Dedicated to the progress and advancement of all paralegals.

Mentor Blog

Welcome to our mentor blog. Here you will find posts from
industry professionals on such topics as:
  • Resume & Cover Letter tips
  • Interview Tips
  • How to succeed at work
  • How to get a Mentor
  • What every Mentee should know
  • I lost my job. Now what?
  • Healthy habits
  • 29 Jan 2012 10:13 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    Certification: Which Credential Is Right for YOU?
    By Vicki Voisin, ACP

    In last week’s issue of Paralegal Strategies, I discussed the reasons why you should pursue certification.

    There are many choices for certification credentials, so today I’m focusing on how to choose the one that is right for you. This is a very personal decision.

    Choices:  National paralegal associations provide certification examinations (ie NALA, NFPA, NALS).There are also several levels of examination, which provide you with the opportunity to obtain basic certification and then move on to more advanced certification. For instance:

    NALS offers

    • ALS ~ Accredited Legal Secretary
    • PLS ~ Professional Legal Secretary
    • PP ~ Professional Paralegal and
    • The Specialty Certificate Program

    NFPA offers

    • RP ~ Pace Registered Competency Exam
    • CRP ~ Paralegal CORE Competency Exam

    NALA Offers

    • CLA/CP ~ Certified Paralegal
    • ACP ~ Advanced Certified Paralegal (choose from 19 ACP designations)

    In addition to the national associations, there are voluntary certification programs offered by some states...examples are Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky and Florida (there are others!). And even some cities: in Houston you can become a Professional Houston Paralegal (PHP).

    All have different structures and eligibility requirements, as well as different continuing education and re-certification requirements.

    The credentialing organization you choose must be a bona fide entity. A certification examination is not something that is thrown up overnight. This process takes a great deal of planning. Further, there are standards for certification exams. It is crucial that

    • the organization prepares an examination under the guidance of professional testing consultants,
    • the exam be continually reviewed for accuracy, and that it be updated on a regular basis.
    • the exam be administered under rules and regulations in accordance with governmental acts and with such issues as anti-trust and fairness. 
    • the organization agrees to keep applications and records confidential

    Now that you understand some of the things to look for in a certifying entity, there are some things to think about that relate just to you:

    • Which credential is most recognized in the area where you live?
    • Which credential will be of most use to you in your work? For example, if you focus on litigation, you probably would not pursue certification in bankruptcy.
    • Will you have adequate study support? Is there a study group available through your local association? Does the national association provide a study course?
    • What expenses are involved? Be sure to consider whether you have to travel to take the exam and what study materials you need to purchase

    There are some wrong reasons, too:

    • Do not look for easy. If certification were simple, everyone would have the credential. You want your credential to set you apart, to say that you are special.
    • You're not doing this for an increase in pay. While a nice raise may be a result of certification, you cannot depend on it. Instead, pursue certification for your own satisfaction and, remember, it may help you get a new job down the road.

    Your challenge: If you already have a professional credential, congratulations! If you don't, please put that at the top of your list of professional goals and start thinking right now about which credential would be right for you.

    ==========================
    © 2012 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

    Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determini ng 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 Paralegal Strategies, a weekly e-newsletter for paralegals, and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.

    More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com where subscribers receive Vicki's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.

  • 08 Jan 2012 8:32 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    by Charles Sipe on June 10, 2011

    We asked leaders in the paralegal profession to share the best career advice that they have ever received. To find their responses, visit:

    http://www.criminaljusticedegreeschools.com/best-paralegal-career-advice/

  • 02 Jan 2012 9:52 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

      New Year...Fresh Start
                                                          Vicki Voisin, ACP



    As 2011 ends and 2012 begins, it's tempting to make resolutions for the New Year. Organize your office? Increase your billable hours? Lose weight? Be on time for work? Sit for a certification exam?

    Whatever you have in mind, read on...
    It's common knowledge that resolutions rarely work
    . All those good intentions seem to fall by the wayside by the middle of January...all that's left are guilt and regret that once again you're not able to keep your resolutions. By next December you'll be making the same resolutions all over again.
     
