16 PARALEGAL BLOGS FOR 2020, BY Online Master Paralegal Blogs for 2020
A list of valuable and helpful blogs for paralegal professionals and paralegal students. -CCE
16 PARALEGAL BLOGS FOR 2020, BY Online Master Paralegal Blogs for 2020
A list of valuable and helpful blogs for paralegal professionals and paralegal students. -CCE
The Big List of E-Discovery Terms Every Paralegal Should Know, by Jenny Tucker, My Paralegal Place (reprinted with author’s permission)
I have paralegal friends who have had special training and received credentials for their knowledge of e-discovery. I also have paralegal friends who rarely run across the same kind of challenge. If these terms are common to you, I tip my hat. If not, I hope this helps. Thanks, Jenny, for sharing. -CCE
How the legal profession under utilizes paralegals: exclusive interview with Deborah Hampton of Chemours, by Adam Houldsworth, World Trademark Review™ (hat tip to William P. Statsky)
I met Deborah Hampton years ago, and was impressed then by her intelligence, poise, kindness, and professionalism. I am even more impressed now. -CCE
A good friend recently shared a paralegal post in which the author complained about ill-tempered clients. The author warned that, as a result, the clients’ work would remain at the bottom of the stack on her desk. I disagree.
I recall witnessing this behavior more than once as a legal secretary and paralegal toward clients, young lawyers, and legal interns. Law students were particularly vulnerable. I caution any legal support staff against behaving so unprofessionally.
If you find yourself tempted, let me remind you of this simple truth. Law students and young lawyers have a bad habit of becoming senior partners and your future employers. And, they have long memories.
Most people, as a rule, do not call an attorney’s office because they are having a good day. Before they became our clients, they realized they had a problem, tried to deal with it, were unsuccessful, stressed, and lost sleep. In short, we are not seeing them at their best.
Take good notes when your clients vent, rant, or repeat themselves. Because they are upset, they may be mistaken or confused. Let the client know that you are listening to them. Interrupt only when you need them to repeat something to make sure you get it right. Document the clients’ concerns, and tell your attorney they called and why.
Helping clients resolve their legal problem is our job. It is what we do, and it is why we are there. They deserve the best service we can give them. -CCE
Wrongful Death Case Filed for Late Spouse Not Null and Void as Unauthorized Practice, by Mike Frisch, Legal Profession Prof (with hat tip to William P. Statsky)
A man’s wife dies in a hospital due to complications after surgery. He sues the hospital and other defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit. You can represent yourself in court without a lawyer, but can you represent someone else without a lawyer? No, you can’t. It’s called the unauthorized practice of law. So, how did he do it? -CCE
It’s Time to Kill the “Non-Lawyers” by Matt Hoffman, the [non]billable hour blog
[L]aw firms are professional services businesses and it’s time to acknowledge the large group of diversely talented people who make them run — people who don’t deserve to be labeled ‘non’-anything.
Instead, let’s call them what they really are: Professionals.
Michigan Joins Quest to Block New Overtime Rule, by Jason Shinn, Michigan Employment Law Advisor Blog
The new overtime rule proposed by the Department of Labor is definitely one to watch. Its impact on employee and employer alike is significant.
How will it impact paralegals? As a profession, we began as exempt professionals, and not eligible for overtime. The Department of Labor eventually determined that paralegals were non-exempt because we work under the direct supervision of lawyers, and do not make independent decisions. Personally, I prefer being considered as an exempt professional, but not all paralegals share my opinion.
A more detailed explanation of the history of the Department of Labor and the paralegal professional can be found here: https://www.paralegals.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3304. -CCE
On September 20, 2016, Michigan joined 20 other states in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to block a new overtime rule that goes into effect on December 1, 2016. Here is a link to the complaint Nevada v. Labor Dept., (9/20/16).
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DOL’s Rule Expands Eligibility for Overtime Pay
The DOL’s overtime rule would more than double the salary threshold, up to about $47,500, under which workers are automatically entitled to overtime pay. This rule focuses on shrinking what is referred to as the ‘white collar exemption,’ which exempts employees who perform ‘executive, administrative or professional’ duties from overtime and minimum wage requirements.
