I showed up early on a Saturday morning, packed boxes and hustled. Before I knew it, they asked me to draft some letters to clients. When I did a good job and impressed them with my writing skills and work ethic, they hired me for a part time secretarial position. They also connected me with another attorney who needed part time secretarial help.
Before I knew it, the other attorney was training me to draft everything from initial family law pleadings to complex pretrial criminal motions. She became my mentor and I eventually began working for her full time in a paralegal role. She encouraged me to learn as much as I could about being a paralegal and she provided me with the space to do it.
2. What is your favorite part of your job? I found that I have a passion for people driven law like family and criminal, rather than paper driven law. I feel most at home with the social work aspect of my career. I am the conduit by which clients are able to communicate their fears, frustrations, anxieties and needs to their attorney. When I can be a patient and understanding ear for clients and help them get to a place where they can take a breath, calm down and be connected with the lawyer so they can receive the legal advice they need, I am at my best. My day is complete and I feel most fulfilled when I am able to help someone through one of the most difficult moments in their life.
3. What professional associations do you belong to? I am a member of NALS…the association for legal professionals.
4. How has your membership benefited you? NALS has provided me with opportunities for personal and professional growth and I cannot imagine my life without it. NALS is a top-notch legal professional organization that offers education, certification and networking.
At first, I joined because I wanted to be a member of the club. My friend was a member and she made it sound like a really fun place to be. Once I joined and began attending meetings, I learned just how right she was. The other members had “it” and I wanted “it.” Inspiration came to me at every meeting to obtain my certification and complete my degree in paralegal studies. Both of which, I did with the support of my local chapter. So many members of the association have become mentors to me and have helped me navigate challenging situations.
In addition to the countless continuing legal education credits I have earned, the certifications and degree I achieved, the opportunities to serve in local, state and national leadership roles, I have a built in network of cheerleaders and friends. I have become a cheerleader for the profession and others who want more from their careers and I would not enjoy the success I have today without NALS.
5. What has been the highlight of your career? I would say I have not yet had “the highlight” of my career. I was, however, honored to be awarded the NALS of Phoenix Award of Excellence in 2012. It was a proud moment for me.
6. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? Be prepared to work hard and take every opportunity. Attorneys and supervisors need to see you working hard to complete projects efficiently and completely. When they do, they will give you more opportunities and responsibilities to grow in your career.
7. Is there a quote that inspires you? “Think, Believe, Dream, Dare” by Walt Disney. I live this quote everyday as I think of ways to do things in my life better, believe in myself, dream the big dreams and dare to do them.
8. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Be the person who volunteers to do something you have never done before and be clear about your inexperience. There are opportunities where attorneys need extra help on projects that don’t have tight deadlines and they are willing to train someone who is willing to learn. Attorneys a d supervisors love people who show a willingness to learn and who take initiative. If you are available to assist with a project, tell them you have never done it before, but you are willing to give the project a try. This keeps your skills fresh and your mental acuity sharp, plus it makes the job interesting and allows you to develop marketable skills in other areas.
9. Who would play you in a movie of your life? For some reason, every time I look at this question Kathy Bates comes to mind. She seems to always play strong willed characters with an energetic, no-holds-barred, spitfire personality. That’s how I see myself, strong, self-assured, but a little rough around the edges.
10. What was the last movie you saw in the theater? Technically, this answer is Zero Dark Thirty. I say technically, because I attended the 2013 Best Picture Showcase and saw all nine Best-Picture nominees over two consecutive Saturdays. So, the day I saw Zero Dark Thirty, I also saw Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook. It was a great day.
11. What TV channel do you most often have on? I am a cultural sponge, so I am soaking up a ton of information from many sources. The History Channel and NatGeo rank among my favorites.
12. What song do you often sing to yourself? Three Little Birds by Bob Marley “…don’t worry, about a thing, ‘cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
13. Where do you like to go to have fun? Fun isn’t a place to me, it is a state of mind. As I do my work or take on new tasks and responsibilities, I try to remember the quote by Mary Poppins, “in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” However, I love Disneyland. It is the happiest place on Earth for me and has been for my entire life. My parents took our family to Disneyland every year at least once no matter our circumstances. Even if it meant my parents, my sister, brother and I had to scrimp and save or do extra jobs in the months leading to vacation, we always had that time to look forward to as a family. Since marrying my husband Derek, and gaining two bonus children, visiting Disneyland has renewed meaning for me as I share these traditions with my own family. We try to go several times a year and we have a blast.
Bonus Question: Is there a song lyric that best describes you or your philosophy on life? I have a playlist on my iPod titled “Big Picture.” So many of the songs on that playlist have a special meaning to me and they are all a part of my life philosophy. The song I most identify with is I Stand by Idina Menzel. The chorus is, “I stand for the power to change. I live for the perfect day. I love ‘til it hurts like crazy. I hope for a hero to save me. I stand for the strange and lonely. I believe there’s a better place. I don’t know if the sky is heaven, but I pray anyway.”