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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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What Can a Mentor Do For Me?

Posted By NALS Editorial + Marketing Board, Thursday, October 18, 2018
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2018

Dear Eula Mae:

I’ve been a legal secretary in a medium-sized firm for about three years now.  I started as a data-entry person and the more I read and learn, the more I know I want to have a career as a legal support person.  I love this work!  The days go by so fast and I want to know more!  Do you think having a mentor could help me build a career?



— Career Decisions



Dear Career Decisions:

One of the greatest things in life is knowing what you want.  You have discovered that the journey becomes such a pleasure that it is not like work at all.  

What a great idea to have a mentor when you love your profession so much and are ready to commit! 

 

There are two things you need to know about having a mentor. One is what a mentor can do for you and your career and the other is your role in this relationship. 


A mentor is a sounding board. A mentor is there to listen and advise, not to tell you what to do.  Your job is to bring your questions and circumstances to the mentor as well as solutions to the issues.  

Mentors have experience and vision.  A mentor can point you in the right direction to help you take the next step that will move you further in your career.

You must respect the relationship with your mentor. A mentor can introduce you to the right people to help your career and should you take a project or job with that team, your duty is to behave professionally.  That means don’t have a hissy-fit and quit the next day. It reflects badly on you and your mentor. 

NALS can help you find a mentor through the interactive community online, through meeting people at the conferences, and of course on Facebook. 

Working with a mentor demonstrates a long-term commitment to yourself, your career, and the relationship.  Your mentor could be your friend for a lifetime and you will be able to develop your own career with a little nudge and the experience from the mentor in your pocket.  One day you will be a mentor too.

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Wyoming Women’s Suffrage: Wyoming, the Equality State

Posted By Charlene Sabini, PP, CLP, Thursday, October 18, 2018
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2018

It wasn’t all that distant in America’s past that women were not allowed to vote in elections equally with their male counterparts. It’s easy nowadays to take the women’s vote for granted without being aware of how it came to be in this country. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, of course, finally allowed for women’s suffrage in 1920 and yet that was only 98 years ago. “Women in the United States had fought for suffrage since the time of Andrew Jackson’s presidency in the 1820s. Before the Civil War, women were allowed limited voting in a few states.”1 The state of New Jersey, for example, permitted women to vote before their state’s constitution outlawed it (!) in 1844. The idea that women deserved the same rights as men had been growing steadily in the United States since the 1840s—especially in the Western states. For a long time, many people who supported the abolition of slavery also supported women’s rights.2

Interestingly, the following states and territories gave women full or partial suffrage before the Nineteenth Amendment was passed in 1920:


Wyoming (1869), Utah (1896), Colorado (1893), Idaho (1896), Washington (1910), California (1911), Oregon (1912), Arizona (1912), Kansas (1912), Alaska (1913), Illinois (1913), North Dakota (1917), Indiana (1919), Nebraska (1917), Michigan (1918), Arkansas (1917), New York (1917), South Dakota (1918), and Oklahoma (1918).3

 

However, note that Wyoming was the first territorial legislature to officially place women’s suffrage into its laws in 1869 with almost no controversy or discussion. The bill was introduced by William H. Bright, President of the Council of the Wyoming Territorial legislature (and a saloonkeeper from South Pass City, a frontier mining town nearly as big as Cheyenne, WY, at the time). Early opinions of the bill viewed it as a bit of a joke by many, yet it was noted that it might well draw more women into Wyoming to balance the dominant male population of that time. That law reads:

 
Female Suffrage - Chapter 31

 
An Act to Grant to the Women of Wyoming Territory the Right of Suffrage, and to Hold Office
Be it enacted by the Council and House of Representatives of the Territory of Wyoming:
Sec. 1. That every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this territory, may at every election to be holden under the laws thereof, cast her vote. And her rights to the elective franchise and to hold office shall be the same under the election laws of the territory, as those of electors.
Sec. 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.
(Approved, December 10, 1869.)


So, on September 6, 1870, Louisa Ann Swain of Laramie, Wyoming, became the first woman to cast a vote in a general election. American social reformer and women's rights activist, Susan B. Anthony, was predictably delighted with all of this. Approximately one thousand women were eligible to vote in Wyoming, and most of them turned out to vote.

