Vatterott OKC Paralegal Studies

We don't teach you what to think. We teach you HOW to think.

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Websites lawyers love!

Websites lawyers love!

I would like to presume that since attorneys love these, so will paralegals.  Actually, I would go with anyone who holds an interest in law will love them.  I found this through Twitter.

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The Lost Art of Communication

I read an ABA article admonishing law students to sound less like a high school babysitter and more like a professional.  This applies not only to attorneys; it applies to paralegals as well.  Honestly, any professional needs to know how to communicate on a professional level.

Consider this – you go to the doctor because you are unwell.  The doctor says, “We did some ummm, you know, we sent the blood over to that place that looks at it?  The white stuff that’s in your blood is way too high.  I dunno…I’m thinking maybe you’ll die in six weeks.”

First of all, that shows lack of empathy and concern.  There was no professional diagnosis or thought of more tests.  Second, the doctor showed lack of professional communication because the doctor didn’t know the proper terminology.

It works the same as legal professionals.  You definitely do not want to be over a client’s head with legalese, but you don’t need to sound like the 15 year old that watches their five year old while they go out on date night.

Save the slang for your friends and family…and even then – use it on a sparing basis.  You are a professional now and you have an image to maintain.  Those are the people that send referrals to your supervising attorney.  You need to sound like you know what you’re talking about at all times.

Novel Ideas [33]: One Year Down…

Novel Ideas [33]: One Year Down….

via Novel Ideas [33]: One Year Down….

A look at things this doctoral student has learned during this semester.  Things like…it’s okay to admit if you don’t know something.

paralegalrookie.com

paralegalrookie.com

This is a great website for new paralegals.  You will find articles and contests.

Employment Search Tips

I realize we are only in week three of the phase.  Honestly, though, it is never too early to at least start thinking of what you would like to do when you graduate.  It is also never to early to think of a plan.  Even if this is your first phase here at Vatterott OKC, you can look at your goals.

  • Start considering the areas of law you want to work in.  Make a list of areas you do not want to work in.
  • Get your resume and cover letter ready to go.  You can find multiple examples online.  Even better – you can talk with Daniel in Career Services.
  • Start networking.  You cousin’s best friend’s brother may not need a paralegal now, but he might in the future…or he may know someone.  You can join NALA for a nominal fee.  Oklahoma Paralegal Association also has a student membership that is an affordable rate.
  • Take a good look at your abilities.  Brush up where needed.
  • Do you have writing samples?  If the answer is no, come see me.
  • Don’t discount receptionist positions in law offices and law firms.  You will earn valuable hands-on experience.  I learned how to draft interrogatories, requests for production, and summarize medical records as a receptionist.
  • Use your resources.  Vatterott OKC puts out a list every week of job openings.  You can also use indeed.com, jobsok.com, monster.com, careerbuilder.com, and even craigslist.org.  Sign up for free job alerts.  Even if you aren’t looking now, you will know who is hiring.

 

Case brief tutorial

Case brief tutorial

This is an excellent site with an in-depth look inside the whys and hows of briefing a case.  Oh, and should you decide, you can even test your knowledge with mini-quizzes.  Case briefing is such an important skill for any legal professional.  The site even shows you a sample case brief by breaking down every section.  I am sure you will find this to be a beneficial resource during your educational pursuit.

More on professionalism

There will be times in your life that you meet someone you don’t like.  You might not like their ideas or you might not just like them.  Here’s the deal – that really doesn’t matter.  You must remain professional if you expect to be taken seriously as a paralegal.  It is easier than you think to disagree without being disagreeable.  It is easier than you think to say nothing if you think you may say something angry.

You do not have the right as a student, a person, or a professional to verbally bash or belittle anyone else.  It doesn’t matter who the person is in your life.  Would you want to be treated in that manner?  Would you want your best friend treated in that manner?  Would you treat your boss in that manner?

