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News Briefs: November/December 2008
Below are some of the latest happenings in the paralegal community. These short snippets represent excerpts of news stories that can be found in the November/December 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?
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.
No Voluntary Paralegal Certification in
State Supreme Court declines to enact bar proposal.
After almost five years,
“After years of work on this project, we are
extremely disappointed that Proposed Rule 2.2 to the Admission and
Discipline of Attorneys was not adopted by the Indiana Supreme
Court,” said Monica Dabio, a paralegal at Hall Rener Killian Heath &
The proposal originally was submitted by the IPA, the Northeast Indiana Paralegal Association and the Machiana Paralegal Association (the three associations that make up the Alliance of Indiana Paralegal Associations) to the Supreme Court Rules Committee on Nov. 15, 2003. Under the proposal, to hold the title Indiana Registered Paralegal, paralegals would have had to meet certain education, work experience and training requirements, and/or hold the Registered Paralegal or Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal designations, as well as obtain continuing legal education credits. The proposal also stated that the Supreme Court would have jurisdiction over the voluntary registration of paralegals.
The ISBA supported the proposed rule. According to information published on its Web site about the proposal, the rule would have allowed attorneys “a minimum standard to judge what a paralegal should be able to do under [an attorney’s] supervision” and registration would “give the judiciary a yardstick to measure the competency of the paralegal when reviewing fee applications.”
In the Sept. 4 letter to the associations of the
Dabio agreed. “Certification would provide a more unified system for professional and ethical development, and raise awareness of paralegal issues including the unauthorized practice of law,” she said. However, despite the setback, Dabio is optimistic. “We are hopeful for the future as more and more states review and adopt some form of paralegal regulation or voluntary registration,” she said.
At press time, Brewer planned to discuss
possible courses of action with IPA and MPA at the National
Federation of Paralegal Associations’ annual convention in October
Please see the following related article on our Web site: “Indiana Regulation a Reality?,” March/April 2006.
Paralegal overtime wages case dismissed with prejudice.
William Wersinger, a paralegal from
According to court documents, Wersinger, who
worked as a nonexempt paralegal for Bank of America at its
In the original suit, filed May 15, 2007, Wersinger alleged that the bank violated the FLSA on numerous occasions and that these violations affected many employees who were forced to work in nonexempt positions in addition to their regular job duties. Furthermore, he claimed he regularly was required to work over 40 hours a week but was not compensated for that overtime, an amount set at time and a half pay. It also was alleged that Wersinger worked unpaid through meal periods and at mandatory off-site company events, and was required to perform at least six hours per month of nonexempt work in the bank’s customer service area for which he was not paid. Bank of America denied all of Wersinger’s allegations.
Prior to the agreement and dismissal, Wersinger sought relief in the amount of overtime wages owed to him, liquidated damages, and pre- and post-judgment interest. He also had asked the court to allow the case to proceed as a class action that would include current and former bank employees, but the class action claims were dismissed prior to settlement.
Stephen Lebau, an employment law attorney with Lebau & Neuworth in Towson, Md., who represented Wersinger, had no comment on the case dismissal, but told LAT in March that the Wersinger case, in conjunction with Department of Labor letters concerning paralegal employment status, highlighted the need for paralegals to keep track of their hours and question employers if they are not being compensated for their work.
Though this case has been resolved, Lebau noted that the Wersinger outcome has not affected the issue of paralegal job status and has not deterred other paralegals who have come forward with similar allegations against their employers, stating that he currently has two cases under investigation — one from Maryland and one from New Jersey. “I think the issues drafted in the [DOL] opinion letters are pretty compelling so I think that any type of employer/law firm [that] isn’t paying paralegals [properly] needs to be pretty careful …,” Lebau said. “And also they need to see what their paralegals’ job duties are.”
Please see the following related news brief on our Web site: “Delaware Case Examines Overtime Compensation,” March/April 2008.
Ethical obligations and benefits to firms and clients are cited.
