Monday, September 12, 2011

Paralegal Profile: Deb Elkins, ACP

Deb Elkins, ACP is a paralegal with Mesch, Clark  Rothschild, PC in Tucson where she specializes in Chapter 11 Bankruptcies. Deb attended the University of Arizona and has been a NALA Certified Paralegal since 1982. She received her ACP in 1993. Thanks, Deb!                               
1.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  I was attending the University of Arizona when a notice came around inviting students to participate in a graduate study attempting to identify a person’s career path.

I took the plunge and while I was majoring in German, Russian and Linquistics, the study indicated my path should be in law! Since my mother worked in the legal field and I was finding the UofA was not the path for me, I obtained a job in the legal department at the UofA and that was the beginning.

2.    What is your favorite part of your job?  Initially, I enjoy working with clients directly. That in and of itself, provides a much better understanding of the ultimate goal for that client. Then, achieving a successful result for our clients brings me a feeling of fulfillment knowing that a business will keep going forward, while keeping its employees working, and helping the economy in a positive way.

3.    What professional associations do you belong to?  I am proud to say I am an Honorary Lifetime Member of NALA! I have been a member, officer and director of the Tucson Paralegal Association since 1981, and I am an associate member of the Pima County Bar Association, serving as a Liaison to its Board of Directors.

4.    How has your membership benefited you?   Friendships, knowledge, encouragement, support, empowerment…and many more positives than I can think of at the moment. I have often referred to myself as a NALA Groupie and I say that with a big smile. I have learned how a Board can work together, discovered different forms of governance, met colleagues from around this country and outside this country, and shared thoughts and concerns.

5.    What has been the highlight of your career?  I have received more in the way of accolades then I believe I deserve, but to single one out is difficult. Being named a runner-up for Paralegal of the Year 2000 by Legal Assistant Today was definitely a highlight, but I believe serving on the NALA Certifying Board and the NALA Board of Directors gave me my biggest thrill of all.

6.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  Technology, technology, technology…without it, I could not perform my duties effectively. I have been lucky in that my firm is very concerned about keeping up with technology and has provided extensive training for all employees in all types of software programs, including utilizing features of common programs many of us did not know were available. I believe it is critical to not only know and understand laws and rules, but to also be able to utilize all available tools.

7.    If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be?  Study, learn as much as you can, sit for the CLA exam, get involved with your local association, ask questions, learn the technology developed for the legal field, and always remember that getting one’s foot in the door is the first step. After that, it is up to the individual how many stairs to climb to reach the ultimate goal and stick to it – keep going!

8.    Is there a quote that inspires you?  “Together we can do the extraordinary.” Mt. Olive Baptist Church on N. 4th Ave. These few words say so much.

9.     You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?  Actually, there are two persons: The first was an attorney in the first large firm I worked for. He took the time to teach me the fundamentals of commercial law when there were no schools providing paralegal education, and gave me the encouragement to push harder, to learn more, and to take on more responsibility. The second was an office administrator who nudged me into becoming involved with the local paralegal association and sent me to my first NALA Convention.

10.    What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting?  For me, learning about other areas of law through continuing legal education. Knowledge of other areas of law has enabled me to see the commonalities and parallels. As a commercial bankruptcy paralegal, I believe understanding many areas of law is critical as those other areas seem to come into play in the bankruptcy courts.

11.  What was your first car? A 1964 Ford Mustang – Yeeha!

12.What time in the morning do you first check your email? As soon as my computer comes up, I check my inbox, review the spam filter reports, and look for messages from clients. Also, because I perform the docketing task for our bankruptcy section, I have to have my email open at all times as we have mandatory electronic filing in the Arizona Bankruptcy Courts.

13. If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go? It would be 1995 on a dance floor in a country western bar doing a two-step with George. (Note to readers...Deb's wonderful George passed away a couple of years ago.)

Bonus Question:  I understand you make a mean Margarita. What's your secret? Really good tequila and fresh lime juice! (Note to readers...I have her recipe and think we should share it one of these days.)

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