2010

Improve Your Software Skills With Lynda.com

Lynda.ComIn today’s high-tech work environment you may find yourself pushed to learn how to use new software in order to take on a new role or responsibility. Sometimes you may find yourself forced into using software that you have never heard of, let alone used. Maybe it’s not even the case that it’s new software; rather, you get forced into using the same old application in a way that surpasses your technical capabilities. If you are like me, you may just want to master a new application for fun as well as for the potential work benefits.

Learning on your own or from snippets of information gleaned from Internet forums can be a very frustrating experience. The great tutorial you found on YouTube turns out not to be so great. You can’t see the screen and the amateur tutor barely knows what he or she is doing. I have spent many a frustrated hour looking for decent tutorials to get me started on some new app that I have to learn. But finally I am not frustrated any more. I subscribed to Lynda.com.

Lynda.com is one of the oldest software training companies around. I had always heard great things about their courses, which cover everything from Microsoft Office, QuickBooks and Photoshop to full-on programming languages like PHP and C#. It was not until recently, however, that it really became affordable to do their courses.

Is Employment Law Holding Businesses Back?

At the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs, we have used our journal to report back on the effects of employment law on economic recovery in the past. We discussed the possibility that some businesses were struggling to cope with the financial burden that such legal regulations impose upon them, and how this may have led to a sharp increase in the number of employment tribunals that were being pursued.

It would now appear that those initial concerns were completely accurate, especially in light of statistics that are being reported through certain law firms that deal with employment law. One firm (Maxwell Hodge, Liverpool) has actually stated that they have seen a massive 56% rise in the number of employment tribunal claims in the year 2009/2010 compared with the previous year. It is also important to note that there would have been a marked increase in 2008/2009 compared with that previous year.

There is no denying the fact that there are many elements of employment law that are especially detrimental to a small or medium-sized business’ recovery. Be this the minimum wage or statutory maternity leave pay, such payouts can mean the difference between a company managing to keep its head above these recession waters or not.

Philippine Judicial Procedures on Civil Procedure: Bridging the Gap for Poor People

Since I obtained my Associate Membership of this Institute, I have been working in litigation.  It has equipped me with necessary skills pertaining to the court litigation process after the Philippine Supreme Court’s Approval on the Small Claims Court and the amendments of Civil Procedure in Philippine Courts, as promulgated by Philippine Supreme Court.

The amendments of the 1997 Philippine Civil Procedure gave the chance for the Small Claims Court to be created in 2008.  Now it has been implemented across the lower courts in my country.  It gives a “taste of swift justice” to the underprivileged citizens of our country for them to obtain justice, or if they are the defendants of a particular case, swift vindication can be obtained.

The Giving Season

The Giving SeasonThis time last year I did some voluntary work for El Shaddai children’s charity in India and I would like to give you an update to how my fundraising has progressed over the past year.  El Shaddai provide orphans, street, slum, abused and sick children with the basic necessities of life.  The care the children receive develops their personalities and helps them to have a brighter future.  El Shaddai’s slogan is ‘Let there be no child on the streets without a proper childhood and they need help to fulfill their dream.'

I have received some very generous donations and I am just over half way to reaching my target of £2,000.  After a conversation with one of our Members, I have been encouraged to write more about my experience.  She said that she would like to read about it from a personal point of view.  I hope that you can gain an understanding of how worthwhile this cause is and find a place in your heart to make a donation, however small, to help improve the lives of the beautiful children I had the pleasure of spending time with.  It is the giving season, after all!

Information Is King

Requests for InformationRequests for Further Information

This is the seventh article in a series focusing on specialist skills and knowledge in Civil Litigation. Litigation can be a time-consuming and expensive process, but what happens when one side is not pulling their weight? What I mean by this is how does a party that has set out their statement of case clearly and provided full disclosure deal with an opponent that is giving “the silent treatment”? It may be that a “silent” party does not realise that their statement of case raises more questions than it answers. More likely they know exactly what they are doing and want to say as little as possible. At any point a party may “clam up”, leaving the other side struggling to get a clear idea of the case they are up against.

Proposals for Reform of the Legal Aid System

Legal AidEver since legal aid was first introduced in England and Wales back in 1949, many people believe that this fund, which is paid for by the tax-payer, has increasingly continued to move away from the fundamental principles by which it was first established to serve. Indeed, the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has established a consultation period for extensive changes to the legal aid system and has stated that one of the most worrying reasons for this is down to the fact that legal aid is accessible in cases where court intervention may not have been the best way forward. It has been recognised that other dispute resolution services may have produced far better results and at a fraction of the cost to the legal aid fund.

England and Wales have a £2 billion legal aid cost each year and this is apparently one of the most expensive in the entire world. Despite the fact that previous administrations have attempted to address issues in the legal aid system more than 30 times since 2006 alone, there has not been a significant review undertaken on the system.

Why Work for a Company When You Can Work for Everyone in Europe?

As a Secretary with the European Institutions you can pursue a fascinating future and help them make a difference for 500 million European citizens. Working alongside colleagues of every nationality in the heart of Europe, you will be vital to everything they do and you can expect a challenging international work environment and a career full of opportunities.

To join EU Institutions, you’ll need to be a qualified or experienced secretary with English, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Maltese, Portuguese, Spanish or Swedish as your main language. You’ll also need a good command of a second language (English, French or German), great problem-solving skills and the initiative to make things happen.

Life as a Secretary With the European Institutions

If you join the EU Institutions as an ‘Assistant in the Secretarial Field’ (Secretary), your career could take you almost anywhere you want to go.

Here is the story of Deborah, who is working in the Directorate General for Competition (COMP) in Brussels:

Calls for Reform of the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991

Dangerous Dogs ActFollowing an unusually high number of serious dog attacks in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the government at the time felt compelled to pass the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991. This statute aimed to control some of the breeds of dogs that seemed to be featured in the news most prominently at the time, with the Pit Bull Terrier being particularly targeted.

This legislation has always proven to be a contentious issue. People seem to stand on either side of the fence and there does not appear to be much in the way of a middle ground. For those in favour of these legal controls, the opinion appears to be that the Act did not go far enough. Many breeds of dogs that often feature in the news as a consequence of vicious attacks were not brought under control in the legislation. This includes breeds such as the Rottweiler and the breed that is causing increasing concern today — the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Evidence Matters

A review of the rules on appointing expert witnesses and an outline of best practices when instructing an expert

This is the sixth article in a series focusing on specialist skills and knowledge in Civil Litigation. Expert witness evidence can be crucial to winning a case, so choosing the right expert and instructing him or her properly is an important task. As a legal secretary, you would not normally be expected to choose the actual expert in a case, but that does not mean you do not have a role in the process.

Like nearly everything else nowadays, there are sometimes too many choices, so being in a position to narrow down the options is valuable to a fee earner as it will save him or her time. If you are asked to compile contact details for appropriate experts, there are a number of places you can look.

The starting point is either your own firm’s database (if one exists) or recommendations from colleagues in the firm. Another source for identifying a suitable expert is an expert agency. These agencies can be very useful if your client is based in a different part of the country and you need an expert based near him or her. There are also directories and databases for various professions. 

Why I Applied for the Legal Secretaries Diploma Course

I started working as an office junior in November 1999, aged 17 years.  I had actually wanted to be a Travel Agent, but upon gaining one day’s work experience with a local firm I decided this career was not for me, mainly because they put me in a back office to file invoices all day.  I really believe that if you are trying to sell a position to someone, they need to experience it properly in order to make an informed decision.

Three weeks later I found myself still unemployed and getting desperate to stand on my own two feet, which is when I came across an advertisement in the jobs section of the local newspaper for an Office Junior in a City Centre Solicitors firm.  At this point I didn’t have any office experience, but as they were advertising for a junior I thought, “How much experience could they want from me?”

I went for an interview, and lo and behold I was offered the position on the spot!  I accepted the job offer and started two days later.

Why Worrying Well Is Good for You

It is often said that we ought not to worry. In fact, this is far from the case, provided we ‘worry well’. Our brains thrive on being stretched and on finding solutions to difficulties. When we worry well, we engage both our higher intelligence and our innate creativity, which not only reduces stress but also gives us a sense of competence and achievement. So worrying well is good for you and is a skill we can all usefully cultivate.

Worrying well involves engaging, perhaps with a sense of curiosity, with a problem to see if we can do anything about it (and then taking action) or, if we can’t do anything about it, figuring out whether we need to change our reaction to it and then working on changing that reaction. Some people find it useful to use what is called a worry decision tree. Here it is:

Does the Defence of Provocation Go Far Enough?

ProvocationIf you have never studied criminal law, you may well be under the impression that provocation could be used as a defence to mitigate a number of different charges. For example, if someone is charged with an assault, surely they may have been provoked into committing that offence? However, with the defence of provocation, this could not be further from the truth. This is because this specific defence is only available for a person who has been charged with murder; it is not possible to rely on this defence in the case of manslaughter.

