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News Briefs: March/April 2007

Below are some of the latest happenings in the paralegal community. These short snippets represent excerpts of stories that can be found in the March/April 2007 issue of Legal Assistant Today.

 

Got News? - Do you know of a significant new law under consideration or recently passed in your area? Are you aware of changes to rules or codes that significantly impact the work done in your specialty area?

If so, we want to hear from you. If you submit an original news lead that turns into a news story that we print in Legal Assistant Today, we will pay you $25. If you have a original news lead that you think we would like to hear about, e-mail us.
 


Ontario Regulation in Final Phase

All 13 members of Paralegal Standing Committee announced.

By Jamie Ann Tyo

 

The Law Society of Upper Canada is swiftly preparing for the controversial Access to Justice Act to go into effect in May (see “Regulation a Reality” January/February 2007 LAT). The law, which creates regulation for Ontario paralegals, was passed in October, and the Law Society began to form its 13-member Paralegal Standing Committee shortly thereafter. The standing committee includes five paralegals and will be responsible for matters relating to paralegal regulation.

The Access to Justice Act faced stiff opposition by many paralegals in Ontario who said having the Law Society as the regulating body presents a conflict of interest. Paralegals also said they are concerned about the dues that will be required for paralegals to join the Law Society.

Under the legislation, paralegals in Ontario will have to pass a licensing exam, certain mandatory educational standards, adhere to a complaints and investigations process and carry professional liability insurance. The first licenses are expected to be issued in 2008. For more information, visit www.lsuc.on.ca/paralegals.

For more information about Ontario's impending paralegal regulation, click here.

 


New Leaders for 2007

National conferences set pace for upcoming year.

By Ashley Johnson

 

Just a few months into the new year, Nals…the association for legal professionals and the International Paralegal Management Association have bid a friendly farewell to 2006 while embracing 2007. Not only did new leaders step forward and assume responsibility for the coming year, but both associations ended 2006 with successful conferences where discourse and education went hand in hand.

Carolyn M. Hilgers, director of paralegal services at King & Spalding in Atlanta, took office as president of IPMA at its annual conference in Denver on Oct. 27, 2006. Her goals for the association are to continue offering signature services and programs such as the annual conference, the Skills for New Managers seminars, chapter meetings, the association’s Paralegal Management magazine and professional development opportunities.

“A significant amount of my time as the newly elected president has been and will continue to be focused on laying groundwork necessary to begin implementation of IPMA’s strategic plan,” Hilgers said.

At the Nals 55th annual Education Conference, which took place in Reno, Nev., Oct. 26 to Oct. 29, Kathy Siroky, PP, PLS, paralegal at Davis & Cannon in Sheridan, Wyo., was announced as the next president of Nals. Siroky will officially take the reins from current Nals president Cathy Hankins, PP, PLS, on March 9 at Nals’ Professional Development and Educational Conference in Tulsa, Okla.

Siroky said her main goal will be to continue informing the legal community of the educational opportunities and benefits offered by Nals. “All my legal education is because of Nals. I would not be able to accomplish what I have done and have the position that I am in without the benefit of Nals,” Siroky said.

 


Georgia Paralegals Fight Human Trafficking

Association works with Project Liberty to offer pro bono immigration legal assistance.

By Ashley Johnson

 

Project Liberty is a pro bono program in Atlanta that provides legal assistance to victims of human trafficking, and since last summer, the Georgia Association of Paralegals has been a part of this unique project. 

“We as paralegals have the ability to change lives and give back to our communities in ways that other professions may not have the chance to do,” said Michael Misenheimer, a litigation paralegal at Sicay-Perrow, Knighten, Bohan & Iqal in Atlanta and the director of pro bono for GAP.  Misenheimer first started working with Project Liberty on his own in July 2006, and shortly thereafter, GAP became involved as well.

Each year an estimated 2 million people are trafficked worldwide, with 15,000 to 18,000 of those cases occurring in the United States, as reported by the State Department. According to the FBI, human trafficking represents a $9 billion operation. Project Liberty was started in 2005 by Powell Goldstein, a law firm in Atlanta, and BellSouth Corporation d/b/a AT&T South to provide victims of human trafficking with assistance in obtaining visas to stay in the country.

