Greening Your Legal Practice

By Carter E. Strang

Greening Your Legal Practice

What are you doing to ‘green’ your legal practice?

Economist Barbara Ward said “[o]ur only choice, whatever our dogma, is to protect the Earth. This is our common progress or our common ruin. There is nothing in between.”

It is incumbent upon attorneys to help protect the earth because we are part of the problem: The typical attorney uses between 20,000 and 100,000 sheets of copy paper alone per year, much of it wastefully, resulting in environmental harm and unnecessary expense.

However, something as simple as resetting printers to print documents double sided results in significantly less waste as well as cost savings. One firm that followed this practice reduced its paper use by 1,760,135 sheets, which saved 150 trees and 61,604 gallons of water and prevented the release of 97 tons of CO2 emissions. It also resulted in a yearly savings of over $13,000, a true “win-win” for the firm and the environment.

Discussed in this article are practical steps attorneys, their firms, corporate and government law departments, legal non-profits, and other law organizations (“firms/offices”) can take to “green” their practices by reducing office waste and costs.

Bar Association Programs

An ideal way to green your law firm/office is to take advantage of an existing bar association program. Various programs exist at the national, state and local bar levels, including the ABA-EPA Law Office Climate Challenge and Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyers Eco-Challenge.

Participation in a local (municipal or county) bar association green program is particularly advantageous because of the enhanced ability to work closely with bar staff and local attorneys in a way that enhances the local community. One such program, offered through the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, is profiled below.

Should participation in a bar association program not be practical, your firm/office can still implement any of the bar or individual firm/office green initiatives discussed in this article.

Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association Green Initiative

Launched in 2008, the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association Green Initiative (CMBA/GIP) may well be the most comprehensive local bar program of its type in the United States.

The CMBA/GIP is coordinated by its Green Initiative Committee, composed of a broad cross section of bar association members employed at law firms/offices, as well as non-lawyer affiliates (e.g., court reporting firms). The core mission of the Committee is to promote sustainable environmental practices at law firms/offices.

The CMBA/GIP capstone is the Green Certification Program which certifies law firms/offices which adopt environmentally responsible practices. Just shy of 50 Cleveland area firms/offices are now certified. The CMBA Green Certification criteria include firm/office recycling, responsible paper use, and energy saving efforts. The criteria can be found at http://www.clemetrobar.org/Green/.

Recently, CMBA added a Green+ Certification level for those firms/offices that demonstrate a commitment to the environment above and beyond that required for basic certification. Green Certified firms/offices proudly display the “CMBA Green Certified” or “CMBA Green Certified+” logo on their websites and other marketing materials.

Each year, a law firm/office that has adopted new and innovative green practices is chosen to receive the CMBA Green Innovation Award – an award made of 100% recycled materials.

The CMBA Green Committee also holds an annual “Greener Way to Work Day.”   On that day, all bar association members and affiliates are encouraged to take green commutes to work (public transportation, carpooling, biking, etc.). A luncheon program is held to honor those who are green certified and to present the annual Green Innovation Award.

The program includes participation by green vendors (e.g., recycling companies) which are provided booths in return for financial support for the luncheon. Local governmental entities have embraced the event, including the Regional Transportation Association, which provides discounted mass transit vouchers.

The CMBA Green Initiative Committee also created a Carbon Footprint Calculator for legal services organizations, which can be used to determine the carbon footprint per hour of legal services rendered.   The CMBA published the Calculator along with other useful information – including recycling information – in the bar journal and posted it on the Committee website.

The Green Initiative Committee has also partnered with local organizations and companies to promote green activities. One such effort is its partnership with OneCommunity and RET 3 Job Corporation to reduce a significant environmental hazard – e-waste. Their Green Computing program refurbishes computers for donation to local urban schools, reducing the “digital divide” between the quality and quantity of computers used in wealthy and impoverished school systems. What cannot be fixed is responsibly recycled, with nothing going to landfills.

The CMBA promoted the Green Computing program by encouraging local law firms/offices to donate their unwanted computers – and even assisted in collecting them.

Firm/Office Green Initiatives

Law firms and offices are required – as part of the CMBA Green Certification Program – to create their own green committees to implement the CMBA certification requirements and serve as a liaison to the CMBA Green Initiative Committee.

The firm/office green committees have served as incubators of sustainable office practices which go beyond the CMBA certification requirements and are worthy of duplication by other firms/offices. Below are some examples of firm/office initiatives.

