Here at The Paralegal Society, we like to feature our members. We have launched a 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…
Name: Luis Enrique Velez Jr.
Hails From: Stockton, California
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 over 4 years, including my current job right now as a Job Developer and Legal Advocate for Day Laborers. I have experience in working in Wage & Hour law primarily, although I have dabbled in benefits, housing and elderly law, as well.
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 learned from the school of hard knocks. Basically, I got a basketball scholarship as a junior in high school and at a whopping height of 5”7. Yes, I know…I played point guard. Anyway, I dropped out of school, pursued a career as a musician and became a father at the age of 17. I later returned to night school and earned my high school diploma and 2 years after that, enrolled into community college. After being laid off from not one, but 2 jobs, and several years later, I decided to try something different. Law was something I always dreamt about, so while on unemployment, I enrolled into a paralegal certification program and fell in love with it and have been doing it since.
What made you become a paralegal?
As a music performer/recording artist, I witnessed the business side of the music business. Since those days of negotiating with record labels and managers, I knew I had to learn about the law, my rights and had dreams of becoming a lawyer.
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?
One of the challenges I faced is that things came pretty easy for me. I had to get used to actually studying and working hard to learn and develop my skills.
Being a paralegal often comes with a lot of stress. What’s your favorite way to handle the stress?
I enjoy working out, traveling, reading and spending time with my family. In my opinion it is important to have someone you can vent to whenever it gets really stressful and having a way to de-stress, i.e. sports, exercise, etc.
What are your secrets for being successful? In life? At work?
Perserverance. When I played sports, I was never the tallest, but I’m extremely competitive. I believe in myself and my abilities. My father always told me to try things because you never know what you are going to be good. Surround yourself with good, honest, successful people in life and work. Never let anyone tell you, that you can’t do something and if they do, prove them wrong!
What particular task in the paralegal world is your least favorite?
I do NOT enjoy filing.
What particular task in the paralegal world is your favorite?
My favorite is watching a case develop. Learning from the attorney(s) and clients about what occurred and what is expected. I also enjoy meeting and working with people and helping them.
If one of your good friends had to decide whether to become a paralegal or some other professional, what advice would you give? Why?
Depends on who it was, but I think most would NOT make it in the paralegal field. You have to be tough skinned and know how to deal with different personalities from all walks of life. I would definitely have to discuss further with him or her.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever done as a paralegal?
I’ve done a couple of different thing that one would consider funny. One was translating for a client in court after hours of preparation. Except that when we arrived at court and they called our case, the client decided to skip the preparation and take this time to curse out the other party in Spanish…oh, and yes the court did ask me to translate. Let’s just say it was pretty embarrassing and hilarious at the same time.
What’s the proudest moment that you’ve had as a paralegal?
I remember helping a small group recover lost wages from an employer. Although the money was not a lot, the elder of the 4 walked up to me with eyes full of tears and gave me a hug and thanked me for helping him. He said that because we helped him get his money, he was now able to buy groceries for his family and was thankful for our services.
What’s your craziest story stemming from your experience in the legal world?
A client ‘unknowingly” removed some papers from his employer and to avoid any kind of accountability issues, they asked me to return the documents, except they couldn’t know who had them. So In the middle of the humid summer, I wore a somewhat unusual disguise of a hooded sweatshirt, sweat pants, hat and sunglasses. I asked to speak to the manager and while the employee went to the “back’ to get his manager. I jumped over the counter and placed the documents in the file cabinet behind the counter. Oh and yes, this was a restaurant and it was jam packed. I pretty much looked like the unibomber with a tan.
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 don’t think I would change anything because all of my experiences, good and bad, have made me who I am today.
If you were teaching a paralegal class in your area of practice, what would it be? Why is it so important?
It would be on the importance of knowing your worker/employee rights. I get so many clients that come to my office who do not know what their rights are as an employee. They don’t even know who the employer is and where the work/job was located, etc.
What things have you learned about yourself over the years as a paralegal? How have you personally grown?
I learned that I need to be more direct with people. I have learned to be more patient and more direct, although I’m not as direct as I would like to be.
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!
I enjoy the banter and the sense of community at TPS. I learn about other people and their experiences.
What major accomplishments and accolades would you ultimately like to see listed on your paralegal obituary when the time comes?
Luis once a good paralegal. Now a great lawyer!
What are your three top professional goals at this time?
1. Get a fulltime paralegal job;
2. Graduate law school; and
3. Become an attorney
What is the most difficult situation you’ve ever overcome (personal or paralegal)?
Becoming a father at 17, being homeless for 3 months, and still maintaining my focus to graduate college and be a dad to my kids.
What makes you a unique person?
My sense of humor, along with my good looks. Oh, I’m sorry I wasn’t supposed to say that. I only meant to think it! LOL. Mostly, my sense of humor and my heart.
If your friends were to tell us about your worst quality(ies) what would it/they be?
I take on way too much sometimes.
If your friends were to tell us about your best quality(ies) what would it/they be?
That I’m funny and always know what to say. Also, that I care about them and will do anything for them.
What is your most life-defining “paralegal moment” to date?
Helping start a class action lawsuit involving over 25 clients against an employer in CT.
What are three unusual facts about you?
1. I have 9 Tattoos
2. I love movies and have thousands of them.
3. I have traveled to 10 countries and over 35 of the U.S. States.
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?
Pizza, New York style, thin slice greasy!
A special thanks to Luis for sharing his “sketch” with us here at The Paralegal Society. It’s always great to learn more about our fabulous members!
We’ll see you next time!