On Aug. 5, the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issued Formal Opinion 08-451, which details the ethical obligations lawyers are bound to adhere to when outsourcing legal work domestically or internationally. The opinion not only acknowledges outsourcing as a trend, but calls it a “salutary one for our globalized economy.”
The opinion obliges lawyers to assure competent legal services and supervision of those performing outsourced work, to protect confidential information, to assess reasonable fees and to not participate in the unauthorized practice of law, and provides guidelines on how to accomplish these requirements. Examples of outsourced tasks in the opinion include contracting a local copy shop for document reproduction, using a third-party vendor to maintain an office computer system, hiring a legal research service to prepare a survey or engaging foreign lawyers to draft patent applications.
David Perla, co-chief executive officer of
Pangea3, a company based in
However they go about it, the
IP paralegals find eCO system more efficient and cost effective.
After a limited beta test in June 2007, the U.S. Copyright Office launched its electronic Copyright Office system on July 1 of this year. The eCO system is a service that allows users to register their claims online at the Copyright Office’s Web site (www.copyright.gov/eco) and forgo the hassle of the paper application process in most cases. The system can be used to register basic copyright claims for literary works, visual art works and performing art works, including motion pictures, sound recordings and single serials. The Copyright Office handles 555,000 claims annually and, with the introduction of eCO, hopes to improve the efficiency of its business operations.
Claims filed through the eCO system will have
the fastest possible processing time, an earlier effective date of
registration and a lower filing fee of $35 (instead of the current
fee of $45 per claim). David Christopher, associate chief operating
officer at the Copyright Office in
Although eCO is relatively new, many paralegals
have started to incorporate it into their filing practices and have
found the service to be both cost effective and efficient. “There is
no comparison to the earlier paper filing system,” said Kathy
Merlino, a senior intellectual property paralegal at Cozen O’Connor
Another notable feature of the eCO system is the ability to track pending claims online. “It is very convenient to be able to check [the] up-to-the-minute status of a claim and be able to keep the client posted on the progress of [his or her] copyright applications,” Merlino said. “It should cut down on [us] having to make phone calls to the Copyright Office requesting the status of a seemingly lost or misplaced copyright application.”
In addition to eCO, a new
For now, Christopher seems hopeful about the outlook of the eCO system and its professional use in the future since, from the time the beta test began to the July launch, 50 percent of the claims received by the Copyright Office were filed through the eCO system. “We fully expect the ratio of e-service to paper claims to continue to grow indefinitely,” he said.
HSBA working with the Hawaii Supreme Court to develop rule.
The Hawaii Supreme Court has given the Hawaii State Bar Association another extension to help draft a proposed rule to define the practice of law for the state. As LAT reported in May, the Supreme Court is considering the rule as an addition to the Hawaii Supreme Court Rules. The court’s proposed definition is the “giving of legal advice or legal assistance to another person.” However, after receiving numerous public comments last October that opposed the language because it was overly broad, as well as a letter from the Federal Trade Commission, in consultation with the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, that said the definition would adversely affect consumers, the state Supreme Court granted HSBA’s request to extend the time for the bar’s response to May 30, and then granted the additional extension in June.
“There is no set deadline now; the Court
understands that the HSBA is working with representatives of many
groups on the drafting of such a rule,” said Jeffrey Sia, HSBA
president and a partner at Ayabe, Chong, Nishimoto, Sia & Nakamura
HSBA originally proposed the rule change to the Hawaii Supreme Court in July 2007. According to Sia, the bar’s motive was consumer protection. After reviewing the submission, the Supreme Court posted its own version of the proposal on its Web site in October 2007, opening a public comment period.
The Supreme Court’s definition was opposed by several professional groups including realtors, certified public accountants and estate planners, arguing that if it were enacted, the proposed rule would negatively impact their businesses. The Hawaii Paralegal Association also filed a response to the proposal on Jan. 18, arguing that the adoption of the definition, as it was proposed by the Supreme Court, would limit public access to legal services in the state. “The members of the Hawaii Paralegal Association are committed to improving access to and quality of legal services,” said HPA president Cheryl Yen, noting that access is a problem recently addressed in Hawaii in the 2007 Assessment of Civil Legal Needs and Barriers of Low- and Moderate-Income People in Hawaii.