  • Earth Day programs, featuring speakers, green vendors, raffles, and prizes for those that bicycle, car pool, or take public transportation to work that day. One law firm featured local grown/organic wine and appetizers at its program.
  • Bicycle clubs that promote recreational bicycling and the use of bicycling as transportation to work. One law firm arranged for the free use of showers for its participants.
  • Green programs in collaboration with other tenants of the same office building and the building owner. One firm’s efforts led to a building-wide recycling program and a green fair in the building lobby.
  • Screen saver modes for firm/office computers that remind personnel to turn off their computers at the end of the day.
  • Compost programs for coffee grounds and leftover office food.
  • Discontinuance of disposable cups and water bottles.
  • Adoption of a “single stream” waste handling program wherein all non-food office waste is put in the same container and is separated later by the waste handling company.
  • Green “give aways,” such as a reusable grocery bags/totes with the firm/office logo, a BPA-free water bottle, a solar calculator or flashlight made from recycled materials, etc.), along with information about the beneficial impact of their use.
  • Green newsletters and websites that include profiles of green activities and committee members, discussion of green practices in the home, and interactive postings. One firm posted a “freeboard” where unwanted personal items are offered at no cost for anyone that wants them (bikes, furniture, etc.), reducing solid waste disposal. The same firm also had an interactive posting site for ride sharing.
  • Workplace contests that promote green practices.
  • Educational environmental DVDs using firm/office personnel. One firm created a series of DVDs that promoted recycling and reductions in energy use both at the office and at home. The DVDs utilized firm personnel as actors in humorous but thought-provoking skits. The DVDs were shown at firm functions and posted on the firm website.
  • Merging “wellness” health initiatives with green initiatives, such as firm support of a local bike ride for charity, resulting in fewer visits to the doctor and possibly lower firm/office insurance premiums.
  • Reusing/repurposing/recycling litigation/trial binders.   One firm instituted a program to reuse as many binders as possible, repurpose those not suitable for reuse by sending them to local urban schools, and recycle those no longer in a condition for use by anyone.

A suggested “best practice” for a law firm/office green committee is to include representatives from each occupational group (partners, associates, of counsel, paralegals, IT personnel, and legal secretaries). Staff members in particular appreciate being included in a decision-making part of the firm. If your firm/office has multiple offices, include representatives from each office on the committee and conduct meetings via video conferencing.

Finally, remember that keeping your committee events fun and interesting will increase interest and participation.

Conclusion

In light of our recent (April 22) celebration of Earth Day, consider it to be a fitting time to green your firm/office and become part of “our common progress” rather than our “common ruin.” Adopting even just a few of the ideas discussed above will help protect the earth and improve your firm’s bottom line as well.

Carter E. Strang is a partner in the Cleveland offices of Tucker Ellis LLP. He is a member of the DRI Toxic Tort & Environmental Law Section and is listed in the Top Rated Lawyers Guide to Energy, Environmental and Natural Resources Law. He is Immediate Past President of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and a past president of the Federal Bar Association, Northern District of Ohio Chapter. He founded the CMBA Green Initiative, served as chair of its Green Initiative Committee, and currently serves as a member. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Tucker Ellis Green Initiative Committee, upon which he also serves. The firm received the CMBA Green Innovation Award and is CMBA Green+ Certified.

Export Control Reform: Where Are We Now?

by Jon P. Yormick and Mark J. Sundahl

 

Export Control Reform: Where Are We Now?

New regulations involving the export of ‘dual use’ items are taking hold.

Five years have passed since the Obama Administration launched the Export Control Reform Initiative (ECR) in 2009.   This initiative was undertaken to remedy the complexity, ambiguity, and occasional absurdity of the existing regulations governing the export of military and dual-use items (i.e., items that have a civilian as well as a military application). While significant progress has been made in reforming this critical area of law, the project is not yet complete.

The primary thrust of the ECR effort is to move less sensitive items and technologies from the United States Munitions List (USML) to the Commerce Control List (CCL). Items on the USML are subject to the strict controls of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) which, with few exceptions, require a license from the U.S. Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Control (DDTC) prior to the export of the listed items (known as “defense articles”). Those items and technologies that are transferred to the CCL will be subject to less strict controls of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) which regulate the export of dual-use commodities and technologies.

The other goal of the ECR is to transform the USML into a “positive” list, i.e.,a list that describes the controlled defense articles and technologies with specificity in order to enable companies to more easily determine when their products are subject to the ITAR. Unlike the CCL (which is a positive list), the descriptions of items on the USML have been notoriously broad. As a result, a manufacturer’s product may fall within the scope of the ITAR even if the item has no inherent military application. For example, prior to the ECR, all parts and components that were “designed” or “modified” for incorporation into a controlled item were subject to ITAR control. This was true even if the part taken by itself had no inherent military application, such as a screw that had been painted “army green” for use in a tank. This overly broad language of the USML has required a multitude of lower-tier manufacturers to be regulated under the ITAR with its annual registration requirement (even if the manufacturer does not export or only had a single transaction involving a defense article or technology), licensing mandates, and threats of severe penalties – civil, criminal, and debarment.