The goal behind Project Liberty is to provide immigration legal assistance to survivors of violent crimes, such as domestic violence and human trafficking. It was created with the purpose of being a pro bono project that could involve and interest many people while also being meaningful, rewarding and easy to grasp. In 2006, Project Liberty was joined by the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation.

 


Marathon in the Desert

One paralegal’s trek through the Sahara for a good cause.

By Rachel Ng

 

After a long 18-hour flight, paralegal Jacqueline Eastridge arrived in Cairo, Egypt, on Oct. 27, 2006 with just her carry-on bag. Her luggage — packed with freeze-dried dinners, power bars and medication — had been left behind in Frankfurt, Germany, during the layover. She was about to embark on a weeklong ultramarathon in the desert, organized by RacingThePlanet, with nothing more than her shoes, sunglasses and running outfit.

“I felt like Job in the Bible. I thought the next thing you know, the locusts will be coming,” quipped Eastridge, a 24-year veteran paralegal who currently works as a senior paralegal at Pepper Hamilton in Philadelphia. Fortunately, upon hearing of her predicament, her fellow racers selflessly offered their own food and supplies.

“I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude and felt most fortunate to be among such giving individuals,” said Eastridge, who works in her firm’s finance and corporate department, specializing in secured and unsecured financial transactional work. “In life, we can’t repay that individual who has been there for us in time of need, but we can certainly recognize the opportunity to be there for someone else. I think that is just the way it works.”

 


Paralegal Certificate Program Instructors Honored

Seven UC Irvine instructors receive award for developing online courses.

By Ashley Johnson

 

Seven instructors from the paralegal certificate program at the University of California, Irvine Extension were honored Dec. 8 with the 2006 Distinguished Instructor Award. Gary Borquez, June Cheng, Renato Izquieta, Kathy Miller, Jonathan Navarro, Guy N. Ormes and Zachary Zaharek were recognized for their dedication to developing 10 American Bar Association-approved online courses and a legal admissions meeting for the 29-year-old paralegal certificate program.

“[The award] recognizes the fact that it was a lot of work and that we had short deadlines to provide the online curriculum,” said Miller, a senior litigation paralegal for FedEx Express and a part-time instructor in the UCI program for the past 20 years. “We met those [deadlines], and we also maintained the high quality expected of courses offered by the UCI Extension paralegal certificate program.” All of the recipients of the award are legal professionals who work at local law firms, corporations and nonprofit organizations.

UCI Extension annually recognizes instructors who show outstanding performance in multiple dimensions such as teaching ability, creative use of instructor technology, ability to commit to projects and flexibility in meeting student needs.

“Particularly impressive about our instructors is most of them are part-time instructors. They do it because they love to teach or love giving back to the community,” said Gary W. Matkin, dean of continuing education at UCI. “They take time out of their personal life to devote time to our courses and students and when they do that to an extraordinary degree, we want to give them an award and to recognize it.”

 


Starting Salaries on the Rise

Guide shows higher paralegal salary increases for litigation and corporate governance.

By Lyndsey Schaefer

 

The recently released Robert Half Legal 2007 Salary Guide found that average starting salaries for legal professionals in the United States are anticipated to increase 4.6 percent in 2007. The guide projects greater increases in base compensation for several legal support positions, as well as for attorneys in law firms with one to three years of experience and first-year associates. Research from the annual salary guide also reports an optimistic hiring outlook for legal support staff.

“With a strong hiring outlook in 2007, it was anticipated that we [would] continu[e] to see strong growth in salaries across the board,” said Charles Volkert, executive director for Robert Half Legal, a national legal staffing agency in Menlo Park, Calif. The largest salary increases will be given to attorneys and paralegals for skill sets in high demand, such as litigation, ethics, corporate governance and intellectual property. 

