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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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John Parker, a paralegal in Hempstead, NY, has been facing tough times since paid with a fraudulent check when he worked as a security guard for what he thought was a friend. This story caught my eye and I had to share it. 

John took a part-time job during the Summer of 2010 to help supplement his income as a paralegal when his new son was born. Seems the check he received was fraudulent, unbeknownst to him. He used the $4,600 paycheck earned over the summer to pay bills and school supplies for his daughter from another relationship.

The bank contacted him about the check but he was unable to pay it back right away and then the police showed up at his work to arrest him. His then employer helped him out by paying the money back to the bank and John paid semi-monthly payments to his boss to pay back the loan. John’s luck continued in a downward spiral and he eventually fell behind on his rent due to the high payments to his boss and eventually received an eviction notice. John managed to find another part-time job, but still was not able to catch up.

John eventually found F.E.G.S. Health and Human Services System, a beneficiary of UJA-Federation of New York, one of the seven agencies supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. This agency, along with his annual bonus from his paralegal job, helped John catch up on his rent and paid of the loan to his boss and then his landlord raised his rent.

When John received a rent increase he moved to a cheaper apartment and he learned in September that he and two co-workers were going to be laid off. Despite all of this, with the determination of all of us in this legal profession, John is determined to care for his children during these tough challenges even it it means he goes without food so that they do not.

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LOL Just divorced. And no, that's not my car.
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According to the Tennessee attorney general’s office, Charlene Carter was doing business as Carter’s Paralegal Service and allegedly advertised her legal services on Craigslist and through business cards and was providing divorces to consumers.  There was no mention of how many divorces were provided and if there were any problems or issues with these divorces in the article I read at WSMV.com.  Carter has agreed to pay restitution to customers who paid for legal services and has agreed to stop the alleged illegal activity, according to the attorney general’s office.

I don’t know what the rules for a paralegal in Tennessee are, but in California a paralegal cannot offer legal services to the public, even completing documents, without the direct supervision of an attorney unless the paralegal is a Legal Document Assistant, (LDA).  I would love to hear from Tennessee paralegals on what they can and cannot do as a paralegal and if they have LDA’s or a comparable.

California LDA’s can prepare documents at the direction of the consumer, they cannot give legal advice, and cannot tell you what to put into the forms or select the forms for you.  An LDA must be registered and bonded in their county.  The California Association of Legal Document Assistants has a pdf that explains the differences between the Paralegal and LDA.

So, next time you think about making an extra buck, remember, it’s not worth it!

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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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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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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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Thanks goes to Lynne DeVenny of Practical Paralegalism for sharing with us that NALS invites all legal support staffers, including legal secretaries, adminstrative assistants, legal assistants and paralegals to participate in its Legal Support Industry Survey at http://www.nals.org/ (under News).

I also took the survey and it is quick and easy and takes less than 2 minutes of your time.  NALS also has other great resources available.  If you haven’t already taken a look, take some time to do so.  You will be happy you did.

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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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Paralegal spends $1.25M for Pacific Palisades 3BD | BlockShopper Los Angeles.  Wow, really?  I want to work where this paralegal works!  I don’t know about you, but I wonder how anyone can afford a home right now, let alone one at $1.25 million.   All kidding aside, congratulations from one paralegal to another!

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