Candess Zona-Mendola is the senior trial paralegal of the Lange Law Firm, PLLC. She has been a paralegal for...
Carl H. Morrison, RP, PP, AACP, is an experienced certified paralegal and paralegal manager and has been in the...
The paralegal profession is often very stressful, but experienced paralegal Candess Zona-Mendola has a wealth of insights to help the harried professional stay on track and work more effectively. Host Carl Morrison talks with Candess about her book, “The Indispensable Paralegal: Your Guide to Getting It All Done, which addresses many common issues faced in the profession and offers practice tips alongside candid life lessons. They also discuss the importance of pursuing paralegal certifications and offer guidance for elevating your practice to the next level. For all this and more, purchase a copy of Candess’s book from Trial Guides or on Amazon.
Stay tuned to the end for Listener’s Voice, Carl’s recurring segment featuring questions or comments from a listener. To send in your own question, email Carl at [email protected]
The Paralegal Voice
Becoming “The Indispensable Paralegal” with Candess Zona-Mendola
Carl Morrison: Hello everyone. Welcome to The Paralegal Voice here on Legal Talk Network. I am Carl Morrison, a Certified Paralegal, devoted to law, and your host of The Paralegal Voice.
I am a Certified Paralegal and Paralegal Educator and I am devoted to not only the paralegal profession, but to all legal professionals, from legal support professionals, to paralegals, and to those whom we support, attorneys. I am devoted to helping others enhance their passion and dedication for the paralegal profession through entertaining and engaging interviews.
Before we begin, we would like to thank our sponsor NALA.
NALA is a professional association for paralegals providing continuing education, voluntary certification and professional development programs. NALA has been a sponsor of The Paralegal Voice since our very first show.
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The goal of The Paralegal Voice is to discuss a wide range of topics important to the paralegal industry and share with you leading trends, significant developments and resources you will find helpful in your career and everyday job.
My guests will be engaging and informational with of course, you listeners know, there is always a little bit of fun thrown in to my interviews. You couldn’t listen without it being fun, right?
Today I have a very special guest with me. My guest is one who I consider is one of the most indispensable individuals out there. She is a mother, wife, author, opera fan and we are going to talk about that in a minute, but most importantly, she is an indispensable paralegal.
So please welcome to The Paralegal Voice, Candess Zona-Mendola.
Candess Zona-Mendola: Hi Carl. It’s great to be with you and talk with you today.
Carl Morrison: I am so thrilled to have you on today’s show Candess. You and I have talked a little bit the other day and Candess is amazing guys, so you are going to find out a lot about Candess’ background here and some exciting things.
But Candess, I will tell you a little bit, but I will let Candess do most of the talking.
Candess is a senior trial paralegal. She has got over two decades of experience. She has authored a recently released book entitled, “The Indispensable Paralegal: Your Guide to Getting It All Done.” I just recently got the book and I am thrilled with it. I love the book Candess, this is fantastic, and this is really a book that every paralegal should get. They need to A, read it themselves; B, share it with their supervising attorney, and I am going to tell you, every paralegal instructor out there, they should make this a required reading in their intro to paralegal classes.
But before we are going to get into the book, let’s talk about Candess. Who is Candess? So Candess, tell my listeners a little bit about yourself and how you came to write such a great text.
Candess Zona-Mendola: Thank you Carl for that wonderful introduction and thank you for your feedback, I really appreciate that. An author always likes to know when their work is helpful to other people.
Carl Morrison: Of course.
Candess Zona-Mendola: Basically I wrote this book because this is the book I wish I had when I had just started in the field. I was a very young paralegal when I started out, I was 16, and I got my first law firm job basically working after school and on the weekends. And starting out when you are 16 years old, you think that you know everything. You think that you are unstoppable. And what I didn’t know at the time, I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I didn’t realize that a lot of people have these wonderful things called mentors to kind of help them get their feet under them and help them learn their profession.
So I did what I typically did as a student, I looked for a book. I looked for some sort of guidebook that would just help me figure out the technical, legal terminology, what I needed to provide my attorney and just generally how the legal process worked, and it was hard and it was frustrating and I was very overwhelmed.
And the sad thing that I have to tell you is there wasn’t really a lot of that about 20 years ago. There weren’t really a whole lot of guidebooks that could help me through that process. So I decided to basically write the book I wish I had, so other people could benefit off of that.
Carl Morrison: Well, I will tell you as a senior paralegal here that has been in it over 25 years, yeah, of course you can go through a paralegal program, but the program does a lot of just teaching you the legal procedural aspect, not so much the ins and outs of working in the industry itself, and this is what your book really does I think.
And we are going to jump right into your book, “The Indispensable Paralegal” and I love how you broke the book up into three parts. Part one is, You the Paralegal, part two is Practice Pointers and then part three is Taking Your Practice to the Next Level. So we are going to kind of break up the interview and do each of these parts.