Wyoming’s woman suffrage bill graciously gave women the right to vote but also gave them the right to sit on juries and to run for political office. The law was not without resistance in some quarters but prevailed in the end. In fact, “1870 is when Esther Hobart Morris became the first woman to hold public office as a justice of the peace in South Pass City.”4  The U.S Congress even attempted to remove the suffrage clause from Wyoming’s charter, but Wyoming retaliated by threatening to refuse to become a state should that occur. Wyoming’s legislature firmly declared, “We will remain out of the Union one hundred years rather than come in without the women!” In 1890, Wyoming became the 44th state and the first state to boast full voting rights for its women. 

On May 22, 2018, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, and the Wyoming Department of Transportation designated a 19-mile stretch of Highway 28 in Fremont County as the "Wyoming Women's Suffrage Pathway." Secretary Buchanan said the location of the marker, a few miles from South Pass City, is exceptional because of the history in that community.5 

In 2019, the state of Wyoming will mark and celebrate the 150th anniversary of women's suffrage in the state. To this day, the ladies of Wyoming continue a strong legacy of female empowerment and leadership.

 


  1. Mary Schons, Friday, January 21, 2011, https://www.nationalgeographic.org/news/woman-suffrage/
  2. Tom Rea, Published: November 8, 2014, https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/right-choice-wrong-reasons-wyoming-women-win-right-vote
  3. Schons, Ibid.
  4. Caroline Ballard, May 18, 2018, http://www.wyomingpublicmedia.org/post/highway-designated-wyoming-womens-suffrage-pathway#stream/0
  5. Ibid.
     

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How to Assess a Job Offer

Posted By Partnership with Grammarly.com, Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2018

When you want a job—whether it’s your dream job or you’re simply ready to move on—it can be all too easy to accept any offer you’re given, even if it’s not the right offer for you.

“The number one misstep I see clients take is the failure to step back, take a breath, and meaningfully assess a job offer,” says Karen Elizaga, executive coach and author of Find Your Sweet Spot. “They are almost inclined to jump immediately at an offer.”


 

So how can you pause to determine whether an offer is really worth it? Luckily, it’s easy to do with Glassdoor’s How to Get a Job guide. It offers a bevy of questions you can ask yourself to assess the offer, gives tips to help you negotiate, and it even provides a complete email script for sending your initial negotiation email you can use word-for-word.

Here, we’ve distilled the basic steps you need to take to assess any offer and how to begin a negotiation with a potential employer. It doesn’t have to be intimidating with these steps!

Ask the right questions.

When you receive a job offer, you need to hit pause long enough to ask yourself questions before you give an answer, according to Glassdoor’s guide—and Elizaga totally agrees.

“It is crucial to take a step before taking a leap,” she says, advising that you first ask, “is this job what you want to be doing? And does it align with your skills, talent, and purpose?”

Glassdoor recommends you assess the company, post-interview to make sure it seems like a place you would like to work. You can ask yourself, “what’s the culture at this company and how do I fit in?” Elizaga recommends, “I have seen clients take a job where the fit—in the context of their skills and talents with the job—was excellent. But in the end, these jobs didn’t work out because the company’s culture did not jibe with their own moral compass.”

You may also want to evaluate what the upward trajectory, in other words, the possibilities for advancement at this company, are, says Elizaga. “You want to consider not only the wonderful aspects of this job, but where you might rise to in the future,” Elizaga explains.

 

Look at the offer details.


The next step in evaluating a job offer is to move past the job and look at what is also being offered in the pay and benefits package. Glassdoor suggests you ask yourself the questions, “does the salary align with what you were expecting [and] do the benefits offered feel fair and reflect what you were looking for?” With the answers, you’ll know whether to negotiate.

Negotiate like a pro.


The idea of negotiating can be unnerving to many people, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

According to our guide, “one of the worst things you can do during salary negotiation is just make up a number. By backing up your ask with research, you’ll likely feel more confident about making it.” Luckily, you can use Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth™ salary calculator to discover the job’s average pay range. “It’s important to know what is reasonable for the market,” Elizaga agrees. That’s because, in part, “you don’t want to be negotiating for more when, in fact, what you are being offered is entirely reasonable and/or generous,” she says.