As it has recently been announced that a possible review of assault laws may be in the cards (we will investigate this more thoroughly at a later date), the defence of provocation is rearing its head again. There are a number of people who work in criminal law who believe that this defence should not be restricted to the most severe charge of them all. After all, it really does go without saying that if an individual can be provoked into taking another person’s life, surely then he or she could be provoked into an assault on another person.

Handling Difficult Callers

Difficult CallersWe recognise these calls pretty quickly, don't we?  The callers with high-pitched speech, sighs, long pauses, terse answers and increasing volume.  Telling them to "take it easy" or "stay calm" will probably make it worse.  So before your call turns abusive, here are top ten tips to help you handle a difficult caller:

Legal Prospects – Part of a Great Combination for a Prospective Job Seeker

Legal ProspectsThe rise of the job board

As technology has developed, the way people have worked has evolved.  This is also the case in terms of the way people now find a new job.

The rise of the online job board over the last decade, with some of the early adopters now being in existence for nearly 15 years, has been prominent and the job board is now becoming the most popular method of finding a new role.  Whether you’re looking for a new challenge, you’ve unfortunately been made redundant or you’re taking your first step on the career ladder, the Internet has become an invaluable tool in seeking to further your career.

Across every industry, the legal sector being no exception, the online battleground is fierce, with different media companies launching websites offering advertising services for recruiters and career advice for candidates.  With the Internet being adopted into everyday life in both business and personal use, the ease and speed of being able to find a new job has improved markedly, taking content and ultimately revenue away from trade magazines and regional publications.

Generalist vs. niche

Oh No, Grammar!

Is that a groan familiar from your school days?  If only you had listened, you’d know all about nouns, verbs, sentences and so on.  Or perhaps you were part of the ‘lost generation’ at school between the late 1960s and 1990s, and so you didn’t have a formal education in grammar and punctuation.  Do not fear: here are our top ten tips on grammar:

A New Tier System for Homicide Law?

Homicide LawAnother opportunity to deal with the legal hot potato of murder law reform in England and Wales has arisen recently, courtesy of the incumbent Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, supporting the reform of homicide law. But Keir Starmer’s kicking over of the ashes of the previous government’s half-hearted reform proposals have landed the coalition with quite a tricky task; no politician wants to get their fingers burned by an issue as heated as murder and life sentences. Nonetheless, a debate on the categorisation of murder, by degree, certainly appears to be back on the cards.

Murder law really is a touchstone for the public and politicians know that movements on this front need to be carefully considered and even more carefully presented if they are to avoid the much feared tag of being ‘soft on crime’. But Keir Starmer is not alone; his remarks in support of reform follow hard on the heels of similar remarks from his predecessor, Sir Ken MacDonald QC; the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Blair, also has thrown his weight behind the Law Commission’s original proposals, first aired some five years ago.

Dealing With People

Dealing with peopleThe good Legal Secretary is well liked. Visitors to the office recall your courteous, cheerful manner, your intelligent considerateness and your smile. Fellow employees value your helpful cooperation and the little favours you are able to grant them. As for your employer, he depends on you in a hundred different ways, not only in business dealings but sometimes in social matters as well. It is part of your job to create a good impression and to establish and maintain friendly relations. Your corner of the office shows a touch of colour, literally as well as figuratively.

The business world moves at high speed and in quick tempo. The office building hums with activity. Executives are drawn together by a complex web of letters, telephone calls, conversations and agreements. Transactions are set under way whose success depends on the swift and efficient functioning of each employee, from the highest to the most subordinate. In this fast-moving world, confusions, misunderstandings, delays and other manifestations of poor cooperation prove costly. Yet it is all too easy for an individual to develop a hurried nervous tempo of working, no more efficient than a burst of speed by a high-powered auto in heavy traffic. Obviously, whatever makes for greater smoothness in personal relations and functioning is very important.

Does HMRC Hold All the Cards in the PAYE Fiasco?

The sense of moral outrage provoked by the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) debacle probably has some way to play; this is hardly surprising, given the jumbled mix of apathy and blundering displayed by those at the top of HM Revenue & Customs. To start, its failings were dressed up as the taxpayer’s responsibility; but since the initial announcements, they have been forced to issue a flurry of back-pedalling clarifications that have probably only served to muddy the waters for the harassed taxpayer.

But, putting aside justifiable indignation, what redress does the aggrieved UK taxpayer have, once the dreaded brown envelope has hit the doormat?

Self-assessment by stealth

First, it is worth taking a step back to look at the origins of the present crisis; the source of the problem isn’t the new IT system per se, but a legacy going back more than a decade. From the inception of PAYE, up until the introduction of self-assessment in 1995, automatic annual reviews of the income tax situation of each taxpayer were undertaken. This usefully served to prevent a large build-up of underpayments or overpayments for individual taxpayers.

Strategies to Use Your Memory Efficiently

Using MemoryWhy do we need a memory? At its most basic level, our memory is there so that we do not need to relearn things; to take examples from early life, things such as learning how to walk, talk, read, write, ride a bicycle, etc. At a broader level, the memory’s function is to allow us to access relevant and accurate information at the right time. To access relevant information, research has shown that we are more likely to remember important things by writing them down and leaving our memory the job of knowing where the information is written down rather than burdening it with holding all the details in the immediate recall section of the memory stores. In other words, using tools both to jog our memory and to provide the full detail needed.

There are various strategies which will allow you to use your memory efficiently. The main strategies in the office environment involve realistic, prioritised to-do lists and the good management of diaries and contacts, as follows:

Confidentiality: A Serious Business

ConfidentialityWe live in an era when freedom of information is being vigorously pursued by all and sundry. Though we might have constitutional rights to demand certain information, sometimes we won’t so easily have access to this information. Just as we need access to certain information, people also have their reasons for needing confidentiality and their rights to such cannot be violated. According to the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO), confidentiality is simply “ensuring that information is accessible only to those authorised to have access.” Conversely, information lacks confidentiality to the extent that it is available or when it is disclosed to unauthorized persons or processes.

Disclosure in Legal Proceedings

Disclosure in Legal ProceedingsA summary of the rules of disclosure and an update on the expanding use of electronic disclosure

This is the fifth article in a series focusing on specialist skills and knowledge in civil litigation. We have previously considered the skills needed to prepare court bundles (February 2009); without prejudice correspondence (March 2010); pre-action protocols (June 2010); and legal costs in litigation (August 2010).

When we considered pre-action protocols it was noted that any case rests on the evidence. In particular, the importance of exchanging evidence early was highlighted. What was not considered was exactly how parties disclose evidence.

Parties usually have to disclose information in the following circumstances:

Is Your Job and Office Environment Working for You?

Working EnvironmentWe spend a large proportion of our weekday lives working, but how much time do we spend on checking that our job and office environment is working for us? Here are some of the basics. You might find it useful to run an audit to check whether you can make or influence any improvements.

Human beings habituate to situations and can often ignore things which are working against them rather than for them because they have adjusted to them over time. However, even the smallest change in our environment or our attitude towards it makes the situation and our experience of it different. So, if we stand back, we can create an opportunity to make or influence improvements to our advantage: trying different things, evaluating them to see how well they work for us and keeping an open mind to positive change. The overarching principle is that we need to reduce any actual or potential stressors as much as we can and to have effective strategies for managing any residual stressors well. Above all, maintain a positive, compassionate and balanced outlook and expect the best!

Actual or potential stressors: Workspace, colleagues, clients, the work itself and commuting

Legal Secretaries Diploma Course Students

LSD CourseWe are delighted to have received a record number of enrolments for our Legal Secretaries Diploma course this September. The good reputation of the Institute is growing year by year and many of our enrolments are from word of mouth. The course is of great worth and the proof is in the pudding as Students have gained a variety of excellent positions on the strength of the qualification.

Good luck to all the Students who have started their studies at Regents College. An exciting legal career awaits you. Our tutors, Amanda Hamilton and Seamus Ryan, will very much enjoy teaching you over the next months and please do not hesitate to approach them if you have any queries about the course. You can also contact us by telephone or email for any advice and guidance you would like about your career.

If you would like to gain or improve your typing, Word, Excel or Outlook skills, please take a look at the additional courses we offer in the training section of our website here: http://www.institutelegalsecretaries.com/?q=node/63.

Analysing the Effectiveness of the National Care Standards Commission Regulations in Plastic Surgery

In April 2002, medical professionals in the fields of plastic and constructive surgery breathed a huge sigh of relief as the National Care Standards Commission Regulations came into force. After years of campaigning beforehand, it was hoped that there would be a strong element of control over this area of health care at long last.

The main reason these directives were introduced was to put in place a regulatory body that could inspect the English clinics that carry out such procedures. All aspects of care were to be analysed: preparations prior to treatment, the procedures themselves and, of course, essential aftercare. Another important aspect of the regulations was to ensure that a person enquiring about a specific procedure is furnished with all of the relevant facts on what is involved during the process and, even more importantly, that all risks are outlined very clearly. With this in mind, a ‘cooling-off period’ is highly recommended; a period of two weeks is suggested for best practice here.

