Carl H. Morrison, PP-SC, AACP, is a certified paralegal with a specialty in civil litigation where he concentrates in...
The Paralegal Voice covers the latest issues and trends in the world of paralegals and legal assistants. Host Vicki...
Even if you qualify as an extrovert, the pressure of networking can be stressful for many legal professionals. In this episode of The Paralegal Voice, host Vicki Voisin talks to Carl Morrison about why networking is so important for lawyers and what they can do to improve their professional social skills. Some of his tips include asking open ended questions, joining a professional association, and working on both your passive and active networking. Social media is a critical aspect of maintaining professional relationships these days, so Vicki concludes the show with do’s and don’ts of posting on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Carl H. Morrison is a Senior Certified Paralegal for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, working in the areas of litigation, gaming, employment and corporate law.
The Paralegal Voice
Networking for Lawyers Doesn’t have to be Hard
Intro: Welcome to The Paralegal Voice, where you hear the latest issues and trends in the world of paralegals and legal assistants by one of the best-known paralegals in the industry, Vicki Voisin. A paralegal for more than 20 years, Vicki is dedicated to helping legal professionals reach their goals. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Vicki Voisin: Hello everyone. Welcome to The Paralegal Voice here on Legal Talk Network. I am Vicki Voisin, the paralegal mentor and host of The Paralegal Voice. I am a NALA Advanced Certified paralegal. I publish a newsletter titled Paralegal Strategies, and I am also the co-author of The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success. You will find more information at HYPERLINK “http://www.paralegalmentor.com/”paralegalmentor.com.
My guest today is Carl Morrison. Carl is a Senior Certified Paralegal for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, working in the areas of litigation, gaming, employment and also corporate law.
He has been a paralegal for nearly 25 years and is the immediate past President of NALS… the association for legal professionals and currently serves on the NALS Board of Directors.
Carl is an active member of the State Bar of Nevada Paralegal Division, the Las Vegas Valley Paralegal Association and NALS of Las Vegas. He holds three paralegal certifications through NALS, the NFPA and the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc., as well as his Professional Specialty Certificate in Civil Litigation and E-Discovery.
Carl Morrison: Thank you very much Vicki, glad to be here.
Vicki Voisin: I am pleased to have you. Now before we begin, our sponsors should be recognized and thanked.
NALA, a professional association for paralegals providing continuing education and professional certification programs for paralegals at HYPERLINK “http://www.nala.org/”nala.org.
NALA is a force in the advancement of the paralegal profession and has been a sponsor of The Paralegal Voice since our first program.
Our next sponsor is Boston University, offering an online certificate in paralegal studies. If you are seeking a professional credential or just want to further develop your skills, Boston University provides an affordable, high quality 14-week program. Visit HYPERLINK “http://www.paralegalonline.bu.edu/”paralegalonline.bu.edu for information. That’s HYPERLINK “http://www.paralegalonline.bu.edu/”paralegalonline.bu.edu.
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The goal of The Paralegal Voice is to discuss a wide range of topics that are important to the paralegal industry and share with you leading trends, significant developments and resources you will find helpful in your career and your everyday job. Guests are usually included to help explore timely topics, and for that reason I have invited Carl Morrison to be with me today.
And our topic is active and passive networking. Strong professional relationships are resources that can give you a competitive advantage and one of the best ways to build professional relationships is by way of networking.
So Carl, what we want to do today is talk about networking, what is it and why is it so important.
Carl Morrison: Well, Vicki, if you get down to the definition of networking, networking is really the development and nurturing of a productive relationship or relationships, be it for employment or business reasons. It’s important for moving your career forward and also building a network, developing a network. It can help you locate a new job even if you are switching to a new area of law.
It’s also important for collaborations with others like yourself, whether that be associating with other paralegals in E-Discovery say for example or associating with others that share maybe the same passions that you have, whether it be like a pro bono situation or even a community project.
Vicki Voisin: Well Carl, I know that many, many jobs are found by word of mouth instead of through advertising, so that’s another reason why I think it’s so important to be doing networking.
But we also — I look at this as we have active and passive networking. Can you explain the difference?
