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5 Questions with…Bernie Merer

By Cathy Aveta
CA: What’s one thing you couldn’t live without?
BM: Miss Trudy, my wife.  We’ve been a team for over 50 years and I couldn’t live without her.
CA: What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
BM: I worked in a kosher butcher shop on the line pulling gall bladders out of chickens.  I saw so slow, the lady next to me had to both of our jobs.  Picture Lucy and Ethel on the candy line.
CA: What’s your favorite current TV show?
BM: Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley.  Lots of different segments, and there’s never a time that I don’t learn something new.
CA: What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?
BM: Neil Diamond in Philadelphia.  Kids bought Miss Trudy and I tickets to go.  Great show.
CA: What’s your favorite ‘90s jam?
BM: I don’t even know what you’re talking about!  I like Welch’s grape jam the best.  No jelly for me.  If you’re talking music…I’m a doo-wop guy.  Give me the Duprees, Drifters, Crests or Kenny Vance and The Planotones.
Cathy Aveta is the Director of Paralegal Services & Attorney Recruitment at Saiber LLC in Florham Park, New Jersey.
Bernie Merer is the Director of Human Resources & Facilities at Saiber LLC in Florham Park, New Jersey.

President's Message February 2019

By Mary Beth Donoghue

As I sit down to write this month’s message, Punxsutawney Phil has left his burrow to look for his shadow for the 133rd time and predicted an early spring.  A little more than one week later, the NJALA decided to cancel the February monthly meeting due to inclement weather!  It is a decision the board does not take lightly, as there are many components involved with cancelling our monthly meetings, including working with our venue, notifying our membership and business partners and, most importantly, working with our planned speaker about possibly re-scheduling the program.  Daniel Sean Kaye’s scheduled February presentation, “A Delicate but Crucial Conversation: Talking About Depression and Suicide in the Workplace”, looked to be a relevant and well-attended session based on our registrations. Unfortunately, we are not able to reschedule this session for this program year, but we look forward to hopefully scheduling Daniel to speak in the future.
So, as we ideally move closer to spring-like weather, I hope you all will join us for our March monthly meeting on March 12, 2019.  The March meeting will be held at a new location, the Bridgewater Marriott.  Our topic is “Ch-ch-ch-Changes: Taking the Challenge Out of Change”,presented by a fabulous speaker, Judy Hissong of Nesso Strategies.  If you have been lucky enough to hear Judy speak at ALA conferences or past NJALA events, you know that this will be an engaging meeting.  You may be wondering why we are having this meeting at the Bridgewater Marriott.  Let me tell you why.  The NJALA covers the entire state of New Jersey, and, if you did not notice, New Jersey is a long state.  The NJALA is very grateful that individuals from firms located in the middle and southern parts of the state have joined the chapter to receive many of the benefits that come with our membership, even if they cannot always physically attend our meetings in West Orange.  In past years, we have hosted some monthly meetings and educational sessions at locations closer to the middle of the state.  By choosing the Bridgewater Marriott, we hope that more members geographically located in the middle and southern parts of the state will join us for this terrific presentation.  If you have not yet registered for this meeting, please do so here.  If you happen to be one of the individuals who has difficulty making our meetings in West Orange, we would like to hear your ideas as we address being as inclusive as possible going forward with all our members across the state.
Also, at our March meeting, the Nominations Committee will present the slate of board officers and trustees for our next term.  Normally, the slate is presented at the February meeting, but due to the February meeting cancellation, this announcement will now take place at the March meeting, followed by a floor vote, and then the swearing-in of our new officers and trustees at our April meeting. 
Many NJALA members will be attending the upcoming ALA Annual Conference and Exposition in Grapevine, Texas from April 14, 2019 to April 17, 2019.  ALA annual conferences are not only an opportunity to hear amazing speakers (like Judy Hissong, our March speaker), but also a place to gain subject-matter knowledge and learn about the latest solutions in the legal management field.  You will have the chance to discover legal management tools of the future and alternative approaches to your day-to-day work from individuals with diverse backgrounds, work environments and responsibilities.  In addition, you get to network with peers from all over the country, as well as colleagues from Canada, Mexico, Australia and the rest of the globe.  Any board member would be happy to discuss with you the benefits of attending this event should you have an interest.  It is not too late to register for this incredible professional experience.
As you have heard many times over the last few years, our organization would not be what it is today without the support of our business partners.  Our Business Partner Relations and Advisory Committee has been working tirelessly throughout the entire winter preparing new materials and brochures for business partner sponsorship.  We hope you will take a moment to consider sharing NJALA business partner opportunities with vendors you deal with on a regular basis at your own firms.  Any member of our Business Partner Relations and Advisory Committee is willing to speak with you or reach out to any vendor you would like the NJALA to consider for business partner sponsorship.  We are excited to be launching even more new initiatives to promote the wonderful relationships we have with our esteemed business partners, so please keep an eye out for updates.
Finally, I would like to urge all of you reading this to reach out to myself or any member of the board if you have comments, questions, concerns or ideas related to our industry and the NJALA.  We are here to represent you and are eager to hear what you have to say.  On behalf of the entire board, I want to thank each and every one of you for your membership in our organization, and I encourage you to renew your membership before the March 31, 2019 deadline.  It has been both a privilege and a pleasure serving as your President over this past year.
Mary Beth Donoghue is the Administrative Office Manager of Day Pitney LLP in Parsippany, New Jersey.

