Jamie Collins generously agreed to take part in a paralegal profession interview with us to share her experiences working as a paralegal at a private damage regulation agency and her recommendation for being profitable on this subject. Jamie Collins is a litigation paralegal in Indiana with 14 years of expertise and writes a column for the paralegal journal KNOW. She can also be the founder of The Paralegal Society, a mentorship and group website for paralegals.
Are you able to inform us why you selected to grow to be a paralegal?
It was luck or destiny, I’m unsure which. I interviewed at a small regulation agency on my birthday 14 years in the past and landed my first authorized job working as a part-time receptionist. They ultimately provided to pay for a portion of my paralegal diploma, so I took courses at an area school and labored three days per week. I continued to hone my paralegal expertise and ultimately, I used to be employed on full-time. I labored at that agency for six years and discovered a lot from the attorneys for whom I labored. It was a perfect match for me.
I actually loved working within the paralegal realm and providing my experience and expertise to assist individuals of their time of want. I actually love what I do! I’m now fourteen years into my profession and I nonetheless discover it to be a difficult and very rewarding each day. Though luck or destiny introduced me into the authorized career, it’s my ardour for the paralegal area that retains me right here. I completely like it.
What was your expertise like when attending school as a paralegal scholar?
I put the cart earlier than the horse within the work/instructional realm. I labored in a regulation agency for almost two years previous to attending school to acquire my paralegal diploma, so for me, it was a singular expertise. I already knew a lot of what was being taught. It undoubtedly made me much more assured as a paralegal scholar to have already got a authorized job and every day entry to the “smart” attorneys I labored round if I had a query or wanted to study one thing new. I used to be extra involved in studying all of the nuances of regulation as a result of I knew the paralegal area was the place I needed to be. I loved studying further areas of regulation throughout my paralegal research, however finally, realized I used to be already working within the space of regulation greatest fitted to me: private damage and wrongful dying regulation.
Are there any particular necessities to turn into a paralegal in Indiana or particular issues that regulation companies in Indiana search for in a robust candidate for a paralegal place?
Sadly, at this juncture, the State of Indiana (and almost your complete United States) doesn’t have any particular necessities for paralegals. This makes it troublesome for employers to evaluate candidates who market themselves as “paralegals” as a result of there isn’t any assurance of their precise on-the-job expertise, instructional background and former coaching within the paralegal subject. This additionally presents many points for different paralegals that want to be acknowledged as working professionals who possess specialised information and a selected talent set. I consider in time, issues will start to vary and licensure and/or certification will develop into extra prevalent.
I really feel that the majority companies search for paralegal candidates which might be high-energy people who work properly independently, are detail-oriented, possess essential considering expertise, are wonderful writers, personable communicators, have knowledgeable demeanor, and are intimately acquainted with authorized terminology, processes and methods, in addition to the trial guidelines. These traits are completely important for a paralegal candidate to achieve my opinion.
What duties or tasks do you take pleasure in engaged on probably the most at your regulation agency?
I benefit from the thrill of a superb trial. Whereas it may be exhausting to organize for a jury trial, additionally it is very fulfilling and exhilarating. If you put together for a trial, the case has a means of consuming you. You end up going with out lunch, with out dinner, with out sleep since you grow to be so immersed within the work or deep in thought concerning the case– and never since you “have to,” however as a result of your ideas are merely overriding your innate wishes to eat and sleep as you usually would. It’s very troublesome to observe tv or learn a guide when your thoughts is shifting one million miles an hour as you consider a case or technique. It is rather inspiring to know that you’re enjoying an important position to assist put together a shopper’s case for trial, their in the future in courtroom and one final consequence. It feels nice to know that you simply and your group gave the shopper every little thing you had to assist them attain a remaining consequence. I thrive within the litigation and trial realm. It’s my favourite half of working as a litigation paralegal.
Are you able to inform us about an fascinating case that you simply labored on and what your position was?
I might say one of my most fascinating instances was one which my agency took to trial. The case stemmed from private accidents a woman had sustained in a motorcar collision with a semi. I used to be extraordinarily concerned in all points of trial preparation for her case. I knew the small print of the case in and out. In reality, I spent almost six hours of my life driving this specific shopper round city to acquire new glasses and clothes that was appropriate for trial. I actually received to know her nicely throughout that point. She appeared to belief me greater than the attorneys as a result of of the time we had spent collectively.
At trial, throughout our opening assertion, she walked out of the courtroom and didn’t return. About thirty minutes later, I went to seek for her within the restroom and hallways, however to no avail. Ultimately, through the break for lunch, I discovered her sitting outdoors on a bench. She seemed to be in a daze (utterly checked out from actuality). She stored stating that she needed to go away and couldn’t return in. Clearly, not having a shopper sitting within the courtroom was going to current a serious drawback. Regardless of my greatest efforts, I used to be unable to speak her again up, so I needed to go notify our lead lawyer of the difficulty. We each walked again down to speak with her, however she remained in a dazed and confused state. Ultimately, it was decided that she was unfit to return to trial, so she left. The lead lawyer on this specific case is a trial legend and in his greater than 40 years of working towards regulation, he had by no means had a shopper stroll out throughout their very own trial. This was a primary. We had no concept if she would return for trial the subsequent day, however we definitely hoped she would. We proceeded ahead with trial that day with out our shopper current within the courtroom room.