The proposed revisions to the ITAR (and those already in effect) fix this problem to a large extent by describing with specificity those items that are subject to the ITAR. Blanket categories, such as “spacecraft,” have been replaced by lists of technology with clear specifications that attempt to include only those items that are of true military value – and which therefore deserve the strict controls of the ITAR. Perhaps most importantly, the number of parts and components that are controlled has been significantly reduced and now generally exclude those parts that have no inherent military or intelligence applications. This has been achieved by subjecting to the ITAR only those parts and components that have been “specially designed” for use in a defense article. The new definition of “specially designed” excludes any fasteners (nuts, bolts, screws, etc.), as well as any part that has performance specifications equivalent to an item regulated under the lower tier of export controls of the EAR. It also sets up a “catch and release” structure so that articles and technologies that are initial caught under the new “specially designed” may nonetheless be “released” from the jurisdiction of the ITAR if the item is not specifically listed on the USML.

At the outset of the discussion of the ECR, there was hope for the eventual unification of the two regimes. If this is accomplished, we will have a single list of controlled items, rather than the existing bifurcated system based on the USML and the CCL, and this single list of items would be subject to a single set of regulations administered by one agency. At this point, a unitary “one-stop shop” approach to export controls is not likely to evolve within the near future. This goal may be realized in the next wave of reforms, but the current project will be restricted to the transfer of items from the USML to the CCL and the transformation of the USML to a positive list.

ECR Progress to Date

Last April, in these pages of the CMBJ, we wrote that the initial noticeable steps of the ECR had occurred in early March. At that time, we explained that the Administration had issued its first “38(f) notice” to Congress regarding USML Category VIII (Aircraft and Associated Equipment) and the newly established Category XIX (Gas Turbine Engines and Associated Equipment) and that the first transfer of items from the USML to the CCL would likely occur in October 2013. Despite a federal government shutdown last October, ECR forged ahead with the first transfers effective on October 15, 2013.

Since then, the Department of Commerce and the Department of State have been and continue to be engaged in transferring appropriate items on the USML to the CCL pursuant to the “38(f) process” as provided under Section 38(f) of the Arms Export Control Act which requires the President to periodically review the USML ‘‘to determine what items, if any, no longer warrant export controls under’’ the ITAR. Items moved to the CCL are now and will continue to be grouped under the new “600 Series” category that will also contain certain significant military items that are already on the CCL.

So how far along are we in this process? The process has moved forward methodically through the review and revision of each category of the USML. The amendments to the following categories have already gone into effect: Category VI (Surface Vessels of War and Special Naval Equipment), Category VII (Ground Vehicles), Category VIII (Aircraft and Related Articles), Category XIII (Materials and Miscellaneous Articles), Category XVII (Classified Articles, Technical Data and Defense Services Not Otherwise Enumerated), Category XX (Submersible Vessels and Related Articles), and Category XXI (Articles, Technical Data and Defense Services Not Otherwise Enumerated).

Amendments with respect to other categories go into effect in a few short months on July 1: Category IV (Launch Vehicles, Guided Missiles, Ballistic Missiles, Rockets, Torpedoes, Bombs, and Mines), Category V (Explosives and Energetic Materials, Propellant, Incendiary Agents, and Their Constituents), Category IX (Military Training Equipment), Category X (Personal Protective Equipment), and Category XVI (Nuclear Weapon, Design, and Testing Related Articles).

We are still awaiting the publication of final rules with respect to two categories of the USML for which proposed rules have been published: Category XI (Military Electronics) and Category XV (Spacecraft Systems and Associated Equipment). The proposed changes to Category XV have been particularly momentous — and generated the greatest volume of public comments.   On May 24, 2013, the DDTC issued proposed rules that will transfer (for the most part) all but the most sensitive space technology to the CCL, thus restoring the appropriate level of control to civil space systems that existed prior to an unauthorized disclosure of controlled technology resulting from a 1996 failed launch of a U.S. satellite from China. Those items that would remain on the USML include satellites and spacecraft with significant military value, such as the ability to detect nuclear detonation, track missiles, destroy other satellites, or strike targets on Earth. However, some aspects of the proposed rule remain controversial, such as the retention on the USML of any hosted payload that is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (regardless of the payload’s capabilities), as well as any “man-rated” spacecraft, even if such spacecraft (such as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo) has no military application. The continuing debate over these issues could delay the issuance of a final rule for Category XV into next year.

As we also stated last year, companies that manufacture or export defense articles that are currently subject to the ITAR, but will be transferred to the CCL later this year will face a lighter regulatory compliance burden. Generally, although a license will still be required for items transferred to the CCL’s new “600 Series” category (unless the item is being exported to Canada), a number of license exceptions may permit export without a license. Of particular significance is License Exception Strategic Trade Authorization (STA). Under specific circumstances and upon meeting certain EAR requirements, this license exception is available when products or technologies are exported to a NATO country and to those located in other allied countries, such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. If a license is required, the on-line licensing process under the Department of Commerce regulations are less complicated.