How to Find Meaning in Your Work

You have days when there just seems no point to what you’re doing – where it all feels futile or meaningless. Your motivation is low, yet the work still needs to be done.

Whatever your situation, here’s how to find meaning in your work, and to get your motivation back.

Think about your values

What’s truly important to you? Maybe it’s your family, your health, or your career. Maybe it’s simply having the time to enjoy yourself and do things that you love.

In the light of your key values, how does your work look? Perhaps the dull admin tasks are worth it because they help you provide for your family. Maybe pushing yourself to get through something you don’t really enjoy much will further your career. Or, at the very least, getting this bit of work done can buy you some free time to do what you really want.

Look at the end result

However much you enjoy your job or your life as a whole, there’ll be tasks which you simply don’t like doing. The point is to have them done. When you do the dishes, it’s not because you love playing with soapy water – it’s because you want to keep your kitchen clean.

Rapid and Effective Reading

How many times have you had to reread the last page or so to catch what you didn’t take in? The best way to learn the skills and to practise them in timed sessions is on our very successful half-day course. You will see amazing results!

In the meantime, and so you don’t just go through the motions", here are ten tips to help you read more quickly and effectively.

The Concerns over Cloned Animal Products Entering the Human Food Chain

Disagreement about the morality of cloning any life form has been raging within our society for a number of years now. Most countries have an outright ban on any research that extends to the cloning of another human being, but the cloning of other animals is definitely a grey area. This uncertainty is most probably what is responsible for the recent events that have attracted widespread news coverage.

The story broke with the revelation that milk from cloned cows had already entered the human food chain. Then it was revealed that meat from these animals had most likely entered the chain as well.

Taking Control in Litigation: A Review of Legal Costs

Taking control in LitigationWe last considered the subject of costs in an article published in November 2007. At that time, we considered what requirements had to be followed by a firm to ensure that they were complying with the (then new) Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2007. The most important part of the Code for costs is the rules that require clients to be given clear and accurate cost quotes and estimates. Most law-firm staff will have come to grips with the Code long ago, but new changes are pending that will further regulate this area of legal costs.   These changes are based on the recommendations of Lord Justice Jackson, who has spent more than a year creating a weighty, 663 page report

It is not yet certain what recommendations from the Jackson report will be taken up, but on the positive side it seems unlikely that the current rules on claiming costs will change substantially. This is fortunate, because the cost rules have many aspects where a Legal Secretary who is ‘switched-on’ can make an enormous difference. Add to this the fact that having some knowledge of how civil litigators are paid will impress many solicitors, and this becomes a subject worth knowing about.

The assessment of costs

How to Enhance Your Organisational Skills

Good organisation is all about planning ahead and preparing effectively. When we organise things well, we make the best and most economic use of our time and skills and we also have the satisfaction of having dealt with things with clarity of thought and purpose.

The Space Race

I am put in mind of a story from the Space Race. The Americans and the Russians were competing to be the first to land a man on the moon. One small part of the process for the Americans was a multibillion-dollar program to design a pen that would work in zero gravity so the astronauts could keep records and notes of the mission whilst in space. Because gravity could not be relied on to maintain the ink flow, another solution was needed. This occupied a vast team of highly intelligent engineers and technicians for years. Eventually, after immense hard labour, application and ingenuity, the team was successful and a pen that would write in space was developed. An excellent result all round. What was the solution adopted by the Russians? Well, they just used a pencil!

Planning Stage 1: Clarity on what needs to be done, how and by when

Speak Volumes Silently

Speak Volumes SilentlyHave you ever been told you can be ‘read like a book’? Are you aware when your body language is ‘leaking’, or giving you away? Words are only a very small part of communication: while you are saying the words, your body is speaking volumes! Sometimes, you don’t even have to say anything: your face or body language will have said it for you! So, if you want to make sure you send all your messages in the way you intend them, here are the top ten tips to help you:

1. Get the inner dialogue right. If your mind says, ‘Oh, dear...’ or, ‘I’m not doing this very well,’ the chances are you will give away your feelings despite your attempts to control them. If you are poised, open, dignified and focused inside, you will transmit this in your body language and conversations. So think positively and unemotionally, and your nonverbal message will match your words.

Using To-Do List Applications

To Do ListsTo-do lists are a great way of increasing productivity. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the tasks we have to do during the course of a week, but we can eliminate stress by creating achievable goals. If you take the time to write down the tasks you need to complete, you will find that the list will help you to put your workload in perspective and keep the end in sight.

Here are some tips on creating to-do lists to make your workload more manageable:

1. Be realistic. Set achievable outcomes for each day and don’t put too much on your list.

2. Prioritise. Rank your tasks in order of importance and complete them in that order. Make sure you finish each task before moving on to the next, as this will help you to focus.

3. Break your tasks into bite-size pieces. Create a list of subtasks under each task. Each subtask will help you to complete the overall task.

A Silver Lining on the Training Grant Axe

Training Grant AxeThe scrapping of training grants for legal aid lawyers has come like a bolt out of the blue for many in the legal profession, especially those who have grown used to the largesse of the Legal Services Commission.

The scheme, which was launched in 2002, provided awards to a maximum of £20,000 to legal aid firms. The funds could be used to pay the whole of the tuition fees of the Professional Skills Course, as well as a significant contribution to Legal Practice Course fees. Additionally, the salaries of trainee Solicitors were paid for the two years of their training contracts.

Of course, the immediate motivation of the Ministry of Justice is to save funds, against the backdrop of generally savage cuts across government departments. Jonathan Djanogly, the Legal Aid Minister, has stated that £2.6 million a year would be saved by what he said was a temporary suspension of the scheme.

Those directly affected by the cuts are, predictably, none too happy. In particular, Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) has expressed its frustration: ‘YLAL is bitterly disappointed to learn that the LSC will no longer be providing sponsored training contracts. The withdrawal of these grants sends a very clear message that the LSC is not committed to quality or social mobility within the legal aid sector.

Five Beneficial Applications for Personal Use

Beneficial AppsDropbox

Dropbox is the best way to back up your files and keep your files synced between multiple computers. Once installed, Dropbox creates a folder in your Documents or Home folder. Anything saved to this folder will be backed up online and can be synced to any other computers that have Dropbox installed on the same account. You can also share folders with your friends who use Dropbox. The basic account is absolutely free and gives you 2 gigabytes of storage space. It is cross platform and runs on Windows, OSX and Linux.

Avast Antivirus

Avast Antivirus is the new king of free antivirus software. Free, fast and lightweight, Avast is the best option for securing your PC or laptop against viruses. I used to recommend AVG Antivirus, but their free product has slowly devolved to a bare shadow of what it once was. Avast is certainly a much more user-friendly experience.

Kino Screen Mask

Improve Your Negotiating Skills

Negotiating SkillsNegotiating skills come into play whenever we are contact with others, whether professionally, personally or socially. Improving these skills allows us to be at our best in order to achieve successful mutual outcomes.

The three main keys to success are effective handling of ourselves, handling of others and dealing with the problem.

Let's look at each of these in turn:

1. Effective handling of ourselves

We need to carefully monitor ourselves to make sure that we remain in control of our emotions. This will allow our rational mind to be accessible for solving problems, thinking clearly and retaining objectivity. ‘Emotions make us stupid’, as American psychologist Daniel Goleman famously said. You will be able to recognise the warning signs of becoming more emotionally aroused: faster breathing, rising anxiety, a higher or strained voice.

Tips and Advice for Personal Assistants

Tips for PAsIf you are working as a Legal PA and would like access to another good resource to help you in your career, look no further than http://www.personal-assistant-tips.com. This informative website includes tips and advice for junior and senior PAs alike. There are many beneficial articles on checklists for meetings, managing your boss, event planning, minute taking, business writing and more.

You will find a comprehensive set of PA tools and links for organising and planning corporate travel on the site. They include embassy information, inoculation requirements, visa requirements, airline and airport codes, world holidays, international driving licence requirements and a worldwide Wi-Fi locator.

Other PA tools and links feature calculators, a postcode finder, a dictionary, a thesaurus and an aptitude test. There are also gift ideas, restaurant and pub guides, business information, and courier services.

Bookmark this website for easy reference and tell your colleagues about it!

 

Recession Reduces Emissions of Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse GasA recent report made to Parliament by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change indicated that greenhouse gas emissions fell by 8.9% in 2009. However, this was due to a reduction in economic activity caused by the recession and increases in fossil fuel/energy prices, rather than to the implementation of good measures.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is an independent body established under the Climate Change Act to advise the UK Government on setting carbon budgets and to report to Parliament on the progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The committee stated in the report that a change in policies is necessary if the UK is to achieve its legal emissions target under the Climate Change Act http://opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2008/ukpga_20080027_en_1. They have recommended the improvement of energy efficiency in 1.2 million homes annually, renewable heat and electricity through a decarbonised power sector by 2030, and the ambitious target of having 1.7 million electric cars on the road by 2020.

