Promoting Others in the Field and Other Changes on the Blog


I know it’s been a long time since I got on here and chatted with you all.  My days at the office have been really long and by the time I get home the last thing I want to do is turn on my computer again and write more.  Most nights I feel like I don’t even have the brain power to put a coherent sentence together much less a whole new article.

I have been working with some of my readers to put together a series of writings by you, the readers.  In a few weeks there will be an article posted written by a paralegal at a law firm in Florida.  My goal with this blog has always been to promote the profession and the professionals.  As paralegals, we can use all the help we can get to tell others about us and about what we do.  So, if you want to be featured and and tell others about you, what you do, what you like or not like about the profession, please send me an article and we can work together to highlight you and your achievements.

This blog is written for you and now it’s also written by you.  I’m super excited about this new series and look forward to learning about each and every one of my readers.

Thank you all so much for your support all these years and for you patience when life gets the best of me and I go missing for a few months.  I will try to be better but right now I’m not sure I can promise an article every day.

Another thing I’m thinking about is to do a new feature about how manage my time, plan my day and organize my crazy busy life.  Between my fundraising (I am currently working on a non-profit for women and girls), my day job (working at the legal department of the financial firm), my personal life (which honestly has taken a back seat) and this blog (which is so far list) and my planner creations (I’m a paper person and I really love planners and planner functional decorations) I have a lot of balls up in the air.  Sometimes things fall through the cracks and I’ve learned that I cannot beat myself up for allowing that to happen once in a while.  All I can do is make sure that when I do something I do it well and I’m providing a benefit to someone.  If I can accomplish that I declare it a win.

So, the next couple of weeks you will some changes, some additions in the format of the posts and maybe some added pages to encompass all these areas of my life in one spot.  I think that will make it easier.  I will ensure that I keep them all in separate categories so as to not make you read things you are not interested in reading.

Looking forward to being back more often and engaging with you all more one on one basis.  I do hope you get involved.

Thank you

Ana

Paralegals – How to Organize a File


1*p-HJnx7RhYGpKgTW0lcwEg

Being organized is one of the things paralegals are called upon to do well.  We have to be able to find all things at a moment’s notice.  So to have a place for everything and everything in it’s place is a must for all of us.  In the  February Newsletter  I am starting a “Being and Staying Organized” series so make sure you sign up for more tips and tricks.

Most offices where you will be working or are currently working, have file cabinets labeled from A – Z along a wall in the hallway or sometimes inside a file room.  I even worked in an office where each paralegal kept a file cabinet in his/her own office with the files they handled.  The file cabinets are filled to the brim with large files which are also known as red wells,  in alphabetical order, by client name.  This is usually consistent across the industry and good thing too, because it makes it easy for everyone to know how to find the files and most of the time, unless the filing gets backed up, how to find the documents needed within a particular file.

Unknown

A red well is a large cardboard folder/pocket where you keep all the STUFF that goes along with a particular subject matter.  Think of a folder that you carry with you in school where you store all the syllabus and documents you receive from the professor.  When you open up a red well, you should be able to quickly find all the paper which relates to the subject matter you’re working on…. In the case of a paralegal in a law firm the red well should contain all the documents relating to a particular client.  Making sure these “pockets” the red wells stay organized and up to date is your job in most law firms.  A great way to ensure you are not going to get a call on your day off when your attorney or the paralegal taking over for you while you’re on vacation need to find something is to keep these files up to date and organized.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are things that never change from file to file.  Meaning that no matter where you’re working or what type of law you practice, there are things that you will always be able to find in a file.  However, there are nuances about filing systems that each law firm will have and to which you will have to adapt but those will be, or at least should be, part of your on-boarding and therefore nothing for you to have to worry about right now.

A typical file will have the following contents:

1. Correspondence folder
2. Notes folder
3. Memos folder

Then, depending on the type of law you practice, there will be other folders with which you will have to be familiar.    For example if you practice litigation you will need a pleadings folder, a motions folder.  Personally I like to have a folder for each motion – I will explain this in detail during my upcoming Paralegal Master Class  in a few short months.  For now feel free to subscribe to the Newsletter and I’ll make sure you get all the updates regarding the newsletter and my upcoming Paralegal Master Class.

Let’s put aside the type of law you practice and let’s instead look at the typical file, which is half the battle.

Correspondence Folder

I like to keep this file in chronological order starting at the bottom.  Eventually, you will probably have more than one correspondence folder so I like to number them “Correspondence 1 (date from – date to)” and then start a “Correspondence 2 (also with the dates).”  This helps me make sure that when I’m looking for something within a particular date range, I don’t have to pull all the files out of the red wells.  I can go to the one that I’m looking for and search in there.  Also, the reason I like to keep the oldest correspondence at the bottom is because more often than not the stuff you will be looking for is not going to be super old so it’s just easier to flip through less pages.

So what do I consider correspondence?  Anything that is a communication from one party to another.  Not sure letters from the client to you or from the experts or the court.  I consider anything that communicates one party’s actions to another party to be communication.  See my February Newsletter for reasons further tips.