ECR is here. Companies that have not yet reviewed the jurisdiction (USML v. CCL) under which their products and technologies are governed under ECR cannot afford to wait any longer to determine how ECR affects their export compliance processes and procedures, and their customer relations.

http://www.yormicklaw.com/

Good, Better Best: Never Let It Rest

By Beth Hill

GOOD, BETTER, BEST, NEVER LET IT REST

Can you visualize where your law firm will be in five years?

A quote from George Burns says it best. “Get your good better and your better best.” This is good advice because there is no time to rest on one’s laurels. As paralegals, we are responsible for our own professional growth and career development. It is not up to our employers to nurture our knowledge. We must each take the tactical steps necessary to ensure continued growth.

The legal profession is on a course of constant change. Law firms, in particular, used to be able to count on client loyalty and a sizable retainer from clients who regularly provided the firm with work, which in turn helped to reduce certain costs, such as marketing costs. Today, however, clients shop around and demand top legal services at reduced costs. They can often change counsel on a case by case bases. In today’s uncertain market, it has become increasingly important for paralegals to develop a strategic plan to keep their careers on the correct paths.

How will your job be different in five years? What will happen with the firm for which you work? We really don’t know what the future holds, but what we do know is that change is constant. Succeeding in a demanding, changing workplace requires a strategic career plan. Employers want to retain employees who provide the best value. Look at yourself as a business with a product to sell, and create a strategy for marketing your work-place value. You can employ a strategic process of improving your worth and setting new goals for your career path.

How do we keep that competitive edge? Below are some important steps you can take today to furture-proof your career.

Remain Tech-Savey

The skills you have today may not be sufficient for tomorrow. Much of the change today involves new technology. Technological skills are some of the most sought after skills in the present legal market. You will most likely find yourself at high risk of losing your job if you are without the technological understanding and ability. Paralegals must make themselves proficient with a growing array of word processing, spreadsheet, telecommunications, database, presentation and legal research software. Force yourself to keep your technical skills current.

Knowledge Is The Key

Learn all you can in the area of law in which you work in to set yourself apart. Distinguish yourself with your knowledge. Invest in additional education; read books and magazines; take webinars; and attend seminars and workshops. Determine what you need to know and learn; and work to overhaul your professional image. Participate in professional development; become a member of your local paralegal association which promotes professionalism, ethics and eduction for its members. Becoming a valuable paralegal involves expense, tuition, time and effort. A little investment of your own funds and time will pay lasting dividends for years to come. Pay for additional courses and take exams such as the PACE to validate your skill set and knowledge.

Cross Training

While it’s important to know all you can about the area of law in which you currently work, it is just as important to realize that in a down-economy, the type of work you do may need to shift to another area in the firm. For example, real estate work may have been plentiful in the past, but today, bankruptcy, collections and foreclosures have increased, and your help may be needed in those areas. If you can demonstrate your knowledge and willingness to make the change, you are ahead of the game.

Develop Transferrable Skills

Continue to work on developing transferable skills that are universally sought by employers. Leadership, communication, innovation, stress management, and interpersonal skills are fundamental requirements.

Create A Success Journal

This is important to think about when you are not looking for a job. Be proactive and take inventory of what you do well. Track you duties, projects and results.

Develop Resilience

B ecuause we don’t know what the future holds, setbacks are inevitable. Those who will emerge successful are the ones with the ability to bounce back. We have to develop our resilience skillsand use that resilience to meet the challenges that have become a regular part of our work. Resilience is your capacity to deal with stress, aversity and uncertainty. When we practice resilience, we are in a better position to adapt to ongoing changes.

Be Proactive

Let’s face it: some attorneys do not utilize paralegals effectively. They just do not know what type of work to give paralegals. Take the initiative and seek out substantive work. Know all you need to know and understand about the area of law in which you work. This in turn will demonstrate your abilities, and the profitability for the firm will increase. Effective paralegal utilization equals increased profitability. Avoid limits on the scope of your position. Seek new assignments and challenges. Find a niche area of expertise and become that go-to person.

Communication

You cannot underestimate the importance of communication with the clients you serve. It is fundamental to the practice of law. Paralegals serve as an important liaison between clients, experts, vendors and other legal professionals. Keep communication with clients a top priority. Return calls promptly and keep clients updated on their cases. Happy clients also make happy bosses.

Work With Passion

Be passionate about your work and you will have the greatest chance of success. I believe paralegals are passionate people We believe in what we do, and we believe that our work makes a difference in the lives of others. It is that very passion that drives us to be the best that we can be. When we work with passion, we work harder, have more energy, get more creative and most of all we inspire others who work along side us.

With the New Year well underway, which promises to be filled with challenges and uncertainties, now is the time to focus on your personal strategic plan to future prof your career. As Judge Judy accurately declares, “The time to change was yesterday; the time to wake up is now.”

