Tuesday, October 14, 2014
At the time, I had no legal experience. I had no experience with victims of domestic abuse. And I really had no recent office experience. So you can imagine, I felt a bit intimidated as I sat across the table from two attorneys and a paralegal as they questioned me and really grilled me on my ability to handle the emotional stress of dealing with victims of domestic abuse all day. When I got the call with the job offer, I hesitated. I feared my Spanish skills were not good enough for the elaborate phone conversations I was expected to have or to interpret for an attorney. And although I hadn't questioned it before the interview, I questioned whether I was mentally up for the job.
I found I was wrong to fear my Spanish skills wouldn't adapt quickly and allow me to succeed. But I was right though that working day in and day out with victims of domestic abuse was not something I was up to long term. Unfortunately though, I didn't learn that until after working at a shelter for victims. I don't regret that job as it really gave me great experience and I feel like I did a lot of good, but I didn't like how it changed me.
This post ran much more eloquently in my head as I walked home a couple of hours ago. But continuing, today, five years later, I am a paralegal for a small law firm billing for some of my hours each day and managing assistants. I have the opportunity to meet with and interact with clients regularly, review detailed financial information, draft orders, stipulations, marital settlement agreements and other pleadings, hire and train new employees, and be a resource to others in the office.
If you had asked me five years ago where I would be today, I could never have even imagined this.
Sunday, September 7, 2014
A successful Legal Assistant/Paralegal must:
- Think beyond the task given to him/her and question what appears to be inconsistent
- Anticipate what is to come (I love the days my boss asks for things I have already prepared and are sitting on my desk waiting for him.)
- Not ask a question that could be answered by looking it up - I hate when I watch a legal assistant bother an attorney about where a file might be before they even look in the file cabinet.
- Have the ability to switch tasks as ever constantly changing priorities shift - a linear approach to tasks rarely works in a law office.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
- Recognizing that you can't break the computer by trying new things and experimenting;
- Knowing where to find the resources to figure out how to do things you have never done before;
- Being intuitive enough to quickly pick up new skills; and
- Getting excited about new tricks that you learn (whether on your own or from others).
Sunday, June 8, 2014
I have been working with Lisa McNeil at the Wisconsin Wellness Clinic for a couple of months now and she has been very helpful to me. I also enjoy her blog posts. Today’s post especially hit home with me and is something that I think can be applied to many different areas of our lives. I’ll let you read about it here.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
We welcome a new employee on Monday. I look forward to working with her. I am optimistic that she will become a part of a team that will do great things.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
I hope having a new attorney on board won't take away from me the fun and interesting things I do. Oh the cool projects I had this past week....
Thursday, February 20, 2014
On another note, I won't say I am not guilty of this but I have tried to be more conscious of it in the recent years. Absolutely no good comes from gossiping about faults of former or current co-workers. I don't want to hear how awful my former colleagues were - I actually liked them. I also don't want to hear about the faults of my current colleagues (unless they are my employees) - these are people I need to work with.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
They don't care if the husband is solely responsible for the back taxes; if they can't collect from the husband, they will go after they wife. They don't care if the mother is supposed to be able to claim the child as a dependent; if dad claims the child too, they will look at who provided more for the child (had the child in their care more of the time, spent more money on the care of the child, etc.).
For this reason, it is absolutely critical that you include language in the MSA that can be enforced by the Court should the IRS or state Department of Revenue (or any third party) try to collect from the other party. Some options I have seen include a hold open on maintenance for the purpose of enforcing the obligations of either party or the ability to ask the Court for an increase (or decrease in the case of the payee failing to meet his or her obligations) in maintenance to cover same.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
One, of many things, I took from the presentation was the use, or preferably non-use, of the phrase, "if I were you, I would..." This phrases loses sight of the very important fact that I'm NOT you. We are all different and would respond differently to any situation.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Our law firm seems to take on more and more collaborative divorces all the time and although this process is not for every divorce, when it works, it really works.
Let me start by summarizing how collaborative divorces work in our area. Both parties enter into a Stipulation stating that they will approach this collaboratively. They agree not to use traditional trial tools like formal discovery and instead work openly with each other to reach resolution. They seek the assistance of financial advisers to settle financial issues and the assistance of coaches and a child specialist to settle issues related to custody and placement.
They agree that if the divorce becomes contested in Court they will seek new counsel so that discussions they had during the collaborative process stay a part of that process and aren't used against them at a contested hearing.