Of course, you don’t want to focus on salary alone. Before you begin your negotiation, think about whether the other benefits—vacation, commissions, bonuses, stock options, and so on—are appropriate and appealing, or could be tweaked to make the offer even better off.

Then, “when negotiating, think about what value you bring to the table, rather than how their first offer is deficient or not enough to cover your lifestyle,” advises Elizaga. “Consider the offer from the employer’s point of view. What are they getting for the compensation that they’re offering? If you think you contribute more value than the compensation would indicate, then definitely ask for more.” Or ask for an expansion of their benefits package.

Lastly, “when going in to negotiate, have a strategy and be entirely comfortable with what you’re asking for,” she says. Employers can tell when you don’t believe your own story. You’re much more likely to get what you want when you emphatically believe your value.”

 


 

This article was originally posted on Grammarly.com/Blog and reposted with permission. You can view the original source here. 

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Why Legal Assistants Are Beneficial To Attorneys

Posted By Teresa M. Garber, PP, PLS, Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2018

"A Well-Trained Certified Legal Assistant Is Very Beneficial to Your Career"

If you are a lawyer just starting out in the legal field and dealing with working with support staff for the first time, this article is for you.  If you are a seasoned legal assistant (lawyers: the term used to be "legal secretary") or paralegal who is trying to figure out how young lawyers work, this article is for you.  I am here to send a message: do not underestimate the benefits of a well-trained certified legal assistant to your career as a lawyer.  

There is a lot of talk about the issue of younger lawyers fresh from law school having to work with legal assistants for the first time and experienced legal assistants having to work around younger lawyers "independence."  Thanks to technology, more and more younger lawyers are doing a lot of work themselves that traditionally was given to paralegals or legal assistants. Also, most lawyers coming out of law school are in their mid- to late-twenties. Many legal assistants are over 40.  The two sides seem to be afraid of the other: one side is viewed as dead set in its ways and unwilling to change; the other side is considered to be disrespectful and not able to appreciate the skills of the other.  Often, communication becomes non-existent between the two.

I am a certified legal assistant, I am now 45 years old, and I have been a legal assistant for over 20 years.  I have worked for several younger lawyers in my time, some of who started their careers with me as their assistant and are now high-ranking partners in their law firms.  I am going to share with you what I told my young associates when we started working together.

First, I have experience in procedures in the area of law we practice in (for me, it is litigation).  Yes, you may know how to state your case in a complaint, but do you know the filing fee in Michigan circuit courts? Michigan district courts? with a motion?  Do you know how many copies to file with the court?  Do you know which courts are more particular than others?  Did you know that the rules in Michigan state courts for citations in court filings are different than what you may have learned from studying the Bluebook?  Do you know that not all courts are open until 5 p.m.?  Do you know which court reporters your firm recommends we use? Which are more expensive?  I know the answers to these questions thanks to the years of experience I have gained.  These are all questions that you will need to have an answer to.

Second, the impression you make on the partners of your firm is critical.  The partners want you to bill as many hours as possible.  However, if a partner sees you at the copy machine making seven copies of a claim of appeal to be filed with the Michigan Supreme Court (which, by the way, you can submit electronically), you are in for a talking-to.  Partners question lawyers who do not dictate large documents for support staff to transcribe (learn to dictate; it helps with thinking on your feet and speaking your thoughts clearly).  Moreover, if your office is a mess with files and paper everywhere, it does not make you look busy to a partner.  It makes the partner think you better get that stuff out of your office and get it to your assistant to organize before you lose something important.  These are all things that legal support can assist you with.  We are here to make you look good.

Also, let's not forget about the clients.  Many in the workforce state that they are being forced to do more with less.  That is what clients expect.  Thanks to technology, clients expect legal professionals to get the job done faster, in a professional manner, and at a good monetary value.  In other words, clients want more at lower prices.  If a client sees a lawyer billing over $250/hour to burn CDs for document production, the client is going to become upset.  However, a client would be amenable to seeing, say, $120/hour for an assistant or paralegal to do the same project.  Clients have no problem taking their business where they can get more bang for their buck.

