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.