The assessment report was started as a series of meetings between HSBA, the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii in January 2006. It was decided that a legal needs assessment was necessary to develop a course of action to improve access to justice for the people of the state. Over time, seven other organizations lent their support to what eventually became the finished report.
“We’re confident that the unauthorized practice of law issues can be addressed without exacerbating the severe access to legal services problem in Hawaii that has been most recently demonstrated by the [2007 Assessment],” Yen said.
Please visit our Web site to see the following related news brief: “Hawaii Attempts to Define the Practice of Law,” May/June 2008.
NALA Meets in
New president, member awards are announced at 33rd annual convention.
More than 350 paralegals, educators and others
related to the paralegal profession gathered in
Wolf, the first NALA president from
This year, continuing education institutes at
the convention centered on corporate law, criminal law and
mediation. Angela Knight Hooper, a lawyer with The Williams
Companies, Inc., in
Next year’s convention will be held from July 8
through July 11 in
Colorado Bar Approves Revised Paralegal Guidelines
Revisions include expanded paralegal duties, technology changes.
On May 17, the Colorado Bar Association Board of Governors formally approved the Colorado Supreme Court’s revised Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegals. Although the CBA isn’t a mandatory bar and therefore doesn’t regulate and license attorneys, its approval of the Supreme Court’s revised guidelines indicates that it encourages their use. The revised guidelines increase the number of tasks that paralegals can perform and address technological changes that have occurred since the last revision in 1998.
According to Michelle Gersic, CBA’s assistant
director of Law Practice Management/Risk Management and one of the
participants in the revision process, these technological changes
were the driving force behind the revisions. “Given the advances in
technology and the massive rules changes in
Since paralegals are not licensed or regulated
The guidelines now are divided into 21 specialty areas of practice instead of the 18 areas in the previous version. The new practice areas are bankruptcy paralegal (creditor’s counsel), bankruptcy paralegal (trustee’s counsel), juvenile litigation paralegal and social security/disability law paralegal. In addition, two existing practice areas were expanded: the employment paralegal now is the labor and employment paralegal, and the natural resources paralegal now is the natural resources and energy paralegal. The commercial practice area was the only one eliminated because it’s already covered in other practice areas.
As noted in the preamble to the revised guidelines, “successful law firms know that using qualified paralegals helps them deliver better service and more value while increasing their profits.”
The complete Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegals, organized by specialty area, can be found on the CBA Web site at www.cobar.org.
Paralegal Frustrations Subside With
All individuals now allowed to bring electronic devices into courthouse.
A ruling adopted by the judges of the Connecticut Superior Court previously allowing only attorneys to bring electronic devices into state court facilities was modified on Aug. 1 to include all individuals, a change lobbied for by paralegals from the Central Connecticut Paralegal Association, as well as state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
Under Connecticut Practice Book Section 1-10 amendments, which went into effect Jan. 1, only an attorney in good standing (determined by a Judicial Branch-issued attorney photo ID card) was allowed to enter the courthouse building with an electronic device, which included cell phones (with or without cameras), PDAs and personal computers. The new rule made it difficult for paralegals, in particular, who were hindered in their ability to contact witnesses or colleagues, or assist the attorney at trial without electronic access, especially since they often had been allowed to bring in electronic devices prior to the new rule. “The rule [prior to the January amendment] was not clear and [the marshals] typically allowed paralegals, as part of the trial team, to bring electronic equipment in the court … although the old rule did not actually specify that,” said litigation paralegal Shelly Bender of Shipman & Goodwin in Hartford, Conn. “But when [the marshals] found out [about] the new, [clearer] rule about only attorneys with ID cards taking effect in January, they went ahead and started following that.”
