We lately interviewed Barbara Liss, the president of the Santa Barbara Paralegal Association. She shared some nice insights into the selection of duties that a paralegal profession might contain, what it’s wish to work on a trial, and recommendation for brand spanking new paralegals on the lookout for their first place.
How did you get began in the paralegal subject?
Once I first moved to California in 1972, I managed the condo constructing through which I lived. The proprietor appreciated me and employed me to work in his workplace; after reorganizing it briefly order, he ran out of work to offer me, so launched me to a pal, who was an lawyer, simply beginning up a common solo follow after having made a mid-life profession change. We discovered procedural work collectively. When he left solo follow to simply accept a place with a big, downtown Los Angeles agency, I accompanied him — it was the mid-1970’s and my title was then “legal secretary,” though a lot of what I did was paralegal work. Ultimately, I took my first place as a paralegal, the place the title was “pseudo-paralegal” as a result of the agency was afraid to make use of the precise title.
After bouncing between authorized secretary and authorized assistant/paralegal jobs, I took the UCSB extension authorized assistant program courses at night time and purchased my certificates. Once I began working in complicated enterprise trial litigation, I took the title “trial paralegal.” By the mid-1980’s phrase processing and secretarial work have been extra particularly the realm of authorized secretaries and phrase processors whereas working with proof, discovery and witnesses in preparation for and attending trial have been extra clearly outlined as paralegal work assignments, the area during which I labored. After 35 years of prepping for and attending complicated civil litigation trials in state and federal courts, I modified the course of my profession and transitioned into Wills, Trusts, Probate and Property Administration work, the place I presently follow and have accomplished so for the previous 5 years.
What do you want the most about working as a paralegal?
I’ve all the time been barely obsessive/compulsive and listening to the nuance and element of procedural work is satisfying for me. I typically examine the job of a paralegal to that of a stage supervisor of a play — we’re the people who make it possible for all the things goes ahead with no hitch, understanding the place the props are alleged to be and when, giving cues and decreasing the curtain at the applicable time. All the time wearing black, working behind the scenes, hardly observed, we guarantee the clean operating of the equipment of the manufacturing; crammed with the myriad particulars in a method that few are ever truely conscious. We have an effect on the consequence in a particularly vital means. We work in stealth, in typically unrecognized contributions which will seem small when taken individually, however which have monumental ripple impact in the combination. I achieve intrinsic satisfaction from the information that my work produces this profit.
Are you able to describe some of the important actions that you simply spend quite a bit of time on at work?
I at present work for a solo practitioner whose important focus is Wills, Trusts, Property Administration, Conservatorships and Actual Property. As a result of of this, my work is sort of various. Along with paralegal work, I’m the workplace administrator. I’ve an excellent deal of direct shopper contact and will probably be concerned in reassuring shoppers who’re burdened and in want of explanations about what to anticipate throughout the time we’re engaged on a matter for them. I evaluation, edit and finalize property plan paperwork and put together them for signing appointments. I’m additionally a notary public and act in that capability typically. I put together probate pleadings for courtroom submitting and talk with courtroom personnel immediately very often. I remedy issues and extra typically, give consideration to particulars to stop them from occuring in the first place.
When dealing with belief and property disputes for shoppers, I’m typically requested to draft pleadings, conduct authorized analysis and put together memoranda on numerous factual and authorized topics. I put together a lot of the correspondence that goes out of our workplace as nicely.
I supervise our assistant who handles our information, phone, reception and courtroom run duties.
I talk with and drawback clear up for our distributors, our bookkeeping employees and the tenants who lease area in our workplaces.
I additionally deal with some inner administrative duties, together with inputting of month-to-month prices and costs, protecting the pc system updated and creating pre-bills and shopper billing statements. When shoppers have questions with regard to their payments, I reply them.
Beforehand, as a posh enterprise litigation paralegal, my duties have been equally weighty. I used to be typically the one that met with potential new shoppers to interview and collect details, analyze them after which put together memoranda to recommend whether or not enough legal responsibility and damages existed to justify taking over a case. Working for a boutique workplace that specialised in complicated enterprise litigation, established case parameters made figuring out the sort of instances accepted by the workplace understood and straightforward to advocate or recommend to be declined.
Assigned as a member of a litigation staff to every case, I used to be on most from inception, though I used to be typically introduced onto particular instances inside the 100 days previous to trial, to prepared them. If concerned in early levels of litigation, I might take part in reality investigation, proof gathering, drafting of pleadings, interviewing witnesses, getting ready discovery, discovery responses, movement apply, meet and confer correspondence, disclosures required by federal apply guidelines, calendar supervision and deadline monitoring, and supporting pre-trial movement follow, corresponding to abstract judgment motions and their oppositions. I used to be given authorized analysis assignments and took part in drafting numerous pleadings.
I typically attended depositions, summarized transcripts and served as a case supervisor charged with establishing doc administration techniques for instances involving monumental volumes of paperwork. In the early days of doing this work, this was completed with guide methods, however later as computerized techniques and software program have been developed, we shifted to utilizing these as an alternative and I used to be educated in lots of of them.
I coordinated trial preparations, witness subpoena service and monitoring, trial e-book preparations, getting ready trial proof for introduction at trial and readying the information for transport to the courtroom. I coordinated with courtroom personnel, IT help and distributors for the preparation and presentation of demonstrative proof. I sat at counsel desk with the attorneys and took part in voir dire of potential jurors. I frolicked in courthouse restrooms to overhear juror conversations. I dragged bins of reveals and binders forwards and backwards between courthouses and automobiles and automobiles and rented areas throughout trials. I stayed up nights and marked deposition transcripts, referred to as witnesses by telephone; photocopied at Kinko’s at three in the morning. I sewed legal professionals’ pants once they cut up and organized for meals deliveries. I memorized information and guidelines of proof and deposition testimony, calling particulars to the consideration of my attorneys and pointing to web page and line references continually.
