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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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Grammar Nuggets

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Grammar NuggetsFont Size Does Matter

 

I am always amazed at the amount of information I receive at the NALS Annual Education Conferences. One of the things that really stuck with me from the conference I attended in Portland was a name that perfectly describes something I see a lot—Frankenbrief. A Frankenbrief is a brief that has had many people working on different parts of it and then it is all put together into one document. There are many problems with a Frankenbrief, including the flow of the document from so many different styles of writing by different authors, consistency with defined words and capitalization, justification issues, and different font sizes. When working on a Frankenbrief, you should automatically check the big things like the defined terms and consistency issues, but it is also important to check the little things, including justification or non-justification (being consistent with author preference) for each separate paragraph and font size. There may be just a slight difference between 12-point and 13-point font, but someone who looks at a lot of typed documents (like a judge or a law clerk) can tell when there are different font sizes. If you get a judge who is a real stickler who might find some 12-point font mixed in with the 13-point font required by the court rules, the possibility does exist that he or she would not accept your document and reject it as deficient because of the font size. It is just one more thing that makes a difference and shows the reader that you are paying attention to the details that will make their task of reading your document just a little bit easier.

 

Also while we are talking about fonts, do not assume that all courts are now using 13-point font. If there is one thing I have learned from ECF filings in many different courts, it is that there is no “common” rule about anything. Even federal courts in the same state differ on rules such as font size and courtesy copies to judges. You need to review the local rules for the jurisdictions you are working in. I usually make a checklist of the things I need to remember in order to format a document to be filed outside of my local court. Actually, I have checklists for those courts too since I electronically file in several jurisdictions and do not always trust my memory with those details. It makes it easier to confirm details such as if your font size is correct, that you do or do not use the word “[Proposed]” with Orders, and that you deliver the judge’s courtesy copy in the correct format. 

 

Details such as the size of font really do matter. A document that switches size or style of font throughout a document is difficult to read and detracts from the actual message in the brief. It is not difficult to make it easy for your reader to comprehend what your lawyer is telling them if they do not have to struggle with how your document looks overall.


 

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 has a blog on proofreading tips at http://proofthatblog.com. If you have specific grammar issues you would like covered in future issues, please send them to Kathy at proofthatblog@gmail.com.

Tags:  grammar  grammar nuggets  legal  microsoft word 

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Chapter Spotlight: NALS of Tucson & So. AZ (NTSA)

Posted By Allison Streepey, B.A., PLS, and Wendy Carpenter, PP, PLS, Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Chapter Spotlight: NALS of Tucson and Southern Arizona (NTSA)

About the Chapter 

 

NALS of Tucson & So. AZ (formerly Tucson Legal Secretaries Association and Tucson Legal Support Association) has over 50 years of history serving the Tucson and Southern Arizona legal community. The chapter’s membership has legal professionals who work for sole practitioners, mid-size law firms, large law firms, the courts, and other related legal areas. At least 10 to 12 firms in the Tucson area are represented. 

 

What makes this chapter of NALS strong is the diversity of the members’ ages, experiences, legal knowledge, and skills. Each member is unique and special. They learn from each other and are building lasting friendships. (Isn’t that what NALS is all about?) 

 

There is a lot to learn from NALS of Tucson & So. AZ (NTSA). They keep their association fresh through various educational opportunities, member suggestions, chapter celebration events, meeting other members of the legal community, and working together for charity. 


Service in the Chapter 


This chapter leads by example in holding education of members as one of the central activities. Twenty-two members are certified and most have achieved multiple certifications. NTSA strives to keep everyone sharp by offering many opportunities of continuing legal education for seasoned members and exam preparation for newer members. NTSA holds monthly general/CLE meetings and offers other educational events for their chapter. They also coordinate CLE with other legal professional associations in the area. 

 

NTSA shares their love of education and the legal profession by holding a raffle at every monthly meeting to support their annual Scholarship Program. This scholarship assists with books, registration fees, and other school needs, as well as awarding a one-year NALS membership. Invitations with the application for the NTSA scholarship are sent once a year to high schools, trade schools, and local colleges that teach legal courses. 

