Clear the Paper Clutter

Clear up paper clutterIf you don’t hot-desk or have a clear-desk policy that works, the chances are your desk can sometimes (maybe frequently!) look like a bomb has hit it. So, before you lose another piece of paper or spend far too long looking for something that’s probably not there, here are the top ten tips to help you clear the paper clutter:

1. Sort your paper into four piles: Action, Read/Pass On, Filing and Junk. The last one is easy to deal with: ask yourself whether it would matter if you lost it. If not, why are you keeping it? If there isn’t a very good business reason to do so, or if you can get another copy easily, then bin it.

2. Action! That piece of paper is probably on your desk to remind you to deal with it. So diary the deadline and put away the piece of paper: file it, bin it, pass it on or, if you must keep it, use a bring-forward system (see number 8 below).

3. Read it. Are you ever really going to read it? How many times have you said ‘I’ll read it if I have time’? If you are going to read it, diary the date and put away the paper in a drawer or reading file until the time comes. Be realistic about it and be wary of saying, ‘I’ll read it when I get a minute’.

Thank You to the London Evening Class of May 2009

London Evening ClassMany thanks for the fantastic surprise on my birthday. The huge chocolate cake was a wonderful treat on the night. I also enjoyed reading my hand made “signed, sealed and delivered” birthday card.

It was a pleasure to teach such an enthusiastic and motivated group. The extra bonus is that you were all blessed with such a good sense of humour and curiosity, which will stand you in very good stead with your future careers. 

Best wishes

Seamus Ryan, Tutor

 London Evening Class

The following is a testimonial from Christine Gardner who was an excellent Student on the course.  She achieved fantastic results and received a Distinction for her Diploma.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the course and felt our tutor, Seamus Ryan, was absolutely brilliant (he must have been as we bought him in a birthday cake as it was his birthday on our last day!!). I was pleased I made the effort to attend the Royal Courts of Justice as it really helped me understand the procedures of the Courts.  Amanda was really enthusiastic and knowledgeable on the tour.

Useful Technology for VAs

TechnologyWorking from home as a Virtual Legal Assistant is a great way to freelance and find freedom in the way you work. As recently as ten years ago this sort of remote working, although not unheard of, was not really as practical as it is today. The technology just wasn’t affordable, and the legal world has been noted to be quite cautious when it comes to new technologies.

In these changing times, however, it is becoming more common for all kinds of administration tasks to be outsourced to remote workers. Budget constraints, changing attitudes and cheaper technology are leading more organisations to seek out third-party secretarial services.

This new market presents a unique set of technical challenges to the fledgling Legal VA. Larger firms that have their own in-house IT departments are likely to develop their own solutions for remote support staff, but with smaller firms on a lower budget you may find yourself doing a bit of techno improvisation, depending on what is required of you.

Here is a list of technologies you may encounter or find useful when going into the VA trade.

Connectivity and Security

Use Your Legal Secretary/PA Experience and Become a Virtual Assistant

Legal Virtual AssistantIn today’s working environment of never-ending advances in technology and the slow-burning fire of crucial green issues, more and more people and companies are looking to the alternatives, from working from home and remote working from the office to using independent workers or contractors to outsource work.

Outsourcing is not a particularly new phenomenon, but it is one that has taken hold in the modern business world and one that is growing rapidly, egged on by continual technological developments.  One positive side effect is the emergence of the virtual assistant (VA) industry.

What is a VA?

A VA is a self-employed personal assistant turned business owner providing the services one would expect from a PA or Secretary in the office environment, except that they work from their own premises (usually a home office), and communicates with a variety of clients via email or telephone.  Just as the role of the PA has evolved, VAs, such as business owners Alex Stone and Carmen MacDougall of Smart-Sec (www.smart-sec.uk), can also provide specialist skills in marketing and business support, event management, and ecommerce development.

The UK Constitution: Time for a Change?

It is fair to say that there is a lot of disillusionment with our Parliament and with certain aspects of the UK constitution at the moment. There are many who feel that our system is weak, and that this has been proven over recent months as so many elected representatives to our Parliament have used their position for their own financial gain and, in some circumstances, to help out members of their own families.

One thing is clear and that is the fact that UK citizens have clearly had enough! Nothing could have demonstrated this any more plainly than the shocking results that emerged from the European Parliamentary elections. Not only was Labour relegated to third place, in terms of the number of votes received, but also clear and, in some cases, extreme opinions were communicated by way of the parties who won seats to the new EU Parliament.

