Educator and trainer Amy Johnson shows how simple changes in work habits can save time, increase productivity, and add value to a legal team.
Amy H. Johnson, a trained educator and veteran paralegal, is the founder of The Angle Solutions, which...
Jill I. Francisco, ACP, received her BA in Criminal Justice, (concentration in Legal Studies), from Marshall University...
After working as a teacher, then shifting to a career as a paralegal, Amy Johnson made the leap to creating her own business. Marrying her passions for educating and continual learning, she founded The Angle Solutions, a company that gives her a platform for helping others succeed.
In her interview with host Jill Francisco, Johnson details her path to entrepreneurship, shares war stories about life as a paralegal, and offers tips and strategies for paralegals looking to improve and advance.
She offers practical advice, from the basics of double-checking work to strategies for cultivating curiosity in approaches to tasks and assignments.
The two discuss the changing paralegal landscape, alternative career paths, and challenges facing the next generation.
Short Bio for Notes: Amy Johnson is the founder of The Angle Solutions LLC.
Special thanks to our sponsors, NALA, ServeNow, CourtFiling.net and Legalinc.
Jill Francisco: Hello everyone. Thank you for joining me for another fun, exciting and informative episode of the Paralegal Voice on the Legal Talk Network. I’m Jill Francisco, an advanced certified paralegal. Immediate past president of NALA the Paralegal Association and your host of the Paralegal Voice. I have over 23 years of paralegal experience and I’m so excited to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for the paralegal profession with you. We have an awesome guest for today’s show. But before we welcome he, we’d like to thank our sponsors.
Today’s sponsor is Legalinc. Makes it easy for paralegals to digitally automate tasks like business formations, corporate filings and registered agent services nationwide. Visit legalinc.com/podcast to create your own free account.
We would also like to thank ServeNow. ServeNow is a nationwide network of trusted pre-screened process servers. Work with the most professional process servers who have experience with high volume serves, who embrace technology and understand the litigation process. Visit servenow.com to learn more.
Thank you to NALA, the paralegal association. NALA is a professional association for paralegals providing continuing education, voluntary certification and professional development programs. NALA has been a sponsor of The Paralegal Voice since its very first show.
And also thank you to CourtFiling.net. E-file court documents with ease in California, Illinois, Indiana and Texas. To learn more, visit courtfiling.net to take advantage of a free 30-day trial.
So I am so very excited to welcome to the show today, Amy Johnson, a paralegal and the owner of The Angle Solutions LLC. A company that she created. Operating nationally based locally in Charleston South Carolina. I’ve known Amy for many years and I met her at past NALA conferences, probably many past NALA conferences. She is a fabulous paralegal and is an awesome speaker and she just has a lot of things on her resume but I’m super excited to have her with us today because now she’s expanding her already extensive resume by business owner as I like to say, she’s a boss lady now. I am so happy to have her with me today to share with our listeners all the things her company can do to help not only paralegals but for private law firms of all sizes, national insurance companies, corporate legal departments, public defender offices as well as individual attorneys and other legal support professionals.
And also just you know, Amy has a plethora as I like to say of information and is wonderful for the paralegal profession and so we’re going to get a lot and as much insight as we can from Amy today. So, anyway, Amy welcome to the Paralegal Voice.
Amy Johnson: Jill thank you. Thank you for inviting me. Thank you for the Paralegal Voice and Legal Talk Network for having me and all the sponsors. I was super excited to get your invitation because I love talking to other paralegals and really like helping them grow their careers. So, super excited to be here.
Jill Francisco: Well, thank you so much and so let’s just jump right into it like I gave our listeners just a little bit of background. If you want to elaborate and hit some of your high points because like I said, I know you have a super extensive resume and you’ll have to give the listeners ways to contact you after the show. Because I know as I do, you’re always willing to help.
Amy Johnson: Yes, definitely. Definitely, always willing to help. So, when I was growing up I never thought, “Oh, I want to be a paralegal.” That was not anything that I knew existed. I wanted to be a teacher, and so I went to Wake Forest in North Carolina to be a teacher. And that’s what I did and I taught high school economics and I loved it. And then, one of the parents — I coached girls golf, and one of the parents of a girl on the team was an attorney and he said, “would you like to come and do some economic analysis for my law firm?” And I am dating myself here because this is like before we had life care planners as a popular expert and so went to work for him for the summer and I loved it. And I just — I loved the documents and the digging and the research and the putting it together but really then like seeing how it worked in the lives of those family members.