So we will start with part one, You the Paralegal, and in this particular section you have got a chapter — well, actually you have got several different chapters and one of the titles is called Paralegal Typecasting, which I loved. Of course Paralegal Ethics, and those that know me, I am a huge proponent of ethics, especially for paralegals. And of course other great topics such as Handling Stress, On-The-Job Training, Procrastination, and no one can see me, but I am raising my hand, because yes, I have a tendency to do that sometimes.
But two chapters that really caught my eye were, What An Attorney Needs From You and then Ten Things I wish I Had Known. So I am going to start with the, what the attorney needs from a paralegal and you wrote in your book that attorneys need us in some way to help them improve their practice.
So tell the listeners really the top three ways that you say a paralegal can help an attorney improve their practice?
Candess Zona-Mendola: Yeah. So I believe there is really three kind of crucial traits that paralegals need to really be effective and really help their lawyers at the end of the day and those are dependability, flexibility and durability. I am going to unpack those real quick.
So dependability, at the end of the day we are all part of a big team. Your lawyer, you, maybe other paralegals, your client, court personnel, we are really a big team trying to accomplish a similar goal. It’s not very much different than members of a soccer team, or a baseball team, or a basketball team, and what most of us have learned growing up about teams is that we need to be able to depend on each other; depend on each other in the good times when we are winning, but really depend on each other in those really hard times when we haven’t had a lot of sleep or when deadlines are looming or when everything has hit the fan. So a dependable paralegal to me is a crucial necessity for any law firm, any lawyer and just any business that also hires paralegals.
In that similar vein, flexibility is also something that is really crucial to what we do. Like I said, you know, there will always be something that you didn’t anticipate; you might have to work late, there might be a last-minute motion that the other side decides to give you on the Friday before a three day weekend, and as a paralegal you don’t know when the tsunami is coming. So it matters being flexible and understanding that you have to adapt to situations and adapt to them very quickly and that kind of helps get the work done and helps you really kind of get through those times and be effective and making sure things get done properly.
And last, which I actually think is the most crucial, is durability. Carl, you and I both know, this is a tough job. Being a paralegal can be long hours, it can be very stressful. You and I were talking back before we had done this podcast about when you go away to trial, you are gone from your family and people you love for weeks at a time, not really sleeping a whole lot and your rhythms are kind of off, and we have to kind of become durable people in doing that.
But my biggest thing that one of my attorneys told me when I was really young was remember that your practice is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure you eat well, make sure you get enough sleep, make sure you exercise when you can, so in the time that you have to really push through you are in fighting shape and you are ready to go, and I think that being a durable paralegal is really a necessity for being very successful in our profession.
Carl Morrison: You know, you talk about dependability and that to me is all three of the — really truly are the top three ways that you can help your attorney, but really for me, I look at dependability and being able not only you, your attorney depending on you the paralegal, but also you the paralegal being able to depend on your attorney and depend on the support staff.
To me it’s vitally important for the success of any firm, it doesn’t matter what area of practice you are in, just in the legal industry alone, every area has their plusses and minuses and stressors that affect us and in order to survive you really have to be dependable and you have to depend on others to really survive the legal industry. That’s kind of my take.
Candess Zona-Mendola: Yeah, so right, that goes back to the whole teamwork idea, right?
Carl Morrison: Right.
Candess Zona-Mendola: The whole is only as great as the sum of its parts, right. So if one person is lagging behind or one person is slacking or one person is not there where they need to be, then it all falls apart. These aren’t cases and trials and it’s not the team projects we had to do in school, right, where one person pretty much did everything while everybody else kind of floated. Quite the contrary, it can’t be that.
We all need to do our part and do our part well, not just what is expected of us, but really go above and beyond, because that’s how people know that you are really dedicated, and not just your co-workers, but your client, which is what’s really the most important that your client knows that you are dedicated to them and you are passionate about what you do and that at the end of the day you have their best interest at heart and that’s what really matters.
Carl Morrison: Exactly, exactly. You also in part one of your particular text, in your book you wrote about the ten things you wish you had known before getting into the profession, and one of the 10 things that stood out to me was, “we are heavily relied on but often forgotten”, and so I have to tell you, truer words have never been spoken and truly as a paralegal we do all of the work, or a big bulk of the work and get none of the glory.
And why do you think that lawyers often “forget about us” but rely on us so heavily? What is it about our profession that lawyers have a tendency to handle us that way and I am not meaning this in a negative light, but just in general?
Candess Zona-Mendola: Yeah, and I have a multifaceted answer to that. So the only good thing is, is not all lawyers are this way, right? I am very blessed, I do not work with a lawyer who is like this, but I have in the past so I know how this feels.