Beth Hill has been a paralegal for 26 years specializing in Estate Administration, Estate Planning, Tursts an Trust Administration. She is currently employed at the law firm of Burt, Blee, Dixon, Sutton & Bloom, LLP in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She currently serves as the Vice President and Secondary Representative of the Northeast Indiana Paralegal Association. She can be reached as hill@burtblee.com

What Interns Do May Determine What They Are Due

By Monica Levine Lacks

What Interns Do May Determine What They Are Due

What are interns doing in your business?

For college students, summer often means the temporary retirement of books and backpacks, and the chance to “play grown-up” with a resume-building internship. And for the businesses and institutions who retain and train these future “grown-ups,” summer may bring an opportunity to utilize low-cost or no-cost labor to accomplish outstanding tasks, while grooming potential members of their future workforce. Or maybe not. Lawsuits challenging the legality of unpaid and “underpaid” internships under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and a six-factor test issued by the U.S. Department of Labor, raise questions as to whether interns must be paid in accordance with U.S. wage and hour laws, and their state equivalents (in Ohio, R.C. 4111.01 et seq). Among the factors that may present the greatest hurdle for employers are that the internship – which must be “similar to training which would be given in an educational environment” – also be “for the benefit of the intern” and that that the employer derive “no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities.

These and other factors have formed the basis for a number of class actions against employers utilizing summer and longer-term interns. In April 2010, the U.S. Wage and Hour Division published Fact Sheet No. 71, articulating six factors to help “for-profit” sector employers determine whether interns must be paid under the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The criteria include:

  1. That the internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship;
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for time spent in the internship

To show that an employment relationship does not exist (and that the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements do not apply to the intern), all six of the factors must be met. Notably, the Wage and Hour Division has pointed out that the requirements do not apply to internships in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations.
Granting in part the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, and conditionally certifying a class of plaintiffs under the FLSA, the United States District Court in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., S.D.N.Y. No. 11-06784, 6/11/13, rejected the employer’s position that its unpaid interns met the six-factor test. As a result, the court found that two interns working on the set of the movie “Black Swan” were misclassified as unpaid interns and were entitled to damages under the FLSA and its New York state equivalent. As to the first factor, the court emphasized that, while classroom training is not a prerequisite, “internships must provide something beyond on-the-job training that employees receive.” In Glatt, the subject interns “did not acquire any new skills aside from those specific to the [the employer’s] back office, such as how it watermarked scripts or how the photocopier or coffee maker operated.” Addressing the second factor, the “benefit of the intern,” the court pointed out that while the plaintiffs received some benefits from their internships, such as resume listings, job references, and an understanding of how a production office works, those benefits were “incidental” to working in the office like any other employee. Because the employer received the benefits of their unpaid work, which would otherwise have required paid employees, the employer, not he plaintiffs, primarily benefited from the relationship.

The court found that the third factor – regarding the displacement of regular employees – was not met because the interns performed administrative tasks that might otherwise have been done by paid employees, such as reconciling invoices, drafting cover letters, organizing file cabinets, making photocopies, and running errands. For these reasons, the employer obtained an immediate advantage from the interns’ work (the fourth factor). The fifth factor – that the interns knew they were not entitled to a job at the end of the internship – was satisfied by the employer.

The undisputed fact that the interns knew they would not be paid (the sixth factor) may be of particular interest to employers. The court observed that this fact added little, “because the FLSA does not allow employees to waive their entitlement to wages.” In short, an understanding between the employer and the intern that the internship is unpaid will afford an employer little if any protection.

The Glatt court distinguished the facts before it from the “trainee” exception established in Walling v. Portland Terminal Co., 330 U.S. 148 (1947). In Walling, the United States Supreme Court held that “trainees” attending a week-long course for prospective railroad breakmen were not employees covered by the FLSA. The program in that case was used purely as a training device for the trainees’ benefit; did not expedite company business; and occasionally impeded it. Accepting the “unchallenged findings” that the railroads obtained no “immediate advantage” from the trainees’ work, the Supreme Court concluded that they were not employees under the FLSA. Walling, 330 U.S. at 153.

In November 2013, the Glatt defendants’ interlocutory appeal of the trial court’s summary judgment order was certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Significantly, in February 2014, the court of Appeals denied appellants’ motion to stay pending appeal the district court’s ordering permitting issuance of notice to putative class members, creating further challenges and costs for the appellants. While the district court’s conclusions remain subject to change, its findings suggest that employers will be closely scrutinized under the six factor test regardless.

