Wait … WHAT?!?!?!

January 30, 2014

I’m still trying to wrap my head around this Craigslist ad under CL >new york >queens >all jobs >legal/paralegal jobs:

Disbarred Attorney wanted


In my head, I hear the voice of Inigo Montoya:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Back in October 2011, I wrote about an employer seeking “JD Paralegals” – “Qualified applicants will have to have at least a JD.”

Seriously people, I know the public thinks poorly of our industry, but at what point did we, as legal professionals, sink so low as to blur the lines of ethics and common sense??

FTR, the order of disbarment in New York states:

Ordered that pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90, effective immediately__________ is commanded to desist and refrain from (1) practicing law in any form, either as principal or as agent, clerk, or employee of another …

One attorney commented that he sees no problem with a disbarred attorney working as a (hold on to your seat for this one) paralegal. After all, ‘if the work will be will be supervised by an attorney in good standing, what could be the harm?’

Well sir, several state bars actually have rules that prevent disbarred attorneys from acting as paralegals. And, the National Federation of Paralegals (NFPA) has issued its own opinion:

http://www.paralegals.org/associations/2270/files/Ethics_Opinion_05_02_disbarred_attorneys.pdf

It’s one thing to have a disbarred attorney APPLY for a job, it is outrageous to advertise for one. I worked long and hard to become a damn good, respected, paralegal – I don’t want my industry sullied by the assumption that it’s OK to replace me or my peers with a disbarred attorney.

If an employer wants to take the chance and hire a disbarred attorney, fine – let them; but seriously, why would anyone EVER advertise for one?

What do y’all think?

 

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Coworker Behaviors That Make Us Crazy

January 24, 2014

Reprinted with permission from The Paralegal Society: www.theparalegalsociety.wordpress.com

A Royal Decree To: The Keepers of the Misery

 

***************   ROYAL DECREE   *****************

Hear ye, hear ye, the Words of the Throne.

The Unanimous Declaration of our Fearless Founder, the TPS Counsel, and Countless Legal Staffers all Across the World.

Red Seal

It has become necessary for all pleasant, ambitious legal lords and ladies around the world to separate and distinguish themselves from those law firm staffers known as the “Dark Clouds” a/k/a Keepers of the Misery – those peasants cleverly disguised under the guise of legal employees, committing acts of sheer treachery in the legal kingdom. From this day forward, strict penalties shall be imposed against evil doers for any act of sheer stupidity, laziness, rudeness or other unconscionable acts, including but not limited to, acts perpetrated under the cloak of utter and absolute stupidity, ignorance, glutton, carelessness, classlessness, cluelessness or greed.

Those found in violation of the laws of the land shall be punished by a fine, hereinafter referred to within the four corners of the legal kingdom as “The Dummy Tax” or by a padded-room-imprisonment, a duct taped mouth, a swift kick in the derriere, poisoning, flogging or death, dependent entirely upon the breadth and depth of the village idiot’s stupidity, while moonlighting as an employee among those working tirelessly within the gauntlet to serve the royal fleet of esteemed esquires, as duly sworn upon their oath.

Hear our proclamation that from this day forward, the following acts shall be considered treason. Anyone caught committing any of these unconscionable acts (and a long list of unwritten, unspoken, unbelievable others) shall be assessed a Dummy Tax commensurate with the level of idiocy that has occurred.

The Acts of Social Treason Are As Follows:

  • The Thief – one who steals the lunch of another from the fridge, unbeknownst to the owner and leaves him or her high and dry, without a crumb of bread to eat or a drop of Diet Coke to quench her weary thirst. This category shall also include one who covertly steals the stapler, staple remover, scissors or pens of another, without ever returning said items to the rightful owner.
  • The Fraud – one who takes credit for the work of another for work which he did NOT actually perform. Never has. Never will.
  • The Complainer – one who opens his mouth to spew verbal complaints about another person to other villagers on an endless, tireless basis to avoid the assumption of personal ownership over one’s own duties, faults, and person, within the gates of glory. Regularly. (And painfully, the queen might add).
  • The Boisterous Messenger – one who elicits dialogue far too often or far too loudly within the presence of another coworker, and never stops eliciting words (on, and on, and on) even after losing the interest of the listener, which often occurs upon first sight.
  • The Jester – one who spends countless hours surfing the net, walking and talking among the village’s workers or speaking to his own inner circle of people via telephone, rather than performing his actual work duties in accordance with the laws of the land.
  • The Blamer – one who feels inclined to endlessly blame others for any, every, and all of the shortcomings he may (and does) possess. Nothing is ever the blamer’s fault. Never. Ever. Ever. Not only is he never getting back together with Taylor Swift, people – but he is never, ever, ever accepting responsibility.
  • The Know It All – one who knows more about you than you do. And more about him and her, too. This person’s mouth is constantly moving, engaging in every conversation, but no one is listening – at least not intentionally, anyway. How we all ever survived prior to meeting this individual, he does not know.
  •  The General – one who enters the room or dwelling of another, and upon observing the person to be on a call (which may clearly NEVER end), stands in the room staring at the lord or lady, often with a stoic, annoyingly-attention-seeking, soul-sucking stare for an extended period of time, as though said “General” is commanding or willing the worker off of the phone and to her immediate attention. It is worth noting “The General” is not an esquire. Or a manager. Or a boss. (Or anyone who should EVER stand within 3 feet of an annoyed person who is within an arm’s reach of scissors or a sharp letter opener).
  • The Busy Proclaimer – one who may never do any substantive work, but incessantly tells all others about how much work he has to do, how it will never all be done, and how very, very terribly busy he is – although he may never be observed in an office actually doing work at anytime, as this planet continues to spin on its axis.  Too busy proclaiming to be busy = a full-time job, indeed.
  • The Bender – one who attempts to bend every law in the land to suit his personal needs, schedule, preference, or agenda. Frequently not one who is a top contributor, but one with a sense of personal entitlement to all things, of all things, about all things, for all things, at all times. (Please send that duct tape now.)
  • The Absentee – one who misses work on a regular basis, putting his burdensome workload upon the backs of others working alongside him in the land of legal. If you need her, don’t call her, she won’t be there.
  • The Pretender – one who refuses to admit he does not know something, so he pretends he does, covers things up, or wings it, which may or may not result in the beheading of himself, a fellow staffer or an esquire, in addition to the payment of The Dummy Tax, imprisonment, being duct taped to a chair, or death.
  • The Interrupter – one who barges into the private space of another (often during an important meeting, telephone call or one’s lunch break), without due cause, because everything he needs is the most pressing matter of vital business, even if it is simply to ask if there is any more papyrus for the village scribe or to utter the words, “Are you busy?” or “Do you not want to be bothered?” (Hence, THE CLOSED DOOR IN YOUR FACE). Laser beam death stares are plentiful in his presence.
  • The Slasher – one who pretends to like other lords and ladies around him, only to turn around and stab them in the backside, often ripping out the blade, and stabbing again.
  • The Quarreler – one who enters every room with the intention to bicker or quarrel with every human being in his immediate presence. Often one who will ask a question of another pretending to seek input, clearly just to disagree with anything and everything, anyone else says. Always. Also known to speak loudly, disrupting others from a mile off. (Send those ear plugs STAT, people.)
  • The Moocher  – one who enters the land each day without nary an ink pen, a notepad, a diet coke or a dollar bill to his name, then expects the other lords and ladies of the land to charitably provide these items to him, never to return the favor. Often, not accompanied by a genuine or proper thank you.
  • Cinderella or Cinderfella – one who constantly concerns herself with assessments regarding what is (OR IS NOT) fair about every single situation, circumstance, rule, perk, punishment, consequence or person – anything and everything, yes, all things, at every waking moment of life. No glass slipper. No friends. No invitation to the ball. It’s NOT FAIR!!!
  • The Dark Cloud – one who is a “Keeper of the Misery” in any legal circle, anywhere, as proclaimed by any normal, productive, happy soul who is stuck (oh so stuck – like a fly on bug tape), working alongside one who should be immediately declared the Omnipotent Ruler of the Damned. (Because we are…the damned. We work with you).
  • The Schmoozer – one who inserts himself among the esquires, decision makers or other royal personnel, with the sole intent of befriending them, so he may then attempt to perform any of the aforementioned acts of scandalous treason, without ever having to pay a Dummy Tax, facing imprisonment, the likes of a duct-taped mouth, or being pelted to death with binder clips by an angry mob of villagers following an intentional act of treason.