In some ways, when you actually study law, you gain an appreciation of the fact that the UK is proud to be one of the only Western countries that has held on to an unwritten constitution. With so much history at our disposal and conventions that have dictated the way in which things have been done for centuries, this appeared to be sufficient for us and a written constitution had always been deemed as unnecessary.

The Frustration of Living With Anti-Social Behaviour: What Can Be Done?

Anti Social BehaviourAnti-social behaviour appears to be a menace that is on the increase in today’s society. Of course, such problems have always existed to a certain extent, but there is a definite statistical rise in the number of incidents reported, and both police forces and local authorities are having to find additional resources to deal with such matters.

Anti-social behaviour may come in many guises, ranging from blatant criminal damage and harassment to noise problems coming from neighbours.

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 attempted to address this phenomenon by way of the introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (or ASBOs). These may be obtained through Magistrates’ courts, even though in actual fact they are civil law remedies. Where a person breaches an ASBO, this will then become a criminal matter.

ASBOs do not really seem to have had the desired effect. In fact, in some locations within England and Wales, some young people view these court orders as a joke and a passage of life, and if you do not have one, you are the exception rather than the rule.

How to Mind Map

Mind Map for Legal SecretariesMind mapping is a very powerful technique for promoting creative thinking and improving memory.  Developed by Tony Buzan, it has become a very widely used tool, primarily because it is such a visual way of planning or remembering things.  So if you need to plan or remember something, here are the top ten tips for creating and using a mind map:

1. Use A3 paper – give yourself plenty of room to develop your ideas; you can always reduce its size later if necessary. If you don’t have A3 paper to hand, the back of an envelope is equally good as a starting point.  Just transfer your initial map to A3 paper later.

2. Get a good set of coloured pencils or felt pens – as a child, you might have had a favourite set of pencils that you particularly enjoyed using.  Tap into that excitement again.

3. Use pictures – as a visual technique, mind mapping accesses parts of the brain that logic and language don’t.  Use words as well, but maximise the use of pictures even if, like me, you “can’t draw”.

Who Rules the UK?

Courts Threaten Democracy legal Secretary

What role should the Courts have in maintaining our democracy?

The summer of 2009 may be remembered as the point in time when trust in Parliament reached an all-time low. The understandable anger at the endless revelations about MP’s expenses has seemed to threaten our entire system of government. What has made matters worse is the apparent lack of real accountability for MPs.

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that most MPs did act within the rules and, strictly speaking, they have done nothing illegal. Morally speaking, their behaviour is unacceptable. Apart from electing them out of office, how can it be right that they are accountable to no one? What is to stop them from increasing their salaries or making more unfair and immoral rules about what expenses they can claim?  In theory, nothing can stop them from doing this. Parliament can make any law that it chooses, and no body, including the courts, can question the validity of its acts. This is known as the concept of Parliamentary sovereignty, which was first conceived by A V Dicey in Law of the Constitution (1959). He stated that: -

A Career as a Virtual Assistant Might Be Just for You!

I have worked as a legal secretary for many years now, and have never been out of work since leaving school in 1983, apart from going on maternity break for a couple of years when the children were very small.  So when I was made redundant whilst working for DLA Piper in their Birmingham office in March of this year, it came as a huge shock to find myself suddenly jobless.

Being made redundant is obviously an awful thing to happen to anyone, but I think it is fair to say that I, and many other people in the legal profession, always believed that working for a law firm was “safe” and that it would never happen to me.  I’ve never been the type of person who takes a knock and is left lying on the floor, though, so I licked my wounds, dusted myself down and decided to take action.  No, it wasn’t through the tribunal courts - I very quickly came to realise that I had been handed a golden opportunity. 

The Venables Website – A Personal Story

I first ‘discovered’ the Internet on a trip to the US in 1995. I was an IT consultant for a group of lawyers, and I could immediately see the possibilities that the Internet offered the legal world. I soon set up my own website at www.venables.co.uk with information that I thought would be useful for UK lawyers. At that time, only a handful of firms of solicitors had a website and there was only one other independent legal site in the UK – Nick Holmes’ infolaw (www.infolaw.co.uk). He and I met quite soon after this and agreed that the Internet was big enough for both of us, and we have been friends and colleagues (and occasionally rivals!) ever since.

The legal publishers were not really present on the web at that time; perhaps they rather hoped that the Internet would go away and leave them to print their learned books in peace! How different it all seems now.

Who is it for?