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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It’s Not Flattery, It’s Plagiarism!

December 2, 2014

Imitation my be flattering to some, but when it comes to written content, it is straightforward plagiarism.

Every so often, I run plagiarism checks against the content at StarrParalegals, LLC. I am amazed by the so-called professionals who think it’s okay to acquire my content and use it as their own.

Don’t they understand that reorganizing the sentences, changing the name of the company, and adding a few services does not absolve them of plagiarism and copyright violations?

Seriously, these are paralegals!! Did they miss the ethics component of their training??

This is what I found today:

Georgia Peach Virtual Paralegal Services is dedicated to providing its attorney clients an extensive knowledge of FAMILY LAW, PERSONAL INJURY, ESTATE PLANNING, PROBATE AND COLLECTIONS.

By offering professional paralegal services virtually, we increase the value of our clients’ billable dollars. As independent contractors; we complete the job more efficiently and economically.

OUR Mission is to provide results that surpass expectations through our dedication to our clients.

Our services appeal to attorneys that are operating as a solo practitioner or operating in a downsizing market while trying to decrease their overhead and maintain, or increase, the value of their billable dollars. We provide highly experienced, paralegal services on a transactional basis, thereby avoiding the costs and expenses associated with full time employees.

For comparison, this is the content from my website – content I have used since 2008:

STARRParalegals is a virtual paralegal service dedicated to providing its attorney clients an extensive knowledge of Bankruptcy & Creditors’ Rights practice (petition preparation, litigation, adversary proceedings and preference actions), including a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies (or perhaps annoyances) of the CM/ECF system, as well as a proficiency in UCC (review, analysis and recording), and commercial transactions.

Our services appeal to attorneys that are operating in a downsizing market while trying to decrease their overhead and maintain, or increase, the value of their billable dollars. STARRParalegals provides highly experienced, certified paralegals on a transactional basis, thereby avoiding the costs and expenses associated with full time employees.

By offering professional paralegal services virtually, we increase the value of our clients’ billable dollars. As independent contractors, we complete the job more efficiently and economically.

Our mission is to provide results that surpass expectations through our dedication to our clients by …

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the blatantly obvious.

The content, in part, appears on her Facebook page and Elance profile, and has been committed to a PDF brochure (GeorgiaPeachFlyer)  – I assume this is because her website has been frozen. Perhaps her web host caught the plagiarized content and took down her website.

website frozen

I have sent the offender a ‘friendly’ email requesting that she take down and stop using my content as if it were hers.

We’ll see what happens.

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New Month, New Bankruptcy Forms

December 1, 2014

It’s December 1st, it must be the roll out date for the new bankruptcy forms.

Yes folks, it’s time to update your form files. TODAY is the day.

newformsEffective December 1, 2014, the following forms need to be substituted into your bankruptcy petition packet:

  • Official Form 3A (Application for Individuals to Pay the Filing Fee in Installments) and
  • Official Form 3B (Application to Have the Chapter 7 Filing Fee Waived)
    • revised to remove references to fee amounts
  • Official Form B6Sum (Summary) 
    • revised to update line number cross references to the revised means test forms
    • (See Official Forms 22A-1, 22A-1 Supp, 22A-2, 22B, 22C-1 and 22C-2).
  • Official Form 17A (Notice of Appeal and Statement of Election)
  • Official Form 17B (Optional Appellee Statement of Election to Proceed in District Court)
  • Official Form 17C (Certificate of Compliance with Rule 8015(a)(7)(B) or 8016(d)(2))

Revised Means Test Forms

  • Official Form 22A-1 (Chapter 7 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income),
  • Official Form 22A-1 Supp (Statement of Exemption from Presumption of Abuse Under §707(b)(2)),
  • Official Form 22A-2 (Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation),
  • Official Form 22B (Chapter 11 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income),
  • Official Form 22C-1 (Chapter 13 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income and Calculation of Commitment Period) and
  • Official Form 22C-2 (Chapter 13 Calculation of Your Disposable Income
    • revised accommodate changes in the law as a result of Supreme Court precedent, and
    • as part of the Bankruptcy Rules Advisory Committee’s ongoing Forms Modernization Project.

Just in case your petition software provider hasn’t pushed the update yet, save yourself the headache and keep links to the revised forms handy. Trust me, there are few things as upsetting as receiving a deficiency notice from the clerk with a 72 hour deadline to file the correct forms.

 

 

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