2011

Computer Tricks Everyone Should Know

IT tricksHave you ever felt as though you spend a good portion of your working day doing trivial things on your Windows desktop – highlighting sentences, minimising and maximising windows and applications, endlessly right-clicking on things and scrolling through context menus? If so then this list is for you. Now you can wow your colleagues with your IT savvy, using this list of tricks every Windows user should know:

Employment Law Update

Employment LawIt has been announced recently that the coalition Government is seriously considering new employment laws that would effectively make it more difficult for an employee to bring a claim of unfair dismissal against his or her employer. If you have been following our journal over recent months, you may recall how we touched on the massive increase in employment tribunals being brought by disgruntled employees against their employers – in fact, the latest statistics show that 218,000 tribunals were heard last year, and there has been a 40% increase in tribunals over the last three years.

How to Close Your ‘Angry Files’

Close your angry filesThere is an exercise you can do which is an incredibly powerful tool to dispose of lingering angry feelings towards someone’s behaviour or to release words when we have not been able fully to articulate our anger at the time. It might apply to a difficult client, a colleague, a manager or someone closer to home. The exercise is based on an approach originally published by a Dr Mahfouz in 2008.

More Relaxed English Planning Laws

Planning LawsWe can all see the argument at either end of this planning issue: On the one hand, we have a country that is known to be short of millions of homes within its overall housing stock; on the other hand, we have beautiful countryside that needs to be protected from the builders. So what is the solution to this massive dilemma and how can planning laws ever hope to balance both of these considerations?

Problem Solving

Problem? What problem? Problems are not really problems – they’re improvement opportunities...although I will admit that they don’t always feel that way at the time. But the reality is, problems can exist, and if we use effective problem-solving skills, tools and techniques, we can significantly improve the situation. So here are the top 10 tips for improving your problem solving:

Taking Minutes – Preparation

Part 1 – Preparation

One of the key aspects of being able to take minutes at meetings is the importance of preparing to take minutes. The better prepared you are the easier it will be for you to concentrate on taking minutes during the meeting. So here are the top 10 tips to help you prepare so that you can focus on the meeting rather than worry about what it’s about, whether you’ve booked coffee or if the PowerPoint works.

Why I Want to Become a Legal Secretary

Why does anyone want to become anything? When I was a child, a frequent question was 'What do you want to be or do when you grow up?'. I can't remember my answer now but I'm sure I may have qualified it (as many children do) with a reason such as 'Because it helps people'.

Now when I think what I want to achieve in a job or why I would choose a particular job, and I'm sure it's top of many people's list, it's nearly always to do with job satisfaction - to make a difference.

How do I make a difference? And how do I achieve this by becoming a Legal Secretary?
 

The Recent Vote for a Referendum on EU Membership

If you have studied the Legal Secretaries Diploma course through the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs, you will have touched upon the constitution of the United Kingdom and perhaps you have felt quite confused over what should transpire, according to the statutes and common law that have been formulated over many centuries and what really happens in reality.

Tips and Tricks to Help You Through the Day

Prioritise tasks using the Windows 7 taskbar

When you look at the Windows taskbar, you probably would never think that it can be used as an effective to- do list. Windows 7 allows you to drag application icons on the taskbar to the left and right, however, and you can use this to prioritise your tasks at hand. Arrange your open applications from left to right according to priority. For example, if answering email is your most important task, keep Outlook to the left, followed by that Word document you need to work on before lunch, then your case management system and finally the game of solitaire that you hope to win once you have completed your pressing tasks.

Paralegal Skills Can Enhance Your Employability

If you have been thinking about pursuing a career as a Paralegal or you would like to increase your skill set and maximise your employability as a Legal Secretary, look no further than AH Paralegal Training. The AH Paralegal Practical Skills course is short and intensive, taking place over three to four days in London, Manchester, Birmingham or Bristol.

