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Wow, this week has been a busy one for me personally and professionally.  In the area of law I am working in at this time, Family Law, it either becomes busy right before the holidays or extremely slow.  This year, it is crazy busy.  I don’t know why, but I have an idea it has to do with the economy.  Work has been keeping me so busy, that I haven’t had time to read my personal e-mail, until last night.

Imagine my surprise to find not one, but two e-mails from two separate sources announcing that my blog has been listed as one of their resources.  I am both proud and pleased to be mentioned with many of my favorite paralegal bloggers that I myself follow.  Rasmussen College offers some online degrees in Criminal Justice and you can find my mention here.  Paralegal.net offers information on many online paralegal schools as well as information regarding paralegal salary’s, job descriptions and much more.  You can find my mention here. I want to thank both Rasmussen and Paralegal.net for mentioning my blog.

Some of the other mentions are Lynne DeVenny, Daphne Drescher, Chere Estrin and Kim Walker.  I think I’m in good company, don’t you?  Oh, yes, and as to my Mom (who has said on many occasions), “I read your blog but I have no idea what most of it means”, I just want to say, someone out there does get it Mom, and it’s okay if you don’t, just keep reading because I need all the followers I can get!

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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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A former Herzing University student who was allegedly kicked out of its paralegal program is seeking $2 million in damages, claiming in part that he now suffers from unreasonable irritability.

Acting as his own attorney, De Rome A. Seals filed suit against Herzing Inc. Aug. 30 in federal court in New Orleans.  Seals accuses Herzing of failing to exercise due process in violation of his civil rights, cruel and unusual punishment, negligent infliction of mental and emotional distress, libel, defamation of character and extortion attempt.

He is asking for the monetary award for mental and emotional anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, aggravation of pre-existing illnesses, undue stress, homicidal/suicidal ideations, undue anxiety and heightened, unreasonable irritability.

The University claims that Seals obtained loans and grants improperly and that they had to repay the loans, therefore dropping him from classes and the Paralegal program.

Seals states he enrolled in the program in April 2009 and provided Herzing University copies of his academic transcripts, including copies of his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He says he was awarded Pell grants and student loans for the paralegal program.  Will be interesting to see where this goes, if anywhere.

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Paralegal Badge
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I had to write about the articles that keep popping up in my Google alerts regarding home study paralegals.  Today I received notice of an article written claiming Paralegal Home Study Advantages.  Two paragraphs in particular caught my eye, they read:

“In the present day, there has been a raise in the demand of the paralegal profession. The rise in demand of such courses has led to the introduction of the paralegal home study course.”  Really, where?  Today I read that another large firm in San Francisco laid off dozens of attorneys and paralegals.  This does not say there is a raise in the demand of the paralegal profession to me.

“The reasons behind not being able to physically attend the classes can range from the simple fact that they are far from their school of choice or they work during the day and would like to study in a homely environment in the evening. That is the only difference between home study and school study of paralegal course. One may think that the home study course is very disadvantageous but the fact is that it has advantages of its own.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to study in a “homely” environment, lol.  I love my home and I would resent it being called homely.  Now, my neighborhood maybe, but not my home!  This same paragraph infers that the only difference between home study and school study is that you don’t have to travel to school and that home study has many advantages.  It goes on to name the advantages, which, in my opinion are ridiculous.  While I admit when I went to the ABA approved college program that I graduated from, that it was tough working a 40-50 hour a week full-time job and going to school in the evenings and on weekends.  I had no life for 18 long months, but I loved every minute of going to school and interacting with others who felt as passionate as I did about what I had chosen to make my lifelong career.  I also had a family to care for and a home and a yard, which I managed to keep running quite well by myself, thank you very much.  (Could be why I am single now, I found out I can do it by myself and love it!)  Sorry, got off track, back to where I was going with this.