I was hooked on that and so I joke that I went from teaching high school students to teaching attorneys because that is –
Jill Francisco: So true.
Amy Johnson: I feel like some of what we do, like we look at all the information and then, distill it down and then, give them the high points that have to be accurate because they’re going to rely on them.
That’s what we do. And so, i then went to work for switched to the other side. He was a plaintiff’s attorney and so I went and worked for a National Insurance Company. Best experience because then, I got to see it from the other side and I evaluated injury claims and then I went back and worked in a medical malpractice firm for 7 or 8 years, and then I worked in a catastrophic injury firm for 10 years, before I started my own company. And somewhere in the middle, I went back to school and got a master’s degree in organizational leadership.
Jill Francisco: Somewhere in your spare time.
Amy Johnson: Somewhere in my spare time, that’s right. But it really did give me this other idea of kind of thinking about how law firms work, how processes work, how could we do that better. So that’s my kind of professional experience and then, I have always volunteered. And so when I — three or four years in – I had that kind of thought to myself, “Do I want to be an attorney? Do I want to just be a paralegal?” And I thought, “You know what I love being a paralegal. I want to be a paralegal.” And so, I set some different goals for myself, which I think is so important in that professional development, career development to kind of keep you moving. Those were to be published. Be a published author in the industry to serve at a national level in the industry and to teach paralegal classes.
And so through those I came to NALA and went to my first—I met you at my first NALA conference all those years ago. I was thinking about that I met some just like paralegal rock stars at that first conference. And I think that I was so fortunate to do that because we kind of we helped each other along even though we were far apart, you knew that you had that resource that you could reach out to in that support, and somebody who valued the profession as much as you did, which I think is.
Jill Francisco: That makes a big difference.
Amy Johnson: It does for sure. And then, I had the opportunity under your friend and my friend Nancy Jordahl to serve on the Continuing Education Council and I loved Nancy. I had — it was crazy because I had always looked up to her and even though we’re like the same age I just — she was an amazing paralegal as far as I was concerned, and so when she asked me if I would serve on her board I thought, “Oh, my gosh. This is amazing paralegal I once met.” And so that was reaffirming and I wanted to do a good job for her, and one of just the best experiences.
And so, when I would come back from those meetings this was pre-COVID, obviously I would come back from those meetings and I just was so energized, and my husband said to me, “You’ve got to figure out how to feel that way all the time.” And paralegaling is really can be really stressful, and so anyway that kind of brings me to this idea about starting my own company. I thought and spent some serious time with my husband figuring out, okay like what motivates me, what makes me feel fulfilled. And it was that collaborating with people, collaborating and trying to improve the industry and trying to help other people succeed, which is all like kind of teacher stuff too.
Jill Francisco: Yeah, the basics.
Amy Johnson: It is. And not anything is lost on the fact that I worked at some amazing law firms, and really had excellent training from the attorneys that I worked with and the colleagues that I worked with really. And so, just being exposed to that also contributed to that like desire to do more for the industry. So, I came up with this idea of The Angle Solutions LLC and it is where I go into law firms and look at what they already have and how they’re doing things and try to help them be more profitable, more productive, improve firm culture to so important because everyone in the law firm works really hard, and they’re working for a really critical end goal and that doesn’t matter which side of the case you’re on. If you’re working for the defense, if you’re working for the plaintiff it doesn’t matter.
And so, I just try to help them find ways to do their job to the very best of their ability. Some of that might be leveraging the strengths in the law firm we know, we all have different strengths. What you might be really good at, might be a weakness of mine. And so we need to figure out how do we leverage what you do really well with what I do really well so that our end product is amazing, and all of that is not just talk either I go in with the intent of looking at it but then also really giving you actionable items that you can replicate long after I’m gone.
So I might love your firm but I don’t want to work with you for eternity.
Jill Francisco: Right.
