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News Briefs: November/December 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 November/December '07 issue of Legal Assistant Today.
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A Hero Remembered
Benjamin Disraeli, 19th century British prime
minister and literary figure, said, “The legacy of heroes is the
memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.”
Paralegal Jean M. Cushman of
Cushman’s accomplishments as a paralegal span
more than 27 years of dedication to the profession. She held a
paralegal certificate from
In 1978, Cushman helped establish the Paralegal
Association of Santa Clara County in
Brewster said Cushman “felt that it was her responsibility to give back to the profession, which she did by being a mentor, instructor and a role model for many.”
Although Cushman will be missed by everyone
whose lives she touched, her legacy continues through the Jean M.
Cushman Scholarship Fund, created in August 2007. According to Lange
and Brewster, administrators of the scholarship fund, Cushman’s
family wanted to do something for the profession and students
Cushman loved, and felt the fund was a natural way to honor her.
Donations can be sent to: The Jean M. Cushman Scholarship Fund,
When law enforcement officials and prosecutors in
The task force is composed of Senior Deputy
Prosecuting Attorney Joe Wheeler, paralegal Carol Jones, detectives
Jim Dunn and Roland Weiss from the
Jones, who has been a paralegal since 1991 and
originally hails from
“She was a co-participant in this whole process.
She has been a cheerleader; she has encouraged it,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler has become a specialist in identity theft due to the
alarming number of cases that he prosecutes. According to the
Washington State Office of the Attorney General,
At times, Jones transforms herself into an investigator, conducting witness interviews, following up on leads that develop during trial preparation and tracking down phone numbers to keep witnesses flowing smoothly through Wheeler’s office. “You see a great deal of life here. It’s very challenging to see each case and watch it grow,” Jones said. “You can help justice work.”
Jones said paralegals who see the need for a
similar task force in their community can start drawing attention to
that need by reaching out to citizens, business owners and the local
police department through flyers and educational seminars focused on
the risks of identity theft. Funding is the greatest challenge and
increased awareness makes task forces, such as the one in
AAJ honors Natalie Andrus with its 2007 Paralegal of the Year award.
For the past five years, the American Association
for Justice has honored a paralegal affiliate member who
demonstrates a commitment to the legal profession and dedication to
the association’s mission. On July 16, AAJ and the award’s sponsor,
Thomson West, announced Natalie Andrus, a litigation paralegal with
Grysen and Associates in
When Elliot Grysen, a medical malpractice attorney who founded Grysen and Associates in 1987, nominated Andrus, he knew his application had to be stellar. The winner not only would have to meet AAJ’s qualifications but also surpass the accomplishments of all other nominees. “I had seen the candidate notice for several years and often thought Natalie was the ideal person,” Grysen said. He spent an entire Saturday filling out the nomination application. “This year I thought about her contributions to our firm over the past year, the trials that she attended, her many nights getting me ready for the next day, and decided Natalie is what a paralegal should be.”
Nominees are required to be a paralegal affiliate of AAJ for at least one year, and must be nominated by an AAJ attorney member or fellow paralegal affiliate. Among the submitted nominations, the judges looked for contributions such as tutoring and mentoring paralegal students, speaking engagements, teaching commitments and upholding AAJ’s mission.
While going through Andrus’ nomination, the judges — two AAJ paralegal affiliate members, one attorney member and the AAJ paralegal affiliate chair — were most impressed that she had all the criteria for which they were looking. “She not only taught and mentored legal students but also had gone back to school to earn her degree in paralegal studies,” said Nathalie Etori, AAJ’s membership coordinator. “She has a lot of contacts with other schools that have paralegal programs, and promotes getting involved in AAJ. Now she is helping AAJ find places to publicize AAJ membership. It also impressed the judges how much her [nominating] attorney was indebted to her.”
As AAJ’s Paralegal of the Year, Andrus was
awarded free airfare, accommodations and registration to the AAJ
2007 Annual Convention in
Fighting for Farmworker Justice
Paralegal helps migrant population understand their legal rights.
His wife says he is a dinosaur. His boss says he is a legend. No e-mail, no Blackberry, no laptop. The only evidence of the trappings of technology on 71-year-old paralegal Raul Barrera is a cell phone, which he carries with him in his mobile office — a Ford pickup — as he drives from Central Florida to Texas to Mexico working on behalf of thousands of migrant farmworkers in the United States.