Benefits of Attending the Course

How I Became a Legal Secretary

Having left school at 16 with several “o” levels but no real direction other than that I wanted to work in an office, I started working in a small friendly commercial office doing general office work and reception duties.  It was devastating when I was made redundant after only seven months as I enjoyed my job and loved the people I worked with.  I immediately signed on with several recruitment agencies in my home town, had a short term temp job

Instructing Counsel: An Overview of How to Properly Instruct a Barrister

Instructing CouncilIf you have completed studying the English Legal System on the Diploma Course, you will be aware that the two main branches of the legal profession are solicitors and barristers. These parts of the profession work together in some cases to ensure the best chance of success. When it is appropriate to use a barrister, the barrister is sent ‘Instructions' (when asked to give an opinion on a case) or a 'Brief' (if the barrister is to appear in court).

Legal Ban on ‘Success Fees’ in No-Win, No-Fee Cases

No Win No FeeFollowing a review by the Lord Justice Jackson, which was commissioned by the previous Labour administration, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has now announced that there will be a ban on what are known as ‘success fees’, where no-win, no-fee cases are concerned. This is in an effort to curb the ‘sue and be sued’ culture which many people believe is in operation in our society today.

Overcoming Public Speaking Fears

public_speakingDo your knees tremble and your hands shake when you have to make a speech in public? Would you rather do your filing than speak in front of a group?

Public speaking DOES NOT HAVE TO BE STRESSFUL! Even the best speakers have their critics. They too can make mistakes, get tongue-tied or forget whole segments of their speech. So here are the top 10 tips to help you overcome some of those fears:

The Institute’s New Crest

We are proud to present our new crest to you. It expresses some relevant meanings, encompassing the characteristics, work and role of Legal Secretaries and PAs.

The colours blue, white and maroon have been chosen to promote the attributes of truth, loyalty, sincerity and patience. These qualities will hold you in good stead throughout your career, ensuring that you are trusted and respected by your employers and colleagues.

Europe's 'Unitary Patent' Could Mean Unlimited Software Patents

The battles seen in the US over software patents could spread to the UK and the rest of Europe if the unitary patent is allowed to come into force.

Software PatentsEurope's 'Unitary Patent' Could Mean Unlimited Software Patents
The battles seen in the US over software patents could spread to the UK and the rest of Europe if the unitary patent is allowed to come into force

Just as the US software industry is experiencing the long-anticipated all-out software patent wars, the European Union has a plan to follow the same course. When the Hargreaves report urged the UK to avoid software patents, the UK government had already approved a plan that is likely to impose them.

When Is an Offer Not an Offer?

An examination of the rule for settling civil claims – Part 36 of the Civil Procedure Rules

Recent announcements by the government have confirmed that later this year there will be major changes to parts of the Civil Procedural Rules (CPR). This month we will examine Part 36 of the CPR, which deals with how Claimants and Defendants can bring legal proceedings to an early conclusion. Although this can be a complex area of practice, the principles are rooted in common sense and the overriding objective of the CPR (legal proceedings should be quick, cost effective and just).

Writing Is Good for You

Writing is good for you.It is well recognised that one of the best ways to focus the mind is to write things down. This can help you in your personal and working life. By writing we are not only using the conscious (thinking) brain but the subconscious (emotional) brain as well: the two parts of the brain working in harmony harnessing our rational thoughts and observations as well as tapping into our creativity.

Building New or Improved Skills from Your Role Models

Role ModelsIf you want to build or improve skills for yourself generally and for your career development in particular, here is an exercise sometimes known as the “shoe-stepping exercise” which is well worth using. By tapping into your own experience and observations you can select behaviours and strengths which you admire in others and learn to cultivate them yourself.

Google Tricks for Finding Useful Information

Google is the most popular Internet search engine used today. It indexes the greatest number of search pages and provides a free service for people to search this index in less than a second. In addition to providing easy access to billions of web pages, Google has many features that can help you find exactly what you’re looking for, which can be very useful when trying to find information at work or if you are working as a PA for your boss.

Should Squatting Be Criminalised?

The coalition government has recently announced that there will be a brief consultation period over the prospect of criminalising squatting in England. This has brought a very controversial subject to the table for deliberation, and we are already tending to notice how strong opinions are from each side of this argument.

The Frightening Statistics for the Validity of Wills

Following a mystery shopping exercise and report from Dr Dianne Hayter (Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel), some extraordinary and frightening statistics have emerged regarding the validity of wills – be this through a will writing service or even a Solicitor – all types of providers are often supplying a totally substandard service in this regard.