Amy Johnson: I want to come in and I want to help you identify your goals and accomplish your goals and then be able to sustain them after I’m gone, and I’ve met some amazing people as you might imagine, work with paralegals all the time that are really frustrated with where they are, and so I consider it like a personal challenge to try to bring them out of that. Help them find what they loved about being a paralegal and how they can contribute, and still advance their career.
Jill Francisco: And sometimes that gets lost. Like you know, I was going to say, it’s nice that you have that focus on how that workings of the law firm because sometimes that gets lost and it’s not concentrated on about strength and about morale and things like that because there’s other things to worry about like deadlines and getting things that you have to prioritize and like you said, you hate to see a paralegal that you know loves the profession, you know had reasons to go into it, and then they just kind of get off in the weeds sometimes. And so, that’s I like that you prioritize that and recognize that as an important – something important to deal with because you can bring those paralegals back probably without much. That’s not like it’s a big huge chore but maybe something very simple that you bring to light can get them right back into feeling excited, enthusiastic and being a more higher contributor to the team which of course helps everybody in the long run.
But just to kind of circle back because I wanted that kind of gets into — I know you probably kind of talked about it a little bit when you were talking about your general overview of your company and then your background and things, but was there — what pain maybe like was out there that you saw? Was there any one thing that that you were like, oh man. I feel like if I created this company or like what can I do? Because I know you’re a problem fixer and was there anything that like jumped right out like one thing or like a little — maybe it’s just a combination of that what you were just talking about too?
Amy Johnson: I think that’s a great question and you touched on it. I think it is that what is something that is so small that people could incorporate into their practice that I’m not looking to — what I always tell firms is I’m not looking to disrupt what you’re doing I’m looking to fine-tune what you’re doing. So I want to take the skills and the knowledge, and the staff and the resources and the cases that you already have and just help you work them more effectively. And for paralegals, a lot of that comes down to time management and figuring out — and I know, that’s like an overused term but I don’t mean it in just, “Oh fix your time management and everything will be fine.”
Jill Francisco: Right no. Not that simple.
Amy Johnson: It’s not that simple. And you’ve been in this field for more than 20 years and I’ve been in this field for 20 years and I’m telling you, if there was a way to fix time management you and I would be rich. So if we could figure that out.
Jill Francisco: For sure.
Amy Johnson: So it’s not that simple but what it this is, prioritizing. It’s setting clear and defined expectations. And that’s for the clients but it’s also for your bosses and your co-workers so that everyone knows — again, what they bring to the table and what they’re contributing and again, sometimes I know that’s easier to say than it is to do but it’s just like anything else. It is a practice and a habit and it’s uncomfortable the first few times that you do it. But then you start to see the benefits of it, and you start to see that you’re turning out better work product because you’re not resentful of the time that you’re there.
And so, that is something that I do work with the paralegals on. And then, just establishing that positive firm culture, establishing a rapport with colleagues that might even be difficult because you’re working with them and again, you’re all working toward that same goal. I would say, the most common follies that I see, that are really easy to fix is double checking your work. I mean, that is something — it doesn’t matter if I’m in a firm in Washington State or Chicago or it doesn’t matter like double check your work and that means, when you e-file something open up the document one more time before you click file.
Jill Francisco: So it’s not your broccoli casserole recipe.
Amy Johnson: You’re probably or worse. I mean, we saw in a federal case once the redlined version of a pleading. From the other side, from the other side but I mean –
Jill Francisco: But still you just want to wither up.
Amy Johnson: You do. Even for that person like for the person that filed it, I thought, “Oh my gosh. I feel so bad for you right now.” So double checking your work is one and also I try to work with people on the value in –
Don’t just move it off your desk. If an attorney gives you a task — I mean, I’m telling you over and over and over I hear paralegal say, “well they didn’t ask me to do that.” And I’m thinking but that was the next logical step. They didn’t ask you to do it, right and I’m thinking, “Do you want to add — you want to be more valuable. You want to be that employee who the attorney comes to, who the attorney relies on. If you want to advance your career, you want to be that paralegal.” And so, I think it’s just that what I like to say that cultivating curiosity and how do you think two steps ahead. Okay, if I do this then what are the two potential outcomes and which outcome do I want and how do I kind of steer it in that direction.