    It's time to change the pattern. Resolutions don't work because they're usually a very broad st atement: This year I'll lose 20 pounds. This year I'll learn to speak French. This year I'll look for a new job. You've got the want down...you know what you want to do. The problem is, you're only looking at the big picture.
     
    Instead of making resolutions, set goals. A goal is something you commit to fully and work toward all year long. Take a few minutes right now to visualize your top three goals for 2012. Then write those goals down on a paper.
     
    Make a plan. Once your goals are set, decide what you have to do to reach each one and then plan each step toward your goal from beginning to end. For instance, if you want to learn French this year your first step might to be to search for a class. The next step might be to enroll in the class. The next step mig ht be to buy your your study materials. The next steps would be to attend each class and do your homework.
     
    Do you see how each step you take helps you reach your end goal? This process will work for any goal you might want to reach.
     
    Take this one step further. Schedule each step in your planner...make an actual appointment. This ensures you will set aside the time to accomplish each step. Don't make the mistake of putting the steps on 'to do' lists because a 'to do' list is just a wish list and you will invariably run out of day before you run out of list. The 'to do' list just goes on and on. Your planner is a real guide for accomplishing your goals.
     
    Your challenge:</> Plan to make 2012 your best year ever. Take a few minutes to set your goals. Break the goals down into achievable mini-goals. Decide when each mini-goal must be accomplished to reach the main goal by the end of the year. Enter those mini-goals in your planner. Make appointments with yourself for completing each one.
     
    If you do your planning and then do your scheduling, you can accomplish absolutely anything you want and this time next year you'll be celebrating the fact that you actually reached your goals.

    Here's to out with the old...in with the new...to a new year and a fresh start. Happy New Year!
     
    ==========================
    © 2011 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

    Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting 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 Paralegal Strategies, a weekly e-newsletter for paralegals, and co-hosts T he Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.
    More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com where subscribers receive Vicki's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.

     

    Do visit www.paralegalmentor.com where new subscribers can access the special report titled "Is Your Computer Talking Behind Your Back'" This report is available at no cost and offers inside information on how the careless use of technology can result in the disclosure of confidential client information and/or privileged documents and information.

    The Paralegal Mentor Blog is now available. I'll be looking forward to your comments as I post more information and pictures there.

      

    Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting 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. Information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com

    She also co-hosts a monthly podcast on Legal Talk Network (www.legaltalknetwork.com).

    Vicki Voisin, Inc.
    PO Box 743
    Charlevoix, MI 49720
    support@paralegalmentor.com
    www.paralegalmentor.com

  • 02 Oct 2011 9:37 AM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    Where are your old work horses?
    Don't put them out to pasture! Make them leaders for life.
    By: Vicki Voisin, ACP

     
    Where do the officers of your association go when their terms of office are completed?

    Are they turned out to pasture like these old horses, simply roaming free and no longer concerned with the future of the association?

    You may think your past officers have earned the right to roam free, but what they have really earned is the privilege of not working quite so hard.

    These past leaders remain vital to the continuity of the association. Their leadership skills, talent and expertise are needed to keep your association moving forward.

    Instead of squandering all that knowledge and experience, harness those old horses and bring them back to the barn. Appoint them Leaders for Life and keep them involved.

    This doesn't mean the past leaders should be circulated back through the chairs, though. Your association will fold if the same old horses keep on doing all the work.

    How should you use your Leaders for Life? This is simple. Tell them how valuable they are to your association and ask them what they'd be willing to do. You'll be pleasantly surprised that they're not exactly happy out in the pasture and are willing to help in any way they can.

