PA R A L E G A LVO I C E A
P U B L I C AT I O N
AT T O R N E Y S
I N F O R M AT I O N
E X C H A N G E
G R O U P
/ O C T O B E R 2 0 2 1 / Q U A R T E R LY J O U R N A L F O R A I E G PA R A L E G A L S
Tamara Brininger, Paralegal Subgroup Chair
this issue 2022 Paralegal Seminar
Meet the Paralegal
AIEG Sharing Star Award
Welcome New Paralegals
Balancing Life and Caregiving
Processes and Procedures
Tips on Minimizing or Eliminating Liens
Sailing in the Time of Covid
Wrap Up of the 2021 Summer Intern Season
2 0 2 2 PA R A L E G A L S E M I N A R Your Golden Opportunity to Speak The AIEG Paralegal Seminar is scheduled for February 3-4, 2022, in warm and sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This is an opportunity for hundreds of paralegals from around the country to share best practices and learn from each other. Please consider volunteering to present a topic that is important to you or has a special interest in your career, clients, or firm. We know from past attendees how impactful the presentations are, and how much they can bring back and put into practice in their firms. We understand that standing at that podium is a little intimidating (to say the least), but also such an honor. For more information, contact Reina Trucchio Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or (954) 522-6601. This seminar only comes together with the dedication of our membership. We hope you’ll consider participating!
Registration is now open. Please contact the Riverside Hotel at (954) 467-0671 to reserve a room in the AIEG room block by January 3, 2022.
PA R A L E G A L Sara Balsitis, Schlapprizzi PC
Kimberly Camarena Finney Injury Law Sara Balsitis is a paralegal at Schlapprizzi PC, in St. Louis, Missouri.
usually involve wrongful death due to a tragic car crash or an
Sara grew up in Collinsville, Illinois and has continued to make this
overdose. These cases are tough due to the evidence gathered,
her home. Sara received her education at Southwestern Illinois
situation of the death, and attempting to help the family of the
College and Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville. Sara
started working at Schlapprizzi for about six years and enjoys every minute of her work. Besides being a busy paralegal, she is
Sara’s experience with these types of cases has made her develop
the mother of two boys and one girl. Dylan is 20 years old, and
the skill of listening and understanding that our clients are human
he is serving in the U.S. Army. He is currently stationed overseas
beings. When wrapped up in the litigation aspect we forget that
as an air controller. Andrew is 14 years old, and he enjoys karate,
the people we represent have never heard our legal lingo. Sara’s
track, and anything that involves being outside. Sara’s only
advice as a paralegal is we must make the client feel comfortable
daughter is 11 years old; her interest is karate and anything that
and understand what the legal process is and how things will
has to do with anime cartoons. Sara’s hobbies include crochet,
proceed. Sara has sat in many trials, and she has developed all
knitting, and painting. She is always on the go either with work,
these skills. Her attorney trusts her throughout the process, and
family, or her own hobbies.
she is fascinated by all the positive outcomes.
Sara must deal with tough cases: her case load deals with car
Sara and I have worked on several cases together as our attorney
crashes, wrongful deaths, and traumatic brain injuries. There are
are co- counsels on many. I have learned how to be organized,
times that the clients she deals with are not easy. This is not due
patient, and adapt to change very quickly. She is a very hard
to their injuries. Sara has developed a skill to handle these types
worker and I admire her dedication to her role. Sara has been
of clients: her patience, devotion, and her empathy have made
a co- speaker with me at our MATA paralegal seminar. I learned
her a crucial part of her firm. Sara’s ability to gather information
so much from her and it is always a joy to work with her. Files
from her client has helped make her attorneys successful to
from other firms are never easy to understand: Sara takes time
the benefit of the outcome of their cases. Sara’s toughest cases
to make sure the we are both on track on cases.
AIEG Paralegal History &
Sharing Star Award Tamara Brininger Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy Is sharing your documents with AIEG as routine as having your morning coffee yet? In the spirit of “sharing is caring” this is a reminder that the new Sharing Star Award is a new award that will be given out at the annual paralegal conference in February 2022. This award is comparable to a five-star Google award for AIEG members based on how much you share with your fellow AIEG members. We all know that it is the paralegals who are the ones who get the documents uploaded to AIEG! Paralegals are the stars that make this happen month after month. Sharing is easy! Jill Martin is AIEG’s Document Acquisition Coordinator and Document Manager. You can e-mail the documents directly to Jill at email@example.com and she does all the work of getting them into AIEG’s stellar document bank. The second option is to go to the AIEG website and click on the NEW “Submit Case Documents” box, then “Upload Documents”. Add your files to the box. It is a Dropbox portal and so easy to drag and drop your documents. It is as easy as making your delicious cup of coffee in the morning!
WELCOME NEW AIEG PARALEGALS Each quarter we plan to welcome and mention new members to our AIEG Paralegal Division. If you see them post to the listserv with a question or comment, please give them a virtual high five and welcome them to the group!
• Emily Anderson, Law Offices of James S. Rogers Seattle, WA • Kelley Anderson, The Arnold Law Firm Sacramento, CA • Sara Balsitis, Schlapprizzi, PC St. Louis, MO • Emily Brown, Motley Rice Mount Pleasant, SC • Alice Flora, Law Offices of Crandall & Katt Roanoke, VA • Mandy Foster, The Ashby Firm Marietta, GA
• Alexi Garza, Johnston & Hutchinson, LLP Los Angeles, CA • Heather McLeskey, Davis Miles McGuire, Gardner Tempe, AZ • Pamela Perkins, Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler, PLLC Charleston, WV • Barbara Rope, The McClellan Law Firm Sikeston, MO • Meredith Strain, Wolff Ardis, P.C. Memphis, TN ParalegalVoice
Balancing Life and Caregiving
Amanda Cotton Cunningham Bounds n 2007, my husband and I began the journey of
enjoy and look forward to – those things that recharge your
caring for our aging mothers and fathers. By 2017,
mind, body and soul.
we had lost all four parents. During that time, we learned a lot about dementia, heart failure, strokes,
The first step is accepting that some things will have to
partial paralysis, medication management, sitters,
give. Expecting that life can be the same when adding
assisted living, nursing homes and hospice (both inpatient
the responsibility of taking care of someone else’s health,
and at home).
finances and welfare is not realistic. The reality is that your loved one will have to be your priority, at least for a season of
During those years and since, we have had countless
life. Be careful to fiercely protect those things that recharge
conversations with friends and family members who are
your mind, body and soul. But some things will have to be
now traveling that same road. More often than not, those
re-prioritized. And there are things in life that will just have
conversations and their questions are very much the same.
