In my interview of Vice Chair Rhonda Andrew, Senior Litigation Paralegal at Keker & Van Nest, she shares her unique path to becoming a paralegal and the driving forces in her life: family, faith and a life of service.
I received my BA in Public Policy from Stanford and JD from Santa Clara University School of Law.
In high school, I attended a summer program in clinical psychology at Cornell University. During field visits at various juvenile detention facilities, I became intrigued by the novel methods used to get young people reengaged in the education process and become successful, productive members of society. As a result, I wanted to be a juvenile court judge and so I applied to law school.
Once there, I developed some other interests and realized that I could make a difference outside of my profession. After graduation, I took the bar exam but didn’t pass. Life went on and I decided to use my skillset to work as a law clerk, research assistant, and now paralegal.
As a senior trial paralegal, I maintain case files; assist with court filings and depositions; help to prepare cases for trial and arbitration; provide courtroom support during trials; and interface with court reporters, court staff and other vendors.
Advice for someone interested in a paraprofessional or legal career
There are many choices and areas of law for paraprofessionals outside of working in the criminal court system or in a large firm, as depicted in the media. It pays to network and talk with people and share your interests; you may discover a fit for you beyond your wildest dreams.
#1 skill that a paralegal needs
Organization. Our role is to assist attorneys in rendering the best possible service to our clients and help the various parts of the team gel together. Paralegals are expected to master where things are and ensure that case files are organized in such a way that people with different learning styles can find what they need. Communicating clearly and concisely in writing and verbally is also paramount.
What to avoid
Don’t drop the ball, miss deadlines, waste time, lose documents or miss details. You don’t ever want your attorneys to look silly in court because they don’t have what they need.
There are three: my mother, without whom there is no me in every sense of the word; my grandmother, with whom I had a very strong bond; and commitment to a life of service.
It has been said, “Service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy on earth.” I have remained very active in a public service organization that I joined in college 27 years ago, where I learned many of the skills that I have today.
Recipe for sanity
My sanity derives from my faith journey. I am a Christian and quite active in my church community. I believe that God is my higher power and that I do nothing without him. My faith helps prevent me from being consumed by the stresses of work. When I take a moment to take a breath, utter a word of prayer or just be still for a moment, I can put things into perspective and see what really matters.