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…
Featured Paralegal: Anna L. Ramey
Hails from: Indianapolis, Indiana
How long have you been a paralegal, what is your current title and what are your area(s) of practice?
I have truly been a bona fide paralegal for just over 2 years. I have worked in the legal field in various capacities for the last 5 years. My current title is Paralegal, and our practice consists of Real Estate (all aspects), Civil Litigation, Estate Planning, Estate Administration and Guardianships. I will be starting my new Paralegal position with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office on November 14 in the Consumer Litigation Section.
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.
I have my Bachelor of Science degree in Paralegal Studies from Ball State University, one of only three ABA approved programs in Indiana. I worked full time the entire time I attended college, which contributed to the extension of my “4 year plan” to the “8 year actual.” I started at BSU in August of 2002 and finally graduated in May of 2010. As an aside, during that 8 years, I met my husband, changed my major 3 times, got married, moved twice, and had two children.
What made you become a paralegal?
I began my college career as a Secondary Education major with a Spanish concentration (and tested into third year Spanish classes). I then realized that, although I love the language, I did not want to make it my career. I then switched to Criminal Justice/Criminology as a major. After being in that major for a year, I decided that I would rather be involved in the “why” there is a law to enforce in the first place.
I began my Paralegal Studies program during the Spring semester of 2006, and loved every minute of it. I soaked up the information in my classes as fast as they could throw it at me. I then logged into Ball State’s career center website to do a job search at the end of that semester, and found a law clerk (runner) position open at the largest firm in Muncie, Indiana. I applied for the position, expecting that I wouldn’t even be called for an interview. I was very fortunate to get that job working at the bottom of the ladder in August of 2006, and quickly climbed up as fast as my legs would carry me. By March of 2007, I was promoted to an Administrative/Legal Assistant position in the firm. I wouldn’t leave the legal field for anything! I love it!
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 have the benefit of being a very ambitious person, who seldom accepts “no” for an answer. When I want something, I do my research and figure out how to go get it. After one semester in the Legal Studies program, I made my mind up to being working in the legal field. I was not afraid to work full time while attending school, so I applied for the only legal job I could find; a part time law clerk position. I turned that part time law clerk job into a full time job, by asking for more responsibility and more hours.
I always asked questions so that I could learn the “why” behind it all. The more you understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how to get the best result, the better Paralegal you will be. I worked full time as a Runner/Admin. Assistant/Legal Assistant for over two years while earning my B.S. in Paralegal Studies full time.
I started at the bottom, while I was still fresh as a student. I feel that this is what helped me the most to “break into” this career. I didn’t have the sense of entitlement of “I have a bachelor’s degree, now I deserve a high paying, high ranking job.” I took the “pee on” job of a runner and worked my way up, before I had the burden of the real world on my shoulders (read: student loan bills). The best advice I can give to those wanting to get into this profession is to work (paid or unpaid) while earning their degree. Everything I learned on the job helped tremendously in the classroom and vice versa.
Being a paralegal often comes with a lot of stress. What’s your favorite way to handle the stress?
Deadlines, missed deadlines, motions for extension of time at 5:00 the day “it” is due, nasty “Where’s my discovery” phone calls, clients calling the day after their intake appointment asking if their documents are ready yet, my boss gave me 10 new files today and wants all of it done the next day… Yes, stress, you and I are best friends. The best antidote to stress is cynicism (the good kind) and healthy work relationships. If you don’t have a relationship with your boss and co-workers based on mutual respect and trust, the stress will eat you from the inside out until there is nothing left. Nip nastiness and toxicity in the bud before it can progress into full blown hostility. Don’t allow negativity into your work environment and you’ll be able to handle as much stress as the world can throw at you.
What are your secrets for being successful? In life? At work?
One secret to success is knowing your worth. Don’t doubt yourself. Understand that you will make mistakes and remember that everyone else does too. Those who claim to not make mistakes are lying to you, and to themselves. Always remember to learn from mistakes and always accept constructive criticism with grace and aplomb. Another key to success is to treat others how you would like to be treated. If you treat others with respect, you will earn respect in return.
What particular task in the paralegal world is your least favorite?
Filing. Isn’t that everyone’s least favorite? Or eating crow… I really don’t like that either.
What particular task in the paralegal world is your favorite?
Legal research. I love to get a motion from opposing counsel, put on my thinking cap, then tear their motion apart, limb from limb. When my attorney is out of the office and opposing counsel thinks they can drop a bombshell on us, I type up a very eloquent response, supported by as much legal statute and case law as I can fit into it. Then, I submit it to my attorney for review. This is even more rewarding when the attorney signs the response, as is, without making any changes, and tells you how he had to ask the associate attorney if he helped you with it.
