Guest Debbie L. Overstreet, the incoming NALA president, gives an overview of the upcoming NALA conference – a return to the in-person gathering after two years of virtual, but with a remote option as well. Plus, the state of the job market for paralegal professionals and the role of the paralegal in government organizations.
Now is a great time to be in the paralegal field. Jobs abound, and the field is transforming with new options for flexibility, including working from home. But every new step requires a willingness to embrace change. The field is never going back.
What’s new for NALA? Overstreet vows to continue national outreach to affiliates, working with colleges to supporting students, and looks for NALA to reach out to government-affiliated paralegal professionals who need national support in a niche that can get lost.
Don’t miss the upcoming conference, chances to network, meet vendors, and earn continuing education credits. Hot topics include the legal side of social media, modern policing, climate change, ethics, and motions in limine.
Jill Francisco: Before we begin today, we’d like to thank our sponsors, ServeNow, NALA and InfoTrack.
Hello everyone, thank you for joining me for another exciting and informative episode of The Paralegal Voice on the Legal Talk Network.
I’m Jill Francisco, an Advanced Certified Paralegal and the immediate past president of NALA, and your host of this episode of The Paralegal Voice.
I have over 25 years paralegal experience and I’m so super-excited to share my knowledge and enthusiasm of the paralegal profession with you. I’m so also super-excited to have Debbie L. Overstreet, ACP, NALA President Elect with me today. I was super-excited to say that, Debbie. I would save it up.
Not only is she an experienced paralegal, she is the NALA President Elect. She will be installed officially as the 26th President of NALA during the 2022 NALA Conference & Expo which is going to be July 14th through the 16th in Phoenix, Arizona. And we’re going to be talking about the upcoming conference and the current state of the paralegal job market, and we’re going to focus on some government jobs for paralegals, which Debbie has an extensive experience and information to share with you all today.
So, Debbie, welcome to the show.
Debbie L. Overstreet: Thank you, Jill. I appreciate you having me on The Paralegal Voice. It’s very exciting to be here with you.
Jill Francisco: Yes, and I’m so excited. I had to look up there that you would be the 26th President of NALA. I was just glad. I looked at mine a few years ago and I’m like, “Yes, Debbie is in there.” So if you want to just highlight a couple of things for listeners, just kind of give them a little background on what your specialty and your experience is.
Debbie L. Overstreet: I would be happy to do that. I have over 40 years experience. Yes, I started when I was five.
Jill Francisco: Yes. Didn’t we all?
Debbie L. Overstreet: Right, right. I started out as a judge’s clerk in Bayleaf and from there went to private practice, general practice, and then I’m transferred and was accepted as a physician with the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Northern District of Oklahoma, worked in the civil area, did trials, then I transferred to the Eastern District of Oklahoma U.S. Attorney’s office, and I was in-charge of guns, drugs and bank robberies.
Jill Francisco: Oh, that sounds fun.
Debbie L. Overstreet: It was very interesting and we did a lot of trial work, it was very exciting. The nice thing about being a paralegal is you can always change what you’re doing and I decided to transfer from the U.S. Attorney’s office to the Corps of Engineers in Tulsa area.
Jill Francisco: Okay.
Debbie L. Overstreet: I worked in there in the Office of Counsel and then have been in the real estate division for over 12 years. And I am the Lead Realty Specialist in the Real Estate Division in Tulsa District. I handle what I call the neck area of the Tulsa District and that includes northern, eastern, central and Kansas parts of our district. So it’s a huge area, but I enjoy what I do.
Jill Francisco: I’m so proud that you’re going to be president of NALA coming up, I know, right? The listeners can see that but that was a big wow face because that’s what you make when you’re going in, and then when you get out, you kind of make the same face. So anyway, I’ve enjoyed what — I’m almost on two years out. Melissa has been at the helm and held it down and kept everything going, and now you’re going to step up and I’m super-excited for you, so proud of you, can’t wait to what you’re going to do. So what are your thoughts? Just additional thoughts on going in as President in July?
Debbie L. Overstreet: It is almost surreal and as you know, Jill, we have devoted many, many years to NALA, and the paralegal profession and our affiliates, and to have this honor to actually be a part of the Executive Board and be President of the Executive Board and to represent paralegals across the country and across the world at this point, it is a wonderful feeling that we have dedicated our lives — most of our lives to our profession and we would not do this if we did not love what we do every day.
Jill Francisco: That’s true. So, do you have anything that you feel like, like an area or a thing? Because like I said, I know, we don’t want to give anything away, you’ll be getting in there and giving your plans and getting your goals and strategies, go on, but do you have anything just kind of? I remember, kind of thinking some areas that I kind of wanted to focus on and what was kind of like my passion.
I know you and I are both very passionate about the affiliates because we both started out early on as the Affiliates Director and I have always kind of held them in a little cuddle ever since because I think general sometimes don’t understand that the affiliates not only is a way that now it gets to reach more paralegals but also gets to share information and both ways, which I think is important. So, I just kind of wonder like what are you thinking like an area or like do you have anything that you’re really kind of getting ready to focus on?