According to the guide, paralegals can expect average starting salaries to rise 6.1 percent in 2007. The salary for senior or supervising paralegals at a large law firm is expected to jump 7.6 percent with a range of $55,750 to $78,250 annually, according to the guide. At small firms, the salaries for senior or supervising paralegals are expected to increase by 7.3 percent with a range of $41,000 to $54,250. Salaries for midlevel paralegals at large firms are expected to rise by 5.1 percent with a range of $46,250 to $61,500, and at small firms, 6.6 percent, with a range of $36,750 to $47,500. For junior paralegals at large firms, salaries are expected to increase by 5.5 percent with a range of $38,500 to $47,250, while salaries for junior paralegals at small firms are expected to increase 3.8 percent, ranging from $30,750 to $38,000.

 


Legal Greetings

Cards created just for legal professionals.

By Ashley Johnson

 

Greeting cards are the universal gift-giving icon for any occasion, from holidays to anniversaries. However, it’s rare to find greeting cards created specifically for a certain industry such as the legal profession — until now.

The Billable Hour gives paralegals the option to browse more than 150 cards created especially for legal professionals by legal professionals. The online gift and greeting card company, a home-based business in Ardsley, N.Y., was started in November 2005 by husband and wife Mark and Lisa Solomon, both of whom are attorneys. Lisa Solomon has been a practicing attorney for 12 years, and Mark Solomon has been practicing for 22 years.

The idea for The Billable Hour actually started with watches. “Mark has a great sense of humor, and one day we were just talking at home about work and he said lawyers should have watches marked in tenths of an hour,” Lisa Solomon said, since that is how most attorneys and paralegals bill their time. They found suppliers, created a Web site and started selling watches and clocks divided by tenths of an hour.

The Solomons decided to expand their business in September 2006 to include greeting cards designed especially for legal professionals because it was a natural fit with the gifts; when a gift is purchased, the next step is to purchase a card. “We wanted to become a more full-service company for gifts to the legal industry,” Lisa Solomon said.

 


Legal Resources

 

Legal Hound

Slogging through the Internet in search of information that could be effective for case management can be costly and unproductive. There is no point spending countless hours researching material that might end up being useless. “The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet,” Eighth Edition, by Carole A. Levitt, JD, MLS, and Mark E. Rosch, helps reduce the hassles of futile searches and pricey online subscriptions. The book explains tactics for conducting free legal research, such as finding full-text case law databases; federal, state and local primary law; secondary legal resources, such as law review articles and legal news; and legal practice materials. Alternatives for updating cases online are listed in the book, and the authors introduce the basics of the Internet including tips such as hidden functions on a Web browser that make it easier to find what you are looking for. The book also lists ways to find e-mail and home addresses, phone numbers, birth and death records, criminal backgrounds, property records, liens, judgments, Uniform Commercial Codes, bankruptcies and dockets. The book costs $59.95 and is available online at www.abanet.org/abastore.

 

Writing Guide

Bad grammar and poor writing ability can spell disaster for legal professionals. Mastering the art of grammar and perfecting the skill of writing requires practice and training. “Basic Legal Writing for Paralegals” by Pamela Tepper, published by McGraw-Hill Higher Education, covers different forms of communication needed by legal professionals, from appellate briefs to cover letters. You Be the Judge is a section in each chapter containing real-life case studies that illustrate writing issues addressed by courts. Other sections in each chapter include Ethics Alert, which focuses on ethical issues and The E-Factor, which introduces paralegals to technological challenges and developments such as electronic filings, cell phones and the Internet. The book is available at www.amazon.com.

 

Information Headquarters

Rather than delving into the Internet in search of daily legal news, tools, reference guides and other legal resources, paralegals can do it all at one site. The Law & Policy Institutions Guide Web site (www.lpig.org) allows you to search for law articles from around the world and find paralegal-exclusive Web sites, blogs and books all at the same time. It also lists links to information on ethics and professional responsibility, computer and Internet law, litigation and intellectual property. The Web site provides detailed information on more than 40 areas of practice, posts U.S. and world news daily and can be translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German and guese. The Web site is free to use.

 

 

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