Sunday, April 18, 2010

Paralegal Profile: Vanessa Lozzi

Thanks to Vanessa Lozzi of Clinton Twp, Michigan for taking the time to answer The Paralegal Mentor's Thirteen Questions! I'm looking forward to visiting with Vanessa when I speak at the Annual Day of Education of the Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section of the State Bar of Michigan on May 7th.

1. Where do you work and what is your job title? I work as a Senior Paralegal for Flagstar Bank at its headquarters in Troy, Michigan.

2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? After college I was debating on whether or not I wanted to go to law school. I decided that starting with paralegal school was a cheaper and faster way to determine if I really wanted to pursue a career in the legal field. Once my training was complete and I started working in a law firm, I decided I was perfectly happy being a paralegal!

3. What is your favorite part of your job? My favorite part of the job is that I am always learning something new. I work in litigation and no two cases are ever exactly alike.

Depending on what the subject matter of the lawsuit is, you may have to learn about it. An example of this was an air pollution class action case my former employer was defending. The suit was filed against an oil recycling company and I had to learn all about the process of recycling oil, as well as all the environmental laws and rules. It was very interesting case and it gave me the chance to learn about an industry that I had no previous knowledge of.

4. What professional associations do you belong to? My professional associations include the Association of Litigation Support Professionals (ALSP) . Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association (DMBA) and the State Bar or Michigan Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section ( I am the current president of the Eastern Michigan ALSP chapter.

5. How has your membership benefited you? My professional memberships have been a wonderful asset to my professional career and to me personally.

I think that networking tends to be under rated, but it is such a powerful tool. Developing connections can lead to a future job, help with mentoring, establish friendships, build self confidence and allows for collaboration with colleagues.

Part of my reason for the original involvement with my first leadership position was to try and get over my fear of public speaking. Twelve years later I still have those butterflies in my stomach when it comes to public speaking, but everything else I have gained from my professional memberships has proved to be invaluable.

I am currently working on the planning of the SBM Annual Day of Education. The ALSP is hosting the Thursday evening networking event which is a Luau! We are very excited to participate in this annual event.

6. Do you have any professional certifications? Yes, I am a certified Summation Trainer.

7. What has been the highlight of your career? In the spring of 2007 I received the 'Distinguished Service Member' award from the DMBA for my volunteer work as the Paralegal Section Chair. The honor of being selected was itself special enough, but what made it all the more extraordinary was that I was the first (and still the only) paralegal to receive this award. It felt really great to be recognized for my volunteer work and efforts on behalf of the Paralegal Section!

8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? One word- Technology. We are surrounded by technology all day long and it is moving forward at an alarming pace.

It's been my experience that many attorneys are of the opinion that they went to law school to be a lawyer, not to understand technology. Therefore, it becomes the paralegal's job to understand technology to be able to adequately support the team you are working with.

Technology can include a wide variety of things such as webinars, software applications, electronic files and e-discovery. While the paralegal may not have to be a subject matter expert on all areas of technology, it is critical that at a minimum you are aware of the resources at your disposal and who to contact for help in any one or more of these areas. A paralegal who can provide the needed support and assistance will become an invaluable resource to the entire team.

9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? Yes...I love technology! I have set up a Linked In Profile and also have a Facebook page. I have yet to try Twitter but I plan to do so! I think social media is a great way to keep in touch with past and present colleagues. It is also a really great way to network and get introduced to people in your field. I have made several connections with people in my national professional association and being able to brainstorm with them about what their chapters are doing is awesome.

10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? I would suggest speaking with a college career counselor and also a handful of working paralegals to determine the best fit for your personality and the area of law you want to work in.

I think this is an area that is commonly overlooked and is really a large part of your career choice. For example, if you chose to work in litigation your personality traits should include being able to work best under pressure, ability to handle a highly stressful environment, having a lifestyle that allows you to work in the evenings and weekends and an interest in technology.

Talking to paralegals in different areas of law will give you the real life perspective of what to expect in the workplace. Once you have selected the best fit, you can focus your classes and networking events around your chosen field.

11. Is there a quote that inspires you? One of my favorites is the Golden Rule: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. It's simple and to the point.

12. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? Pinpointing a 'single' event or person is really hard to do. There are so many events and people that helped me become the person I am today. But if I had to pick someone who was a significant influence on the development of my paralegal career it would be Linda Jevahirian. Linda is the Founder and President of Legal Search & Management. Her company offers legal placement and career consultation. She reached out to me at the very beginning of my career and has been an invaluable resource ever since I have had the privilege of meeting her. She was the person who encouraged me to take on a leadership role with the DMBA, has helped with my career path and consulted with me on several occasions. Linda is a prevalent figure in the Detroit paralegal community and by knowing her I was able to meet so many other colleagues. I am grateful for everything she has done to help me succeed.

13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Continuing education. We all know that the law is constantly changing and evolving. Keeping your skill set up to date is very important to the future of your career. Be sure to participate in things like webinars and lunch and learns. You can also subscribe to various paralegal magazines. Most paralegal associations also offer continuing educational opportunities. There are many resources out there for our profession so be sure to take advantage of them!

Bonus...just for fun question: If you had to be in any other profession other than a paralegal, what would it be? I would be a professional party planner for things like corporate events and fundraisers. I already know I enjoy doing this in my spare time on behalf of my professional associations, so to get paid for it would be wonderful!

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