Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Don't miss the good.

When you start looking for all the bad, it's very easy to miss the good.

This is true when it comes to relationships both in and out of the work place as well as situations, projects, positions, etc.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Integrity and Attorneys Seem an Unlikely Pair

Lawyers have a bad reputation for being arrogant, confrontational, unscrupulous, and contentious, just to name a few.  They get that bad reputation because as in any stereotype some attorneys fit that description quite well.  The good news is they are not all like that.

I work for a law firm whose core values include honesty and integrity.  We will fight for our clients' rights while making sure we don't lose sight of working towards an outcome that will be fair to all parties, focus on the children's best interests, and however possible, be the least destructive to important relationships.

When I see examples of honesty and integrity in the attorneys I work with, it reminds me that I am right where I am supposed to be.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Settling a Case at Trial can be a Big Let Down

Any client focused attorney hopes the matter can be resolved in a way that is satisfactory for both sides.  Settling a case through negotiation allows for the opportunity to a party that may have done wrong to save face.  It also avoids the confrontation that can destroy relationships that often comes out of trial.  And it gives the parties a chance to reach a compromise.

That said, as a paralegal that spent days upon days analyzing discovery materials, records, financial information, etc. and preparing exhibits, it was little bit of a let down.  In a conference room at the courthouse, as I witnessed the parties reach a great resolution, in the back of my mind, I only could see all my hard working going straight into the shredder bin the second we got back to the office.

Reviews from the Perspective as a Supervisor

Recently it was time for one of my employee's annual review.  This was the first formal review I participated in as a supervisor.  What surprised me most was how much it caused me to reflect on my own job performance.  How could I criticize someone else's faults without looking for ways to correct my own?

What I discovered was that I need to listen more and spend that time actually listening, not formulating my response to what I anticipated they would say.

Fireworks

Fireworks have changed over the years.  I remember when I was young, being awed by each individual firework set off, one at a time, giving the spectator a chance to appreciate each on its own.  Last night watching the fireworks from my in-laws' boat, I experienced something quite different.  It was a constant race to the sky with many overshadowing others.  And then when it came to the end, I couldn't even guess how many they set off at one time.  It was a mess of lights in the sky with no definition or unique character.

Have we lost the time to recognize the various stones of an archway?  Do we even notice when the archway crumbles, lacking a key stone as we race on to the next task?  Has the push for quantity overcome the importance of quality?  Has the push for quantity driven us to forget and fail to appreciate the crucial contributions of others?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Technology Has Made Us Very Inefficient

Throughout each day, both in and out of work, we are always plugged into outside disruptions.  We carry cell phones with us that give us instant access to people, through not only phone calls, but also text messages and e-mail.  And with just a ring or tone on our phone or an alert on our computer we are constantly interrupted.  Every time you switch gears, you lose valuable time doing so.  Any time you return to a project, you waste time trying to figure out where you left off.

When suggestions of unplugging or only checking e-mail and voicemail at certain times of the day are brought up, the number one response always is, "But what if it is important?"

I believe there is a huge gap between what we perceive as important enough to interrupt our productive work and what truly is important enough to do so.

I challenge you to give yourself uninterrupted blocks of time each day both at home and at work.

Edit:  After posting this post, I discovered this article (posted on www.forbes.com written by Travis Bradberry) that is very relevant.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Compliments

People are more pleased at a compliment 
if you praise them for something 
that is not glaringly obvious. 

~Les Giblin

Sunday, March 15, 2015

QDROs

After an adversarial and lengthy divorce, with mounting legal fees, many are tempted to take short cuts in the days that follow.  One shortcut that can result in a costly result is trying to handle the transfer of retirement funds, which often require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).  In general, this is an area of law most family law attorneys pass off to a financial expert as it can be complicated depending on the type of retirement accounts involved and the specifics of the the agreement.

Let me share with you two stories that will highlight the importance of letting an expert handle this final step in the divorce process.

First, the a portion of the funds in Husband's IRA was to be transferred to Wife.  The plan administrator of the IRA had very specific and unique requirements to complete this transfer which was further complicated by the financial expert receiving incorrect information from the plan administrator.  Wife became anxious with the delays in completing this transfer, as she was watching all the missed opportunities in the market, that she made her own calls to the plan administrator to "help speed up the process".  What happened instead was that the plan administrator stopped all work, refusing to try and figure out whether they should listen to Wife or the financial expert.  We eventually got it resolved but the process took much longer than it should have.

In this second story, Husband had various retirement accounts including 401(k) and IRA accounts from which Wife was to receive a portion of funds.  Husband's attorney was responsible for finding out which transfers could be done internally and initiating the process with the financial expert for the transfers that could not be handled internally and would need a QDRO or other similar documents.  Wife's attorney followed up after hearing nothing from Husband's attorney.  Wife contacted her attorney stating she was handling this on her own.  She asked that her attorney do no further work on this matter.

