Paralegals In the Trademark Industry

By Matthew Schneller

In my experience, trademark paralegals take up a larger proportion of the head count, draft a greater percentage of substantive work product, and tend to have more direct contact with clients than they do in any other practice group.

Where many practices have large projects that take up most of an employee’s time over a day or weeks, like the rush of active litigation or a pending transaction, most trademark practitioners’ work lives are extremely broken up. Lots of little projects fill the day of the average trademark attorney or paralegal, and most of them have long life spans that require follow-up and additional steps, many of them years in the future. In busy practices, trademark paralegals are deeply involved not only in carrying individual projects through to completion, but also help shepherd along the many longer-term projects that are easy to lose sight of in the day-to-day bustle.

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Tech-Tip: Co-Parenting Apps For the Estranged Family Law Client

By Alicia Mitchell-Mercer

Navigating a family law matter can be one of the most emotionally painful circumstances someone will ever encounter. By the time a client calls a family law attorney, they are generally in the throes of some of the most difficult times of their lives.

For the legal professional working in family law, you are often tasked with more than providing insight into procedural and substantive issues that relate to their case. Family law professionals must also help clients cope with the stressors associated with their legal proceedings. The ultimate goal is to help the client find some degree of closure so they can begin to move on to the next chapter of their lives. It is very rewarding to know you’ve helped someone through such a difficult time, but it can also be very challenging.

One of the biggest challenges associated with a divorce is co-parenting. The client may feel betrayed and angry. Under these circumstances, emotional intelligence may take a backseat to doing what is best for the children involved. When this occurs, both parties and the children suffer as a result. In a high-conflict divorce there are no winners, only survivors. Attorneys and paralegals are frequently tasked with trying to help their clients work through their legal matters while doing as little damage to themselves, their children, and their case as possible.

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Why Pro Bono?

By Rachel Royal

The first time I heard the term “pro bono” was in the 2001 movie, “I Am Sam.” Sean Penn played a single father with a learning disability who was fighting to retain parental rights of his 7-year-old daughter, played by Dakota Fanning, after her mother abandoned them. The attorney who takes on his case pro bono is played by Michelle Pfeiffer. I remember thinking what a cool concept it was that an attorney would do all of that work for free, especially for a cause so important as keeping a family together. I realized just how critical comprehending and understanding the law is during my husband’s and my personal experience with obtaining temporary custody of his niece and nephew. Unfortunately, gaining that knowledge on your own is costly, time-consuming, and can be very frustrating if you do not have the education or the means to obtain it.

Since becoming a paralegal, I have found that many people are unaware that they need legal services, while others may abuse the legal system. Advice-only pro bono services can help unclog the court system by providing clarification to a situation as to whether legal services are actually warranted. Because many attorneys charge a consultation fee, people are often reluctant to seek legal advice and may end up in a worse situation. By offering free advice clinics and programs like Free Legal Answers, 4ALL Statewide Service Day, and Lawyer on the Line, members of the public are able to have their situation evaluated by an attorney, or in some cases, a paralegal under the supervision of an attorney, for free. People can then determine whether they should seek paid services or if they qualify for free or reduced-cost assistance.

Part of being a paralegal is having  friends and family ask us for legal advice. While navigating those situations can be tricky because we want to help those in our inner circle, we have to make it clear that we are bound by a code of ethics that prohibits us from offering legal advice. Though we cannot offer a legal opinion, I believe it is important to be informed of the legal resources to which we can refer our friends and family, as well as the general public. Being involved with the North Carolina Bar Association Paralegal Division is an invaluable way to network with other legal professionals. It also offers an ability to stay in-the-know on current programs and opportunities for pro bono resources.