Such was the case in the Northern District of New York, where another putative class of interns sought damages under the FLSA and its New York equivalent. The plaintiff in Kozik v. Hamilton College, C.A. No. 6:12-cv-1870 (LEK/TWD), brought an FLSA action alleging that interns in Hamilton College’s athletic department were working long hours – sometimes 80 or more hours per week – with the college’s varsity sports programs, performing the same jobs as fully paid assistant coaches. The interns, who were not students at the college, alleged that they received flat pay at monthly or other intervals at a rate well below minimum wage and overtime provisions. During their “in season” varsity sports, interns allegedly were required to travel with their assigned teams, often working ten hours or longer at a time. During the off-season, they were required to perform “game management duties” (arguably enabling the college to avoid hiring workers for games), as well as participating in recruiting activities and showcases and camps. The lead plaintiff maintained that the interns’ salaries of $1100 per month or $275 per week resulted in an effective hourly wage of as little as $2.60 in some weeks, and that they never received overtime pay. Kozik settled in January 2014, while the plaintiff’s motion for conditional collective action certification was pending, and four months before trial.

A number of other lawsuits have been brought by putative classes of interns – all alleging that they were unpaid or underpaid in violation of the FLSA. While the litigation stems primarily from the state of New York, the federal coverage of the FLSA potentially exposes employers nationwide to litigation and potential damages resulting from alleged misclassification of interns. Employers – many of whom seek to create relationships of mutual benefit by hiring student interns for the summer or longer terms – are well advised to scrutinize those arrangements to determine their wage and hour obligations, if any, under the FLSA and their analogous state laws.

Monica Levine Lacks is a Cleveland attorney. She has an extensive background in labor and employment law, as well as ERISA denial of benefits litigation. She annually participates in the CMBA Bench-Bar Run for Justice. She has been a member of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association since 2006. Monica can be contacted at monica.lacks@gmail.com

**Printed by permission of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association**

The Importance of Networking and Growing Future Leaders

by Debra Hindin-King

The Importance of Netowrking and Growing Future Leaders

Networking can be an important part of your professional life.

How often have you heard that networking with other paralegals will enhance your circle of friends and make your life more rewarding? Paralegals routinely rate very highly the importance of networking within their profession. Numerous paralegals feel it is a top priority to enlarge their circle of friends, as well as a member benefit of their association. I have certainly found that to be true throughout my career, even today when I consider myself “seasoned” in the field.

My networking experiences have allowed me to become acquainted either virtually (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) or in person with so many talented and gifted paralegals across the country. Often times I am in need of a referral for a court reporter, process server or an office in which to hold a mediation outside my home state. Through my network, I routinely connect with my paralegal friends to request assistance with such matters. Getting a trusted referral is so much easier and quicker than having your fingers do the walking through the yellow pages or spending time surfing the internet!

Attending professional events such as conventions and CLEs will also allow you to widen your circle of professional acquaintances. Many of the exhibitors at a convention may be helpful to you in future projects. Even though you may not be the sole decision maker when hiring an exhibitor for a project, you familiarity with these vendors may make it easier in the future to reconnect when the need is ripe. Often times at CLEs, an opportunity to network with other attendees may allow you to expand your circle of resources. Get to know those who have similar interests and passions about the paralegal profession; no price tag can ever be placed on the value of this experience.

Consider joining a paralegal organization or another legal professional group. It is amazing how quickly you will get to know others with similar interests and passions. Don’t be afraid to take on a leadership role within the group. Working with others toward a common goal is extremely rewarding, not only for you but for the organization as well. At the end of the day, you will feel better about yourself, and that your time spent was worthwhile in helping the group to succeed. In addition, nonprofit legal organizations are always looking for committed volunteers and leaders, representing yet another resource to connect with people who may have similar interests!

Leadership Management Styles

Do you need a B12 shot to help you become an effective leader utilizing your newly acquired networking skills? Consider various styles of leadership. What differences exist among various generations of leaders, ranging from Baby Boomers right up to Generations X, Y and Millennials?

Typically, younger generations seek rewarding work, flexible hours, more vacation time, and continuous training—and they don’t like someone watching too closely to check their progress. These workers and leaders want a less structured approach to management, as opposed to climbing the hierarchy of the corporate ladder. Often, younger workers may be ready to leave one job and move into something better in a very short period of time. Compare that to Baby Boomers, who view long hours as evidence of hard work and loyalty, and who may prefer more structure within the work environment. Historically, Baby Boomers tend to be less likely to leave after just a few years with their employer.

Younger generations value teamwork and encourage collaboration on projects, which will hopefully lend itself to a more transparent and fluid management style as leaders in their respective organizations. Although technology plays a major role in all of our lives, face-to-face conversation continues to be one of the most valuable methods to convey ideas, exchange information, and formulate plans to allow organizations to pay forward the value of networking for future members.

Association Structure

The million dollar question is how to structure your association to ensure the new generation (“young hungry leaders”) want to stay. Consider some of these ideas: 1) offer ongoing leadership training; 2) increase benefits for those assuming leadership roles, (for example, provide greater recognition for an individual’s contributions by profiling emerging leaders in online association newsletters, local papers, or by sending a letter to a leader’s employer about his/her role in the organization, or by recognizing leaders at annual meetings and social events, etc.); 3) provide latitude in the decision making process; 4) gain the loyalty and respect from younger generations via transparent communication and ongoing support; 5) encourage all leaders and members to be “green” – we all want to protect our precious environment for future generations; and 6) grow and nurture talent by providing challenges to validate and show members loyalty.