Barrera has spent a total of 40 years working
for legal assistance projects that provide free legal aid to migrant
farmworkers. The past 11 years have been spent working for the
Migrant Farmworker Justice Project in
Although Schell has encouraged him to train other paralegals, Barrera is adamant that this is not just a paralegal job — it’s a job that a person has to want to do, heart and soul. He encounters young people who want the job as a stepping stone to something bigger, perhaps immigration law, and he can understand because the pay for his line of work is not great. He said it is not an 8 to 5 job either. He must be available and accessible to workers at odd hours of the day and night, and said he still gets calls from workers he helped in the 1980s asking for his assistance, despite the fact that the workers are not living and working in Florida.
“There are a lot of outreach paralegals like me all over the country,” Barrera said. “But you have to really want to do it to stick with it and not move on to something else. Me, I don’t want an upgrade. I like what I do. I’m involved in a lot of good work that helps a lot of people.”
Paralegal Outreach Program Going Strong
NFPA member associations send hundreds of care
packages annually to military paralegals in
To show support and gratification for paralegals serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, 25 paralegal member associations of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and three individual or sustaining members of NFPA now support the Navy Legalman and Military Paralegal Outreach Program, which sends care packages to adopted paralegals from the Navy, Air Force, Army and Marines.
The outreach program was started in 2005 by Lori
Thompson, the NFPA pro bono coordinator at the time, with help from
Stephen Distefano, who was then president of the Navy Legalman
Association (see “NFPA Adopts Navy Legalmen,”
March/April 2006, LAT).
Thompson’s goal in starting the program was to “activate [affiliated
associations that had] more inactive pro bono programs with a
nationally supported community service project.” Using her own
money, she filled and shipped the first nine packages to
When a paralegal is first deployed, his or her first contact with the Navy Legalman and Military Paralegal Outreach Program is through Thompson. She sends a package to the new arrival that includes articles about the program, several copies of NFPA’s National Paralegal Reporter, copies of other association newsletters and a copy of LAT.
The outreach program is open to NFPA’s member associations, sustaining members and individual members. If you are interested in sending care packages, contact your local paralegal association to see if it’s involved in the Navy Legalman and Military Paralegal Outreach Program. If your local paralegal association is not involved, write to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for guidelines on how to get started. For paralegal associations not affiliated with NFPA, Thompson suggests calling the local military base to find out how to support deployed paralegals.
“To let someone know you are thinking of them makes all the difference in the world,” Williams said.
LexisNexis Expansion Continues
Company acquires two more software vendors.
LexisNexis is on the expansion path again, acquiring
two more software vendors in the last six months. On July 9,
LexisNexis announced its acquisition of Juris, Inc., a software
company based in
Juris president and CEO Stephen Collins said he is incredibly excited by the acquisition because LexisNexis offers the capabilities and resources to meet all Juris clients’ needs. “First and foremost, as CEO of the company, we care about our clients’ success and ultimately, as a closely held business, it’s really difficult to do all the things we would love to do for our clients,” Collins said. “Becoming part of Lexis’ organization gives us the depth of resources that will allow us to deliver exceptional solutions to our client base of approximately 2,000 law firms.”
For the future, LexisNexis plans to continue Juris’ mission to provide financial tools for attorneys to better manage the business of law by offering products that are faster and better integrated so attorneys can be more efficient.
LexisNexis’ acquisition of Image Capture Engineering in June sets in motion its goal to offer clients a total practice solution. “I believe this acquisition is an excellent strategic move for both companies,” said Mark J. Roberts, former president of ICE. “It allows LexisNexis to round out its Litigator’s Suite of offerings and, at the same time, assures that ICE products and the company we built will continue to grow.”
Law 5.0 PreDiscovery will continue to be offered as a stand-alone product and will still work with other non-LexisNexis discovery software. The price of Law 5.0 will remain the same for now, but Bennett says “in the coming months, LexisNexis will roll out special bundled pricing for the combination of Law 5.0 and Concordance.” Looking to the future, LexisNexis will continue to develop and improve Law 5.0 and enhance the linkages between it, Concordance, and other existing LexisNexis discovery services.
Paralegals in intellectual property, patent and trademark fields are at the top.
