Monday, February 20, 2012

Paralegal Profile: Linda McGrath-Cruz, ACP, FRP

Thanks to Linda McGrath-Cruz, ACP, FRP of Miami, FL for taking the time to answer The Paralegal Mentor's Thirteen Questions!

Linda is a Paralegal with Arnstein & Lehr, LLP. in Miami where she specializes in Litigation - discovery and trial practice. She works primarily in the field of products liability and wrongful death defense. She has her Paralegal Certificate and Bachelors Degree in Legal Studies from Barry University. She has also taken numerous advanced paralegal NALA and e-discovery courses through The Paralegal Knowledge Institute in addition to countless other continuing education courses.
1.    What prompted you to choose a paralegal career?  I was always interested in the legal field but I never wanted to be an attorney. I had no desire to be “running the show.”

I knew that being a paralegal was a job that I could turn into a fantastic career if I dedicated myself to it. I saw endless possibilities and knew I could really make it my own.
2.    What is your favorite part of your job?  Well, I consider myself a problem solver and I like to find creative and out of the box ways to solve problems or issues that other people haven’t considered.

There really is no shortage of issues to resolve in litigation. I also love the challenge of fact finding through investigation and discovery. I really enjoy being a part of the team and playing my role in finding information and solving problems. I am so lucky to work with a wonderful group of attorneys and support staff, I really couldn’t ask for a better team.

3.    What professional associations do you belong to?  I belong to the Dade County Bar Association (DCBA) and was the inaugural vice-chair for their Florida Registered Paralegal Committee. This year, I have the honor of being the chair of that same committee. I am on the advisory panel for the Paralegal Knowledge Institute which provides an educational and networking community for paralegals. I am also registered with the Florida Bar - non-lawyers are technically not members but have a bar number and have access to the member website and member benefits.

4.    How has your membership benefited you?   My involvement with the Florida Bar and the DCBA has added significant value to my “professional profile”. I believe that it reflects my desire to continue my professional development and adds to the fact that I consider this a professional career and not just a job that is a hop, skip and jump away from becoming a lawyer.

It is an honor to be involved with two very prestigious organizations which only started allowing non-attorney participation in recent years. The networking opportunities and quality of CLE programs through the DCBA are bar none.

Also, being associated with the Paralegal Knowledge Institute has allowed me to take numerous educational courses which have increased my value as a paralegal. It has also allowed me to explore my interest in getting more involved with publishing and educating others.

5.    What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry?  E-Discovery! Anyone who isn’t learning about e-discovery at this point is going to be behind right out of the gate. It’s a hot topic right now and is only getting hotter. Even if your office isn’t currently involved in e-discovery, the odds are that they will be in the future and anything you can do to advance your own value and skill is a big plus.

6.    If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? Do your homework and know what you are getting in to. You should make sure to research your local market to see what employers are looking for as far as experience, education and/or certification. Please don’t sign up with the first “school” looking to make a quick buck and think you will be making top dollar the week after you graduate. You also need to have reasonable and clear expectations as far as the availability of jobs and salary range for new paralegals to avoid a nasty surprise later on. It is a wonderful and very rewarding career, but it is a lot of hard work and requires dedication.

7.    What makes you lose your patience? Oh gosh, this is a loaded question. Instead of telling you what makes me lose my patience, I will instead offer this advice:
If you ask a question pay attention to the answer - take notes if you need to, clarify if necessary and ask follow up or related questions.  Don’t come back later and ask the exact same question as if the prior conversation had never happened.

If you want to ask someone to do you a favor, make sure you have fully thought it through and know what you want before you ask it. If you aren’t sure, make that known when you ask for the favor so the person has the whole story. If someone is going out on a limb for you, make sure you aren’t wasting their time.

8.    You've enjoyed a successful paralegal career.  To what single event or person do you attribute that success?  I absolutely attribute my success to the lessons my family taught me – especially my mom and dad, sister and husband – sorry I can’t pick just one!

They taught me to dream big and always aspire to be my best, to never let obstacles stand in my way, and to be myself. They taught me that the things you want are not just going to fall into your lap, if you want to accomplish something, hard work and dedication is the best way to go about it. They also taught me to be independent and that I should always help myself before asking others for help. I am the person that I am today because of my family.

9.    What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? I can kind of sum it up by saying “get involved!” The easiest way to lose interest is to be stagnant. If you really want to spice up your career, attend networking events, join a paralegal group or local bar association, write an article, be a mentor, continue your education. You should never stop learning.

10. What was the last movie you saw in the theater? Shark Night 3D – I am a crazed fan of cheesy ‘horror’ flicks. My husband, who is much less of a fan, took me to see it the morning of my last out of town trip for work. It was his idea, so I know he still loves me despite my love of cheesy movies and occasional out of town work trips!

11. If you could not be a paralegal, what would be your dream job? Well, I love to cook and it has always been a dream of mine to own a restaurant. It would be a home-style comfort food type of place and probably not the kind of place to go if you’re watching your calories. I’ve also dreamed of owning a doggie-daycare type of business. Really random, I know. So, if I ever hit the powerball (I don’t actually play the lotto so don’t expect this any time soon) be on the lookout for a dog friendly home-style restaurant. You can enjoy your meal while your furry friends romp next door!

12. What college classes did you love?  I really loved art and philosophy. As an elective, I took an art course where we actually created art – as opposed to an art history type of course. To be clear, I have no artistic talent to speak of and none of the art that I created would ever be hung on the wall of any sane person. However, I had such a fantastic time and have really fond memories of those classes. I also took several philosophy classes and really enjoyed them - I found them intriguing.

13.  Do you have any paralegal certifications? I am an Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) through NALA and a Florida Registered Paralegal (FRP) through the Florida Bar. I also plan to take the Certified eDiscovery Professional (CeDP) exam in the near future.

Bonus Question: What unusual item do you own? I actually don’t think I own anything at all that is unusual. I am owned, however, by three unusual dogs. They aren’t items although they are generally fixtures around my feet.

My three dogs are a breed called the Chinese Crested. Two of them are hairless, and one of them is a powder puff.  Generally, people I encounter have never heard of this breed but most people have seen them before and just don’t realize it. The winners of quite a number of ugly dog competitions are generally a Chinese Crested mix, and they have had parts in more than a few movies. My three boys would never win an ugly dog competition, and as any good mom would, I think they are gorgeous!

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