The Notes Folder

This folder is pretty self explanatory.  Here you should keep anything that relates to any notes you take.  Who knows, you may be reviewing a report from an expert and find something that you think may lead you to something you want to add to an interrogatory question. Write it down and put it in the notes folder.  Make sure you add the date on the note and, again, file everything in chronological order.  Maybe even put a little tab sticking out so you can be reminded when drafting your interrogatories.

Did you just sit down with the lawyer to talk through some ideas and strategies about this particular file?  Make sure that once you get back to your desk you take out your notes and clean them up and insert them in the notes file, again with the date so you can be reminded.  I also use these notes to create my to-do lists on the various files.

Did you just get a call from an expert or from a witness and wrote down some notes?  Make sure you insert the date and put in the notes file…. You get the idea….. Any time you create a note, make sure you add the date and put it in the notes file.

See my February Newsletter for more information and tips on Notes Files

Memos Folder

Sometimes things that we do generate memos. For example, if you attend a deposition with the lawyer you will probably be asked to summarize your thoughts and what happened in the deposition so that the lawyer can get a view from a different perspective.  Most of the time that’s why paralegals attend depositions.  As someone who does not have to be asking the questions, the paralegal is able to see things that lawyers may not see because they are busy asking the questions and trying to follow up with another question.

Anything with write up for your lawyer’s review about the case you should date and include in the memo’s section.

When I drafted a summary of a medical record I would print out two copies and one copy would go into my memos folder and the other into a folder for that particular medical provider.

See my February Newsletter for more information and tips on the Memos file.

 

On Being a Paralegal


From Judicialsupport.com
From Judicialsupport.com

As  I sat here in front of this white page without a clue as to what I should be writing about I thought that looking through other paralegal blogs would help me find my mojo and the words would just come pouring out of me.

I grabbed myself a cup of coffee (yes, I know it’s late in the evening and I probably won’t sleep.  What are you my mother????), sat down again with the laptop on my lap (redundant) and opened up the first blog.  Holly Heck!!!!!! Can’t Fight the Inevitable is a blog post by a paralegal who apparently is not happy with her job.  I feel really bad for anyone who feels that way and I wish I could fix it for her.  However, I have to say that there is absolutely no job out there where you are going to be happy every day of the week.  There are going to be days when you’re going to get up to go to work and feel like you are getting ready for battle.  Being a paralegal is no exception.

So what prompted me to write this post? First and foremost, I want to say that no job is worth your health, your personal life, or even becoming an alcoholic (again, not worth your health).  Most paralegals, especially the ones who work in law firms, or private practice, will be working very long hours.  If you think your day will end at 5:00 like most normal people (although that’s not normal anymore) you need to rethink your career choice.  I remember working until 10 or 11 p.m and then come home and still log on to the office to finish something I had not had a chance to do during the day.  The worst part about it was getting to the end of the month and realizing that most of the stuff I had worked on could not be billed to a client and therefore did not count towards my billable hours.  It really made me crazy. The only time that stopped, although I still worked longer hours than my non-paralegal friends, was when I started working in-house.

Although Grumpy’s post and perhaps the paragraph above make it sound as if being a paralegal is a horrible career choice, there are so many things that are so great about the profession.  I truly enjoy being a paralegal.  I am actually, currently not working as a paralegal but will be again in a few months, hopefully weeks (fingers crossed).  I left the profession two years ago and can’t wait to get back to it.  What do I like so much about it?

  • I enjoy watching a case develop from beginning to end;
  • I enjoy playing detective, even when that only means figuring out what a business can do to comply with the regulatory change and not loose money in the process;
  • I enjoy pouring through a pile of papers and put some order to it so it tells a story;
  • I enjoy the entire process of being there for my clients; and
  • I absolutely enjoy the collegiate attitude I have found with most other paralegals (we are a great bunch).

I feel horrible when I hear someone say they hate their job and that their job is costing them so much.  I hesitate in saying this but the only advice I would have for Grumpy, the writer of the above post is to say that if her job is making her sick, making her become an alcoholic and lose her friends and family, perhaps it’s time to find another job.  Maybe something in a different field.  Maybe not a paralegal position.

One of the many good things about being a paralegal is that your skills are transferable.  More so than other professions.  Being an experienced paralegal means that you are a also good at project planning, organizing, multi-tasking, managing and developing processes, reading, writing, researching.  You name it.  If you have been a paralegal for a while you have at some point done one or more of the above.  Grumpy can go look for a position somewhere else where she won’t be faced with the hours she’s currently working and where she may be happier.

Grumpy also mentions that she cannot get a different career because she can’t afford to get paid less than she currently does.  It’s probably true, but maybe she doesn’t have to.  Perhaps she can work her resume to highlight the great skills that she’s learned and mastered during her paralegal career and get into a different position getting paid the same thing or more…. I did…. it’s doable.  Totally doable.

So, if you find yourself in the same situation as Grumpy.  Please don’t feel trapped.  The economy is bad, and it may take a little longer than in the past to get another job but stick to it and don’t let it ruin your life.  Nothing is worth that.  Remember you are in control of your career, always.  You are the boss.  Act like it.

XoXo

Ana