“Just” a Paralegal? by Christopher Beck, California Bar Journal (May 2016)(with hat tip to William P. Statsky)
[I] remember something very intelligent and profound that my professor said during this first day: ‘One day you’ll be out in the world working at a law office, big or small, government or private. And on that first day you will have absolutely no idea what you are doing. To make it worse, no other associate will help you. The best advice I can give you is this: Be nice to the paralegals. They know more than you think, often as much as the lawyers, and they have been at the firm longer. If you want to survive, befriend them.’
A New Kind Of Paralegal Is Coming To Help Utahns Navigate The Court System, by Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune (published December 14, 2015)
There are issues with how Utahns access their justice system, a Utah Supreme Court justice said.
Many people either can’t afford lawyers, Deno Himonas said Monday, or simply don’t want to hire one to help them navigate the court system as they file for divorce, settle debts or resolve eviction issues. . . .
To that end, the Utah Supreme Court has approved the creation of a new legal profession: limited paralegal practitioners.
* * *
Creating a new career field from the ground up won’t be without challenges, however.
One of the biggest hurdles may be getting Utah lawyers to support the program. The task force report said 60 percent of lawyers recently surveyed by the Utah State Bar either disagreed or ‘strongly disagreed’ with a proposal to explore limited licenses for certain practice areas.
Utah made some major decisions about the paralegal profession in 2015. In August, the Utah Supreme Court, Utah State Bar, and National Center for State Courts took a hard look at the role of non-lawyers:
Non-Lawyer Legal Assistance Roles – Efficacy, Design, and Implementation, Thomas M. Clark, Ph.D., National Center for State Courts (August 2015)
In November 2015, the Utah Supreme Court’s Task Force also tackled limited legal licensing of non-lawyers:
Utah Supreme Court Task Force to Examine Limited Legal Licensing
You can find both here at the Utah Courts website under Publications/Court Reports:
South Carolina Supreme Court creates a State Board of Paralegal Certification, by Edward Nelson, NY Public Policy Examiner, examiner.com (with hat tip to William P. Statsky)
Today [November 11, 2015], the South Carolina Supreme Court issued an Order which gives legitimacy to Rule 429 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR) and creates the Board of Paralegal Certification where paralegals can voluntarily apply to become certified with the State of South Carolina. According to the Supreme Court, ‘The purpose of certification of South Carolina’s paralegals is to assist in the delivery of legal services to the public by identifying individuals who are qualified by education, training, and experience and who have demonstrated knowledge, skill, and proficiency to perform substantive legal work under the direction and supervision of a lawyer licensed in South Carolina.’
This is a tremendous Order from the South Carolina Supreme Court issued on November 12, 2015. The Board of Paralegal Certification shall be formed of five (5) attorneys in good standing with the South Carolina Bar and four (4) paralegals certified under the program which constitutes a nine (9) member board. . . .
The Law Society of Upper Canada – The Paralegal Rules of Conduct (with hat tip to William P. Statsky!)
Upper Canada Paralegal Resources
Includes information about how to become a paralegal, how to become licensed, and how to manage your paralegal practice. -CCE
Mayer Brown & Simpson Thacher Make Epic Screwup, by Joe Patrice, Above The Law (with hat tip to William P. Statsky)
It is rare indeed to find such a dearth of responsibility among so many fine legal professionals. If you can, follow the bouncing ball. –CCE
Mistakes happen. It’s why pencils have erasers. But it’s also why law firms install tier after tier of increasingly senior professionals to second-guess every ounce of work product. It’s remarkably effective — and fairly lucrative on an hourly basis.
Unfortunately, the flip side of a tiered system is a tendency toward over-delegation. And that’s how an unwary paralegal ends up costing a bank millions. . . .
Regardless of whether you are a lawyer, judge, or paralegal, have you kept a list of every case on which you have worked? Does it include all the parties or only your client?