I think a lot of it is lawyers are very focused people. Anybody who has worked with really good litigators or really good trial attorneys or just really good general counsels will tell you that they have a pretty laser focus on their goals and what they want to do and how they are going to get there.
And I think that sometimes it’s easy to kind of be blinded by everything else that exists outside of that path they are going down. And I think it’s one of those things where they kind of internalize it and they think well, I am working really hard, I am making these sacrifices, I am working long hours, I missed my kid’s birthday party, I am doing all these great things and I am the one who is standing in front of the jury and I am arguing everything, so like I did this, right? And there is a pride in that and they deserve that accolade because they are doing really well. But I think that it’s sometimes hard for them to see outside of them and realize, oh, well, I am not the only one doing this.
But I think the best lawyers recognize that. You might not read that in their books, right? You might not read oh, well, I won this trial, or I got this amazing verdict because my paralegal was there to help me. You might not hear that. But when you interview them and you sit down with them and you ask them well, what really happened to get you here, a lot of them will say well, it was — we were really prepared and we were good to go, but I also had a wonderful legal team behind me.
And I think that at the end of the day some of them do recognize it and it maybe isn’t articulated in the best ways, but I don’t think it’s an intentional thing all the time. I am sure there are lawyers who it is intentional, but I don’t think it’s always intentional for lawyers to forget about paralegals.
Carl Morrison: And I agree with you 100%, I don’t think it’s intentional, even on the best and the worst of the attorneys that are out there that are especially strong litigators, you are right, they have a tendency to get laser-focused, and the paralegals are — they are relying on us so much and we are providing so much for them, support and dependability and reliability and so on and so forth, but they kind of just forget to always acknowledge that the support was there to help them.
Now, a lot of times they don’t acknowledge it during the process, but they acknowledge it after the fact and one-on-one.
Candess Zona-Mendola: Yeah, or they acknowledge it in a way that maybe you haven’t noticed, and I learned that especially when it comes to trial, my early trials, back when I was a baby paralegal, we would go through them and I would get this feeling of, I was just glad the trial was over, but I would feel that my work wasn’t kind of recognized for what I had done. And instead of stepping back and basically asking myself, well, how is this attorney showing appreciation, it’s no different than how we show appreciation to other people who we care about. Everybody has a different way they show appreciation, and I found that there is some time lawyers show appreciation in some pretty odd ways, but they are trying to do that as well.
I had a lawyer once, for instance, who I had done a lot of work for them on a very long trial and I always kind of felt like he wasn’t really recognizing really the sacrifice I was putting into it. And it was funny the last day of trial he had introduced me to a whole bunch of people from very high-powered firms, whom I had never met before, and he basically said to them, please meet my paralegal, her name is Candess, she does amazing things and she makes miracles happen and we could not have done what we did today without her.
And although it wasn’t a, hey, I am going to give you a bonus, or hey, I am going to shout to the world and write in a press release that you are amazing, he just told six or seven lawyers who are from some of the most prominent law firms in the United States that I know what I am doing, and that was kind of how he showed appreciation, which at the end of the day I wouldn’t have picked up when I was a baby paralegal, I just kind of had to pay more attention.
Carl Morrison: Right. And I will tell you for the listeners that when attorneys, if you are a younger paralegal working in the industry and are thinking on this topic, gosh, my attorney never does it, pay attention to these little things, because I will tell you guys that when your attorney makes those comments to other attorneys, then other attorneys that don’t have that type of support get really jealous, and they are like, I want a paralegal like that.
So anyway, we could probably talk about this topic the whole show.
Candess Zona-Mendola: A podcast of its own.
Carl Morrison: Right, exactly, exactly. So one of the other top ten things that you talked about that you wish you had known is lawyers and paralegals don’t always speak the same language, and I was like oh, Candess hello, it’s like lawyers are from Mars and paralegals, I don’t even know if they are from Venus, it’s more like paralegals are from Mercury, we are on the opposite end of the spectrum.
But more often than not paralegals were asked to be a minimalist or a clairvoyant and we have got to read our supervising attorneys’ minds, and that’s I think where the breakdown of communication occurs. And you wrote that miscommunication is common between paralegals and attorneys.
So Candess, as a seasoned paralegal, how can a paralegal eliminate or minimize those types of miscommunications that occur between paralegals and attorneys?
Candess Zona-Mendola: I am really glad you asked that question and I get this question a lot. So I have learned after working with a very wide array of lawyers that sometimes you need to not listen to what the lawyer is telling you, but instead of thinking, what are they trying to say, what are they trying to ask and what is really their goal, right? So instead of listening to the actual words and kind of stewing over like every minute word, try to think of what is going on in the bigger picture.
