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News Briefs: January/February 2008
Below are some of the latest happenings in the paralegal community. These short snippets represent excerpts of stories that can be found in the Janurary/February 2008 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?
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Paralegal associations educate and update at annual events.
The International Paralegal Management Association
A record 219 people attended the IPMA’s
23rd IPMA Annual Conference & Expo in
The most popular sessions this year were “Decontaminating Toxic People: How to Manage People Who Create Problems, Puzzlement and Perplexity,” a two-part workshop presented by Marsha Petrie Sue, CEO of MPS, Inc., a global speaking practice and training company in Arizona, and “Law Firm 911 — Dealing with Changing Structures, Firm Mergers & Acquisitions,” presented by Marci M. Krufka, a principal at Altman Weil in Pennsylvania.
While the conference offered vast networking
opportunities as a result of the highest number of attendees in
IPMA’s history, the goal was to offer more than that. “We hope the
conference experience provides members with not only excellent
management and leadership skills to enhance their careers and the
contribution they make to the overall success of their firms,
corporations, schools and government agencies,” new IPMA president
Joyce McGuiney said, “but also provides them with new ideas for IPMA
chapter meetings, enhancements of the paralegal management
profession at the local level and a spirit of community that
enhances all aspects of their lives.” The 2008 IPMA Annual
Conference & Expo will be held in
Nals … the association for legal professionals
Attendees of Nals’ 56th annual
educational conference and national forum, held Oct. 11 to Oct. 14
The conference included nine education sessions,
two focus groups, and two keynote speakers, including speaker Atlas
Lee, a senior consultant at eSentio Technologies in
The events of the conference reinforced the
educational aspect, offering 12.5 hours of continuing legal
education credit. “Whether you are a seasoned veteran of the legal
profession or just starting your career, it is important to continue
to learn,” Siroky said. The 2008 conference will be held in
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations
The NFPA convention, held Oct. 18 to
Oct. 21 in
New board members were elected to two-year terms. Susan
Ippoliti, a self-employed contract paralegal in Rochester, N.Y., was
elected as vice president and director of profession development;
Linda K. McGirr, a paralegal at Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis,
was elected as vice president and director of membership; and
Georgette M. Lovelace, RP, a paralegal at Susman, Duffy & Segaloff
in New Haven, Conn., was elected as treasurer. Haworth will return
as president. The 2008 convention will be held in Rogers, Ark., with
the tagline "Runnin' Wild, Arkansas '08."
New board members were elected to two-year terms. Susan Ippoliti, a self-employed contract paralegal in Rochester, N.Y., was elected as vice president and director of profession development; Linda K. McGirr, a paralegal at Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis, was elected as vice president and director of membership; and Georgette M. Lovelace, RP, a paralegal at Susman, Duffy & Segaloff in New Haven, Conn., was elected as treasurer. Haworth will return as president. The 2008 convention will be held in Rogers, Ark., with the tagline "Runnin' Wild, Arkansas '08."
The American Association for Paralegal Education
The legal field is going global, and
AAfPE’s 26th annual conference, held Oct. 24 to Oct. 27 in
Drawing 365 attendees, this year’s conference
included session topics on outsourcing, international experiences
for students, international employment law, international students
in paralegal programs, and trends and issues in paralegal education
in the global economy. “Even students dealing in an area like family
law may find that they are dealing with international issues,”
Next year’s conference will be held in
New voluntary system sets education, work experience and ethics requirements.
On Nov. 15, the Florida Supreme Court approved the addition of “Chapter 20, the Florida Registered Paralegal Program” to the rules regulating the Florida Bar, setting in place a voluntary registration system for paralegals in the state. The long road toward this paralegal regulation step started in 2005 when regulation legislation was first presented to the Florida Legislature (see “South Fla. Paralegal Association Opposes Regulation Petition,” November/December 2006 LAT). The Florida Bar opposed the legislation in part because it believed any regulation of paralegals should be monitored by the judicial, rather than the legislative, branch of government. On Aug. 15, 2006, the Florida Bar filed its petition with the Florida Supreme Court to amend the rules, with a public comment period that lasted until Sept. 22, 2006. The court received 103 comments on the proposed amendments, a majority of which were in favor of them, including comments filed by the Paralegal Association of Florida and the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. On April 16, 2007, the Florida Supreme Court held oral arguments on the matter.
The FRP program is voluntary, and nonlawyers who
In adopting the rules, the Florida Supreme Court stated, “We believe the program will inure to the benefit of the public in the same way the Florida Rules for Certified and Court-Appointed Mediators inured to the public’s benefit.” The amendments will take effect March 1. The decision is available on the Florida Bar Web site at http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2007/sc06-1622.pdf.
