We recently had the chance to talk to John C. Goudie, the president of the Paralegal Association of Wisconsin. In this interview we discussed some of the activities involved in working as a litigation paralegal, the paralegal job market, and advice for getting started in the paralegal field.
Can you describe your career path to your current position?
I started my career in 1987 working for a small personal injury firm. I was hired primarily because I had a medical background and could read and interpret medical records. Prior to the days of HIPAA, you could go to a hospital and review medical charts without an authorization. My attorney would have me review the records of prospective clients to determine whether we were interested in handling the injury claim. While with that firm I began assisting the attorney who did the Workers Compensation cases. When she left, I went through the process of becoming licensed to appear before the Workers Compensation Division and then continued to represent injured workers with that firm for the next 14 years. When I left that firm, I worked for the staff counsel office in liability and injury insurance defense for approximately three years, then went back to a plaintiff’s firm and worked in the area of nursing home negligence and abuse for approximately three years. I then went to work for a health insurer in the area of Privacy and Regulatory Compliance, working as the paralegal for the group that would work with development projects for compliance with privacy and regulatory issues, as well as working on investigations dealing with foreign assets issues. My present position in health care law and corporate compliance is a composite of skills and experience obtained in all of the above. (more…)
We recently had the great opportunity to interview Kristine M. Custodio, the current president of the San Diego Paralegal Association. We discussed what it is like to work as a litigation paralegal, advice for getting started in the paralegal field, and the job market in San Diego for paralegals.
Can you tell us why you decided to become a paralegal?
I did not originally plan to become a paralegal. In 1998, I received a bachelor’s degree from the California State University Long Beach in Human Development with an emphasis in physical therapy and was planning to obtain my graduate degree in the field when my mother became ill. I returned to San Diego that same year where I succeeded my mother as the administrator to my family’s residential facility for adults with developmental disabilities. I am still involved with my family’s business to this day. (more…)
We were very fortunate to have an opportunity to interview the President of the South Florida Paralegal Association, Karen R. George, FRP. She shared some great insights into her work, interesting cases she has worked on, and advice for getting hired in the paralegal field.
Can you describe how you got started in the paralegal field?
I began working as a paralegal in approximately 1994 while working for a large medical malpractice defense firm in Miami, Florida. At the time, I was working as a word processing supervisor and the AIDS cases started coming into the firm. Kimberly Shapiro, Esq. was the attorney assigned to defend these cases against the local blood banks and PPTF (Physicians Trust Fund) which was financial/insurance end of the local public hospital – Jackson Memorial Hospital. Kim, her husband Judge Sidney Shapiro and I were friends and I was fortunate enough that Kim chose me to work with her on these new cases. After working on those cases for a while, I began a paralegal certificate class at Florida International University however, a large trial took me away to another county for an extended time and school got lost in the shuffle.
Can you give example of what a day at work might be like for you?
There is no set day for a paralegal. In my case, I can open my e-mail at the office, receive an e-mail that will send me anywhere for any amount of time. I could end up at the Court, at a hospital, at a client’s office, at one of our other offices, it could be anywhere. I could have a good day and be able to address what is in my in-box, discovery, motions, orders, research, it is difficult to know what is going to show up on a given day. Sometimes I end up translating from English to Spanish and vice-a-versa at some accident site. I wear many many hats as a paralegal for my firm. I am sorry I can’t be more specific.
Can you share an interesting case or project that you worked on in your career that is particularly memorable? (more…)
We had the great opportunity to interview David Couper who was formerly the Madison Wisconsin Chief of Police and has recently written his first book titled Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption, and the Seven Necessary Steps to Improve Our Nation’s Police. We discussed his career progression to chief of police, advice for new police recruits, and the importance of a college degree for law enforcement professionals.
Can you tell us why you decided to choose a career in law enforcement and how you got your first job in this field?
I go over this in my new book; the career path I took and how I was inadvertently preparing to lead a police department just like Madison. After high school (1956), I signed up for a tour in the Marines. I wanted to be an officer but knew that I needed to have a college degree. After my enlistment, I returned to my hometown, Minneapolis, and enrolled at the University of Minnesota. But I now had a wife and infant son and I needed a job, preferably at night, so I could attend classes at the university. That led me to seek a police job. There was an old saying that all you could do after a tour in the Marines was be a janitor or a cop. I was tired of swabbing decks.
What was your career path from when you started in law enforcement until you were promoted to Chief of Police?
