will meet or what you will be asked to do.  Answer with enthusiasm and curiosity.  Loving to learn will take you a long way in your life.
  • Keep track of special projects that you do to use for résumé building.  Remember, in legal work, never talk about the cases in your office.  Confidentiality always comes first.
  • Keep a file of emails, letters, and notes from people thanking you for a job well done.  This is a good thing to read when you need a boost.
  • That old adage is true:  be nice to everyone on your way up because you will see the same folks on your way down.  It just makes good sense to be nice to everyone anyway.  It makes for a better world.
  • Remember to back up your documents and always have a contingency plan.  Anything could happen and does from time to time.  Be ready.
  • Take advantage of professional development opportunities that are offered in your office.  These opportunities are provided to the employees for a reason:  they want you to be the best you can be.
  • Look for skills that you can strengthen.  Make a list of what you want to learn.  Watch for opportunities to arise in a class, seminar, or online to achieve these goals.  When you have that rare moment of “down time” at work, you could take a webinar or read a chapter of a book.
  • Keep your desk and files in order.  This may seem obvious, but this act will help keep your mind clear as well.  At least clean your area on Friday afternoons as the last task of the day so you can come in fresh on Monday.

Can you think of some more?  If so, I challenge you to write an article about them.  You could take one idea and expound on it or tell us some history about it or how you came to learn about it or use it.


Every day is what you make of it, so try to make it a great one!

Allison holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arts and Humanities from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and graduated with honors.  She is nationally certified as a 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 the UAMS campus who has experience in pre- and post-award grants management (College of Nursing and Educational Development), grants administration for UAMS (Office of Research and Sponsored Programs), and served as an Institutional Review Board (IRB) Administrator.  This is her 10th year as a member of NALS and every year gets better with more NALS Pals and more challenges.  Allison is a member of the NALS Editorial Board and loves working with the board members, finding attorney authors, and encouraging other writers.

Tags:  Excellent. A refresher is always helpful and appr 

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Grammar Nuggets: Enclosed Please Find a Lesson on Antiquated Phrases

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Wednesday, October 26, 2016

It seems that in the legal field, it is hard to break old habits—especially in the use of antiquated phrases. One of my least favorite is “enclosed please find.” If you are enclosing something, you only need to say “enclosed is” or “enclosed are” (if you are enclosing more than one thing). That says all that you need to say. You do not need to fill up a piece of paper or an email with words for the sake of thinking you sound more intelligent when getting the point across and saving your reader time will serve the same purpose. Here are more phrases that you should stop using:

  • Above-referenced. If your communication has a “re:” line, and later in the letter you say “In the above-referenced case,” the reader has a tendency to have their eyes drift back up to the re: line and then back down to re-find their place. Instead use the re: line, but if you refer to it again, say “In the Smith v. Jones case” so your reader does not get interrupted from your message.

  • Under separate cover. If you are sending something else separately, say “I am sending you separately (or by FedEx, etc.)."

  • Please note that. This phrase is unnecessary. You do not need to ask them to note something; just tell them and they are smart enough to at least mentally make note of it.

  • I am forwarding. Saying “I am sending” says the same thing without being so formal.

  • Please do not hesitate to contact me. What you are asking them to do is to call or email you, so say “Please call me” or “Please contact me” (giving them the option for the most convenient method for them) instead.

  • At your earliest convenience. Give a specific date or just leave this phrase out.

  • With regard to. Use “regarding” instead.

  • In the event that. It is so much simpler to say “if.”

  • Pursuant to your request. “As requested” says the same thing.

  • The undersigned. You are talking about yourself, so just say “I.”

Speak in correspondence (letters and emails) more like you would speak on the telephone and much less formally. Your clients and coworkers already know you are intelligent. Speaking in such a formal way does not make you any more intelligent.

Ease up and be less formal so your reader does not have to wade through a bunch of stuff that is unnecessary to get to your message. Make it easy for them (and you) by using less formal language in your communications.


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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Career Corner: Understanding the Different Types of Interviews

Posted By Tashania Morris, MSHRM, ALS, CDF, CPC, Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The purpose of an interview is to find the best candidate for the position.  It is a weeding out process.  Companies use a number of different methods to achieve this.  Even with preparation, interviews can be nerve-racking because you never know what will be asked or required.  Being able to recognize the different types of interviews might help you to be better prepared.


One-on-One Interviews

Most people are familiar with this type of interview.  The interview is generally conducted with the interviewer and the candidate.  In this type of interview setting, the interviewer is interested in finding out about the candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities.  They may ask standard questions such as:

  • Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Tell me about your dream job.

Sometimes in one-on-one interviews, the interviewer might be looking for someone like themselves.  It is a dangerous thing to only hire people in an organization who talk and look alike.  There is little or no room for diversity, and this is often referred to as “mirror hiring.”  If the person is just like you, the company might be missing out on an opportunity to bring in someone with new and innovative ideas.


Panel Interviews

 

For many, panel interviews are nerve-racking.  They consist of two or more interviewers and the goal is to get as many people involved in the hiring process in order to make better hiring decisions.  Each person in the group or panel plays an important role and is looking for the best match.  They all have different perspectives and questions that will be integral in the decision-making process.  This process allows a number of different people to be a part of the interview process and make unbiased decisions. 


While panel interviews can be stressful, it is important to be yourself in any situation.  Be as honest as possible and ask questions.  This might be a great opportunity for multiple people to see how you communicate and interact when placed in a group.  The panel or group interview may be your second interview and the last opportunity you may have to prove yourself. 


Group Interviews


Group interviews generally consist of a couple of candidates being interviewed at the same time.  This is even more nerve-racking than being in a panel interview because your competitor is sitting next to you and you can hear each other’s responses.  If you mess up, not only will the interviewer know, but the other candidates will as well.  It is important to relax, be positive, and stand out from the competition.


Behavioral Interviews


The goal of the behavioral interview is to use past performance to predict future performance.  They want to see if you have the right competencies to be a good fit for the position.  The questions are normally structured around situations you have had to deal with in the past.  These questions provide the interviewer more information into the candidate’s thought processes. 

  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult client.
  • Please give me an example of a time you had a conflict with a coworker.  How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time you failed and/or struggled on the job.  What did you learn as a result of that?  What did you do to overcome it?
  • Give me an example of a time you led a project at work.  How many people did you lead and what was the outcome?
  • How has your education prepared you for this job?  Give some examples.

Phone and Video Interviews

During a phone interview, it is important to sound upbeat.  Practice with a friend.  Since you are not in front of the interviewer, your personality needs to shine through.  If you sound dull and mundane, the interviewer might get the wrong idea and think you are not interested in the job.  Phone interviews are a great way to conduct pre-interviews.  They give the candidate some information about the job and the interviewer gets to learn about the candidate. 

Video interviews are becoming commonplace.  They are a great way to conduct interviews in the comfort of one’s home.  It is important that even though you are at home you dress the part.  Do not show up to an interview looking like you just got out of bed.  Imagine you are wearing a great top and a pajama bottom and something happens where you are forced to stand up.  This could cost you a chance at the job.  Do everything you would do in an in-person interview.  Make sure your computer is working and sit in a section of your house that has great lighting.


If possible, find a friend to practice with.  The more practice you get, the better you will become.  Researching behavioral interview questions and getting comfortable answering them will help you during the interview process.  Your responses should give the interviewer an idea of how your work product would positively impact the organization.  At the end of the day, companies are in it to make money and they want to see how hiring you is going to improve their bottom line.  Be likeable and smile.  Remember, people tend to want to do business with someone they know, like, and trust. 



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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