Revisiting the FRCP amendments one year later.
With the rapid evolution of workplace technology in the past decade, a need arose for federal rules governing electronically stored information and electronic discovery procedures, particularly in the litigation field. In an effort to meet that need, a series of amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were adopted on Dec. 1, 2006. Just over one year later, most legal professionals agree that the changes are beneficial; however, there remains debate on how well the amendments are understood and how well they are being followed.
Broadly speaking, the FRCP amendments were
intended to mandate “meet-and-confer” sessions for e-discovery
issues; discuss “reasonably accessible” versus “reasonably
inaccessible” data; address claims of privilege for inadvertent
production; create a “good faith” provision for unproduced data; and
establish ESI as a separate category for disclosure (see
“E-Discovery Explosion,” July/August 2006 LAT). According to
Courtney David Mills, senior litigation paralegal and litigation
technology specialist at the
“They [were created] to formalize the basic principles that had already been adopted via case law and everything else stating that ESI was discoverable and part of litigation,” Mills said. “I think in that regard they were very successful. I think everyone now realizes that e-mails and ESI are discoverable.”
Attorney David Concannon of the Law Offices of
David G. Concannon in
According to Mary Mack, who serves as technology counsel for Fios Inc., a Portland, Ore.-based company that provides e-discovery and litigation readiness services, the first year has been a period of adjusting to the amendments. “There are those who thought that this would really streamline things, but because they are so new and people are not prepared, the beginning of litigation is more complicated than it would have been in the past,” she said. “Even the forward-looking companies that started right when the rules went into effect are still putting down their baseline processes.”
Regardless of a firm’s or corporation’s previous experience with e-discovery, it seems that wherever they work, paralegals are heavily involved in complying with the amendments. “Paralegals shoulder quite a bit of this work,” Mack said. “When we work as a service provider, paralegals are often on the case. Many times they are the people who see the need to plan first, even before the attorneys.”
Regardless of what lingering issues remain, who handles the work and how long the transition takes, Concannon, Mills and Mack agreed that the amount of time and resources devoted to ESI and e-discovery will continue to increase. “I think that in five years, the percentage of a litigator’s time, an IT person’s time or a legal assistant’s time spent with electronic discovery is going to be inverted,” Concannon said. “It might be 20 percent today. It’s going to be 80 percent in five years. It will be the way they do business.”
Vacated federal judgment raised potential issues for professional designations.
Providers of paralegal certifications could have unwittingly been victims of an August 2007 federal court decision that stripped trademark protection from a professional designation given to graduates of a training program for legal nurse consultants. But on Sept. 22, 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn N. Hughes vacated his judgment on the request of both plaintiff and defendant, and owners of federally protected marks now can rest easier knowing they can exclusively use their marks — at least for the time being.
That is good news for paralegal organizations
such as the National Association of Legal Assistants, which awards
the federally protected designation Certified Legal Assistant and
Certified Paralegal to individuals who have met its certification
and re-certification requirements, and the National Federation of
Paralegal Associations, which awards the federally protected
designation Registered Paralegal to individuals who have passed its
Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam. Other professional organizations
and many states also award
The question of trademark protection for abbreviations stemmed from Medical-Legal Consulting Institute, Inc. v. Evans & Associates, LTD (D. Tex. Civil Action H-06-0320, Aug. 29, 2007), a January 2006 action brought in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The plaintiff, Houston-based Medical-Legal Consulting Institute, a provider of training programs for legal nurse consultants, awards the mark CLNC — an acronym for Certified Legal Nurse Consultant — to graduates of its certification programs. Medical-Legal brought the trademark infringement action against Evans & Associates, a Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio-based provider of training programs for legal nurse consultants that awards the mark RLNC — an acronym for Registered Legal Nurse Consultant — to graduates of its programs.
“Different certification marks may well involve
different usages and facts which could well cause a different
outcome if [the
In his written decision before vacating the judgment, Judge Hughes noted a certification mark must “attest to the quality of the service supplied to consumers.” Since the CLNC mark does not — it only certifies that a nurse has taken Medical-Legal’s training — the judge determined that the mark was not a certification at law.
“We sometimes wonder if other professions face the same struggle in distinguishing certification from training programs that award certificates. Would someone with a certificate in accounting be the same as a CPA?” Brewster asked. “The distinction is clear, and we believe it is important to communicate this regularly.”
Patent Reform Act of 2007 Moves to Senate
Inventors and the legal profession will face new rules if act passes.
Fifty-five years after President Harry Truman signed the last major patent legislation, it is back in Congress and patent paralegals and attorneys are keeping a close eye on its progress. The House committee passed the Patent Reform Act of 2007 on Sept. 7, leaving it for consideration before the Senate.