My first job was as a patrolman in Edina, a suburb of Minneapolis. I was 21 years of age and could not apply to the Minneapolis department because the age of application was 23 at the time. (more…)
We recently interviewed Barbara Liss, the president of the Santa Barbara Paralegal Association. She shared some great insights into the variety of tasks that a paralegal career may involve, what it is like to work on a trial, and advice for new paralegals looking for their first position.
How did you get started in the paralegal field?
When I first moved to California in 1972, I managed the apartment building in which I lived. The owner liked me and hired me to work in his office; after reorganizing it in short order, he ran out of work to give me, so introduced me to a friend, who was an attorney, just starting up a general solo practice after having made a mid-life career change. We learned procedural work together. When he left solo practice to accept a position with a large, downtown Los Angeles firm, I accompanied him — it was the mid-1970’s and my title was then “legal secretary,” although much of what I did was paralegal work. Eventually, I took my first position as a paralegal, where the title was “pseudo-paralegal” because the firm was afraid to use the actual title.
After bouncing between legal secretary and legal assistant/paralegal jobs, I took the UCSB extension legal assistant program classes at night and acquired my certificate. When I started working in complex business trial litigation, I took the title “trial paralegal.” By the mid-1980’s word processing and secretarial work were more specifically the realm of legal secretaries and word processors while working with evidence, discovery and witnesses in preparation for and attending trial were more clearly defined as paralegal work assignments, the field in which I worked. After 35 years of prepping for and attending complex civil litigation trials in state and federal courts, I changed the direction of my career and transitioned into Wills, Trusts, Probate and Estate Administration work, where I currently practice and have done so for the past five years. (more…)
Jamie Collins generously agreed to participate in a paralegal career interview with us to share her experiences working as a paralegal at a personal injury law firm and her advice for being successful in this field. Jamie Collins is a litigation paralegal in Indiana with 14 years of experience and writes a column for the paralegal magazine KNOW. She is also the founder of The Paralegal Society, a mentorship and community site for paralegals.
Can you tell us why you chose to become a paralegal?
It was luck or fate, I’m not sure which. I interviewed at a small law firm on my birthday 14 years ago and landed my first legal job working as a part-time receptionist. They eventually offered to pay for a portion of my paralegal degree, so I took classes at a local college and worked three days per week. I continued to hone my paralegal skills and eventually, I was hired on full-time. I worked at that firm for 6 years and learned so much from the attorneys for whom I worked. It was an ideal fit for me.
I really enjoyed working in the paralegal realm and offering my expertise and skills to help people in their time of need. I really love what I do! I’m now fourteen years into my career and I still find it to be a challenging and extremely rewarding on a daily basis. Although luck or fate brought me into the legal profession, it is my passion for the paralegal field that keeps me here. I absolutely love it.
What was your experience like when attending college as a paralegal student?
I put the cart before the horse in the work/educational realm. I worked in a law firm for nearly two years prior to attending college to obtain my paralegal degree, so for me, it was a unique experience. I already knew much of what was being taught. It definitely made me a lot more confident as a paralegal student to already have a legal job and daily access to the “smart” attorneys I worked around if I had a question or needed to learn something new. I was more interested in learning all of the nuances of law because I knew the paralegal field was where I wanted to be. I enjoyed learning additional areas of law during my paralegal studies, but ultimately, realized I was already working in the area of law best suited for me: personal injury and wrongful death law. (more…)
Advice For Reaching A Leadership Position in Law Enforcement: Interview with Deputy Chief of Police Glenn Hoff
We had the great opportunity to speak with retired Deputy Chief Glenn Hoff from the Rochester Police Department in New York. Glenn is the founder of the law enforcement leadership website, Guardian Leadership, which provides an excellent resource for law enforcement professionals who are interested in career development and effective leadership skills.
1. Can you tell us how you got started in law enforcement and your career path to when you became a Deputy Chief of Police?
My start in law enforcement was almost accidental. It had not been an ambition of mine as I was growing up. After high school I went away to college and took a part-time job with campus security to make some money. I got to know some of the local police officers and security officers who were aspiring cops and they influenced me to take on law enforcement as a profession – which in the end became my avocation.