When I first realized a few years ago that there were volunteer opportunities for paralegals, I was ecstatic. I currently co-chair, with S.M. Kernodle-Hodges, the Paralegal Division Pro Bono Committee, where I have served since February 2018. Since taking on the role of Co-Chair, I have learned of many opportunities for legal staff than I ever knew were available. Following are just a few with descriptions for each:

  • Wills for Heroes – (NC Bar Foundation) – Paralegals, legal assistants, and paralegal students can volunteer to assist with check-in, printing, and as Notaries Public;

  • Legal on the Line – (formerly, Lawyer on the Line – Paralegal Program) (NCBA Paralegal Division through Legal Aid of NC) – North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegals and Meredith College paralegal students (no other students). Volunteers receive Legal Aid referrals under the remote supervision of an attorney to provide advice only to clients with regard to bankruptcy, landlord/tenant issues, and expunction (there will be additional types of law once this project is out of the pilot phase);

  • High School Mock Trial Competitions – (Carolina Center for Civic Education) – Paralegals, legal assistants, and paralegal students can volunteer as Site Coordinator, Scoring Director, and to assist with check-in;

  • Lawyers for Literacy – (NC Bar Foundation) – Paralegals, legal assistants, and paralegal students can volunteer their time to read to students (the Paralegal Division is in the process of getting involved with this opportunity and will provide more information in the near future); and,

  • Other ongoing and one-time opportunities through the NC Pro Bono Resource Center, Legal Aid of North Carolina, and local community efforts, such as FEMA clinics, and expungement clinics.

In February 2017, I participated in a Wills for Heroes event in Wilmington, notarizing wills and Power of Attorney documents after they were drafted on site by attorneys. I enjoyed being able to connect with first responders and learn a bit about their jobs and lives during the notarization and check-out process. I also volunteered in February 2019 for the Wilmington Regional Mock Trial Competition as the Scoring Director. I was excited to be able to sit in on a couple of the rounds and hear the talent and intelligence of the competing students.

Additionally, after Hurricane Florence I volunteered for the Disaster Legal Services Hotline and one Disaster Recovery Services Center shift, as well as two FEMA Appeals clinics. The primary role of paralegals was to gather information from clients either over the phone or in person about the damage sustained during the storm and ensuing issues with insurance, FEMA, housing, and/or landlords. However, my personal role at the in-person FEMA clinics was slightly different, as the project managers asked me to handle coordination of paralegal volunteers with regard to check-in, intakes, and check-out. Since I live in one of the areas that was hit hardest by Hurricane Florence, these disaster clinics were my favorite volunteer opportunities so far. I knew that after the storm that I wanted to do something to help, and I was so happy that I was able to use my legal education and experience to assist. Each clinic has serviced upward of 50 clients, and the amount of positive feedback has been astounding.

Past Paralegal Division Chair and PD Pro Bono Committee Chair  Annette Phelps initiated a partnership between the Paralegal Division and Legal Aid of North Carolina for a project called Lawyer on the Line – Paralegal Program.  While Legal Aid has overseen the attorney version of Lawyer on the Line for over five years, this newer project’s distinction is that paralegals do the bulk of the work. North Carolina Certified Paralegals and paralegal students enrolled at Meredith College are eligible to participate. Once onboarded as Legal Aid volunteers, they are paired with a supervising attorney through Legal Aid and referred a case. All of the volunteer work for this program, including any training provided by Legal Aid, is carried out remotely. Paralegals gather facts from the client over the phone, speak with the supervisor, and perform research as directed by the attorney. After researching the issue, paralegals will then report their findings to the attorney and subsequently relay attorney-approved advice to the client by phone. Cases are expected to take approximately 2 weeks, with an average of 3-6 hours input by the paralegal and 2-4 hours by the attorney. Malpractice insurance is provided by Legal Aid to all volunteers and by the North Carolina Bar Association to volunteers who are members. Additional information about this project is available in the slideshow found here.

Thanks to Annette’s hard work and persistence, the Committee officially launched a pilot program of this project at the end of 2018. We currently have one attorney and 11 paralegals who are in the process of receiving their first referrals from Legal Aid. I believe that this project has the potential to be a huge success across the state. Since paralegals will do the bulk of the work, and attorneys can supervise up to 10 advice cases (one paralegal per case), I believe we can meet even greater needs than ever before in North Carolina. In an effort to distinguish this project from the existing Lawyer on the Line, this program is being renamed “Legal on the Line.”