    Here are some excellent ways to use the talents of your Leaders for Life:

    • Planning meetings and educational events. Past leaders are pros at planning and they usually have the connections to draw upon to make your conventions a smashing success.
    • Speakers. Past leaders usually have a wealth of professional knowledge and experience and make excellent speakers for your seminars.
    • Ad Hoc Committees. Do you have a short term issue that needs to be handled? Appoint the past officers.
    • Special Committees. Past officers make excellent members of special committees, such as those for scholarships and awards.
    • Liaisons. Appoint the past officers liaisons to special groups, such as the bar association and paralegal schools.
    • Officer orientation. Past officers have extremely valuable experience and knowledge, not to mention their finely honed leadership skills. Bring them in to share this with the new officers as they're taking the reins.
    • Mentors. The experiences of the past offices, as well as their tactful counsel, make excellent mentors for current and upcoming leaders.
    • Certification review courses or other certification-related issues. Your past leaders have "been there, done that" so they are perfect candidates for leading review courses and they're also great cheerleaders for those who are seeking certification. Their history makes them perfect choices when your association has certification-related issues.

    There are also tips for the Leaders for Life who have been corralled:

    • Become a member of the team. Let them know you will help and assist any way you can. Be available when they need you.
    • Become a steady resource. Nurture, encourage and empower the members and officers. Be sure they're comfortable asking for your advice and direction but don't insist that they do everything your way.
    • Be gracious. You may not always agree with the new leaders, but allow them to forge their own future. Don't say "we did it this way" or "our way was better". Times do change...they need to change...and the 'old way' may not be the best way any longer.
    • Give only what you can. You may not have the time or the energy you once had. That's OK because you can help on many levels. Anything you do for the association is needed and will be appreciated.
    • Be miserly with your criticism and lavish with your praise. Leaders for Life boost members' self-esteem and help them reach their full potential. This is how future Leaders for Life get their training.
    • Set a good example. The members and current officers will learn from your style and your grace.
    • Try not to serve on the Board again. If it becomes necessary for you to take a Board position, do your job without taking over. Let the new leaders have the limelight.

    Former officers and board members should not simply sit back and let the newer members fend for themselves. While their terms of office are over, they are still leaders of the association and the profession. Their knowledge and expertise, as well as the history they share, are still very much needed. It's up to the current leaders and members recognize their value, invite them back, make them useful, and insist that they be Leaders for Life.

    ==============================

    © 2011 Vicki Voisin, Inc.
    Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting 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 Paralegal Strategies, a weekly e-newsletter for paralegals, and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.

    More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com where subscribers receive Vicki's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.


     

     

  • 11 Sep 2011 10:05 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    This article was reprinted with permission from The Paralegal Society
    a forum created to educate, motivate and inspire paralegals.
    Be sure to check it out at:
    www.theparalegalsociety.wordpress.com!

    As a mentor and President of New York City Paralegal Association, I am often approached by members and non-member of our association with a request to assist to find a job or, at least, an internship. They tell me that they sent dozens of resumes weekly and didn’t receive even a single phone call in return. They blame economy, greedy employers or lazy agents, their decision to become a paralegal and even the time of the day and weather conditions.

    My first question to them is always the same: “Can I see your resume?” Some responded “oh, my resume is perfect” and others say “my resume was professionally prepared” or an even better one: “I used it 20 years ago and got a job at a first shot.” I believe all of you, but another pair of eyes never hurts. You will be surprised at what people call a “perfect” or “professionally prepared” resume. And forget about those resumes that landed you a job in the last century. 

    There are so many reasons for lack of response from prospective employers that following a few simple steps and avoiding some common mistakes will leave your wondering of why you didn’t think about them before hand. Your resume is your first and foremost marketing tool. It is your PR representative and you want it to look the best.

    So, if you are ready, let’s look at some mistakes that candidates make on their resumes:

    It is all about me: wrong. Remember, it is not about you or that you need a job – it is about the prospective employer and their business. Your summary should reflect what they are looking for, not that you are looking for. Instead of “looking for a paralegal position where I can professionally grow,” think about how the employer can benefit from hiring you by showing them that your education and experience will save them money, streamline process and bring value to the company.  However, don’t make your summary too long ever. In the best case, nobody will read it. In the worst case, it will be the end of your application process.