 

The monthly NTSA email of announcements to members has proven to be very fruitful for the chapter. The newsletter includes an open request for ideas from the members. Some of the members’ ideas include training sessions and valuable brainstorming sessions. The members post the NTSA flyers in their office or share with other staff in their firm. This is a great way to share “what NALS can do for you” with others. 

 

NTSA celebrates members through annual events like the Awards & Appreciation Banquet and Installation of Officers in April, the Summer Social in August, and the Holiday Mixer in December. These themed events are a way for the members to unwind, play, and visit, free from the pressures of the job. 

 

NTSA has had success in growing their chapter by hosting an annual membership drive in February and/or March of each year. There is always a theme, such as Mardi Gras, Western, and others, and games such as bingo or legal trivia are played. Influential court personnel are invited to speak at these meetings. NTSA also hosts a breakfast get-together to introduce other legal secretaries, legal assistants, and paralegals to the association. 

 

National NALS Service 

 

Many NTSA members have gone on to serve in state, regional, and national positions—even as high as President of NALS. Currently, several members are serving on the national NALS level. Audrey Saxton, PP, PLS, is serving NALS as a Board Member; Bonnie Hole, PP, PLS, RP, CNSA, CPCA, ACP, is serving NALS as the Chair of the Certification Board; and Nancy Anderstrom, PP, PLS, AACP, is serving NALS as the Co-chair of the Certification Board. 

 

Building Their Name and Membership 

 

NTSA works to promote their association to other law firms in many ways. They have a liaison with the Pima County Bar Association (PCBA). This is a reciprocal relationship. The liaison prepares information on NTSA activities for The Writ, the monthly publication for the PCBA members. It is free advertising of all the great things NTSA is doing for the Pima County Bar, opportunities for the NTSA members, and how NTSA supports their community. NTSA also donates time to the PCBA for functions requiring assistance. For instance, the PCBA and the Young Lawyers Division hold an annual Judicial Reception. NTSA has volunteered to manage the registration table at this reception for so many years that the judges and attorneys know the NTSA members by name! 

 

Relationship With Other Associations 

 

NTSA has some members who belong to other professional and legal associations and serve to coordinate and share CLE with other legal groups. In 2015, NTSA co-sponsored the Tucson Paralegal Association’s Annual CLE Seminar, which was very well received by all attendees. 

 

For the past two years NTSA hosted the NALS of Tucson & So. AZ annual December Holiday Mixer. The purpose is to enable professionals from all areas of the Tucson legal community to meet and network in a social setting; to mix, mingle, and celebrate the holidays. NALS of Tucson & So. AZ finds sponsors for the event, generally legal vendors and supporters of the organization, to assist with providing the food and drinks. One of the caterers was Caridad Community Kitchen, associated with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. A group of local attorneys provide live music. 

 

Another fun event NTSA has is the Collaborative Networking Happy Hour coordinated with the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA), and the Tucson Paralegal Association (TPA). The happy hours are well attended and a nice time to relax and get to know other legal professionals. 

 

Service to the Community 

 

NTSA has always had a commitment to yearly charity projects. The NTSA Board gives the members a choice of three to five charities and the members make their collective choice. Then the NTSA members collect items throughout the year specifically for that charity.

 

One year, the NTSA members chose the Veterans’ Association and collected clothing, books, purses, shoes, personal items, puzzles, wheelchairs, and many other items to give to the local VA Hospital for the veterans. It was a very successful and greatly appreciated project. 

 

Another NTSA choice for community service was the Bowling for Backpacks! event. This event had members, family, and friends attending a fun evening of bowling after collecting school supplies and backpacks to donate to local area schools in need. This project was enjoyed by all for three years, when it was time to try something new. 

 

The most recent charity activity for NTSA was Make Way for Books. The mission of Make Way for Books is to provide quality early educational experiences by giving books to under-resourced sites and offering early educational workshops for educators and parents. Each year, MWFB serves more than 30,000 children and families and 700 educators in nearly 300 preschools in the Tucson area. The members of NTSA collected 233 new and gently used books during the year-long book drive to donate to Make Way for Books. On March 30, 2016, Wendy Carpenter, PP, PLS, President of NTSA, and Nancy Anderstrom, PP, PLS, AACP, Parliamentarian and Local Finance Chairperson, delivered the books to the organization. 

