Monday, December 14, 2009

Paralegal Profile: Thirteen Questions for Sandra Hatch, CP

Sandra D. Hatch, CP of Portland OR has graciously submitted answers to The Paralegal Mentor's Thirteen Questions. She is a tireless promoter of the paralegal profession who heads the Pacific Northwest Paralegal Association (PNPA), an affiliate of NALA. Sandra received the 2009 NALA Affiliated Associations Outstanding Contributions Award for her work with PNPA. Most notable are Sandra's successful efforts to increase the membership of that association. Thanks, Sandra!

1. Where do you work and what is your job title? In July 2009 I celebrated my two year anniversary at Barran Liebman, LLP, a labor and employment law firm where I am a litigation paralegal.

2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? I grew up in a small town and worked as a receptionist/typist/file clerk at a local law firm while I was in high school (in the 1970s). I really enjoyed the experience. I knew I didn’t want to go to law school. The paralegal profession was really developing at that time and it seemed like a good career path.

3. What is your favorite part of your job? I love the investigation and piecing together the facts. It’s a combination of being a private investigator to discover the facts and a psychologist to attempt to determine motivation and perception of those facts. I have learned so much that has been beneficial to my personal life as well, such as dealing with insurance issues and conducting medical research.

4. What professional associations do you belong to? I currently belong to the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the Pacific Northwest Paralegal Association (PNPA), Oregon Women Lawyers, and Women in eDiscovery.

5. How has your membership benefited you? Whenever I lecture to paralegals or paralegal students, I encourage them to join a professional association and stress the importance of continuing education and networking. I have been blessed to find excellent role models and mentors and have gotten to know peers and legal vendors who have helped me professionally and personally throughout the years.

6. Do you have any professional certifications? I have been a NALA Certified Paralegal since January 1991.

7. What has been the highlight of your career? There are so many highlights that it’s hard to choose.

In the 1980s and 1990s the litigator I worked for “loaned” me to the American Association of Trial Lawyers and the Western Trial Lawyers Association to assist with the annual seminars, so I got to travel, attend educational events, meet movers and shakers in the industry, and learn event planning skills that I still use today.

The most recent highlight occurred this summer at the NALA Convention in San Diego when I received one of the 2009 Affiliates Awards and the 2009 Affiliated Associations Outstanding Contribution Award for my work with the Pacific Northwest Paralegal Association.

8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Mastering electronic discovery and computer forensics skills and virtual paralegalism.

9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? Yes, but just barely. I am mindful of personal information being posted out there in the ether, and I don’t have a lot of time to dabble.

10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? I am often asked this question and I advise people to:
  • research and evaluate paralegal degree programs carefully and understand the difference between degrees, certificates of completion, and being a certified paralegal;
  • to talk to several paralegals who work in the area of interest to learn what the job is really about;
  • to hone organizational, speaking, and writing skills;
  • to be prepared (especially in this economy) to start with an entry level position;
  • to learn how to handle difficult personalities (especially in litigation); and
  • to be prepared to work hard.
11. Is there a quote that inspires you? Yes, I’ve had personal experience with “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and have found it to be very true.

12. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? To my mother, from whom I inherited the strength of will, the desire to learn, and the social and professional skills that have contributed to my success and longevity in the field.

13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Remember that we should never stop learning and one should keep challenging oneself. We’ve seen so much specialization develop in the practice of law, there are a lot of practice areas to explore, so it’s fun to shake things up every once in a while and try something new.

Bonus…Just for Fun Fact: I have a unique sense of humor, I’m told, because I like The Far Side, Happy Bunny, Monty Python, and Eddie Izzard.

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