1. Where do you work and what is your job title? I work as a paralegal/legal assistant in the family law division at the Law Firm of Dischell, Bartle, Yanoff & Dooley (DBYD) http://www.dbyd.com/ in Lansdale, PA.
2. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? Oddly, I stumbled into it. I was looking for something close to home in a family friendly environment (due to my son having severe asthma), and DBYD happened to be looking for a legal assistant in their family law division.
The attorney for whom I would prospectively be working, Dagmar Wolf, completely understood — her son also had severe asthma as a child, and we actually traded horror stories during my interview! She assured me that the firm would be very flexible with regard to this issue, and that the staff was also team oriented. I did find that to be true after I accepted the position (they called me the next day!), and it is true today.
3. What is your favorite part of your job? I really enjoy being a facilitator for the attorneys and for the clients. For example, I find that I am very good at breaking things down for the clients in a way that makes sense to them, and they are always very appreciative.
I also enjoy preparing the file for court and having the attorney come back and tell me what an advantage it gave him or her in court, psychologically and otherwise, to have well organized and concise information with all the supporting documentation right at their fingertips.
4. What professional associations do you belong to? The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), the Montgomery County Paralegal Association (MCPA), and the Bucks County Paralegal Association (BCPA). I am the current President of MCPA and co-chair of the Marketing Committee.
5. How has your membership benefited you? Where do I begin?! It is amazing what you learn about yourself when you step outside your comfort zone. I never imagined myself being part of the governing body of anything, never imagined myself as a marketer, yet here I am serving a second term as President and I raised enough money for the MCPA in 2009 — in a difficult economy — to establish both a scholarship fund and a reserve fund for the Association.
Of course, I didn’t do it alone, but I am amazed that I was actually part of that. It really boosts your confidence level, and you find yourself looking for more challenges on the job. And the firm definitely appreciates that! (Just check out the announcements in the website’s newsroom: http://www.dbyd.com/newsroom/ — the firm includes announcements about the paralegals as well as the attorneys!)
6. Do you have any professional certifications? I am a Pennsylvania Certified Paralegal — Pa.C.P.
7. What has been the highlight of your career? Well, serving as President of MCPA is certainly up there! In addition, I am pleased with my seminar, Organizational Concepts in Family Law Case File Management, which I presented in March 2009 and which DBYD was happy to sponsor.
8. What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? Technology, technology, technology! You can’t be afraid to learn something new, whether it’s the latest software program that your firm is converting to, online networking opportunities that might benefit you professionally, or getting on the internet to do the legal or other types of research that may be required to complete a job.
Several years ago, DBYD switched over to a state-of-the-art case management software program, and I was one of four individuals selected to attend the training program for purposes of helping to train in-house. I also maintain the forms in the system for my department.
It is these types of skills that give you that extra edge in the workplace. There is simply no end to how such things will continue to evolve, and we need to remain open to growing along with it all.
9. Have you dipped your toes in the social media waters? I did start a Facebook page for purposes of sharing updates and photos with my family, mainly because a large part of my family lives so far away. Also, MCPA is in the process of beginning a Facebook Group. I admit I still have a lot to learn in this area, and this is another thing I plan to focus more attention on once I pass the Presidential torch.
10. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? Join a paralegal association! The contacts you make, the advice you can get, the opportunities which may come your way are invaluable. And, as I said before, you will learn a lot about yourself.
11. Is there a quote that inspires you? Our bi-monthly newsletter, MCPA Today, includes a President’s Message on the front page. My first President’s Message began with my own version of a famous quote: “Ask not what your association can do for you, but what you can do for your association.”
I think that says a lot about me — I believe you get back ten-fold what you put into any endeavor. If you join an association just to have the privilege of listing that association on your resume, then that is all you are ever going to get in return for your annual dues.
If you join a committee, you have the opportunity to develop or improve a particular set of skills and you acquire a source of referrals. If you decide to serve on the Board of Directors, you expand your contact base and skill sets even more so. You’ll make new friends too — can’t have too many of those!
12. You’ve enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? Dagmar Wolf. Dagmar is the attorney for whom I work. She was quick to recognize my potential, and encouraged me every step of the way to pursue my paralegal certification, to become involved in the MCPA, and to take advantage of any opportunities that could help me to develop professionally — and keep me from becoming bored. She was the first person ever to point out to me that I am the type of person who constantly requires a new challenge. The fact that she understands this is one of the reasons we have worked successfully together for so long — 12 years as of February 4th.
13. What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Always look for the latest trends in your particular field, and try to learn everything you can about it. You should also take an interest in how your firm (or other employer) is evolving and do what you can to show that you are a team player and in it for the long haul.
Bonus…Just for Fun Fact: I love to crochet, and I practically mass produce baby blankets — someone is always expecting. More and more, I am making blankets for my friends who are expecting grandchildren rather than children — when did that happen?!