I believe that participating in pro bono work or any community volunteering, for that matter, will only lend further good publicity to the legal field as a whole. If you are a legal assistant, paralegal, or paralegal student who would like to volunteer your time but are not sure how or have limited time to commit, please feel free to reach out to me directly at rachelroyalnccp@gmail.com.

See below for current paralegal volunteer opportunities. Stay tuned for changes to the Paralegal Division website where new opportunities will soon be posted!

FEMA Appeals Clinic, March 6, 2019, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. – Jones County, NC – Sign up form link here.

Wills for Heroes Clinic – Duke School of Law, March 9 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sign up form link here. (only notary spots left)

Wills for Heroes clinic – Campbell Law School, March 16 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sign up form link here. (only notary spots left)

Legal on the Line – Ongoing project partnership with Legal Aid. Requires attorney supervision.

For attorney sign up link click here.

For paralegal sign up link click here.

Rachel Royal is a State Bar Certified Paralegal for the Wilmington City Attorney’s office. She currently supports the two attorneys who handle city Police, Fire, Litigation, and Employment. She lives in Hampstead, NC with her husband Reuben, and their children, Phoenix, and Christian. Mrs. Royal grew up in the Appalachian Mountains and enjoys reading, writing, cooking, music, weightlifting, outdoor activities, and volunteering at church. She graduated with honors from Carteret Community College in May 2017 as the recipient of the Paralegal Technology Graduate of the Year Award. She has been involved with the Paralegal Division since 2015 as a student member, won the NCBA Paralegal Student scholarship in 2016, and has been a Council Member and Pro Bono Co-Chair since May 2018. Mrs. Royal’s goal as a division member is to inspire paralegals to feel pride in their career and promote involvement in pro bono services across the state.

 

Paralegal Potpourri: Join the Division Council, Volunteer Opportunities, New NCCP Digital Badge

By Leslie Pegram

Take a minute to catch up on the latest news and happenings regarding the Paralegal Division.

Join the next group of Paralegal Division leaders

Would you like to be more engaged in the future success of the Paralegal Division? Are you looking for an opportunity to grow your leadership skills? One way is to serve on the Paralegal Division Council.

The deadline to apply for a position on the Paralegal Division Council is Thursday, Feb. 28. Find the application here and submit to Debbie Harris.

The Council has general supervision and control of the affairs of the Division in accordance with its Bylaws. The Council will meet five times during the year and participates in a leadership retreat in August. Currently, we are seeking to fill four Council Member positions to serve a three-year term beginning July 1, 2019 and ending June 30, 2022. If you, or someone you know, would like to serve as a Council member, please submit your application to Debbie Harris at debbie.harris@davidsoncountync.gov

The application deadline is February 28, 2019. Apply today: https://ncbar.org/media/759060/pd_nominationsquestionnaire2017.doc

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Why I Joined the Paralegal Division Council

By Leslie Pegram

I’ve sat down a few times to write this particular blog. My goal is to encourage fellow Paralegal Division members to submit a nomination to become a council member. However, every time I’ve started to write this blog post, the first two sentences have always sounded like a business pitch and felt very impersonal. To me, being a part of the council is very personal. We represent a diverse group of paralegals across North Carolina from as far west as Franklin to as far east as New Bern and Wilmington. We work in small firms, large firms, government and in-house positions. Serving as a council members provides you with opportunities to grow professionally, meet new friends, and experience the value of networking. I’m very proud to be chair, and I hope sharing my experience will encourage others to apply.

The Paralegal Division is accepting nominations for new division council members through Feb. 28.  Click here to find the nomination form.

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January Tech Tip: iLovePDF Has Every Tool You Need to Work with PDFs

By Alicia Mitchell-Mercer

As the Division’s Technology Chair, in addition to helping maintain the Paralegal Division webpage, I try to share technology tips and applications (usually free) that can make your work lives a little easier. If you find today’s “Tech Tip” useful, let us know. If you have a technology concern at work and you want to see if there’s a software or process that can make things easier, email ncbaparalegals@gmail.com and we’ll try to address it in a future blog post.

