By: AMANDA HAZEL (Guest Blogger)
The year was 2006 and I found myself in therapy. I knew it was time for a change. My therapist told me that my present career was toxic and contributing to my sense of feeling worthless, my low self esteem and my dark thoughts. He told me that it was time that I find a new career and find something that would make me happy. Since I was enrolled at the local community college, I took advantage of the career counselors on campus and made an appointment. They had me take several tests; Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Strong Skills Assessment, and a third test (I can’t remember what it was called). After finishing the tests we made a follow up appointment in a week to review the results and determine where I might best fit in.
At the next appointment, the counselor told me that after reviewing the tests, he had come up with five career choices that would best fit for me and my strengths. Number one was Fine Arts – no real surprise there, because I had been a dancer when I was younger and took professional lessons for almost 11 years. Not to mention I was involved with my high school choir and dance team. Number two was teaching – also not a big surprise because I love to teach. I love to share my knowledge with others. I was an assistant dance teacher and I had actually considered getting a degree and then obtaining my teaching certificate so I could teach high school history or English (my two favorite subjects).
Then the surprise, number three was the legal profession. I was stumped, legal? My only connection to anything legal related was that my father was a deputy sheriff for the county we lived in. He had worked in law enforcement my whole life so I knew a little about what it was like to be a law enforcement officer. But the counselor said, no I mean like a “paralegal”. Oooh, new word, paralegal. What did that mean? What did they do? How much money could you make? How much more school would I need? You get the idea. The counselor briefly told me about the paralegal studies program the college offered and told me who to get in touch with to see about starting the required classes. By the way, I cannot remember what the last two career options were; I was so fascinated by this paralegal career, I think I literally tuned out the rest of the conversation.
I went home and talked with my husband about the test results and what the counselor suggested. He too was interested in the paralegal program and we began our research.
Now at the time, I was working for a local hospital as a Sterile Processing Technician. My job was to clean and sterilize surgical instruments before and after surgery. Sounds gross, I know but I thought it was fascinating. After working in the medical field for almost nine years, I was ready for a change. You can only take so much of screaming surgeons and surgical nurses with attitudes. I enrolled in the first two classes of the paralegal program that Fall of 2006 and was hooked. But I knew early on that the best way to use what I was learning in school was to get a job with a law office.
In the spring of 2007, I polished my resume, and began sending it out to paralegal and receptionist openings with local law firms. I got a hit and was called in for an interview with a criminal defense attorney who was in need of a receptionist. The interview went well, but he gave the position to another candidate. Here’s the kicker, he called me to let me know that he hired “the other” candidate but told me that if she had not interviewed as well as she did, that I was the next on the list. That made me feel good. So I kept looking and applying and crossing my fingers that something would work out.
About a month later, the same criminal defense attorney called me and asked if I had found a job. I told him no, that I was still looking. He then told me that he had to fire the girl he just hired and he was in need of a receptionist. We arranged for me to have a second interview and it went well. An hour after the interview, while I was starting my shift at the hospital, I got the call from the attorney. He had decided to hire me and asked if I could start on Monday.
My heart sank – I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I finally got my foot in the door, so to speak. I stayed with that attorney for ten months, the longest a receptionist had ever stayed with him, but when the firm fell on hard times, he had to let me go. By that time I had enough good experience that, with the help of my former boss, I was able to get a job with another law firm because he knew they were hiring. I stayed at that firm for nine months and left after my attorney insulted me in front of a client and refused to apologize for it (that’s another long story).
A few months passed and because of my networking, I was able to work as an “unpaid intern” for an office where the paralegal happened to be a former president of the local paralegal association. After I started there, I found out that the reason the paralegal suggested to the attorney that I be brought on was that she was considering leaving the profession to start her new business and she wanted a competent replacement. She took me under her wing and mentored me for two months. After she left, I was able to step right into her position and I stayed with that attorney for over a year.
I learned so much at that office. I learned what it was like to interview clients, how to draft pleadings, how to answer discovery, and I had the opportunity to go to court with my attorney on several cases and see how the hearings were conducted.
Without boring you with the rest of my journey, I eventually left that office and worked for six months with an insurance defense firm. I quickly realized that insurance defense was not exactly my cup of tea and I was offered a job working for the same criminal defense attorney that originally started me on this path. When his firm again fell on hard times, I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to work in an office again or to do something different.
I began reading up and considering becoming a freelance paralegal. I talked with my current attorney and he suggested that I go for it. On April 1 of this year I started Simplified Paralegal Solutions and have been working for myself. I have three attorneys that I work with on a mostly full time basis and a fourth (my old boss, the criminal defense attorney) who needs my help from time to time.
I credit my determination to do my best and to seek out opportunities others may not consider that have helped me to succeed and get to where I am in just 4 short years. Now I’m considering law school. Who would have thought that I would ever consider law school? Not me! If you had asked me in high school would I ever consider becoming a lawyer, I would have laughed and said no. I want to be a dancer. Funny how things change.
Amanda Hazel resides in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. She is the Owner of Simplified Paralegal Solutions, where she works as a freelance paralegal, assisting four firms. She earned an Associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies from Tarrant County College, graduating with honors. Amanda was a Member of Phi Theta Kappa and Sigma Kappa Delta. She continues to work toward obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Paralegal Studies and Criminal Justice from Texas Wesleyan University. She has worked at several law firms during her career and gained extensive experience in the area of civil litigation. She loves doing freelance work.
We wanted to share Amanda’s story with our readers because we find it inspiring. We hope you do too! Here at The Paralegal Society, we’re all about inspiring others. One can never have too much inspiration. We really admire Amanda’s willingness to share her personal story with us. Please feel free to leave a comment for Amanda, TPS readers! She’d love to hear from you.