 

Working together on a large project is the “glue” that keeps the chapter going. This core group has a commitment to NALS, to legal education, the legal community, and charity service too. NTSA clearly demonstrates how interesting and fulfilling the journey of NALS can be. 

Tags:  administrative  legal  legal professional  nals  nals chapters 

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Digitization, Intellectual Property, and Legal Access to the Public Domain

Posted By Bryan Eichner, Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Legal - Intellectual Property - Public DomainWith the advent of computers and the Internet, it has become harder to legally obtain copyrighted materials. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) restricted access to copyrighted materials by outlawing circumvention measures and creating Digital Rights Management Provisions (DRM) to protect intellectual property on the computer. The DMCA1 also limited the liability for public forums, creating safe harbors for service providers if they comply with stricter rules for regulating piracy. For example, in order to qualify for safe harbor provisions, the service providers must make an effort to block access to potentially infringing material. They must notify the content provider of the infringing material before the intellectual property providers can take down the content on copyright grounds. It is essentially a race to locate the potentially infringing material before the other party. The winner of the race can claim immunity from liability by presenting the content provider with a cease and desist letter.


These cease and desist letters have been used frequently in the digital world to stop piracy, but the intellectual property holders do not always differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate use of their materials. Fair Use2 is such an exception when it comes to the rule of illegitimate use. According to fair use, in order for a work to be non-infringing, it must be of a non-commercial or educational use, the portion of the work used must not be substantial, the nature of the work must not be unethical, and the market value must not suffer because of its use.


There are many instances where would-be infringers can claim fair use. For example, using an insignificant portion of intellectual property for educational purposes can constitute fair use under the law if the users are not profiting from their work (providing a review of the intellectual property may also constitute fair use if it acknowledges the original creator and does not use a significant portion of the property). A user can also claim fair use for an informative work, such as a top 10 list.


A user can also attribute the work to the intellectual property owner through the Creative Commons3, an alternative to intellectual property protections, created by Yale professor and lawyer, Lawrence Lessig. The Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/about/, is a nonprofit organization that uses copyright tools and licenses in an effort to appease the intellectual property holders. It is an effort to reform intellectual property law to make it more feasible for content owners and community members. 


Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page, is another resource for public domain materials4 (materials that are no longer protected by intellectual property laws). This is a media file repository vetted by the online community in connection with Wikipedia. The images and articles must be used in conjunction with verification tools because the online community is not always reliable. Vandalism can be a regular occurrence on the Wikimedia Commons.


In order to verify that the images and articles are in the public domain, it is important to use origin tools, such as TinEye, https://www.tineye.com/. This site allows the average user to search for origin of the materials on the Internet.5 Based on the attributes, someone can then determine if the selected materials are infringing and if they require attribution.  


Many libraries, including the New York Public Library, also have public domain images that you can use freely without repercussions. These images are previous intellectual properties that have expired. Unlike the Wikimedia Commons, these images are verified and vetted by experts.6 The following link has more information about the collection: http://www.nypl.org/research/collections/digital-collections/public-domain.   

 

On video streaming websites, however, the line between infringing and non-infringing materials is not as clear cut. Channels like YouTube are notorious for blocking or taking down videos that are deemed infringing (without a proper investigation). They create bots or spiders to surf the web and collect possibly infringing materials, but these bots do not differentiate between legitimate and non-legitimate use. As a result, legitimate channels are blocked and the accounts are terminated. This has a chilling effect and stops would-be content providers from producing videos for YouTube. When legitimate users are targeted by bots and spiders from intellectual property owners, creativity can be stifled. 


The indiscriminate use of bots and spiders to control piracy can have a devastating effect on the online video community, especially when content providers are targeted for potential infringement when they are not liable. Technology has not evolved to the point that it can recognize the exceptions to the intellectual property laws. As such, it is not a reliable way to combat piracy without disrupting the activities of the community as a whole.


