Hi Kira! Thank you for letting us interview you today. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I live in Frederick, Maryland. It’s a fast-growing town about an hour north of Washington, DC with a lot to do, but still a lot of small-town charm. I’m a single mom to a spunky 10-year old daughter. She’s a great kid and is definitely keeping me on my toes these days. We also have a German Shepherd mix at home. My daughter is still young enough that my hobbies tend to revolve around her hobbies. She loves to run and is on her 3rd year of Girls on the Run. We do a lot of running together now and we actually ran a 5k earlier this morning. We also both love to travel and I love to cook.
How did you get involved with the Paralegals Connect community?
A few years ago, I realized I didn’t have as many paralegals to connect with as I would have liked. I went looking on Facebook to see if there were any networking groups and Paralegals Connect popped up. I loved it right away. It’s a great place to be able to ask questions and get new perspectives on some of the issues you deal with in the industry. There’s no need for each of us to be reinventing the wheel when we can be benefitting from shared knowledge. The group has really helped me grow and learn a lot.
About 18 months ago, Crystal Cornett, the Paralegals Connect founder, posted looking for new admins to help run the groups. I jumped at the opportunity and I am so glad I did. The group has continued to grow so much. Our main group surpassed 10k members this summer, which is pretty incredible! I’ve also been fortunate to develop a pretty great relationship with each of the other admins that help make these groups possible. It’s been a pretty great experience and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the Paralegals Connect community.
What made you want to be a paralegal?
Growing up, I always wanted to be an attorney. My family, of course, thought it was because I liked to argue. In reality, it’s always been the digging into a case that intrigued me. When I was little, I couldn’t get enough of books like Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown because I loved trying to look for the hidden clues and figure out what happened. I’ve always liked turning things on their head and looking at it from a new perspective. Now, it’s one of my favorite parts of litigation. I love getting lost in a pile of documents and following the breadcrumbs to figure out what really happened.
So, there’s always been that passion. Life took me a different route at first though. I had my daughter really young and dropped out of school for a bit to focus on supporting her. I was waitressing and barely making ends meet when I decided to go back to school. I was researching the available programs at my local community college when I realized they had an incredibly competitive Associate of Applied Science program in legal studies. As soon as I saw that, the rest was history.
Where did you go to school?
I went to Frederick Community College in Frederick, Maryland. Their legal studies program is amazing and a real front runner in our area. The program manager, Dr. Tracy Parker, cares so much about her students and the program. She became a mentor to me throughout my time at FCC and she really helped me become the paralegal I am today. She invited me back to serve on the advisory committee for the program, which has been a real honor. The program has grown a lot and I love the direction it’s taking. There’s currently a certificate program, an associate degree program, and can be used as a pre-law program as a pathway to law school.
Recently with the support of the Maryland State Bar Foundation, the Circuit Court for Frederick County, Bar Association for Frederick County, and the Frederick Community College Foundation, the students participated in a year long grant funded program to improve access to justice for pro se litigants with family law cases.
Currently, I’m working on my bachelor’s in business administration at Frostburg State University. I’m attending one of their satellite campuses in Hagerstown, Maryland, which has made going back to school while working incredibly convenient. I plan to graduate in May 2020.
How are you balancing work, school and motherhood?
It gets chaotic, for sure, but time management is everything. I definitely have to live by a schedule to make it all work. I think one of the most important things is making sure I still set aside family time and time for myself. You have to give yourself time to regroup, otherwise you’re going to be trying to pour from an empty cup. I’m also very fortunate to have a job that’s flexible, and a daughter that is an amazing help around the house.
Are you a certified paralegal?
No, not right now, but I’m considering starting the process after I complete my bachelor’s. I’ve always been conflicted on whether I should get certified as it isn’t a requirement in the field and most firms tend to focus on experience. As I mentioned though, the field is rapidly evolving so I’d like to stay competitive. I think it would also help keep me proactive on keeping up with trends and taking my CLEs. And besides, who doesn’t want a chance to add a couple extra letters after their name?
Have you thought about going to law school?
I have! Hasn’t everyone in the legal industry? But I honestly don’t know what route I want to take. I love law, but right now, I love the role that I fill as a paralegal. Our industry is also rapidly evolving. Some states are starting to allow non-lawyers that are licensed as legal technicians advise clients on less abstract legal issues. I think this is a great shift. There are a lot of people that need help navigating the courts and understanding the process, but the size of their case doesn’t justify hiring an expensive lawyer. It’s really created a hole within the judicial process, and I think limited license legal technicians are an excellent solution. This is a shift that I’m following and if Maryland follows suit, I would love to become licensed. Anything that makes legal assistance more available to the average person is a win to me.
What is your favorite part about being a paralegal?
Seeing our clients win. I work in litigation, where the cases can be long, expensive, and exhausting. The entire process can get overwhelming at times for the client. Anyone in litigation knows that watching that pendulum shift back and forth during litigation and trial is certainly not for the faint of heart. So, there is nothing better than seeing a client’s face when a verdict comes back in their favor. It makes all the long hours that were put into the case worth it.
I also mentioned earlier how much I love digging through the documents of a case to figure out the full story. Cases always start so abstract. It’s invigorating to watch it start to come together as a solid case and argument. I’m a researcher by nature, so I love digging to see what else we can find to add to the case.
Do you have a least favorite part?
There’s always going to be days that require repetitive work, such as drafting 20 different subpoenas or formatting a mountain of documents for a discovery deadline. Those days aren’t my favorite, but I still respect that they are an important part of the job.
Is there any advice that you would give to anyone just starting out in the field?
Never stop learning! There is so much information out there that can be used to further your career. Network with the people in your field, read blogs, read all the cases at your firm, take CLEs, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You should always be focused on growing and improving as a professional.
If you’re having trouble finding a job as a paralegal, I always recommend taking time to volunteer at a local legal aid. Primarily, because I think it’s always great to give back. You have this education now and if you can use it to help others, then that’s pretty great. But, also it helps add experience to your resume and allows you to network within your community.