It’s Way Past Time to Get Fit!

May 20, 2015

Like many of my colleagues, I spend way too much time sitting on my ever widening tuchas. It doesn’t help that I’m slightly older than 36 either . . .

I should also mention that I’m, ever so slightly, set in my ways. I have my routine: I get up, get dressed, walk down a flight of stairs, get coffee, take care of the cats, and then walk down another flight of stairs to my office. I sit at my desk for hours – I get so hyper-focused that I forget to eat (not that you can tell from looking at me <le sigh>). The only time I really move is when my eyes start watering (see: hyper-focused) and I get up to walk upstairs to the ‘ladies’ room’ and right back down the stairs to my desk.

Once my work day ends*, I schlep upstairs for dinner and plotz on my couch. I isn’t glamorous and, frankly, it’s a bit embarrassing to admit that in print.

I know. How hard is it to just get out and walk for 30 or 45 minutes? Or, to use the mini-stair stepper that stares me down every night while I do my couch potato impression?

Harder than you’d think.

Well, enough!! It’s way past time to get fit! And, I’m going to do it.

My BBF (Best Business Buddy), Amie Hoff has created the FitKit - a self-contained, lightweight, anytime, anywhere fitness solution with all the tools needed for a total body workout.

Amie’s made it stupid easy to get and stay fit at home, at work, on the road…anywhere. [cue commercial] She’s got all the bases covered:

  • Strength Training & Cardio
    • Resistance Tube with Handles
    • Flat Resistance Band
    • Door Attachment
    • Jump Rope
  • 250+ exercises on exercise cards
  • Access to a full online exercise library
  • Nutrition, fitness and safety tips to maximize performance

The FitKit even includes an ID tag and reflective arm band for when I venture outside to exercise.

Seriously, it’s time to take back my life and health.

Wanna join me?

*for the self-employed, that never actually happens

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It’s the Shabbas before Mother’s Day

May 8, 2015

Karla Gudeon – Sabbath Peace

On this Shabbas before Mother’s Day, let’s think a bit about from whence we came –

Most of you know that our Jewishness comes from our mothers. Do you know why? Before the days of paternity testing, the only parentage that could be (mostly) assured was that of mother to child. But there is so much more to it than that. The explanation I found at Chabad.org really resonated with me:

“Jewishness is passed down by the mother because being Jewish is a spiritual identity, it defines our very being. And our very being we get from our mother, both in body and in soul.”

 “From a purely physical perspective, a child is more directly connected to their mother. The father’s contribution to the production of a child is instantaneous and remote. The mother, on the other hand, gives her very self to the child. The child is conceived inside the mother, develops inside the mother, is sustained and nourished by the mother, and is born from the mother.”

It makes you think, doesn’t it?

Where did you get your neshama (soul)? Chances are it filtered down since your great-grandmother emigrated from the ‘old world’ and brought the family minhagim (traditions) with her. Maybe she kept a kosher home and lit Shabbas candles . . .

By the time I came into being, our family had assimilated <insert silly Borg reference here>. I grew up in a secular home in a not very Jewish part of Houston. We celebrated the High Holy Days, Chanukah, Purim, and Passover. Mema’s candlesticks were on her sideboard (I don’t remember ever seeing them lit); there were mezuzot on our front doors; we had chanukkiot & dreidles and seder plates & Elijah’s cup. For years, I thought Mema had kosher for Passover dishes. It turns out that they were simply the good china.

Mom and Mema & Grampa made sure I had a proper Jewish education. I learned to daven; what it meant to keep kosher; why I should honor the 613 mitzvot, Shabbas, and yom tovim; to be a proud Jew, and to support Eretz Yisroel. It was years before all that learnin’ worked its way into my daily life.

I joined USY and later became an advisor; I led Jr. Congregation and became a Hebrew school teacher; and I hung mezuzot on every door in my home. Eventually, I started lighting Shabbas candles (as long as I was home from work in time) and kashered my home. Now I light almost every week and yom tov – my contract even includes Shabbas and the holidays as times I will not work.

In everything they did, Mema, my mother, and a lot of amazing women nourished my neshama.

Many of us are the first generation of women since our great-grandmothers to light Shabbas and yom tov candles, and it’s something for which we should be really proud . . . “Why?” you ask. Well, let me tell you –

First and foremost, when we kindle Shabbas lights we fulfill a mitzvah (commandment), but on a personal level, lighting Shabbas candles brings the lights of our great-grandmothers and all our matriarchs to life. This week, let’s dedicate our candles to our great-grandmothers, our Mema’s and mothers, and all the matriarchs–by-choice whose unique lights we are illuminating each time we light.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Mother’s Day! <3

(Thanks FridayLight​ for inspiring yet another Shabbas post)

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Some Things Aren’t True, Even on the Internet

February 23, 2015

Please save me from idiots who claim to provide accurate information about paralegal careers, whether they be traditional, freelance, independent, and/or virtual.

