Things That Make My Work Easier

June 2, 2016

In May 2014, I posted a review of one of the best tools to ever cross my desk – WordRake. I meant to post an updated review in May 2015, but … the Texas floods happened.

You’re asking, what it this WordRake of which you speak?

It’s a software add-in for Microsoft Word and Outlook that acts as an ‘in-line editor designed for professional business writing.’

“WordRake is designed to edit documents and emails to remove useless phrases and words, making your documents and emails clear and concise.” Take the sentence below. The original was composed in perfect legalese, but the raked version is much easier to read and presents a stronger argument.2016-06-02_15-19-21

I write a lot – pleadings, memoranda, correspondence, and more for my clients; magazine articles; my blog; training materials; and homework*. After a week of ‘raking’, I discovered I use ‘that’ a lot more than necessary. WordRake clarified my thoughts without changing my voice.

It’s so easy to use – highlight and rake. Within a minute or so, WordRake scans the document and provides suggested edits. All that’s left is to review the suggestions and decide whether to accept or reject them. I am still surprised by how much unnecessary and cumbersome language it finds in my writing. Bottom line, WordRake continues to make me a better writer.

Click below to see WordRake in action:

Sign up for a free trial today (no credit card required). You’ll be hooked.

* I finally graduated!! On May 13, 2016, I earned the right to add MATD (Master of Arts in Training & Development) to my credentials.

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Not Quite Speechless . . . “Paralegals an Embarrassment”

August 26, 2015
Image: www.ForCounsel.com

Image: www.ForCounsel.com

Y’all know me – ‘speechless’ and ‘without words’ rarely apply to me. It usually happens when I am too stunned by the comment(s) to respond immediately.

Imagine my reaction to a blog post titled: “Your Paralegals are an Embarrassment“. I clicked the link. My hope was to read ‘. . . of riches’.  (It pains me to post the back link, but I’m no ’embarrassment’.)

Hope.dashed.

The author gleefully states, “Today, I’m going to really annoy the paralegals.”

ANNOY?
Oh, bless his heart.

In short, the author (and several commentators) think our profession is overrated; we should and can be replaced by technology; and/or entry level associates provide more value to a practice than we do.

REALLY???

My comment, awaiting moderation as of 10:45 a.m.:

“Wow. Just, wow. You really have zero, zilch, nada, no appreciation for our profession.

“Paralegals have largely been replaced by technology.” Well, using that logic, so have many attorneys. Tell me, when was the last time tech checked the local rules and forms to confirm that all was indeed in order? Oh, right, ‘my software/service vendor does that automatically.’ Not so much. I have a client in California who relies on his vendor to provide all the latest local rules’ forms updates. All it took was ONE rejected filing for him to realize that the vendor was not updating the forms and that it was more cost effective to have a paralegal take a few extra minutes to make sure the forms in use are, and remain, current.

“Is client communication better handled by the paralegal or by the attorney managing the matter? What about simple tasks like preparing documents for trial?” Let’s look at this from the client’s point of view – does your client want to pay your hourly rate or a paralegal’s?

And if you think paralegals don’t specialize and create niches, you should recheck your sources. 99% of us are – Brad, what did you call it? – oh, right, ‘hybrids’. Our titles may not reflect the jobs we actually do, but, and trust me on this, we’ve always been hybrids.

All of you seem to think the only way to ’employ’ a paralegal is to hire one as a full time staff member. Most solos/small firms don’t have the budget for full-time, salaried employees – especially when those employees’ services aren’t required full time. You want paralegals who are ‘tech-driven’? Open your eyes! There’s an entire subset of trained, experienced, certified/certificated, practice-specific virtual paralegals. We, yes, ‘we’, provide as needed services. That means ‘pay as you go’. You want to improve your bottom line, increase productivity, and keep your clients happy? Think virtual.”

On another note … I wonder if it ever occurred to the author to post credit for his use of the image?

10 Comments



Half a Lawyer?

June 26, 2014

Seen on Facebook … a teaser for a recent Above the Law article:

half a lawyer??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Half a lawyer’????

srsly?!

Someone neglected to look up ‘para’ before writing such an outlandish, inappropriate, and, well, offensive comment.

The prefix ‘para’, from Greek, does not mean ‘half’. It does, however, mean “at or to one side of, beside, side by side” or “ancillary or subsidiary to roles requiring more training, or of a higher status”.

Paralegals work side-by-side with attorneys. We are degreed, certificated and certified, and some of us even have post graduate degrees. The only time the expression ‘half a lawyer’ might apply would be with regard to our salaries.

6 Comments



More on 1st Impressions

January 9, 2014

An aspiring paralegal posted to my LinkedIn group asking for advice about finding that elusive first job.