A year later Wife contacted her attorney, stating that funds from two of the accounts had finally been transferred but two accounts still remained.  Wife argued she should be entitled to all gains on the account she was awarded in its entirety and gains on the fixed dollar amount she was to receive from the final account.  Husband argued that Wife should receive the amount she would have received in the months following the divorce as if the transfers had been completed as anticipated based on the calculations to equalize property division.  There had been some delays on Husband's part but Wife had also refused to use her attorney to see the process to the end, encouraging completion of the process in timely manner.  So Wife found herself in the position, a year and a half after the divorce, of the process still not being complete and the loss of any gains she may have earned in the months since the final hearing.

Had the parties let their attorneys handle the two examples above, the transfers would have been complete in a reasonable amount of time, with the parties having the ability to appreciate the gains of their retirement investments.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Transitions

An attorney leaving the firm, especially a very small firm like ours, brings a lot of uncertainty.  How many clients will leave with the attorney?  Who will take on the caseload of the remaining clients?  How will support staff be affected?  How do I reassure and support my legal assistants in this transition?  How many hours will I have to work a week to keep up?

Change can be difficult as most of us are individuals that prefer the routine and the known.  Change can also lead to growth, show us what we are made of, and give us confidence.  So buckle your seat belt, hang on, and let's enjoy the ride.  I choose to embrace the change.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Everyone is NOT Replaceable!

Liz Ryan, her LinkedIn blog post titled "'Everyone Is Replaceable' and Other Business Lies", writes  that managers who believe that their staff are replaceable are clearly missing the boat.

My staff and colleagues are definitely not responsible.  They each play such important roles in the success and growth of our office.  I want to work with and manage people who think beyond the routine and find ways to improve the way we do things.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Quote that I found on LinkedIn

"In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way."  Posted by Mark Taylor on LinkedIn

Monday, December 8, 2014

After abuse, survivors of domestic violence face lonely legal battle

The Wisconsin State Journal published an article titled, "After abuse, survivors of domestic violence face lonely legal battle" on November 23, 2014.  It outlines the challenges a victim of domestic violence faces in the courtroom against a spouse or father of their child(ren) in family and related matters.  I can share in the frustrations of the a legal advocate who can only be there to provide support and not legal guidance or representation.  As a state we do a terrible job looking out for victims of domestic violence and their children and it wasn't ever so apparent when legal aid organization groups like Legal Action of Wisconsin lost all of their state funding in recent years.

Opponents of any aid to domestic violence victims would argue that Guardian ad Litems are there to watch out of the best interests of the children in these situations.  I argue that Guardian ad Litems are not even required to have any training in working with children whose parent is a victim of domestic violence.  Thus they don't have the knowledge, unless they seek it out on their own, to understand the dynamics and manipulation in the lives of these children and their parents.  Furthermore, our court system lacks the same training.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving is not an isolated day

We are often so quick to criticize and don't take the time to give praise and thanks.  Tomorrow may only be 24 hours long but take the time the other 364 days to also give thanks.  It makes both people feel good, boosts confidence, and motivates people to stick through things when they get bad.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Don't throw your employees under the bus

I was on the phone with my doctor this week and she was very quick to blame her lack of response on her nurses and stated that she would be dealing with that.

As supervisors, it is our job to train, guide, and supervise our employees.  Any mistakes they make are also our mistakes.  Our employees still need to take responsibility for their work but that is a conversation we have only with them, not shared with the outside world or as a way to shift blame.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reflecting back

Today as I walked home in the mist, newly fallen trees scattered across the ground reflecting the headlights of cars, I took the moment to reflect.  I don't know what got me thinking about where I've been and where I'm going but nevertheless, I found myself remembering the interview I had with Legal Action in the fall of 2009, the first step I took towards the law field and away from the teaching world.

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.

Teachers going alley digging

I was reminded this evening of what teaching has come to these days in our state s our choir teacher talked about her finds "alley digging" to find props for the theater, orchestra, and chorus program she leads that has no budget.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Successful Legal Assistant/Paralegal

The more I grow into my job and the more I work with legal assistants we hire, the more I have realized that the important qualities to be successful in such a position are not measurable and can't be determined in a brief interview.

A successful Legal Assistant/Paralegal must:

  1. Think beyond the task given to him/her and question what appears to be inconsistent
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Computer Competence

Computer competence isn't how many programs you know or what advanced features you use regularly.  Computer competence is:

  1. Recognizing that you can't break the computer by trying new things and experimenting;
  2. Knowing where to find the resources to figure out how to do things you have never done before; 
  3. Being intuitive enough to quickly pick up new skills; and 
  4. Getting excited about new tricks that you learn (whether on your own or from others).

Sunday, June 8, 2014

“…improve the simple, and the complication often diminishes.”

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

Hiring and Training

Every time we hire a new employee, I learn something new.  Every time I train someone new, I become a little bit better.  And now that I have trained a number of employees, I realize that it is not necessarily my failings that cause a new employee to not thrive.  The necessary skills need to be in place first.  The enthusiasm needs to be there for success.  I repeat, I will not blame myself for the faults of others.  I will recognize my role and move on.

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.