This morning I received a comment for moderation. This one was linked to Note to Self: Just Let it Go to Voice Mail“:

new comment 2-23-15

On its face, the comment is complimentary – ignoring, of course, the fake email address, the author’s inability to correctly type/spell “a lot”, and ending a sentence with a preposition. (Yes, I know, we all do it; it’s something I strive to avoid.) BTW, how exactly does one ‘wonder a question’?

Still, I was intrigued and clicked on the link. Could it be that the author had assembled helpful, shareable information?

In a word, no.

The site – one that shares no contact, about, or other site related background information – purports to educate the reader about careers in 2015. I can’t speak to any other careers they might be ‘splaining, but they sure as hell didn’t get ‘paralegal’ right.

To clarify, they got the basics mostly right, then went horribly off track.

I’m not comfortable with ‘paralegals as legal agents’, but that is the least of my concerns. The site attempts to define freelance, independent, and virtual paralegals and their duties. They got enough of it right to be incredibly problematic. Yes, freelancers are business owners and they market their services (preferred over the phrase ‘marketing themselves’) – to law firms; however, it would be more correct to say that they (we) market our services to attorneys.  The term ‘law firm’ feels a bit restrictive.

The author then ‘defines’ independent paralegals as follows:

horribly wrong info

On the next page, Paralegal Duties, the author enters the twilight zone:

horribly wrong info 2

NO! NO! NO! and HELL NO!

Every word in that definition is wrong! Independents, a term that includes freelancers and virtuals, do not:

  • act as or form law firms;
  • provide services directly to clients (okay, we provide services to our attorney clients);
  • represent clients in court, and
  • they (we) N E V E R provide advice

unless under very specific guidelines in a limited number of jurisdictions or in certain administrative fora.

Those descriptions scream of UPL.

Allow me to clarify, a legitimate independent, freelance, virtual paralegal ONLY works for, and under the direct supervision of, an attorney and never gives advice. (see disclaimer above for possible exceptions)

How difficult is it to get it right? As Mulder would say, ‘the truth is out there’. I know. I have written several articles, blog posts, and comments on the topic, including “To Boldly Go . . . Outsourcing to Virtual Paralegals” (GPSolo Magazine) and “Two Words: Virtual Paralegal” (Paralegal Today).

 

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Note to Self: Just Let it Go to Voice Mail

February 11, 2015

. . . seriously, you’d think I’d know better by now . . .
(then again, it makes great fodder for my blog :) )

The phone rings.
It’s a local number <le sigh>.
C’mon, it could be a new client.

Just let it go to voice mail.
If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.

do-not-pick-up

I answer.

“StarrParalegals, this is Pamela Starr, how may I help you?”

Um, so, you’re a paralegal … attorney, right? I need some legal advice.

<Oh Lord, another one. Must.Resist.Urge.To.Blurt.Out. “CAN’T YOU READ??!!?? Resistance is futile. Shut up! I’ve got this!>

“Yes, I am a paralegal; not an attorney. I cannot give legal advice.

 But I have a question.

 <Of course you do. You were smart enough to find me! How is it you’re too dumb to read and/or comprehend the disclaimer that is plastered all over my website? You know the one that CLEARLY states: “Our services are NOT provided to the general public.” It’s right there, under the phone number that you just dialed!>

“I am a paralegal; not an attorney. I cannot give legal advice or answer your question. You will need to contact an attorney.”

An attorney?

<Good grief. It’s a simple concept. I feel a little like Anne Sullivan – Helen Keller’s teacher and companion. Alex, I’d like to buy a clue for $200.>

 “Yes ma’am. You need to contact a lawyer. As a paralegal, I cannot answer legal questions or provide legal advice.”

Well then, what ‘can’ you do???

 <Say WHAT???>

At this point, my jaw drops. I’m sitting there with my mouth wide open – catching flies as my momma might say – using every scintilla of willpower to keep from laughing out loud. I’m pretty sure a chortle or guffaw escaped my lips. The possible responses are running rampant in my head. It’s amazing how many thoughts one can process in just a matter of seconds!

  • Are you kidding me??
  • Look nitwit …
  • just hang up the phone
  • Asked and answered.
  • Seriously, are you farking kidding me?!?
  • Move along now kid, you bother me.
  • Phasers on stun!

“What can I do? What can I do?? (the laughter almost broke through) I can do just about anything, but unless you’re an attorney, I can’t help you. My company only works with attorneys.”

Well, uhhhhh…

“Yeah. Okay. B-bye.”

 

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That’s Chutzpah!