Register on Our Legal Secretary Jobs Board

Legal Secretary Jobs BoardThe ILSPA Legal Secretary Jobs Board is the UK’s largest niche recruitment site for Legal Secretaries and PAs. It was specifically designed to help our Members and Students secure employment by aggregating Legal Secretary jobs from across the web as well as enabling law firms and recruitment agencies to post jobs directly. If you are presently looking for a Legal Secretary job, register on our jobs board to gain access to around 2,000 vacancies across the UK. 

Registering on the jobs board will allow you to:

  • Browse the latest Legal Secretary vacancies
  • Search for specific Legal Secretary jobs
  • Create or upload your CV to show your availability for work
  • Be contacted directly by employers
  • View your applications and saved jobs
  • Receive new listings of Legal Secretary jobs via email

If you would like to receive step-by-step CV help before you upload your CV, please send a copy to cv@institutelegalsecretaries.com. Your CV provides the first impression that you will make on a potential employer, so making sure it is of the highest quality will give you a much better chance of being offered an interview.

Succeed With Your Studies

Excellent.jpgThere are times when it can be hard to focus on your studies. Sometimes the subject material might be particularly challenging, or sometimes there are unwelcome distractions or activities which appear to be more appealing than studying. It could be that it is simply not easy to concentrate at times. But you want to complete the course and do well, and you want to be able to look back after completing the course and know with a sense of satisfaction that you have achieved your best. So how can you best build and maintain that focus?

Have a really clear goal and remind yourself of it

That’s Not My Job! (It May Not Be for Long)

Not my jobWe’re all guilty of either saying or thinking this once or twice in our careers (present company included). The boss asks us to perform a task that we feel is a bit ‘beneath’ us and the phrase magically pops into our brain. However, what happens when the thought becomes an attitude, and how much truth is there in the comment in the first place?

For example, Peggy Paralegal is hard at work reviewing and organising a stack of medical records that she has received as a result of her latest document production request binge. Suddenly, Betsy Boss appears in the door and states, ‘Peggy, Robin Receptionist is out sick today and I need you to cover her desk from 1:00 to 2:00 today. Thanks.’  Before poor Peggy can even explain that she has a mountain of work of her own, Betsy Boss is halfway to her office, secure in knowing the front desk will be covered. You begin to feel your inner child stamping its feet and turning bright red just before it falls to the ground in a delightful tantrum. All of a sudden, out of the blue…those words: ‘That’s not my job!’

Will Sharia Law Be Able to Move out of the Shadow of Gender Repression?

Sharia LawNo one can fail to have been shocked and disturbed by the recent case from Iran of a woman condemned to death by stoning for a conviction of adultery. The obscenity of the punishment, against a woman half buried and defenceless, for what we see as a private act, mirrors our feelings of sadness at a regime which has used violence against a passive civil society to maintain itself.

But this dark shadow that has reached up to us from a forgotten age also serves to remind us of how law can be made to serve the ends of repression. And although we may be comfortable with the gender equality we have now, the legal systems of the West have certainly participated in this history of repression by men of women. So, how has the law's approach to adultery changed in this country? And can a parallel evolution of sharia be expected or possible?

Adultery, before the ascendency of the ecclesiastical courts, was dealt with by the Anglo-Saxon codes as an issue of an offence against property. Compensation was due to the offended party, the husband, by his wife’s adultery, because his property had in effect been stolen. This approach went on to become firmly embedded in common law. Critically, the issue wasn’t bound up with religious morality.

Writing Understandable Minutes

Writing MinutesMost people do not read minutes particularly carefully. They were either at the meeting and so only need a quick reminder of the discussions and action points or they were not there and therefore just need an overview and, once again, action points. So it is essential that the minutes can be skim-read and understood at first reading. Here are the top 10 tips to make your minutes understandable:

Boosting Self-Esteem

Boosting Self EsteemSometimes our self-esteem can take a bit of a dive. It is natural for it to fluctuate, but we all need a base level to get the most out of work and life generally. So, what is self-esteem and how can we boost it when we need to?

Self-esteem is all about how we think about ourselves: it indicates, as Stanley Coopersmith said, ‘the extent to which the individual believes he or she is capable, significant, successful and worthy’. Generally we are unaware of our self-esteem; when we are unaware of it, that is because our self-esteem is adequate at that time and our main focus is directed outwards – in other words, directed not at ourselves but at other people or things. Naturally, we would not want our self-esteem to be too high, as this would give us unhealthy characteristics of being self-satisfied, smug, insensitive and blind to our own faults and shortcomings!

Self-esteem is very closely linked to confidence. There is a model template for achieving and building balance here, known as the TEST model.

Make the Most of Your Appraisal

Making the most of it.The formal appraisal is meant to be a frank and open discussion about past performance and future development so as to contribute to the success of the business. But appraisals can hold dread for some appraisees. Maybe it is a process you don’t give much thought to until a few weeks before the meeting itself. So you wander in saying how ‘fabulous’ or ‘excellent’ you are, and risk being disappointed. Or perhaps the alternative, where you assess yourself as ‘meeting expectations’, only to find that, actually, you exceed them in many areas. So to help you prepare – objectively – for your next appraisal, here are top ten tips:

Taking Control in Litigation

Taking control in litigation.A review of the growing importance of pre-issue steps in litigation and how the trained Legal Secretary can assist.

The famous line ‘No man is an island’ by the English poet John Donne is never more true than when working in a busy Solicitor’s office. Even the most skillful of Solicitors will rely on their support staff to ensure that they are working at the top of their game. As a trained Legal Secretary you will be in a position to help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the fee earners you work for. This article is one in a series focusing on key areas of practice and the specialist skills and knowledge that will help make you indispensible.

The Philippine Elections: Automation and Manual Counting Scenarios and the Impact on the Electoral Systems of the World

ElectionsOur recent elections have prompted calls for a reform of the voting system. Many ideas have been put forward and one of the recommendations on the cards is an e-voting system, which will reduce the chaos that often ensues on election day. One of our Associate Members, Clint Diesto, from the Philippines, has written an article on the recent introduction of computerised voting in his country.

What Are the Legal Implications Following the BP Oil Spill?

BP Oil SPillFollowing a disastrous explosion on an oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico on the 20 April 2010, 11 workers tragically lost their lives and a further 17 people were injured. Before we even begin to analyse the legal implications of this disaster, it is important that we spare our thoughts for the friends and families of these unfortunate employees.

There is absolutely no denying the fact that the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill represents one of the worst human-made natural disasters that this planet has ever seen. The United States have already stated that this oil spill is the worst in their own country’s history, and with the flow still not completely contained, it is difficult and altogether rather frightening to speculate on the eventual end that this catastrophe will reach.

Before the actual explosion on the 20 April, it has been reported that several workers and supervisors on the rig had expressed their concerns over well control. Alas though, this disaster still occurred due to the build-up of immensely dangerous levels of methane gas.

How to Secure a Legal Secretary Job

How to get a job as a legal secretary.We would like to provide you with some help and advice on how to secure employment as a Legal Secretary.  

Employers can be very selective in choosing the right person for the job and they are increasingly looking for those who have the right qualifications, skills or experience. Having studied the Legal Secretaries Diploma course or being an ILSPA Member gives you a great advantage, but there are many other factors which must be taken into account when looking for work.

Preparation

Applying for a job should be planned carefully. Those who are well prepared will secure the best positions. A good way of going about your job search is to imagine you are employed in the business of finding yourself a job. You need to organise and plan each step of the way to secure the right position.

To successfully obtain a job, you must market yourself. You must think that you are the product and the prospective employer is the customer. Just as any business has to market its products in order to obtain sales, so you must market yourself in order to obtain a job.

Mental Rehearsal Skills

In various articles over the last few months, I have mentioned mental rehearsal. Here are some more details about this and how to practise it. As Gandhi once said: ‘In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.’

The principles involved are very straightforward:

The Emergency Budget and Its Effects

The Emergency Budget.The Con-Lib coalition have been exceptionally busy over the past month in creating new legislation and implementing policies that they have always held dear. Some of these legal changes have had profound impacts upon many people in our society; indeed, some others have managed to raise the hackles on all of our backs, as we struggle to comprehend from where we are going to be able to find even more money to bail our country out.

There are many people who believe that whichever party assumed the position of our newest government, they would have been forced to tighten the reins of this country’s economy in a way that was never going to prove to be popular.

One of the first legal changes to be implemented by the new coalition government was already discussed last month: the abolition of the Home Information Packs (HIPs). Whilst a welcome relief to people looking to sell their property, this radical and snappy decision has had a big impact on the many businesses that had been created in recognition of the need for this obligatory service to house vendors.

Tips for a Healthy Inbox

Tips for a healthy inboxOrganise

Use folders or labels to organise and manage your email. If you have a good reference system set up, you won’t ever have troubles looking for mail. Paper documents are filed for ease of use, and email should be treated the same way.

Archive

Keep your correspondence; you never know when you will need it. Most modern email systems provide plenty of space, so it’s good to get into the practice of saving any mail that isn’t junk. That way you can’t be accused of not sending somebody something when you have actually sent it and vice versa. During my career I have referred back to old emails on many occasions and have resolved a few disputes by looking in my archived mail.