They ask how we got through those years. They wonder what they should do about a certain situation. And they wrestle
“I just want to get it RIGHT.” I said this to myself dozens
with the same unrealistic expectations and conflicting
of times and I have heard it from friends over and over – as
emotions we fought during our journey.
recently as last week. We want to get it “right” but what does that mean? When our loved one is gone, if we can look
Although I am far from an expert on caregiving - and each
in the mirror and know that we did our best, that our loved
situation is unique - I have found that many of the struggles
one felt loved, they were safe, and their needs were taken
are the same for us all. I share these words hoping they will
care of, then we got it right.
help someone else as they travel their own long and hard journey of caregiving for an aging loved one.
“I am disappointed in my family member who doesn’t help as much as I do. They don’t care. They are being selfish.”
“How can I do it ALL?” In the beginning . . . When you
Expecting that everyone involved will be on the same page is
become a caregiver, whether primary or shared with family
unrealistic. People’s lives are different. We don’t all have the
members, your life is probably already full of demands on
same amounts of time and resources to devote to caregiving.
your time and energy. There are responsibilities at home, at
And people are different. As caregivers, it is important to
work, and other areas of life. And, there are activities you
be open and transparent with one another about what we
can bring to the caregiving table. One person may bring
is time for skilled nursing (perhaps at home, or inpatient) in
compassion and patience to the table. Another person may
order to properly care for a loved one.
bring financial and task management to the table. And some people are simply not equipped to handle caregiving and it
Since these “events” often require action in a matter of days
is better if they’re not invited to the table at all. Whatever
or weeks, it is important to research and educate yourself
the dynamics, it is important for caregivers to share in the
about available resources, options and costs in order to be
responsibilities as best they can and to give grace to one
prepared to make these decisions when the time comes. But
another, when necessary.
trying to orchestrate the timing of these decisions believing you can control the course of care at precisely the perfect
“Mom and Dad don’t appreciate the sacrifices we are
time is extremely difficult and unrealistic. In an odd way,
making. They don’t even care.” Expecting that your loved
recognizing that “events” will in great part control the course
ones will appreciate the sacrifices you are making is not
of care – that, in actuality, you do not always have control –
always realistic either. In fact, as their illness progresses, they
can be freeing and lead to less worry and anxiety.
may not even be capable of understanding what all you are doing for them. And, if they did fully understand, they would
“I am an awful person because I feel relieved they are gone.
likely feel guilty - adding to their feelings of inadequacy and
I am so ashamed.” Believing that you will not have a sense
lack of independence. It is helpful to try to maintain a sense
of relief when your loved one dies is also unrealistic. The
of fulfillment and satisfaction in knowing you are doing the
truth is you have spent months or years making your loved
right thing regardless of their response.
one your priority. You have likely missed many days, nights and weekends with your spouse, kids and friends. You are
“How will I know when it is time for ________________?” Fill
naturally looking forward to returning to your pre-caregiving
in the blank. Sitters. More sitters. 24-hour care. Assisted
life. This does not mean you are happy they are gone. It
living. Skilled nursing. Memory care. Hospice.
means you are relieved you will no longer be responsible for that person’s welfare.
As a loved one’s needs change and the dynamics of caregiving shift, decisions have to be made about adjusting
“Why am I not sadder they are gone?”
levels of care. And many of those decisions are particularly
that during the months or years your loved one’s health
difficult when trying to balance providing the best possible
declines and they slowly slip away (physically, mentally and
care while managing finances in order to extend that care for
emotionally), you are already going through the grieving
as long as possible.
process. If the process takes years, it is very likely that by the
The reality is
time they die you have already gone through most stages Although it is not always the case, we found, time and time
of grief. You most-likely have already shed a river of tears
again, that events made those choices for us – or certainly
before they physically leave this world.
made those choices much clearer. An “event” may be when a co-caregiver decides they can no longer participate in the
Silver Linings. Simply put - caregiving is HARD. But there
family’s rotation schedule. And so, it is time to hire sitters, or
are some silver linings along the way. There are friends who
increase sitter hours. Another “event” may be when the stove
cheer you along with thoughtful cards, notes, calls and hugs.
is left on, water left running or medications are not being
Family relationships are often deepened as you battle in the
taken correctly, all of which create a potentially dangerous
trenches together. And, if you are a person of faith, that
situation. And so, it is time for 24-hour care or assisted living.
faith grows stronger. And, at the end of the season, you can
Pivotal medical “events” such as falls or strokes resulting in
exhale knowing you did your best while walking your loved
mobility, cognitive or other medical issues occur. And so, it
one home. ParalegalVoice
The Love/Hate Relationship of Processes & Procedures Jennifer Horn The Law Office of James Scott Farrin
hen I was asked to contribute to the
deal with new hires such as myself. One of the trainers on
newsletter I was perplexed. I recently
client communication put me in charge of a small group
joined this group and it became apparent
training. Very sneaky. Now I had to learn it and teach others.
very quickly how much experience
Given my personality I was not going to fail or let any of
everyone was bringing to the table. What could I share that
my small group fail. I started using the techniques. Surprise,
everyone didn’t already know? As I was thinking on this,
they worked. My client calls became much easier. Yes, easier.
I was working on a training plan for one of our new legal
Clients were understanding the litigation process better.
assistants. This led to thinking about the Law Offices of
They knew we were fighting for them and that they could
James Scott Farrin (JSF) and one of the things we do very
trust us. Oh, and they became much shorter too and less
well: processes (i.e. best practices).
often -- all by changing a few key words.