And that’s really a mindset, which is why I kind of say what I try to teach people is that shifting that mindset so that they can accomplish more in the same amount of time or ideally less time.
Jill Francisco: Right and I think too, when you were talking about checking your work and those kind of things. It’s like those are the simplest of things that get lost. So easy and so fast. I mean, I’m always lecturing to my secretary to help me out my assistant because I’m not beyond check my work. Before I even ask you to look at it or want you to ask you to check your work, I’ve checked mine two or three times. I’m not above it, believe me never because those are just really small things that unfortunately I think especially in today’s world can say more than just the mistake that you’re making, that you don’t catch. I mean, that’s my opinion of it.
So anyway, but I think back to that whole thing, I think probably a lot of these things you experienced through your work history and different things that you worked with and again, I think you and I are the same where we want to have the positive out of every situation we’re not looking even as those things that really technically were probably negative actually but it’s instead you’re trying to turn it all into being a positive. Like what can I do to make this better in our profession and what can I do to help so others don’t go through that negative situation that I have. Anyway, Amy before we move onto our next little point of discussion we need to take a quick commercial break and we’ll be right back.
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Jill Francisco: Welcome back to the Paralegal Voice. I’m Jill Francisco and my guest today is Amy Johnson and we were discussing some of the challenges and things like that Amy has seen throughout her career and now she has turned that into sharing those and helping paralegals so they don’t maybe — can handle those situations and face those challenges in a more positive and effective light nowadays.
So I know Amy and like I said, I know her pretty well and I know she really has a lot of experience in the complex litigation. Do you have any of your best or most memorable stories that you can tell us about your trials or specific cases in that complex litigation because I think that kind of gives people part of your background and where you’re getting a lot of these solutions that you’re helping paralegals with.
Amy Johnson: Sure definitely. I would say that you’re absolutely right that a lot of the challenges that I’ve faced are the ones that — exactly what you said before the break that I want to help other people either avoid those or know how to deal with them, when they encounter them for sure. I have worked at firms where I’ve been fortunate enough that my attorneys did take me to trial with them, so that’s an amazing experience because you get to work up the whole case and then you get to go to the trial. And I know, some of my friends who are paralegals, they don’t always get to travel to trial —
Jill Francisco: I hate when they don’t get to do that. I feel like you’re getting – you’re like getting to the party and then you don’t get to dance.
Amy Johnson: Yes exactly. That’s so true. So just some of the things that come to mind when you ask that question, I did have early in my career a client who great case –
It was a med mal case and he had undergone a urologic procedure and the short version of the case is that the hospital had used a blanket warmer instead of a saline warmer, and so they were putting the saline solution in the blanket warmer to warm it and so when the urologist had the wound performing the procedure it put scalding hot water into him. Terrible third degree burns inside and out. Terrible — nicest man, loved him great relationship with him went all the way through the trial. Come to find out the hospital had the same thing happened the day before so that gives us the notice on the med mal part of it.
We get all the way through the trial, the jury is out deliberating. We are frantically negotiating with defense as happens sometimes at the end of the case and we’re sitting at the table waiting for the jury to come back in and the bailiff comes down the aisle. We’re unconcerned — the attorney and I unconcerned, the client leans over to me because I’m in the middle and says, that he just wants to let me know that there’s actually an outstanding bench warrant for him and I’m like, “okay.” And so I tell the attorney and she’s like, “How did we not know this?” But obviously effect — so we’re thinking is the bailiff coming to take him. We’ve got a jury out, we’ve got an offer on the table so it’s just one of those things that you don’t know what to do but we did settle the case for a very fair and wonderful settlement so that was a crisis averted. But that’s one of those where your stomach just drops because you’ve put all this work into the case and it’s something that is completely out of your control that comes.
Another one that was really kind of heartbreaking but ended up with – I’ll tell you the ending. It’s a happy ending for it. So we represented a 26-year-old man who was working in this country but from Mexico. He was here without papers but it was in Maryland and so even if you’re here without papers you can get a Maryland driver’s license. You pay Maryland State income taxes and he was doing all of those things. He was catastrophically injured on his job and rendered a quadriplegic and this was an admitted liability case. So the facility where he was working admitted that they had caused the injury.