Carl Morrison: So let’s start with active networking. So active networking is really when you are actively engaged in connecting with others for a purpose, whether like I said a minute ago, whether that be to develop a relationship, to find maybe a good job, maybe even from the standpoint of getting with others to form a study group taken for one of the certification exams, or like earlier, collaborating with others for a civic purpose, like for pro bono purposes, maybe helping the homeless, so on and so forth.
Passive networking is just like the opposite. So think of when you join in an association like NALS or NALA or NFPA, you may be joining just to be a member and that’s it. So if you are not actively or if you don’t actively engage others for a distinct purpose like we have discussed, but you belong to this large network of people, you are still forming a network of peers even though you may not be actively seeking others out for a direct purpose.
Also think of when you join a Facebook group or follow a certain individual or maybe a company on LinkedIn or Twitter, you are passively forming a network of others that share same or similar type of backgrounds or viewpoints, careers, so on and so forth. But remember when you are doing passive networking, you are not actively doing it, it’s something that you are always doing, whether you are consciously doing it or not, passive networking is happening.
Vicki Voisin: Well Carl, everybody agrees that networking is important to our careers, but I don’t know many people who don’t dread it. It’s difficult and they worry about it a lot. Was that difficult for you at first?
Carl Morrison: So I will tell you growing up I was not what you would call an extrovert. I was the kid or the young adult that would walk into a room and first I would quietly and methodically assess the environment that I am coming into and then watching people and then seeking those that I determined maybe had a similar background to myself.
But now as an adult and someone that has been in a leadership role for a while now, I don’t find it necessarily difficult to enter a room where I may not know someone, but I still have that initial moment of, what are they going to think of me. I think that’s just inherent to human nature. We want to make sure that we put on a best foot forward. But then I quickly assess the environment and I make it a point to seek out others and introduce myself and engage others in the conversation.
The best experience was when I first moved out here to Las Vegas, I was an Oklahoma native, born and raised in Oklahoma and my 24 out of my 25 years as a paralegal was in Tulsa and moving on to Las Vegas, I knew no one out here. And so I reached out, of course I knew some people in NALS of Las Vegas, but I didn’t know anyone in any of the other associations.
So I went to a NALA affiliate meeting, the Las Vegas Valley Paralegal Association, went to their monthly education meeting and I knew that moving to this town and state I would need to create my network, I would need to start over.
So I entered that room not knowing a soul and just stood strong and confident and knew that they were not going to eat me, as my late mother used to say, and introduced myself and the rest is history.
But I will tell you a little tip, when you are going into an environment and meeting people, especially if you have got people that you know in the room, don’t always head for your best friends, and I will be the first to admit that when I attend an event I want to immediately gravitate to my comfort zone. But I make it a conscious effort to go to those people I don’t know first and introduce myself and meet those people, go to the table of strangers and ask to sit with them, that’s the point of networking.
Vicki Voisin: Now Carl, when I first met you and I think this is a great story, I was in Tulsa to speak to Tulsa Paralegal Association, great group of people. Well, when I finished speaking I was walking around the room and you took the time to introduce yourself to me, and I was delighted, probably should have been the one walking up to you, but what was nice is that you introduced yourself, you took the time or the gumption or whatever that takes, and since then we have been great networking connections.
So sometimes it just takes that sticking your hand out and stopping the person and making sure that they know who you are, I think that’s really important. And as you said, when you are in a leadership position, you do learn how to work the room pretty well. So I think that always take advantage of those leadership opportunities, you can really learn a lot from that.
But anyway Carl, so glad you introduced yourself to me. That was a start of a great networking situation.
Carl Morrison: And I am truly honored that you and I have been able to continue and develop and nurture that relationship, so thank you Vicki.
Vicki Voisin: Right. Well Carl, what I would like to know now, do you have any tips for successful networking at an event, we call that active networking, and as I said, some people dread it but there are some really good tips and I would like for you to share those with us.
Carl Morrison: So one tip is to make fewer statements. When you are going up to introduce yourself to someone, don’t ask a lot of questions right at the front, don’t make a lot of statements, let the other person do most of the talking, which leads into my next tip is ask more questions.