I started at the firm almost 10 years ago. To say I hated
So yeah, I started sipping the Kool-Aid just a little. As my
having processes is putting it mildly. I didn’t get why. I knew
time at JSF continued I moved into complex litigation cases.
what I was doing. Doesn’t the finished product speak for
I again would argue that you can’t put my cases in a box.
itself? I am a litigation paralegal. You can’t put what we do
Yes, some of the processes, maybe, but not all of them. Yet
in a box. My rants were notorious and made for a rocky first
again, JSF put me in a group that was assigned with putting
year. Thankfully I wasn’t the first paralegal to despise having
on paper every single step from the signing a client to the
to mark this, check that, go in a set order, speak to clients
litigation department to disbursing the client’s money.
with certain words and the list goes on. JSF knew how to
EVERY SINGLE STEP. As we put every step on paper we had
to debate why based on the Lean methodology.
in turn the attorney begins reviewing the discovery. By the time the filed documents are received from the clerk, the
If you aren’t familiar with Lean it was created by Toyota. It is
discovery has been finalized. The documents and discovery
typically used in manufacturing. The philosophy behind Lean
are then served on defendant via FedEx.
is to reduce waste/defects/distractions/frustrations within systems and processes by examining all processes and how
There were six of the eight wastes that were present in our
they add value to clients. Think of it as getting rid of the fat on
original process. Waiting: attorney/paralegal waiting on
each task. There are eight wastes to look for in every process:
drafts/edits. Motion: the documents going back and forth
Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-Utilized Talent,
between attorney and paralegal multiple times. Inventory:
Transportation, Inventory, Motion and Extra Processing.
the discovery is present at a time when it isn’t needed. Non-Utilized Talent and Extra Processing: the attorneys not
Transferring that to a law firm seemed a bit crazy. Yet there we
making the edits. Transportation: certified mail takes a week
were every week drafting and debating whose way was best
to two weeks whereas FedEx takes a day to two days.
then questioning if any of our ways were best. We questioned everything: why do we contact the client on this day, why
Once this small group had the perfect processes on paper,
do we serve the defendant this way vs. that way, why do we
we shared with the litigation department. That isn’t where
schedule mediation at this point and not this point, why, why,
it ends though. At that point the litigation department had
why, why. In the end it was an amazing experience. We were
to use the process exactly as stated for three months then,
able to take the status quo and turn it on its head.
and this is the most important part, everyone is asked to send suggestions on how to do things better, stronger, faster.
A good example of a change we made was on the drafting
Every time someone thinks of a way to improve, they share.
of the complaint and discovery. In our soft tissue cases the
We examine and if it holds water we implement. This is one
paralegal would draft the summons, cover sheet, complaint
of the core pillars of lean method, continual improvement.
and discovery then forward to the attorney. The attorney would review everything then forward back to the paralegal
Thanks to this process we have improved our proficiency
to make edits. Once that was complete the paralegal would
and our efficiency dramatically. There are fewer mistakes
forward back to the attorney for final review hoping that
because there is always a reference available. We are also
they read all the edits correctly. If so, the attorney would
moving our cases much faster by rethinking each process.
sign and send back to the paralegal. The paralegal would then mail the summons, cover sheet and complaint to the
An added bonus is that it has improved our onboarding
clerk for filing (yep, NC doesn’t have electronic filing yet)
process. All new hires and their trainers have easy access to
while the discovery sat on the desk waiting. Once the filed
the best practices. They have a step by step guide they can
documents were received, the paralegal would send along
refer to at any point in a case. Plus, new hires try our way then
with the discovery to defendant by certified mail.
get to share a possible better way. By everyone knowing that their suggestions really do matter we have created a team that
The process now is the paralegal drafts the summons,
has full ownership in all that we do for our clients.
cover sheet and complaint then forwards to the attorney to review. The attorney makes the edits themselves. While
If you want to learn more about Lean, the Arizona government
the attorney is reviewing and editing those documents, the
has a great resource at https://ams.az.gov/what-lean-and-
paralegal drafts the discovery then forwards to the attorney.
not. I also enjoy this video which shows why we changed
Once the summons, cover sheet and complaint are finalized
the complaint and discovery being drafted together https://
by the attorney, the paralegal mails to the clerk’s office and
Tips on Minimizing (or Eliminating)
n our line of work, there are not many cases where liens do not exist. Whether it be a lien from a private health insurance company, Medicare, Medicaid, or the healthcare provider, I am quite certain all of us have encountered a lien or two.
While there have been plenty of presentations and articles on how to obtain lien amounts, this article will focus more on how to minimize, or eliminate, those liens. When armed with the appropriate knowledge, you do not need to cringe when you see a lien in your file. The absolute first step is to locate your potential liens. This may sound like a no-brainer. However, some liens are missed simply from an oversight. Be sure to thoroughly review your file to locate all your liens. This could be in the form of a “letter of protection” to a provider, an assignment of benefits signed by your client at the hospital, notices of liens from health insurance providers and/or programs (including Medicaid or Medicare), or notices from the Veterans Administration. Reviewing your clients’ medical bills will usually inform you of all you need to know: whether they are insured or not, their insurer(s), and how much each insurer paid toward the bills. This can be especially useful if a potential lienholder’s lien amount does not match what is paid on your client’s bills. Once all potential liens have been identified, be sure to save them in a location where they are not only accessible to you, but to anyone who may need to know. Our firm utilizes ProLaw as our document management software and we can save our lien information under the “Liens” event class in each file. It may also be beneficial to place a file note in your settlement folder as a reminder to check your lien file. Even more beneficial would be to draft your
Jessica L. Mattie Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick
disbursement statement well in advance of any settlement and list out the lienholders as they are discovered. Find a method that works best for you. The most important weapon that should be in everyone’s arsenal is researching the diagnosis and billing codes. For each lien you have, you should have requested the itemization of charges. The itemizations will give the ParalegalVoice
diagnosis codes for each charge. Standardized coding
websites to research these codes. The ICD-10 codes
systems are used for Medicare and other health insurance
consist of a letter, two numbers, then up to 4 characters
that can be a combination of letters and numbers. For example, T43.641A is “Poisoning by ecstasy, accidental
(unintentional), initial encounter.”