Create filters/rules

Harnessing the Power of Positive Thinking

When we focus on the positive aspects of our life, we enhance our life experience and create beneficial opportunities for the future. American psychologist Martin Seligman, in his book Learned Optimism, identified certain thinking styles which influence how we feel about ourselves and the world around us.

Those who regard good things as insignificant, temporary and attributable to external factors tend to be those who regard bad things as permanent, affecting most if not all of their life. These negative attributional styles set a person up for increased anxiety and distress

On the other hand, there are those who regard good things as significant, not just fleeting flukes, and who are prepared to take credit for their part in these things; these people tend to regard bad things as temporary, affecting only a part of their life (allowing them to enjoy the other parts more fully), and they acknowledge the external factors at play. This style of thinking helps to promote a healthy perspective and reduce anxiety.

Here are some examples:

Do Unto Others

Do Unto OthersCommon Areas of Expensive Legal Dispute – Part Two

In our previous article on common areas of legal dispute, we considered the pitfalls of entering into boundary disputes. I suggested that on some occasions it is better to consider the biblical saying ‘Love thy neighbour’ rather than resort to expensive legal proceedings. In this article we are considering complaints of nuisance, intimidation and harassment. Surprisingly, the teachings of Jesus, provides us with a possible starting point to avoid these types of disputes, with his golden rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. It is not only Christianity that provides this simple ethical code; it appears in every other major religion. Unfortunately, despite its being a fairly simple ethical principle, it is very difficult to apply in practice.

HIPs, HIPs, Away!

Hips AwayAs the United Kingdom is still struggling to get back on its feet after one of the worst recessions in living memory, will the Government’s recent decision to put an end to Home Information Packs (HIPs) provide a much needed boost to the housing market? This is indeed the $64,000 question, and people appear to be in one of two camps over the issue. 

One section of the housing industry firmly believes that the abolition of HIPs is now going to provide a massive boost to the still ailing market. They claim that people were put off from selling their property as a consequence of the additional expense that was involved in having to commission such a report and they generally saw the introduction of HIPs as the final nail in the coffin of the housing market at the time.

However, there is definitely another side to this coin. People even within the industry do not feel that HIPs spelt disaster when they were introduced. Indeed, a lot of people fervently believe that HIPs have been used as something of a scapegoat at a time when the market was inevitably going to decline anyway. Even when HIPs were in place, the housing market was still showing positive signs of having come through the worst.

Our New Senior Administrator

We would like to introduce you to our new Senior Administrator – Nicholas Town. Nick joined us at the beginning of May, when we relocated to London. He is settling into his new role well and has been of great help to the Institute so far.

Nick has good experience in administration, having previously worked for Kingston University and the National Association of Licensed Paralegals. He recently finished a fine art degree and is also a keen musician. What impressed us the most is that Nick has a positive attitude and enthusiasm for the work we do at ILSPA. He recognises the value of the organisation, which is a great start to a successful career.

Playing Office Politics the Better Way

Office PoliticsAll men are created equal but born unequal, hence the battle for supremacy. Wherever you have two or more people co-existing, politics thrives. Playing the game of office politics is inevitable and anyone who neglects office politics will be making incalculable mistakes. Office politics is simply the use of one’s assigned power in the workplace for the purpose of obtaining advantages beyond one’s legitimate authority, with a view to influencing the behaviour of others. It is all about manipulations which occur in any relationship where parties adopt indirect means to achieve their personal goals.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Reduce Reuse RecycleWWF’s One Planet Future campaign encourages us to change our lifestyles and think about better ways to dispose of our waste.

In the UK, most of the waste we produce ends up decomposing in landfill sites, producing greenhouse gases and contributing to climate change. You can help cut climate change by finding ways of reducing, reusing and recycling your waste.

Reduce

  • Cut down – The best way to reduce waste is to buy less in the first place.
  • Avoid junk mail – Stop all that unwanted mail you receive, and therefore reduce unnecessary waste, by contacting the Mailing Preference Service. Visit www.mpsonline.org.uk to find out more.
  • Say no to over-packaged products – Avoid buying products that are covered in unnecessary amounts of packaging. Buy loose fruit and vegetables rather than pre-packaged.
  • Compost food waste – About a third of all kitchen and garden waste can be composted. It is very easy to build your own compost bin and use the compost to help your garden grow. For more information, visit www.homecomposting.org.uk. Alternatively you can buy a composting bin from the WWF online catalogue by visiting wwf.org.uk/shop.

Reuse

Work-Life Balance

Work Life BalanceWhat is the balance between your work and other aspects of your life? Do you spend too much time working or thinking about work at the expense of other things? Do you have the skills and environment to make your working life satisfying? 

Having a balanced life involves welcoming a range of aspects into your life. In particular, we function well and have satisfying lives when our various emotional needs are broadly met in balance. The most fundamental human emotional needs are these:

First Past the Post Vs. Proportional Representation

Never has there been a better time to evaluate the possibility of a complete overhaul to the political voting systems of the UK. As our country has just voted for the first hung parliament in thirty-six years, terms such as ‘first past the post’ and ‘proportional representation’ are being bandied around by our politicians. Yet many people do not fully understand what is meant by this.

Nick Clegg (the leader of the Liberal Democrats party) has now formed an alliance with the Conservative Party, and this was always going to be under the proviso that the country would be presented with the opportunity of a referendum over a new voting system. David Cameron, the new Prime Minister, appears to have honoured this condition and has been heard to mention a referendum on a number of occasions.

So, many people feel that there are fundamental flaws with our voting system. Democracy appears to be placed to one side when a government can be put together that is likely to go against the wishes of a large proportion of the country. This is the nature of a hung parliament, but we must remember that we have not been in this exact position for around seventy years. Also, although the Conservative Party did not achieve the outright majority of 326 seats at the last election, they were the party that secured the most – at 307 seats.

Do Some Childhood Laws Need to Be Different?

Childhood LawsThis is a very awkward subject to handle at the best of times, one that will always conjure up mixed emotions from different sections of society, and there is not a person in this country that will not be able to offer a strong opinion on the debate that rages over specific childhood laws.

When we use the term ‘specific’ here, we really mean the fact that in law, it is acceptable to use ‘reasonable punishment’ on a child when it would be totally illegal to do so on an adult. Indeed, if a person used the same level of force on another adult, this would probably come under s. 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. 

Although not clearly defined at the time of implementation, s. 58 of the Children Act 1989 does state that it is unlawful for a parent or caretaker to smack a child, except where this may be seen as reasonable punishment. Reasonable punishment has now been clarified as meaning that any such smack administered should never leave a mark on the body of the child. 

Five Important Updates in Employment Law

Employment LawAnybody that works in the world of employment law will be the first to appreciate just how fast-moving this area of the legal industry really can be. If a smaller company cannot afford the services of a trained human resources manager, it can be such a difficult job to stay abreast of all of the regulatory changes and obligations that it faces.

Equally, the average employee will be hard pressed to keep a mental note of every single amendment that may affect his or her working life. These are two good reasons why employment law practitioners are likely to be kept exceptionally busy for the foreseeable future. 

In this article, rather than tackling one specific issue that is due to come into effect in employment law, it seems more prudent to take on five of them. This way we can learn a little bit more through the same article. 

Additional Maternity and Paternity Leave Entitlement

Negotiate to Win

Do you feel you are a negotiator in your role at work? You may have answered ‘no’, however, I feel the answer is most definitely ‘YES’! Although we associate negotiating with salespeople, we are all salespeople at some time. We often have to negotiate deadlines that need changing, tasks that we can or can’t do, or responsibilities that others want us to take on. We are always negotiating. So here are the top 10 tips to help you reach ‘win-win’ situations.

Working Well as a Team

Working as a teamTeams are generally made up of all sorts of different types of people with different strengths and weaknesses. When the team works in balance, each member of the team feels encouraged to contribute his or her own strengths and capabilities to the team to support it, and the individual needs of each person (as opposed to things he or she might just want!) are respected. 

Whilst all individuals have similar emotional needs, for some people some of these needs rank higher than for others in the workplace. For others, various needs are met wholly or partly outside the workplace and so they are not so reliant on work to meet that need. If the respective needs in the work environment are not recognised and respected, the team is likely to become unstable.

Two of the main needs in this context are:

WWF’s One Planet Future Campaign

EarthIf everyone in the world lived as we do in the UK, we would need three planets to support us. Our planet is buckling under the weight of the demands we are making on it. Over-consumption is leading directly to climate change and species extinctions.

We are already spoiling some of the world’s richest forests, degrading soil and sources of fresh water faster than ever before. Most climate scientists agree that if we continue to live this way and allow global temperatures to rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the risk of severe and irreversible changes in the Earth’s natural systems becomes increasingly likely.

Nobody gets up in the morning and decides to contribute to climate change, to help cut down a tropical rainforest or to deprive people in other parts of the world of a decent standard of living. But our apparently innocent daily decisions all too often have these invisible consequences. These are some of the hidden costs of ‘three-planet living’ for all of us in the UK.