You don’t want to necessarily pepper the person all upfront with a bunch of questions, you want to — and like we are taught in our paralegal programs, you want to ask those questions and let the person do the talking and you be the active listener.
And like I am saying, allow the other person to do most of the talking. The easiest way, let the other person keep talking and leaving you the entire time to ask the right kind of open-ended questions.
Vicki Voisin: Why would you ask open-ended questions?
Carl Morrison: Well, because open-ended questions require more than a yes or no response and that really shows that you are listening to the other individual that you are speaking with. These types of questions they help to build and maintain rapport.
Some great examples of some questions that may minimize awkward silence; first and foremost, when I go up to introduce myself one of the first questions I ask the person is where you are from and find out a little bit about them in the way of where they are coming from. Are they a native, did they just recently move here, so on and so forth.
My number two question I always say and ask is so tell me about yourself, the giant open-ended question, because I want the person to do most of the talking initially, determine what they are all about. Ask things like what brings you here today, how did you get into the paralegal profession, do you specialize in any particular area of law, size of the law firm, what school did you attend, things of that nature.
You can ask stuff like what advice would you give a paralegal that’s just starting out in their first job. What do you love and enjoy most about what you do.
I also like to ask the question, what do you hate most about your job? Find out their loves and likes and dislikes about what they do.
A great one is what advice would you give to me if I wanted to be successful or switch to your specialty area of law. It’s always great to hear from someone that is in a different area of law what it would take to be successful in that area.
I like to ask what was the scariest moment for you in your career, and then turnabout ask what’s the strangest or funniest incident that they have experienced. Things like those questions give the individual an opportunity to share with you and do most of the talking about where they are coming from, and of course you want to interject and actively participate in conversation, but let the other person do most of the talking.
Vicki Voisin: Those are great tips Carl. And I do have a couple more for you, ask if they are an officer in the Association, maybe you are at a convention or something or ask if they have ever been an officer, perhaps they are a past president and you don’t know that. Ask if they are certified, and if they are, how did they study, get them going on that topic.
And if they have been to that convention before, ask them what there is to do, is there a favorite restaurant, is there something at the convention that they absolutely shouldn’t miss. I think that those again are open-ended questions, shows that you are curious about what’s going on.
But Carl, when I walk into a room I do have that moment where you just kind of stand there and go, now what do I do. I just read and I think this is a great tip is to head to the bar, maybe you don’t even drink, but head for the bar and kind of hang out there, because people walk by there, and you will be able to strike up some conversations, instead of having to walk up to people. So I am going to try that next time I am at a convention. I think that’s a great idea.
Carl Morrison: I love that idea.
Vicki Voisin: Yeah, yeah, I had never thought about it before. You can have a long line that you could just pass through and talk to a lot of people.
So Carl, we are going to take a short break for a word from our sponsors, NALA… the association of legal assistants, paralegals, Boston University, and ServeNow, a nationwide network of trusted prescreened process servers. When we come back, we will continue our discussion about networking with Carl Morrison.
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Vicki Voisin: Welcome back to The Paralegal Voice. I am Vicki Voisin. My guest today is Carl Morrison, a Senior Certified Paralegal who works in Las Vegas.
Now Carl, before the commercial break we discussed the importance of networking, before we move on I do have a question for you and this has to do with your move to Las Vegas. Now, you started your paralegal career in Tulsa and also in the law firm setting, where I think you worked in the law firm setting even after you moved to Las Vegas, but now you have transitioned into the corporate setting. Was it difficult for you to make that transition and did your previous networking help at all?
Carl Morrison: Thank You Vicki. I would not say it was difficult, the transition, but it is and it has been challenging. You have been a great help and were a big key in the network component of me landing here in Las Vegas for a particular position.
So when I first moved out here in 2015, I reached out to you as my mentor to help me kind of audit my resume and help with anything that you may be able to give me in the way of advice. And as a result I landed with a national law firm, subsequently had a partner and several associates that left the firm and took me with them to start a new firm and was with them up until about three months ago.
And three months ago I actually was approached by my former office manager who is married to the current General Counsel for The Cosmopolitan, and he had a Senior Paralegal that moved away and contacted me to see if I would be interested in a position, and the rest you could say is history.