What I typically do when they tell me something and I don’t 100% understand what they are trying to say is, I will repackage it, so to speak, in my brain and I will play it back to them. So basically I am putting it in their ball court and basically telling them, here is what I have interpreted from what you have said, is this correct? And that is actually a wonderful thing to do because a couple of different things usually happen.
One, the attorney realizes maybe they didn’t word that properly and they really want something else as opposed to what they told you, or in some other cases I have learned, attorneys realize that they actually want to do something else in addition to what they just told you or that what they just told you was probably a bad idea, and it gives them the opportunity to kind of think it through one more time and you both can be collaborative in that moment as opposed to having three or four additional conversations about it.
It’s really effective actually and especially if you feel secure with the attorney you work with and they understand that you both have this open dialogue back and forth, you can have the confidence to admit that you don’t understand something and it will get really good feedback from your lawyer just by kind of like taking the initiative just to make sure that you know exactly what they want.
Carl Morrison: You hit the nail on the head when you said the word collaborative, because that’s what you have to do as a paralegal with your attorney is collaborate with them. While they are instructing you and giving you tasks to be completed, you have to collaborate with them to like, you just said, understand exactly what it is that they are asking you to do and giving them the opportunity to ensure that that is truly what needs to be done and then going and doing.
Where I think a lot of mistakes that happen when it comes to miscommunications, not just in the spoken word, but it’s also in the written word, specifically emails. We get in trouble I think too often with emails nowadays because it’s just quick and easy to quickly type out an email. And my supervising attorney has instilled in me and I have passed this on to the paralegal that works under me that he doesn’t allow more than two emails to be created.
So if he sends me an email and I send him one back and he sends one back to me, you shouldn’t respond back and have another email, you should pick up the phone. It’s at that point that the conversation now should change from written to spoken, because obviously if you are not picking it up within those first two to three emails, then you need to clarify it either face-to-face or on the phone. And so I instill that in others that I work with is that you have to after that second email pick up the phone, don’t waste your time because it’s just going to make a mess.
Candess Zona-Mendola: Yeah. And I think in this digital world we live in with text messages and emails, the human tone and the human voice is kind of lost, right, and it’s too easy to read into every minute word, which is why I would actually use the same advice when it comes to emails as opposed to just what is being told to you, ask yourself well, what is the bigger picture, what are they trying to accomplish.
In fact, I am going to tell you there have been times I have read an email and I have a knee jerk reaction to it and I tell myself, you know, we are not going to email back, we are just going to go directly to the source and we are just going to handle this. And I always preface my conversation by look, I didn’t want to kind of get into a back and forth email thing and make everything more confusing than it was. I figured I would just come to you so we can handle this quickly and we can move on and get done what needs to get done.
And I think that lawyers would appreciate that and my lawyers have always appreciated that, because then we can move on and move on to the next thing and not feel the kind of the feelings and emotions that might go into confusion and feeling insecure about what you know versus what you don’t know.
Carl Morrison: Right, exactly. Well, we have come to the end of our first little segment here, so we are going to take a short commercial break, so listeners, don’t turn that dial. We will be right back.
NALA offers continuing education, professional development and voluntary certification for all paralegals. The Certified Paralegal credential has been awarded to more than 19,000 paralegals. The Certified Paralegal Program is also the first paralegal certification program accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. NALA works actively with all those in the legal field to promote the value of paralegals and to advance paralegal professionalism. Learn more about NALA at www.nala.org.
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Carl Morrison: Welcome back to The Paralegal Voice. I am Carl Morrison. My guest today is Candess Zona-Mendola and we are discussing her book, “The Indispensable Paralegal: Your Guide to Getting It All Done”.
And Candess, before we took a break, we were talking about part one of your book, so we are going to move into part two, which is about Practice Pointers. So one chapter in this part two of your book is about practice and procedure and knowing your stuff, and a big part of what we do as paralegals is being able to find the information, be a detective, analyze it, apply the logic, give it back to the attorney so that they can then integrate our findings into the overall case strategy.
So your day-in, day-out practice, what would you say are like four or five of some of your indispensable resources that you use regularly within what you do? What can you not live without in your particular law office?
Candess Zona-Mendola: So one of those things — the four or five things that I always usually need kind of get wrapped up into one really big resource when you think about it, and that’s Google, and this is kind of funny and people laugh at me when I mention this.
But I have a nationwide practice, so my attorney and I, we practice all over the United States. We have clients in many different jurisdictions and many different types of court, be it state court or federal court, and those of you who have ever gone from one state to another, you know that court rules and court procedures and local rules are never the same from one court to another. In fact, even federal rules that are by and large pretty standardized will still have variations depending on state to state.
So Google has become a very big resource to me, whether it’s finding the courthouses that we practice in, locating local rules or standing orders of judges in particular jurisdictions, but also looking for the nuances. I have come to learn that there are sometimes things that happen in different states, different counties, but just don’t happen everywhere else, and finding those, if I were to get a book for every single jurisdiction that we would practice in, I would have multiple libraries in my office and it would cost thousands of dollars and I need to update them every year.