I labored 14 to 18 hour days, six days every week for months on finish at extremely lengthy trials for years. After the trials have been over, I labored with the attorneys to interview jurors, courtroom personnel and witnesses to study what might be discovered about the way to do it higher, in a different way. I rested briefly, then began another time.
Are you able to share an fascinating case that you simply labored on and what your position was?
The very first jury trial I labored on was Lumbermans v. Union Financial institution, a case that altered financial institution lending practices in California. Previous to that case, lender legal responsibility nearly didn’t exist and financial institution clientele have been in an unbalanced negotiating place when in search of loans and signing documentation with banking establishments. In consequence of that case, the burden shifted and monetary establishments turned much more accountable for disclosure of phrases and ensuing legal responsibility when getting into into lending transactions with their banking shoppers.
It was the first time I used to be permitted to enter the properly of the courtroom and sit at counsel desk — there was fairly just a little dialogue with the decide about it throughout the preliminary “housekeeping” motions and discussions, however the decide decided that I’d be helpful from a sensible standpoint, so I used to be granted permission to be allowed to “pass the bar.”
I tracked potential jurors throughout voir dire through the use of post-its on a authorized pad the place a hand drawn chart of the jury was sketched out, pulling off post-its as peremptory challenges have been exercised and scrawling new notes as replacements have been seated. I watched faces, physique language and reactions of the individuals of whom questions have been requested and people round them; I observed what the courtroom personnel did and the way they responded; I watched opposing counsel and their assistants. I took copious notes and reported the whole lot I noticed throughout breaks.
In 1980, documentary proof was organized and launched manually, in paper type. No computerized organizational techniques have been used. We didn’t challenge photographs, we introduced duplicate copies of every doc to every juror, to whom we gave particular person binders during which to maintain them.
The chain of proof was rigorously maintained so that every doc could possibly be authenticated by supply, creator and unaltered situation when introduced to the courtroom at time of trial. Duplicates have been hand Bates numbered and arranged chronologically, topically and by witness in binders and in unfastened manila information for presentation at trial. I labored with the courtroom clerk employees and opposing counsel in marking, introducing, and monitoring all proof.
I additionally stored monitor of witness subpoena standing, ran to phone cubicles in the hallways (no cell telephones but) and stored witnesses apprised of scheduling modifications; I communicated with the agency’s workplace to realize help of associates for analysis assignments and employees for reality analysis assist. I ran to the regulation library and made copies of instances and statutes (no laptop computer or web entry was then obtainable).
I coordinated with copy providers and professional witnesses, with distributors who offered enlargements of pictures and different demonstrative proof and made positive that every thing was the place it wanted to be when it wanted to be.
In the finish, I used to be the stage supervisor — the position I performed for each trial during which I participated from that point ahead.
What qualities or expertise do you assume are necessary for being profitable as a paralegal?
- Group, group, group!
- Study to not take it personally — acknowledge that no matter it’s, it’s often NOT about you (even when it looks like it’s).
- Roll with it — flexibility is a talent; study to stretch in addition to bend.
- Take care of your self and be self-aware; get as a lot sleep as you possibly can – being sharp takes mind cells!
- Study to separate your workplace relationships out of your private life; trench mentality can muddle your considering. Returning to the actual world after a trial is usually a shocker.
- Get it in writing! Don’t proceed until any and all directions are in writing, by way of letter, e-mail or publish it. In case you’re given verbal directions, affirm them in writing. This can show invaluable ought to any incongruity about what the task was come up.
- Proofreading – Don’t depend on spell verify to do the work–it doesn’t catch all the things! Print it out and skim it out loud. If it’s legalese or a authorized description, have a second set of eye on it in addition to your personal.
- Know your shopper – You’ll be able to’t shield/defend what you don’t know/perceive.
- Examine/double examine your deadlines. The very last thing you want or need is a missed deadline. When unsure, be conservative.
- All the time have a backup plan (particularly for actually necessary tasks). Nobody needs to listen to excuses, they solely need to hear your answer to the drawback.
- Discover a mentor from inside your personal ranks – we’re invaluable to at least one one other (after which when you’ve acquired your ft beneath you, be one to another person! Pay it ahead.)
What’s the outlook for paralegal jobs in the Santa Barbara space?
Santa Barbara has a small authorized group and typically discovering employment right here could be troublesome as a result of dwelling right here is so desireable and in demand. There was enlargement and contraction in step with extra macro financial circumstances and at current, I feel it’s more durable to seek out work right here than it may be in a bigger surroundings, corresponding to Los Angeles or San Francisco. As properly, there could be a provincial angle amongst some of the extra staid practices, that are reticent to supply substantive assignments to paralegals. Nevertheless, my expertise is that there are all the time those that are capable of set up confidence of their expertise, information and skills have confirmed themselves capable of forge a street by way of some of these attitudes and earn respect which interprets into job satisfaction and profession alternatives.
What ideas would you give to new paralegals for getting employed at a job they need?
Do some inward reflection with honesty and objectivity. Often, we’re our personal worst enemy and set our personal limitations earlier than anybody else does.
Quietude and endurance are troublesome however value it. Typically what you need is value ready for. However it typically doesn’t come to you — it’s a must to go after it.
Consideration to element, nuance and minutia could make all the distinction in the world. I don’t assume being anal/retentive is a nasty factor!
We thank President Liss for being so beneficiant with her time and sharing her story with us. To study extra a few profession in the paralegal subject see our paralegal profession middle.