Delivering an Assertive Message

Deliver an Assertive MessageHow many times have you bitten your tongue recently and then afterwards beaten yourself up for not saying what you thought? Or maybe you said what you thought, only you wished you hadn’t. Delivering a message assertively takes confidence and practice. And the more practice you get, the more your confidence grows, helping you develop the skill of assertiveness. So here are the top ten tips to help you deliver an assertive message:

Interpersonal Communication

nterpersonal COmmunicationThe most effective communicators use a style that can change on each occasion and be adapted for each individual. This brings out the best in everyone, especially if you are a manager or team leader. These skills need continual practice and fine-tuning until they become a natural response which is seen by others as appropriate across a wide range of situations. So here are the top ten tips to help you:

Legal Abbreviations

ThelmaFor Legal Secretaries and PAs, it is important to know the vast array of abbreviations currently used in the legal world, and I seek to shed some light on the meaning of some of the most widely used legal abbreviations. Getting to grips with lawyers’ abbreviations will spring you forward in the right direction professionally. Secretaries are expected to research or look up commonly used legal abbreviations and, in particular, case references.

Prison Reform: Plead Guilty and Save 50%

Prison ReformDoes this sound like a supermarket special offer to you, too? The Government had recently proposed that when defendants plead guilty straight away to an offence they committed, in court, they should be entitled to receive a 50% reduction on their tariff of imprisonment. This was just one of the ways the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, was attempting to reduce the significant numbers within our prisons at the moment.

Self-Confidence Is the Key to Success

How you feel about yourself is a key issue in achieving anything in life. A self-confident person has high self-esteem, self-respect, and belief in her- or himself.  By developing your self-confidence, you will be able to achieve your goals, take opportunities that come your way and also have the strength to overcome any obstacles.

Use the Swish Technique to Handle Meetings or Presentations

SWISHThis technique is a powerful technique to calm the emotional subconscious brain and to build positive expectations, especially for 'one-off' situations like potentially difficult meetings or presentations. You can use this technique at any time when you are relaxed – first thing in the morning before you get up is often a good time. You don’t need to go into very deep relaxation, although you can.

Co-ownership – A Cautionary Tale

Co-OwnershipRecent case law highlights the importance of understanding how property can be held jointly

Whenever property is jointly owned, there is the possibility of disagreement. The ongoing case of Kernott v Jones [2010] provides, in the words of Lord Justice Wall, “a cautionary tale” to all unmarried couples and the solicitors who advise them.

Don’t Just Hear - Listen!

How do you rate as a listener? Do you, for example, “tune out” because you find the speaker long winded? Or unwittingly, perhaps, display signs of impatience or irritation? Or maybe you turn a deaf ear to certain topics or subjects? If you do these (and more) regularly, you are losing vital cues to help you understand another’s behaviours and real meanings. Instead, you are simply picking up sound waves.

More Secular Laws in the UK?

secular_lawsOne of the main observations made by the Pope on his visit to the United Kingdom last year was that our country is becoming more and more secular in nature. He expressed concern that we are departing from religious teachings and stated that he believed this to be potentially damaging to our society in the long term.

Speaking in Meetings

Speaking in meetings and making mini-presentations in meetings can be nerve wracking at the best of times. Even experienced speakers can feel nervous and anxious when speaking at meetings. So here are the top 10 tips to make sure your presentation is enjoyed and remembered by everyone:

The Televising of Supreme Court Judgments

Ever since the highest court in the country changed from its title of the House of Lords to The Supreme Court, back in October 2009, it would seem that there has been a concerted effort to modernise our judicial system from the top down. This could certainly be said of the fact that on 16 May 2011, Supreme Court judgments were televised for the first time through Sky News.

Easy Ways to Make a Difference

Easy Ways to Make a DifferenceWith spring here in full force and Earth Day having just passed, I thought it would be a good time to share some simple ideas to help take some pressure off the environment.  Our membership of the WWF helps remind us and our Members that there are many ways that we can protect the planet.