5 Questions with...Sarah Clark

By Cathy Aveta

CA: What are some of your pet peeves?

SC: Drivers who pull the “late merge” with a whole line of traffic waiting to exit, people who do not bag their own groceries at the supermarket and people who complain about having to do a task for so long that they could have completed it and been done in the time spent complaining.

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Business Partners and You: Perfect Together

By Sarah Clark, CLM

If you are like me and have lived in New Jersey for as long as you can remember, you can still hear former Governor Thomas Kean reciting the state slogan, “New Jersey and You: Perfect Together” (and may even throw in your best Jersey accent for emphasis).  As I thought about content for this article, this slogan came to mind over and over again.  Why, you ask?  It is because I am here to write about the importance of collaborating with our NJALA business partners to achieve your law firm’s goals.  While I may be stating the obvious, our business partners are here to help you, and working with them can help you in ways you never knew.
Let’s face it, you would not be in a management or administrative position without at least some contact with business partners, but when was the last time you reached out and scheduled a quick telephone call or meeting with a business partner to see what is new and exciting?  You may be surprised to find out that our business partners can help you in numerous ways, and that they are not just there to make the sale.  I understand that we are busy, need to get our regular work done and are often hard-pressed to find the time for extra meetings or exploring new company relationships.  We may not have the luxury to take on additional projects or incorporate alternate systems and/or procedures.  My guess is that most of us subscribe to the principle of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”; but, you could be missing out.
We all know that the right products and services are key to successful legal administration.  Business partner relationships are important connections and resources as we conduct our jobs, plan for the future and expand our knowledge of products, changes and trends.  Building future business partner relationships can help us when a product or service changes or when an additional product or service is needed.  Positive relationships with business partners also provide a way to enhance our profession within our communities. 
Recently, I was chatting with one of our business partners, Gabriella Hermey from J. Herbro, also known as Dri-Klean.  Gabriella’s company cleans commercial carpet and office interiors.  She was chatting with a member at an NJALA event about her need to replace the carpeting in her office.  Our member told Gabriella that she assumed their carpet was unsalvageable and would need to be replaced.  Gabriella offered to come take a look at the carpet, and was tasked with trying to lessen the stains and freshen the space temporarily until the budget allowed for the high cost of carpet replacement.  According to Gabriella: “Instead, our team was able to thoroughly remove all the stains and improve the overall profile and air quality in the space.  We’re so pleased to know the client was thrilled with the results and we were able to extend the life of the carpet, saving them money, time and effort, all without disrupting their routine.”   Thanks to a quick conversation with one of our business partners, this member was able to save her law firm the costly expense of replacing its carpets. 
Another member, Elli Albert, told me about a time when she needed a temporary secretary for her office.  “When I was desperate for a temporary floater in my office, I called a few different staff recruiting agencies.  The only one who came up with multiple, qualified candidates, or, in fact, any candidates, was Micki Mersky from our NJALA business partner, Execu-Search.  She placed our temp with us, and the temp was eventually hired as a permanent employee.  I now recommend Micki and her firm constantly.  They are extremely diligent and pleasant to work with.”  Elli was willing to step out of her normal routine and give someone new a chance.  The results were a win-win for all involved.
I am sure I could find many more testimonials from our members about successful experiences with our business partners.  The point is, unless you make the effort to find out what is new or what has changed within the industry, you may be missing out on the opportunity to save your law firm time, money and aggravation.  One simple meeting with a print management company or an off-site storage facility could result in significantly less headaches down the road.  Please make this a professional goal for 2019.  Consider taking a meeting.  You may be surprised with what you find.
We all know that without our business partners, NJALA would not be able to offer our amazing educational and social events and scholarships.  We owe them a big thank you for their constant support.  Taking the time to really get to know our business partners is a great way to show your thanks.  Give them a chance to hear about your projects and initiatives, and let them try to build a solution that will make you “perfect together”.
Sarah Clark, CLM is the Director of Administration for McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, LLP in Newark, New Jersey.