So by having this one amazing online resource, which is Google, I know what I am looking for, I can find what I need at the drop of a hat, especially heaven forbid, when we are mid settlement conference or mid mediation and we just need to know a quick answer. So Google I would say is really one of my best conglomerate resources, and then of course local rules, state rules, standing orders, procedures, things like that.
Carl Morrison: So I will tell you I am a — back in the olden days, I have been doing this so doggone long, back in the olden days I had a notebook and that was where I had a lot of handy resources that I kept because I would have to refer to them rarely, and I would update it and add to it, one of which was as the advent, yes, I am that old listeners, the advent of the Internet and court websites, I had an actual printout of the web addresses for all these different jurisdictions I regularly practiced in.
Well, nowadays of course technology, thank you, I use OneNote and OneNote is my “notebook”, it’s my old school that I would have a notebook for and that’s where I have my login information, that’s where I have my websites and everything that I use virtually day-in, day-out or use on a regular basis, it’s all electronically in one spot and I can access.
So very similar, of course, Google is always a fantastic resource to use electronically, but yeah, creating that type of — for the lack of a better term, your own personal desk reference notebook.
Electronically a lot of people used — create bookmarks on their Google Chrome or whatever — a browser that you’re using, Safari, but if you create an electronic version in addition on like using OneNote then you always have a backup of it. So God forbid, your system goes down, you lose your bookmarks, you have a backup that’s saved in the cloud to use. So, yeah, I agree with you there, having that electronic-type resource is finally important.
Candess Zona-Mendola: Yeah, I have used OneNote as well. It’s a great, great tool.
Carl Morrison: I didn’t start using it until about five years ago, if you can believe that, and I’m kind of techie and I’m in a little bit of a tech nerd and geek, but I never got into it until I really found the benefit of using it, and yeah, I love it, absolutely love it.
So another chapter in part two that you talk about, you entitled the chapter ‘Cases from Birth to Death’. I love that title. In fact, guys and gals are listening to the show, when you get the book, you got to look, there are some really funny and great titles. So kudos to you Candess on the titles that you came up for your chapters, but ‘Cases from Birth to Death’ and you reference that in civil cases that there’s four things that if you miss them you cannot fix them and you call these The Four Case Killers. Again I love that quote there, and you wrote that these are things that will send you looking for a new job. So tell the listeners, what are the four case killers? Explain especially to the young kids, the young paralegal kids listening, what are the four case killers, and why is it?
Candess Zona-Mendola: Yeah, so first off, I’d like to preface this, this is a pretty heavy topic, right? I’d like to preface this by we all make mistakes, right? I mean I — I am two decades in, I’m still making mistakes because we’re human and that’s just what we do. We make mistakes, we learn from them, we don’t do them again, we move on with life and you own it and you fix it and you do what you need to do, and most mistakes, very much most mistakes can be fixed. So, if you forgot to schedule a court reporter to show up for a deposition, it is pretty bad, but I mean, it’s not like it’s the end of the world. You can call, you can get another emergency court reporter to get out there. The very worst you have to do is you have to move the deposition to another day. It’s an inconvenience for everyone and people aren’t happy, but the case will still go on. The world will still continue turning.
The four case killers are not that. So basically my definition of the four case killers are really deadlines that you miss that will kill your case. So, for example, statute of limitations deadline. It’s a positively last time you can file a case under the Rules of Procedure. Answering timely responses to requests for admissions, answering timely responses to a motion for summary judgment, and timely filing an appeal.
The biggest thing is, is if you blow any of these deadlines, your case is done. Do not — do not collect $200. So these are the type of cases that since you looking for a new job and since your lawyer looking for their own defense counsel to help them in the legal malpractice suit is now coming against them.
So we have ways that we combat these by like good calendaring system, good reminder systems, making sure that you are constantly checking it on your cases, making sure that these crucial deadlines are everywhere. I sometimes if I know there’s one coming up, I will put a big yellow sticky note on the wall in my office just because it’s looming.
But the biggest thing that I can just kind of phone home is, these are not things that can be fixed. These are things that, if you miss it, your case is over and you’ve done a huge disservice to your client.
Carl Morrison: Then you start getting into that wonderful, wonderful topic of ‘Paralegal Ethics’ —
Candess Zona-Mendola: Yeah, correct, yes.
Carl Morrison: — and it’s because of what we do our attorneys are responsible for the work that we perform for them and it’s not just the end of our career and job, it could be the end of any particular attorney’s license. It could be the end of an opportunity for a client to be successful in a litigated matter. So absolutely for those young paralegals listening, not to scare you, but I’m going to put a little bit of fear God in you. The importance of calendaring cannot be stressed enough because while, especially, if you’re a student right now and you blow through a homework assignment, oh, I’m only going to get a zero on that, it doesn’t work in the real-world.