Their negligence had caused the injury. Again, we get all the way through the trial and the defense counsel actually argued in that trial that if the jury was going to pay him anything – remember, admitted liability 26-year-old quadriplegic if the jury was going to pay him anything that they should calculate it and pay it in Mexican pesos. We were – I mean, we’re all looking at each other like did we really just hear them correctly? Is that what they said? I was scared –
Jill Francisco: This can’t be happening.
Amy Johnson: Right, right. Especially insensitive because there were three – well, yes. There were three people on the jury who had direct family members who were immigrants from another country, and I thought, how did you not do your jury research to know that. It was awful. Well, they clearly rejected the defense argument and awarded him — it went all the way to verdict $35.9 million. Amazing verdict for that case and at that time was the largest personal injury verdict in that county in Maryland. So that’s one and I happy — the happiest part is he and I still keep in touch. Amazing guy, just amazing guy and really is so grateful for what we were able to do for him.
And then, I guess another — just another one that comes to mind is truck income. We do a lot of trucking litigation and I wanted to say this also because I think this is really important if you’re thinking about starting your own company is that, I do reserve a portion of my time that I still do high-level paralegal work for one specific client that I have. And I think, that’s so critical because I like to say, it keeps me in the game but it keeps me relevant so that when I’m going to these other firms, I am still giving them information that I know is what is happening in the industry. I’m still familiar with federal court. I’m still familiar with rules as they change with liens, with all of the things that a paralegal would do. So this is one of the client that I still do paralegal work for and we had a trucking accident in federal court where as part of the settlement that we agreed to while the jury was out.
The trucking company agreed to ban their drivers from using cellphones while in the vehicles. While operating the vehicles. The federal rule was that they could have one touch so as long as you have like a headset that you can answer the call by one touch, hang up by one touch that’s allowed but this trucking company as part of their settlement terms agreed that they would just ban cellphone use altogether from their drivers, while they were driving and so the funny part of that story is that when the attorney got up to memorialize it for the court record, he said that all of their drivers would be banned from using cellphones.
Jill Francisco: Darn it.
Amy Johnson: And I know it, I know and the judge was kind of like, “Are you sure?” And in-house counsel for the trucking company like jumps up. Hasn’t said anything through the whole entire trial and jumps up and it’s like, “That’s not what we agreed.” So that’s a funny one that you just have to find these that keep it interesting.
Jill Francisco: I love your point though about that you still are in the field actively because that’s – I mean, you come a lot of people and granted there’s retired paralegals and things like that but it’s like you want to it. I’m sure that it’s more valuable to now your clients that you’re serving that you actually like a right still in the game, and you’re going to know like if something’s coming out or like you said with federal court or with issues that, and also I think it probably helps you with working with the paralegals.
Amy Johnson: Absolutely.
Jill Francisco: You know identifying and understanding, and even though you still have all that experience behind your belt it’s like no, I currently like last week I blah, blah, blah because you’re still in that game. I think that’s super important and I think those stories, it’s amazing and I think I can hear when you tell those stories too they’re rewarding. And I think, that’s something that I try to share with parallels. I mean, I’m on the other side. I’m on defense. We defended the railroads for many years and now it’s kind of expanded because some of that mass litigation has kind of faded away but it’s like you still get. You have to have I think some satisfaction with your work, and I tell paralegals that too when I go and speak to students because I know you do the same.
It’s like it’s no big deal like work for a real estate firm then go work for a family law attorney then if you feel like you want to try in-house or we want to go to Social Security. There’s nothing wrong with that because it’s all different and it’s all within the realm of being a paralegal. It’s all what you really what jumps out at you and you shouldn’t feel bad about switching jobs or looking to see what other opportunities are out there and that’s why I really loved when you had your own company because I know you’ve already expanded and had many opportunities and set your goals in your teaching and doing things and being published but that’s something else that paralegals could go into that they may not even think was — why would they even think of doing that? They would think, well that’s for somebody else to do or that’s for some other professional to do.