The legal field is one of the most conservative fields in the professional industry.  That doesn’t just include the way we dress.  It also is inclusive of behavior.  It’s really easy to get a bad reputation and not be able to find a job simply because you act in an inappropriate manner.

As an adult learner, you face some unique challenges.  You must balance your education and your family, your work and your education, and your work and your family.  That isn’t an easy task; these aren’t easy classes.  However, a bad day doesn’t give anyone the justification to take out their frustrations on any other person.  It is not only unprofessional, but it is also unkind.

Here are some tips for resolving a conflict:

  • Cool off.  If you feel angry or upset, walk away from the situation for a little while.  There is no shame in keeping your composure.
  • Think before you speak.  Some live by the philosophy of is it true, kind, or necessary.  I realize there are times we have to address issues in our lives that aren’t true or kind.
  • Look at the other person’s point of view.  You are dealing with someone’s spouse, mother, father, or child.  Even if you disagree, it is not a time to be cruel.  Words hurt people.  You can take a tube of toothpaste and squeeze it on to a paper plate.  Those are your words.  Once you say it, it’s out there.  People can and do forgive.  People do not forget.  Take a toothpick and try to put the toothpaste back in to the tube.  It’s close to impossible.  You can’t take your words back.
  • Write it out.  When we have the opportunity to think before presenting an idea, we can usually edit it to mean exactly what we intend as opposed to flying off the handle.
  • Examine the reason why you are upset.  Is it a personal or professional issue?  What is your bias?  We all have some amount of bias.  That’s just part of life.
  • Consider others who were present.  What was the sociological view point?  It could be that you just don’t identify with the main stream view and that’s just fine.  However, there are better ways to express that than exploding.
  • Yes, we all have bad days.  No, you don’t get to be mean because of it.
  • Talk about it in private.
  • Find a mediator if need be.

We all encounter people we don’t necessarily have the ability to get along with on a personal level.  That’s why we are professionals.  More is expected of us than the average person.  You are above average.  You are the role model.  You are the professional.

Professionalism

When should you start thinking about professionalism?  In fact, what IS professionalism?

Merriam-Webster defines it as marks of a professional.

So it appears the most logical thing to do would be for you to think about the most professional person you know.  What makes them professional in your opinion?  Here are a few things that might have popped in to your mind:

  • Work ethic
  • Manner of dress
  • Timeliness
  • Attitude

Of course, you may have other things that popped inside your mind.  I am just going to stick with these four core ideals for this post.

When should you start thinking about professionalism?  You should start thinking about professionalism while you are studying to be a paralegal.  Why?  Because, frankly, old habits die hard.  When you start thinking of yourself as a professional, you start learning as one and you start behaving as one.  I understand that you don’t feel like you are a professional because you are still attending class.  So?  You are more professional than those that didn’t choose to get an education or a professional career path.  You have also chosen a profession that requires certain things of you as an individual.

Work Ethic

What does this mean for you while you are completing your education?

  • Come to class on time
  • Be prepared for the lecture
  • Turn in your assignments on time
  • If you have questions about an assignment, ask
  • Be cordial to your instructor, administration, and your peers
  • Participate

Manner of Dress

It is said that we only look as good as we feel.  To a point, that’s true.  I feel just as much self-worth in a pair of jeans and t-shirt as I do in the attire you all see me in on campus.  However, when I am dressed in my work clothes it is almost as if a switch is flipped in my mind.  I have a huge closet.  Huge.  It could almost double as a small office.  I have lots and lots of shoes.  I even have to keep clothes at my boyfriend’s apartment because I have so many.

Guess what?  I don’t spend a lot of money on my clothes.  I shop at thrift stores and I devour the clearance racks.  I have clothing purchase rules.  I will not spend more than $10 on a skirt or shirt.  I will not spend more than $40 on a pair of shoes.