So when you blow through Statute of Limitations, you have now completely cost the client the ability to have their “day” in court. So I cannot stress that enough and again that’s another topic that we could have a whole day of, whole show of is ethics in the paralegal arena when it comes to working for our clients.
Candess Zona-Mendola: There’d be a fun show. We should do that one.
Carl Morrison: It would be, we need to do that, definitely. So part three, so now we’ve talked a little bit about part two and for the listeners this book is — we’ll talk a little bit more about it at the end of the show, but we’re talking 300 pages of fantastic text to go through and we’re just skimming just some of the highlights. So this is not everything that’s in the book. You definitely want to check it out, but part three of your book, Candess, is all about taking your practice to the next level and one of your chapters is about CLEs or Continuing Legal Education and how they’re not just for attorneys and I’m going to tell you I agree with you a 175,000%. Even if you’re not a certified paralegal and you don’t have a certification that requires you to maintain CLE hours, I think every paralegal should maintain at least 8 to 12 hours a year CLE, that’s totally doable.
Do you agree with me? Do you think paralegals whether you’re certified, if you’re not certified you should be attending these CLE opportunities throughout a year and why do you think that if you agree with me?
Candess Zona-Mendola: I totally agree with you. I don’t believe that education stops when you walk across that stage and grab your degree. I think the education continues throughout your life and throughout your career and I really believe that because one of the things that I have seen at least in my practice and I should give you the caveat, I attend a lot of feelings because I feel like it’s a wonderful investment not just in myself but in the skills that I can bring to my clients, in my attorneys, but what I believe is that legal education gives you additional tools and additional skills that you might not have otherwise known that you had or known that would be crucial for you or, no, that would really just make your life easier.
You and I had talked again, Carl, about e-Discovery didn’t really exist back when we had first started this whole paralegal career and I just think about the things that have been invented or the new policies that have come forward like e-Filing, it has completely revolutionized how we practice and has not only made things easier in my opinion but has also allowed us a greater method of creativity in our cases.
I took a CLE not too long ago, I want to say a couple months ago and it was completely in a different field of law than I had ever practiced in, but what I had loved is as I’m listening to it, I’m thinking, oh, these methods, these practices can easily be adapted to product’s liability which is what I do day to day and that was kind of great because I think that in the way that we help each other by learning new things, or learning new tricks of the trade or just generally is a greater sharing of ideas it really not only elevates our profession as paralegals but it elevates what we can do for our clients.
I mean gone are the days where we just worry about handing over pieces of paper as evidence. We now give videos and tangible product and social media and all these different things and as we paralegals kind of stay with the time and how we continue to grow, as the law grows and our profession grows, we can make things not only easier for ourselves but we can make it more enjoyable when you think about it.
And just, like I said before it’s more collaborative and more creative at the end of the day.
Carl Morrison: I am so glad to hear that you are nerd like me and an overachieving nerd and love to learn. I am a huge proponent of learning and forever learning and you should never stop learning.
So, it is an important part of staying abreast of the new things that are going on in our industry, but also just keeping your mind fresh and helping you grow as a professional.
And one of the last things in your book that I just loved was you discussing the importance of becoming a mentor and sharing your knowledge, and I think being a mentor is one of the best things a seasoned paralegal can do, and of course, there are myriad of ways you can be a mentor to a lesser experienced paralegal, but we’re not go into those. I want to ask you Candess, what’s your number one reason why someone should become a mentor?
Candess Zona-Mendola: So, selfishly as you’ve heard, I love to work. Selfishly, I learned from other paralegals and newer paralegals come out of paralegal school with things and ideas that didn’t exist when I was in paralegal school. And they might come out with new ways of doing things or new ways of looking at the law that, I might not have been privy to at the time.
When I was in paralegal school we learned how to do legal research by pulling the book off of the bookshelf. It wasn’t until later on that Westlaw and Lexis became kind of a big thing, and although I didn’t learn that from a paralegal, I did end up learning it from an associate attorney at the time.
And so as I’ve mentored throughout the years, I have allowed myself to not only be the person that lesser paralegals can come to, but really absorb what they can also teach me. It keeps me humble, it keeps me always learning and it keeps me wanting to strive to do better not only in my position and in my profession, but for the betterment of them and our career as a whole.
So let’s face the fact. The way that we all rise, is when all of the tides rise. So as we all continue to get better the profession gets better and we all benefit from that.