It does not help that many channels like YouTube offer ways to combat false accusations of infringement. In order to have access to this remedy, content providers must have a good standing with the service provider. Otherwise, they cannot appeal a rejected complaint.7 The following link has the features associated with good standing on YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2797387?hl=en. In order to have good standing with YouTube, the content providers cannot have any copyright strikes or community strikes (strikes that are against the account not for infringement, but for gratuitous sexual content or violence). Content providers also cannot have a global Content ID strike against them (the bots and spiders identifying infringing material). This is easier said than done as a strike can derail a fledgling channel.


In order for videos to be recognized for the same protections as images and articles, the technology has to catch up to the law. Until then, posting videos can be costly for new content providers. There is always the risk that the technology will be used to locate videos and falsely apply takedown notices to non-infringing content. In this case, the accused should make a good faith effort to understand the difference between infringing and non-infringing materials. They should also use verification tools to determine the protections associated with the materials. At least, then, they can attempt to argue that their material was non-infringing when they are hit with a takedown notice (difficult as the appeal may be to argue).



Bryan Eichner is a paralegal student and a research analyst for REMCO Energy Solutions, where he assists with filing complaints, as well as locating rate cases from the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and numerous Public Service Commissions. He works mostly in Administrative Law, but also has a passion for Intellectual Property and Family Legislation. 



[1] U.S. Copyright Office, <http://www.copyright.gov>, “Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998: U.S. copyright Office Summary” December 1998, <http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf.  accessed on March 21, 2016.

[2] U.S. Copyright Office, <http://www.copyright.gov>, “More Information of Fair Use” March 2016, <http://www.copyright.gov/fair-use/more-info.html> accessed on March 21, 2016.

[3] Creative Commons <https://creativecommons.org/> “About” March 2016 <https://creativecommons.org/about/> accessed on March 25, 2016.

[4] Wikimedia Commons <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page> accessed on March 25, 2016.

[5] TinEye <https://www.tineye.com> accessed on March 25 2016.

[6] New York Public Library <http://www.nypl.org> March 2016, <http://www.nypl.org/research/collections/digital-collections/public-domain> accessed on March 26, 2016.

[7] Google, <http://www.Google.com> “Keep Your YouTube account in Good Standing” March 2016. <https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2797387?hl=en> Accessed on March 27, 2016.

 

Tags:  creative commons and legal  intellectual property  legal  legal access  legal professional  public domain 

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BUILDING YOUR CAREER ON SELF-CONFIDENCE

Posted By Tashania Morris, ALS, CDF, CPC, Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Paralegal Career Corner

Paralegal Career Corner Header 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't—you're right.”  ~ Henry Ford

 

Self-confidence is believing in yourself.  It is knowing that you have the ability to get the job done.  Being able to articulate your strengths and abilities to your potential boss is the key to get from where you are now to where you want to be.  Most people advance in their careers because they know what they want and they go after it.  If you do not believe you can get the job done, how will you be able to convince the person in the interview to hire you?  Good sales people are confident in the product they are selling.  You are your own product—sell it well! 


Study your craft

 

If you are new to an industry and feel a little intimidated, this is natural; however, you will have to study your craft to become great at it.  Some people feel that learning ends once they have graduated from college.  Continuing education and personal development should never end.  In the legal world, things change constantly.  Judges’ requirements and laws are constantly updated and it is extremely important to keep up to date with these changes.  Seeking out learning opportunities on your own will be one of the best things you can do for your career.  In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become an expert.  Sometimes you will have to be the first one in and the last one out.  As a newbie in the legal field, I used to volunteer for everything at my firm whether I knew how to do it or not.  I wanted to be on every project even if it meant coming in on the weekends and staying late at night.  After overhearing a conversation, I remember volunteering to prepare title claims and deed in lieu documents.  At the time I did not even know what they were—I had never seen or heard of them before.  It was a steep learning curve and I made a couple of errors along the way, but I had a great boss who enjoyed my enthusiasm and desire to learn. 

 

Self-Doubt and Pep Talks

 

Self–doubt is inevitable—everyone feels this at some point in their lives.  Questioning yourself and your abilities will occur occasionally.  The problem is allowing self-doubt to linger.  Napoleon Hill once said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it will achieve.”  You will have to learn the value of self-talk and become your biggest cheerleader.  Do not allow self-doubt to eat away at your self-confidence.  As a way of overcoming self-doubt, some people say affirmations in the morning or read scriptures that help to center their thoughts and renew their confidence within themselves.  It is about changing your mindset.  Even if you have family and friends cheering you on, if you do not believe you can do it you will not.  It starts with you.   