According to Joseph J. Del Ciampo, counsel, legal services division of Superior Court Operations, the January Section 1-10 amendments came about because the court was concerned that allowing electronic devices in court facilities, especially camera phones, could violate the rules regarding cameras in the courtroom and privacy issues, such as witness and jury identification. “The rules were intended to prevent the abuse of the camera rules and preserve the judge’s authority [for] order in the courtroom,” Del Ciampo said.
However, once the January ruling took effect, judicial marshals had to collect, bag and tag all camera phones brought to the courthouses, causing a huge time delay for those entering the courthouse. In a July 31 press release announcing the new guidelines, Chief Court Administrator Barbara M. Quinn addressed the specific issue of camera phones. “Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers and I believe the new rules will help the public greatly, particularly since finding a cell phone without a camera these days is extremely difficult,” she stated. “As important, we hope that allowing people to bring in their camera phones will shorten the lines at the metal detector.” Quinn also noted that 290,000 camera phones were bagged and tagged by marshals within a 1-year period.
Under the new Guidelines for the Use and Possession of Electronic Devices in Court Facilities, voted on by the state’s Superior Court judges at their annual June meeting and approved by Quinn, any individual now can bring the following electronic devices into the courthouse:
However, once inside the court facility, individuals are prohibited from using their cell phone or any device to take pictures or videos, make sound recordings, or broadcast sound or video. Once inside the courtroom, laptop computers can be used for note taking only, but permission from the judge must be obtained prior to the trial or hearing. The use of all other electronics in the courtroom is prohibited, unless specifically permitted by the judge or other judicial authority, or permitted by court rules.
“[The change to the rule] was a huge victory for all paralegals in the state — regardless of why they said they were changing the rule,” Bender said.
Based on Bender’s efforts, the new guidelines could have an effect on paralegals in other states as well. Patricia Gagnon, a fellow paralegal with Bender at Shipman & Goodwin, also is on the board of CCPA, and was the association’s secondary representative for the National Federation of Paralegal Associations when Bender’s issues with the rule came to the attention of the board. “I brought the question to other NFPA region associations regarding bringing electronic devices in[to] courtrooms,” Gagnon said. “The other associations in our region also expressed their frustration with the rules, so we knew it was an issue for many paralegals in our region.” Once the new guidelines went into effect, she updated other NFPA associations about the changes and referred them to the rules Web site. “I am sure they will take this information to their courts to assist them in asking for changes to the rules,” Gagnon said.
Linking to Martindale-Hubble
Contacts from networking site LinkedIn now will be featured on LexisNexis’ www.martindale.com, the Martindale-Hubbell legal network. LinkedIn icons will appear in individual profiles on www.martindale.com and in law firm profiles to indicate LinkedIn members. For existing LinkedIn members, clicking on the icons will allow access to the LinkedIn connection, subsequently displaying information about the person and common LinkedIn connections. Future plans include the distribution of abstracts and links to Martindale-Hubbell articles and content on the LinkedIn network. For more information, call (212) 880-5233 or visit www.martindale.com.
A Guide to the Bluebook
“Understanding and Mastering the Bluebook: A Guide for Students and Practitioners” by Linda J. Barris, published by Carolina Academic Press, assists readers with the rules for legal citation in “The Bluebook.” For each source type the book uses a building-block approach and includes several illustrations and explanations plus step-by-step instructions for building citations. Also inside are comparison charts, bullet-point explanations, tips and hints, and caution alerts for trouble spots. The book is available at www.cap-press.com/books/1698 for $25.
“Wildlife Law: A Global Perspective,” published by the American Bar Association, introduces the legal aspects surrounding wildlife in relation to a country’s individual, specific laws. Edited by Raj Panjwani, noted animal and environmental law authority and author, the book contains a compilation of papers comparing legislations enacted by different countries for protecting wildlife and habitats within their borders. Various laws adopted by different countries implementing the sustainable development principle to achieve their objectives of saving wildlife and habitats are examined, and include imports and exports, waste, mining, emerging industries, air and water pollution, and more. The book is available at www.abanet.org/abastore for $129.95.