    Remember, employers and agents review hundreds of resumes a day and you have only 10 seconds to grab their attention. Your summary should be written around the specific needs of the employer, but, if it won’t be read, it shouldn’t squash your resume.  Avoid that generic “paralegal school graduate looking for an entry level position,” summary tagline, even if you graduated with 4.0 GPA and your school is the cherry on the top on the paralegal sundae. If you won’t be looking, why do you need to prepare your resume in the first place?

    I have a lot of experience: do you really want to list them all? Chances are that if your resume is more than one page, nobody will read past first one. (I heard from many agents that two pages are ok, but I am a strict stickler to one page only). Once, I saw five pages resume where a candidate spelled out all her jobs starting from a high school assistant to a cheerleader (huh? An assistant to a cheerleader?) and had held about 25 jobs in the past 35 years. There are many problems with listing all of them. First of all, her experience as an assistant to a cheerleader 35 years ago is irrelevant to the position of paralegal in that multinational law corporation she is dreaming about. Secondly, she just showed her age. Yes, I know, it is illegal to discriminate by age, but…for an entry level paralegal, they can find a young fellow with a college degree, don’t they? The next turn-off point: was she a job-hopper?

    SO, what is the best option? Keep it short. Instead of a chronological resume, use a functional one. List the last 10 to 15 years of your experience and, if possible, combine your jobs. For example, one of members told me that her company merged three times and she survived all merges. She listed all of companies separately and it looked like she changed her jobs three times. In reality, she worked for a company for more than 10 years, growing from an entry level paralegal to an office manager. The solution: combine them all as “ABC Law Office formerly CBA Law Office; firm merged with Law Office of AAA in December 1999.”

    But what about my age? If you don’t bring it up on your resume, nobody will penalize you for it. Your first job is to get that interview, isn’t it?

    I have a degree in anthropology and paralegal certificate. I will list my BS in anthropology first: wrong. Are you applying for a position in a museum of natural history or for a paralegal gig? List your most relevant degree first. If you have a high GPA – don’t forget to add it. AND if you graduated from an ABA-approved program – make it visible.  

    I don’t have a real life experience. I only volunteered in the court. Was that court a fake one? Didn’t you assist attorneys, judges, claimants and court personnel? Or did you just sit in a chair and read your favorite magazine a whole time? Nobody asks you to list your salary on a resume. You need to show your experience not how much you earned. Assisting in the court is your experience. Participating in pro bono clinics run by your college, local paralegal association or Bar association is your experience. List them all in the proper form and order.

    I don’t need to proofread my resume. English is my first language. English is not my first language and I am not prone to misspelling words. I don’t need to spell out here that some words can’t be picked up by a spellchecker as they were spelled correctly, but misused. Somehow, I see someone’s mistakes faster when my own. The employer has the same if not better “magic” vision for all your misspelled words, grammatically incorrect structures and missed comas and periods at the end of sentences. Proofread it! Have someone else proofread it! Period. 

    I have a great resume that I send out as my response to all open positions. Really? I don’t believe that there is a “one size fits all” resume, as I don’t believe that aspirin is the best medicine (but I do believe that chicken soup is a magic elixir)!  I believe that if your resume clearly matches the needs of the employer, you will get that long awaited phone call or e-mail. If you don’t customize your resume each and every time you are sending it out (and your cover letter too – but this is a part of a different story), you have lost your “elevator pitch” – that ten second window when you actually had a chance to grab an employer’s attention. The employer has moved on to another one already…

    I like to knit and hike. Great! But does your future employer really looking for your hand knitted pair of mittens or that you hiked Himalayans Mountains last summer? It would be a great addition to a “water cooler” talk when you are hired, but keep it off your resume, please. However, if you are a member of a professional association or have awards, don’t forget to list them. Just don’t keep them on the top of your resume. They belong next to your skills…that brings me to the last, but not the least crucial mistake that some make on their resume.

