Here at The Paralegal Society, we like to feature our members. We have launched a new series entitled: “Sketches of Our Society,” which will provide you with an up close, personal and professional look at various paralegals, students, aspiring paralegals and other legal minds that make our society so great. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we do! Let the mingling begin…
SKETCH OF TPS MEMBER: Keith Slyter
HAILS FROM: Texas
How long have you been a paralegal, what is your current title and what are your area(s) of practice?
I have been a paralegal for 20 plus years. My current title is Partner and Senior Trial Consultant at VERDIX Legal LLC and Principal at Litigation Paralegals, LLC. My area of practice is complex commercial litigation, patent litigation and labor and employment litigation. Litigation, e-Discovery and Trial are my specialties.
Tell us about your educational background, i.e., did you attend “the school of learn or get fired” or a college? Also tell us about any paralegal associations you participate in, as well as any accolades or special honors you have received.
Two year ABA Approved Paralegal Studies Program at El Centro College in Dallas, TX. Transferred credits to the University of Texas at Dallas’ Economics program.
What made you become a paralegal?
I started out as a private investigator and moved into a paralegal role to help steer more investigative cases to the company. I eventually dropped my investigative license and pursued a legal career down the paralegal path with an eye toward law school and/or business.
Did you face any challenges in trying to become a paralegal? If so, how did you overcome that challenge, and what advice would you give to others facing that challenge now?
I really did not face any challenges in trying to become a paralegal, although being a male made some people do a double take. One attorney preferred to call me a Legal Assistant as Paralegal sounded too feminine to him. The traditional path to paralegal in the early days was as a legal secretary being promoted so the firm could bill their time for substantive legal work. I saw this as a way to get into the legal field without the major outlay for law school.
Being a paralegal often comes with a lot of stress. What’s your favorite way to handle the stress?
Exercise is the best way for me to handle stress. I am more stressed when I do not exercise regularly.
What are your secrets for being successful? In life? At work?
Many of the things I learned in Boy Scouts carry forward to this day. Probably the number one for work life is to BE PREPARED. Having grown up on a farm has also given me a solid work ethic.
What particular task in the paralegal world is your least favorite?
Calendaring and deposition summaries.
What particular task in the paralegal world is your favorite?
Going to trial is first and executing an e-Discovery plan is second.
If one of your good friends had to decide whether to become a paralegal or some other professional, what advice would you give? Why?
I would first ask them why. Many people have misperceptions about what the legal profession really is and what it entails. Hollywood paints a far different picture than reality. If they are interested in litigation and/or trial work, I make sure they understand the crazy hours they may encounter. Litigation and trial work is not 9-5 work. Sometimes it is, but when you are in the heat of battle…there are no sick days, planned trips will be missed and friends and family will wonder if you dropped off the face of the Earth.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever done as a paralegal?
The funniest was when I was a private investigator/paralegal. We served process of service on a person who was ducking service by using a fishing pole to drop the summons from the second story of a banking lobby. They were ticked off, but the judge indicated that it was proper service given the documented proof they were ducking service.
What’s the proudest moment that you’ve had as a paralegal?
Being featured on the cover of Know: The Magazine for Paralegals with my Mobile War Room.
What’s your craziest story stemming from your experience in the legal world?
Too many to narrow it down. Many people are fascinated by my investigative stories, especially cheating spouses and such. Camera placement and video footage obtained incriminating them got pretty crazy at times.
If you could do it all over again, what would you change, and why? What wouldn’t you change, and why wouldn’t you change it?
I would have gone to law school. I have left way too much money on the table by not practicing law. Many times I was doing the same work, just not getting paid as much for it.
If you were teaching a paralegal class in your area of practice, what would it be? Why is it so important?
I would teach something related to e-Discovery in litigation, like Litigation Project Management. There are so many players in the e-Discovery field that it is making it more complicated than it has to be. In reality, the software being used for e-Discovery is, or should be, secondary to Litigation Project Management.
What things have you learned about yourself over the years as a paralegal? How have you personally grown?
That sticking with something pays off. Turning over all 1,000 rocks in a field to find the 6 rocks that have treasure under them is a lesson I continue to learn every time I am turning over rocks to find “smoking gun” evidence.
What does The Paralegal Society mean to you? How have you, or how can you, benefit from being a member? Please share your thoughts with us!
Knowledge is power. I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge base while sharing my experience with others.
What are your three top professional goals at this time?
1. Become ACEDS and OLP certified in e-Discovery
2. Grow VERDIX Legal LLC to be THE company firms and companies contact for trial work
3. Grow Litigation Paralegals, LLC to be THE company firms and companies contact for On Demand Litigation Paralegal assistance and e-Discovery processing, review and production
What is the most difficult situation you’ve ever overcome (personal or paralegal)?
The most difficult situation both personal and as a paralegal is when my son was diagnosed with childhood cancer, Stage IV, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when he was 4 years 11 months old in 2008.
If your friends were to tell us about your worst quality(ies) what would it/they be?
Sometimes focusing too much on work.
If your friends were to tell us about your best quality(ies) what would it/they be?
That I am a really nice person and fun to be around.
What is your most life-defining “paralegal moment” to date?
Learning a new trial presentation software (Sanction II) 30 days before the start of trial, presenting at trial and figuring out how to fix it when the laptop crashed during the most crucial point in our presentation. I re-built the entire database and links over lunch and finished the presentation in the afternoon on a new laptop. We won the case and the client and jurors acknowledged that my calm demeanor and ability to focus and fix it was very impressive.
What are three unusual facts about you?
1. I was raised on a small dairy farm in Rose Creek, Minnesota (South of Minneapolis)
2. I was a private investigator and did dangerous undercover work when I was 18-20 years old.
3. I have a Mobile War Room (Mobile Litigation Command Center)
If you could choose any meal for your “final supper” here on planet earth, what would you choose? Is there a specific memory tied to your selection?
Steak, cake and corn on the cob with lots of butter. I love steak. White cake with white icing has always been my favorite. Think wedding cake. My great aunt made wedding cakes and she would make me one for my birthday every year. Corn on the cob smothered in butter is just delicious. Growing up on a farm gave us fresh corn and butter on a regular basis in the late summer and fall.
Very few people have never experienced a setback in life. What setback(s) or extenuating circumstance(s) have you dealt with in your life thus far and how did it/they make you stronger? What did you learn from them? How has it changed you?
To have a child with cancer changed my life in many ways. It is a heart wrenching experience that I would not wish on my worst enemy. It does make me appreciate more moments as they occur and it has made me take a step back and not take so many things for granted. I chronicled the ordeal at: www.caringbridge.org/visit/dylanslyter
Robert Fulghum wrote a book entitled “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.” If you were six years old, but had the same knowledge that you have now, what would you do differently?
First, I probably would not have lit that “ash snake” firework off under the teachers door. I would have read more and made more friends. Other than that, growing up on a farm for a boy was a pretty cool thing.
LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/keithslyter
Litigation Paralegals, LLC: http://litigationparalegals.net/
Verdix Legal, LLC: http://www.verdixlegal.com/
Digital War Room: http://digitalwarroom.com/
We’d like to extend a special thank you to Keith for being the first member of The Paralegal Society to share a “sketch” with us. We’re honored that we could feature a male paralegal first on our forum…and especially one who typed a portion of his responses in a mobile war room! (Kudos to all of the hardworking male paralegals out there!) Thanks again, Keith, for sharing a piece of yourself with the society. It’s our honor to feature you.
We feel like we truly know a lot more about Keith as a person and paralegal now — don’t you TPS readers? Please feel free to leave your comment(s) below…