Archive for » October, 2010 «

In this article with the help of my friend and colleague, Eric G. Young, (author of Cyber Esq.) we will tell you about a great time tracking program we found and began using over a year ago.  With all the many gadgets and software on the market today, it is often hard to find one that you truly “love,” but I have found such a program with Chrometa, a new time-keeping program produced by a California software startup company with the same name.

Chrometa has one unique feature that sets it apart from its competition.  Unlike most other time management programs, a Chrometa user does not have to point and click on an icon to start a timer and then point and click again to stop.  Chrometa works in the background on your system, keeping track of your daily activities for you, and then allows you to export the time to an Excel spreadsheet for billing purposes.  What could be simpler in a busy law office?  Chrometa is also quite affordable at $99.00.

Eric and I researched other time management programs to see if there were any others that truly compared to Chrometa.  We conducted this research over a period of several months, while we also tested Chrometa in our offices.  To conduct our research, our offices were each given a free license by Chrometa.  I have also been participating as a beta tester for Chrometa’s new online product (see below).  Otherwise, we have received nothing else of value from Chrometa and no one at Chrometa has influenced our review in any way.

As a result of our research, we discovered that there are many time management programs to choose from, but only two had similar enough features to Chrometa to justify a fair comparison:  Worktime by Nestersoft and TimeSprite by Black Hill Software.

I then compared Chrometa to these two programs, but found them lacking in important ways. For example, Worktime is affordable at only $49.95, but that only gives a user a 1 year license with upgrades.  TimeSprite has a feature using a USB drive to capture your time when away from your usual computer by plugging into any computer you are using, but no mention of how to export your time for billing purposes.  TimeSprite has a cost of $34.95, with no mentions of updates.  Neither program is clear on how to export one’s time for billing purposes.  While these programs may capture your time, if you have to spend time recreating your billable time to enter into a billing program, it completely defeats the purpose of the time capturing program.

Among the other features of Chrometa:

  1. They offer a 100% full refund if not happy with the product.
  2. You can change your away time logging for up to 10 minutes, so if you are away from your computer for 10 minutes or more, the away time log will pop up and ask you to enter what you were doing if you need to bill for that time.
  3. You can also password protect your program so that no one can alter your time-tracking.  This is a great feature if you want to monitor a computer without anyone changing the tracking system.
  4. You can also block certain programs from being monitored, such as if you are reading the newspaper online or playing games on your lunch time and not wanting this time captured.  (Or looking at fashion like someone I know, lol)
  5. You can also tag applications to be timed for a certain category, such as if you were designing a website for a client using Wix, you could assign it to that client’s category and all time spent on Wix would be automatically be captured in the client’s category.  You can untag when you have completed this assignment so future work can be captured for the next client.
  6. Chrometa also captures work done simultaneously, such as if you have a Word document open for one client and you open an email from another client, it will capture the active time for both, great feature for those of us in the legal field, especially paralegals who tend to bounce from task to task while in the middle of another task.

Here is a screen shot of my active time using Chrometa:

Exporting time is done using an Excel spreadsheet, automatically built into the program.  You can then add comments to the spreadsheet for billing purposes.  This is great for attorneys who hand their time on to someone else to put into billing programs.  I would like to see this feature being automatically added to the billing program which would save some considerable time in billing.

I believe that with the new beta version that adding all of your computers to the online Chrometa dashboard will capture all of your billing no matter what computer you are working at.  For me, this is an awesome feature as I not only work in my own business but often work at other law offices on the attorney’s computer.  Here is a screen shot of the spreadsheet for billing purposes:

Recently I was thrilled to begin participating in Chrometa’s beta testing for their new online tracking version of Chrometa.  I have been using the online version for the month of October and find that it takes a little getting used to, but I love it.  Here is what the new Chrometa looks like:

I am extremely happy with Chrometa and have recommended it to several people.  It is easy to work with and if I could just add it to every computer I work on, all my time would be captured and I would never miss a minute of billing my time.  To find out more about Chrometa, be sure and check out their website.