    I am hardworking multitasking team player that works well under the pressure. Excellent! We need people like you, but keep those skills for your cover letter and interview. We are talking about your technical skills here: knowledge of software and research engines (Microsoft Office, Lexis-Nexis, Westlaw, etc.), some other field specific programs and another language. Just remember: fluent in language means “fluent.”  If you understand the “kitchen talk,” but can’t translate a document or assist during the meeting with a client undefined you are not fluent. You can list it as “some conversational” language if you think it will assist you.

    There are many, more points that can make or break your resume, and I will bring them up to you under separate cover (yes…please look forward to another fabulous article authored by yours truly in the future).

    However, there is one key piece of advice that I would like to emphasize prior to us parting ways: “Don’t lie!!!” Never, ever, ever lie on your resume! If you didn’t graduate, don’t say “graduated.” You can list the name of the school and number of credits. If you worked for two months, don’t stretch them to one year. It is better to have a two month gap on your resume. Remember: all information can be verified. Think twice!

    Good luck and looking forward to hear from you!

    © The Paralegal Society – All Rights Reserved – Reprinted with Permission

    This article was first posted at http://theparalegalsociety.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/are-you-sure-you-have-a-winning-resume/

  • 28 Jul 2011 9:10 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    12 Career Lessons from the Garden

    By: Vicki Voisin, ACP


    As I was working in my garden this past weekend...digging, weeding, planting and transplanting...I noticed the parallels between all the flowers and a paralegal career.

    There are lessons to be learned from the soil and the plants:

    1. A successful garden involves careful planning and consistent action, as well as dreams and anticipation. Gardens don't grow and flourish without a little help from a skillful, attentive gardener who thinks about what will grow best, plans for successful results, dreams of a bountiful harvest, and looks forward with anticipation to the good results.

    Your career requires the same planning for the future, dreams of what your career should look like, the knowledge that the steps you take today will impact your future, and consistent action to bring your dreams to fruition.

    All of the flowers of tomorrow are the seeds of yesterday.
    ~Proverb

    2. Regular maintenance is essential. Just as gardens require regular, ongoing maintenance such as weeding and feeding, so does your paralegal career. Your career's "regular, ongoing maintenance" should include continuing legal education, particularly ethics education, reading Lawyer's Weekly and your State Bar's publication so you're on top of case law and changes in court rules, and attending live meetings and conventions...for two purposes: learning and networking.

    3. The growing process can't be rushed. Every plant begins small and takes the season, sometimes several seasons, to reach its full potential. A paralegal career develops over time...and usually slowly... beginning with education, then a job, and then all of the experience and experiences necessary to reach your full potential. Be patient but be sure you working on your career growth every day.

    Growth takes time. Be patient. And while you're waiting, pull a weed.
    ~Emilie Barnes

    4. Put down roots. The deeper a plant's roots, the more stable it becomes and the more nutrients it can reach. Your paralegal career needs the roots you put down when you join local, state and national associations. Beyond joining, though, become involved and your "roots" will reach all the nutrients you need for career growth and satisfaction.

    5. Nourishment is required. Gardens need just the right amount of water and sunshine to nourish the plants. Your career also requires nourishment...you can't stop in your tracks once you get your first job or your career will wilt on the vine.

    Taking a certification examination is the best nourishment for your career. This will demonstrate your skills and expertise and set you apart from paralegals that fail to nourish their careers.

    6. Stretch! Tiny plants are drawn out of their comfort zone by the sunshine as they grow and thrive. Take the time to "stretch" in your career. If you stay in the same place forever, if you don't reach toward the sunshine and take a few chances, your career will be stale. Growth is good!

    Every gardener knows under the cloak of winter lies a miracle...
    a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to light, a bud straining to unfurl.
    And the anticipation nurtures our dreams.

    ~Barbara Winkler

    7. Make the most of a difficult situation. Flowers deal with inclement weather, nasty weeds, poor soil, and persistent insects, yet they grow and flourish. Like flowers, paralegals may not always have ideal working conditions. There may be difficult co-workers, endless responsibilities, impossible deadlines, etc.

    To flourish in your career, end your arguments with reality and look for ways to deal with...and overcome...those difficult conditions and obstacles. When you do, your career will thrive and to grow.