It was all because of networking. It was not because I was actively seeking out any position, it was because I had developed a network of people and opportunities just presented themselves.
Vicki Voisin: That’s a great story Carl and I am always happy to help friends when they are looking for that new job, connecting friends with people I know. I think that’s probably one of my main goals.
But let’s talk about passive networking. We are always networking. I call that mostly making an impression on people by how we act. For instance, when you said the manager from the previous firm called you with this opportunity, you had been networking with that person and maybe not seeking a job or anything, but you made an impression and I think that we are always doing that. Do you agree?
Carl Morrison: I totally agree that you may not know that you are being watched but you are always being watched, and when you present yourself in a good light, you are always being watched and noticed for your talents and your skills. And it’s that passive networking that happens. You are not truly networking for an end goal, but that networking is being formed just because you are developing a relationship.
Vicki Voisin: Right, right. Now, another thing that I think is so important with networking is joining a professional association, and I am sure you are going to agree with me, I hope, but tell me a little bit how you feel about that.
Carl Morrison: So I will tell you and I say this to everyone, number one, my heart is in professional associations, that’s where it lies. But I always tell my students that if you ever want to find a good job, the job, the job that you want to do, that’s your passion, whether it be criminal or litigation, family law or whatever, first and foremost, network, network, network.
So how do you do that, how do you start that networking? Join an association. I am an anomaly and I belong to all three. I belong to NALS, to NALA, and NFPA. My heart is with NALS; that was where I first started, but I have made efforts to meet people in all three of these associations, and I do that because I want to be able to build my network, even outside of what I call my home association NALS.
So joining these and seeking others out, I do that because even though within one association you are developing that network, it’s always great to network with others, and even outside of, in other associations.
But of course I also have a LinkedIn account which I keep updated on a regular basis. I follow many different people. There’s a social media lawyer by the name of Ethan Wall that I follow on LinkedIn. There’s others in leadership. There’s others that I follow on the legal industry, whether it be court reporters, other attorneys, other paralegals, so on and so forth.
And I do the same with Facebook and Twitter. I do try to keep my Facebook account what I consider to be pretty vanilla, because there are friends of mine that are professional friends and I try not to engage in situations that you wouldn’t want your mother knowing you are involved in, as kind of the phrase goes, that could paint you in a bad light. So I try to keep my Facebook account kind of generic, and the same with my Twitter account, and the same with my LinkedIn.
Vicki Voisin: That’s exactly how I feel about that, but I have a tip for you. Follow Ethan Wall on Facebook too. I interviewed him here on Legal Talk Network; it’s been about six months ago, I think, but his Facebook posts are very interesting also. So if you don’t already do that, I suggest that you actually follow him there.
The other thing is, is that I know that social media is an important networking tool. I did Twitter for a while. I now mostly just do Facebook, fairly active on Facebook, and again, you are right, try to keep it vanilla. But how do you make sure that social media doesn’t take over your day. It’s really easy to get into it and there’s so many people who post and I wonder if they really work or not, and you know that your employer can see that and they may be wondering if you are working. So how do you set that up so that you can be active but not on social media all day long, 24×7?
Carl Morrison: So first when using social media for a networking tool, for me I use it sort of lightly when it comes to networking, but I do use it nonetheless in a networking aspect. But I am very thoughtful like I said about what I post on Facebook, what I share on LinkedIn and Twitter.
The best tip to make sure that the social media that you are engaged in and involved with does not take over your day, designate a specific time each day to handle what I call your “big social media posts”, the blogging or sharing blogs. You are taking time to read a blog, oh; this is a great blog, I want to share it.
So for me, I just recently committed to planning out my life a little bit more OCD than I have been, and I am using a planner system. And while you don’t want to plan every single minute of your life, if you designate and set aside specific times to handle certain things like your social media, then you are not apt to spend all day on it or let it consume your life.
If you are sitting there checking your social media account every 10 minutes; oh, well, I have checked Facebook, well now I need to LinkedIn, well now I need to check Twitter, oh, I am going to get on Instagram. Well, by the time you keep doing that, now you have spent an hour just checking and reading. And so the best way is just designate a time, set up a time, okay, 7 a.m. in the morning before I go to work my 15 minutes is going to be spent doing social media.