Carl Morrison: I will be honest, I too am selfish in the aspect of when I started teaching in paralegal programs, evening paralegal programs, one of the major reasons why I wanted to teach was to A, be able to give back to paralegal students and help them learn things that I wasn’t taught in school, that I had to learn on my own and if I can help them short-circuit some of the heartache that I went through as a young paralegal fresh out of school, then it makes them as new paralegals coming out more robust in their educational footing and a better paralegal so that when they’re working with me as a practicing paralegal, whether it be on the same side of a case or opposing party I know that they’ve been taught some good things to help them succeed and has made my work-life a little bit easier.
Candess Zona-Mendola: Right.
Carl Morrison: And it is about giving back.
Candess Zona-Mendola: Yeah, it is, it is. And I’m so sorry to interrupt you, which is essentially why I wrote the book. I wanted to give younger paralegals what I didn’t have and I wanted to do it in a way that was not just entertaining, but I wanted to do it in a way that they felt like I was there with them. I wanted them to feel that they had someone in their corner, someone who understood and I think that that matters a lot and that’s how we kind of better the next generation.
So I appreciate that you do that too with teaching because it really matters at the end of the day.
Carl Morrison: It does, it does. Well, Candess, it looks like we’re running out of time. We could have made this a five-part series on your book alone. There’s so much information in it. And always have a fun in final question for my listeners and so you’re — any different, you don’t get away from it, you have to deal with my question I’m going to ask you.
So, okay, to give our listeners a little bit of background. Mentioned at the beginning part of the show we talked about opera, and Candess, you and I were talking the other day and I found out that you’re an opera fan, and I love — I’m a huge Opera fan and so found out that you in fact used to live here in Las Vegas and was a strolling opera singer for the Venetian.
Candess Zona-Mendola: Yeah.
Carl Morrison: So as a huge fan of the Opera I have to ask you, Candess, if you could play any part in an opera what role would it be and what opera would it be and why?
Candess Zona-Mendola: I love this question by the way as no one has ever asked here. So I really love this. I have an interesting response. So many people don’t know this but Beethoven wrote an Opera, he only wrote one and it’s called Fidelio. It’s amazing for anybody who hasn’t seen it, and if I could be anybody I would want to be Lenoir from Fidelio, because she is so driven, she perseveres and she’s kind of like — she’s someone that doesn’t let people get in her way and she just — she’s brave and courageous, not to kind of spoil anything or give you too much, but basically the whole premise of the Opera is that her husband gets wrongfully thrown into jail and he’s essentially sentenced to death. And instead of being a 00:46:33 female she dresses up like a man, gets a job as a prison guard at the prison and her husband is in and essentially works her way up through the ranks to the guards that’s guarding that area and basically breaks of out of the prison. It’s kind of like an amazing thing that that she does.
And I kind of love this because this is back in the day where women didn’t do things like that and really people don’t do that these days as it is, and she just — she doesn’t take no for an answer and she just gets her goals done and strives to do great things. And that really resonates with me especially with what I love to do with my life. I like to go forth and grab the bull by its horns and persevere through any hard times and let my tenacity kind of take over. So I really identify with Lenoir.
Carl Morrison: I love it, absolutely love it. I won’t tell you who I’d want to be. That’s for another show.
Candess Zona-Mendola: That’s probably for the other day.
Carl Morrison: Right. Thank you so much Candess for being a guest on today’s show, we really truly appreciate it.
Candess Zona-Mendola: Thank you.
Carl Morrison: So we’ve talked about your book and if any of the listeners wanted to get your book or get in touch with you, how will they do that?
Candess Zona-Mendola: Okay, well, so if they want to get in touch with me, my email address is [email protected]. Or they can visit my website, which is, makefoodsafe.com, and contact me through there.
If they would like to get the book, we are actually offering a discount code for anybody who is listening to the podcast today for about the next week or so and that is voice10, and that’s good for the next week. They can order it at trialguides.com if they would like to use the discount code or it is also available on Amazon without a discount code.
Carl Morrison: Well, fantastic. Thank you so much, Candess, and that’s all the time we have for today’s podcast. Be sure and tune into next month’s episode and stay tuned for paralegal news and announcements. We’ll be right back.
Carl Morrison: Today’s episode is brought to you by Legalinc. Legalinc is empowering paralegals to embrace their inner legal rockstar by automating the everyday tasks that hold them back. Through their free dashboard solution, paralegals can quickly and easily automate services like business formations, corporate filings, registered agent services and more. Visit legalinc.com to create a free account and check out legalinc.com/podcast for a chance to win legal rockstar swag.
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Carl Morrison: Welcome back. And finally, we come to the segment of the show that’s called the Listeners’ Voice. I know you guys really enjoy this portion of the show and for those new listeners, this is an opportunity for you as a listener to send me an email with any of your questions, your career celebrations, etc., I’ll go through them and I select those to actually read on the air.
If there’s a particular topic or you have a question that you’d like for me to answer or maybe I’ve had a prior guest on the show that you would listen to, that you had a question for them that maybe you want to ask them a particular question, send me an email and make your voice the listener’s voice known and heard. So send your email to me at [email protected].