Christine Simmons recently posted an interesting article in the New York Law Journal in which the Court disqualified a White Plains attorney’s representation of his client. The attorney’s paralegal had, in the past, been involved with the opposing party. For this reason, the Court ruled to vacate the settlement due to tainted negotiations.
So back to my original question – when you were hired, did anyone ask you to look at the firm’s active client list to determine whether you had a conflict of interest? Shouldn’t this especially be the case if your practice is limited to only one or two specific areas of law where you often get repeat business from your clients?
Often, when a firm signs on a new client, it will run a conflict check through its database. It likely also sends an email to all the attorneys asking whether any have a conflict with this particular client. Are support staff and/or the IT Department included in this inquiry? Shouldn’t they if they will have access to the file or any communication with the client, regardless of what role they play in the preparation of the case?
Although every legal professional, lawyer and paralegal, are aware of their ethical obligation to confidentiality and conflicts of interest, how many of us have a complete list of every client and/or parties in each case we have ever worked? Should we? -CCE
Attorney’s Quick Guide to Paralegal Credentials, by Misty L. Sheffield, Atlanta Paralegal Services©2015
Attorneys looking for a paralegal to hire full-time, part-time or on a contract basis will be faced with a variety of titles and credentials. Paralegals are not a licensed profession, but credentials are offered by the national paralegal organizations on a voluntary basis. This is a quick reference guide to the most commonly used national paralegal titles and credentials. This list does not include state-specific credentials. . . .
Future or Folly: Limited License Legal Technicians, by 2Civility, Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism (with hat tip to William P. Statsky)
It’s graduation time. This year, there is a brand new class of graduates in the State of Washington: Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLTs). These graduates are from a unique legal educational program—not a traditional law school. Yet they will eventually have a law license to perform limited legal services in family law. . . .
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Refuses to Enforce Unethical Fee-Splitting Agreement, by Jeremy Telman, Contracts Prof Blog
Gary Rich and Joseph Simioni met in connection with an asbestos case involving West Virginia University. Rich is an attorney. Simioni has a J.D. but was never admitted to the bar. Starting in the 1990s, the two men collaborated on two additional asbestos cases and contracted with out-of-state law firms to help them class action litigation. It appears that until 2002, the men agreed that they would split the proceeds of their work 50/50. but then Rich announced there would be an 80/20 split in his favor. The parties then proceeded on this basis and committed their agreement to writing in 2005.
Rich now contends that he was under the impression that Simioni was a licensed attorney, and he did not realize that Simioni was not licensed until 2000 or 2001. He consulted with the former Chief Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel of the West Virginia State Bar, who told him that Sinioni ‘might not be able to get paid ethically.’
Simioni eventually filed sued in District Court against the out-of-state law firms, seeking recovery based in quantum meruit, unjust enrichment and breach of an implied contract. The District Court certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Appeals:
Are the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct statements of public policy with the force of law equal to that given to statutes enacted by the West Virginia State Legislature?
The Supreme Court of Appeals answered in the affirmative, at least with respect to Rule 5.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. which prohibits fee-sharing between lawyers and non-lawyers. The Court held for the first time (but based on numerous authorities) that fee-sharing agreements between lawyers and non-lawyers violate public policy. . . .
Florida Lawyers Face Disciplinary Charges After Representing “Bubba the Love Sponge Clem” Blog, by Tom Feher, Thompson Hine LLP, The Law for Lawyers Today, © Copyright 2006-2015 Globe Business Publishing Ltd (with hat tip to William P. Statsky!)
There has been a long, ongoing discussion in our profession about whether paralegals should have a certain level of paralegal education or whether it is sufficient to have experience alone. This article makes a good argument that, one way or another, in-depth education in legal ethics is critical for paralegals and all support staff. This subject deserves, and needs, special attention.
We make the mistake of thinking that lawyers know every nuance to supervising paralegals, and that is not always the case. It is not enough pick up a short review of legal ethics at a CLE seminar. You should be brushing up constantly, just as you would court rules or any other integral part of your job.