WWF works for a world where everyone thrives within their fair share of the Earth’s resources while leaving space for wilderness and wildlife. Their One Planet Future Campaign aims to bring people together to make changes in our lives, moving us from a three-planet lifestyle closer to a one planet future.

Advance Your Career - Watch NALP's Film with an Address by Cherie Booth QC

If you are interested in advancing your career and becoming a Paralegal, watch the following film by the National Association of Licensed Paralegals.  It was shown at their awards ceremony in March and Cherie Booth QC speaks highly of their merits.

NALP offers accredited and recognised professional paralegal courses, and qualifications for a career in the field of law.  Their paralegal training courses are designed to match your level of experience and we recommend the Higher Certificate in Paralegal Studies if you would like to further your career.

The Higher Certificate in Paralegal Studies provides a broad foundation upon which your career can be built.  It is suitable if you have passed the Legal Secretaries Diploma course and our qualified Students are entitled to Affiliate Membership of the Association.

Planning the Working Day

Do you ever do a to-do list and not achieve what’s on it? Does your to-do list just get longer and longer? Do you spend hours working out a to-do list and then not have any time to do the tasks on it? Or perhaps you’ve given up on using one altogether! Before you can plan and organise your working day, it is necessary to think of what is to be done and set up some simple drills to help you do it more effectively. So here are the top 10 tips for planning your working day.

Broadening Your Knowledge in the Current Climate

Attending training courses in the current climate may not seem a high priority, but the fact is, with an alarming number of positions being amalgamated due to redundancies, and job functions becoming more blurred by the increased pressure to absorb workload, the need for those able to progress quickly is critical, and thus the need for training is, perhaps, greater than ever. 

Focusing on your professional development will not only increase your skills and enhance your CV, it also demonstrates to management that you are ready, willing and able for career progression. 

Since its inception in 1983, Management Forum has built a reputation for delivering high-quality training and development for professionals in Europe. The company prides itself on excellent customer service from the point of registration through to your attendance on the day of the training. Unlike other training providers, the primary focus is on the quality of training along with your experience on the day. You can expect to be greeted with professionalism and warmth and to receive impeccable training. Attendance is usually limited at the sessions to enable each and every attendee to ask as many questions as needed.

Surfing the Web with Google Chrome

Google ChromeThese days surfing the Internet can put as much strain on your computer as playing the latest games or running bulky office or graphics applications. The increasing demands of online video, flash applications, fancy webmail and badly coded websites have created the need for web browsers to become far more efficient with resources and effective in managing errors and crashes.

There is one browser that really shines through in these areas: Google Chrome. Chrome is a relatively new browser released by Google in 2008. What separates Chrome from the competition (Internet Explorer and Firefox) is the way it handles errors and crashes. I won’t bore you with technical details save to say that it’s quite smart. If a web page crashes, hangs or leaks, Chrome will make sure that the problem doesn’t affect the overall performance of your computer. 

Not only does Chrome make sure your computer stays speedy while browsing the web, it also speeds up web browsing, makes searching a breeze and integrates completely with Google’s complete range of products. 

Not stopping there, Chrome offers some less obvious benefits that leave the competition in the dust:

Love Thy Neighbour

Love your neighborCommon Areas of Expensive Legal Dispute – Part One

It is not often that I resort to the Bible to advise clients, but where disputes with neighbours are concerned this can be the best advice. What may seem to be a trivial issue can often explode into a case of biblical proportions. In this article we will consider one of the most common areas of friction between neighbours, which involves disagreements about boundaries. 

Consider this quote from an Appeal Court judge, Lord Justice Ward, reported in April 2009:

“The lesson is never learned that those who fight for their principles frequently end up paying for them…Each of the parties have spent in the region of £40,000 in bringing their case to this court, far more than the land in dispute could ever be worth.”

The ‘land in dispute’ was just 2 metres, but the parties clearly lost all sense of proportion. Both parties’ solicitors must have warned them that an argument over a piece of land worth a few thousand pounds might cost tens of thousands of pounds in legal costs. How did this happen and why is it so common? 

Anti-Social Behaviour and the Police

Antisocial BehaviourMany police forces in England and Wales have recently come under harsh criticism for failing to protect their areas from the modern-day scourge that is anti-social behaviour. Topping this poll, with a poor classification across the board, were Nottinghamshire Police; Greater Manchester Police were second worst, with two areas out of three classified as poor, although they did score a “good” rating in one category of local opinion.

This is a highly controversial subject, and for those of us who are lucky enough to live in respectable and peace-loving suburbs, hopefully we may never come to realise just how distressing anti-social behaviour can actually be. However, we all seem to hold a fervent opinion on this topic and many of us seem to share the view that not enough is being done in particularly prone districts to curb this menace.

Assertive Communication

Assertive communicationWe usually know deep down what we need and what infringes our needs even if we don’t recognise it on a conscious level. Being able to stand back, making this a conscious process and then cultivating the skill to communicate what we need to others is assertive communication. It is not to do with being forceful, selfish or insensitive – instead it is communication which is firm, balanced, clear, and more than anything else, it is congruent with our individual needs (and I emphasise needs as distinct from wants: we may want to win the lottery but our need is to have a sense of financial security and financial balance).

By committing to a particular task or project, are we accepting too much pressure on our time and resources and perhaps limiting the opportunity to meet our need for privacy (to reflect and consolidate) by having too little downtime or jeopardising our need for a sense of status and achievement by attempting to achieve too much in too short a time frame?

So, what are the basic principles here in addition to recognising and respecting your own needs?

We have a right and duty both personally and professionally to:

Endangered Wildlife in Britain

Endangered Wildlife in BrtitainWildlife conservation isn’t just about the rainforests of Brazil or the jungles of the Amazon, it relates to our countryside too. There are many animals in Britain which are becoming endangered, such as certain species of owls and voles, as well as bumblebees, due to our changing lifestyles, garden makeovers and declining habitats.

Hedgehogs are facing a danger of extinction within the next 20 years. There is increasing competition for resources and more threat of attack from larger animals. One of our Members, Margaret Holland FILS, is very keen to help our wildlife and has kindly written an article on how we can help encourage hedgehogs into our gardens, providing them with a place of safety.

The Arrival of Hedgehogs in the Spring

At this time of the year, hedgehogs will be waking up from their hibernation and exploring for food and water.

Drinking       

Essential Confidence Skills

Confidence SkillsWhat is confidence? The word comes from the Latin for “with trust or faith” in a person or thing.

Myths

There are various myths about confidence. Here are a few of them:

“Either you have it or you don’t” – actually confidence is a set of skills which can be learned. Any difficulty is because you haven’t learned how to do it yet. As a human being, you are a learning organism which can co-ordinate movements, understand and communicate, read and write, and do a thousand other complex things.

“If your confidence has been shaken once, you can never get it back” – it may take a greater leap of faith to start building it back, but once there, you will be much stronger than before and less likely to have it shaken again.

“I’ll know I’m confident when I can be sure I’ll succeed” – confidence is much more about tolerating uncertainty and being relaxed and ok with not knowing what is going to happen (apart from knowing that you will be doing your best).

Where does a lack of confidence come from?

Participating in Meetings

Participating in MeetingsMeetings often fail because participants haven’t prepared enough. Consequently, meetings drag on and decisions cannot be made. To make sure you are better prepared for your next meeting, and to present a more professional image to your colleagues, follow the checklist below.

1.    Be prepared. Preparation is vital. Spend time looking at the following: the agenda, attached papers and previous minutes. Think about what questions or comments you may be asked. Will there be any contentious issues?

2.    Consider who will be there. What sort of common ground will there be between you and the other participants?

3.    Plan what you want to say or present. To present effectively, state your idea; give a balanced picture by showing positives/advantages and a couple of opposing views; state benefits and possible consequences of not adopting it; add any evidence that will support your idea or give examples of previous success; then restate it.

Prenuptial Agreement Laws in England

Prenuptial AgreementsIt is quite common when you hear the term “prenuptial agreement” to think of Hollywood celebrity couples embroiled in a bitter divorce suit. Hardly ever does this phrase conjure up the image of the ordinary man and woman in Britain battling for his ’n’ her assets after a marriage breaks down – so why is this the case?

Well, the main reason is the fact that prenuptial agreements (also commonly known as premarital agreements) are largely dismissed by the courts and have little bearing on who “wins” the kids, the house or the dog. The law states that prenuptial agreements have absolutely no legal standing whatsoever and it is down to the judge’s discretion in any divorce case in England (and in Wales) as to whether the agreement is upheld or not.

Many ordinary citizens and slightly wealthy people in the country may be nonchalant about prenuptial agreements. Indeed, it is estimated that one in three marriages currently ends in divorce, but the majority of them are settled without disputes and long-winded court cases. Even so, it is best to be aware that there is an increased chance of the tide turning in this area of English law.

The Introduction of a New Level of Membership - Affiliate

LEgal Secretary LogoWe are pleased to announce the introduction of a new level of Membership – Affiliate. This is open to those who have qualified with the Legal Secretaries Diploma from the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs or have an equivalent Legal Secretary qualification.

