Paralegal Profile: Heidi Helstrom, CP

This profile of Heidi Helstrom, CP must begin with Congratulations! Heidi was named 2016 Paralegal of the Year by the San Antonio Paralegal Association and the Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas as they celebrated Paralegal Day on October 19th.

Heidi Helstrom, CP is a Family Law Paralegal at the Tessmer Law Firm, P.L.L.C. in San Antonio, Texas. She has an  AA in Paralegal Technology from an ABA accredited college, as well as a Paralegal Certificate from the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA). She has been NALA Certified since 2010.

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heidi-helstromWhat prompted you to choose a paralegal career? I’ve always been fascinated by the law. In my high school government class we participated in mock trial, I was the defense attorney.  I won and I was hooked ever  since. But back then, 1982, a women’s first thought wasn’t, “I think I’ll go to  law  school and become a lawyer.” Back then I remember my step-mother telling me  that, “as long as you can type and have shorthand skills, you’ll always have a job.”  After high school my goal was to become a legal secretary.

What is your favorite part of your job? My favorite part of my job is helping families at one of the most stressful times in their lives.

What professional associations do you belong to? I belong to NALA – National Association of Legal Assistants, SAPA – San Antonio Paralegal  Association, PD – Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas, SABA  – San  Antonio Bar Association, Family Law Section of the SABA, BCWB – Bexar  County Women’s Bar Association, and The College of the State Bar of Texas.

How has your membership benefited you? My memberships have benefited me by providing a lot of networking and volunteering opportunities. I thoroughly enjoy being around other members  of the  legal community. This has  been  a very  rewarding part of my profession. I’ve  learned so much from other paralegals, lawyers, Judges and other members of the  legal community.

What has been the highlight of your career? The highlight of my career was when I was chosen to be the FIRST paralegal appointed to the Family Law Section of SABA Advisory Board. It is an honor to  know that the lawyers of this organization value the ideas, thoughts and suggestions  of all paralegals enough to appoint one on their board.

What do you see as hot trends in the paralegal industry? The hot trend that I see is anything that has to do with technology.

If someone contemplating a paralegal career asked you for career advice, what would your answer be?   Please go out and find an area of the law that you love and are proud to be a part of.   Being a paralegal is so diverse.  There is an area of law that fits everyone.  One of my very first jobs was working for Wright, Lindsey and Jennings in Little Rock, AR. They are a litigation and transactional law firm. While employed there I was working on contract interpretation. I was so bored. I had very little client contact and I did not feel challenged. It was after working for them that I realized that the area of law that I loved was Family Law.  I call it my passion.  All my friends and co-workers say that the reason why I love it so much is because there is no shortage of drama.  I would disagree with them. I love helping families and that is what Family Law is all about.

Is there a quote that inspires you? “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

You’ve enjoyed a successful paralegal career. To what single event or person do you attribute that success?   When I began working at Tessmer Law Firm, Ms. Tessmer’s practice was heavy on the subrogation side. When I was hired, I didn’t even know what subrogation was.  After my interview, I learned that she also practiced family law and estate planning. My goal was to be able to assist her in those areas. Family law was the area that I really wanted to focus on. After working with Ms. Tessmer for a few months she initiated a large billboard campaign that mainly focused on the area of family law.  The billboards promoting her statement of, “Ever Argue with a Woman?” were the beginning of an enormous amount of new family law clients. It was then that I began assisting her in that area by itself.  Together we have become very successful in helping a large amount of families that needed us and required our help.

I was also the first paralegal that Ms. Tessmer had ever hired who was certified by NALA.  In order to maintain my certification, I need to attend seminars and obtain CLE. Ms. Tessmer is always willing to allocate funds and allow me the time off to do that. Ms. Tessmer has always supported me in every aspect of my career and I know that without her support and encouragement I would not be the paralegal that I am today. Not only is she my boss but she is my friend. She is by far one of the people that I attribute to my success.

What is the most important step a paralegal can take to keep his or her career interesting? Work in the area of law that you love, one that makes you happy.  We spend the majority of our life at work, more than with our families or at home. I am of the mindset that I need to love and be passionate about the one thing that I spend the majority of my day/life doing.  I also encourage you to continue educating yourself. The law changes daily and if you want to succeed in your career you need to be aware of those changes.

What was your first job? I am a military air force brat.  We had a program called summer hire that gave all the teens jobs during the summer. These were the jobs I had my first summers living in Italy and England after age 13,

  • Golf course groundskeeper, that was back when you watered the green by moving and connecting pipes, I learned how to drive a tractor that year;
  • Base Gym, worked in the office checking out equipment and was a scorekeeper for softball; and
  • Various office jobs. They finally realized that this girl can type and has shorthand skills, maybe we should put her in an office.
  • I also babysat and bagged groceries at the commissary.

What sports team are you passionate about? San Antonio Spurs

If you could not be a paralegal, what would be your dream job? I am an excellent researcher and investigator. My dream job, if I wasn’t a paralegal, would be a Private Investigator.

Is there one thing in the world you wish you had the answer to? I wish I had the answer to Autism. My middle daughter, Heather, she is 24, is autistic.  I have always wished I could, for one day, see life through her eyes to feel experience and see what she does. Being the mom of an autistic child was a very exhausting, frustrating, although rewarding experience, but being the mom of an autistic adult has been one of the biggest challenges of my life.

What college classes did you love? Legal Research and Legal Writing.

You’ve been given the chance to have dinner with anyone living or dead. Who is it? My mother and father who passed away when I was young.

What’s your most treasured possession or keepsake? My James Avery charm bracelet is my most treasured possession. It holds so many special memories.