The PRA was introduced in April 2007 in the House of Representatives by Chairman Berman (D-California), and in the Senate by Chairman Leahy (D-Vermont). “If the Senate bill passes, and the conference committee works out the differences in the two bills [from the House and the Senate], this would be a landmark legislation in the area of patent modernization,” said Jefferson Taylor, director of governmental affairs of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
If the act passes, inventors will have to move quickly to secure patents for their creations. The act will, among several provisions, require inventors to adhere to a first-to-file application process rather than the existing first-to-invent procedure. Although paralegals might not play a large role during the prosecution process (i.e., the time the idea is conceived up to the issuing of the patent), the roles paralegals do play during litigation and the enforcement of the patent after it’s issued might be affected by the new law.
If the PRA passes, the
“The first-to-invent rule that this country has followed since its inception is a strong protection for individuals and small companies that simply cannot afford to file patent applications every time they come up with what might be a new idea,” said Philip Mann, patent trial attorney at the Mann Law Group in Seattle. A basic filing fee for a small entity starts at $155 and increases from there depending on the type of patent, company, etc. For the full fee schedule, visit www.uspto.gov.
At the beginning of November 2007, the PRA was one of more than 200 measures before the Senate, without a specific date for consideration, but inventors, patent attorneys and paralegals continue to keep an eye on Senate activity. In the meantime, they are making sure their patent applications are ready if the PRA passes, thus starting the race to the USPTO.
A Reliable Backup Plan
More law firms offer unique benefits focusing on children and the elderly.
It’s 7 a.m., and you have to be at the law firm where you work in one hour. Your child has a fever and your spouse can’t take time off from work. So, what do you do? You either miss work to care for your child and use vacation time, or you use sick time but fall behind, creating more work for your co-workers who must cover for you. Or, you can use your employee benefit of low-cost emergency in-home childcare to call a caregiver to come to your house for the entire day while you head to work with the assurance of knowing your child is safe. Several years ago, paralegals and other law firm employees would not have had this option. But today, more and more law firms not only offer their employees emergency in-home backup care for their children and elderly parents, but center-based backup daycare, too.
Law firms like White & Case, Pillsbury Winthrop
Shaw Pittman, Crowell & Moring, and Ropes & Gray are just a few
employers that offer these types of benefits. White & Case and
Pillsbury Winthrop both were recognized by Working Mother magazine
and Flex-Time Lawyers, a national consulting firm, as two of the
best law firms for women in 2007 for offering caregiving benefits.
“Overall, our approach to benefits and compensation is that we want
to be competitive in the marketplace and we also want the benefits
we offer to be relevant to people,” said Debbie Johnson, chief human
resources officer at Pillsbury Winthrop in
Offering family-friendly, work-friendly benefits
doesn’t just have an impact on retaining top talent but it also
reduces absenteeism and the workloads of co-workers who must cover
for an absent employee. “In terms of the direct impact that it has
on other employees, it increases the productivity of everyone and
the morale,” said Ellen Dwyer, co-managing partner at Crowell &
Rick McKenna, chief administrative officer of
White & Case in
Law Firm Librarians Exploring New Territory
Survey indicates roles expanding into marketing research, knowledge management.
According to Law Firm Inc.’s sixth annual survey of law firm librarians at Am Law 200 firms, today’s law firm librarians are continuing to move beyond traditional library work. The survey, sent to the 200 largest law firms in the country in the spring of 2007 with results released in the July/August 2007 issue of Law Firm Inc. magazine, reveals that law firm librarians’ roles are expanding into marketing, competitive intelligence, computer training and knowledge management projects.
Of the 95 law firms who responded to the survey, 84 percent reported that law firm librarians play an active role in the firm’s knowledge management efforts, and 63 percent said the library was the main resource for marketing research. The survey also indicated that a growing number of firms now have at least one library staff member whose sole job is to develop business intelligence. Most notable, though, is that 76 percent of law firm librarians who participated in the survey reported that they enjoy their expanding roles into nontraditional law firm librarian activities.
The Law Firm Inc., survey was conducted by sending survey questions to head law firm librarians at Am Law 200 firms. Questions covered the law firm librarians’ responsibilities and the library’s budget, resources and staffing. Ninety-five librarians responded. A partial list of the results from the survey is available at www.lawfirminc.com. To purchase the complete results, go to www.almresearchonline.com.
