The Paralegal Corner
Time-Out: It Isn’t Just for Kids Anymore
By Tanya Patterson
I am the mother of a 5 year daughter. She is beautiful and perfect in every way, but…
As do all young’uns, she can make some really bad decisions. Recent wall-drawings, puddles of Play-Doh smooshed and ground into the carpet (apparently they thought it felt good to their feet) come to mind. During times like these, she gets sent to time-out. She is expected to sit quietly, consider her bad decisions and come up with more appropriate behavioral options she may have chosen instead. We then discuss the negative behavior, appropriate punishment and the better options for the future. Sometimes this method works, sometimes it doesn’t. What her time-outs always provide, though, is a minute for me to catch my breath and consider the best way for me to handle the situation. I am able to step away and plan an objective rather than emotional response.
What I propose to you is this:
Give yourself a time-out. Take a minute, five minutes to get yourself together before you react emotionally to the stress of whatever, be it a computer that isn’t cooperating, traffic that is particularly ridiculous or a spouse that just doesn’t get it. It’s during these times of high emotion that we adults can make some really bad decisions too. While we probably won’t smash the Play-Doh into the carpet, we might respond in a vocal tone that conveys the eye-roll we have managed to hide or we might close the office door just a little too roughly, for instance.
Before that happens, head to the time-out corner!
Insight Timer is an app that I use when I need a quick re-set or need to think about my actions and reactions.
Insight Timer provides over 1,300,000 meditations. While there are certainly tracks for the serious practitioner, I find applicability in its short, guided meditations for relaxation and centering. Some are just a few minutes long and are provided by world renowned teachers. When I need to check-out, I’ll stick in my headphones, close my eyes and let the app guide me to recognizing and calming my breath, acknowledging my feelings or just having a time-out. A few minutes later, the track ends with me feeling ready to face whatever is happening.
In addition, Insight Timer provides musical tracks - including chants, bells and nature sounds – that may provide for a more relaxed and focused mental state. I often play these in my office and find that they do help me chill-out before a time-out is needed.
Mindfulness - Meditation for the Anti-Meditator
Dan Harris, ABC News anchor, was a meditation skeptic until he discovered Mindfulness. Harris describes his practice as a “’simple, secular, scientifically validated’ process that requires little more than a place to sit and your own breath.”
There are many definitions of Mindfulness but for me it is simply the act of being here/now. Mindful.org describes it as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Doesn’t that sound lovely!
While I hesitate to refer to the practice of Mindfulness as a “practice” for the purposes described in this article, Harris’ process is entirely accessible to anyone.
3 Steps to Mindfulness Meditation (as described by Dan Harris)
- Sit with your back straight and your eyes closed
- Notice the felling of your breath coming in or going out
- As soon as you try to do this, your mind is gonna go “bazonkers,” so notice when you’ve become distracted, and start over
You will find the results of your self-imposed time-out are increased clarity, improved mood and re-directed focus. All good things!
Case Law Review
By Katharine L. Essex, CP
Worldwide Restoration, Inc. v. Gan, 2016 WL 6407277 (Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division)
Generally, fee disputes that make it to the appellate level do not often make interesting reading. However, in this recent New Jersey case the trial judge ruled the attorney hours billed were reasonable, but specifically questioned why no paralegal hours were submitted.
The parties in this case had submitted their substantive issues to nonbinding arbitration. The panel found for defendants and determined Gan was entitled to statutory attorney’s fees. When Gan moved for confirmation of the arbitration award, she petitioned for attorney’s fees to be paid by plaintiff. “The sole and narrow issue in this appeal is whether the trial court misapplied its authority in declining to grant a ‘lodestar enhancement’ or ‘multiplier’ when awarding counsel fees to the prevailing party.” *1.
The trial judge accepted the number of hours submitted by the various attorneys within the law firm that worked on Gan’s case, but reduced the hourly rates that were claimed. The judge also rejected the firm’s request for a lodestar fee multiplier as unwarranted due to the nature of the case and limited scope of the work performed.
Although she ruled the attorney hours billed were reasonable, “she did question why no paralegal hours were submitted, finding some of the work charged at an attorney’s fee rate could have been done by a paralegal.” The judge did not reduce the hours spent, “even though they conceivably could have been in light of the non-use of paralegals and the firm’s lack of success in obtaining more than a nominal recovery.” *5.
The appellate court concluded the trial court was justified in denying the fee enhancement, given the particular circumstances of the litigation and affirmed the trial court’s decision.
Musings from the Paralegal of the Year
By Janet Wilson Williams, RP®
Several years ago when I was starting out in legal, I glimpsed the front cover of “Legal Assistant Today” and saw an ACTUAL Paralegal of the Year. Although she did not sport a crown and scepter, she was still Paralegal of the Year, and I thought, oh so cool!
Fast forward 26 years and I myself am a POTY (which is not to be confused with Michael Jackson’s “PYT”). Wow, now this IS Surrealville.
After 26 years of paralegal service, I mean, experience, I’d like to share with you some thoughts on:
Being a successful paralegal — more popularly known as "what does it take to be an esquire's trusty sidekick for years on end?"
- FIRST and FOREMOST, must both understand and translate “Lawyer Speak”.