Last, I am a member of NALS, an association of legal support professionals that is dedicated to providing legal education, certification, and professional development to its members.  I have two ABA-recognized certifications that focus on written communications, ethics, substantive law, legal knowledge and skills, and office technology and procedures.  As an active member, I have contacts across the country if I need assistance with just about anything.  Because of my membership in and certifications from NALS, I can assist you by proofreading documents you send to partners and/or clients for grammatical issues.  If a partner has you working on a case for him in another state, I can find another NALS member who can point me in the right direction if we need to find a court reporter or process server, etc., in that state.  The CLE sessions I attend put me in touch with court clerks, train me in notary rules, expose me to different areas of the law that you may run into in your new practice (and you will encounter an area of law you are not familiar with in these first few years), and so much more.  My membership and active participation should demonstrate that I take my job seriously and am dedicated to excellence.

Legal assistants and paralegals: I am here to tell you that most new lawyers are great to work with.  The young lawyers I have worked for have been some of the nicest people I have met, and they are good lawyers—smart, hard-working, honest, and ethical advocates.  Regarding one of the young lawyers I worked with, I sat down with him in his office just after he started and told him all of the information I stated above.  My lawyer was not aware of what I was able to do to help his career and, despite the assurance of my benefits to him, was still a little uneasy about using my services.  He changed his mind quickly when he had to draft his first summary disposition brief a couple of weeks later.  On my annual evaluation (which took place four months after he started), my lawyer wrote that my citation skills were top notch, that I was always willing to take on extra work, and I never made him feel as if his work was less important than the work of the two partners I also worked for at that time.  That associate and I had a good working relationship, and it is all because I demonstrated to him what I could do to help.

Legal assistants and paralegals here are some food for thought; millennials do not want to be bosses; they prefer to work as a team.  Sometimes newer lawyers find it difficult to give assistants work because they feel it is not their place to do so, that it makes them look bossy.  I am all for being a member of a team.  As with any team, each member of the team brings unique skills to the task at hand.  For a lawyer-assistant team, the lawyer's skills may be the knowledge of the law and negotiation skills.  The assistant's skills may be organization, grammar, etc.  When all members use their skills together, great things can happen with the project.

Also, there may be an excellent reason why newer lawyers do not give work to legal assistants or paralegals.  Many more modern lawyers are not working generally with their support staff just because the lawyers either (a) feel the support staff have too much to do for more senior lawyers; (b) feel it would be quicker to do the project themselves; or (c) just simply do not know what work to delegate to support staff.  This is where a lawyer-staff heart-to-heart is going to help.  I assured my young lawyers that I prioritized based on real urgency.  If my associate hands me a brief that needs to be filed today, the partner's memo to the management committee is put on the back burner.  If you think it will just be quicker to do something yourself, think again.  You can be working on other (billable) matters while I am copying documents or scheduling hearings.  If you do not know what kind of work to give to support staff, ask.  We will let you know what we can and cannot do.

Lawyers, you may work with an assistant who knows the rules and sticks to them.  Many legal assistants love regulations and work with them consistently in the form of court rules, etc.  Many assistants are used to a much more formal atmosphere in the law office, and where lawyers may not have formal training on how to type or run a copy machine, everyone worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a lunch break Monday through Friday, and everyone's role was evident.  With a loosened structure and lawyers taking on tasks they would not have done in the past, it leaves the legal assistant feeling unsure about their place in your practice and the firm as a whole.

Now, if you are a newer lawyer and are paired with an inexperienced assistant (even an experienced assistant), I cannot begin to stress the importance of encouraging your assistant to join NALS.  I was in the same boat 21 years ago, and NALS made a tremendous difference in my career.  Having your assistant study and sit for a certification exam helps them learn to operate in the daily life of a law office and provides a solid foundation on ethics, legal technology, judgment, and many other areas.  Encouraging your assistant to attend CLE puts them in contact with people who can help your assistant and your practice.  Also, what a thing to brag about: having a professional legal assistant or paralegal working with you, someone who takes your career, and their own, seriously.

Lawyers: legal assistants and paralegals are your friends.  Legal assistants can provide so many helpful skills to aid in your practice.  Do not let our tough exterior fool you.  We want to help your practice grow and cement your status with the firm.  Get to know us, get to know our abilities, and encourage our professional development in NALS.  You will not regret it!

