Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Paralegal Profile: Deana M. Waters, ACP

Deana M. Waters, ACP, is employed by Cook Schuhmann & Groseclose, Inc., in Fairbanks, Alaska.

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History from the University of Montana-Missoula in 1995 and an Associate of Applied Science in Legal Assisting from the University of University of Montana College of Technology. She earned her CLA/CP credential from NALA in 2005 and her Advanced Paralegal Certification in Discovery, 2007

Thanks, Deana!


1. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  Shortly into my career as a teacher, I discovered I did not like teaching English and history.  I consulted with my alma mater’s career services.  Several vocational tests later, I decided to go back to school to become a paralegal.  This profession has “fit” so much better than teaching high school ever did.

2. What is your favorite part of your job?  Analyzing and organizing medical records and other documents, investigation, and preparing for trial.  I love to connect the dots and discover the patterns in records.

3. What professional associations do you belong to?   Fairbanks Association of Legal Assistants and NALA.

4. How has your membership benefited you?   Definitely the networking in both organizations.  I’ve taken calls locally and from other states asking about the rules, forms or procedures in our jurisdiction.

5. What has been the highlight of your career?  Being appointed to NALA’s Continuing Education Council in 2010.  I will be chairing the NALA Campus LIVE! committee this year.  Also being asked to teach in our local paralegal program, which I’ve done since 2006.

6. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  Paralegal education, legal technology and regulation.

7. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be?   Choose your school wisely.  It is very difficult to find a paralegal job with experience alone, so some kind of formal education is likely a necessity.  An online program may sound appealing, but will an employer recognize the program’s credentials?  Will the online credits transfer to an on-the-ground school? A quality education will take you farther than a quick or inexpensive one.  Emphasis your other skills, such as medical training, accounting or even construction experience, that may be valuable to employers (lawyers love 2-for-1 paralegals).

8. Is there a quote that inspires you?  “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire.

9.  You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?   My husband, Brian.  He supported my education when we were dating in college and has continued to do so as my career developed and grew.  I could never have studied for the CLA/CP exam or started teaching without him taking up the slack at home.  My mother also showed me that the circumstances we are raised in have no bearing whatsoever on our success.  One can strive for success or settle for mediocrity.

10. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting?  Keep learning.  Try a new practice area or take a class on a topic outside your experience.  The law is dynamic and ever-changing as society evolves.  Imagine how boring our profession would be if every issue was exactly like the one before….

11.  What makes you lose your patience?   Irresponsibility and lack of personal accountability in the work place, at home or in public service.  It can’t always be “someone else’s fault.”

12. What advice would you give yourself if you met you as a first-year paralegal?  Be more confident! Ask questions and seek guidance when you aren’t sure if you’re on the right track.  What you learned in school is only the foundation of what you need as a paralegal.  It’s OK to take extra time on a project to ensure you are producing quality work product until you become more experienced and comfortable in your job.

13. Is there one thing in the world you wish you had the answer to? What do dogs really dream about?

Bonus Question: Is there one gadget you can't live without? My semi-smart cell phone.

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