On Brevity and Passion

By Elyssa A. Goldstein, CLM, PHR, SHRM-CP

I’ve never been known for my brevity.  I love to tell stories, relish playing games like Taboo and Catch Phrase and am extremely comfortable in front of a crowd.
That said, I am also keenly aware of the power of words.  Sometimes, saying less (or saying nothing at all) creates the biggest impact.
As another year draws to a close, and we all take the time to reflect on our highs and lows and resolve to make the necessary improvements in the coming year, I could easily share pages worth of NJALA commentary.  (Don’t worry, I won’t.)
I’ve done some light “preaching” when discussing topics like motivation, gratitude and priorities in the past, and, though I have not been privy to any negative feedback, I am sure there are those who take issue with the way I deliver my messages.
Freedom of thought is one of the greatest freedoms we have, and my intention is not to change your mind or have you fall in line. 
My intention instead is to communicate the passion behind the words I write, the passion I feel for my legal administration profession and the passion I demonstrate as a member of the NJALA.  (Example: Screaming at the top of my lungs whenever the New Jersey chapter is mentioned at a national ALA event.)
We all have our reasons for being affiliated with the NJALA.  Maybe, at one time, “passion” would have made your list.  Maybe, for you, “passion” never stood a chance. 
Careers ebb and flow much like the ocean tide, and maybe you’ve been longing for a way to feel reenergized and reinvigorated. 
I would argue that the NJALA is the opportunity you’ve been seeking.
You will likely receive several e-mails during the month of January asking for committee members, assistance with volunteer efforts and the like.  Take a chance.  Throw your hat in the ring.  Raise your proverbial hand.  As the saying goes, “don’t knock it…”.  (See, brevity.)
I hope my words find their way into your year-end reflections, because I know the NJALA will continue to do amazing and impactful things in 2019. 
Until then, I wish you and yours the happiest and healthiest of holiday seasons.
Elyssa A. Goldstein, CLM, PHR, SHRM-CP is the Firm Administrator of Rebenack, Aronow & Mascolo, LLP in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