Composting

Employees Are Being Denied Their Statutory Rights

Statutory RightsIf you have been following this section over the past year or so, you will have noticed how there has been a concerted effort to report on the issues of employment law that are being affected by the economic difficulties being faced within the country. In fact, some previous articles have gone so far as to make predictions on what might be expected in this regard; alas, it would seem that many of these assertions are now coming to fruition.

Perfect Court Procedure

Even in the best of times it is a good idea to keep the courts on your side. At the moment it is more important than ever given the increased pressure that judges are under. In a busy litigation department, fee earners can find it difficult to be as organised as they should be, but this is a role which you as a legal secretary are in a position to help with.

Stretching Our Comfort Zones

Stretching our comfort zonesWe all have a sense of our own comfort zones: areas of our life and experience where we feel comfortable and at ease. Whilst we undoubtedly need a level of stability and consistency, we also have a basic need to be stretched and challenged, not least to give us the opportunity to learn and experience new things, to promote a sense of competence and achievement, and overall to give a sense of meaning in our lives.

The ‘West Lothian Question’: Stop Questioning and Do Something About it!

The West Lothian QuestionFor those of you already familiar with constitutional and administrative law, the ‘West Lothian Question’ will no doubt bring forth a frustrated sigh of recognition as you remember covering it in your legal studies. For those of you unfamiliar with this important point that affects our country’s democracy, allow me to explain as succinctly as possible.

Attending Court as a Legal Secretary

Attending Court as a Legal SecretaryAttending court as a Legal Secretary must easily rank as one of the most rewarding and exciting aspects of the career. This is where the Legal Secretary will really start to feel that they are an integral part of the legal system, as a whole, and will gain a full appreciation of how the court system works and the wheels of justice turn within our country

Confident Body Language

Confident body postureMany of us are sometimes unaware of our body language, especially at times when we are under stress. Body language has a large part to play in situations where we want to feel confident and to come over as such to others. So, it can be helpful to spend a little time being curious about our own tendencies and what messages we may be giving out. Sometimes the messages can be quite the reverse of what we want to convey in a particular situation.

Overcoming Procrastination

Overcoming ProcrastinationMany people have a tendency to procrastinate. This could be because the task is complicated, you’re unfamiliar with it, there’s a prospect of conflict or you simply prefer to socialise rather than work! But motivating yourself to ‘do’ rather than ‘avoid’ some tasks will result in higher levels of achievement, satisfaction, and increased self-belief and self-esteem. So here are the top 10 tips to help you do that:

Questioning for Understanding

‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood.’ This is just one of the habits of highly effective people taken from Stephen R Covey’s book. We primarily ask questions to get information, but questions are also a powerful communication tool to show that we are interested in the other person; that we care about what’s important to them; and that we are trying to understand their situation. So here are the top 10 types of questions and how to use them.

Where is Our Right to Privacy?

Where is our right to privacy?We all pride ourselves in living in a country that enjoys one of the oldest and most advanced legal systems in the world today. In fact, we may even go so far as to purport the fact that we live in one of the most tolerant and accepting societies in the developed world. However, why does the English legal system still insist on dragging its heels where the definite right to privacy is concerned?

Dealing With Negative People

We spend more time at work than at home with our family or out with our friends. The relationships which we have at work (whether with clients or colleagues) and how we react to the people involved make a significant contribution to our overall happiness and sense of well-being. Whilst some work relationships may build to become friendships outside work, friendship is not necessary for a successful work relationship.

Gaining Respect at Work

Gain Respect at WorkSome office environments are not for the faint of heart, where it can be hard not to feel self-conscious or awkward, even if you are a confident person in your personal life. However, it is not as difficult as it may seem to get the confidence you need to have successful relationships at work. Here are some tips to help you gain respect from your colleagues:

Personal Branding

Personal BrandingBranding, according to Scott Bedbury, is the sum total of everything a company does, including the good, the bad and even the off strategy, that creates a context or an identity in a consumer’s mind. Personal branding is therefore the creation of an asset that pertains to a particular person or individual, including but not limited to the body, clothing, appearance and knowledge contained within, leading to an indelible impression that is uniquely distinguishable.