Compensation surveys help professionals in all fields measure their level of worth by providing information about salary, benefits and raises; legal professionals are no different. With its release of the 2007 Annual Compensation Survey for Paralegals/Legal Assistants and Managers, the International Paralegal Management Association produced a tool for legal professionals in 11 different positions to help guide them in their careers.
The survey, conducted by IPMA in partnership with Altman Weil Publications, was released in May after responses were received from 274 law firms and 78 law departments. “The survey shows solid increases in median total cash compensation for most paralegal positions,” said Jim Wilber, principal of Altman Weil. “The numbers not only reflect solid economic growth in the legal industry, especially among law firms, but also the growth and increasing sophistication of the paralegal profession. Legal organizations that want to attract and retain talented paralegals must compensate them competitively.”
The survey can be purchased either in PDF format, available on a CD-ROM, or as a hard copy, bound version online at www.paralegalmanagement.org, or from Altman Weil Publications online at www.altmanweilpubs.com.
AAPI Holds National Paralegal Summit
Exemption, regulation and education are key topics.
The American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc.’s Annual
Meeting and second National Paralegal Summit, held Sept. 14, in
Instead of holding educational seminars as in
years past, the annual meeting format concentrated on a keynote
speaker and the National Paralegal Summit. “The presenters and
attendees were from diverse backgrounds and offered new insight to
the profession for practicing paralegals,” said Laura Ahtes, AACP,
RP, DCP, a paralegal with Potter Anderson & Corroon in
Based on the success of this year’s summit, members already are planning on another summit next year, although a location has yet to be determined.
Paralegal Gateway is now offering a new way for paralegals to network online: MyParalegalSpace. The Web site presents a professional forum for paralegals and other legal professionals to post messages, write blogs, share pictures, video, forms and more. Similar to other networking sites, members can create profiles and unleash their inner creative selves. The Web site also features polls, events, a calendar, forums and a paralegal career center, all geared toward networking in a professional atmosphere. Groups such as The Self Employed Paralegal, Corporate Governance, and Personal Injury Insurance Defense offer members an opportunity to share interests, experience and skills with similar paralegals. For more information, visit www.myparalegalspace.me.com.
Blogs are rapidly permeating all aspects of the legal world, and now Technolawyer has jumped on the blogging trend, releasing “BlawgWorld 07,” an electronic book featuring a comprehensive list of 77 essays from 77 blogs. Also released concurrently is the “2007 Technolawyer Problem/Solution Guide: The Product Guide Reinvented,” which presents answers to common problems and dilemmas such as choosing software, reviewing e-mail obtained in discovery, and scanning documents in PDF format. The guide also features three color-coded tabs labeled “Blawgs,” “Problems” and “Products” on each page for easy navigation. The Master List buttons on each tab lead back to the beginning of each section so getting lost is virtually impossible. Both electronic books are available free at www.blawgworld.com.
Legal OnRamp is a corporate forum for in-house and law firm legal professionals, created by Paul Lippe, Quality Automated Legal Systems CEO, and Mark Chandler, GC of Cisco. The discussion forum lets users discuss hot topics pertaining to everything from in-house, corporate issues to best practices for law firms. Each day, new contributions with advice and input are posted to the discussion forums from experts, attorneys, in-house counsel and other legal professionals with expertise in relevant specialties. Legal OnRamp also features news, articles, podcasts, law firm updates and Web sites, legal blogs, legal resources and more. Ask an Expert has frequently asked questions from specialties on everything from intellectual property to energy and natural resources, government and government contracting, securities and financing, tax, insurance and more. Each response is authored by an expert in that field. For more information and to start connecting, chatting and collaborating with other professionals, visit www.legalonramp.com.
NJ Paralegal.com, a Web site for paralegals in
Pro Bono Paralegals
For paralegals interested in knowing more about pro bono work and resources, the American Bar Association has a free guide, “How to Utilize Legal Assistants in Pro Bono Programs.” The guide provides information on training, malpractice and ethics, recruitment of volunteer legal assistants, getting started as a pro bono legal assistant, the role of pro bono legal assistants, public relations, program evaluation, examples of programs that utilize legal assistants in pro bono work and more. It also lists Web links that serve as resources, such as the National Association of Legal Assistants, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and the American Bar Association Center for Pro Bono. The guide can be found online at www.abanet.org/legalservices/paralegals/probonobrochure.html, and can be downloaded as a PDF.
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