Today’s question comes from the Deep South and for those that know I’m a southerner at heart was born and reared in the south, and this particular listener writes, “Hi Carl, I want to thank you for the great voice you have given paralegals on your podcast. I really enjoy it. In listening to it, I heard you welcome listeners to ride in with their topic, ideas and questions, which brings me to my question. How should paralegals handle working for attorneys that have difficult personalities? Do you work through it and attempt to learn from them or do you move on? Any advice you give would be appreciated. Thanks.” Signed Tuff Ombre.
Well, Tuff Ombre, I’m going to tell you that’s a really great question and I know that those listeners and paralegals I’ve even spoken with in the past, we have all dealt with difficult personalities in the workplace and whether it be our supervising attorney or co-worker, we’ve had to deal with that.
And some attorneys are just difficult in general, whether it be an attorney that may not necessarily criticize your work or criticize you, which I hope that never happens, but criticizing your work and not giving you positive feedback but only negative feedback tend to be a little cold. Sometimes, those individuals, that’s just their own nature, that’s just their genetic makeup and you may not be able to ever truly crack that nut and get, what I call, close to your supervising attorney but a lot of times and we talked about on today’s show, attorneys get focused and especially in certain areas of practice, but in general, attorneys, they get laser-focused on their work and they don’t always stop and think about what they’re saying or how they are clinical behaving, they’re just doing and saying I need you to do X, Y, Z and they’re not warm and friendly about it and holding your hand, they’re just saying go and do because they want you to go do it and do it and then come back and give it to them.
And so, it’s dependent on that how difficult the personality is that you’re working with. If it’s an attorney that is very negative and may not treat you with the respect and professionalism that is really required and you should be demanded from a paralegal, then maybe that’s not the place for you, maybe you need to think about moving on especially as I’ve gotten older, or I should say wiser, in my profession, I’ve learned life is way too short and sometimes you have to really weigh the situation that you’re working in and is it worth my health, is it worth my mental health, my physical health, my spiritual health?
And if you answer those questions, no, it’s not worth those, then, maybe it is time to move on. But, also analyze what it is about the attorney that may be difficult, maybe they’re going through a difficult time, maybe they are wrestling with something personally and it’s making them a negative person.
So you have to really stop and think about how they are really performing with you. If they are treating you with respect that is due a paralegal and they are treating you with professionalism but they aren’t always giving you the positive feedback, they are just focusing on the negative, maybe you have a conversation with them.
Say, hey, look, I appreciate you pointing out the mistakes that I’ve made and I think that we have rectified them and corrected them, but sometimes it helps me, personally, to hear some positive feedback, and that’s okay, you can sit down with your attorney. You should be able to freely sit down with your attorney and discuss those. But, if it’s a negative situation that is affecting you professionally, physically, affecting clients, affecting the workplace, you’ve probably heard it, the toxic environment, then maybe it is something that you move on from. But really a lot of these situations, there are opportunities, look at them as opportunities to learn from the situation and grow from it, don’t take it personally, take it professionally.
And I have worked for attorneys in the past that were very free to give the negative feedback but rarely gave any positive feedback and you look for those opportunities where they praise you in front of other attorneys. But behind the scenes, they may be criticizing you and sometimes attorneys do that to really keep you on your toes and to help you grow because that’s how we grow is to see the mistakes we make, learn from those mistakes, correct them and grow from them.
And so, I hope, Tuff Ombre, that helps you and I hope that helps listeners out there that we all have different personality types, sometimes some people are just more “difficult” and they don’t mean to be.
But as long as I treat you with respect, it doesn’t affect you mentally, spiritually or physically, then learn from it and grow from it. So, thank you so much for that question, it’s a great question.
Listeners, keep those questions coming. I really appreciate you guys giving me the feedback because I love to hear from you guys. So that’s all the time we have for today’s Paralegal Voice.
Again, if you have any questions about today’s show, definitely email them to me at [email protected] and stay tuned for more information and upcoming podcasts for exciting paralegal trends, news and engaging, and of course, fun interviews from leading paralegals and other leading legal professionals.
Thank you for listening to the Paralegal Voice produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. If you’d like more information about today’s show, please visit legaltalknetwork.com.
Find Legal Talk Network on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or download Legal Talk Network’s free app in Google Play and iTunes, and reminding you that I’m here to enhance your passion and dedication to the paralegal profession and making 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, or subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
The Paralegal Voice provides career-success tips for paralegals of any experience level.
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Keith Shannon offers guidance for paralegal professionals on the importance of diligent compliance with ethical standards.
Candess Zona-Mendola shares insights from her book, “The Indispensable Paralegal: Your Guide to Getting It All Done.”
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