If one of your good friends had to decide whether to become a paralegal or some other professional, what advice would you give? Why?
Interesting question. Honestly, I would assess her strengths, weaknesses and reasoning skills, and decide whether or not it is a good idea to encourage her to try to become a Paralegal. This profession requires common sense, superior reasoning skills, the best organization skills and a strong backbone. I would give her the non-sugar coated version of this career, and let her decide if she still wants to do it. I would also let her know that this job, while stressful and challenging, is very rewarding, unlike any other profession.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever done as a paralegal?
This is a hard questIon to answer. Can I pass? The funniest thing I’ve ever witnessed is when a fellow Paralegal came up to me and said, “What do you do if a flat rate postage box is over the weight limit of 70 pounds.” I said, “Holy cow! What are you mailing?” She said it was just paper. I couldn’t believe she could fit over 70 pounds of paper in one box (let alone pick it up), so I followed her into the copy room, where she pointed at the scale and said, “See! It says 140!” I could hardly keep the laughter from escaping my mouth as I choked out, “Diana! That’s OUNCES, not pounds!!”
What’s the proudest moment that you’ve had as a paralegal?
My proudest moment is when I was still a fledgling at my current office (still in my probationary period). I sort of, ahem, forgot to remind my attorney that we had a statute of limitations deadline to file a complaint until the morning it was due. He was out of the office at a real estate closing all morning, and was very short with me on the phone when I called him to remind him of the deadline. He told me to get the file ready for him to do the complaint and was upset because he required longer than half a day to get a good complaint together. I immediately started pulling all the information I could find to put together a complaint for that particular type of case.
I managed to put together a 4 count, 6 page complaint (for the first time in my life) and had it ready when my attorney walked in right before lunch time. I saw him giving me furtive looks and whispering to another attorney when I returned from lunch. I thought, “Great, I’m fired.” He then called me into his office and asked me where I got the complaint (“Um… I drafted it myself.”) and told me that he asked the associate attorney if he helped me (his response: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”) because he couldn’t believe that I had done it myself. I have now graduated to doing my own legal research, responses, demand letters, complaints, answers, discovery requests, and discovery responses. It was a make it or break it moment, where thankfully, I made it.
What’s your craziest story stemming from your experience in the legal world?
A group of three plaintiffs filed a suit against our client asking for over 10 million dollars in damages. The Plaintiffs’ home was “cleaned” by order of the health department due to unsanitary conditions. The place was disgusting, as I’m sure you can imagine. They claimed that they had property worth over 10 million dollars in the home, and our client (contractor) didn’t “clean” any of their belongings, but instead “disposed” of their “valuable” property. Plaintiffs let the case stall for over a year, and I filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to prosecute. After going back and forth with them and throwing a ton of statutue in their faces (Responses which I drafted myself), we won the case! The best part is that the judge granted our Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ claim, but left our counterclaim for attorney’s fees open.
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?
If this question is in reference to my career, the answer is that I wouldn’t change anything. I have learned so much through the course of my career and I don’t think I would be where I am today without the successes, failures and relationships.
If you were teaching a paralegal class in your area of practice, what would it be? Why is it so important?
I can’t really answer this question based on any particular area of practice, so I guess I will base it on a general practice in a small firm. I would teach a class on Office Politics. I think I would need longer than one semester though. In all seriousness, I would teach general organization skills, critical thinking skills, and social skills. You cannot succeed in this field without these skills, and unfortunately, most college professors assume that you already have a good foundation in these areas.
What things have you learned about yourself over the years as a paralegal? How have you personally grown?
I have learned that I seriously under value myself. There is nothing wrong with having confidence in your abilities. Humility is a virtue, but I have missed out on opportunities by being overly humble. I have learned to never doubt my ability to do anything. Just because I’ve never done something does not mean that I can’t learn how. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned that there is never a stupid question (well, usually not).
I used to get overwhelmed by new, seemingly daunting tasks, when I first entered this profession. My first reaction was to freak out (in my mind) and wonder where to even begin. I have learned that it is best to say, “I’ve never done this before. Do you have a [insert document type here] that I can look at as a template?” You very rarely have to reinvent the wheel. Whatever you’re doing has surely been done by someone before you. Utilize your available resources. I have become more confident and fearless over the years. I might fail, but I will fail boldly, pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep on trucking.
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!
The Paralegal Society is a safe haven for all paralegals, new and seasoned alike. Anyone can ask questions without fear of being belittled or humiliated publicly. We are all here for the greater good, and look to advance our profession without treating one another as competition and trying to sabotage each other. I have gotten excellent tips on software, and actually found someone to research a particularly difficult, time consuming case for our office. TPS is the best!
