Thursday, August 25, 2011

Professional Profile: Andrea Schultz, CP

Andrea Schultz lives in Memphis, Tennessee where she works as a Senior Paralegal at Rice, Amundsen & Caperton, PLLC. 

Andrea has an A.A.S. in Paralegal Studies from Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis and earned her Certified Paralegal credential from NALA in 2010. She has been selected to be a member of NALA's 2011-12 LEAP Class.

1.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  I found myself job-hopping to increase my salary as an administrative assistant. I realized that my salary would top-out soon unless I went back to school and earned a degree or certification.

Once I started researching degrees, I found myself coming back to the paralegal studies program over and over again. I finally took the plunge and went back to school to earn my A.A.S in Paralegal Studies.

2.    What is your favorite part of your job?  Opposing Counsel’s discovery responses! To me, it is similar to a logic puzzle. I love finding inconsistencies in their discovery responses.

3.    What professional associations do you belong to?  NALA, Greater Memphis Paralegal Alliance, Tennessee Paralegal Association, Memphis Bar Association, and American Bar Association.

4.    How has your membership benefited you?   My NALA membership has provided me with the opportunity to meet paralegals from across the country who have similar career goals as me and these contacts have encouraged me to grow in my career.

5.    What has been the highlight of your career?  Earning my Certified Paralegal certification.

6.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  Virtual paralegal services and, of course, anything that touches on technology.

7.    If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be?  Do it! While there may be many paralegal openings available, in order to land a “sweet deal” you must be willing to stand out among your peers.

Put your whole heart into your career choice. Excel in your classes. Find a niche that you enjoy and be the “expert” paralegal on this topic. Make sure you connect with your local paralegal association. It will be an invaluable resource for networking and job advancement.

8.    Is there a quote that inspires you?  “What you do speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

9.     You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?  I cannot point to a single event or person. All success I have achieved is due to the encouragement of other professionals in this field, the tenacity instilled in me from my parents, and the support of my attorney, Nick Rice. Oh, and the forgiving nature of my husband and children over the years when I chose work over family!  

10.    What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting?  Never stop learning!

11. What's the worst gift you ever received? One Christmas when I was about 11 or 12, I kept telling my parents different things I wanted for Christmas. Eventually, my mother told me to stop telling her about gifts I wanted; they had already purchased my gift and it was a “big” one. You cannot imagine how many things I thought of that may be waiting for me under the tree! On Christmas morning, my parents made me close my eyes as they brought in my most amazing gift: an accordion. I wanted to cry.

12. What was your first job?  I worked at Showbiz Pizza (Chuck E. Cheese) in Kansas City, Missouri. One of my job duties was to dress up as Billy Bob for the children’s birthday parties!

13. What’s your favorite food?  Risotto! I had the opportunity to travel to Rome, Italy this past year. After I returned home, I realized that four of the five lunches I ordered while I was there were risotto - cheese risotto, herb risotto, and mushroom risotto. Yum.

Bonus Question: What website do you visit daily? The Pioneer Woman...her blog posts are very chatty and laid-back – it makes me wish we were friends in real life. I check out her other blog tabs occasionally, but I religiously follow her cooking blog. She has recently been signed with Food Network so I am eager to see what life is really like on her farm in Oklahoma.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Paralegal Careers: Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned

As I was working with a paralegal during a recent strategy session, she mentioned several times that she’s not where she wants to be in her career and she doesn’t see herself getting to "where you are”.

To get past this feeling of “not good enough” we worked on her specific concerns. She now has goals, a time line for her career, and an action plan – all of which suit her and no one else.

Still, her question made me think. How many other paralegals have similar thoughts? How many other paralegals let those thoughts hold them back?

It’s important to note that successful paralegals, me included, didn’t wake up one morning to a successful career. There are always tough times, everyone makes mistakes and — this is key — you learn from them.

Here’s a sampling of the frequent career mistakes I’ve seen over the years and the lessons learned from them:
  • Mistake: Comparing yourself to others.
Lesson Learned: You have no idea what’s going on with anyone else. You don’t know their personal circumstances, values, background, etc. Their journey isn’t yours. Stay focused on your career, your goals and your ambitions.
  • Mistake: Thinking you have to reach the same level as someone else. You want your career to be just like his/hers.
Lesson Learned: If they can do it, you can do it. However, there is no cookie cutter for career success. Success for one paralegal does not necessarily equate success for another. Don’t pattern yourself after anyone else. Instead, decide what you really want in the way of career success and develop your own pattern.
  • Mistake: Assuming you don’t “need” to belong to a professional association – you have all you can handle just with your job and your personal obligations.
Lesson Learned: Actually, you’re correct – you don’t “need” to belong to a professional association....unless you don’t think you need to network with other paralegals, keep up to date with the latest trends and systems, and know first-hand about changes in the law. The time you invest in a professional association (on the local, state and national level) will bring you immeasurable returns.
  • Mistake: Thinking someone else  or something else is holding you back from career success.
Lesson Learned: So you think your spouse, your boss, your family, where you live – you add anything here you want – won’t “let” you succeed? Wrong! In the end, it’s your career and you alone are responsible for its success. You have to set goals, make plans – and then forge ahead to make your career all you want it to be.
  • Mistake: Hesitating to write an article or speak at a seminar because the very thought frightens you.
Lesson Learned: Get over it! Moving out of your comfort zone is the best way to stretch and reach your potential. 