 

I am currently in transition from being a paralegal to becoming an HR professional.  This is new to me and I often feel I am starting over.  Sometimes this comes with a lot of self-doubt—I am leaving something I am familiar with to enter a world that is new to me and, while it is challenging, I love HR and the passion drives me.  Ultimately the biggest battle you will have to fight and win is with yourself. 

 

Creating a Good Support System

 

Find an advocate at work, someone who is willing to mentor you in your professional development.  They can help you navigate the workplace and give you tips on how to improve.  It is always great to build connections within your place of employment.  Having external mentors is essential to your career development as well.  This gives you someone you can vent to about what is going on at work and never have to worry about it getting back to the boss.  When you are down, it is wonderful to have people around you to remind you of how great you are.


Starting a new career and/or looking for new job opportunities can be scary, but self-confidence and perseverance can take you far.  I was encouraged by an interview I saw with Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba.  In his interview he spoke about the importance of not giving up.  He is quoted as saying, “I failed 3 times in college.  I applied 30 times to get a job but I have always been rejected.  When KFC came to China for the first time, we were 24 to apply and I was the one to be dismissed.  I wanted to go into the police and 5 postulants, I was the only one not to be accepted.  I applied 10 times to return to Harvard University USA and I was rejected.”  It takes a lot of self-confidence to be able to pick yourself up and move forward after being rejected so many times.  It all starts and ends with you.  Had he given up or allowed self-doubt to take over, he would not be enjoying the success of Alibaba right now. 

 


 

Tashania Morris, 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.

Tags:  administrative  career corner  legal  legal assistant  legal networking  legal professional  paralegal  paralegal career 

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May Grammar Nuggets

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, AC, Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, May 17, 2016

NALS Paralegal Professionals - Grammar Nuggets - Proof That Blog KathyPretty Is As Pretty Does

 

One of the important pieces of proofreading is making sure your document looks good (in addition to being accurate). Here are some tips for aesthetically pleasing documents:

 

Avoid widow and orphan lines. Those are the single lines or words at the top of a page (widow) or at the bottom of the page (orphans). In a Word document, use the para widow orphan control feature to keep widows and orphans away.

Check to see if the entire document is justified or not justified. Particularly where there is a lot of cutting and pasting or several people working on the document, you may see that some paragraphs are justified while others are not. Consistency is what matters. Decide which to use and make sure all the paragraphs are that style.

Is the spacing even? Some paragraphs could be double, some could be 24 space, some could be 1.5 lines. To some people, that would all look “close enough,” but to someone checking how a document looks, it will be noticed (and judges and opposing counsel may well notice it too).

Are the margins even on every page? Make sure the margins match paragraph to paragraph and page to page. Something I see a lot is where someone pulls the right-hand margin in for a quotation and it does not get changed back to the original margin.

Do the headings line up at the same tab stop consistently throughout the document and are they numbered consecutively? This is an important step in the process. Sometimes one last run-through just to check paragraph numbers is worth it. It is much better than opposing counsel objecting to a paragraph because there are two paragraphs numbered 3 and no number 5. It is best to set up styles and number that way, but no matter which way you go, at least check it.

Are the headings that are supposed to be centered actually centered? If there is a tab set on the same line as the heading, it will center between that tab and the end of the line. Be sure to check there are no tabs set on that line.

If you, the author, or the client insists that a document line up with pleading paper line numbers, try to get it there. It takes time and can be highly frustrating, particularly if there are headings that are single spaced when the body is 24 space, but you can get close. And it really does look much nicer to have it all aligned with the numbers (and it is easier to refer back in a subsequent document to a page and line number if necessary).

 

Following these steps will help you have a document that looks like someone cared enough to make it look right—because YOU cared.


 

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 has a blog on proofreading tips at http://proofthatblog.com. If you have specific grammar issues you would like covered in future issues, please send them to Kathy at proofthatblog@gmail.com.

 

Tags:  Accredited Legal Professional  administrative  grammar  grammar nuggets  legal  legal professional  office procedures  paralegal 

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