 

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How to Speak Up and Find Your Voice in Meetings

Posted By Kelly Konya, Grammarly Blog Writer, Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Meetings are like going to the dentist. Nobody really enjoys being there listening to the facilitator jibber-jabber like an adult in a Charlie Brown special.

The nightmare setup looks something like this . . .

You are the last one to walk into the companywide meeting on Monday morning. There are no donuts left. The only open seat is next to your boss. The atmosphere is, somehow, already tense—and you’ve forgotten to bring your report.

What’s worse: this meeting or having a cavity filled?

Okay, so maybe meetings aren’t always that bad. But they aren’t always the easiest place to express your opinions, either. If you’ve ever felt self-conscious speaking up in a meeting, you aren’t alone.

Meetings are the most common workplace setting where people are rendered speechless by nerves. But don’t write yourself off as an introvert just yet. Even people who regularly voice their concerns can struggle with being ignored or overpowered by bigger players in the meeting room.

With these tips, you can learn to articulate your thoughts and convey your ideas, no matter the meeting’s situation.

Master Your Meeting Prep

Once you have the meeting’s agenda, find something on it that you can speak confidently and passionately about. If you have a budding opinion about one of the agenda items, develop it into an insightful, practical statement. This way, you’ll feel more self-assured going into the meeting. Strive to put a new idea out there first.

If you’re absolutely stumped going into a meeting—well, first, maybe you shouldn’t be there. Second, you can offer one of these three typical meeting-style responses as you partake:

  • Ask a question
  •  Repeat what’s been said in your own words
  • Comment on what you’ve heard

Armed with a prepared response, you should arrive five to ten minutes before the meeting kicks off. Make small talk, find a seat, and settle in. You’ll be more comfortable with your own voice if you are comfortable in your surroundings. Once you’ve already spoken with people in the room, you’ll be more likely to speak up again.

Don’t Put Yourself Down

As human beings, we’re prone to speaking in negatives. Psychology calls it our brain’s “negative bias.” Think of how many times you’ve heard someone begin a statement with, “This might not be relevant, but . . .” or “I’m not sure this is right, but . . .”

When you begin a statement with a negative phrase, you automatically cast doubt upon your words. If you don’t believe in yourself and assert your ideas, nobody will. Think about it: whom do you look up to or view as a mentor? We bet they speak passionately, igniting an urge within you to believe and discover their same opinions.

While we are hardwired for negative bias, we don’t have to let this predisposition eclipse our words. Every meeting gives you a chance to reinvent yourself. Even if you’re not the office optimist, you can express your ideas any way you’d like. Be affirmative and tell it like it is.

Avoid Those Qualifiers

In a similar way that speaking negatively deflates your words, qualifiers add another, subtler layer of doubt.

Do you use words that lessen the impact of your ideas and opinions? Words that limit or enhance another word’s meaning are called qualifiers. Overusing qualifiers affects the specificity and certainty of your words, leading people in the meeting to dismiss your opinions.

Be aware of the qualifiers you use—both in e-mail and in conversation. Using the following words will automatically weaken your statements:

  • Actually
  •  Just
  • Almost
  • Kinda / Sorta
  • Sorry
  • Maybe
  • I think / I feel

Voicing sentences ridden with qualifiers will immediately make people question your credibility. Have a coworker listen to you speak. If your statements always include an unconscious qualifier or two, you should make a conscious effort to dispel them from your speech.

Practice Makes Persuasive

If you’ve really struggled to find your voice, start small. Speaking once or twice each meeting is good practice. Even if you’re in a smaller meeting, you can still challenge yourself. The more you speak over time, the more confident you’ll become.

Once you banish negativity and qualifiers, adopt some phrases that are clear and commanding. Phrases that are direct, like “Here’s my idea” or “I recommend,” will make a big difference in how people respond to you. Be mindful of your tone, but know that your thoughts are worth sharing.

Be aware of how quickly you speak and try your best to enunciate. In combination, practicing vocal clarity will translate to a newfound vocal confidence. Slowly but surely, using “power language” instead of passivity will give you new authority in meetings.


This article was originally posted on Grammarly.com/Blog and reposted with permission. You can view the original source here

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