Be advised that the Lords and Ladies of the land have had enough. All petty, witless, gutless, soulless, acts of treason and treachery shall no longer be accepted by those dwelling within the gates of the TPS Kingdom, heretofore on this day, written on our hearts, and in our minds, and on this blog page – forever more.  

Ruling Regent by the Hand of her Majesty,
The Fearless Founder 

Under Sign, Seal, Cloak & Dagger

As issued this 24th day of the new moon, in the year of our lord, Two Thousand and Fourteen marketh the time, as signed in accordance with the laws of the land.

That is all.

_____

At least we certainly wish it was, don’t we?

[Insert paralegals slamming heads down on desks here]
[Repeatedly]

Carry on, Lords and Ladies. Carry on.

And please feel free to issue that “Dummy Tax” as you deem fit.

 

1 Comment



Paralegals & UPL

January 21, 2014

I am a member of the NFPA Ethics Board.  I’d like to think that means I actually know something about paralegals, ethics and UPL.

I recently found myself in an open forum defending my career of choice. The participants, mostly lawyers, were tripping over themselves trying to ‘splain (or were they trying to understand? Hmm.) the relationship between paralegals and UPL. For the uninitiated, UPL is the unlawful practice of law.

Attorneys practice law; paralegals support attorneys. If I’d wanted to practice law, I would have earned a law degree and sat for the bar.

As I write this, the debate is still raging. I finally shared the following on the forum:

On behalf of the non-lawyer legal service providers – specifically the paralegals – on the list …

This is how we make our living – either as part of the BigLaw machine or as freelancers. We take great pride in understanding the limitations that come with being “just a paralegal”. And we sometimes take offense when asked why we didn’t just become lawyers.

First, the ABA makes it very clear that we must operate under the supervision of an attorney … except in some states that regulate non-attorney service providers, such as California’s Legal Document Preparers who have limited, but approved, privileges to work directly with consumers as long as they meet the requirements set out by the state.

Someone suggested that paralegals can do everything EXCEPT appear in court. Well, that’s wrong. In some states, paralegals may make limited appearances under very specific circumstances. The list of what paralegals can’t (shouldn’t oughta) do is a bit longer.

At this time (and yes, I’ve done my research), there is not an all-governing definition of UPL. The ABA Model Rules provide some direction, and each bar has its own ideas. For the most part, any paralegal worthy of the moniker agrees that UPL includes:

  • giving legal advice;
  • accepting cases;
  • setting fees;
  • planning strategy;
  • making legal decisions;
  • taking depositions; and
  • appearing in court.

In fact, in spite of the fact that my colleagues and I advertise that “we only work for attorneys”, we find ourselves ‘mini-Mirandizing’ potential clients because the general public keeps trying to sneak in. I can’t tell you how often I have to explain to people that if I were to answer their ‘simple question’, I would likely be giving legal advice and risk losing my livelihood.

As for the folks (non-lawyers offering legal services) advertising on Craigslist – look at the source. We do not claim ‘those’ people. They aren’t paralegals – if they were, they’d know better! They make us look bad and they are part of the reason we get so many of ‘those’ calls.

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Say My Name …

January 13, 2014

Why is it so difficult to understand when I say, ‘I prefer Pamela to Pam.’ or “It’s Pamela, not Pam.” that what I mean is call me Pamela?