- Must have nerves of steel with confidence and chutzpah to burn — even need this when dealing with your own esquire — and remember, he needs to LIKE you while you are doing it.
- Which then brings up … buns of steel – for sitting and working on documents 8 to 10 hours a day.
- Must not flinch or run when faced with a stack of legal documents higher than your head.
- Must be a magician with these tricks:
a. Pulling a rabbit — uh … documents and deadlines — out of a hat (but alas, with no magic wand).
b. Continuously juggling balls in the air, day in and day out — add that personal life in there and you need to be super, duper skilled and maybe even earn a certificate in it from Ringling Brothers Clown College.
- Remembering why are you there – arguing with your esquire about deadlines or other meaningful work exchanges and then suddenly realizing that you are actually being paid to HELP him.
- Gratitude – For the times you are truly thankful for having that esquire, a great job with health coverage, paid parking, vacation time (when you can take it!), a treated lunch once in a while, AND even a $$$ bonus!
So why is this a great career?
BONUS POINTS DING*DING*DING
- You are an extension of your firm and your lawyer(s). In fact, you are their right hand.
- You perform meaningful work to help clients.
- You are constantly learning, each and every day.
- Research and problem solving become second nature for you.
- Diplomacy becomes your strong suit.
- It’s certainly not boring! In fact, many days bring much drama.
- You can take on further studies in your area of law or other areas that interest you.
- There are pro bono opportunities to seek out and really pour your heart into.
- Leadership opportunities abound — both state and national.
- It always pays the bills, as one of my certification candidates matter-of-factly informed me.
Memo to my state association and national colleagues: You are all my inspiration to do more and take on more. Like Frost, I have “miles to go before I sleep” … and so much more to learn.
To my attorney and firm, you have been awesome to work with these past 11 years. Thank you for your support and confidence in my abilities.
Finally, I dedicate my POTY award to my late grandmother, Mattie, who showed me from a young age what hard work was about. You see, she was one of those women who worked at the Lockheed Plant making B-52 bomber planes during WW II and then worked FT at other factory jobs until she retired in her 60s, sometimes wearing extremely high tottering heels despite standing at the assembly line all day. Women of that generation could do it all. With a high school education, she could manage finances as well as a Master’s of Finance, cook as well as a celebrity chef, and garden as well as anyone on HGTV.
Now … where can I get a POTY sash?
Janet Wilson Williams, RP is Director of Paralegal Certification and NFPA Secondary at the Georgia Association of Paralegals and works with Michael J. Hay, Esq. at Andersen Tate & Carr, P.C. in Duluth, Georgia. She also has a wicked and wonderful sense of humor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I Love My Job”
How to Say it and Mean it
By: Tanya Patterson
The best kind of work is the kind that really isn’t work at all. Wouldn’t it be great to do whatever you want, whenever you want and get paid for it? Unfortunately, that isn’t possible for most of people.
However, many of us chose our profession on purpose. We have been educated, trained and are experienced legal support professionals. For whatever the reason, we choose to stay in our positions, our career field. So why do we often get burned out? Why don’t we like our jobs?
Part of the answer is that we get lost in the forest and forget to enjoy the trees. By this, I mean that we get caught up in the rush to meet deadlines, the stress of scheduling and rescheduling (and rescheduling again) all those depositions, the hurtful way that clients, bosses, opposing counsel speak to us.
Wherever You Go, There You Are
Even if the grass is looking greener, be aware that geographical cures rarely work. Your thought processes, your ideas, your attitude will stay with you, even if you go to the other side of the fence. True change comes from within.
The Mayo Clinic provides 7 strategies for increasing job satisfaction. Of these seven, there are two that speak to me and instruct accountability for not only satisfaction at work, but satisfaction in life.
Stay Positive – Easier Said Than Done, I’m Sure.
Cognitive job crafting refers to an employee’s alteration of his or her perception of his or her job, including the tasks and relationships involved. Cognitive job crafting will allow you to see things differently, in a positive light.
|The more you look for the benefits of what you’re doing, the more it feeds you psychologically.|
As legal support professionals we may often feel like menial paper-pushers. Next time this thought enters your mind, realize that we are the right-arm of the attorney and are also providing a much needed service for clients who would otherwise not be able to draft a will, respond to a complaint, negotiate an employment contract, etc.
Be Grateful – Easier to Accomplish But Often Overlooked.
I got a new keyboard. I love it! The keys are close together, the angle is perfect. I appreciate that my firm got it for me and all I had to do was ask. Yes, I am grateful for a keyboard.
Even something as small as a keyboard can affect job satisfaction, but you have to stop and recognize that fact. What do you appreciate about your office? Does your employer provide lunch once a week? Do you have a great view? Is human resources especially responsive to staff’s needs and concerns?
Have A Good Laugh – Even if it’s Fake
Laughing and smiling might just be the answer to job satisfaction. I won’t get into the science of it, but even a fake smile can make you feel better about the worst day ever.
|"When you have to work,
work with a smile."
While following these suggestions may not create a perfect work world, or allow you to live out your every dream, they will certainly make today better, even if only slightly. The next time you are about to blow your stack, remember to:
- Stay Positive;
- Be Grateful; and
Do you have an idea for a blog post?
Have you already written an article?
Submit your ideas to:
Tanya Patterson, NFPA Editorial Coordinator