Board Member Spotlight

Board Member Spotlight: Trish Hughes Kreis

Well, I have put it off long enough! Sure, it was easy to prod my fellow Board Members to “tell me a little something about you” but now it’s my turn and I’m speechless! (I know . . . hard to believe.)

Plus, it’s not that easy to interview yourself.

Here goes!

Trish and Joelle enjoying a firm fundraiser

Tell us about your professional life.  I am the firm administrator of Murphy Austin Adams Schoenfeld LLP and helped them open in 1999 but have worked with some of the attorneys at Murphy Austin for far longer.  I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology while double-majoring in Psychology and Peace War Studies. (I was kind of a hippie and had aspirations of joining the Peace Corps and then working toward world peace. You know, the usual.)

Neither of those things happened but I haven’t given up on those two goals. There is still time!

Even a hippie needs to make some money so I worked at temp jobs for a while and landed at a law firm in the early-80s.  I remember walking up to the large, wooden double-doors and feeling pretty excited that I would be working at a LAW FIRM. Was there a drumroll too?  Maybe a band playing?  As I said, I was pretty excited.

Rach, Robert and Trish at the 2017 State Fair

I fell in love with the firm (which was Marron Reid) and met a few of the attorneys I work with today. I started as a temp secretary and word processor and found a regular gig there as secretary.  I eventually left to stay home with my daughter who needed heart surgery at two months old. The doctors said she was fine after the surgery but I couldn’t bear to leave her so soon after surgery. (Don’t worry; she is now a healthy, 28 year old newlywed!)

After a few years as a stay-at-home mom, I entered the workforce again and, with a brief stint at a three attorney appellate firm in between, came back to Marron Reid. I was secretary to the managing partner for a few years before convincing him I could tackle the recently vacated administrator position.  I suspect he promoted me because, as he likes to remind me, I was not the best secretary he ever had. (Probably because I taught him to put his own coffee cups away instead of leaving them in his outbox.)

Trish, Robert and Mickey at Epilepsy Awareness Day at Disneyland (2016)

I now have more than twenty years of experience as a legal administrator and consider my specialties closing offices (I’ve closed three – not my fault, I promise!) and moving (I’ve lost track of how many moves I have orchestrated but I have organized so many that I have spreadsheets for my spreadsheets).

Looking back at my college degree and choice of majors, I think they have definitely served me well as a legal administrator.

Why did you choose to serve on the SVALA Board?  I think I have to blame Cindy Harris for becoming involved on the Board!  Cindy has since retired but she was in the same building as I was when I became a new administrator.  She reached out and told me about the SVALA and was very helpful to me as a newbie. I have found the same kindness and mentoring from many other administrators and am extremely grateful.

I was an SVALA member for a while before being lured to a lunch with a few board members. The next thing I knew, I was working on the SVALA newsletter. That was back when we actually had to cut and paste and mail in a mock-up to a printer! (I cannot believe how old that makes me seem.)

I have served on the SVALA Board of Directors for several stints as Newsletter Editor and now Communications Chair with a stint or two as Board Secretary sprinkled in.  I love to write so the Newsletter and Communications Chair have always been my favorite Board positions.

Richard, Trish and Robert at Epilepsy Awareness Day at Disneyland (2014)

Tell us a little about your personal life/passion.  Well, as I mentioned I do love to write and have written a few articles through the years on topics affecting legal administrators but one of my favorite topics to write about is my experiences as a caregiver.  My husband and I care for my disabled brother, Robert, who has lived with uncontrolled epilepsy his entire life. Despite this, he was able to live independently with family oversight until he was in his 40s.  He was in the midst of a health crisis when I took over his care nine years ago and I soon came to realize he could no longer live on his own. It was a whirlwind education on health, caregiving and advocacy.

Robert is a delight to have in our home as he loves to declare everything “excellent” and even declares my meals “delicious.”  Cooking is not one of my passions so let’s just say, he is being very generous.

Robert’s health has steadily declined through the years as a result of the uncontrolled seizures, numerous concussions he has suffered because of falls and due to the boatload of medications he takes daily.  He requires a great deal of care and has numerous specialists on his team but I am grateful to have an employer who is flexible and understanding.