I began my career with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department as a part-time park Deputy. I graduated at the top of my academy class and was hired for the next full time road patrol class. I stayed with the Sheriff’s office for five years with assignments on the road patrol and CID warrant squad. I eventually transferred to the Rochester Police Department (RPD) because of better retirement benefits, promotional and specialized assignment opportunities. (more…)
Advice For Getting Your First Paralegal Job: An Interview with Lori Boris, President of the Minnesota Paralegal Association
We recently had the great opportunity to interview the president of the Minnesota Paralegal Association, Lori J. Boris, RP®, about what it is like to work as a paralegal and advice for individuals interested in starting a paralegal career. In the following interview President Boris shares excellent insights and advice on being successful in the paralegal field.
Can you tell us why you decided to become a paralegal and how you got started in your career?
I decided to become a paralegal in around 1995 when I realized that I had the capability to do a lot more substantive legal work than I was currently doing. I had been working as an LAA (f/k/a legal secretary) for about four years at that point. So I enrolled in an ABA-approved post-baccalaureate paralegal program here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area that enabled me to obtain my paralegal certificate in one year. After graduating, I was very fortunate to get a job within the firm where I worked as a paralegal in the labor and employment law department. That was in 1998, and I’ve been working as a litigation paralegal in various areas of law ever since.
Do law firms in Minnesota typically look for a specific college degree when hiring paralegals? Do you recommend any certifications? (more…)
We had the great privilege of talking with Gary Killam, President of the Florida Gang Investigators Association and experienced gang investigator from the state of Florida. President Killam shares his advice on how to improve your chances of becoming a gang investigator and great insights into what it is like to work in gang investigation.
Can you tell us how you got started in law enforcement and how you moved into a position as a gang investigator?
I have always wanted to be a police officer for as long as I can remember. I went to the academy and became an officer in 1980 and in 1986 I applied to criminal investigations as a general detective. While I was there working some of the cases we noticed there was a lot of gang activity. At the time in Broward County there was no talk of street gangs because we really didn’t have them. So I started collecting data, tracking the gangs, documenting the gangs, and based on the activity we were seeing and some of the people I was interviewing, I realized that we were starting to have a gang problem that was growing in our city. So I approached my boss and presented the documentation and said “I think we have a problem brewing. What are your thoughts on it?”. My boss said “You’re right, it looks like we have some issues brewing and I want you look into further”. So my responsibilities went from a general detective to a gang investigator at that time. As we continued to look into the problem, we realized the problem was bigger than we ever thought. The gangs had come into our area and were there to stay and the problem had evolved. Around 1990-91 we created what we called the multi-agency gang task force to bring all the agencies together so we could cross jurisdictional boundaries and work together to solve problems and that was an effective program that we started. Then the county partnered with Miami-Dade County, and that worked pretty well for us. So that’s how I got started working in gangs. (more…)
Ron Hampton, President of the East Coast Gang Investigator’s Association, and experienced detective in gang investigation took some time out of his busy schedule to share some great insights into a career as a gang investigator.
How did you get started in gang investigation and what was your career path to your current position?
I began my career as a New Jersey State Trooper in 1994 as a general duty road Trooper assigned to what we call a ‘Station’ or ‘Barracks.’ I was basically a uniformed Trooper whose responsibilities included what would be consistent with any regular police officer assigned to a patrol function. The New Jersey State Police is also comprised of a number of specialized sections, bureaus and units which handle responsibilities related to criminal investigations, emergency management functions, SWAT, etc. In 2002, I submitted a request to transfer to our Street Gang Unit (as it was known at that time) as a detective. I was accepted into the assignment and began my ‘new’ career. My initial training consisted of general gang awareness and recognition courses, advanced gang courses, etc. I also was detailed to attend and observe instructors in my unit who taught general gang recognition courses to the general public in order to prepare myself for the same task. My unit also conducted operational criminal investigations focused solely on criminal street gangs and their members as well as the collection of intelligence on gangs.
How much experience do police officers generally need in order to work in gang investigations?
As you can tell from my own path, I had no prior experience in gangs before being selected to the unit. I did serve previous to my gang unit assignment in a narcotics unit where I worked under cover and also conducted surface investigations of individuals/organizations involved in the sale of illicit drugs. This experience was invaluable when it came to conducting operational ‘gang’ investigations. Learning about street gangs and their culture, lingo, etc. was the challenging part. I have seen members of our organization transfer in from our uniformed ranks and do very well with no prior experience. What separates the good from the bad in terms of gang investigations is dedication to learning and understanding the gangs and their culture. Any half decent detective can conduct an investigation on anything/anyone. But to truly understand gangs, you have to look past the easy arrest for possession of drugs or weapons and look at their culture, leadership and structure. (more…)