January 27, 2015

Back in June 2012 (Oh, HELL No!), I posted about a disturbing – nay, creepy <cue the Hitchcock theme> – unsolicited call to my home phone. The caller, who was obviously reading from a script, was ‘calling to verify that she had reached a Jewish home.’

As I wrote back then, “I refused to identify myself to the caller as Jewish, emphatically declined their invitation and respectfully requested that I be taken off their list.”

It’s been more than 2 years since that post with nary a comment, until today:

0 NewCommentTomCantor

Well, isn’t that special?!

“… to Jewish people only.”

That’s not creepy at all.

Never one to hold my tongue . . . I replied:

1 NewCommentTomCantor

Chutspeniks!
They completely missed the point:

02 NewCommentTomCantor

Ensure? Really?
Yes, my Grammar Nerd instincts have taken over -


(The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation http://data.grammarbook.com/blog/definitions/assure-vs-ensure-vs-insure/)

Maybe this time they got the message . . .

3 NewCommentTomCantor

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A New Entry From the “I Can’t Make This Stuff Up’ Files

January 16, 2015

Oh, hell, I’ll just post the screenshot of the email:

avoid copyscape

Just in case you don’t see it – the sender is offering me a resource that will allow me to COPY CONTENT TO PUBLISH ON MY BLOG AND PASS THE COPYSCAPE TEST.

That’s right! They are offering ME the opportunity to do unto to others what was done to me.

In light of the ‘Great Copyright Wars’ (ah yes, the saga continues)  – the email spawned several visceral responses:

  1. uproarious, hysterical, nay, maniacal laughter;
  2. the urge to bang my head repeatedly on my desk;
  3. the requisite ‘are you f*cking kidding me?’ email to my nearest and dearest;
  4. the desire to go a’hunting; and
  5. this blog post.

Editor’s Note: I didn’t approve the submission.

bwahahahahaha

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Not This Again!

January 2, 2015

20140320061438!Facepalm_2

The business line just rang – I answered. The conversation went like this:

StarrParalegals, how may I help you?

Yes, hi, this is [unintelligible name]. I’m on your website. You’re a paralegal and you do bankruptcy. Right?

Are you an attorney?
(at this point, we start talking over each other)

Yeah, ok, no, but I need to . . .

We only provide services to attorneys.

Yeah, ok, I know you’re not an attorney. So how much is it to file my bankruptcy?

Ma’am, we do not work with the public.

Yeah, ok, but how much to file . . .

You’re on our website, right? It is stated quite clearly on every page of our website that WE ONLY WORK WITH ATTORNEYS. I cannot help you.

Yeah, ok, but . . .

I cannot help you.
CLICK!

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Another New Year Begins

December 31, 2014

My wish for you in the coming year –

2011NewYear'sCard

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The Copyright Wars – UPDATE

December 22, 2014

A couple weeks back, I posted about content theft by, at least, two virtual service vendors – It’s Not Flattery, It’s Plagiarism! (Georgia Peach Virtual Paralegal Services) and It’s Still Stealing – Another Copyright Violation (Flawless Petitions, LLC). Ultimately, I discovered a third offender, Inquest Resources.

I emailed the owners of all three companies, respectfully requesting that they remove my content from all profiles and marketing materials.

Flawless responded:

email response

(I had to share the email – y’all wouldn’t have believed me if I’d cut and pasted such flawless content.)

Subsequently, she removed the content. Well, she made an attempt to remove it. She has removed all but the first line of my mission statement from her website and LinkedIn profile, but failed to remove other content.

Inquest responded – click here for the entire exchange.

To date, I have not heard from Georgia Peach.

I took the only logical next steps – I filed reports with LinkedIn, Facebook, and eLance (Ms. Peach). I’m still waiting to hear back from eLance.

LinkedIn has removed the brochure, that contained my content, from Ms. Peach’s LI profile and has confirmed the removal of all but the first line of my mission statement from Flawless’ profile (although, she is still using the CBA designation without authorization). Facebook has removed/blocked Georgia Peach’s business page and has removed my content from Flawless’ page.

They really shouldn’t mess with a redhead from the GSOT … #justsayin.

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The Content/Copyright Battle Wages On

December 15, 2014
(updated December 30, 2014)

I did some more digging last week and I found a third content poacher!!