Billing codes are utilized by physicians (and other providers)
Disputing Charges Using Codes:
to report the professional services they provide. Identifying the correct diagnosis codes is essential Level I of the Healthcare Common Procedural Coding
to eliminating charges from liens. Review your lien
System (HCPCS) is the Current Procedural Terminology
itemization line by line and look up the diagnosis code for
(CPT), which is the numeric coding system maintained
each charge listed. If it is a complex lien where you already
by the American Medical Association (AMA). This coding
know you will be disputing many charges, prepare a chart
system consists of identifying codes and descriptions that
differentiating related and unrelated charges. This is very
are used to identify the medical services and procedures
useful and may eventually be provided to the lienholder.
provided by healthcare providers. These codes are updated
For less complex liens, simply printing the itemization and
writing the diagnosis next to the code can be much more efficient. After looking up each diagnosis code, it is then
Level II of the HCPCS is the coding system used to
easy to eliminate the charges that are not related to your
identify the products, supplies and services not included
in the CPT codes and consist of services provided outside of a physician’s office (i.e. ambulance services, medical
Below is an excerpt from a letter disputing charges utilizing
equipment, prosthetics, and supplies).
the diagnosis codes:
To research the billing codes, perform an internet search
“As you know, this office has been retained to
for “CPT Code Lookup” and you will be able to find plenty
represent Jane Doe, as Power of Attorney for John
of tools to research these codes. CPT codes are typically
Doe. On December 30, 2015, Mr. Doe was injured in
5 numbers while the Level II codes are typically a letter
an automobile accident and suffered a head contusion
following by 4 numbers.
(please see attached Complaint). I am in receipt of the Updated Conditional Payment Letter indicating that a
total of $19,577.84 of conditional payments were paid on behalf of Mr. Doe. However, there are a couple of
Diagnosis codes are used by facilities to classify injuries,
charges listed that are not related. Please remove the
charges related to End Stage Renal Disease (N186),
International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision,
Anemia (D649), Altered Mental Status (R4182), Fever
Clinical Modification (ICD-10-CM) are covered under
(R509), and Disorder of Brain (G939). These are
the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
all conditions suffered by Mr. Doe prior to his head
(HIPAA). These codes are most important to us as they are
contusion on December 30, 2015. Specifically, the
specific to the patient’s condition.
“altered mental status” and “disorder of the brain” was
diagnosed prior to the accident as Dementia (please To research the diagnosis codes, perform an internet search for “ICD-10 Lookup” and utilize one of the many 10
see the attached medical record from August 2015).”
When able, always provide documentation to back up your
Demand Letter. The Demand Letter contains the final
dispute. If you have filed suit and the Complaint specifically
amount that your client owes and must be paid within
lists the injuries, provide a copy to the lien holder. If you
sixty (60) days of being issued. Failure to pay within
have documentation evidencing that the charges are for
that timeframe will result in interest being applied
injuries that pre-date your accident, provide those records.
to the total. You typically cannot dispute a Demand
The most successful and quickest lien reductions are when
Letter. If you believe, however, that the Demand Letter
you have documentation to back up your claims. The letter
is not correct, you can file an appeal within 120 days of
above obtained an over $7,000.00 reduction of the lien
the issue date. Appealing Demand Letters is far more
utilizing only one simple letter to Medicare.
difficult than simply disputing CPLs.
It may also be beneficial to know which diagnosis codes
Always open your Medicare claim before the defense
are related to your case and put these codes in the Order
insurer. Since they are required to report settlements to
approving the settlement. You could then provide the
Medicare, you will be in a world of trouble if they open
Order to the lienholder showing them which codes were
the claim before you do. They could provide the wrong
considered during negotiations to settle the case.
information, wrong date of injury, wrong injuries, along with the settlement information. This could result in
a Demand Letter being issued for the wrong amount, necessitating you to appeal the Demand.
Many lienholders have standard reductions that they implement. It is very important to ask for these reductions
Routinely request updated Conditional Payment
as they usually will not voluntarily offer it to you. For
Letters (CPL) in writing throughout the course of your
example, in South Carolina, Medicaid provides a standard
case. The Conditional Payment Amount is updated
reduction of 25% on their liens. Once you have eliminated
continuously and could change many times. Receiving
the unrelated charges from the itemization, ask for their
written updated amounts on a regular basis allows
standard reduction. You will be surprised at how willing
you to dispute claims as you see them. You should
they are to give a simple reduction to get the lien satisfied.
be requesting updated CPLs even if your Conditional
This is also useful in reducing hospital liens and more so
Payment Amount is $0.
for uninsured client’s hospital liens. Do not rely too heavily on the portal. The online portal Tips for Resolving Medicare Liens:
is a very useful tool. However, relying on the portal’s Conditional Payment Amount does not provide you
There are those of us who can remember when Medicare
with the paper trail you may need to dispute the lien
was an absolute nightmare. Over the course of the last
amount. You will be more successful disputing liens
several years, their process has become more streamlined,
with physical documentation as opposed to simply
and they have implemented their online portal for ease of
stating what may have been seen on the portal.
access. Without going through the steps to opening the claim, below are some tips for dealing with Medicare:
Dispute charges on the portal when you can. The
Never mention settlement unless you are 100%
most useful option in the portal is the ability to dispute
ready for the Demand Letter. This is the number one
charges online. However, if you find that they are not
most important rule. Any mention that your case is
removing charges that you know to be unrelated,
“resolved,” or “settled,” even if you do not mention the
send in a written dispute and provide supporting
settlement amount, will result in Medicare issuing a
documentation. The paper trail will come in handy if ParalegalVoice
you get to a point where an appeal is necessary.
appeal a Medicare Demand, you must have supporting documentation. If the appeal is because of unrelated
Utilize the “Final Conditional Payment Process.” The
charges being added, list each of the charges with
online portal has an option to begin the Final Conditional
the diagnosis codes and provide the appropriate
Payment Process. This feature is to be utilized when
documentation from your file which shows the injuries
you anticipate settling your case within the next 120
for which you represent the client.
days. This feature is beneficial as Medicare will respond to the dispute within 11 business days and Medicare
Tug at their Heart Strings:
will provide you with a date-stamped final conditional payment amount. You should be mindful to utilize this
Do not be afraid to pull at the lienholder’s heart strings.
process ONLY if you know that the case will be settled, or
Give them your client’s story, make them understand what
that you will be receiving the settlement money, within
your client has gone through and what they will continue
120 days. Also, you can only dispute charges one time
to go through. Make the lienholder understand what a
during this process. During the 120 day time period,
little bit of extra money in your client’s pocket will mean
and after disputing any unrelated charges, you will then
for them. I have been successful in getting many liens
request the Final Conditional Payment Amount. You are
reducing and/or waived simply by letting the lienholder
required to submit your settlement information within
know details that they would not otherwise know.