Last week, I had the opportunity to sit in on an office conference between our client and the attorney. During that conference, they discussed in detail the discussions being had with the coaches and child specialist. What amazed me was the honesty, reflection, and focus on the goal of what is best for the parties' son. The comments she shared from the child specialist and both coaches showed a dedication to the process and helping two individuals work together to figure out what was best for their son. Clearly both parties' coaches and the child specialist are really good at what they do.
I'm not trying to say the divorce goes perfectly with this model or that it works with every case (trust me, it doesn't!). Any divorce involves two people very hurt by the actions of the other. It is a very emotional time. What this model does is allows for the parties to have a solid support system to help them through the process and help them come up with the best end results for a less than ideal situation.
I still remember an attorney saying to me weeks after I saw her in Court that she learned her lesson not to ask any questions of her client that she doesn't already know the answer to. I think the Court would have ruled in her client's favor if not for the answer to that one question she could have avoided asking.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Recent politics has turned to bashing teachers and government workers in general. It has turned to making demands about a profession one can't fully understand until one is immersed in it. Recent politics have turned away from learning and towards results of meaningless assessments. It has taken away from teachers the ability to teach in a way that will enhance future generations.
When you display such a hatred against a profession, take away all their tools to truly do their job well, and eliminate fair compensation you are only left with those that can't find a job elsewhere or don't mind being a part of a system that is falling apart. Because the rest will find a new career. The talented and dedicated educators will move on to a career where there isn't interference with doing a job one can be proud of.
Is that what people want?
I fear that 20,40, or even 60 years from now, the few who can rise up without a decent education will really regret the politics happening now. And the rest will be too dumb to know the difference.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Our firm is currently hiring a part-time Legal Assistant. Here is a link to the ad on monster.com. I haven't had a chance to carefully look at the stack of resumes on my desk but at first glance, I can't believe what people send out.
If you can't format a resume so that it is readable, how can I believe you will be able to format pleadings and Estate Planning documents correctly?
If there are glaring spelling and grammar mistakes on your resume and cover letter, what are the chances you will do well proofreading and composing letters?
If your cover letter is three sentences long, what does that say about your communication skills?
I remember the hours I have spent in the past drafting resumes and cover letters and completing online applications because I recognized that they had to be excellent, especially in this job market.
This reminds me of a time five or six years ago when in an online community a college graduate was having trouble finding a permanent full time job a couple of years after graduation. She posted her cover letter and resume on the forum asking for feedback. Her cover letter was two or three sentences long and her resume hard to read which to me really explained why she couldn't find a job. The part that really got me though was when people tried to give her any feedback she completely dismissed it all. It was only in the last year or so I heard she finally found something in the middle of no where out of state.
I'm rambling, I know. My point in all of this is that if you don't put the time and energy necessary into your job search, employers are not going to believe you will put the time and energy needed to get the job done well.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Now I'm starting to get the same invites on LinkedIn. And as if the invites from those I don't really know weren't enough, I've had people on two occasions endorse me for a skill they have never seen me do. One such endorsement came from someone who I haven't seen in close to 10 years long before I had even acquired the skill she endorsed. With endorsements like this, how can anyone take any endorsements seriously. LinkedIn could be such a good tool if people used it as it was meant to be used.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Anyone who has been through a divorce or works with a law firm that handles divorces knows how quickly attorneys’ fees add up. The cost of representation is beyond reach of probably a majority of those going through divorce. Some choose to go in debt to have representation. Others go it alone.
Now add to that thought the additional expense for cases that are highly contested. And most highly contested cases involve domestic violence.
A victim of domestic violence is at a disadvantage for many reasons.
S/He may be very traumatized from the violence which may have resulted in mental health issues. The trauma and/or mental health issues often make it very difficult in communicating with the attorney and may make it difficult to make efficient use of their time with the attorney. This results in a higher attorney bill because the attorney has to spend more time with him/her or results in the attorney have a lesser grasp of the case leading to a bad outcome for the individual.
This trauma and/or mental health issues also often result in him/her not presenting well to the court resulting in an unfavorable outcome.
Additionally, many victims of domestic violence were abused financially and so may have less or no access to marital money or may not be able to get credit because their spouse has significantly ruined their credit.
Private attorneys can’t take on all kinds of clients pro bono or they would never keep their doors open. And they can provide discounts on their rates to a certain point without affecting their ability to stay in business. And these cases are very time consuming.
So I don’t know that there is an answer to this problem. It’s just frustrating that representation usually becomes unaffordable to a victim of domestic violence. And it doesn’t help that funding for programs that provide free or low cost representation like Legal Action of Wisconsin is constantly being cut.