Bridging the generation gap is and will always be a challenging situation as it relates to leadership within an organization. Effective leaders should encourage free thinking and sharing of opinions to ensure all members, particularly those in leadership roles, within the organization feel empowered, and are appreciated as valuable contributors. Successful leaders follow through on commitments and take ownership of their own actions, non-actions and mistakes.

Leaders are learners and like to help others succeed. As Dwight D. Eisenhower stated, leadership is “the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” A leader often times leads by example, whether he intends to do so or not. Does that sound familiar to you in your organization? And finally, as Henry Miller declared, “The real leader has no need to lead – he is content to point the way.”

The art of networking goes hand-in-hand with the development of the leaders of today and tomorrow. Seize the opportunities to retool your leadership skill-set to include the resource of networking with your peers – an experience that will provide you with a challenging path down the road in seeking leadership opportunities to pursue within your association.

Debra Hindin-King has been a litigation paralegal for 23 years specializing in oil and gas royalty and commercial litigation. She is currently employed at the law firm of Wheel Trigg O’Donnell LLP in Denver. She is member of the Advisory Council, Organization of Legal Professionals, Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association, National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Co-Chair of the Paralegal committee of the Colorado Bar Association and member of the Colorado Association of Litigation Support Professionals. She can be reached at hindinking@wtotrial.com

Reprinted by permission of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations www.paralegals.org

Paperless Documents – Why?

Paperless Documents Why?

Paper can present a daunting obstacle for workers.

by Michelle Cady-Cook, Director of Marketing, Cady Reporting Services

Imagine: A paperless office…While there are very few offices in the world that are truly paperless, there are steps that law firms and you personally can take towards having a paperless (or maybe a less-paper) office. In the words of Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

What do paperless office procedures do for you?

  • Increase your efficiency.

How much time have you spent searching for that paper that you “know is here somewhere”? It is much easier to organize your files electronically. You can cross-index individual files so they can be a part of multiple cases. You can also organize and reorganize files whenever and however you would like.

  • Save money on your storage costs.

As we accumulate more and more paper we also increase storage costs. If we have our documents stored electronically, not only will we reduce storage needs and costs, but it will be easier and cheaper to transmit our files to anyone else who may need them. Not only is it cheaper to store files electronically, but you can sleep better at night knowing that your documents are protected against fires, flood and other types of loss by having your files safely backed up in several locations.

  • Scanned files are portable.

One of the challenges that busy paralegals, secretaries and attorneys face is the fact that there are only so many hours in a day. One benefit of going paperless is the ability to work no matter where you are. If there is a large case with many documents, it can be very cumbersome to deal with. If your files were stored on a DepoLaunch* CD, it would be easy whenever you had a few minutes, to just pop it in and work no matter where you were. (And with DepoLaunch you can even have the video file with you as well.)

  • Easier collaboration

Whether you work in a small or large firm, electronic files can make it easier to collaborate. Sending files back and forth via email or posting shared files on a local server negates the need for sharing paper copies and all of the hassle of keeping track of files and making sure all copies are complete and updated.

 

  • Utilize search capabilities.

When you have all your files stored electronically, you can utilize the
impressive power of desktop search software. Using this software (which will index all your files), you can locate relevant information. Desktop search software will search the text of your files so you can find arguments made by your attorney in earlier briefs and motions, and you can go right to the relevant spot in a long file. Just imagine if you have 500 pages of medical records in a case and you are looking for a specific entry. I’m sure you would agree that searching a file is much easier than searching through 500 pieces of paper.

  • Save the planet.

By going the paperless route, you can reduce paper consumption, thereby saving trees and reducing pollutants to our environment. As an additional benefit, you also reduce your costs by ordering less paper.

  • Scanned documents can make your clients happier.

When the client calls and needs information from a specific document, you can find it right away instead of hanging up and getting back to them within the next week. If you have a searchable document, you will be less likely to miss key points. Your greater efficiency and accuracy will make clients happy, which makes the boss happy, which make you an indispensable assistant.
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It is 2014. What a great time to allow technology to make your life easier.

*Depolaunch is a self-running CD/DVD which stores your deposition transcript, exhibits and video. It is a proprietary product of the NNRC. Cady Reporting is the Cleveland affiliate of the NNRC.

International Sexual Predator Met Through Online Game

International Sexual Predator Met Through Online Game

Online games like those found on Facebook can often be a hunting ground for sexual predators.