Trish, Robert and Richard

Caregiving reawakened my advocacy tendencies and I soon realized that not only my brother needed help but so did other caregivers. I frequently write caregiving articles for several websites and am a self-described incontinence expert. (Hey, everyone has to be an expert in something, right?).  I am also in the second year of a partnership with four other caregivers (one of whom is my husband, Richard) to write caregiving tips books!  We just released our third book and are very excited to see our little books helping other caregivers.

I am very aware of the challenges facing working caregivers and consider myself lucky to be in a position to help employees and partners alike going through similar challenges. The flip-side of that is I also have high expectations of working caregivers since we have so much to juggle and need to do so successfully.

Thank you for reading my “spotlight” (so much for being speechless)! I would love to run more spotlights on not just board members but also SVALA members. Please contact me if you are interested in telling your story!



Business Partners

Business Partner Spotlight: Terrapin Technology

Terrapin Technology Group, Inc. managed to both scare us to death and reassure us at the SVALA July luncheon.

That’s okay; Terrapin has been a Platinum Sponsor of the SVALA for several years now so they are allowed to do that.

Last spring, Betty Nelson of Terrapin shared tips for keeping our computer systems secure. At our July luncheon, Nathan Johanson and Misty Quaintance took those tips one step further and presented an in-depth look at “Security Threats & Solutions.”

Thank goodness for the solutions part!

Nathan shared several ways law firms can succumb to hackers. Apparently, hackers have figured out law firms are a potentially lucrative target and are getting even cleverer with their methods of exploitation.

Aside from the ransomware attacks there are prolific phishing schemes targeting law firms and their clients – ranging from individuals to corporations to non-profits. These phishing schemes are unfortunately working so it does not look like they will go away any time soon.

Nathan explained how a phishing scheme works and then pointed out several ways to spot one of these phishing emails. Several administrators in the room were familiar with this popular technique so Nathan is not kidding when he warns of the dangers out there.

Phishing works something like this: A hacker will spoof the email of the managing partner or CEO (the information is readily available on the website of most companies). The hacker then sends an email to someone in the accounting department (this information is not usually available on a company’s website but it is easily obtained with a phone call or even social media mining). The “CEO” (hacker) asks the accounting person to make a wire transfer and does so in a way that makes it seem like an urgent request.  The recipient of such a request could very easily fall victim to this sort of scam unless they knew what to look for.

Nathan pointed out that many times, there are misspellings in these requests or the fake CEO does not sound like him or herself. (An administrator in the audience shared she received such a request from her managing partner to wire money and the email started with “Hey.”  Even though they frequently make wire transfers, she immediately knew this did not come from her managing partner because he would never in a million years greet someone with “hey.”)

It is details like this that can tip us off to a fake email request. Nathan reminded us several times to “take a breath” when getting these emails. Yes, we and our accounting people want to make sure our CEOs and Managing Partners are kept happy but we also need to take a breath and make sure what we are doing is in response to an actual, legitimate request.

It also helps when law firms and corporations have solid check and balance systems that the recipient can fall back on in order to avert a potential disaster.

Nathan also pointed out that aside from the details of the body of the email, the real address of the email sender can be uncovered with a few minutes of detective work. Either hover over the email address to see the real sender or even click on reply to see where the email is being sent. In addition, check the “mailto:” address in the sender’s address to see the real sender.

Of course, all of these tips mean we have to slow down, “take a breath” and take the time to verify information. Considering the alternative, it is definitely well worth the extra few minutes.

One last bit of scary information on the phishing scheme is, apparently, the hackers are starting to spoof emails from scanners. We always have to be on our toes!

One solution Nathan and Misty suggested using to educate and test our staff is called “KnowBe4” which is a program IT staff can use to emulate a phishing scheme and send to the firm. The education part comes after people click on the fake email. Oops!

Nathan and Misty talked about other security threats such as websites being hacked. There are tools to use to check if a website has been compromised such as checking a site status through “Google Safe Browsing.”