The American Bar Association has
recognized the increasing integration of business into law by
approving Lake Superior State University’s business administration —
legal management baccalaureate degree in June 2007. The two-year-old
hybrid major at LSSU in Sault Ste. Marie,
According to Carol Andary, LSSU’s coordinator of legal studies and a professor at LSSU who currently teaches several law courses, the business administration-legal management degree’s curriculum took just over one year to be approved through the ABA’s review process, which includes the submission and analysis of detailed reports and documentation to ensure that an already approved school provides sufficient depth, content and quality in any new legal program it provides to students. “[ABA approval is] sort of a guarantee that the program [has a] set of minimum standards as to quality in terms of the curriculum, the faculty, the people who have input on the curriculum, the placement program, those kinds of things,” said William Weston, chair of the ABA standing committee on paralegals.
The new business administration — legal management degree equips students to tackle various specialties in legal and business professions by teaching how law and business integrate. It serves five different career tracks: paralegal/legal assistant, legal administration manager, business management — legal emphasis, paralegal/legal assistant management and business management — law school bound. Students are required to complete three main components totaling 128 semester credits: 60 to 61 credits in business courses such as accounting, business and business law, economics, finance, marketing and management; 28 to 31 credits in required and elective law courses such as legal research, legal writing, law office management, tribal law, and environmental law; and 30 to 31 credits in general education courses and an alternative dispute resolution and conflict management course.
Renee Jent, CLA, a paralegal with ProNational
Professional Liability Group in
Internet Fact Finding for Lawyers, by Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch, is not just a newsletter for lawyers but others in the legal field, too. With its content targeted to legal professionals, the newsletter features analyses of various Web sites focused on different topics from government resources to accessing public records. Each listed Web site is accompanied by its purpose, a detailed description of its content, the authors’ opinions and tips on how to most effectively use the site. A one-year subscription starts at $99 for six bimonthly issues but the inaugural issue is available online for free. For more information, visit www.ali-aba.org.
“Lessons From the Top Paralegal Experts,” by Carole A. Bruno, published by Delmar Cengage Learning, formerly Thomson Learning, combines success stories from 15 paralegal professionals along with information on how they do their jobs with respect to creativity, leadership, expertise in their specialty, technical skills, knowledge, mentoring and organization. Some of the experts include Michele M. Boerder, CP (litigation); Celia C. Elwell, RP (legal research and writing); Nancy B. Heller, RP (litigation); and Siobhan S. Smith (corporate and business). The book also includes checklists, forms and discovery shortcuts for paralegals in the litigation area with advice from six paralegal litigation experts. Other features include technology techniques, investigative and Internet tips, and information on client interactions and interviewing. The book is available for $23.95 at www.delmarlearning.com.
Litilaw, from Lexbe.com, is a free online repository of more than 500 full-text articles authored by lawyers for presentations at continuing legal education seminars and conferences. The articles are organized into more than 30 substantive and procedural legal specialty categories, including e-discovery, ethics, expert witnesses, antitrust, corporate and securities, government, intellectual property and tax. Litilaw also features nearly 100 articles on computer forensics, legal research, litigation support and practice management. For more information, visit http://litilaw.lexbe.com.
IBM released IBM Lotus Symphony, a free online suite for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Lotus Symphony Documents is IBM’s free downloadable word processing program for creating, editing, sharing and saving documents. It allows users to begin with a blank document, import a document from a file or select a template. Lotus Symphony Presentation, for creating graphical slideshows, also can be created from a blank document or from a template. IBM Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets includes navigational elements, such as toolbars, an editing window and a status bar. For more information, visit www.ibm.com/software/lotus/symphony.
Docstoc, launched on Oct. 30, is a free online repository for documents and forms in the legal, business, technology, education and creative fields. Users have an unlimited amount of storage to upload files. The site also allows users to request specific documents. By clicking on the “Request” tab and entering a title, tag, category, language or file type for a specific document, users can choose to receive the document by e-mail when another user uploads it. Searching for a specific document is easy because everything is organized by category and tag. Users can search for a specific legal document in the categories of contracts, employment, family, forms, incorporations, IP, M & As, real estate, and wills and trusts. Under the financial category, users can find documents such as tax forms and accounting documents, and under the business category, users can find documents in subcategories, such as contracts, employment, financing, operations, project marketing, and sales and marketing. For more information, visit www.docstoc.com.
The Right Blawg
BlawgSearch, by Justia, a legal media and technology company, features more than 1,000 legal blogs in more than 50 different categories including animal and dog law, bankruptcy, criminal law, environmental law, international law, law librarians, paralegals, tax law, and technology. Searching for a specific blog can be done by relevance or date and also allows for subscriptions to RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds of the searches, meaning users can choose to receive updated content from blogs of their choice. The site also gives instructions on how to set up a blog and provides resources to do so. Blawgs.fm, also by Justia, features searching for legal blog posts with multimedia files. Some of the categories on Blawgs.fm include business law, civil rights, immigration law, media and communications, and trials and technology. For more information, visit http://blawgsearch.justia.com and http://blawgsfm.justia.com.
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