This example is one of the most extreme ethical violations I have ever seen by paralegals and attorneys. You cannot make up this stuff. -CCE
Sometimes our lessons come in more bizarre ways than others. As reported by Law360 last week (subscription required), three Florida lawyers were charged by disciplinary authorities over a January 2013 incident involving the firm’s paralegal. The three lawyers were defending defamation claims against their client, who was a local radio talk show host known as ‘Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.’ The plaintiff was another radio personality.
Reports at the time suggested that, on the evening after the media-focused defamation trial started, the defense firm’s paralegal spotted plaintiff’s counsel at a local bar near his home. She contacted lawyers at her firm, returned to the bar with a friend, and sat down next to opposing counsel. Over the next two hours, the paralegal is reported to have lied about where she worked, flirted with opposing counsel and ordered drinks, including buying defense counsel a vodka cocktail and shots of Southern Comfort. She also stayed in touch with the three lawyers from her firm, sending them more than 90 texts and emails over the course of the evening. . . .
Judge Sees ‘Self-Congratulatory Blather’ In Biglaw Brief; Paralegals Blamed For Error, by Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal (with hat tip to William Statsky!)
A Florida bankruptcy judge overseeing a fight between investors in a shuttered fashion mall made no secret of his dissatisfaction with a Duane Morris pleading during a sanctions hearing on Friday.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John Olson said the law firm appeared to be throwing a paralegal ‘under the bus’ when it blamed her for a mistaken court filing, and its sanctions brief was lacking the proper tone, the Daily Business Review (sub. req.) reports.
Could Dental-Board Decision Unlock Lawyer Control Of State Bar Regulations?, guest post Ken Friedman, Forbes
(Mr. Friedman is the Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs for LegalZoom Inc.)
Many state regulatory agencies are controlled by active members of the very professions they oversee. Last week, this fox-and-hen-house scenario was addressed by the United States Supreme Court, which ruled that such agencies are not immune to federal antitrust laws unless their actions are actively supervised by politically accountable government officials. While the case dealt specifically with dentistry (teeth whiteners everywhere, rejoice!), the ruling will have far broader ramifications for many professions, including how the practice of law is regulated.
In North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, the Supreme Court upheld the FTC’s ruling that the Dental Examiners violated antitrust laws when they sent dozens of ‘cease and desist’ letters to teeth whiteners, claiming that they were engaged in the ‘unauthorized practice of dentistry.’ The letters and other strong-arm tactics worked – dentists in North Carolina established a monopoly over teeth-whitening services until the FTC intervened.
The Dental Examiners monopolistic campaign was modeled after a similar, if less successful, campaign engaged by the North Carolina State Bar.
The Supreme Court’s decision will have broad positive effects throughout the country. The Court’s ruling recognizes that letting professionals enforce their own monopolies creates a ‘real danger’ that they will act to further their ‘own interests,’ rather than the public interest. These practices increase prices to the detriment of consumers while decreasing consumer choice. The Court recognized that the problem is far worse when the boundaries of the state-granted monopoly are not ‘clearly articulated and affirmatively expressed as state policy,’ and the professionals are given the power to decide what is the ‘unauthorized practice’ of their profession.
This lack of clarity is not uncommon. For example, Rhode Island opens the door to this defining the unauthorized practice of law as the ‘doing of any act for another person usually done by attorneys at law in the course of their profession.’ They list a few examples, ‘without limiting the generality of the definitions.’
The active supervision concept is important. While the requirement is ‘flexible and context-dependent,’ the Court made clear that the ‘supervisor must review the substance of the anticompetitive decision, not merely the procedures followed to produce it.’ The supervisor cannot be a market participant and needs to have the power to veto or modify decisions. This will require significant interaction.
Regulating the practice of law is the classic example of active market participants protecting their monopoly. In its amicus brief, the NCSB states that its authority is vested in the State Bar Council, 65 of whose 68 members are lawyers.
The threat this poses is not idle. . . .
Three Notable Updates on Non-Lawyers Providing Legal Assistance, by Robert Ambrogi, Law Sites Blog (with hat tip to William Statsky!)