So, when should you worry about how you dress?  Now.  You will notice a change.  Does it take a little more time to get ready?  Maybe.  I wake up at six.  I am ready go by 6:30 most mornings.  That is getting dressed, doing my hair, and doing light make up.

You don’t need high dollar clothing.  You just need clothing that makes you FEEL like the professional you are going to be in a few short months.  There are also places that can help you get business attire.

You have an image to sell.  You ARE a product whether you realize it or not.  That’s just part of life.

Timeliness

When should you start worrying about your time management?  Now.  You need to learn good time management as a student.  That will project on to you in a positive manner.  Your supervising attorney and the court won’t allow you to be late just because you felt like sleeping in or didn’t feel like writing a brief.  In fact, that would make you incompetent.  Ethics state we need to be both diligent and competent.  Use common sense.  Don’t you want people to be on time or do things for you when it is supposed to be completed?

Don’t get out into the professional legal world and be fed to the wolves.  Learn to manage your time now.  If you need help, I am more than willing to assist you.  There are many good (free) calendar options that we can choose from to get you set for success.

Most paralegals bill their time.  You need to know how to manage your time.  You will have more than one deadline.  How will you manage those if you can’t manage what you have now?  Don’t let procrastination hurt you.  You are paying for your education whether you are here or not.  Get the most from it.

Attitude

When should you worry about your attitude?  Again, the answer is now.  You are taking on a career that requires you to be many things to many people.  You will be the right hand person for an attorney.  You will coddle the clients that are emotionally distraught.  You will calm those that are angry.  One thing you shouldn’t neglect is YOUR attitude.

Every day is not good, but you can find something good in every day.  Start trying to find the silver lining in ALL circumstances (no matter how absurd it may seem at the time).

On occasion, it IS okay to feel a little proud or egotistical.  You worked hard to get where you are and not everyone can do what you do.  However, it is NOT okay to treat people as if you are better than they are…ever.  My grandmother taught me that no matter how smart or talented I am, someone will come along that is smarter or more talented.  That’s just life.

Your attitude can make or break a situation.

Time Management

As paralegals (and just quite possibly as humans), we all want to get as much done in a certain amount of time as possible.  Some of you have a core number of billable hours that must be met for any number of reasons (or you will have once you get out in to the cold, cruel world).

Someone on Twitter asked me about the Five Ds of Time Management.  Those in my Law Office Management class this past term will know them.  Adhere to them and they can help you very well through out many aspects of your life.

  1. Do it – if it will take you less than five minutes, just do it.  Why keep putting it off and keeping it in your mind?  You will get a sense of accomplishment in your day if you simply do it.  You will have one less thing on your list.
  2. Defer it – if it takes more than five minutes AND you are in the middle of something, defer it.  However, write it down.  It has been said that dreams become goals if you set a date to it.  That goes just about the same with anything you need to accomplish.  Make a deadline for your goal.  Create reminders.  Task Manager is your friend.  If you have an Apple product, Any.Do is a great (and free) app to help you out.  I use it.
  3. Delegate it – remember that a paralegal is something very special to an attorney / firm.  What’s that?  Well, aside from being the right hand person, we are also PROFIT.  Can you delegate the task to make time for something billable?  Can you delegate it so you can work on something more substantive?  This also goes well for students.  Can your child unload / load the dishwasher?
  4. Dump it – honestly, do you think you will reply to that six month old email or follow through on finding that special purple collar for your neighbor’s daughter’s best friend’s dog?  Not likely.  Get rid of it.  Just clean it out.  I promise you will feel better having one less thing on your plate.
  5. Desk management – so…there was this one time at…squirrel!  How often are you getting distracted by the things around you?  There are times that I get distracted when making lesson plans, grading, or writing.  I have been known to take my lap top and go somewhere without Internet.  Are there things on your desk distracting you?  Get rid of things in your peripheral vision.  Only keep the tools you absolutely need for your assignment / case with you.  This will help you keep focused.

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