It was an exhausting seminar only because it was packed with great information and, frankly, it takes a lot out of a person to be scared!

Thankfully, there were raffle prizes given out at the end so that made us all feel a little bit better. Especially the winners (which included me!).

Many thanks to Nathan Johanson, President of Terrapin, and Misty Quaintance, Terrapin Technical Director, for helping keep our systems safe and us on our toes! Oh, and, of course, thank you for the fabulous gift card!


Survey Says

Survey Says!

One of my favorite aspects of being an SVALA member (aside from the friendships, great educational programs and fun events) is the ability to email other members to find out how to solve a particular law firm problem.

As legal administrators we are doing the best job possible in making our firms efficient and productive. Each of us brings a variety of skills as well as varying years of experience and we are all facing similar challenges in our firms.

When an SVALA member wants to see how another firm solved a particular problem it is as simple as sending out an email. This may not work with other chapters but we are fortunate in that this is a group filled with members willing to share what has worked for us (and what hasn’t).

This space will share those email questions and a compilation of the answers in our new feature called, of course, “Survey Says!”

Keep those questions going out to the membership and then be sure to check this space for the results.

We have had a few questions lately which are outlined below:

Dress Code (Always a popular topic, especially during the summer.)

Question: How does your firm handle piercings, tattoos and hair color in your dress codes/personal appearance policies and, also, how do you enforce the policies?

Survey Says: Four people responded that their firm has a policy requiring professional appearance but does not specifically prohibit tattoos, etc. A person can be told to cover their tattoos based on the general professional appearance policy.

One responded that their firm’s policy states “visible tattoos and body piercings are generally unacceptable.”

One responded that they believe their firm requires everything to be covered.


Question: Would you let me know if you use a particular app or other software product to transfer client related text messages from an iPhone or droid to a PC (in order to save them into iManage)?  We find ourselves communicating more and more with clients via text message and really want to be able to save them in iManage as part of the client communication record for our files. Thank you.

Survey Says: Interestingly enough, the one firm I heard back from recommended the product I found online as a tool.  There is a $25 program called iMazing for getting text msgs, voicemails, voice memos, etc. off of iPhones. It lets you export them to text files or PDF (if you want to capture pictures too) and then you could easily import that file into eDocs, iManage, etc. For Android devices there are free APPs that can be downloaded on the phone to get text messages (SMS) off a phone.

July 4 Holiday.

Question: I was wondering what everyone is planning on doing with the 4th of July holiday (it’s on a Tuesday) this year. Is anyone closing Monday, the 3rd too?

Survey Says: Of the responders: Five firms will be closed both the 3rd and the 4th; four will close early on the 3rd and be closed the 4th and two will just be closed on 4th.

Thanks to everyone who sent out a survey and to those who responded!






ALA Conference Recap: Penny Stauffer

We found our snow bunny!

While Karen Wilhelmi was looking forward to a bit of snow at her first-time conference experience and Cindy Snook was absolutely not (but shared a few tips anyway), Ken Sockolov was decidedly neutral on the matter (but enjoyed the session on ethics and some good food and wine).

Enter the snow bunny: Penny was actually excited about the snowy, cold weather in Denver!

Penny shares her conference experience with us:

Joelle, Tammie, Penny (l-r)

I found the conference to be the same in some ways and different in others, but overall good. Some of the sessions that dealt with “Leadership Improvement” were much like the usual thing, so I tried to steer more toward some new material (or at least new to me).

I went to two sessions by the same speaker that dealt with handling difficult employees that offered reminders of the do’s and don’ts of what we should and should not do from an HR perspective and the second session dealt with ADA and ADAAA (ADA Act Amendments) training which was really good and she was a fantastic speaker!

Another session that I found different and interesting was “How to Tell Someone is Lying.” This was fascinating as the speaker works with law enforcement and FBI for a living. She used video clips of interviews to show us ways to detect “deceitfulness; someone who may be withholding information; and flat out not telling the truth.” It was very interesting and interactive…I wish it had been a longer session.