And I also wanted to say, which I should have said earlier is I loved it when you talked about you didn’t necessarily want to be an attorney and there’s other things to do like I’m not a paralegal because I couldn’t be an attorney. I don’t want to be an attorney. I wanted to be a paralegal and not that there’s not paralegals that go on to law school. Again, that’s another choice but it’s not across the board. There’s so many options out there in our wonderful profession. So I like how your stories and it kind of plays into why you’re excited and why you’re connected and just like you said you still have that relationship.
Those are things that you know clearly are meaningful to you and keep drawing you closer and connected to being a paralegal. I think we have to take one more short break until we kind of wrap up with some really cool question-answer type thing at the end so we can cover some of this awesome information because you have so much to offer. So anyway we’re going to take a quick commercial break, and we’ll be right back.
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Jill Francisco: Welcome back to the Paralegal Voice, I’m Jill Francisco and my guest today is Amy Johnson and we were going to talk about why should a paralegal transition out of the everyday more traditional paralegal role and then obviously, what opportunities can they go into in your eyes.
Amy Johnson: Sure. Well, I think you hit on it when you said that you know different things motivate different paralegals and just because I was in litigation, some paralegals are really connected to real estate law like helping a family get a home, helping a big commercial company get into the perfect space for them those types of things. And there are really cool stories in real estate and family law and probate law and business litigation, I have friends who do business litigation, things that the general public never gets to see but that do motivate you and keep you coming back day after day.
And so, I think that it is important to find that area that makes you proud of what you do and that energizes you, and that makes you want to dig into that case a little bit more or work for that client a little bit more. And so just like you said, if that’s not in real estate and you’re working in real estate then try a different type of law or go listen to a CLE on a different type of law, and see if that might be something that is interesting to you. And then, after you listen to a CLE, reach out to the speaker and use them as a resource, and I say that as a speaker – I mean, when people reach out to me and they want to know more about what I do I am more than happy to spend time with them because again, I want to help them grow their career and get into a profession that they love and feel passionate about.
So I would say, if you’re looking for a career change still staying within that paralegal role try out a different field and then, if you’re looking for a related field and how do you know – I mean, you know if you like don’t like going to your job every day and then, you have to figure out, is it just that job? Is it that office environment? Is it that setup or is it the actual work that you’re doing that you don’t love? Do you not like calling the client on the phone? Do you not like interacting with the court? Do you not like writing memos? I mean, figuring –
Jill Francisco: Core skills of paralegals.
Amy Johnson: Yes, yes and then think about how do the skills that I have translate other places and just like I said, I went from a claims adjuster to a paralegal and so all of those like looking at injury records, valuing claims, witness interviews those are all things that now I’m really good at because as a claims adjuster that was my job. As a claims adjuster, my job was not court filings and demand letters – writing demand letters. My job was reading demand letters.
Jill Francisco: Right, other side.
Amy Johnson: Yeah, I know. And so it’s how do you take those skills that you’ve developed and that you’ve honed and for me, if you’re going to switch careers I would advise that your kind of rank the skills that you love using every day. Do you love to write? Do you love to negotiate liens? Do you love to talk on the phone? Okay, well then maybe you want to switch to like a lien resolution company or something that is related that you can use those skills that you’ve developed and then, just compare. I mean, the paralegal field is still growing so it’s a great field to be in as it gains recognition and credibility and there are more opportunities out there. We are seeing pay increases starting paralegals are –
Jill Francisco: I think they’re up — going up definitely.
Amy Johnson: I feel like they are and it depends on what area of the country you’re in, are you in a metropolitan area. Are you in a rural area but the field in general is promising. You need to compare that with a field that you might be considering getting into. The other thing if you’ve only ever worked as a paralegal, oftentimes health insurance is a major benefit. We take kind of health insurance and paid time off for granted. There are careers out there that don’t offer those same benefits and so, just kind of look at that.
But related fields are again claims adjusters switch to and we’ve talked about even being an in-house paralegal for a claims company. They need those. They need in-house paralegals. Hospitals have in-house paralegals. Contract companies, I have a friend who switched to a government contracting position. What does she do all day she reads and writes contracts, which is—and she does very well salary wise.