Do you play games on a smart phone or a tablet, on a gaming system like a Wii or PlayStation, through Facebook, or via a computer? It is amazing to live in today’s society. We can play games with people through any of the above devices anytime, anywhere, and in any place – all we need is an internet connection. The other gamers can live down the street, in a neighboring county, in another state, and even in another country. Given that, how many of us intimately know or even casually know the people with whom we are playing games?
A few questions to ponder – Would you:

  • chat with someone you game with?
  • text them?
  • tell them personal information about yourself?
  • share pictures with them?
  • give them your telephone number?
  • Skype or FaceTime with them?
  • send them money?
  • meet them in person?
  • invite them to your house?

Do you know all of the information that your social network platform shares with others?

We all have different comfort levels. As we ask ourselves these questions, we must consider what will put our loved ones at risk and potentially allow them to become targets of internet predators. We then need to make a point to help them if they are too trusting or may not know any better. Many of us may discuss stranger danger with our children. But we may be a little too lax in discussing the dangers that exist online. We need to be cognizant of these dangers and help children, people with disabilities, and those who are aging watch out for them, too!

Through my work at Hickman & Lowder, I had an opportunity to do just that. I helped a client’s young adult child who has a disability. The client’s child met a person from another country through a game on Facebook. Some people do not question why a person who they are playing a game with online suddenly wants to chat with them privately, talk with them via telephone, or meet them in real life. Unfortunately, at that point, they can become a target of online predators.

Our client’s child began to chat with the gamer through the online game application on Facebook. Gradually, the young adult started sharing personal information with the gamer. Then the child began to use a friend’s cell phone with an international calling plan to call the gamer. (Please note that people can and will find ways to do things that they want to do, even when we do our best to try to protect them.) Some red flags were exhibited: The young adult broke up with their significant other of several years and kept stating that the out of country gamer would be coming to visit soon. Do you see anything wrong with this? Does this scenario concern you? It should!

After the client contacted our office out of concern about the “relationship” developing between the young adult and the gamer, as well as the child’s behavioral changes, I did some research online with the information provided to our office. I discovered that the person the young adult was talking to was convicted of sexual exploitation and was on the sex offender information registry in the country they reside in. Luckily, that information was uncovered sooner rather than later.

We forwarded the gamer’s online ID and the court conviction information to Facebook. Facebook has a very strict policy prohibiting convicted sex offenders from using their platform. Once we turned that information over to Facebook, the gamer’s profile was deleted. Again, going back to the “where there is a will there is a way”, the gamer then created other profiles and tried to continue to contact the young adult. We turned those additional profiles over to Facebook, as well. We talked with the friend who was letting the young adult use their phone and explained the dangers.

Thankfully, in this case, there were enough warning signs and red flags to alert family and friends concerned about the young adult. What would have happened if no one intervened? What would have happened if the gamer used a fictitious name to begin with? Would the gamer’s real name have ever been provided? Would the truth about the gamer’s identity have been discovered in time? Would the result have been the same?
The intent in sharing the story is to help everyone understand that gaming online can be a double-edged sword. Stay safe, understand the potential risks, and help those who may be at risk.

Some resources about staying safe online are below: (Note: You can click on the blue hyperlinks provided or copy and paste the website addresses into your internet browser.)

http://www.microsoft.com/security/resources/brochures.aspx

http://www.staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online

For Elders:

http://msisac.cisecurity.org/newsletters/2013-06.cfm

http://seniornet.org/blog/11-tips-for-social-networking-safety/

http://www.senioronlinesafety.com/blogs-english-espanol/

http://www.lifelinesys.com/content/blog/seniors/independent-living/6-safety-social-networking-tips-for-seniors

For Parents:

  • I recently attended Jesse Weinberger’s Internet Safety for Parents presentation. She is the owner of OvernightGeek University. Her presentation taught me additional dangers that parents must know about. If your child has access to any device, including, but not limited to, computers, TVs, tablets, smart phones, gaming systems, etc., whether it is their own, yours, their friend’s, someone else’s, …you need to know! She published The BoogeyMan Exists: And He’s In Your Child’s Back Pocket. Jesse’s website is full of information, including, a quick three-minute video lesson on the best parenting practices for keeping your children safe online. You can access it at: OvernightGeek University.

Book:

http://www.overnightgeekuniversity.com/shop/book/book-the-boogeyman-exists-and-hes-in-your-childs-back-pocket-by-jesse-weinberger

Website: http://www.overnightgeekuniversity.com/internet-safety-best-parenting-practices-to-keep-children-tweens-and-teens-safe-in-the-digital-world/

http://ftpcontent.worldnow.com/wkow/newsdocs/OnlineSafetychecklist.pdf

http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/your-child-technology/keeping-kids-safe-online

  • Reporting Predators on Facebook:

Facebook is relying on the public to let them know if there is as sexual predator online so action may be taken. Directions on how to report a convicted sexual predator on Facebook can be found here. http://www.facebook.com/help/210081519032737

Posted by Christy A. Zeyer
OSBA Certified Paralegal
czeyer@hickman-lowder.com
www.hickman-lowder.com