Tammie, Joelle, Penny (l-r)

Of course, I always attend a leadership session even if it’s not particularly updated and the one I attended was at least interactive and the speaker was inviting.  The last session of the last day was probably my favorite. The subject matter wasn’t anything new, but the speaker and the material were very good. This session was how to be engaging and effective during presentations. He gave fantastic tips on winning over distracted audiences and making your power point presentation interesting. So good! And, I must say when a speaker can captivate you in the last session on the last day of a conference…he’s pretty darn good!

Photo by Joelle Stone

I notice a new theme emerging at this conference. There was a lot about diversity with a noticeable emphasis on Transgender issues and inclusion. There were sessions on the subject and a larger general session with a Transgender speaker. The general session was very good and I think eye-opening for everyone. Regardless of independent opinions on this issue, at some point we all will need to become educated on this level of integration.

I personally loved the weather!!

Many thanks to Penny for sharing her enthusiasm for the snow (which, by the way, I completely share!) and her ALA Annual Conference and Expo experience!

While I don’t think there will be snow at the conference next year (is there snow in Maryland in May?) the event should be another good one. Information about future conferences can be found here.

Also, if you want to “attend” the Annual Conference this year, you can do so by signing up for the Virtual Conference Sessions and enjoy a session or two while basking in our summer sun!  




ALA Conference Recap: Ken Sockolov

The ALA Annual Conference and Expo may have taken place last month but the lessons and inspiration continue to rejuvenate our local administrators!

Last week, Karen Wilhelmi shared her first-time attendee experience and Cindy Snook shared a few tips she learned from her favorite sessions.

Today, Ken Sockolov, Chief Operating Officer for Boutin Jones, shares his perspective of the recent conference:

Snow in April!

It’s always good to get away from the daily task of putting out fires and checking chores off the list, giving me time to put some thought to those items that aren’t at the top of current priorities.  Additionally, the annual conference gives one perspective on which topics are currently hot in the legal industry and lets you discuss those topics with others outside of your own organization.  The ALA Annual Conference assists in that with Idea Exchanges between firms of like-size, as well as having educational sessions on various topics.  I really like that.  If nothing else, it’s wonderful to hear that others have the same problems with trying to go paperless, addressing succession planning, and keeping up with constant technology changes. The breadth of educational topics is one of the most appealing aspects of these conferences.

My favorite session of the conference was one of the talks which accompany open sessions that include all attendees.  A professor for the University of Virginia, Mary Gentile PhD, gave us her insights on addressing ethics in the work place.  Her take on trying to “teach” ethical behavior lies somewhere between “that’s a good idea” and “most people recognize an ethical question when they see it.”

Photo by Ken Sockolov

Dr. Gentile tells a story about a business school graduate who, while interviewing for a job, was asked if they taught ethics at his school.  He replied, “Yes.”  The follow-up question was about what he learned in the class.  He (the student) replied that there were various theories of ethics (think, Aristotle, Plato, et al), and that you need to know them in order for you to choose the one to apply in a given situation . . . That is, know which one to use as an excuse for not doing the right thing!

So, if learning about ethics isn’t necessary or very useful, what can you teach?  Dr. Gentile has put together a program that helps people move past awareness and analysis to action when they run into ethical issues in the workplace, training them to think about how to put forward their objections when they occur.  Without going into detail, Giving Voice to Values gives you a map of who to talk to, how much to push, or what to expect.

Rather than teaching you about ethics, she wants people to know how to advance ethical behavior.

Aside from the educational aspects, I was only slightly disappointed that there was no live music at this conference.  While we expect to spend hours (days) in sessions educating ourselves, the wind down after a day of speeches and classes is really welcome.  At least the wine and food were plentiful.

Many thanks to Ken for sharing not only his conference experience with us but another snow picture!

Information about future conferences can be found here and, while there are no conferences planned for Hawaii in the near future (sigh), the 2018 Conference will be held in National Harbor, Maryland. (Check out the photos from the resort and convention center website – the location looks fantastic!)  

Also, if you were not able to attend the Annual Conference this year but don’t want to miss out on some of the sessions, please visit the link to the Virtual Conference Sessions. What a great way to keep current on what our fellow administrators have been learning!