This one is a paralegal in Texas who claims to be – a member of the Texas State Bar Paralegal Division and CAPA. (Note: when this was originally posted, the poacher also claimed to be a member of NFPA.) Yes, I reported her to all three entities.inquest

To her credit (and with an obvious dose of sarcasm), the offender pulled the content.  I’m pretty sure, Ms. Inquest felt compelled to remove my language, and advise me of such, because NFPA contacted her about her lapsed membership and told her to remove the reference. (Have I mentioned I’m on the Ethics Board?) Her email reads like the response of one caught with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar:

Contrary to your claim, Inquest Resources did not copy content from your website. After receiving your email, I reviewed your website and was only able to find a single instance where language you have used is substantially similar to language used on the Inquest Resources website. While that language is somewhat similar, the visual presentation and the context in which it is used are very different. Moreover, there is nothing particularly distinctive about the language itself. Instead, these are fairly generic descriptions of the knowledge/experience/dedication Inquest Resources brings to its work and clients. Accordingly, your accusations of plagiarism and copyright infringement are unfounded. [emphasis added]

While Inquest Resources categorically rejects your accusations, Inquest Resources has made alterations to language on its website (as well as Inquest personnel’s individual LinkedIn profiles) as a courtesy.

First the language is “substantially similar”; then it’s “somewhat similar” (because we moved it around a little and substituted the name of our company; yeah, uh huh, right); and finally, the claim that there is “nothing particularly distinctive about the language  . . .”  If that were the case, she wouldn’t have pulled it. For that matter, a simple Google search of the poached content wouldn’t appear as mine for the first 2 or so pages of results, and Facebook & LinkedIn wouldn’t have removed similar content from the other offender’s pages and profiles.

Contrary to Ms. Inquests protests, there is nothing generic about the content and, according to Plagiarism 101 (citing the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary), to plagiarize means:

plagiarism 101

On another note, it’s bad form to claim adherence to the Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility when poaching content from another paralegal.

inquest ethics

 

 

 

 

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It’s the Shabbas before Channukah

December 12, 2014

… it’s also my father’s yarzheit (anniversary of death). For many, the holiday season is bittersweet. My father (Z”L) will forever be linked to this time of year. I last saw him alive on Thanksgiving Day 1982 and he was gone on December 8, 1982/ Kislev 22 – 3 days before Channukah.

Me and DaddyYou’d think the pain of missing him would have diminished over the years. In many ways it has. Yet the candles somehow don’t burn quite as brightly with his light gone from this life. Tonight, before I kindle my Shabbas candles, I will light a memorial candle to honor and recall the miracle of his life.

They say Shabbas lights have a distinct and special purpose – to remind us of the MooseMenorah3smaller, quieter miracles that take place in our homes every day, while Channukah is about celebrating a magnificent miracle. Whether it’s a moment of peace or the joy of family, take a moment to pause and reflect upon these ‘light’ miracles when you light your Shabbas candles week. And, on Tuesday evening, when we light our Channukiot, we can reflect on the greater miracles in our lives.

I will add a candle every night, for eight nights, until my Channukiah burns brightly, and celebrate the miracle of my life and the lives of those around me.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Chanukah Sameach!

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It’s Still Stealing – Another Copyright Violation

December 4, 2014

I am gobsmacked.

I am NOT flattered. In fact, I’m angry.

A non-paralegal is using my mission statement AND calling herself a CBA to market her virtual bankruptcy assistant business.

To quote @MianneBesser: “That’s pretty unbelievable and downright unethical.  Definitely one of those things that makes you wonder what these people are thinking.”

I know from experience that it is hard to come up with the right words to describe your business; however, it can be done WITHOUT ripping off someone else’s work. When I was developing my website, I went to a lot of other virtual service providers’ websites for ideas. I somehow managed to write unique content that reflected my personality.

Not only is she using:

Our services appeal to attorneys that are operating in a downsizing market, while trying to decrease their overhead, and increase the value of their billable dollar.

She has the chutzpah to use my mission statement on her LinkedIn profile:

Our mission is to provide results that surpass expectations through our dedication to our clients; adding maximum value to their businesses by handling complex bankruptcy matters; being professional, accessible, efficient, and technologically sophisticated; providing a green alternative to the traditional office paradigm; and providing the opportunity for our employees to pursue their religious, family, and community obligations and interests.

She, quite literally, cut and pasted that content from MY LinkedIn profile. Content that I have been using on MY website and profile since I conceived StarrParalegals in JULY 2008.

AND … she’s using the designation “CBA” without authorization.

Certified Bankruptcy Assistants (CBA) Program was developed, and is administered by, the Association of Bankruptcy Judicial Assistants (ABJA); a national organization formed by judicial assistants/secretaries to United States Bankruptcy Judges. The program is supported by the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges (NCBJ) and the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI).

One becomes a CBA by taking a certification exam that covers the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, Legal Research, Grammar/Usage/Writing (I keep telling you this stuff is important!), and Ethics.

I took that exam in 2006 and earned the right to use CBA in my signature line. I do not take kindly to others using the designation without the appropriate authority. I paid my dues – figuratively and literally. If she wants to be a CBA, then she can take the the exam.

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