Debbie L. Overstreet: I agree, Jill, that the affiliates have been close to my heart. I was in as your Affiliate Association Secretary with you. So yes, so we’ve been a team for a long time, working with NALA and our affiliates and I want to continue that interaction with our affiliates to sure that they are aware of the support that we have for them through NALA and we have dedicated staff for the affiliates to assist them. If they’re having issues, we are working hard for the affiliates. We want them to be successful and to represent their local paralegals.
So there’s a lot of things going on that have started and I know from the years of being involved that some of the projects carry over for years and we have some of those going right now. One of those is the affiliates where we’re having some reach — we’re reaching out to those affiliates. We are also reaching out more to the paralegal programs at the colleges to see if there’s any way that we can connect with them to work in tandem with them on reaching the paralegal students and supporting them as they work through their education and then finally going through for certification.
And one of the things that I’ve always looked at is for, NALA, is trying to reach out to the government paralegals that we have across the United States and across the world that we know that they could use that support, they are in a little niche that some people just don’t even think about that we have paralegals everywhere and it doesn’t matter what type of job you’re in, whether you’re in the government or you’re in private, you may be working for medical, you may be working for an insurance company, but we are there to support all paralegals. And if we can spread that word around, that’s really passionate to me and I’ve said it for many years, “What about the government?”
Jill Francisco: Right, right, right. Well, you know, and that’s cool though. That’s super-cool that you — like I said, that now it’s kind of like, they always say like one of their own is getting up there and there’s nothing wrong with that, because every president I think that’s the beauty of how NALA set up. It’s like every president has their own background, their own experience, their own, you know, whatever upbringing. I mean, let’s be honest. Whether it’s geographical or whatever their experiences come from and I think that is part of what you’ll bring. I mean, you’ll still remain constant, still have the guidelines and our goals and our plan, but you’ll get to bring in those things from your background.
So, I mean, I’m really looking forward to it and like I said, I think it’s going to be super-cool because I know that even if it’s just about education, like it’s just about educating and kind of bringing to the forefront the importance that the paralegals do that are employed by the government. Because like you said, I just don’t think — I don’t want to say it’s not common, but I just think like you’re just not aware of it. Like it’s not — it’s like, “Oh, you worked with the government. What are you doing?” You know? Like that type of thing.
Debbie L. Overstreet: And we may not have that actual title as paralegal.
Jill Francisco: Right.
Debbie L. Overstreet: But every day, especially if you look into my niche that I have of working in the real estate division, I am dealing with contracts all day long whether it’s a lease, an easement, a license. We are looking at regulations and policies and laws — other laws that might pertain to our local out grants. We call them out grants.
Jill Francisco: Yup. Right. No.
Debbie L. Overstreet: So, we have those and so if we can bring more people in to understand how government can help serve others and how NALA can help those paralegals to advance their career. My main thing is, you know, Jill is that the leadership program that initially was started through NALA was paramount in my continuing on into NALA, into the service to NALA and to the paralegals and I’m excited and I believe that Melissa mentioned this last year during the NALA Conference that we’re working on a new leadership program.
Jill Francisco: Yup.
Debbie L. Overstreet: And I’m so excited that that will be coming. It may not finish during my term, and I know that that’s something that can be a long-term work in progress that we’re committed to making sure that paralegals have that leadership skill.
You may not use it at NALA. You may not use it in your affiliate. It’s very helpful on both of those levels, but you can even use it in an organization of any type or even in your household.
Jill Francisco: Yeah. Oh, true. And your career, like, just in your career it’s general. Like you know, you’re talking about going up the ladder and I know your skills have transferred over to your career-wise and I think like a little birdie has reached out to me, maybe he’s been a past leader to help get a little bit on that. So I’m super-excited to see that coming down the pike.
So anyway, poor listeners. Debbie and I could go on forever but 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 Debbie Overstreet, ACP, NALA, President Elect, and we are just wrapping up. We wrapped up our discussion on that Debbie is getting into go, ready to be now the NALA pres — well, she already is the NALA President Elect and she’s going to get installed at the convention that’s coming up at the 2022 NALA Conference & Expo. It’s going to be July 14th through 16th in Phoenix, Arizona, and Debbie, I was just laughing about how the last time we’ve gone virtual for two years. So the last time that we were in-person it was in, I guess it was actually technically Scottsdale, but we were still in the great State of Arizona and I was President out there.
So it’s kind of funny coming back around, be in Phoenix again, 100 degrees in July, but it’s super-fun, but it’s going to — but, you know, this is a really — it’s going to be super-awesome and I think that I am commending NALA. I just got to say my two sentences, I want Debbie to get a take on the event coming up because she probably has some inside scoop information that I don’t have, but I’m just so proud that NALA has looked at what is going on in the industry, in the conference world, in the seminar world and has taken, I think a huge step to undertake having a — still having a virtual component but live, I think that’s the key there.