2018 New Jersey Paralegal Convention Recap

By Nancy Harris

On October 26, 2018, fellow board member, Alison Rizzo, and I represented the NJALA as a vendor at the New Jersey Paralegal Convention.  The Convention was an all-day affair for experienced, career paralegals, paralegal students and those seeking continuing legal education to enhance their skills, network with fellow paralegals and explore services designed for the legal profession.  This outing was an excellent opportunity for the NJALA to increase our visibility, and promote and market our organization’s services to paralegal managers.  The New Jersey Paralegal Convention Committee put together a wonderful event and were more than accommodating to us.  We sincerely appreciate it and were glad to partner with them.
In addition to the tremendous joy of meeting everyone, we spoke with several prospective members who were excited to find out more about our organization.  Some of them are new managers (like all of us were at one time) who need help, resources and guidance to better themselves in their jobs.  We look forward to having them join our NJALA family. 
We even ran into several of our NJALA business partners at this event!  We already know we have wonderful business partners, but, after being a vendor for a day, we gained newfound respect and admiration for them.  They all make a long and tiring day look easy!  Kudos to our business partners! 
At the end of the Convention, Alison and I walked away feeling accomplished, as we met endearing people who were genuinely happy to hear about our organization.  We will be looking for volunteers next year so others may have the opportunity to see what all the hype is about.
Nancy Harris is the Law Office Administrator of the Law Office of William E. Staehle in Morristown, New Jersey.

Getting Rid of Those Pesky Replies!

With a new website comes learning.  With learning comes wisdom.  With wisdom comes.... user preferences.

Many of you may feel overwhelmed by the volume of email you are receiving from the community forum, and you may prefer not to see all of the replies that come in to a particular topic.  Well, there is an answer!  See below:

First:  Log in to the website

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The Future

By Elyssa A. Goldstein, CLM, PHR, SHRM-CP 

Any moron can answer a telephone.  This was my exact sentiment when I began my first day of work as a receptionist in a law firm on Monday, August 24, 2009.  A negative, short-sighted and just plain untrue sentiment, to say the least.  Having studied music in college, I did not imagine that I would wind up working in a law firm two years after graduation.  In fact, as my mother worked in a law firm, and I wanted to “be my own person”, I tried to avoid following in her (career) footsteps at all costs.

Now, nine years later, I am primarily responsible for running all administrative aspects of a law firm, including hiring, firing and managing staff, some of whom no doubt never imagined that they would be working in a law firm after college or high school. 

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Wellness Tips: Flu Shots

By Michelle Cohen

The beginning of flu season is HERE.  These words strike fear in the hearts of many law firm administrators.  Does the paralegal sniffling by the water cooler look a bit pale and unwell?  Is he sweating?  Did the receptionist touch that door handle after a surreptitious nose wipe?  Did half the staff call out sick this morning?  Why does this happen every year?  Don’t we always think to ourselves, Should I encourage everyone in the office to get a flu shot?  The answer is a resounding YES!  What follows is a synopsis of flu shot information adapted/shared from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.  It can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.  Over 80,000 people died last year of the flu or complications from the flu, making last year the deadliest flu season in four decades.  There were also a record breaking 900,000 flu-related hospitalizations last year.

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NJSBA President John Keefe Presents at Business Partner Expo

On September 25, 2018, the NJALA hosted its 25th Annual Business Partner Expo at Mayfair Farms in West Orange.  Prior to the Expo, a large group of NJALA members and guests attended an important and timely educational workshop on the topic of “The Opioid Crisis.”  John E. Keefe, Jr., Esq., President of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and Elaine Durkas, Director of Human Resources at Fusion Employer Services LLC, presented a session on the history and current climate of opioid abuse and addiction, as well as guidance for employers on how to appropriately and legally address drug abuse in the office. 

 

 

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What Would You Do?

By Colleen Conway 

For this feature, the Jer-Z-Journal will pose a scenario that could occur in a law firm. Members were surveyed and asked how they might respond if faced with the particular situation. All responses, whether serious, sarcastic or humorous, were encouraged. All responses are confidential, and some may have been edited. 

SCENARIO: A secretary is having difficulty keeping up with the new technology in the office, which is causing her to have a longer turnaround time. Her assigned attorneys have started giving some of their work out to other secretaries because “it is a rush” and they want it done quickly. This is causing animosity amongst the staff. Although you have explained to the attorneys that they need to give their secretary a chance, so that she can practice and improve, they continue to give work to others, as they don’t want to wait or may not be able to wait due to deadlines. WHAT WOULD YOU DO? 