The Recent Conflicts With the European Convention on Human Rights

European Convention on Human RightsEver since the United Kingdom ratified the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as far back as 1950, for the most part it has seemed that this international law has been working very well for us. Indeed, the Human Rights Act 1998 was seen as an overdue, final acceptance of the laws contained within the convention.

The Supreme Court of Justice

Supreme CourtIn this article we are considering the Supreme Court formed just over a year ago. Having studied on the Diploma course, you will have already identified yourself to prospective employers as someone with a serious interest in the law. Being aware of current developments in the law and legal practice marks you as someone who has a continuing interest in developing his or her knowledge.

Working in Criminal Law

Working in Criminal LawThere are very few jobs that are as interesting and varied as working in criminal law. Whether this is by way of working as a Legal Secretary who specialises in this area of law or as a defending Solicitor or through The Crown Prosecution Service, there are many avenues allowing one to follow criminal law as a career path.

Changes to Equality Law

Rights of equality for all members of our society is one of the most fundamental tenets of our legal system. The protection of minorities and the more vulnerable members of the community has been an issue that has been held dear by the previous Labour Government and now the coalition. With this in mind, the new Equality Act 2010 was enacted and the majority of the provisions under this statute came into effect from 1 October 2010.

Do More of Your Own Work

Do more of your own work.Do you sometimes end up doing tasks that others should be doing, leaving yourself less time to focus on your own priorities? If a member of your team comes to you with a query or a problem, do you hear yourself saying, ‘Leave it with me’ or ‘I’ll get back to you’, even if the other person is actually responsible for getting the task done?

Positive Advice on Wills

Wills are not usually the subject of polite conversation, but they are rarely out of the news. Typically, wills become newsworthy only when things have gone terribly wrong. On this occasion, however, there is a positive reason why wills are being discussed across the nation, namely a new series on television, ‘Can’t Take It With You’.

The Law Commission’s Review of Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial AgreementsIt has been interesting to see how a certain area of family law has been pushed to the forefront of our attention lately: namely, the recognition of prenuptial agreements between married couples and civil partners in our legal system. Or perhaps, in the case of English law, we should be saying that the agreements are not actually recognised, at least automatically.

The Perfect Name

Efoli EkotIn recent times, I have read with rapt attention scores of articles on the title mania sweeping across professions today. Whilst many are feeling very uncomfortable being addressed as Secretaries, Legal Secretaries or Personal Assistants, many have since changed their job titles to Executive Assistant, Legal Assistant, Administrative Assistant, Corporate Assistant, Administrative Executive, etc.

Good Stress Management Skills

Stress can work for us or against us. Management of stress at the right level for us and for the task at hand is a really valuable skill. Without some level of stress we would never get up in the morning, nor would we be motivated to perform at our best or to do anything at all. So we can welcome stress, so long as we can control it effectively when we need to.

Should All Drugs Be Legalised?

Should Drugs be LegalisedThe debate over the legalisation of drugs has continued during the last month and has actually stepped up a notch, following former Home Office Minister Bob Ainsworth’s recommendation to legalise. Mr Ainsworth fervently believes that the UK is losing the so-called war on drugs.

Don’t Blurt It Out!

Don't Blurt it OutYou know how it goes – your brain thinks it, and out it pops before you realise it. Sometimes it can be difficult to bite your tongue, especially if you aren’t in the habit of doing so! But that’s all it is, really: a habit. Luckily, there are some techniques you can use to break the habit. Here are the top 10 tips to help you stay in control.

Tighter Controls Over Tax-Swerving Companies?

Let’s face it: we had to tackle this highly controversial subject at some time or other! At a time when the UK’s economy has seen far better days and when local authorities and public bodies are forced to make dramatic cuts to their budgets, it cannot be helpful that some of the largest companies trading in this country are steering away from paying vast sums of tax to our government.

Using Apostrophes

Using ApostrophesOne of the most popular questions from our writing and grammar courses is “Can you have an apostrophe after an s?” And of course, as you all know, you can! The apostrophe is a little piece of punctuation that causes some of the biggest headaches and the most discussions (or arguments) in offices. So follow the 10 tips below and always get it right.