Law graduates are also eligible to apply for this level of Membership, especially if they are interested in studying the Legal Secretaries Diploma course so that they can gain the practical skills required to work in a law firm.

Some of our Students have been very keen to continue their Membership with us after they have qualified, and we felt it important for them to be able to progress to a higher level of Membership. Previously, Students were able to progress to Associate Membership only when they had gained at least one year’s experience as a Legal Secretary.

If you have passed the Legal Secretaries Diploma course and would like to upgrade your Membership to Affiliate status, please contact us.

The National Association of Licensed Paralegal's 23rd Anniversary and Awards Ceremony

NALP AwardsOn 11 March 2010, the National Association of Licensed Paralegals held a special event at the House of Commons to mark their 23rd anniversary and to present awards to their highest achieving Students of the year. Since 1987, the National Association of Licensed Paralegals has dedicated itself to the promoting the status of Paralegals and paralegal training in the United Kingdom and abroad. NALP is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual, the regulator of qualifications in England, and has accredited our courses.

ILSPA were delighted to attend the event. We were greeted with a lovely champagne and canapés reception and had the opportunity to mingle with NALP and its Students before the awards ceremony took place. The House of Commons is a breathtaking building. The body evolved in the 14th century to serve as the political power base and voice for the free subjects of the realm, originally selected from the business and merchant classes of each local area to represent all the Sovereign’s subjects who were not Lords.

Amanda Hamilton, Chief Executive of NALP and the Senior Tutor for ILSPA, led the event together with Fabien Hamilton, Labour MP. They gave interesting talks about the progression of NALP over the years and how the organisation has helped people with their Paralegal careers, at various different levels.

46,000 Repossessions and This Figure is Set to Rise!

RepossesionsIt is one of the unfortunate facts of life that when a deep recession strikes our economy, there are always going to be unfortunate homeowners who lose their abodes through the distressing process known as repossession. The current recession has not proven to be any different and indeed the figures that recently have been announced for repossessions last year have been even more shocking than previously anticipated.

During 2009 there were 46,000 repossessions across the country and what is even more worrying, this figure is predicted to rise to a shocking and unforgivable 53,000 during 2010. Last year’s figure was the highest recorded in fourteen years and there are many organisations calling for action by the Government to try and reduce this number.

One such organisation is Shelter. This charity was conceived as an attempt to tackle homelessness and members are now stressing the fact that no political party seems to be even slightly inclined to set out exactly what it intends to do to help the unfortunate victims of repossession when the next government is established later on this year.

Celebrating 20 Years of Dedication to the Legal Secretary Profession

We celebrate our twentieth anniversary with pride, as we have become recognised as the leading organisation in our field. ILSPA not only offers accredited and recognised qualifications but also provides professional recognition for our Members and their ongoing development, together with support, advice and career guidance for trainee and experienced Legal Secretaries throughout the UK and overseas.

The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs was formed in 1990 by a group of like-minded legal professionals to promote the excellence and professional recognition of Legal Secretaries and PAs. We initially existed to assist legal practices with their main support staff functions by helping maintain and improve services to their clients through the expertise and diligence of a well-informed and commercially aware secretariat.

Are You Lacking Motivation?

Motivation is directed by positive emotion. Motivation propels us towards something rather than holding us back.

If there is a positive expectation for the outcome of what we are doing, then that expectation will motivate us towards it.

If we experience anxiety, anger or other negative expectations, then this will maintain and increase stress levels, which, if unchecked, will in turn interfere with the positive elements of the expectation, often by distorting or deleting those positive elements.

What is it we want to achieve? Is it motivation we lack when feeling lacklustre about a Monday morning or a particular task? Or is it something else? Are we tired? What is going on in the rest of our lives?

Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace on the Increase!

 

We are all used to a bit of banter in the office, but it becomes a completely different matter when banter turns into something as serious as bullying. Bullying and harassment in the workplace have always been issues that have been played down to a certain extent, but recent studies by work unions have indicated that instances have almost doubled over the past ten years.

Stereotypically, it is women bullying other women that gets the most attention in terms of the subject. But in fact it has come to light that 32% of all cases of bullying involve a male victim and a male bully, which is a slightly higher rate than that of the stereotype mentioned above. Surprisingly, 28% of cases also involve men bullying women in the workplace, whilst only 11% involve women harassing male colleagues. One other stereotype that appears to be true is that male bullies are more likely to be brash and noisy, whereas female bullies will victimise their prey in a more subtle way. So why has it all escalated over the last decade and what can be done to resolve this problem?

Going Green at The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs

Every year businesses needlessly waste thousands of reams of paper, burn excess electricity and literally flush resources down the drain. During the past two years the Institute has been working towards streamlining its systems, not only to create more efficiency but also to stop overusing resources. We all have a responsibility to be aware of these issues and reduce our impact where we can.

The Paperless Office

Management of waste paper is an issue in almost every office. Fortunately these days the majority of office spaces practice some sort of paper recycling. The Institute has taken paper management one step further not only by simply recycling waste paper but also by attempting to cut down on paper consumption as much as possible. In the modern world the use of paper is diminishing in many ways. Many people prefer to receive and send documents via email and on the web. Embracing these technologies to their fullest capacity helps organisations cut down their paper consumption and limits the possibility of unwanted flyers, circulars and brochures ending up in a bin somewhere. By reducing the amount of printed materials we send out and focusing more on email and Internet-based solutions, the Institute is moving towards the often elusive ideal of a paperless office.

Green Hosting

Managing Your Workload

Workloads in a legal office are demanding at all levels. How we manage these will influence how we perform as well as how we feel.

There is a well-established principle of dividing what is important from what is urgent and of spending as much time as possible on things which are important and spending no or minimal time on things which are not important (urgent or not).

What is ‘important’? Well, this is generally understood as something which helps us to achieve our goals or something which supports our values. In the work context, this includes things like doing a good, efficient and professional job, delivering a good service to a client, being a valued member of the team, preparing a polished, carefully thought- through report, keeping within agreed service levels, or developing or improving a skill, e.g. project management, confidence, assertiveness.  The importance of a task is the personal aspect of our workload – what importance does it have for us directly or indirectly?

Meeting the Needs of Clients

When we’re a customer in a shop or a client of a company, we like help, respect, understanding, satisfaction, value for money, action, friendly service … need I go on? So whether you’re dealing with a colleague’s or a multimillion-pound client’s request, you will have to satisfy these four basic needs: the need to be understood, the need to feel welcome, the need to feel important and the need for a comfortable environment.

So here are the top ten tips to help you meet those needs and guarantee that your clients remain your clients:

Changes to Your Consumer Rights - Part 2

COnsumer RightsIn the first part of our consumer law update, we examined the EU proposals to simplify and strengthen the rights of consumers. In this article, we will consider the more extensive UK proposals set out by the Government’s White Paper called“A Better Deal for Consumers – Delivering Real Help Now and Change for the Future”.

At the moment, the law reforms mainly focus on helping consumers avoid credit and online scams. This is part of a wider plan to deal with sharper business practice. There will also be reforms of the current laws on misrepresentation, making it easier for a consumer to take action if they feel they have been misled.  The key proposals include:

1. Appointment of a New Consumer Advocate

Advice on Being Successful in Your Job, from the 1940s

1940'sWe were recently excited to come across a “Secretary’s Guide and Office Worker’s Manual” which was published in 1944.  It is packed full of useful advice for secretaries and office workers of the time, with the slogan “Get Ahead; Improve Yourself; Earn More Money”.

What we found interesting was that the advice given in the manual regarding career advancement has not changed over the intervening 60 years.  The basic principles of being successful in your job still exist today.  So although technology may have radically changed the way we work, social attitudes have not.

Chancel Repair Liability: That Sneaky Little Law

Chancel Repair LiabilityThe United Kingdom is renowned for its established legal system. There are laws governing just about everything, and even some obscure laws that only affect a handful of people, particularly when they least expect it! One such law is the Chancel Repair Liability Law.

Before the Reformation of the churches in the 15th century, vicars and rectors were responsible for repairs to their churches. At this time the land around the church was also considered to be chancel land, on which many parishioners dwelled.

Changes to Your Consumer Rights – Part 1

Consumer RightsThe New European Proposals

You may not be aware, but last year the UK government introduced a wide-ranging white paper called “A Better Deal for Consumers – Delivering Real Help Now and Change for the Future”. The proposals made in this white paper follow hot on the heels of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The 2008 Regulation marked the biggest shake-up in consumer law in 40 years. It now appears that the government is going to go even further.

Employee Training and Development: Reasons and Benefits

Training and DevelopmentKnowledge and skills development is vital to the health of organisations.  We live in an information age today, and organisations are routinely valued not just on their physical but on their intellectual capital.  Training is one of the chief methods of maintaining and improving intellectual capital, so the quality of an organisation’s training affects its value. Untrained or poorly trained employees cost significantly more to support than well-trained employees do.  Training affects employee retention and is a valuable commodity that, if viewed as an investment rather than as an expense, can produce high returns.