In the January 2015 issue of the ABA Journal, I had an article about Washington state’s limited license legal technician (LLLT) program, which will formally license non-lawyers to deliver legal services in limited circumstances independently, without a lawyer’s supervision. The article also discussed New York’s program of court navigators and reported on other states considering programs similar to Washington’s, including California and Oregon. Since that article came out, there have been three notable developments.
Oregon Task Force Calls for Legal Technicians
In the ABA Journal piece, I noted that the Oregon State Bar had convened a Task Force on limited license legal technicians in 2013 and that its final report was expected soon. On Feb. 13, the Task Force issued its report. In it, the Task Force recommended to the OSB’s board of governors ‘that is consider the general concept of a limited license for legal technicians as one component of the BOG’s overall strategy for increasing access to justice.’ The report noted that a large majority of the Task Force members — but not all of them — concurred in the recommendation.
Should the Board decide to proceed with this concept, the Task Force recommends a new Board or Task Force be established to develop the detailed framework of the program. For the reasons set out herein, the BOG should review the recently established Washington State Bar Association LLLT program and consider it as a potential model.
The report praised the Washington LLLT program as ‘comprehensive and well thought-out’ and urged the OSB, should it decide to proceed with a legal technician program, to ‘review, consider and learn from Washington’s program.’
The Task Force further recommended that the first area to be licensed be family law, including guardianship. . . .
Debating The Pros and Cons of Non-Lawyers Practicing Law, by Robert Ambrogi, Law Sites Blog
As I noted here recently, I have an article in the current issue of the ABA Journal about the use of non-lawyers to help close the access to justice gap by allowing them to provide legal advice in limited circumstances. A particular focus of the article is Washington state’s limited license legal technician (LLLT) program.
The article prompted two posts last week at Above the Law that considered the pros and cons of allowing non-lawyers to practice law.
In the first, Can Nonlawyers Close The Access-To-Justice Gap?, Sam Wright, a ‘dyed-in-the-wool, bleeding-heart public interest lawyer,’ couldn’t quite decide how he feels about the idea. ‘It’s easy to see how this could be a win for low- and middle-income people who currently find themselves floundering in the access-to-justice gap,’ he writes. But then he goes on to say that it is ‘also easy to see how this could be a blow to the present-day legal profession with its hordes of underemployed lawyers’ and that it is ‘also easy to see how programs like Washington’s could do a poor job closing the access-to-justice gap.’ Wright’s bottom line is to take a wait-and-see position: ‘Regardless, the LLLT program is an interesting approach to a real problem, and I’ll be watching to see what comes of it.’
From everything I’ve learned about this issue, it is clear to me that this is not about displacing lawyers. The magnitude of the A2J gap is so enormous that lawyers can never close it alone. There could never be a sufficient level of pro bono or reduced-fee services to meet the needs. Study upon study has concluded that 80 to 90 percent of low and moderate income people with legal problems are unable to obtain legal representation. That is an enormous problem.
You may have noticed that, even with a glut of lawyers, the problem isn’t getting fixed. . . .
Positions and Issues – Ethics, National Federation of Paralegal Associations
At this link, you will find documents and articles on paralegal ethics written by members of NFPA and NFPA Informal Ethics and Disciplinary Opinions.
NFPA is not the only national paralegal association to have an ethical code or to public ethics and disciplinary opinions. Also, be advised that those states that have regulated paralegals likewise have ethical requirements. Paralegals are also obligated to follow state ethical rules for lawyers in the states in which they work. Ethical rules and opinions published by the American Bar Association are advisory, not mandatory, on both lawyers and legal support staff.
Therese Cannon and Deborah Orlik have both written excellent books on paralegal ethics. I highly recommend each. If you are researching what ethical guidelines for non-lawyers, your research should include all ethical rules and guidelines that have been set by national and your state paralegal associations, as well as your state bar association.
Ethics for non-lawyer support staff may sometimes have indistinct, grey lines. If you are smart, you will take a step back when you see them. When it comes to ethical considerations, it is always best to proceed slowly or not at all. If you must err, then choose to err with caution. I strongly urge you to back away from anything that might give the appearance of impropriety or a breach of ethics. -CCE
STAND And Deliver Legal Services, by Mike Frisch, Legal Profession Prof Blog
There are certain things that paralegals, legal assistants, and any other non-lawyer legal professional cannot do.