Everyone has second thoughts about writing an article – do you really have anything significant to say/know enough/have enough time? And everyone gets nervous when they speak before an audience.

Guess what? Everyone survives and they’re glad they took the risk. Writing and speaking are two of the most important steps toward career success.
  • Mistake: Hesitating to take a certification exam – no time, don’t “need” it, blah blah blah.  
Lesson Learned: Again, there’s nothing you “need” but when taking a certification exam moves you off the level playing field and sets you apart from other paralegals. It is also good for your ego and adds to your credibility.  

There are several other mistakes I’ve both made and witnessed I’m sure you can add your own to the list.

Remember: The mistake isn’t what’s important — it’s how and what you learn from it.

Your Challenge: Please leave a comment sharing what you’ve learned — it’s a great way to give back and help others while recognizing just how far you’ve come.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jacksonville Paralegals Help with Pro Bono Services

In this picture: Margaret Costa, Courtney Brown,
Heather Solanka, Pat Vail, Adam Edgecombe,
Hollyn Foster, Dana Weckler and Cathie Reid
Expansion has officially begun in the level of services provided to low-income senior citizens in Florida's Duval County.
Building on the current efforts of dedicated Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA), attorneys, paralegals and law school representatives met July 12 at the offices of Akerman Senterfitt to discuss plans for expanding services to low-income senior citizens in Northeast Florida.

The expansion in services will be modeled after the Military Reservists Wills and Advance Directives Pro Bono project that has been offered to Navy and Army reservists at local military facilities.

The Senior Citizen Wills and Advance Directives Pro Bono project will provide a two-day effort by the volunteers.
Day one will include a group information presentation to residents of a HUD-subsidized senior citizen residential center describing the purposes of advance directive documents: Durable power of attorney, health care surrogate designation, designation of preneed guardian, a living will and a simple will.
Day two will include an event at which interested seniors will meet with an attorney to execute the advance planning documents.
The goal of the two-part project will be to provide low-income senior citizens with complete legal services to explain, create and execute advance planning documents.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Paralegal Profile: Christine Wallace

Christine Wallace of Asheville, NC answers my Thirteen Questions this week.
Christine is a paralegal for solo practitioner David Gantt where she works exclusively in Workers' Compensation. She has previously worked in personal injury litigation, contract law, employment law and real estate litigation.  She also worked 8 years in Paris, France as an administrative assistant, proofreader/editor and conference organizer. This was a multi-faceted position, much like being a paralegal.       

1.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  My divorce attorney saw potential in me that I had never acknowledged.  He didn’t suggest a paralegal career, but simply asked me why I was wasting my life.  (He literally said “You’re one sharp cookie, why are you wasting your life?”) 

I had dropped out of high school, had two children, and was only 22 years old.  I think I chose to obtain my paralegal certificate in order to impress him.  He became my mentor and helped me advance my career in many ways.

2.    What is your favorite part of your job? Reviewing medical records, legal research and assisting with brief writing.   I also enjoy giving our clients with moral support during a very difficult time in their lives.  

3.    What has been the highlight of your career?  Founding the Asheville Area Paralegal Association (AAPA). It was my idea to create a professional organization for paralegals and legal assistants to network, share information, ideas, and to generally learn from each other. 

Unfortunately, I decided to leave the legal field about 6 months after the Association was formed to try my hand at a badly-timed real estate career.  But I was the one that got the rest of the Founding Members together and worked hard to generate interest in the legal community, including legal staff, attorneys, court reporters, court staff and judges.  

I know the AAPA would not be the well- respected organization it is today without the dedication and hard work of those individuals that took up the reins after I left.

4.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  E-discovery, environmental law and regulation of the Internet.

5.    If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be?  Get involved.  Get to know those outside your firm, both attorneys and their staff, get to know the people that work at the courthouses and get your name out in the community.  Most importantly, create and keep a life outside of work.

6.    What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting?  Read about legal issues that concern areas of law outside of your practice area.   Keep current about the issues that affect your area of law.

7.    Who would play you in a movie of your life? Drew Barrymore

8.    What electronic device can you not live without? Smartphone, but only because it has Internet and is more portable than a laptop.

9.    What unusual item do you own? A printing press from the 1700s, the kind that prints etchings.

10.     If you could not be a paralegal, what would be your dream job? A successful author or a forensic scientist.  The kind that works on dead and decomposing bodies. 

11.     What is the one thing you wish you were better at? Painting.   I have no talent in that area at all. A kindergartner paints better than I do.

12.     Strangest thing you ever ate? Duck feet!  I was in China and we were brought a plate of assorted appetizers (the noun, not the adjective) prior to our meal.  I thought it was pickled cabbage but the texture wasn’t quite right.  Someone asked the waiter what it was, and the waiter told us.  My colleague picked up the edge of one with chopsticks and it just fanned out.

13.      What word do you always have a problem spelling?  Thier.  :-)

Bonus Question: What time in the morning do you first check your email? Since I got my smart phone (Android) practically the moment I open my eyes and definitely before I roll out of bed.