Is it a language barrier?

I was on a conference call yesterday – there was a computer prompt to introduce myself. I said “Pamela Starr”. I was added to the call and the moderator said, “Hi, Pam. Welcome.”

<ugh>

Me:        “Um, hi; it’s actually ‘Pamela’.”

Moderator:        “Okay, thanks Pamela.”

The conversation went back and forth; each speaker saying their name before commenting so we’d know who was speaking; when I had something to add, I’d say, “This is Pamela.”

Inevitably a response would be addressed to “Pam”.  Again, I’d gently remind the group, “It really is ‘Pamela’.” or something similar.

I corrected the collective on 3 different occasions during a call that lasted less than an hour. Each time I was met with an acknowledgment (I’m sure someone – other than me – was groaning silently in response).

Today I sent an email to the group – it was signed ‘Pamela’.

So that’s 4 verbal reminders yesterday and a visual reminder today.

You’d think it would have sunk in. NOPE!

I received an email response: “Good stuff!  Thanks so much, Pam.”

ARGH!!!

I counted to 10. Should I reply all or just the offender? I wrote and rewrote a reply.

“Folks, seriously, I said it several times during the call yesterday – it’s Pamela, not Pam.”

My mouse hovered over the send button …

I counted to 10 again.

REPLY ALL. Off into the ether flew my message.

Resistance is futile! I will continue to insist that I be properly addressed by my given name.

In case you missed it, it’s Pamela, not Pam. 🙂

2 Comments



How Well Do You Follow Instructions?

January 9, 2014

In my former life, I did some grant writing. The first rule of writing a grant proposal is read the instructions and follow them to the letter. If the the foundation or trust asks that the proposal be typed in Comic Sans and submitted on rainbow paper, you had better make sure you have that font and plenty of rainbow paper on hand.

The same rule – ‘read the instructions first’ – (srsly? Did you think I meant the comment about Comic Sans and rainbow paper?) applies to everything I do as a paralegal and grad student. My job is all about rules, regulations, and following directions; and school is, well, school –

So you may ask, why am I harping about following instructions? A recent comment on Solosez reminded me that this rule also applies to job applicants.

Humor me for a moment … no cheating!!

 

Read the instructions. You have 10 minutes – GO!

  1. Find a pen and paper.
  2. Put your name in the upper right-hand corner of the paper.
  3. Circle the word ‘name’ in sentence two.
  4. Write today’s date—month-day-year—in the top left-hand corner of the paper.
  5. Write the numbers 1 to 5, one per line.
  6. Draw five small circles beside #1.
  7. Put an “X” in the second and fourth circles next to #1.
  8. Write the word ‘encyclopedia’ beside #3.
  9. In the lower left hand corner of your paper, write the names of your favorite singer and your favorite group.
  10. Put an X in the lower right-hand corner of the paper.
  11. Draw a circle around the X you just made.
  12. Write the name of the first president of the United States on the back of your paper, anywhere you choose.
  13. Count the number of words in this sentence and write the answer beside #2 on your paper.
  14. Put a square around #1 and #5.
  15. Punch 3 small holes anywhere in the paper.
  16. Circle every letter ‘E’ you have written.
  17. Take the number of dwarfs in the Snow White story; add the number of bears in the Goldilocks story; divide by 2. Write this total in the approximate center of your paper.
  18. Underline your name.
  19. Just above your answer to #5, write “This is very easy.”
  20. Now that you read all of the instructions, skip all of them except the first two. If you have followed the instructions correctly, you should only have your name on the paper!

Nu? How did you do?

So, how does this apply when you answer a want ad? Remember the thread on Solosez …one of the attorneys commented that he had recently posted an ad for a part-time assistant that ad included the following language: “Resumes and cover letters in PDF only.”  He received a number of replies in <wait for it>  Word.

smh

Do you see the problem?

Those applicants, regardless of their overall qualifications, will not even be considered for the position because of their inability to follow the simplest of instructions. Don’t let this be you!

 

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