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Effective April 1, 2018, your NJALA dues are rising to $900.00 per year

Did I get your attention? This is not an April Fools’ joke. $900.00 is the annual dues amount everyone would have to pay if we did not have the support of our business partners (BPs). How did I determine this amount? Well, let’s break down some numbers. 

We meet ten times per year—six times at the Highlawn Pavilion, two socials at various country clubs, our annual Business Partner Exposition at Mayfair Farms and once at The Manor for Managing Partners’ Night (where we invite a multitude of guests at the association’s expense). The cost to cover cocktails and dinner averages out to around $65.00 per person. If a member attends all ten events throughout the year, the cost to NJALA is $650.00 for that member. Not bad for $250.00 membership dues (or $200.00 for additional members of the same firm)! 

Cocktails and dinner are just one aspect of what it costs to run this organization. At seven of our monthly meetings (eight, if you include our Business Partner Exposition), we provide an educational session. Often, these educational sessions include a nationally-known speaker. Each speaker charges an engagement fee, and we are also responsible for covering travel expenses. The cost associated with each speaker varies widely depending upon how recognizable the speaker is and from where he/she is traveling. 

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How Law Firms Should Measure Profitability

By Rippe & Kingston

Using key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your law firm can help identify what is working well, and help guide strategic decisions for the future.  However, a shocking number of law firms don’t use any performance metrics beyond measuring and tracking the hours billed at the attorney and firm levels.

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What CAN You Do? NJALA Opportunities Available to All Members

By Elli Albert

For the past couple of years, some of you may have read my column, “What Would You Do?” in the Jer-Z-Journal.  I would now like to suggest a twist and ask NJALA members, “What CAN You Do?”

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The Temperature Wars

By Michelle Cohen

If you are a fan of the HBO series, Game of Thrones, you are likely all too familiar with the tagline, “winter is coming”.  Honestly, every Sunday when I watch the show and hear that line, a small part of me thinks about the fact that winter has been alive and well in my office all summer long.  My desk sits directly below an air vent, and the cold air blows in my direction all day long.  As my space heater tries to counter-balance the Nordic blasts, my fingers often turn various shades of blue and purple, and I drink so much hot tea that I run to the restroom a little too often.

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Accrual Accounting for Professional Services Firms—Playing Heads Up Ball

By Kenneth E. Winslow, CPA, PSA

Abstract: This article covers an overview of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) appeal to Congress arguing against the implementation of an accrual accounting tax mandate for professional service businesses. It provides a brief primer on cash vs. accrual accounting, and offers a discussion of how changing to an accrual-based system will affect accounting for law firms, as well as what you can do to maximize your firm’s bottom line. 

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My First Trip to the Chapter Leadership Institute

By Michelle Cohen

The Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) held its annual Chapter Leadership Institute (CLI) in Minneapolis, Minnesota from July 20, 2017 through July 22, 2017.

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Gratitude

By Elyssa A. Goldstein, CLM

As the saying goes, “timing is everything”.  On the evening of Monday, November 20, 2017, I found out that I had passed the Association of Legal Administrators’ Certified Legal Manager exam.  To say I was elated would be an understatement.  I was on the proverbial top of the world, and couldn’t imagine anything disrupting my happiness.

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The Ins and Outs of IOLTA

By Kristyn Connors

As a law firm administrator, the beginning of each calendar year brings as many opportunities as it does responsibilities.  January turns over a new leaf in more ways than one, and if your firm is anything like mine, we can never be too sure what that leaf might uncover.  What you can be positive of, however, is that you will need to complete plenty of annual tasks that, albeit mundane, are vital to the continued success and legal compliance of your law firm.  One of these tasks is registering your firm’s attorneys and trust accounts with IOLTA, or Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts.

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President's Message

By Mary Beth Donoghue

An NJALA member recently asked me how long I have been a member of the NJALA, and if I found the organization to be beneficial to my career.  The answers to these questions were simple.  

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