That brings us to this post. No doubt that the non-lawyer in this example had good intentions, and was trying to help. If you the non-lawyer in any situation, regardless of how much training or initials you have behind your name, you CANNOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE.-CCE
Unauthorized practice decision of the Ohio Supreme Court is described by Kathleen Maloney:
A Lorain County non-lawyer and his corporation engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by providing legal advice to individuals facing criminal charges, according to an Ohio Supreme Court decision today.
The court directed King Ayettey Zubaidah and STAND, Inc., to stop practicing law and ordered them to pay a civil penalty of $20,000 for their involvement in four legal matters.
Zubaidah formed STAND (Striving Towards a New Day!) in 2008 after his experience with the justice system in the 1980s when he was convicted on a drug charge and sentenced to five years probation. STAND’s mission was ‘to help change the unfair and partial treatment against minorities in the judicial system.’
In each of the four cases brought before the Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL), the defendant or a parent of the defendant asked for Zubaidah’s guidance during the criminal case and signed an agreement with STAND, which stated that the organization would assist them. No payment was required. Family members testified that Zubaidah did not claim to be an attorney and they knew he was not one.
In one matter, Isaiah Harris faced several charges in three different cases in 2008 involving the same victim. The court appointed a lawyer to represent him. Harris also signed an agreement with STAND.
The three cases were combined, and before Harris’ trial Zubaidah sent a letter to the judge indicating he had in-depth knowledge about the facts in the case and defending Harris’ actions.
In the midst of trial, Harris’ lawyer negotiated a plea deal for a four-year prison term. Zubaidah attended the trial, but his involvement was disputed. Harris’ lawyer claimed that Zubaidah advised Harris not to accept the deal. Harris rejected the offer and was later convicted and sentenced to 23 years, 6 months in prison.
In the other cases, Zubaidah sent letters to the judges asking for lower bonds, citing cases, and making legal arguments, though indicating that he was not an attorney.
In today’s per curiam opinion, the court noted that an individual who negotiates legal claims for another person and provides legal advice – even without charge and even when stating that he is not an attorney – is practicing law.
While a non-attorney who sends a character-reference letter for someone to a judge is not engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, the court stated that when a letter shifts to advocating specific legal positions for that person, the unauthorized practice of law occurs.
‘[D]espite the laudable desire to seek reform in the criminal system, such a desire cannot be realized by legally advising and advocating on behalf of a criminal defendant without violating our prohibition against the unauthorized practice of law,’ the opinion stated.
‘Zubaidah’s actions extended beyond the permissible conduct of endorsing a person’s character, advocating a social issue generally, advancing personal interests, or providing nonlegal advice to a family member. Despite Zubaidah’s good intentions and intermittent disclaimers, his conduct shows a pattern of advocating legal positions on behalf of defendants and providing legal advice to those defendants, leading to serious consequences for the STAND clients who trusted him.’
The court pointed out that Zubaidah held himself out as ‘an advocate with legal expertise,’ his agreements implied that he had specialized knowledge of the legal system, and his letters to judges ‘cited case law, raised legal issues, and asked for legal results.’ . . . [Emphasis added,]
A Paralegal’s Guide to Preparing for a Civil Trial, by Betsy Horn, CLA, Texas Paralegal Journal (Summer 1997), ©1997 Legal Assistants Division, State Bar of Texas
Do not let the date give you the notion that there’s nothing here worth your attention. Ms. Horn’s article and checklist is invaluable for any paralegal preparing for, or assisting, at trial. Although trial technology and the tools you use may have changed, the common sense and advice in this article is just as true today as in 1997.
Regardless of whether you live in Texas, please don’t ignore the Texas Paralegal Journal. As you can see, it’s been going strong for a long time. I strongly recommend that you look at the Journal’s web page, http://txpd.org/TPJ/75/default.asp. Now that you’ve found it, stay a while. Click on TLJ Online. There is a wealth of information there, just waiting to be plucked. -CCE