    The fair-weather gardener, who will do nothing except when the wind
    and weather and everything else are favorable, is never master of his craft.

    ~ Henry Ellacomb

    8. Create a network. A single Daffodil doesn't attract much attention. A bed of Daffodils makes a dramatic statement. The same goes for paralegals.

    If you isolate yourself, you might think no one else understands your challenges or has the same issues as you. When you join other paralegals...either in person or online...you'll impact the direction of both your career and the profession.

    9. Pay attention to your instincts. Plants seem to know when to grow and when to take a rest for the winter. Paralegals need to pay attention to their instincts so they recognize industry trends and hot specialty areas to position themselves to take advantage of change.

    Reviewing salary surveys, subscribing to legal blogs, and reading journals from professional associations, such as NALA's Facts & Findings, the NALS Docket, or NFPA's National Paralegal Reporter, can accomplish this.

    One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.
    ~W.E. Johns, The Passing Show

    10. Transplanting can have big results. The Peonies in my garden grew so large that they were bursting out of their space so I moved them to a new area and they're thriving. Your career may need a 'transplant' to a new locale...either a new specialty area or even a new work environment...so that it continues to thrive. If there is no 'transplant', your career could become root bound and stop growing altogether.

    11. Sharing brings great rewards. When flowers and plants are shared with others, the joy is spread to many. When paralegals share their knowledge and expertise with their peers and with those who are new to the profession, they experience personal growth and they ensure the continued success of the profession.

    12. Perennials are committed to the long haul. There are two types of flowers: annuals and perennials. Annuals put on a show for one season but perennials return year after year and grow stronger over time.

    Paralegals who plan to be 'perennials' have vision and understand it takes time for a career to take root. They know that the steps they take today will impact their career tomorrow.

    Gardens require hard work, planning and constant attention. Ignore them and weeds will take over. Nurture them and you'll be rewarded with beautiful flowers. Your career is your garden. You have the talent and ability to survive and to thrive, to produce a career that is beautiful and satisfying. Will you choose flowers or weeds?

    The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are
    always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied.
    They always look forward to doing something better
    than they have ever done before.

    ~Vita Sackville-West

    Your Challenge: Follow these 12 lessons to establish a flourishing paralegal career.

    ==============================

    © 2011 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

    Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting 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 Paralegal Strategies, a weekly enewsletter for paralegals and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.

    More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com where subscribers receive Vicki's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.

  • 19 Jun 2011 11:13 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    Click the link to read an article on HOW DO YOU BECOME A LEADER shared by Cindy Welch, RP, Director, Region II. Your involvement with the Association will let you network with your piers, grow professionally and personally, give to the community and enhance your resume. Why wait?

  • 19 May 2011 7:41 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    I would like to share with you an article written by Jamie Collins and published in the IPE monthly newsletter. Click the link to read about Top Ten Pointers for New Paralegals: Climbing the Paralegal Ladder.

    Please feel free to subscribe by sending e-mail to ipefeedback@nbi-sems.com.

     

  • 28 Apr 2011 3:53 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    Office Politics? Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil!

    By Vicki Voisin, ACP

    Office Politics – strategies people use to achieve personal advantage -- are a fact of life. Some are “good” and some are “bad”.

    When thought of as “bad” office politics, reference is to the tactics people use for their advantage at the expense of others, adversely affecting the work environment and relationships. “Good” office politics help you promote yourself.

    You may hate them, but like it or not, you need to learn to handle office politics well to ensure your career success. If you refuse to deal with the 'bad politics' churning around you, your career may suffer as others take unfair advantage. If you avoid practicing 'good politics', you may miss opportunities to promote and advance your career.

    Office politics may be compared to navigating a minefield. To deal with them effectively, you must accept the reality that they exist and then develop tactics to deal with them. The “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” approach is best. Here are some tips to help you survive:

    Hear No Evil

    Disregard Biased Comments. Negative feelings about a co-worker often result from something another co-worker says. Don’t pay attention to biased comments. Instead, get to know your co-workers and form your own opinions. Once you know someone well and understand what motivates them, you may find they’re not so bad after all.

