I have been in the legal profession for nearly 25 years, serving in the Corporate Legal departments of several leading public companies such as Starbucks Coffee Company, Expedia.com, InfoSpace.com, Mosaix (acquired by Avaya Communications), Litton Industries (acquired by Northrop Grumman).
I was previously employed as a paralegal with the law firms of Lane Powell PC and Williams Kastner PLLC in Seattle, and also as the firms of Irell and Manella and Jones Day Reavis & Pogue in Los Angeles.
2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? While finishing my Bachelor’s degree at California State University, Northridge, I joined a Southern California law firm as part of their legal support staff, opening files and performing general office services duties.
I joined a second law firm a couple of years later as part of their law library team where I honed my skills as an online researcher, cite checker, patent prior art investigator and more. Those research skills transferred to an in-house corporate and law library position where I performed competitor intelligence gathering and monitored our peer companies for possible merger or acquisition candidates, being promoted to Assistant Corporate and Law Librarian. The Corporate Secretary took notice of my range of skills and offered me a position as a Corporate Paralegal.
I then obtained my paralegal certificate, with a Corporations specialization, in an ABA approved program.
3. What is your favorite part of your job? Like many experienced paralegals, I think that the combination of having a high degree of responsibility along with a good amount of independent self-direction is a great motivator to doing your personal best.
I have long enjoyed Corporate and Securities work as it is a very high profile practice area for most companies where you get to deal directly with the senior management and boards of directors. Additionally, many corporate paralegals are among the first people in their organizations to learn about major company events (possible acquisitions and divestitures, management changes, financial reporting and other material news) that may need to be reported publicly to the SEC on an 8-K, 10-K, or 10-Q, but such information must be kept strictly confidential (even from your fellow law department members) until it is publicly reported.
4. What professional associations do you belong to? I am a 16 year member of the Washington State Paralegal Association (WSPA) and am currently serving my second term as President of that association.
I am also a member of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), and the National Association of Stock Plan Professionals (NASPP). I also serve as a Community Advisory Board Member of the Edmonds Community College paralegal program, located a few miles north of Seattle.
5. How has your membership benefited you? I have been blessed to have met paralegals from all across the country. In my role as a representative of WSPA, I have spoken before paralegal student audiences at several local paralegal schools. My supervising attorneys frequently call on me for my input on continuing education and career development opportunities for my fellow paralegals.
6. Do you have any professional certifications? I passed the NFPA Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam and became a PACE Registered Paralegal in March, 2009.
7. What has been the highlight of your career? It is hard to pick out a single highlight so I will let your readers decide from a few milestones that are top of mind to me.
- In 2007 I was selected to be an Advisor to the Association of Corporate Counsel’s inaugural Paralegal Education track at “Corporate Counsel University” and help design some of the suggested courses. I was then invited to speak on two panels at CCU held in St. Louis, and invited back as a panelist at the 2008 conference held in San Francisco.
- I was honored to present the morning Keynote address at one of Chere Estrin’s Paralegal Super Conferences held in Atlanta in 2008 before a large audience.
- I was also humbled by being also profiled in Delmar/Cengage Learning’s Paralegal textbook “The Law of Corporations, and Other Business Organizations”, 5th ed., published in early 2009.
- At the NFPA Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon held in October 2009, I was honored to accept an award on behalf of WSPA as the local paralegal association that had passed the most PACE Registered Paralegals during 2009. This was recognition of both the success exhibited by our local paralegal association as well as the hard work of several contributors including our state PACE Ambassador, Laura Jordan.
8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? With somewhat mixed feelings, it appears that Bankruptcy work will continue to grow faster than other legal specialties well into 2010 as the US and the rest of the world gradually come out of the recession.
On the West Coast at least, Intellectual Property work has stayed relatively strong even through the economic downturn. Electronic discovery is growing in importance, even for those paralegals not working directly in litigation.
With more and more routine communications being done by email, instant messaging, and social media, it will be interesting to see how both contract law and employment law will be affected by changing practices. It certainly will be difficult to place a document hold or discovery request on someone’s personal Instant Messages that are not sent across a company network!
9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? Yes, I have long been a proponent of having a strong “Personal Brand” on the professional networking site, LinkedIn. You are only holding yourself back from future opportunities if you have a limited (or perhaps no) presence on the web.
10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? Join your local paralegal association and take an active role in making it a success! Recognize that your first paralegal position is not likely going to be your “dream job” and that you can learn something from every position that you hold, even if doesn’t seem like it at the time.
Give some serious thought as to what specialty area you already have strengths or an interest in, and don’t just accept any job because it is a paycheck. You will find that after working 3 -5 years in one specialty area will pretty much lock you into always working in that same area, as a shift to a new specialty would mean taking a step backwards.
11. Is there a quote that inspires you? Yes. I believe that small actions become habits, and eventually shape what you will become as a person. A quote that has long inspired me is “How am I going to live today in order to create the tomorrow I’m committed to?” – Tony Robbins.
12. You’ve enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? I’ve worked with some extremely bright and energetic attorneys and paralegals. It is hard to point to a single one as the source of my success.
I think that continually being challenged to do better, setting high standards, and being recognized for your contributions has been personally satisfying for me. Helping lift others up is very important to me personally.
Good managers understand the concept of Servant Leadership as espoused by Robert Greenleaf, and know that in order for them to be successful, they must first make sure that other people’s needs are being served. That is, while being served do those served grow as persons? Do they become healthier, wiser, more free, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?
13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Keep an inquisitive mind. Don’t be afraid to try new things even if that means occasionally being willing to fail in order to learn from your own mistakes. Remember that the difference between a .200 hitter playing in Double AA minor league baseball and a .300 hitter that is playing in the Major Leagues is that in ten at bats, the .300 hitter strikes out one less time!
Bonus…Just for Fun Fact: Soccer has been a central focus for my family for many years. All three of my children play or played Premier (year-around) Club soccer and High School soccer too. Youth tournaments have taken us to Sweden, Finland, France and Spain and made lifelong friends for kids and parents alike. While soccer was not a part of my own youth sports experience (I was on track and cross country teams), through my children’s many experiences, the sport has led to their increased self confidence and many friendships that would never have happened had we not traveled down that road. So too, participation in professional associations like NFPA and WSPA had led to many great friendships that I would not otherwise have had the pleasure to make!