Oral Wills: Restricted Areas Where They Are Valid

Oral WillsWhen it comes time to think about writing a will, the stereotypical image conjured up is that of sitting down with pen and paper or making an appointment with a solicitor to draw up the document. We then rattle off how we want our property and assets to be divvied out and we sign the document, usually with a couple of witnesses signing it at the bottom.

Problem-Solving Skills

We are problem-solving animals. Our brains are designed to find solutions to enhance our life. This applies as much to practical problems of which we are very much consciously aware – such as how to deal with that difficult matter, colleague or client – as it does to problems that need addressing in one or more areas of our lives of which we are often only subconsciously aware – a nagging thought, perhaps, that something is not really quite right.

Using Emotional Intelligence in Presentations

Emotional IntelligenceYou may be surprised to learn that 60% of people rate fear of public presentations even above the fear of death. This comes from an ancient fear of ostracism from the tribe, abandonment and vulnerability, which remains part of our inheritance in the emotional brain. The emotional (subconscious) part of our brain evolved for life in the wild, whereas our intellectual (conscious) brain evolved much later. Fear produces stress and it triggers the fight or flight response; danger requires a physical response, not an intellectual one. That response is only turned off when we take physical action – fighting or fleeing – or if we become skilled at reducing stress by becoming calm. Excess stress inhibits access to our intellectual and rational brain.

So how do we use these emotional and intellectual resources to best effect for presentations in public, whether to a few colleagues or to a wider audience? Essentially, we need to prepare well on both a subconscious and conscious level.

Conscious Preparation

Ten Years of Civil Justice

Civil JusticeA review of the success and failings of Lord Woolf’s reforms

This year we mark the tenth anniversary of the Civil Procedural Rules (CPR). Before the new rules were introduced, civil litigation was seen as too slow, expensive, uncertain and adversarial. The implementation of the CPR was the result of Woolf’s famous “Access to Justice” report, commissioned in 1994. The name of the report speaks volumes and supports the view that the old rules of civil litigation were not delivering justice. So ten years on, have things changed for the better?

The rise and rise of litigation?

You will probably be familiar with the accusation that Britain has developed a compensation culture. This is the opposite of what Lord Woolf hoped for. Litigation was supposed to be a last resort. So what has actually happened?

Build Your Confidence

ConfidenceSome lucky few seem to be born with loads of confidence. Most of us need to develop it through practice. Confidence is about gaining the inner strength to do something and then feeling comfortable about using that strength, without worrying disproportionately about what others will think of you. So pursuing a job promotion, a personal dream, or even just standing up to speak in a team meeting, all take confidence. It’s not uncommon to think that we don’t need to build up our confidence until we are in a situation where it’s needed. However, this often means we are unprepared. So here are the top ten tips to help you build your confidence so you are more prepared:

1. Stop making excuses. You are not doomed to fail again because you failed before. Instead of creating reasons why you can’t do something, use your time to create reasons why you can!

2. Be honest with yourself about whether you “can’t” do something or simply “won’t” do it. Self-defeating behaviour serves no purpose other than to endorse inaction. Consider what some of the benefits will be when you “do” do this thing. More often than not, the pros outweigh the cons.

Goal-Setting – What are Your Goals for 2010 and Beyond?

Without goals we are not stretched. Being stretched mentally or physically is one of our basic needs, alongside the sense of achievement and satisfaction that comes from achieving not only the goal itself, but also from achieving each step along the way.

So, what are goals and how do we best go about setting them? We can think of goal-setting as creating a positive set of expectations. Those expectations then give our mind something to work towards, mobilising our resources both consciously and sub-consciously.

One really effective method of setting goals is by using what is called the SMART approach. SMART stands for:

Help Our Senior Executive to Fundraise for Underprivileged Children in India

FiundraisingI would like to share my recent experience of working with children in India with our Members. For many years, it has been one of my goals to dedicate some of my time to underprivileged children in a poor country and at last I have had the opportunity to fulfil it. Fortunately the wonders of the Internet enabled me to continue my work for the Institute at the same time.

I have been helping a very worthwhile charity called El Shaddai, which has homes, shelters, a school and various projects in India that save children from neglect, abuse, homelessness and starvation. The charity provides them with the basic necessities of life, such as education, food, clothing and love, and therefore helps them to have a positive future. I really enjoyed my time with the children and feel very happy to have helped implement some positive changes whilst I was there. The children I met under El Shaddai’s care were a real testament to the wonderful people who founded the charity. The children are open, receptive, loving and keen to learn. They have been given the chance to have fulfilling lives and they are very grateful for it.

Legal Changes to Parliamentary Expenses

MP ExpensesIn the wake of the Parliamentary Expenses Scandal that has rocked Great Britain this year, many politicians that we gave our trust (and votes) to have been exposed as cheats. They used the existing parliamentary expenses system to claim for some ludicrous and outrageous items. No matter whether it was a 59p tin of dog food or £22,500 for dry rot repairs in a home that conveniently was changed to a second home days before the claim, the British public have taken a stand and shouted for reform; we will no longer stand for our politicians raiding the public purse for extravagances and items that are not relevant to their job.

From the publicity that the scandal has attracted it seems clear that the system was extremely flawed. Politicians had to submit their claims to the Fees Office, whose officers were responsible for deciding whether the claim was approved or not. The tales of the expense claims has shown that there were queries on many of the claims submitted, but they were eventually paid out. This suggests that there were higher powers at work that controlled the Fees Office rather like a puppet. Since the scandal rocked British taxpayers, the Fees Office has been abolished and reform is underway.

Life Styling for Optimum Performance at Work

Life StyleEven some simple changes in our everyday life and routine can make a profound difference to our performance and allow us to get more out of work and life generally. Taking care to do more things that boost serotonin and endorphins (our natural feel-good chemicals) will promote a better and more stable mood and help us to cope better in difficult times. In contrast, doing things that produce stress hormones will undermine mood and prevent us from performing well and getting the best from what we do.

Here are the main recommendations:

Relaxation: A person can’t feel anxious, angry (or depressed) and relaxed at the same time, so learning ways of relaxing physically and mentally helps to increase feelings of calm, confidence and security. Harnessing our innate powers of imagination to rehearse positive changes in our lives is one of the most effective ways of improving our lives.

Physical exercise: This is particularly good for promoting the production of our natural feel-good chemicals. Even a short, say 30-minute, walk a few days a week will help, whether at lunchtime or on the way to or from work.

Minimising Interruptions

Minimising Interuptions at WorkHave you ever noticed how much more you can get done on the occasional day that you work away from the office? So where does the time go in the office? A “quick” question from a colleague, a phone call, a never-ending flow of incoming emails, a quick trip to the coffee machine: they all add up. So here are the top ten tips to help you minimise interruptions:

1. Are you the cause of your interruptions? Work out whether you are using interruptions as an excuse to avoid your work. If you procrastinate, butterfly from job to job, or are distracted by the world outside your window, do something about it!

2. Determine the nature of the interruption. Get into the habit of asking pertinent questions politely but firmly to get enough information about the importance and deadline of the interruption. When does the task need to be done? What are the consequences of extending the deadline? Then you can decide what to do and when to deal with it.

Miscarriages of Justice: Where It Was Not Just Freedom at Stake!

If you say the words “capital punishment” to anyone you will get a varying degree of opinions on the subject. Capital punishment has always been (and will always likely be) a strong topic for debate. No matter whether you are for or against the death penalty in Great Britain, it has to be acknowledged that there have been several instances of miscarriage of justice throughout the years.

It may surprise you to know that capital punishment was not fully abolished in the UK until 1998. From 1838 it was rarely used except for acts of murder, but also pertained to treason, espionage, causing fires or explosions in a naval dockyard, and for military offences such as failing to prevent a mutiny. So although capital punishment was abolished for murder in 1965, it was not abolished for these other crimes until the change in the law in 1998. Even though the last execution by hanging in England took place in 1964, the death sentence was still handed out to criminals until 1965 (many of whom were either released from prison or given life imprisonment instead).

Getting Along with Colleagues in the Workplace

Getting Along in the WOrkplaceHappy New Year professional colleagues! Thank God for bringing us thus far, with the promising Year 2010 already here.  I am confident that we can all succeed provided we acknowledge that success is not an accident. It begins with a well conceived plan. Therefore, to succeed in any of our endeavours, we need to plan consciously. By not consciously planning to succeed, we are unconsciously planning to fail.

Our relationships with colleagues in the workplace are important, and can to a large extent determine the level of our success. Good workplace relationships will not only help you do your job better, but also make your daily work more enjoyable. In turn, bad relationships with colleagues can be very distracting and can cause a great deal of anxiety.

The following ten tips, if practised, will to help you to achieve good relationships with your colleagues in the work place:

1. Respect your colleagues: Respect is the foundation of all good relationships, including those you have with your colleagues and Boss. There will of course be the occasional prickly co-worker who is easily offended, but there is little you can do about that. Always do your best to avoid offending those with whom you work. Respect is reciprocal!