    Don’t hold a grudge.  Anger toward a co-worker only serves to adversely affect your work. Instead of bottling up your anger and risking an emotional explosion, take steps to diffuse the crisis regardless of who may be at fault. Once the problem is resolved let go of your anger -- treat the problem as history and move on.

    See No Evil.

    Observe your co-workers. It’s always helpful to know where other people stand. Take some time to observe your co-workers and assess their political power. Who are the real influencers? Are there groups or cliques? Who gets along with whom? Who are the chronic complainers and crisis seekers?

    Build relationships that with peers as well as bosses. Be part of multiple networks so you can keep your finger on the pulse of the firm. Get to know politically powerful people in the firm or company. Build relationships with them but never fear them. Be friendly with everyone but don’t align yourself with one group or another.

    Speak No Evil.

    Treat everyone with respect and kindness. No matter how upset you are about something or how upset you are with a co-worker or client, keep your comments to yourself, put on a smile and greet them warmly.

    Avoid joining with voices that criticize your boss, the firm or the company. Never complain to a client or anyone outside the firm about internal conflicts. This only sheds a bad light on everyone, especially you. 

    Don’t be boastful.  Co-workers perceive you as bragging, you may have a label you don’t want. It’s best to let your work speak for itself or let somebody else do the bragging for you. Of course, it does no harm to point out to your boss what you have contributed and achieved beyond the call of duty. If you make a mistake, admit it and fix it...don't blame it on someone else.

    Beware – ultimatums may be very dangerous.  Before you rush to a manager and lay down an ultimatum, consider what the results might be. If you get someone fired, you may pay a steep price with your co-workers. If you are ignored and nothing is done, you are no further ahead and you’ve made it known that you are so unhappy you’re ready to leave the firm. When and if you decide to take your problems to a manager, always be able to offer constructive solutions.

    Additional Steps You Should Take.

    Concentrate on your work. Be the best at what you do, no matter the size of the job, and always leave your mark of excellence on your work. Be punctual, meet deadlines and follow the rules (written or unwritten) of the firm or company. Become an expert (the go-to person) in at least one area. Watch for trends in the industry. Always be learning new systems and software. 

    You may have to make a change. If the chaos of office politics becomes too difficult to handle, you may have to request a transfer or decide that another job is the best route for you. Do not wait until you are completely broken down to do this. Know the danger signs and when it’s time to quit. If at all possible, land the new job before letting go of the current one.

    There’s a saying that you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. This certainly applies to office politics. Always weigh your options. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Be patient. Be open to new opportunities.

    When you learn to deal with office politics, you will regain your self-confidence and enjoy your work more. You’re a winner!


    Do visit www.paralegalmentor.com where new subscribers can access the special report titled "Is Your Computer Talking Behind Your Back'" This report is available at no cost and offers inside information on how the careless use of technology can result in the disclosure of confidential client information and/or privileged documents and information.

    The Paralegal Mentor Blog is now available. I'll be looking forward to your comments as I post more information and pictures there.

      

    Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting 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. Information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com

    She also co-hosts a monthly podcast on Legal Talk Network (www.legaltalknetwork.com).

    You may absolutely share this newsletter with people you think might enjoy it. When doing so, please forward it in its entirety, including the contact and copyright information. Thanks and enjoy!

  • 04 Apr 2011 12:28 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    By Gloria Koss, ServeNow.com

    Communication skills are something that come to us, as sociable beings, somewhat naturally. While communication can be easier for some than others, it is an important skill set to manage because those who can communicate well are in high demand in the workforce. Paralegals who have a firm grasp of these skills not only invite new employment opportunities for themselves, they can also further cement themselves in a position they currently hold and enjoy.

    For those not as skilled as they would like to be in the art of communication, some very simple tips can immediately begin improving how you interact with attorneys, clients and other professionals around the office.