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Get Organized With Gmail’s New Features « Cyber-Esq.  A great article written by my friend and colleague, Eric G. Young, with a little input from yours truly.  Be sure to check it out!

via Get Organized With Gmail’s New Features « Cyber-Esq..

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I was not a Soprano fan, sorry to those of you who were, but when I read the notice this morning that one of the actresses who starred on that show passed away from liver cancer, I had to comment on it.  Denise Borino-Quinn was only 46 years old and left this world way to soon from a disease that has affected many families.  I am talking about cancer, more specifically liver cancer.  She was also a legal secretary prior to being chosen from over 14,000 people for the part on the Sopranos and played the part of mafia wife, Ginny Sack.

Denise Borino-Quinn

In an interview in 2000, Denise said that she wanted to be remembered for being genuinely nice and having the ability to bring a smile to someone’s face.  From everything I have read about her, I think she achieved this.  I just wish we weren’t having to say we will remember her already.  Denise lost her husband Luke Quinn, Jr. in March.  My thoughts are with her family

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As a Paralegal, sometimes it is left to us to figure out what to do when the attorney we work for is disabled or heaven forbid, dies while we are in their employ.  I don’t know if either of these has happened while you have been working for an attorney, but it has happened to me and it can be downright scary to figure out what to do.  Clients and heirs of California attorneys who die or become disabled can be left with the same sorts of issues faced by families of an individual who does not leave a will or living trust behind: what happens to client files and any funds that may be on deposit in a trust account? With the approval of a surrogacy agreement last month, the State Bar Board of Governors made it both easy and free to avoid such problems. The first to take advantage of the new “Agreement to Close Law Practice in the Future” was bar President Bill Hebert, who designated his law partner, James Quadra, to administer his practice in the event Hebert could not continue to work.

The sample agreement, available to all lawyers, spells out the responsibilities of the primary attorney and his or her successor.  Currently, if a lawyer dies or becomes incapacitated without having made any arrangements about the future of his or her practice, the State Bar seeks a superior court order to take over the practice.  It collects the attorney’s files and attempts to return those files to the client, although it does not try to find a new attorney to take over cases.

However, if a lawyer designates a successor using the new sample contract, the designated surrogate goes to court for appointment as the practice administrator who can take control and dispose of the practice. A lengthy list of duties is part of the contract and includes the ability to open mail, become a signatory on bank accounts, notify clients and transfer files, pay bills and handle funds, and accept the original attorney’s clients and cases. The practice administrator also will have the power to sell the practice.

The agreement includes a requirement that clients must be notified in engagement letters that a successor attorney has been designated.  Murray Greenberg, who for 15 years has handled State Bar takeovers of attorneys’ practices, whether for death, disability or discipline, said the numbers vary from year to year. He’s seen an uptick recently, probably due to the graying of the profession in general, he said.  He shares Oldman’s belief that many attorneys aren’t well-prepared for the unforeseen: “No one expects to become disabled.”

The California State Bar also has guidelines for closing or selling a law practice, which can be found here. As a paralegal, we have lots of responsibilities and while you may not think this should be one of them, I believe we should make sure that our attorney(s) know about this contract availability and that they make sure that their clients and yes, even their paralegals are assured of how things will be handled in the event of their death or disability.

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After nine years of debate, the State Bar adopted 67 proposed ethics rules to govern California lawyers’ professional conduct. The rules require Supreme Court approval before taking effect, and although the court is free to reject or return any of the proposals for further work, they offer a behavioral roadmap for attorneys and provide clear guidance in particular areas that have been confusing or controversial, and result in discipline for those who ignore them.

Although a rules revision commission was appointed to bring California’s rules in line with the ABA Model Rules, the state — in fact the only state whose rules are not patterned after the Model Rules — will continue to differ in 12 key areas, four involving fees. The rules were last revised in 1987, and since beginning its work, the commission has held seven public hearings, sought public response to its recommendations six times and received 530 written comments. Even as the final deadline loomed last month, the group sent out seven final rules for one last round of public input.

The rules can be divided into two categories: those that were changed to mirror more closely the ABA Model Rules, and those that remain distinctly Californian.

