Kai Ellis, ACP is a Litigation Paralegal at Aiwasian & Associates in Los Angeles, California where she specializes in litigation and insurance. Kai has a B.S. in Paralegal Studies from University of West Los Angeles (UWLA).
She has earned the ACP-Trial Practice and ACP-eDiscovery from NALA, as well as the State of Texas Department of Insurance Non-resident All-Lines Adjuster License. She is also an Adjunct professor in the ABA-Approved paralegal program at College of the Canyons, Valencia, CA.
1. What prompted you to choose a paralegal career? When I was pregnant with my first son, I worked as a temp receptionist in law firms in the Los Angeles area. I loved the environment so much that I wanted to become a legal secretary.
I spent a few years working at various office jobs and after one full year working was a secretary I started applying for legal secretary jobs. I was hired to be the secretary for a sole practitioner with a general civil practice that included real estate, corporations, and litigation. My first day on the job, I typed an Answer to Complaint using an IBM Selectric typewriter with 3 carbon copies on onion skin paper.
My boss was an amazing teacher and I loved the work and learned everything I could about every aspect of each part of the job. When, six years’ later, my boss wanted to devote more of his business towards business management, I moved on to a very large international law firm as a legal secretary for a partner, association, and paralegal. My first day on the job I realized that the paralegal I was working for was doing the same things I had been doing the week before.
I decided that the piece of paper mattered (this was long before California’s Business & Professions Code §6450). I set my mind to going to school to get my certificate. I enrolled in the University of West Los Angeles’s Paralegal Program and eventually, while working full time and being a single mother to a son with special needs, I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies, Cum Laude. I have never regretted my career choice and get the same thrill from the legal process today that I did when I worked as a receptionist all those years ago.
2. What is your favorite part of your job? I think my favorite part of the job is research, legal and, more importantly, factual where I use my logical abilities and life experience to “connect the dots.”
3. What professional associations do you belong to? Los Angeles Paralegal Association; Santa Clarita Valley Bar Association. I am also a member of the College of the Canyons’ Paralegal Advisory Committee and have been since the inception of the program.
4. How has your membership benefited you? I have been a member of LAPA on and off for almost 30 years and have witnessed tremendous changes in the profession and the people that make up the profession. Through my membership in LAPA, I have met many of the movers and shakers in the profession and stayed abreast of many of the changes as they occurred. LAPA has kept me up to date on job skills and where the profession is going. LAPA has also given me an opportunity to find my voice in helping the profession and my fellow paralegals.
I very much enjoy networking with other members of my profession and being a part of a professional organization.
As a member of the COC PAC, I have been able to play a small part in developing what is now an ABA-approved program. It is now giving me an opportunity to meet students and recent graduates and help take the profession into the future.
5. What has been the highlight of your career? There are a couple that come to mind. One was co-chairing LAPA’s 37th Annual October Conference. The event was a sell out with over 300 paid attendees and 18 speakers. Another was being ired to become an adjunct professor to teach civil litigation to the next generation of paralegals.
6. If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be? I would answer “go for it.” I love being a paralegal. Although for a longtime I wanted to go to law school and, in fact, started law school several times, being a paralegal is not necessarily a stepping stone towards being a lawyer. Paralegals use different skill sets. I would advise a prospective paralegal to join and participate in their local organization. Stay up to date about trends in the legal industry and the paralegal profession in particular. Keep current on technology. Listen to legal podcasts, read legal blogs, subscribe to professional newsletters and magazines. Be open to different areas of law and don’t allow yourself to be pegged as someone that will only do certain tasks. Be willing to answer the phones, copy the brief, and help out where needed. And my last bit of advice would be, enjoy it! This is a great career that can be very rewarding in many ways.
7. You’ve enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success? My first lawyer boss, Robert A. Lisnow. He hired me as a legal secretary trainee and actually trained me. Then, he let me fly.
8. What unusual item do you own? A collection of about 50 Barbies and as many 1:24 scale die cast NASCAR cars. They are all still in boxes and in plastic bins in my garage. Someday I will have them out on display!
9. What advice would you give yourself if you met you as a first-year paralegal? I would tell me, “Don’t sell yourself short.”
10. If you could not be a paralegal, what would be your dream job? I would love to own yarn shop/wine tasting room.
11. What is your favorite hobby? Knitting/Crocheting
12. Is there one thing in the world you wish you had the answer to? I’d like to know what it would take for every human being to treat every other person with kindness, dignity, and respect.
13. What fad do you regret being a part of? Smoking! I quit 7 years ago.
Bonus Question: If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go? I would go to where I could prevent my father’s death.