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BarCARES Program Offers Help For Legal Professionals

By Mollie Schwam

One of the benefits of NCBA membership is access to BarCARES, a confidential, free service that provides referrals for counseling services. Members of local bars that subscribe to the program are also eligible. BarCARES offers participants up to three, no-cost sessions with counselors per year. If a participant wishes to have more counseling beyond that, a client can generally continue working with the same counselor using insurance benefits or other resources.

Studies have consistently shown that over the years that legal professionals have a high risk of substance abuse, depression, and suicide. BarCARES offers help with:

  • Personal issues including crisis intervention, depression and/or anxiety, substance abuse and financial concerns
  • Family issues including marriages and/or relationships, children and/or adolescents and parenting and/or family conflicts
  • Work issues, including professional stressors, case-related stress and conflict resolution
  • Stress and time management for students
  • Domestic violence

You can find BarCARES online at www.ncbar.org/members/barcares/. Or call with questions about BarCARES or access your free counseling sessions by calling the confidential assistance line, 800-640-0735, during normal business hours. You will either speak to the program coordinator or have the option to leave a confidential voicemail. After your initial phone call, the BarCARES Program Coordinator will arrange an initial session between you and a BarCARES provider.

Remember: The BarCARES program is completely confidential.

Writing Professionally: Language, Punctuation and Tone

By Morag Polaski

I am a self-confessed “word nerd.”  I love words. I love reading, and I read just about anything, including the dictionary.  But, sometimes I forget that not everybody finds the same enjoyment in words. And, I have been known to let my vocabulary get the better of me.  As paralegals, something we cannot afford to do is forget our audience. Quite simply, the “audience” is the other person with whom we are communicating, whether it is in writing or by speech.  We communicate differently when we speak to our own attorneys, opposing counsel, to the court, or to our clients. We assume a level of knowledge from the attorneys and the court (rightly or wrongly) and tend to assume less knowledge on the part of the client.  I volunteer as a Guardian ad Litem and at one point used the word “virulent” in a court report. I assumed that the word and its usage would be understood since my “audience” was a judge and a few attorneys, all of whom had a higher level of education than I did.  I was wrong. Very wrong. The judge asked for a definition of the word right there in the courtroom. (For those interested, the definition is “poisonous” or “intensely noxious,” which certainly described the family situation.)

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Chair’s Comments

By Leslie Pegram

Hello, 2019!  If 2018 was a great one for you, congratulations. If it was not so great, you survived. Congratulations to you, too.  (We’ve all been there.) I look forward to the beginning of a new year. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the prior year and set a positive path for the new year. I think it’s important to set goals – personally and professionally.  I’m sure we all share similar goals for improved health and well-being. As important as it is to nurture and achieve your personal goals, don’t forget about your professional goals. I’ll share a few of mine for 2019: 1) Continue to work hard as Paralegal Division Chair 2) Finish up the Hurricane Florence professional clothing donation efforts 3) further develop my leadership skills and 4) (finally) test for a national paralegal certification. Needless to say, it will be another busy year.

If one of your goals is to become more involved in the Paralegal Division and the NCBA, below please find a variety of opportunities to serve our fellow citizens of North Carolina:

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Research, Interviews and Unsolved Mysteries

By Rachel Royal

As a child, I was obsessed with the show “Unsolved Mysteries.” As I watched an episode, I would imagine that I would one day solve it. Anyone who knew me well as a little girl,  would probably tell you that I was irritatingly inquisitive. However, I learned at some point that asking a lot of questions was not seen as a virtue, so I began to look to books for answers. I wouldn’t consider myself a millennial because I grew up before cell phones and computers were mainstream, and encyclopedias were my best research tools. My early life was somewhat secluded because I was homeschooled and was not involved in any homeschool groups. Books were quite literally my door to the outside world. You probably can already pinpoint the origin of my love of research, but feel free to blame it on homeschooling and watching too many episodes of “Unsolved Mysteries.”

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