The subsequent day, she confirmed up for the second day of trial. She appeared nice, was sporting the outfit we had bought, and appeared to be in good spirits. It seems she had spent the prior night within the hospital the place she acquired IV drugs. She actually nailed her testimony and issues have been again on monitor. We had an opportunity.
At a number of factors throughout trial, our main lawyer referred to as me as much as sit at counsel’s desk with him, so I might take copious notes. I might then go residence within the evenings to sort them up and ship them to him, so he might put together for the subsequent day of trial. It was very enjoyable to be so closely concerned with each facet of the trial. Clearly, sitting subsequent to a trial legend and aiding him is fairly cool too.
It was in that courtroom that I heard my first million greenback verdict learn. The shopper instantly burst into tears of happiness and hugged me and the attorneys, thanking us profusely. It was an outstanding feeling. We knew that we had ceaselessly modified her life, and in flip, the lives of her two younger daughters (one of whom had particular wants). It’s a case I’ll always remember as a result of of the problems we confronted and the million greenback verdict we obtained in spite them.
What recommendation would you give to new paralegals who need to attain a excessive degree of success within the paralegal area?
To leap proper in! Don’t be timid. Don’t be shy. Work to study as a lot as you possibly can as quick as you’ll be able to and encompass your self with sensible and profitable individuals. When you’re new to the authorized area, it may be very intimidating (particularly the attorneys), however do your greatest to beat any insecurities or private apprehension. Simply immerse your self within the career and see the place your passions lead you!
It’s crucial to keep in mind that the authorized world is a buffet, not a one course meal. In case you attempt a specific space of regulation and really feel it’s you’re not well-suited for it, attempt one thing else. In case you work for an enormous agency and don’t prefer it, attempt a small one. In case you don’t like doing protection work, attempt Plaintiff’s work. The authorized realm ought to really be checked out as a buffet. It’s all there for the taking; you merely should determine what appeals to you and go in that course.
I might additionally encourage new paralegals to succeed in out and community with different paralegals and attorneys. Create knowledgeable profile on LinkedIn. Be skilled with all of your feedback and make some buddies. You gained’t know anybody initially (nobody does) however be a part of a couple of paralegal teams, comply with some paralegal blogs, be a part of your native affiliation and/or the Nationwide Federal of Paralegal Associations, and mingle with these round you, so you’ll be able to start to determine a paralegal community. The authorized world might be very aggressive, and sometimes, unnecessarily so. It’s essential to work to construct a community with a view to obtain the very best degree of success throughout your profession.
So, don’t be intimidated and don’t be shy — simply leap proper in! You can begin your paralegal community in the present day, by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be your first LinkedIn connection too! Start to construct your paralegal community at this time.
What’s The Paralegal Society and the way can paralegals profit from visiting the web site?
The Paralegal Society™ is a social discussion board that I created to teach, encourage and encourage paralegals to pursue excellence for all paralegalkind. I assembled an outstanding staff of Mentors (and paralegal powerhouses) from all throughout the nation, together with: Karen George, FRP (Florida), Jennifer MacDonnell (California), Mariana Fradman, MBA (New York), Kathryn Gordon (Illinois), Ann Pettigrew (Texas), and our TPS Ambassador, Kelly Holdcraft, the Director of the Paralegal Program at Georgetown College.
Our mission at The Paralegal Society is to orchestrate a a lot wanted change within the social points of schooling, mentorship and camaraderie for paralegals all through the nation. Heck, we wish to assume of it as a full blown motion. For us, it’s a worthy endeavor and one we hope will perpetuate constructive change for the paralegal career. We’re prepared to provide again. We’ve a robust want to help our fellow paralegals within the quest for excellence.
On The Paralegal Society web site, you’ll find fascinating articles, glean useful info and profession ideas, ask questions and search recommendation from our staff of skilled paralegal mentors who will present help, steerage and help.
We even have a “social club” which is hosted on LinkedIn beneath the identical identify. It’s a very lively and enjoyable group of authorized minds, consisting of skilled paralegals and people with paralegal aspirations, together with college students. We share fascinating articles and talk about a spread of authorized subjects every day. Each of these assets (the weblog and our social membership) are invaluable assets for paralegals. In case you work in a small agency the place there aren’t many paralegals, you reside in a rural space otherwise you simply need to broaden your paralegal community, The Paralegal Society could be your lifeline! I actually hope you’ll take a look at our website and be a part of our efforts to make a constructive change within the paralegal career. We hope to see you “around!”
We thank Jamie Collins for being so beneficiant with her time and sharing her expertise and issues paralegals can do to excel of their careers. To study extra, go to our paralegal profession interviews and our info on a paralegal diploma, which give further details about easy methods to get began within the paralegal subject.