Mariana has my full respect for her accomplishments and the odds she has overcome. She and her husband and daughter emigrated from Ukraine in 1992. Although she had an engineering degree, her education was not enough to do that work in the US. Fortunately, she chose to study to be a paralegal. The rest is history.
When she joined the New York City Paralegal Association (NYCPA), she created a mentor program and then became a Board Member in 2008. That same year she was selected to be a member of the Advisory Board of the Institute of Paralegal Studies, SCPS, New York University...and in September 2009 assumed the presidency of NYCPA. Be sure to read her answers to the Thirteen Questions. She has great insight into the paralegal profession.
1. Where do you work and what is your job title? I am a real estate paralegal in New York, New York. I have been a paralegal for fourteen years. Before Blank Rome LLP, I was a real estate paralegal at Fried Frank LLP.
2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? I didn't choose my career as a paralegal. The profession 'chose' me. After arriving to the country, I was on a crossroad of what to do. My prior education was not enough to start to work in NYC and I was lost and torn between decisions.
In 1992, the majority of immigrants went to computer related programs or took classes in the medical fields. None of those were my choices.
A friend of mine gave me advice to open a job section of any local newspaper, closing eyes and pick an ad. He said that I should start to take classes related to the profession I picked and in a year I would know if the pick was a 'lucky one' or if I want something else. His point was that by taking my mind from 'what' I would have chance to settle and look around. As he put it 'you would buy a time'.
I did not follow his suggestion step by step, but went to a nearby college and picked the first brochure I saw in the admissions office. It was about paralegal profession. The line that stroked me was that by 2000 where would be 140% increase in paralegals. My thought was "Ok, at least, I have an advantage of a second language and some research skills." I started to take classes and fell in love with the field.
3. What is your favorite part of your job? I enjoy every part of my job. However, the best elements are having a high degree of responsibility and ability to work independently.
4. What professional associations do you belong to? I am a member of the New York City Paralegal Association, Inc. (NYCPA) and National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). Currently, I am a President of NYCPA and Mentor Program Chairperson. I am also a member of the Advisory Board of the Institute of Paralegal Studies, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, New York University.
5. How has your membership benefited you? There are many benefits from my membership, including, but not limited to continued education -- this is absolutely a must for our profession and I was able to attend different seminars that where provided through the association; networking -- in the past three years, I met more people than I met during my whole carrier as a paralegal; professional growth -- NYCPA provides me with opportunities for professional growth and development. In addition, as a representative of NYCPA, I have spoken before paralegal student audiences at several paralegal schools.
6. Do you have any professional certifications? No. However, I am looking into PACE, the NFPA Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam.
7. What has been the highlight of your career? It is hard to highlight one single event in my career. I believe that there are a series of accomplishments that have led me to where I am now:
* I was honored to accept a graduation 'diploma' on behalf of my class when I was graduating with my AAS in Legal Studies;8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? E-discovery and Virtual Paralegals. Both of them show that our dependence on technology will only increase and we need to keep our knowledge of technology up to date.
* I was hired as a legal assistant during my internship with Goldberg Sager & Associates;
* I received a number of Achievement Awards and Certificates of Appreciation while in school. My most precious one is The Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project's Certificate of Appreciation.
* Upon my completion of my BS degree in Legal Studies and after internship with the Corporate and Real Estate Departments at Fried Frank LLP, I was hired as a real estate paralegal;
* I joined the great team of Blank Rome LLP attorneys and paralegals in September 2003;
* Upon joining NYCPA, I was asked to create a mentor program. I became its chairperson and a Board Member in April 2008;
* I was selected to be a member of the Advisory Board of the Institute of Paralegal Studies, SCPS, New York University, in May 2008;
* In September 2009, I was elected as a President of NYCPA.
9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? I tried Facebook and Twitter, but didn't like any of them. I am a big supporter of LinkedIn and in addition to my profile (http://www.linkedin.com/in/marianafradman), I manage NYCPA's discussion group. I also contribute to other discussion groups I belong to on LinkedIn.
I believe that LinkedIn is a great tool for research, connections and professional growth. I joined a number of discussion groups and found a lot of information from questions and answers posted as well as articles shared by other participants that benefit my association and me. You are holding yourself back if you are not joining professional social media sites, but simply joining is not enough. You need to be active, 'visible' and contribute to your groups.
10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? If you are ready for a change, this field is for you. Be ready for a continued education. Never stop learning. Understand that your first job won't be your 'dream job', but will be your stepping stone. Join your local paralegal association and take an active role in it. Volunteer...pro bono opportunities are a great tool to learn new skills and give back to the community.
11. Is there a quote that inspires you? Life is truly a boomerang. What you give, you get back.~Dale Carnegie
12. You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? There are a number of people who contributed to my success as a paralegal. The list begins with the faculty of the Legal Studies Department at New York City College of Technology where I shaped my future as a paralegal. It continued with many great mentors I met during my carrier. I am sure that I will meet many more in the future as well.
13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Continue your education--never stop learning--never be satisfied with what you know; embrace change; believe in yourself!
Bonus--just for fun facts:
My husband, daughter and I arrived to the United States in January 1992. Today, I am a proud mother of three (two girls and a boy) and a grandma of two precious grandchildren. I have a four-year-old granddaughter and 20-month-old grandson.
Paralegal is my second profession. I was trained as a mechanical engineer and have BS in Engineering and Technology. I have 13 years of experience as an engineer, but don't regret that I never pursued it after I arrived.
My favorite hobby is knitting. I learned to knit in middle school. I tried my hands on different projects and, as per my family and friends, was very successful. My last project was a baby blanket for a friend of mine. Knitting helps me to relax and think.
Have you ever had to fake an accent? I don't have to (laugh)...I have one! I came from Ukraine at the age of 30. The professionals say that unless you have a musical ear, you can't lose your accent after age 16. I don't have a musical ear!