The first category includes rules that address lawyer advertising/solicitation; supervision of lawyer and nonlawyer subordinates; sexual relations with clients; aggregate settlements; limited legal service programs; trial publicity; and dealings with represented and unrepresented persons.

The areas that are substantially different from the Model Rules include the bar’s rejection of the so-called “snitch” rule and retention of California standards governing client secrets, unconscionable fees, competence and moral turpitude.  To read the breakdown of these differences, see them at the California Bar Journal article.

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In order to enable prospective students to learn about a variety of law school programs without traveling or even leaving their home or office, Concord Law School of Kaplan University will host a virtual law school fair on Wednesday, Oct.27.

Admission personnel from several law schools, who will discuss their programs and answer questions about curricula, application process and requirements, admissions procedures and financing, will be featured by the online fair. Now, the potential students, with a mere click of a mouse will be able to view information and talk to professionals during an informational seminar designed to assist them in finding the best school for their needs.

There are various law schools that have already registered to participate in the virtual law school fair, some of the them are: Albany Law School, John Marshall Law School, California Southern University School of Law, Elon University School of Law , Georgetown University Law Center , Michigan State University College of Law, New York University School of Law, The University of Akron, School of Law, University of British Columbia, University of California Berkeley School of Law, University of HawaiiRichardson, School of Law, University of Richmond School of Law, University of St. Thomas School of Law, University of Toledo College of Law, Western New England College School of Law, and Whittier Law School.

The fair is free and open to the public. The fair will begin at 7:00 PM EST.  If you are interested in checking out virtual law, this might be a way to go about it.  Free is always a good way to begin.

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Money, it's a crime
Image by kiki99 via Flickr

Well, in case you didn’t hear today, as part of the Budget Act of 2010, certain filing fees will increase.  Each county will begin collection of the new fees at different times based on when they can update their systems.  These new fees will go into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature on SB857, which is expected to be next week.

First appearance in an unlimited action by plaintiff(s) and each defendant will increase to $395. This fee increase applies to all types of filings in which the previous fee was $355 (civil, probate, family, etc.)

First appearance in a limited action ($10,000 up to $25,000) by plaintiff(s) and each defendant will increase to $370.

First appearance in a limited action (under $10,000) by plaintiff(s) and each defendant will increase to $220.

The above fees do not include the additional fees required for Unlawful Detainer filings (additional $15) or the surcharges imposed in Riverside County, San Bernardino County or the City and County of San Francisco.

Motion for Summary Judgment/Adjudication will increase to $500;
Application by counsel to appear Pro Hac Vice will increase to $500;
There will be an additional $3 penalty to every parking violation; and
There will be an additional increases in various criminal penalties and traffic fines.

Additionally, the Judicial Council is required to establish a fee for telephonic appearances on or before July 1, 2011 (separate from any fees paid to “Court Call” or other vendors).

To read more about the 2010 California budget, you can click here.

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When you read the title, I bet you thought why would I want to know about a woman who gave away her children?  The woman in question, 45 year old legal secretary Jill Hawkins, has been a surrogate mother for the last 19 years, giving birth to 8 children, only one using an implanted embryo.  This last pregnancy took its toll on Jill, causing her to be off  work for most of the year and she was admitted to the hospital two weeks before she was due because she was so sick; she had high blood pressure and frequent vomiting, and the baby’s heart rate was too fast.

Jill Hawkins and Number 8, Oliver

Jill has suffered with depression in the past and decided that surrogacy was a way for her to give back but according to her family, the pregnancies have taken a toll on her mental health. This eighth pregnancy will be her last, Jill has decided enough is enough with this being the most difficult one for her.  Jill recently was given the British title of Most Prolific Surrogate Mother.  I think she gives new meaning to Legal Secretary of the Year!  Congratulations Jill to your recent title and your selfless assistance to couples who were unable to conceive on their own.
Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2010/10/04/meet-the-woman-who-gave-away-eight-kids/#ixzz11XsodMGY

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I found this article to be informative and in case you missed it, or don’t know who Vicki Voisin is, with permission from Vicki Voisin, the article below is reproduced in its entirety.  Vicki Voisin, “The Paralegal Mentor”, delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by achieving goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes a weekly ezine titled Paralegal Strategies and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network. More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com.