30 days of requesting the Final CP Amount. ERISA Liens: Never forget to provide Medicare with your attorney’s fees and costs. Once you are satisfied that the lien
ERISA stands for the Employee Retirement Income
amount is correct and you have settled your client’s
Security Act of 1974. Occasionally, employers will provide
case, you can then request the Demand Letter. When
employees with a health benefits plan formed under
notifying Medicare that the case has settled, always
ERISA. These plans typically pay all of the employee’s
provide the amount of the attorney’s fees and costs.
medical expenses up front. If your client has medical
If you provide this information to Medicare, the
expenses covered by an ERISA plan, the employer may
amount of the demand will ultimately be less than the
have the right to recover the money that was spent for
Conditional Payment Amount. (I typically ask for one
those medical expenses. The liens can be complex and
more written CPL prior to providing the settlement
it is always best to seek out the advice of someone who
information to Medicare. This ensures that they have
specializes in handling ERISA liens.
not added any more charges since the last CPL was issued.) Appealing Medicare Demands:
Find What Works Best for You: These tips are just some of the ways that have helped me be successful in reducing or eliminating liens. There are
Unfortunately, appealing Medicare demands are
no guarantees and someone else may have a different
necessary from time to time. This can be as a result of
technique that works better for them. This is also not
the defense insurer providing Medicare with erroneous
all-inclusive. There are many different types of liens and
information, or as a result of Medicare adding charges
reduction techniques that are not discussed in this article.
to the Demand Letter that were not on the Conditional
When in doubt, reach out and ask questions. More likely
Payment Letter. Some appeals are very simple, but
than not, you will be able to find someone who has tips for
some can be extremely complex. To successfully
your specific situation.
SAILING in the Time of Covid Carmen Scott Kaster, Lynch, Farrar & Ball
uring the pandemic, I decided to take
the stern. The helm is the tiller or a wheel with which
an ASA 101 Basic Keelboat Sailing
the boat is steered. This is not the entire anatomy of the
Class. The class offered was a two-
sailboat. But these are the most important ones to learn
day class, with 8-10 hours a day of
first. The anatomy of a case is something we gather along
vigorous learning and cramming in
the way. Most of the things you need already exist. It’s
all the information to safely maneuver a small sailboat
a matter of requesting the items you need that become
on the water. Don’t worry, we were wearing personal
the anatomy of your case. From police reports, incident
protective equipment (PPE) and it was outdoors. After
reports, OSHA reports, medical and billing records, lost
the two-day class, I got a sailing certificate but still did
wages, photographic evidence to taking depositions.
not feel confident about what I just learned. After talking to the skipper, I was told to join one of the local sailing
When you look at a sailboat, you see the sails. These sails
clubs to get more time on the water, so I did. Similar
are held up by the mast. The mast needs standing rigging.
to sailing, one must have the skills needed in the law
These are the lines and cables that support the mast in
office to sail through the open waters of a case. From
its fore and aft positions to withstand the loads imposed
filing pleadings, answering telephone calls, answering
by the sails, boat, and wind. The front sail is called the
discovery, maintaining files, calendaring, scheduling
jib. The bigger sail is called the mainsail. The mainsail is
hearings, meetings, depositions, and trials. These waters
held up by the masthead and connected to the boom.
can be deep and having the skills to maneuver around
Have you ever seen a movie where people get knocked
the case will make a difference in your work and your
off the boat when the boom sways? The boom is a long
pole at the bottom of the mainsail. As one of my fellow sailors said, they don’t call it a “boom” for nothing. The
One of the first things you learn is the anatomy of the
starboard side of the boat is on the right. The port side
boat. You have the bow which is the very front of the
of the boat is on the left side. The way I remember this
boat. Then you have the deck which is the horizontal
is that the word “port” and “left” have the same number
surface that encloses the top of the hull. You have your
lifelines which are the wires or cable lines supported on stanchions around the perimeter of the deck to
When leaving the marina in a sailboat, there are no
prevent the crew from falling overboard. The hull is the
roads. You must rely on day markers to navigate your
watertight structural shell of a boat. If you cup your
way around. Green day markers lead you out and red day
hands together to hold in water, that is what helps me
markers lead you back in. The red day markers are on the
remember what the hull is. The companionway is the
right when you return. Red, right, return. That is what I
entrance from the cockpit or deck into the cabin. The
was told to help me remember in case I forget. This is of
keel is the main structural member along the bottom of a
utmost importance, especially in a sailboat. Not following
boat’s hull, often an appended fin-shaped structure that
these markers is sure to make you run aground. This is
contains ballast. Ballast is weight placed low in the boat
when the hull is touching the ground and you can no
to give it stability. The rudder is a moveable appendage
longer move. Embarrassing for some. Good experience
attached to a boat under the water and with which it
of what not to do, in my opinion.
can be steered. The stern is the aft part of the boat. The pulpit is a guardrail at the bow or stern of a boat to
which the lifelines are connected. The cockpit is the area
Sailing is all about the wind. The direction of the wind and
of the boat from which the boat is steered and sailed.
its strength will reign where you can sail. You will either
The transom is the flat surface that closes the hull at
sail upwind or sail downwind. Sailors are continually
fine-tuning the trim of their sails to suit the degree to
damaged, there was no way to know for sure where it was.
which they are sailing. There are different points of sail.
