Friday, March 5, 2010

Paralegal Profile: Thirteen Questions for Ann L. Atkinson, ACP

1. Where do you work and what is your job title? I am employed by the national law firm of Kutak Rock LLP in Omaha, Nebraska where I am an Advanced Certified Paralegal in the public finance department.

2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? It just happened. My background is in business education, but after graduating from college, I took a part-time job at a small law firm and found that I loved the legal environment. Several years later (after the kids were in school) I started my first full time job with another law firm. When I interviewed for the position, the paralegal field was just in its infancy, but I knew then that was what I wanted to do. Like many others in this time period, I learned by doing. After several years, I was promoted to be the public finance department's paralegal. That is the job I still have today, and I still love it.

3. What is your favorite part of your job? I love working on a transaction from start to finish. An added bonus is the opportunity I have to travel to closings all over the country. Not only do I get to facilitate the closings, but I get to know the people involved. I have developed many friendships solely because of those contacts.

4. What professional associations do you belong to? Nebraska Paralegal Association (NePA), National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Association of Bond Lawyers (NABL).

5. How has your membership benefited you? Membership in each of these associations has provided me with the opportunity to grow and develop as a paralegal and as a leader. As with my job, the networking with other members of these associations is invaluable

6. Do you have any professional certifications? Certified Paralegal and Advanced Certified Paralegal (Contract Administration)

7. What has been the highlight of your career? Being selected to serve, and serving, on the legal assistant committee of the National Association of Bond Lawyers. That opportunity provided me with the chance to help other public finance paralegals learn how to assist their attorneys and also to educate attorneys how to work with paralegals. Those experiences gave me the confidence to become active in NePA and NALA.

8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Current technology (including the use of social media) and knowing how to put that knowledge to the best possible use. Virtual assistants.

9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? Keeping up with technology is something I strive to do, so last year (after attending a CLE session on social media), I joined LinkedIn. Unfortunately, I have not done much other than posting my profile. The downside is that most, if not all, firms discourage keeping up with postings on social media while on the job.

10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? I would recommend finding employment in a law firm or a law department in any available position for the purpose of getting first-hand experience in the legal environment. If still interested in this field, then getting a paralegal certificate from an ABA-approved paralegal school, as well as a bachelor's degree. As soon after graduation as is possible, take the CLA/CP. In addition to education, the current employers like to see prior experience on the resume. For that reason only, I would strongly recommend, if possible, continuing to work in a law firm or law department at least part-time while going to school.

11. Is there a quote that inspires you? I have a number of quotes that I like, but this is my favorite. It is taped to my computer. "People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care."

12. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? The single most important person is John Wagner, the attorney I have worked with since I began working at the law firm. He continually gave me opportunities to learn more about public finance by giving me projects that were more paralegal tasks than secretarial. If it were not for his trust and willingness to share his knowledge with me, I would not be where I am today. He never sees limitations on what I can learn or accomplish and always supports me.

13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Actually several things. Continue to learn, to read, and to keep up with technology. Be open minded. Be willing to go the extra mile. Volunteer for association activities.

Bonus...Just for Fun Fact: I grew up on a farm in rural Nebraska and actually went to a one-room schoolhouse for a couple of years. We made the move to 'town' (pop. 260) when I was 8. I met my husband in high school...I was his last choice for a date for prom. The rest is history. . .

1 comment:

Tara said...

Nice interview; I'm a legal VA and it's encouraging and validating to hear that VAs are a "hot trend" as mentioned in this interview!