The issue of certification has long been debated. Here a few questions I’m frequently asked:

  • I graduated from a paralegal program, why should I sit for a certification exam?
  • I have a paralegal certificate from a university, doesn’t that make me ‘certified’?
  • I have a good job and several years of experience, how will being certified make a difference?
  • What will those letters after my name really do for me?
  • My boss doesn’t care if I’m certified so why should I bother?

I wholeheartedly support the certification process for paralegals and believe that it is an important professional goal. Please consider the following points:

Having a certificate does not mean you are certified. A certificate is issued upon completion of an educational program, at which time you are certificated. Certification involves passing an examination established by a sponsoring organization that usually has specific requirements of education and experience for persons taking the exam. Upon completion of the examination, you are certified.

The American Bar Association defines certification as: ‘a process by which a non-governmental agency or association grants recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualifications specified by that agency or association.’

I am certainly not minimizing the importance of completing a paralegal program and obtaining your certificate or your degree. In fact, I view paralegal education as essential. I am merely pointing out that there is an additional step you can take that will increase your professional profile. That step is certification.

Credential = credibility. Certification is a voluntary process and is not a prerequisite for paralegal employment. However, certification gives you credibility. It demonstrates that you have the knowledge base and the skill required to pass the examination. It may also make you more marketable and may increase your income potential.

Certification takes you off the level playing field. Graduation from a paralegal program (and, thus, being certificated) is the primary avenue by which people enter the paralegal profession. If everyone has a certificate, how is a potential employer to judge the best candidate for the job? Think about the following:

Two paralegals standing side by side with the same certificate from the same school and the same amount of experience. How can one be distinguished from the other? The answer is certification. The certified paralegal demonstrates that he or she is a multi-skilled professional with diverse knowledge and effective communication skills.

Certification provides paralegals an avenue for self-regulation. The issue of licensure for paralegals is old news…it’s been discussed ad nauseum for more than a quarter century. Paralegals work under the supervision of a licensed attorney and do not provide their services directly to the public. For this reason, licensure of paralegals is not required.

Further, licensure says a person is ‘qualified’ to do work. It does not demonstrate advanced knowledge and skills. An example is a hair dresser (and I have the highest regard for my hair dresser, believe me!). Hair dressers are allowed to enter the profession when they are licensed by a state agency. The license does not say they have fantastic skills, it only says that they can perform the services. The certification credential is awarded to people who prove their advanced knowledge and skills by meeting the standards of the credentialing organization.

Certification will do much for you personally. Ask anyone who has a credential and they will tell you that the achievement made them walk a little taller, made them feel stronger professionally, gave them incredible personal satisfaction and increased their level of professional confidence. They set a goal and they achieved it. They took a risk and they survived it. They have the credibility that the credential provides. They literally stand out above the crowd. Their accomplishment gave them great pride. You, too, can have all that with professional certification.

One additional benefit you will reap from the certification exam: the learning that takes place in the preparation for the examination. Even the most experienced paralegal will learn something new and benefit from the intense review.

You will usually be required to participate in continuing education programs to maintain your certification. This requirement will help you keep up to date with changes in the profession and in the legal arena. Also, the credentialing organization will usually set high ethical standards for those using the credential. Unethical behavior will result in the loss of the credential.

Certification may give you a ‘leg up’ when you’re searching for a job. In today’s economy, you need all the ammunition you can muster to prove that you are the person for the job. Having the certification credential behind you exhibits not only the advanced knowledge I mentioned earlier, it also shows discipline, ambition, motivation and willingness to accept a challenge.

Which certification examination/credential is right for you? That’s a personal decision. Many paralegal associations provide certification examinations (ie NALA, NFPA, NALS, and AAPI). There are also voluntary certification programs offered by some states…examples are North Carolina and Florida, but there are others. All have different structure and eligibility requirements, as well as different continuing education and re-certification requirements.