It was quite scary not knowing if you were going to run
There is a no sail zone, which is directly into the wind.
aground because you couldn’t see the beacon. Made me
They call this “in irons.” There is a close reach, a beam
think that there should be some other way to make sure
reach, a broad reach, and a run. There is a port tack and a
that this doesn’t happen in the future. Like with roads,
starboard tack. This is turning the boat around. They are
sometimes signs and beacons are damaged. It is true
also known as a “tack” and a “jibe.” Tack turns into the
for on the water as well. A GPS navigation instrument
wind. Jibe turns away from the wind. Tacking requires
aided us in our return that night. Like in any case, there
good teamwork from the entire crew. In a case, like the
are always better ways to do things. Checklists come in
wind, things are constantly changing. From discovering
handy in keeping our cases in shipshape. But even then,
new witnesses that were not listed in the police report to
things come up that are not on the checklist. Planning
ordering additional medical records from providers that
strategies to work up your case will help you navigate
the client didn’t tell you about. As you peel the onion,
through complex cases. Also, ask questions. It never
you discover new layers of things to do. I am constantly
hurts to get different points of view.
thinking of ways to make life easier for me and my attorney. They need to focus on the more important
There are so many other things to cover, and I am still
part of their job, and we are there to make that happen.
learning. I have approximately eight sails under my belt. I
Constantly trimming our sails is essential for success in
learn something new with each sail. As for me, experience
a law office.
on the water, hours in the boat, is the best way to learn. As with anything, experience takes time. I believe this to
I also learned about a few simple sailor’s knots: bowline
be true working in a law office as well.
knot, figure-eight knot; cleat hitch; clove hitch; round turn; two half hitches; square knot, and a rolling hitch.
Lastly, I believe it is important to learn new skills outside of the office to grow personally. Sometimes we forget to
Like with driving a vehicle, certain federal and local
take time to regroup from the stress levels in the office
regulations need to be followed while boating. Safety is
or at our desk. Whether it’s learning how to sail, ski, fly
key. Navigation Rules need to be followed. You need to
a plane, ballroom dancing, or whatever floats your boat,
always keep a sharp lookout. Life jackets for every person
I hope this article inspires you to find a zephyr of your
aboard; visual and sound signals; fire extinguishers; and
navigation lights are some. At night you have to turn on your lights. It is against the law to operate a boat without lights. From the colors visible, another boat can tell the direction you are moving. Green is on the Starboard side and red is on the port side. With a case, there are statutes, rules, guidelines, and deadlines to follow. With sailing the rules stay the same. In the legal field, the rules are always changing. My most recent sail was a moonlight sail. It was such a perfect night. We experienced the sunset, the full moon, and the stars. Although on our way back in, the beacon red light that guides you back into the channel had been ParalegalVoice
Wrap Up of the 2021 Summer Intern Season Tamara Brininger Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy
aralegals often play the role of a circus juggler,
on open cases, doing various types of general research, organizing
referee, mom, and psychologist. There isn’t
medical records, preparing medical chronologies, organizing a
always room on the hat rack to add the teacher
medical literature data bank, preparing mediation materials, bates
or mentor hat. Hosting an intern for the summer
stamping documents, creating charts of discovery materials,
though can help to save your sanity, at least for
writing blogs, summarizing depositions and so much more.
a season. Summer at Nurenberg Paris is known as intern season, and we look forward to having one or two interns to help with all
The interns are incredibly grateful for the opportunity, especially
those projects we can’t seem to find time to tackle. Our summer
since there are only a few law firms that are open to hosting
intern program, now in its eleventh year, gives college students
summer college students. I wanted to share some insights from
an overview of the legal field, the various department in a mid-
several interns with you. I also want to encourage you to start an
size firm, and exposure to working in an office environment. We
intern program if you do not already have one in place. Not only
are proud of the number of college students who look back at
do interns help the firm by handling backlog projects, but hosting
their experience as pivotal in their career choice. As a firm, we
a college student can also be a productive way to give back to
truly look forward to sharing an inside view of life at a personal
injury firm with college students who are considering a career path as future lawyers.
With AIEG’s initiative to take a proactive approach to attract a more diverse lawyer base, perhaps that process could begin as
We use the opportunity to mentor college students who are
early as possible at the undergraduate level. Keeping the AIEG
considering applying for law school. Most of the time these
diversity, equity and inclusion initiative at the forefront in the
students have never worked in an office. The simple exposure
interviewing process could provide opportunity for those who
to how an office functions, working a full eight-hour day, and
may otherwise not be as fortunate to experience the satisfaction
getting to work on actual case files is invaluable to them.
of working in a personal injury law firm.
Our interns get an overview of every department in our firm and
The interns who assisted in preparing their summer experience
work on case-related projects at my direction. Our interns work
summaries below were hired from formal summer internship ParalegalVoice
programs, word of mouth, or from referrals from other attorneys
extensive medical literature library the firm has accumulated
and judges. The question we can ponder over the winter is, how
over the years. My hours of work uploading and categorizing
do we diversify the network of available interns? As you will see
files will save loads of time for the attorneys and paralegals in the
below, the intern’s experience was invaluable in helping them
future when searching for expert articles to support their claims
make decisions about their career path. Imagine the possibilities
in a suit. Think of interns’ contributions like those of the crew at a
if more law firms could take the opportunity to host an intern for
play in the theater: although no one sees the crew, their jobs are
essential to make the final product look beautiful and to ensure that the audience (clients) is satisfied. The actors (attorneys) can’t
Abby Cohen (Junior at Cornell University)
both be performing onstage and operating lights from behind the
Intern at Nurenberg Paris Heller & McCarthy, Cleveland, Ohio
curtains. Yes, it is true that having new interns means you need to
I am really grateful to have been offered the opportunity to intern
set time aside for training and orientation, but these efforts are
at Nurenberg Paris this summer, especially as an undergraduate
worth it. Interns offer an outside perspective that employees in
student. There normally are not any internship opportunities at
the office might not have, and they also bring an aspect of young
law firms for undergraduate students where the interns get to
creativity to help the office adapt to changing times in media and
do real work and that contributes the operation of the firm. I
client recruitment processes. Overall, it is beneficial to both law
was lucky enough to find this at Nurenberg Paris. The team and
firms and students for there to be intern positions available for
my supervisors trained me thoroughly, and I participated in a full
undergraduates. Your interns could also come back as attorneys!
