From IPE: Staying Up-to-Date with Law Changes


Staying Up-to-Date with Law Changes
guest author: Jenna M. Prosceno
View Original Article here: [cQuickTipsSeptember2017.htm]

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One of the most important tasks of being a para professional is staying up to date on changes in law. It’s a portion of being skilled help to our attorneys that we can sometimes forget to stay on top of, but with new technology we can automate this task to actually alert us.

If your firm is not litigation heavy, staying up to date on changes in law may be entirely up to you, and you may not get the approval for or might not want to spend the money on WestLaw. If your firm is litigation heavy, you may have certain legal platforms in place already that you can set alerts for according to specific areas of law. Even with those such as WestLaw or WestLawNext in place, you may find it wise to put yet another platform to work for you on your own.

If you are looking for free options, Google Scholar allows anyone free access to legal research. You will have the options to search specific jurisdictions. You can also select circuit court and the search will return opinions from the circuit court, and all district courts in that circuit. There is Google’s famous ability to sign up for email alerts as well.

Another free option that is always available is the public access terminal at your closest legal library. To make use of this option, you may find it helpful to budget a few hours per month to go and possibly work remotely while you are there. This is especially true if you’re in the middle of major litigation. In that case, you should visit quite a few times in that period. You can check in on LexisNexis and WestLaw for free and search by area of law, and don’t forget to speak to the law librarian. They are a great resource to point you to new publications that you may need to review as well. When you find something of note that you want your attorney to see, many law libraries will let you print what you need for free if you bring your own paper.

A paid for, yet tax deductible option, is Law360. Law360 is a subscription legal platform that is a product of LexisNexis. There are different levels of subscription at different prices, but the all access is around $80.00 per month and it is well spent. You get to see any changes as well major headlines in the legal industry by 4:30 am. It’s really helpful if you are tracking a slow-moving change or watching a bellwether trial. You can set alerts for areas of law, law firms, corporations, or a particular court as well. It is literally 360-degree access to our industry. Law360 will give you a free 7-day trial period, as well as an online live tutorial to help you decide.

Some options will require the assistance of your attorney, such as access to a subscription legal library. As an aside, a subscription based legal library is a wonderful tool for a solo practitioner as I know a few that will grant a solo to all of the same tools that major law firms have such as Fastcase, for the price of the monthly subscription. You can even access these platforms remotely through your subscription. This is a way to get the platforms, as well as the access to the actual library, in order to stay abreast of changes.

Another way to keep on top of your area of law is networking. Network within your paralegal association, with law departments and other law firms that practice what you do. Gaining access to your attorney’s bar association mixers with a paralegal subscription etc. Staying in touch with people is key because word or mouth in today’s society still paramount over technology. From there you can pull up the change with any of the above means and then cite it.

Whenever you catch a change in law, be sure to draft it into a memo, or otherwise summarize the change for your attorney complete with statute. Be sure to distribute your summary to all legal staff who need to know.

Jenna M. Prosceno is a senior paralegal with Daniel D. Martin & Associates, L.L.C. where her main areas of specialization are personal injury, contract and tort law. Ms. Prosceno’s job responsibilities are case management, discovery, research, and firm and office management. She conducts medical research, legal and factual research, and client interviews. Ms. Prosceno prepares trial notebooks, and demand and settlement documents. She coordinates and manages document production, gathers and reviews medical records, maintains general client contracts, and handles all aspects of the case from initial client contract to trial preparation and participation. Ms. Prosceno graduated from Delaware Technical and Community College and the University of Delaware.

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