Thanks to Jennifer MacDonnell for taking the time to answer The Paralegal Mentor’s Thirteen Questions! Jennifer is a Probate Paralegal at the law office of Kathleen D. Crane, Esq. in Torrence California. She is a 2009 Graduate of the ABA approved El Camino College Paralegal Studies Program, earning an Associates of Science Degree in Paralegal Studies and a Paralegal Certificate.
1. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? While I enjoyed a successful career in the restaurant industry, which spanned almost 20 years, I began to feel as if something was missing. I decided to go back to college so that I could reinvent my career path. I longed for a career that would provide me with daily challenges and allow me to offer a valued service to the public.
For many years, I would not allow myself to “think” that I had chosen the right career path because I wanted to be absolutely certain of that fact. It wasn’t until I started working solely as a probate paralegal that I realized I had, in fact, chosen the right career path. I thrive in the probate realm. I truly love the personal fulfillment that it gives me to help our clients with their legal issues.
2. What is your favorite part of your job? I simply love helping clients work through their Estate Plan or Post Death Administration. Estate Planning or the death of a loved one is difficult enough. I am very lucky to work for an attorney who not only shares my compassion for a client’s unfortunate situation, but honestly cares about the outcome, which I find creates a positive yet rewarding work atmosphere.
3. What professional associations do you belong to? I am an active member of the El Camino College Paralegal Advisory Committee, Committee Member of the Los Angeles Paralegal Association – South Bay Section, and a Mentor at The Paralegal Society.
4. How has your membership benefited you? I could say that my initial intent to join professional associations was primarily for my benefit, but it wasn’t. Early in my career I noticed that the paralegal profession lacked support. It was unfortunate. As a Mentor at The Paralegal Society, I now have the platform to help motivate and inspire paralegals all across the country. With the help of The Paralegal Society’s Founder, Jamie Collins, I have found my “writing” voice. I now love writing articles geared toward new paralegals. I really enjoy being able to help motivate and inspire their journey in the early stages of their legal careers. I find it very rewarding and personally fulfilling.
5. What has been the highlight of your career? I have been very fortunate to work with some very influential people in my career. One of them is Vi Pham, Paralegal Program Director at El Camino College. Together, in 2008, we developed the El Camino College Paralegal Club to provide an on-campus support system for future paralegals. I am proud to say that the club continues to provide students individual and group support with things such as drafting resumes, interview techniques, and job search tips.
6. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? Keep an open mind and remain humble throughout your daily interactions with clients, classmates, associations, and coworkers. As soon as a person begins to close their mind to new possibilities or becomes overconfident, the best and most interesting people, experiences or career opportunities will pass them by. I feel it is key to keep an open mind and be open to any opportunities that may come your way.
7. Is there a quote that inspires you? “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.” — Tom Brokaw
8. What advice would you give yourself if you met you as a first-year paralegal? It is okay that you don’t have any previous experience in the law profession.
Many first-year paralegals do not realize that they possess practical qualities that can be developed into indispensible law office work traits. As impossible as it might sound, you will find your own niche in the profession. Just be yourself and work to learn all you can as fast as you can!
9. What was your first job? My first job was at the young age of 14 working as a counter waitress at a local breakfast house. I continued to work in the restaurant industry for almost twenty years! It wasn’t until then that I decided to take a chance, complete college and make the career switch to the legal profession.
10. What is the best live concert you’ve ever attended? I have seen Heart two times at The Greek. Ann and Nancy Wilson performed a great rendition of “Love, Reign o’er Me” by The Who. Very memorable and unforgettable!
11. What sports team are you passionate about? The Kings! Hockey has been a passion of mine for quite awhile. Although I love watching the games on TV, I most enjoy going to the games at the Staples Center. There is no other feeling like the anticipation of the game, the feel of the cold air coming up off the ice, and watching an exciting game! Go Kings!
12. What time in the morning do you first check your email? Typically I get up early in the morning to peruse my personal email before work. If it is an emergency, I answer the email right away. Otherwise, I wait and group my responses and reply all at one time. At work, I check and respond to my email as soon as I walk in the door. My philosophy is that during the work week, work email is priority over personal email. In fact, unless I’m on a break, I don’t have the link to my personal email active at work.
13. What unusual item do you own? I own multiple lint rollers that are placed in different locations like my car, kitchen, desk drawer, and purse. My two cats love me so much, that they follow me everywhere I go – so does their hair!
Bonus Question: What fad do you regret being a part of? Wow, that’s an easy one. Anything involving the 80’s: big hair, neon earrings, WHAM!, turquoise eyeliner, and stirrup pants! Just embarrassing!