tour of the office and how everything worked. I was treated like I was supposed to be there instead of just a temporary student
Ana Marie Williams (Sophomore at Texas Christian University)
in the corner cubicle. In addition to learning about the litigation
Intern at Payne, Mitchell, Ramsey, Dalllas, Texas
and mediation timelines, intake department, and marketing
My experience as an intern at Payne Mitchell Ramsey Law Group
department, throughout my internship I learned the dynamics
has been incredibly educational in more ways than I can count.
of working in an office environment. I had the opportunity to
Before starting the internship, I was expecting the typical “go get
shadow some attorneys on occasion and to listen to depositions,
me coffee and bring up the mail” kind of job, but it has been the
which showed me what lawyers actually do on a day-to-day
opposite. Everyone in the office, since day one, has been eager
basis. It was interesting to see how the attorneys applied their
to give me assignments, from which I learn and gather valuable
knowledge from law school and their clerkships to their practice
experiences from. Whether it is sitting in on a deposition and
at Nurenberg Paris. I was honored to be working in the same
writing a report on it or contacting other firms about cases, I
office as the attorneys who have been practicing personal injury
have everyone in this firm to thank for my extensive amount of
law for longer than I’ve been alive and who have the expertise
growth and learning throughout this summer.
to show for it. I enjoyed meeting the different types of people who work at the firm and hearing about their career paths.
This internship has been more valuable to me than any job I have
As someone who isn’t completely sure what she wants to do,
ever done. As an incoming sophomore at TCU, I have been able
hearing these stories was useful.
to recognize the incredible opportunity I was given to intern here, especially on my first day when I kept getting asked what
In addition to the benefits, I reaped from working at Nurenberg
law school I go to! All I can hope now is that when I finish up my
Paris, I was able to give back to the firm and prove an asset to
internship, I can leave this firm thinking I helped them or made
their summer workforce. While interns typically work on smaller
anywhere near the impact on them that they made on me. To
projects and behind-the-scenes work such as file organization,
any incoming freshmen in college, I highly recommend you do
successful completion of these projects is essential to help the
anything you can to find an internship at a workplace that you
firm operate and serve its clients. For example, one of my main
might be interested in for your career. You will not know just how
projects for this summer was to reorganize and catalog the
valuable these are until you are in them!
Samantha Campbell (Rising 2L at Washington University
Emily McGuire (Senior at Miami University)
School of Law)
Intern at Nurenberg Paris Heller & McCarthy, Cleveland, OH
Law Clerk\Legal Intern at Finney Injury Law, St. Louis, MO
Heading into the summer before my senior year of undergrad,
I am currently a rising 2L at Washington University School of
I was looking for every opportunity to experience what life as
Law and a law clerk at Finney Injury Law. Although I believed
a lawyer is like. I wasn’t sure if law school was the right path for
my hefty tuition would afford me the most comprehensive
me and wanted an internship that would guide me in the right
understanding of what it takes to be a lawyer, I can confidently
direction, regardless of the career path I chose. Luckily, I found
credit Finney Injury Law with everything I know about being an
exactly that at Nurenberg Paris.
effective trial attorney and a compassionate advocate. I was originally welcomed to work at this firm as a legal intern during
During my time as an intern, I learned so much about the
the summer before my 1L year. I was an amoeba of a law student
litigation process, office culture, and time management. I came
with no actual knowledge of the law, but they found ways to
to Nurenberg Paris knowing nothing about how a case gets
teach me everything they could before I entered law school. I
accepted, the work that goes into a case, who does that work,
spent the majority of that summer working with Finney’s legal
and how a case eventually gets resolved. Since my internship was
assistant, Kimberly. Like a captain at the helm of her ship, she
in person, I was able to sit down with the intake department at
patiently taught me everything about the inner workings of
the firm and witness the process they use when filing a potential
the law firm: how to maintain a pristine organizational system,
new case. I learned that building a case requires a lot of research-
communicate with clients, and even how to send mail—since
how much other cases like the one at hand have settled for, how
I’m a victim of my young generation’s inadequacies. Meanwhile,
much income the client has lost, how much money the client has
Attorney Alex Ledbetter was visibly enthusiastic to teach me
paid in medical bills, etc. I met the case managers and paralegals
about the legal process and legal writing. It’s no surprise I felt at
who assist the lawyers with their immense amount of work and
home with this team and came back the next summer—this time
learned the difference between the work they do and the work
as a law clerk.
the lawyer does. I also learned how mediations and settlements work, versus taking a case to court.
With a newfound ounce of legal knowledge under my belt, Alex enthusiastically taught me to write motions, complete
Before this summer, working in an office was something I had
discovery, and battle insurance adjusters. Attorney Chris Finney
never experienced as was working a 9 to 5 job. I learned that an
invited me to sit in on depositions, hearings, mock juries, and
office is extremely professional, but can be a fun place to work.
client meetings. Chris even trusted me with legal research into
I also learned how to keep focused in order to accomplish the
a fascinating, and rather uncharted, area of law. Although this
work that was assigned to me while only having a short break for
gave me more hands-on experience than I could have hoped for,
lunch in the afternoon.
I am most grateful for the connections I was encouraged to build with clients. It is a truly unique feeling, especially as a law student,
Finally, I learned a great deal about balancing my work life with
when a client recognizes your voice on the other end of the
my personal life. In order for me to take this opportunity, I had
phone and eagerly updates you on how they have been feeling
to move away from home and live alone in a city I knew nothing
since the last time you spoke. This firm taught me to empathize
about. In addition to exploring my new home I was taking two
with clients and prioritize them above all else. Chris’ and Alex’s
online summer classes, studying for the LSAT, and had to make
demonstrated ability to perform in court is nothing compared to
sure I had a weekend or two to visit my family back in Columbus.
their capacity to truly care for clients. The time I have spent at
I was able to achieve all of these things with time management.
