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I am sure there are times that attorneys and judges want to go at each other physically, but I never thought we would see it on camera.

Warning, there is profanity in the video.

http://Judge, attorney fight after argument in court

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In an article I posted at my Family Law blog, California Family Law Paralegal, I discussed violence against attorneys, not only by their own clients, but by an opposing party.

The American Bar Association did a poll of attorneys in the mid-90′s and posted the results in an article titled “Lawyers in Harm’s Way.”  This poll revealed that that 60 percent of family lawyers had been threatened by opposing parties, and 17 percent had been threatened by their own clients.

As violence has continued to increase in our nation, I find it interesting that the American Bar Association has not updated this poll of attorneys regarding threats or actual violence towards them.  I am conducting my own poll and ask that you take a moment and answer it, so we as legal professionals can see for ourselves if threats of or actual violence towards attorneys (including paralegals and other staff members) is increasing.

 

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Assembly Member Dickinson has introduced AB 888, an act to amend Section 17206 of, and to add Sections 6126.6 and 6126.7 to, the Business and Professions Code, relating to the State Bar.

Existing law prohibits a person from practicing law in California, or from advertising or holding himself or herself out as practicing law, unless the person is an active member of the State Bar, or otherwise authorized, as specified, to practice law in this state. A violation of these provisions is a crime.

This bill would, for violations of the above-described provisions, require the State Bar to disclose, in confidence, the information in its investigation to the agency responsible for the criminal enforcement of these provisions or exchange that information with that agency. This bill would authorize the State Bar to request the Attorney General, a district attorney, or a city attorney acting as a local prosecutor, to bring an enforcement action or bring a civil action in its own name, as specified.

The bill would require the court, in a civil enforcement action by the State Bar for the unlawful practice of law, to impose a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500, to be paid to the State Bar.  The bill would also require the court to impose a civil penalty not to exceed $6,000 for the intentional violation of any injunction prohibiting the unlawful practice of law.

The bill would also require the court to consider, when applicable, additional relief provided under existing law and to award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, as specified.

Go here to read the complete analysis of this bill.  On July 2, 2013, the Senate ordered the bill to a third reading.

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In a recent article in Law.com’s Law Technology News section, Robert J. Ambroji discussed Social Media and Ethics for those of us in law.

Ethics and social media will be front and center at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting this month in its hometown, Chicago. The ABA’s House of Delegates — its governing body — will consider the recommendations of the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20, which has proposed revisions to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to address changes in technology.

The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20, reminds us that the same old ethical rules apply to Social Media.

Do not betray client confidence when you tweet or blog, even if you think you are being discreet. as Illinois assistant public defender Kristine Ann Peshek found out when her license was suspended for 60 days when she blogged about her clients.  Peshek thought she was blogging anonymously but it was determined that she had provided enough specific information on her clients that they could be identified.

Do not give out legal advice, this could be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship.  For us paralegals, this could be practicing law without a license.

Do not solicit clients.  Targeting a specific person to be a client is not allowed, but participating in an online forum of any kind is permitted.

ABA Model Rule 7.2 says, “A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services.” Does this mean you cannot provide an endorsement of a colleague on sites such as LinkedIn or Avvo? Absolutely not, provided nothing of value is exchanged.  But can you promise to provide an endorsement if the other attorney promises to endorse you in return?  That quid pro quo could be seen as an exchange of value.

As Mr. Ambroji says in his article, it all comes down to common sense.  If you wouldn’t talk about your client’s case with strangers outside of your office, why would you post it online?  If you wouldn’t give out legal advice at your neighbor’s party, why would you do it online?

To read more of the article written by Mr. Ambroji, you can find it here.  I would love to hear my fellow paralegals thoughts on Ethics and Social Media too.

 

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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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I found this fascinating quote today:

At its mid-year meeting, the ABA House of Delegates slashed annual dues for solo attorneys by almost 50%, as reported in a ABA Journal LawNewsNow article.  The House also cut dues for government lawyers, judges, and legal services attorneys.cyberesq.wordpress.com, Cyber-Esq., Feb 2010

You should read the whole article.

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Category: Family Law  Tags: , , ,  Comments off

I am honored and pleased to announce that I am now a certified Paralegal through the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc., “(AAPI”). I am not one to brag but I am so thrilled to finally have reached this milestone in my paralegal career!

AAPI was formed in 2003 by a group of paralegals who wanted to promote and improve the profession of paralegals; to advance the educational and literary standard of the paralegal profession; and to foster, encourage and disseminate information concerning the profession.

The American Alliance Mission Statement and Goals:

The goals and standards are to:
• Establish minimum educational criteria
• Adhere to ethical standards
• Provide networking opportunities
• Create a resource center
• Associate with national and local organizations

The American Association for Paralegal Education (“AAfPE”) has adopted a policy statement on short-term programs. AAPI agrees that short-term programs do a disservice to the paralegal profession and opposes any program that does not meet minimal standards as set forth by AAfPE (www.aafpe.org). AAPI strongly recommends quality paralegal education provided by formal institutions that are ABA approved or are in substantial compliance with the ABA guidelines. AAPI applauds and supports AAfPE for its statement regarding short-term programs.

AAPI has a strict Code of Ethics as well, which in reality are the standards that the Paralegals I know already adhere to.

As a Certified Paralegal with AAPI, I now can add “AACP” to my name. I have taken a little flack from my friends this week (you know who you are, lol) adding AACP to my letterhead, business cards, etc., but it has been well worth it. I promise I won’t let it go to my head and I won’t brag anymore, I will just sign off as Lori J. Paul, AACP and get back to work!

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For a limited time the ABA is offering free membership. For more information, see http://bit.ly/6TdO6h

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