The Cowen Group, a legal technology search firm, launched Opportunity Knocks, a blog to share thoughts, ideas and hot topics that face the legal staffing industry, as well as posts on career planning and development, e-discovery, litigation support, and news and headlines. The blog also features helpful links, such as The Electronic Discovery Counselor, Law.com, Electronic Discovery Law, and Electronic Discovery Navigator, and lists other blogs that feature similar and relevant content, such as Future Lawyer, Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tip’s Blog, Knowledgeline, Legal Sanity, Tech Law Advisor, The Common Scold, and more. Examples of recent posts include “Job Security in a Slowing Economy,” “It’s the People,” and “Managing Up, Up, and Away!” For more information, visit www.opportunityknocksblog.com.
ADR Web Site
The International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution launched a new Web site to assist legal executives with finding strategies for conflict management and resolution. News and articles are featured on the new site, as well as links to CPR committees, international alternative dispute resolution, and CPR’s roster of qualified arbitrators and mediators. The new site also features a weekly podcast series on international dispute resolution, video and audio clips, presentation materials from conferences, a link to Thomson West’s menu of CPR meeting sessions and training materials, a blog, wikis, and more. For more information, visit www.cpradr.org.
A new Web site targeting the electronic data
www.eLawExchange.com, has been launched by Law Partner
Publishing. The Web site will offer numerous free resources
including case law and rules for all 50 states; litigation
intelligence links; a database of service providers and experts; and
articles. In addition to the Web site, Michael Arkfeld, Esq.,
president of Law Partner Publishing and a consultant based in
Free Software Reviews
LitiReviews, a new Web site by Lexbe, offers more than 100 recent, free, full-text reviews of legal and litigation software, and other technology offered to legal and litigation professionals. LitiReviews is text-searchable to allow users to find articles by applicable keywords, and the site includes the software or product name, review title, author, a summary of the findings or conclusions, the publication and the year the review was published. Reviews are organized into software or technology categories, including accounting; case management; document automation; document management; document repository; document security; electronic discovery; litigation management; office productivity; OCR; practice management; time and billing; depositions and transcripts; trial presentation; and server virtualization. Software programs reviewed include Adobe Acrobat, Amicus Attorney, Caselogistix, CaseMap, Concordance, iblaze, Isys, ImageDepot, Hotdocs, Lexbe, Livenote, Mac, Predator, Quickbooks, Sanction, Tabs3, TextMap, Time Matters, TimeMap, Trial Director, Workshare Protect, Worldox and Vista. LitiReviews is available at http://LitiReviews.Lexbe.com.
As the new year approaches, national associations across the country are well into preparing for their national conferences. Below is a calendar of dates and locations for some of these conventions. Please visit each organization’s Web site for more information.
American Association for Justice
Feb. 7 to Feb. 11
American Association for Paralegal Education
2009 National Conference
Oct. 28 to Oct. 31
American Bar Association
Feb. 11 to Feb. 17
Association of Legal Administrators
2009 Annual Conference
May 18 to May 21
International Paralegal Management Association
2009 Annual Conference and Expo
Oct. 14 to Oct. 17
Nals…the association for legal professionals
2009 Professional Development & Education Conference
March 12 to March 14
2009 Annual Education Conference & National Forum
Oct. 8 to Oct. 11
National Association of Legal Assistants
2009 Annual Convention
July 8 to July 11
Please visit our events page to view other national and local professional events. You also can submit your association’s events for publication in print or online at any time by filling out our online form. Submissions should include the date and time of the event; the venue and city at which the event will be held; the price for members, nonmembers and students, and any materials or meals included in that price; the names and titles of any featured speakers; the amount of any continuing legal education or mandatory continuing legal education credit available; and where readers can get more information or direct questions.
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