Finney Injury Law as an intern and law clerk has been the most
I haven’t had time to manage to this extent before and this will
rewarding learning experience I could have asked for.
benefit me in all aspects of my life.
AIEG Book Review Series #7 By: Doreen Lundrigan and Paralegal Contributors It is hard to believe fall is here and, along with it, cooler temperatures. If you find yourself looking for a good read, check out the reviews below. Keep a lookout for an email that will detail some changes we are hoping to make for Books Matters in upcoming newsletters.
American Dirt written by Jeanine Cummins Review by Doreen Lundrigan From the opening pages, this book was gripping from beginning to end. The book tells the story of a family torn apart by violence in Mexico and the terrifying journey two of the family members must make to outrun the Cartel and find their way to America. It is the kind of story that stays with you for a long time after you have finished reading it. I am not sure how much fact versus fiction there is in this book, but it vividly portrays the struggles of migrants trying to find a way to reach the American Dream. This book was also chosen as Oprah Book Club selection.
The Splendid and the Vile written by Erik Larson Review by Peter Love We all know we should read books on historical events. Having a better understanding of history provides context and depth to the decisions we make today and in the future. More than once though, I have started a book on history only to find it dry and arcane, never finishing it. Erik Larson’s books, while historically accurate, are written and paced as novels and are eminently entertaining. This book focuses on Britain and Winston Churchill as he rises to be Prime Minister in 1940 when Germany began its air bombardment of England, known as the “Blitz.” The stories of the suffering of the British people are well known and are again told in this story. What stands out about the book is its portrait of its main character, Churchill, as he tries to deal with the enormity of his countries’ suffering while desperately petitioning the US government to intervene. The author uses diary entries from the principals and London residents to give a deeply moving portrait of the uncertainty, violence and turbulence of life in England during that time. The book also gives background to the brilliance of Churchill’s oratory, his many eccentricities and shows how his speeches carried his nation through an unprecedented crisis. This is a story that has been told before. However, the detail, pacing and writing give it a freshness and perspective that provides for a unique and interesting read.
Judah's Wife written by Angela Hunt Review by Sherry Kerr Historical fiction speaks to me. I always wonder about the gaps left in the history books and ponder what might have been. Judah’s Wife is one of those stories that gives me a glimpse of the possibilities. Between the Old Testament of the Bible and the New Testament, there is a period referred to as “The Silent Years”. Author Angela Hunt fills a section of that space with her character Leah. Suffering in her childhood, Leah marries into a family that she believes will give her safety and comfort. God has other plans. He calls Leah’s husband, Judah, to fight for the ability to worship freely in obedience to the laws of Moses after Antiochus IV decrees the Jews must conform to the laws of Syria. We follow Leah and Judah as they work through the call on their lives. Angela Hunt writes in a way that leaves me feeling as though the history has come to life before my eyes.
The Memorandum: A True Story of Justice Forged from Fire written by Robert W. Kelley Review by Monica Heuman Robert W. Kelley brings back to life the grueling litigation against General Motors for their negligence in failing to provide a shield for an automobile fuel tank that resulted in a fuel fire with disastrous results for the Murphy family, a family who wanted answers as to why their motor vehicle was engulfed in flames, causing their son’s death, from a mere “tap.” A real page turner, Kelley recounts the months and extensive work leading up to the trial in layman’s terms, so that any person, with or without legal background, could follow what was being done and why. He gives his readers a roller-coaster of emotions and connects you with the Murphy family from the first chapter, which is nearly impossible to get through without crying. He captivates you with his unique and descriptive writing and makes you feel as though you are right there in the middle of the litigation with him. Every ounce of pain, suffering, fatigue and victories that he and the family go through are felt as your own as he takes you through the needles in the haystacks, the lies and cover-ups that GM did that cost a little boy his life. The Memorandum is a riveting true-story that is impossible to put down and will stay with you long after you have finished.
AUTHOR BIOS AMANDA COTTON is a paralegal at Cunningham Bounds, LLC in Mobile, Alabama. She began working in the legal field as a legal secretary while attending Troy University in Dothan, Alabama. She graduated from Troy in 1991 with a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. After working in the counseling world for three years, Amanda returned to the legal field, joining the Cunningham Bounds team in 1994. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time relaxing by the beach or the bay, lunching with friends, tailgating and attending Auburn football games.
JENNIFER P. HORN became a paralegal in 2009 after attending the Duke Paralegal Certificate program. Her first paralegal position was in a small firm with one civil attorney. She joined the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, Durham, NC in 2011. Currently Jennifer works on the complex personal injury litigation cases. She is a member of the Litigation Leadership Team and manages the paralegal and legal assistants in the litigation department.
JESSICA L. MATTIE began working for attorney Lee D. Cope in February of 2002. In 2005, they joined the law firm of Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick, PA where they have remained for the past 16 years. In 2020, Jessica obtained her paralegal certification through NALA and obtained her advanced certification in Trial Practice in January of 2021. She also became certified through the South Carolina Bar Association in January of 2021. In her spare time, she enjoys painting, playing drums and spending time with her husband and two sons (11 and 14 years old).
Carmen Scott works at the law firm of Kaster, Lynch, Farrar & Ball, LLP. She knew when she
heard the word litigation in the claims department at American National Insurance Company, that this was something she wanted to learn more about. A couple of years later, Carmen went to a business school in Houston, Texas and began her legal career. Upon entering the legal field, she was assigned to data entering attorney timesheets. Carmen quickly became very familiar with legal terminology and soaked it all in through the timesheets. Carmen has been working in the legal field since 1996 and has continued to work in the field of personal injury litigation. On a personal level, Carmen is the mother of two beautiful children. Her daughter, Heather Marie, and son, Michael, have both served in The United States Navy. Her daughter’s husband is also in the Navy so they are definitely a Navy family now. Her daughter graduated from the University of Houston Clear Lake in 2014, and her son was a pandemic graduate of 2020 from Texas A&M University, Galveston. He now is an environmental scientist. Carmen is also the proud grandmother of two grandsons, Carter and Prescott. Her hobbies include cooking, watching cooking shows, gardening, audiobooks, traveling, and sailing.