So there are those things. Other ones might be opportunities at the courthouse clerks or even kind of overseeing like a magistrate’s court. Those are opportunities that are there. Working in the property and deeds office. Those are things that can draw on your paralegal skills. With a little bit of additional education, one that’s super popular and up and coming is this idea of legal project management. That’s one that is — if you –
Jill Francisco: Well, that is hot topic.
Amy Johnson: It is. And if you like Excel spreadsheets and processes and you’re very detail-oriented that is a great field to consider. That’s kind of that next level. What do you do when you’ve reached either your burn out or you’ve reached the top of where you can go in the paralegal field. So that’s one that I kind of encourage people to explore a little bit. There are lots and lots out there.
Jill Francisco: I like how though you said too to actually look at what you like to do and what — is it your job duties, the tasks or is it the environment or is it even the people. I mean, let’s face reality that can be it too. Your boss just isn’t somebody that you can feel like you can get along with. I mean, it happens and sadly, I think some paralegals might just write it off and go, you know what this career isn’t for me and that’s not necessarily yet. Take a step back because there’s so many things that you can do so I think if you don’t take away anything the listeners take away the message to really sit back and look at yourself and think what you enjoy. And then, also on the flip side, what you don’t like about this specific situation that you’re in, and then like you said match those up with the core group of things that you like to do of what fits out. What job does that type of thing and still probably within the realm of legal environment paralegals, things like that.
This is a super cool question and I know that you’re going to have some really neat insights so I wanted our listeners to get this but what are some of the challenges that you perceive — because I said, I know you’re been all over the paralegal profession here that’s going to affect the next generation of paralegals. Because that’s important we’ve talked about encouraging students getting in and then all of us that are well-seasoned that we like to say but what do you think are some of those challenges that are going to affect the next generation of paralegals coming down the pike?
Amy Johnson: One thing that comes to mind just right away or two things really that come to mind right away. But one is just kind of in this COVID era, the networking and the in-person networking has really to me, made a big difference in the ability of newer paralegals to grasp that same. I mean, if you are a newer paralegal and you are forced to work from home. You don’t have that benefit of like overhearing how your colleague deals with things on the phone. Because you do hear that, you pick up.
Just by virtue of being next to someone in the office you pick up the way that they do things and sometimes you think, “why is she saying that.” And other times you think, “Wow. She did a great job.” You know, on whatever it was. Whatever the conversation was. And so that’s something that we do miss when we work from home or we’re half the office works from home or whatever the workplaces have put in into place. And then of course the association meetings or just having lunch with other paralegals. To me, that is career development, when you’re doing that. So that’s something that just in this kind of the past year and a half or year, I guess it is that affects new paralegals in the field.
The other that I would say that I have — and this is the teacher coming out in me. I’m going to preface by saying this is the teacher coming out of me is that the newer paralegals — and this has been for I would say like the past five or seven years. I have seen a decline in the writing skills and the telephone skills and that is because you and I probably grew up with that phone every night talking and if you wanted to talk to Johnny, you had to talk to Johnny’s mom first. And you had to say, “Hi, this is Jill. Is Johnny home?” You had to do that. It wasn’t, “Hey.” Because you could see on the caller ID who it was already. “Hey. Hey.”
I mean, we are laughing about this but I go into offices and I was in an office not long ago, that when I review kind of what are your goals with the partners, right. We need you to teach the front desk receptionist how to answer the phones. And I’m thinking, you hired a front desk receptionist who didn’t know how to answer the phones.
But that wasn’t what it was, she had other functions in the office that she was very good at, but she did not have a lot of experience actually answering phones and so we sat down and kind of went through, here’s a script for answering the phone. Here’s what you need to say and that was something that no one ever had to sit down and say to me because we talked on the phone all the time. But the upcoming generation texts and that’s wonderful and so I guess, it’s more teaching that discernment of when is text appropriate, when is email appropriate, when is in person communication because there are different strategies for each type of communication.
And then, the other one that I would say, is probably just along the lines of continuing education because I think that you can — there is always a place for continuing education. Whether you’ve been a paralegal for six months or 20 years. I still enjoy attending continuing education and we’ve gotten into this like the newer paralegals and the college students and the upcoming generations, they want quick on their phones like quick little snippets. If you told someone they had to sit through a two-hour CLE, I mean, they’d rather go to work.