Vicki Voisin: That’s a good tip Carl. Since I do mostly Facebook, I try to get on first thing and I — there’s two things that I always do. First thing is to acknowledge any birthdays that are in my notifications; I think that’s important, just lets people know that you are interested in them. And then I like to share other people’s posts if I think that they would benefit other people. 26:41 puts up a lot of good articles and so I like to share those with other people. And then I try to get off and maybe check it again at noon or something. But you do, you have to limit your time and you do need to plan for that I think.
Well Carl, one more thing when you are planning to attend an event, do you ever set any networking goals, do you make a list of people that you want to be sure to talk to?
Carl Morrison: Actually I do Vicki. If I am attending an event or conference and I want to meet with someone, say for example, two, three speakers that I want to meet with, or a couple of attendees that maybe I have met through Facebook, but never met in person, I will make my list of people that I want to talk to and I will seek them out at the very beginning of the conference, so that I can see about maybe setting up a time to meet with them at some point during the conference or event for about maybe 10 or 15 minutes to do a little deeper networking, and meeting with them maybe at the bar or in a quiet spot and just sit down with them to add to and develop and nurture that network.
Vicki Voisin: Okay. Now, there’s another difficult situation. Wait, I want to go back and tell you that I think that’s really smart that you do that, the first thing when you get to the convention, because sometimes you get busy and you don’t get all of these things taken care of that you would have liked to, so doing that right away is very important.
But there’s another situation that I always find very difficult and that’s how do you approach a conversation that’s in progress. Say you have got three people who are talking, you would like to talk with them, you walk up to them and you stand there like, I don’t know what, a bump on a log I guess is a good one, how do you get them to include you in that conversation?
Carl Morrison: I always find that it can be tough, especially if you have got three speakers, three individuals that are all very animated or very active in the conversation, but you want to interject, I always find waiting patiently, being that bump on the log that you say, for a moment, to find that opportune moment to actually interject yourself into the conversation, not in a rude manner, but to find a moment that you can interject your viewpoints or your point or an experience that you can add to what they are talking about, whatever the situation is.
You can find a way to kind of interject yourself and 99.99% of the time people like to include others into their conversation. They want to meet others. So always find that, while it may be tough to break into it, there is a way to get into it, and it’s just basically waiting patiently to find that perfect moment.
Vicki Voisin: Okay. Now Carl, how do you gracefully get out of a conversation? This happens to everybody, someone monopolizes all of your time, you want to meet other people, how do you get out of that conversation and move on?
Carl Morrison: You have to basically graciously bow out. Let them know that you have thoroughly enjoyed talking with them, that maybe you want to continue the conversation, but you need to go to your next session, say for example you are at a conference, or that you need to meet with someone else, just graciously bow out, but let them know that you really enjoyed meeting with them and that you would like to maybe continue the conversation later and meet up at an additional time.
Vicki Voisin: Sometimes I feel kind of funny at that point that I — and there are people who will talk to you forever, if you let them, which is your goal in the beginning, but then you can say I am going to get another drink, can we talk later or something like that, but bowing out like you said is a good thing.
Well, we are almost at the end Carl and I am wondering if you have any final tips. You have had great ones so far, do you have anything we can use to wrap this up?
Carl Morrison: Well, like I said at the beginning, first and foremost let the other person do the talking, ask the questions but let the other person do the talking. Let them do 98% of the talking. Respond to their inquiries and their comments but don’t monopolize the conversation.
My favorite line is from Erin Brockovich and it’s a moment in the movie when Erin has that star person, that star for employee in the bar and she calls Ed asking what to do and he tells, her don’t pepper him with questions, let him tell his story. And to me that’s like the perfect tip for not only networking but for life in general and not just interviewing witnesses. When you are talking with someone, don’t pepper them with a bunch of questions, just let them talk, let them tell their story.
Vicki Voisin: Excellent. Well Carl, this has been really, really interesting. I know that everybody needs to be networking, needs tips and I know they have gotten them today. If any of our listeners would like to get in touch with you or even learn more about networking, how would they do that?
