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 ***HONORABLE MENTION***
TPS Writing Contest – Mentors/Mentorship
 
Dana Welcker, ACP, FRP

By: Dana Welcker, ACP, FRP (Guest Blogger)

Yep, it’s Monday! “Mentorship Monday” that is! Welcome back. We hope you feel all fabulous and refreshed from your all-too-brief, weekend, paralegal retreat away from those countless piles of paper. Today, we’re sharing an honorable mention written by a savvy paralegal who earned herself both, the ACP and FRP designations! Pretty impressive, huh? We certainly think so. A special thanks to Dana for submitting this piece. Way to represent the paralegals from the land of beaches and sunshine a/k/a Florida!

So read this piece, then hurry back to your super productive Monday, my paralegal friends! The piles of papers are beckoning you from the periphery. I hear them…or perhaps that was your esquire?!

May your first (second or third) wind find you…and fast!

Mentoring and my life’s story are at times synonymous. Having been a paralegal for 18 years,  I cannot remember a time when I was not looking for a mentor for myself, trying to find one for someone else, or attempting to mentor to someone in need. I began my legal career working for a sole practitioner in South Carolina. He was an excellent teacher and we had a great working relationship, but I needed more.

I knew that I loved being a paralegal and would need more training and education to continue on this career path. I sought out the local paralegal association and joined as soon as possible, so that I could begin networking with other paralegals. The association also allowed me to find mentors to guide me along my career path. Previously, it had been extremely difficult for me to find someone that was interested in becoming a mentor; some paralegals feel threatened by perceived competition and others are concerned about the time involved.

By now, I was working for a large downtown firm, but I still needed mentoring since I knew that I needed to sharpen my job skills and expand my knowledge into other areas of law. The firm I worked for stayed current with law firm technology and did an excellent job of offering training in this regard to its employees.  They were always holding small training sessions to anyone who felt they needed it.  I signed up for every session they offered not knowing then what a huge opportunity it would turn out to be.

In 2002, I moved with my husband and two sons to Florida and a whole new paralegal world opened up to me. I was hired by the first firm I interviewed with, primarily because of the extensive software training I received at my previous firm. In addition, I was encouraged to join the local Association of Legal Administrators, where I was immediately assigned a mentor. She made a point of reaching out to me at every meeting so that I always felt comfortable asking her for advice, guidance or ideas.  Years later, I am still so grateful to my ALA mentor and I take every opportunity to speak highly of her and the firm she works for. I think a person’s attitude tends to be a reflection of their employer’s, and since she was so professional and supportive, I can only assume that her firm must have been, as well. I doubt she realizes the impact she had on me then. I think about her often, as I strive to be as outgoing and encouraging to beginning paralegals as she was with me.

I had learned first-hand how much a mentor could positively impact a new paralegal’s career and outlook. Having been in situations where other paralegals felt threatened by the “new kid on the block” and unwilling to help guide or train others, I was now in the opposite situation where I was welcomed, nurtured and encouraged. This newfound kindness inspired me to give back to others.

While serving on the board of my local paralegal association I implemented a mentoring program to help new paralegals pair up with experienced members. This program gave them a friendly person to talk to at meetings and provided them with a resource they could call on for job related questions. I think at some point all of us have been too afraid or intimidated to ask for help or admit we may not know everything about a task we have been given, and that is where a mentor can make such a difference by reaching out and making themselves available I have always said, “A paralegal is never “fully” trained.” and after 18 years, I still feel that way. The legal world changes so much every year that we could all benefit from some guidance along the way. What an exciting time we are in right now with so many resources at our fingertips or just on the other end of a phone!

Most importantly, I feel that a true Paralegal Professional should never be threatened by new talent, and instead should nurture and encourage it to thrive. By mentoring new paralegals and assisting our peers we ensure that we are presenting ourselves, our employers, and most importantly – the Paralegal Profession, in a positive manner at all times.

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“We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” – Whoopi Goldberg

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” – John Crosby

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”
  – Benjamin Disraeli

May you always be holding a torch…to light the dark for you, someone else or ideally, a group of tremendous people working toward a common purpose. We’ll see you next time!