What is important is that the credentialing organization you choose is a bona fide entity, that the exam is administered under rules and regulations in accordance with governmental acts and in accordance with such issues as anti-trust and fairness.

It is essential that the organization agrees to keep applications and records confidential. It is crucial that the organization prepares an examination under the guidance of professional testing consultants, that the exam be continually reviewed for accuracy, and that it be updated on a regular basis.

Usually the certification designation is a certification mark duly registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Claims of certified status must be verifiable…in other words, if a paralegal claims to be certified, he or she must have the credential to prove it.

Can you ethically use the credential after your name? Yes! Whether it is CLA, CP, PP, RP, AACP, ACP, PLS, AVA, ALS, NCCP etc. you can use it. The U.S. Supreme Court has addressed the issue concerning the utilization of credentials awarded by private organizations. In Peal v Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Committee of Illinois, 110 S.Ct. 2281 (1990), the Court suggested that a claim of certification is truthful and not misleading if:

  • The claim itself is true
  • The bases on which certification was awarded are factual and verifiable
  • The certification in question is available to all professionals in the field who meet relevant, objective and consistently applied standards
  • The certification claim does not suggest any greater degree of professional qualification than reasonably may be inferred from an evaluation of the certification program’s requirements.
  • There is a qualified organization behind the certification process.

Of course, the credential cannot be used to mislead the public and represent something you are not.

How do you prepare for a certification examination? The thought of all that study may sound overwhelming. The idea of taking such a critical examination may be frightening. The key to success is in the preparation and planning. The best thing to do is to break the process into steps:

  • Decide which examination you will take.
  • Decide when you will take the examination
  • Working backward from the examination date, block a period of time for study and determine a study schedule (I recommend three months but that is an individual decision)
  • Plan how you will study and what reference materials you will need (these may be available from the credentialing organization)
  • Join a study group and enlist ‘study buddies’ to hold you accountable
  • Take advantage of preparation and educational opportunities offered by the credentialing organization, as well as your professional association. For instance, NALA offers a three-day intense CLA review course, as well as CLA preparation courses at its convention.

Your challenge: If you already have a professional credential, congratulations! If you don’t, please put that at the top of your list. Follow the steps above and begin planning for the examination. You will never regret the time and effort it takes. You will always feel immense professional pride when you put those initials after your name!

Thank you Vicki for another great article and for letting me share it with our fellow paralegals!

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As someone who has lost a family member to breast cancer and has watched another family member go through the mastectomies and reconstruction surgeries and is now a breast cancer survivor, the story I read today of a spunky paralegal and her battle and survival of breast cancer made me realize just how strong we women are.  (Well, I actually knew that but this just cements it.)

Alicia Joy Bloom, Paralegal and Breast Cancer Survivor

Alecia Joy Bloom is a paralegal with Proskaeur Rose in Newark and she says that her spunky, no-holds-barred attitude has served her well not only as a paralegal but a cancer survivor.   As a paralegal I can attest that we have to be tough women in our field and perhaps this is what helped her fight this tough battle.  When Ms. Bloom was diagnosed in 2003 with two types of cancers: intraductal, the most common kind, and invasive, the type that is already attacking other tissue, she kept her cool and courage, fought through it, and dealt with her fears and other questions, like when she was asked about her illness by her then-landlord.  She said,  “He asked me, ‘Are you afraid of dying?’ and she said, ‘No, I’m going to get through this, and I’m going to be fine. It’s going to be six months of a stumbling block, and then I will be fine.'”

Ms. Bloom says her family and friends gave her confidence, positivity and hope.  “I said to them, ‘You can take my boobs, but you can’t take my life.'”  Ms. Bloom is active with the Middlesex County Chapter of the American Cancer Society and will host an upcoming fun-draiser.

According to the article, Ms. Bloom has always been a get-up-and-go person and she was just going to keep going during this tough time.   She believes we are here to do something more with your life if you can see the bigger picture through the whole thing.   She felt that breast cancer for her was a gift and that you can show women that you can be strong, sexy, smart and still live a healthy life.

This month of October is designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and there are many fundraisers going on, you can check your local area to volunteer, donate or join an event, by going here.

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