What this article and many others like it fail to say, is that taking a home study course does not prepare you for being a paralegal and I don’t know any attorneys (well, competent attorneys) who hire home study paralegals.  Actually, I did meet an attorney earlier this year who did hire a home study course paralegal (to save a few bucks) and while he was the nicest man, this “paralegal” had no clue what he was doing.  He wasn’t required to intern in a law office for the home study course, (I had to do 90 hours of internship and have an evaluation to get credit for that internship), he had no idea how to put documents together to go to court,  he didn’t know how to do an intake, didn’t know how to question a potential client, didn’t know how to, well, you get my drift.  This attorney eventually had to let this “paralegal” go due to a costly mistake made by this same nice man.

With the economy the way it is and many paralegals and attorneys being laid off, it irks me to read these articles about how great it can be taking the paralegal home study course.  These people are making money from people who have no clue how tough it is getting a job in the legal field right now.

Many paralegals with years of experience are struggling to find a decent paying job (friends and family of mine) and are being slapped in the face every day with employment adds offering only $12-$15 an hour for experienced paralegals here in California.  If you know California and our high cost of living, you know that this kind of money won’t even pay your rent, let alone put food on the table if you have a family.  So, if you know anyone who is thinking about taking one of these paralegal home study courses, please tell them to research online, talk to paralegals and attorneys about how tough it is right now to find work and help prevent them from throwing their money away on programs that don’t even guarantee that they will be hired.

If any of you reading this are working paralegals who took a home study course, I would love to hear from you, good or bad.  I always welcome comments, after all, I am a paralegal and I love a good discussion!

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I am honored to be named one of the Top 50 Criminal Justice Blogs for the content on my site!  There are several other Paralegals honored as well,  Practical Paralegalism, The Paralegal Mentor, The Empowered Paralegal, Paralegal Gateway Blog, Patti’s Paralegal Page, Paralegal How To, Paralegal Pie and The Estrin Report.  Be sure to check these blogs out if you haven’t already.

You can learn more about the Criminal Justice Degree School here.  

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Paralegal Badge

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Why is it important for California paralegals to keep a compliance log of their continuing legal education?

B & P § 6450 requires a paralegal every two years to certify completion of four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in legal ethics, and four hours of mandatory continuing legal education ineither general law or in an area of specialized law.

The courts are cracking down on attorneys who do not require their paralegals to meet the requirements of B&P § 6450.  There are a number of court cases where paralegal fees were denied or disallowed by the court because the paralegal failed to meet the requirements of § 6450.

The amendment to CRC Rule 7.703 clarifies that paralegals performing services for counsel for fiduciaries in decedents’ estates, conservatorships, and guardianships must satisfy the qualification and continuing education requirements of B&P 6450 for counsel to be eligible for compensation for paralegal services from the estate of decedents for the estate’s extraordinary legal services.


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Just in case you forgot or were off doing the fabulous work we all do everyday, today is California Paralegal Day!!!  Yes, you California Paralegals, you rock!   The San Francisco Paralegal Association is holding their 22nd Annual Celebration of California Paralegal Day at The Bar Association in San Francisco.

I won’t be able to attend, but from what I read on the SF Paralegal Associations website, the keynote speaker will be Michael P. Carbone, Esq. talking about the “Utilization of Paralegals.”  I am hoping that they post his speech so we can all hear how Mr. Carbone utilizes paralegals.

There will also be two hour long seminars, “Discovery, Litigation and ADR in General” and “Calendaring as a Risk Management Strategy” which will earn you Ethics and General MCLE credits.

They are also asking for items for the adopted Paralegals in IRAQ, so if you are one of the lucky ones attending today, please check out the flyer for more information on what they need.

Congratulations to all my Paralegal friends here in sunny California!

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Justice O\’Connor In case you missed this last year on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart speaks with Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor about what she learned on the bench and in law school. It sure shows what a great personality she has. We tend to forget in law that outside of the courtroom or the law office, we are all people with lives.

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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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