Jill Francisco: Forget it.
Amy Johnson: Right. Where we used to be like an all-day CLE, great. Like that’s what I want to do. And so I think it is number one finding reliable CLE content that can be delivered because like NALA right has gone so they used to have a strict 50 minute, it had to meet that and they’ve recognizing that the field is changing and that the delivery methods are changing. They’ve reduced that, right so that it can be in whatever increment is available. So, I think it’s going to be finding interesting relevant CLEs that are out there that are within that attention span.
Again, I love actionable strategies that you can take right back to your desk and apply, and I think that in a field where we started out talking about time management and how critical it is, I think that that next generation of paralegals is really going to have to be discerning about that. How do I get better at what I’m doing and still make that fit into my day?
Jill Francisco: Yeah, I think those are all good points and I’m going to tell you of something that’s kind of funny because it wraps to your things you’re talking about the pandemic. How you’re working from home and then, you’re talking about the lack of just how we always used to talk on the phone and be used to talking on the phone. And I called someone within our – because I work for a very large law firms, someone within our large law firm and they answer the phone just, “Hello.” And I know they were at home. I mean, I know they were at home. I was working from the office but I was calling your office line and so now you had somebody that had gotten so relaxed because of the pandemic and I did my last show, we talked about how it’s changing. It’s changed and it’s not going back to the way it was.
I mean, some things are going to return but I don’t think the practice of law is going to be like it was. And so then you have that person that has adapted and they’re in that mode at home and then, plus someone that was younger that didn’t already have the rapport with the phone. Anyway I don’t care. I can see who’s calling and I still say, “(00:43:28) Jill’s speaking.”
Amy Johnson: Yes, I do too.
Jill Francisco: I still say that and so, just that’s just kind of to bring that together. It’s simple things and I think those are actionable things that are very easy that you can learn and put to use if you’re in that situation.
But Amy you have given me and our listeners so much good information. We could do part two, part three, part four. We may have to consider that sometime but that’s all the time we have for this episode and like I said, I thank you so, so very much for joining me today. And so what is the best way for our listeners to reach out to you if they want to get in touch with you. Because I know you’re helpful and you would be glad to help them out so what is the best way they can get in contact with you?
Amy Johnson: Absolutely and I would say definitely if they are looking for either professional development, career guidance, they want to bounce ideas off of me they’re stuck anything like that I’m more than happy to help. If they’re at a firm that they think could benefit from my services. Definitely willing to help and that is also, I mean, I do training for law firms also so if you know like a specific topic whether that’s liens or FOIA or finding documents on the internet there’s a list on my website but more than happy to do just kind of one-time training sessions to help them get that value. But my website is www.theangelllc.com and my kids would say, again, I’m dating myself.
I don’t need to say, www in front of that. So forgive me, I am so sorry. I also use punctuation in my text messages, which is another very bad apparently.
Jill Francisco: Same. Same.
Amy Johnson: So it’s theanglellc.com and my email is [email protected] and I do usually try to get back to you within 24 hours so you know, I work all day, every day sometimes at night but I would be more than happy to hear from any of your listeners and anything at all that I can do. That is what I’m all about is just really trying to boost the profession because it has given me so much enjoyment during my life and I feel fortunate to all those years ago have made that transition.
And again thank you for having me. It’s been much easier than I thought. You make it easy so I appreciate that.
Jill Francisco: You are so welcome and like I said thank you so much and I hope our listeners like I said, will definitely go to your website peruse what you’re offering there but like I said, you’re so much more. You’re like the complete package as we were talking earlier who just wanting to help having so much to offer. Whether it is now through your business or personally, professionally so I appreciate everything you do for the profession because we both love it and we want it to continue to thrive well into the future. So thank you again Amy for joining us.
And also thank you to all our listeners who tuned in today. If you have any questions or comments for me, please contact me at [email protected]. I hope you will join me for a next episode next month. I’m Jill Francisco for the Paralegal Voice signing off.
Outro: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, it’s officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders or subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
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|Published:||April 23, 2021|
The Paralegal Voice provides career-success tips for paralegals of any experience level.