Carl Morrison: You can find me of course through LinkedIn, Carl Morrison on LinkedIn. You can follow me on Twitter, reach out to me through Twitter and my Twitter account is @cmorri3371, or email me directly at HYPERLINK “mailto:[email protected]” [email protected].
Vicki Voisin: Okay. Well Carl, I so appreciate your taking the time to join me today to share all these great tips, and I just so appreciate your taking the time. You are a real gem for the paralegal profession and you have just done so much for everyone and regardless of their level or their affiliation and so forth. So I can’t thank you enough for all of that. You are I would say a peach, that doesn’t sound quite right, but you really are important to this profession.
So I hope that you will come back and join me another time.
Carl Morrison: Vicki, thank you so much. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I always enjoy working with you and speaking with you, and my heart is in my profession and it’s just me giving back and so I thank you for all the opportunities you have given me.
Vicki Voisin: Well, you are so welcome Carl. Let’s take another short break now but don’t go away, because when I come back I will have news and career tips for you.
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Vicki Voisin: Welcome back everyone to The Paralegal Voice. This is my favorite time of this program because I get to share with you my practice tip for today. Today I want to talk about what not to post on social media.
Now, we all use social media as an important piece of our networking, but because we are using it for networking, we have to draw the line on what we share about ourselves, about our families, and about our friends and so forth. And also there’s some safety issues involved. So I do have some tidbits of things that you should never put up on either Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so forth; although, LinkedIn is mostly for professional information but the others are truly social.
So one thing is to never put up your full birthday or your family’s birthday, anybody in your family. You may like getting lots of birthday wishes, I would like to wish people a happy birthday, but when I see that they are posting that they were born July 1, 1962 or whatever, first of all, people can tell your age if you put all of that on there.
The other thing is that it helps with identity theft. So don’t do that. Don’t share your full birthday. You can say June 12 or whatever, but don’t use the year.
Another thing is your current location, because people like to tweet about where they are and what they are doing, but that can be dangerous because it tells potential thieves that you might not be at home and you don’t want them to know that. So be sure that you don’t say where you are, and I will say that I am guilty of doing that sometimes, but I usually will only do it if there is someone else at home.
Another thing are pictures of your children or your friend’s children that are tagged with their names and maybe with their location. Some accounts automatically include the location. That is just a safety issue. Don’t put that information online.
Another thing is your home address. You never know who is going to be looking at your profile, don’t post where you live because you are so making things really easy for the bad guys. And you may laugh at that, because so much of this information is available other places, but don’t make it any easier for them than you have to.
Another thing is your relationship status. You don’t want people to know that you might be home alone. And I have seen what I think is the perfect answer when it asks for your relationship status, first of all, you can leave it blank if you want to or some people just say it’s complicated. And I think that’s a great thing.
And another, vacation plans. We are really proud of when we get to take a vacation, but when you say I am going to be gone, I am going to leave on the 20th of September and I won’t be back until Halloween, you are basically saying to any social network criminals when you post your vacation plans or vacation photos and so forth, you give them information that says that you are not home. Wait until you are safely home to put up all of that information.
The last thing that I want to say is don’t put up embarrassing things that you wouldn’t want shared with your employer or with your family. Always think about would you like for these other people to see what you are posting. If you are dancing on the table at Señor Frog’s in Cancun, it’s not a good thing to have up on social media.
And I know I said that was the last thing, but I do have one more and that’s information about your current job or your work related projects. If you put up information on your social media account that the opposing party might get some — they might be able to take that information and use it in their strategy for trial or whatever. So just be careful what you are putting up there about your work projects. Don’t say I have been spending all afternoon looking for expert witnesses and so forth.
We all like to seem important but it’s best to be safe when you are online. So those are my tips for you today.
And that’s all the time we have today for The Paralegal Voice. If you have questions about today’s show, email them to me at HYPERLINK “mailto:[email protected]”[email protected]. Also don’t forget to check out my website and my blog. You will find that at HYPERLINK “http://www.paralegalmentor.com” paralegalmentor.com. I have resources there that I have designed to help you move your career in the right direction, and that’s forward.
So this is Vicki Voisin, thanking you for listening to The Paralegal Voice and reminding you to make your paralegal voice heard.
Outro: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
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