    The importance of communication for paralegals
    The National Associate of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently released a study conducted to discover the most desirable skills that employers sought in potential employees. These same desires apply to existing employees, especially in the legal profession. What was at the very top of their list? Communication skills. That’s right, a good communicator is more desirable to employers than those with sharp analytical skills, good team players, those with sharp technical abilities, and even individuals with a solid work ethic. What types of skills fall into this most-wanted category, and why are they so important?

    Obviously, communicating means the ability to effectively transfer information to other individuals. More specifically, there are three general types of communication skills: expressive, listening, and overall management. Body language, facial expression, and word choice all fall into the category of expression. Being able to absorb information through hearing falls into listening, and works in close conjunction with expressive skills. These skills work together to gather spoken information and then relay it to the area that interprets the information in conjunction with the speaker’s body language and facial expression. The overall management function then brings the entire experience into one melting pot, which allows the individual to interpret the encounter and react appropriately to it.

    On the surface, these functions manifest themselves in individuals who are effective public speakers, those who can produce high-quality written presentations and communications, and those who conduct themselves with grace in the courtroom, in meetings, or with clients. Superficially, it seems like something we do naturally, almost unconsciously. However, as with every other aspect of life, there are always some who do it more effectively than others, and those individuals are more likely to get the coveted position you are competing for. Why is that?

    Employers want to hire effective communicators because they want people who can present their firm as the most professional, educated, and capable to their clients. Clear and concise communication, whether written or verbal, does that. Employers also state that paralegals who are great communicators reduce confusion, stress, and errors in the workplace. Also, while this skill set is the most desired by employers, they also state that it is the rarest. With that said, how do we make sure we are showing top-notch communication skills in the office?

    1) Be a contributor
    Show your interest in your firm by contributing at meetings or other times when feedback is solicited. By taking an active role, not only do you ooze confidence, you show your co-workers and bosses that you are invested in your job. Weekly firm meetings can sometimes be tedious, but participating early on shows your bosses and co-workers that you take your position seriously and can contribute to the overall success of the firm. Speaking up in the first third of the meeting shows you are eager, but willing to let others speak first.

    2) Radiate confidence
    Many times when we are trying to be polite we actually undermine our credibility or emanate a lack of confidence. Look others in the eye when speaking to them or when they speak to you. Hold their gaze, as being the first to drop eye contact can sometimes be seen as submission.

    Also, when speaking and writing, choose your words carefully. Avoid beginning sentences with words such as “I could be wrong …,” “I could be forgetting something …,” or other defensive signal phrases because they undermine you as an individual. Avoid ending statements with “OK?” or “don’t you agree?” because these words can make it appear that you are seeking the approval of others or are otherwise unsure of your decisions or statements. By making better word choices paralegals can project an air of confidence and professionalism to those around them in the workplace, instilling a reciprocal sense of worthiness in the eyes of those around them.

    3) Look prepared, even when you’re not
    When arriving for or sitting through meetings, avoid fidgeting, shifting your eyes frequently, and making other types of harried movements, as they make you appear unprepared. The fewer movements you make, the stronger the message you send others that you are cool, calm, collected, and in control. Numerous shifty or fidgety movements indicate exactly the opposite; you can appear nervous, uncertain, or otherwise project a negative image to your co-workers and clients, making them question your ability to manage the situation at hand.

    4) Make the most of small talk
    Being able to talk with co-workers, bosses, and clients comfortably projects respect, confidence, and professionalism in the workplace. Take an interest in those around you and use tidbits of information to your advantage. For instance, remembering that a client has a grandson in kindergarten and asking a question about him while you wait with that client in the hallway for your case to be called not only makes you appear more personable and caring, it can also help to calm nerves in otherwise unpleasant circumstances.

    Gloria Koss is a former paralegal and a staff writer for ServeNow.com, a trusted network of local, pre-screened process servers. ServeNow.com also offers ServeManager - a web-based software to help legal professionals assign, track and manage service of process all in one place. Learn more at
    www.ServeNow.com or www.ServeManager.com.

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