What major accomplishments and accolades would you ultimately like to see listed on your paralegal obituary when the time comes?
Written as an obituary: Anna Ramey was a kind paralegal who always looked at the big picture. She never stabbed anyone in the back or threw anyone under the bus, and was a trustworthy, loyal employee and friend. She always gave others the opportunity to rectify mistakes and made others feel safe in her presence. She was always available when needed and went the extra mile every day. She could research and write with the best of the best. She should have been an attorney.
What are your three top professional goals at this time?
Sign up for the LSAT, pass the LSAT with at least a 170, get into law school in Indiana (for lower tuition and convenience).
What is the most difficult situation you’ve ever overcome (personal or paralegal)?
I stepped up to the difficult task of being a mother to my younger sister when I was only 20 years old. As a full time college student, working full time, I inherited custody of my 15 year old sister. I raised her from that point forward and still act in the capacity of a mother to her now, 7 years later.
What makes you a unique person?
I am incapable of lying. I am almost like Jim Carrey in liar, liar. When someone asks me a question, I always tell the truth. I choose not to lie (partly because I’m so transparent), so when I do not want to answer something (e.g. If I’m harboring someone else’s personal secret), I do my best to re-asses the question and dance around the answer or just say, I don’t want to answer that. I believe in Karma. I conduct myself in such a way that when I “get what is coming to me,” it will be good. I maintain an excellent level of cynicism. I try not to take life too seriously. I am almost brutally honest and have to censor my opinions carefully prior to opening my mouth. I have a motto of, “If you want to know the truth, ask ME.”
What is the most unique life experience you’ve had to date? Tell us about it.
Unique is a tricky word. I wouls say that child birth was my most unique experience. Now, before you get scared, I’m not going to be graphic. I pushed for only 10 minutes with my first child, and for only 3 minutes with my second child. I am a small woman at only 5’0” and 115 pounds (non-pregnant), so this is an accomplishment for me!
If your friends were to tell us about your worst quality(ies) what would it/they be?
I am always late.
If your friends were to tell us about your best quality(ies) what would it/they be?
I am always honest (almost to a fault). I am sarcastic and cynical, which makes for a good amount of laughs.
What is your most life-defining moment to date?
Personally, my most life-defining moment was when I got my acceptance letter (with distinction) from Ball State. I came from a family that had absolutely nothing and set my mind to changing that for me and my children. The second most defining moment was when I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies. Nobody else in my immediate family has a Bachelor’s degree. My third most defining moment was when I got the phone call from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office offering me a Paralegal position. I have worked so hard to get to this point in my life, and I am very proud to have gotten here.
What is your most life-defining “paralegal moment” to date?
I told my boss that I am resigning, and he basically refused to let me leave. He very adamantly asked me to stay, and did his best to convince me to stay. It was very flattering, and many kind words were exchanged. This reinforced my knowledge that I am “worth it.”
What are three unusual facts about you?
1. I know how to milk a cow by hand (properly).
2. I am originally from Morgan City, Louisiana with an elevation of -1 below sea level.
3. I would love to be a professional singer/songwriter.
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?
A good old fashioned Louisiana crawfish boil. I could eat seafood every day for the rest of my life and never tire of it. I grew up on seafood.
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?
I went to college with NO parental support at all whatsoever. I get so frustrated when I hear college students say, “My parents don’t help me with school.” Most of them have no idea what they are saying. I had about $500 in my savings account when I started at BSU, and that was saved from my own job. I had a car and insurance payment that I paid by myself. I did not speak to my father or mother at the time, and had $0 financial support from them. I had to figure it all out on my own, at 18 years old. I worked full time the entire time I attended school full time. I have student loans that would make Jimmy Buffett cry. When I hear high school kids say, “I can’t afford college,” I do my best to explain to them that money should not be a road block to getting a college education. If I did it, so can you! I have a serious work ethic.
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?
Thinking about going back and changing anything in my life makes my head want to explode. I wouldn’t be where I am now had I changed my path along the way. I might be a little more fearless, a little less judgemental of myself, and a lot taller (oh wait, I can’t change that). I actually have that book, but I’ve never read it. Odd.
Anything we failed to ask that you would like us to know about you?
Most often, on the rare occassions when I cry, it is because I am angry, not sad. That is all.
We’d like to extend a special thank you to Anna for allowing The Paralegal Society to share her “sketch” with our readers. We feel like we truly know a lot more about Anna as a person and paralegal now — don’t you TPS readers? Please feel free to leave your comment(s) below…