I know I can be snarky – it’s okay, I own it – but I genuinely want to help others find their way in this economy.  When I reply to someone directly, my goal is to teach and to be helpful.

This is what she wrote:

Hello Ms. Starr:
My name is ——- and I just move to the atlanta area in August. I was wondering do you have any suggestions on place that may be hiring entry level paralegals or criminal justice majors. I recieved my degrees but find it had to get employment. Any suggestions would be apprieciated

Here is my response:

Welcome to the group and to paralegal life. I do not have any leads at this time; perhaps someone else in the group may know of something.

My first suggestion is that you make sure you are making the right first impression. As paralegals we need to make sure that our writing, whether in a pleading, email, or letter, and yes, even in social media, reflects our education, professionalism and attention to detail. Competition for jobs is fierce. There are experienced paralegals applying for entry level positions simply because they need the work.

You asked for suggestions – so here we go. I noticed that your note contains several typographical, spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors – potential employers will make note of these things and very quickly lose your application. Take another look at your message to see if you can spot the errors.

Now, what can you do to get ahead? Since you’re in Atlanta, I recommend that you join GAP – Georgia Association of Paralegals. Members have access to their job board and LinkedIn group. Brush up your resume; highlight skills from other jobs that can be as useful in a law office. Think outside the box – not all paralegal jobs use the title ‘paralegal’ or legal assistant’, nor are they limited to law offices or corporate legal departments. And, above all, be persistent and patient.

I offer coaching as a sideline; please contact me directly for more details.

See, no snark … I’d like to think it is useful advice for any job seeker.

For more information about Career Mitigation© services with Sessions with a Starr
email: info@SessionswithaStarr.com.

2 Comments



Don’t Waste Your First Impression

January 6, 2014

I know it takes courage to reach out to a complete stranger to ask about job opportunities, but, c’mon there are still basic rules to be followed.

Take for instance a PM inquiry sent to my Facebook business page. I posted the redacted query as a status update and caught some flak from my peers because they felt I was dissing the value of social media marketing.

Not so, I say! Social media has its place in marketing, but it needs to be used correctly. This was not correct … on so many levels –

Here’s the message:

From: [Name] Stillstanding

Hi my name is [Name]. I presently go to Everest University Online, for Paralegal Training. I have been attending for about two years now and I was wondering if your company needs any help? I am very good at research,writing,broadcasting,and speaking to people. If u have any positions that are available , let me know. If you cant hire anyone right now….I can offer some help for your company for free…. I just love and enjoy working hard…..Call me anytime [phone #]. And Happy New Year!

Where, oh where do I begin?
To use social media parlance, this is a #FAIL!

As one of my colleagues pointed out: “This is what is wrong with the Millennium generation … they do not spell anything out or know how to use a space bar… forget grammar … that was lost with the Gen X-ers!!”

To clarify, I am not running any job ads and my Facebook business page has all my contact information right there as part of the cover image. Let’s count the ways in which this person lost credibility:

1.      The Facebook profile was created using an alias.

Use your real name, not a silly catch phrase or political statement if you plan to use Facebook to reach potential employers.

2.     The message is too informal and unprofessional.

Address the recipient as you would in a proper email or cover letter.

3.     The content is rambling and poorly written.

Proofread before you hit sent or post.

Here’s the thing, a paralegal must write well. This individual does not.

 “I have been attending for about two years now and I was wondering if your company needs any help?”

Why the question mark? It’s NOT a question. It does however make me wonder about the program and the student.

 “I am very good at research,writing,broadcasting,and speaking to people.”

What is “research,writing,broadcasting,and”? Proper use of punctuation is a requirement, not an option. The very lack of its correct use is an indicator that the author is not, in fact, ‘good at writing’ and makes me question any remaining skills. For that matter, since when is “speaking to people” a marketable skill? And how does broadcasting fit in?

 “If u have any positions that are available , let me know.”

MY EYES!!! “u” is NOT a word and the comma is misplaced! This is lazy and unprofessional. I most assuredly will not take time out of my schedule should I become aware of a position. Not.my.job.

“If you cant hire anyone right now….I can offer some help for your company for free…. I just love and enjoy working hard…..Call me anytime [phone #].”

“cant” is a contraction and requires an apostrophe; ellipses should be used sparingly, and probably not in a ‘cover letter’. #justsayin’ As for free help, this note proves the adage that ‘you get what you pay for.’ I would never be comfortable asking this individual to represent me or my business.

 It’s sad really; it could be that M. Stillstanding has much to offer, but one rarely has a second chance to make a first impression.

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