Like, I think people may keep a virtual, but it’s like going to be recordings or whatever, but now you’re going to have people that can attend live, if they choose, and they also — can also choose to attend virtually also live. Now, all the sessions I know were not offered to everyone virtually, but there’s a really good selection for that. And the thing that I just want to say is, I think that’s so awesome because for our listeners that have never attended or attended during one of the past two years, I mean our conference, our numbers were off the charts. I mean, we broke like a thousand and then I think we’re almost up to 1,500 and I know that those are people that never ever attended a NALA event, attended NALA CLE and now have that chance virtually from wherever they’re convenience to them was to get a hold of NALA’s awesome education and speakers and just the atmosphere. I mean, granted.
There’s nothing like being in-person. I’m not going to deny that and I know Debbie is not going to argue with me about that either. I mean, I think I’ve been every year since 2002. They probably can’t wait to get rid of me, but I’m still coming, FYI, there’s the warning for this year, but you know, it’s like it just is awesome. And it’s like, I’m so happy that they did not do away with that, because I think that would have been a disservice to all the people that we’ve brought in these past two years.
So, Debbie, what do you think? Like if you want to give me like I said, a couple of highlights, you want to just have a little blurb. It’s going to be your install but it’s also going to be a fabulous premier paralegal event.
Debbie L. Overstreet: Yes, it is going to be amazing. I am so excited about this. Having a hybrid conference where you can have the option of either attending in-person or virtually, you’ll go to nala.org/conference to sign up. The neat thing about being in-person is that you get the networking. It’s not too big for union. It’s so exciting and you get to see these vendors in-person. That’s another big thing we have is we have a huge roomful this year of vendors and it’s hard to do that virtually, but we have that offering and these vendors can reach out to the ones that are going to be virtual.
But with this, we also have, if you’re attending in-person, you have to pick just certain courses that you want to attend, but you also get the entire packet of presentations.
Jill Francisco: That’s amazing.
Debbie L. Overstreet: That is amazing. You got 30 CLEs available that you can take at your leisure the rest of the year. So, that is a big draw but I appreciate the ones that are going to be there virtually. We look forward to reaching out to you while we’re there. Right now, you got room discount rates if you’re going to go in-person until June 22nd, so don’t miss that.
Jill Francisco: Oh, yes. Is that true? Yeah. And let’s just talk about, so, we were at Scottsdale and it was a JW Marriott Resort, it was absolutely gorgeous. We had lazy rivers, we had beautiful pools, we had wonderful outdoor areas, the desert in the background. It was just a gorgeous area, and then all the facilities that we were in for our CLE, it was so accommodating. Food was delicious. So I mean, and this one is a partner, I think I’m correct.
Debbie L. Overstreet: Yes.
Jill Francisco: It’s a JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, and like Debbie said, if you’re going to go, get in on that because it’s a great time to do it because you can get that discounted rate. So I’m doing a couple CLEs, I’m doing in the CP track, I’m doing the civil litigation and the torts so if anybody is out there, get ready to take the exam, that’s a great time to do all those sections right there back-to-back. Get a great charge to get going, get studying and then take the exam, but not only that. We have so many other things that we’re doing, and Debbie, I want you to talk about that because I feel like you’re probably in tune with some of that better than I am on the outside here now.
Debbie L. Overstreet: Yes. The CP track is amazing. Like you said, Jill is going to be one of the presenters and it’s great for those that are looking at taking the CP exam, great practice sessions in there. Definitely, I want to join us for that either in-person or virtually.
One of the big ones I see that we’re going to have is the Access to Justice presentation that is available. I am impressed so much with the variety of presentations that we have for the continuing education. We have some on police shootings, excessive force, and the constitution, all of the social media and paralegals, how to protect your constitutional rights. So we have a lot of social presentations that are going to be available as well as having workers’ comp, the interstate law and climate change. Great presentations that are going to be available both in live and virtually.
Jill Francisco: Yeah. And also we have the usual. You always got to talk about it, an awesome place to get your ethics because when you have your certification, you need that hour of ethics every year. And also, I mean, I like how you guys, I feel like this year you’ve kind of got some of the different or not so popular areas of law, which I think withdraws in different people because they kind of waited out, like there’s like, say they’re in criminal and there is some criminal stuff this year, you know, and it’s like they waited out until their turn. And I think now you got a really, really great Smorgasburg if you will of CLE, but still not leaving the normal, you know, most popular litigation, I see, you know, there’s a thing about the motions in limine, everything you need to know about motions in limine.
So, I feel like, if it’s anything — I mean, and I always take stuff, you know me, on my soapbox, never too much education, but I feel like there is definitely something for everybody. So, the deadline, I mean, you can register what? All the way up to actually even walking, right?
Debbie L. Overstreet: Showing up at the door, yes.
Jill Francisco: Right. But —
Debbie L. Overstreet: Or virtually.
Jill Francisco: Right. Oh, same. Okay. And then what’s the easiest — and then the easiest way what? Is to just go on NALA’s website?
Debbie L. Overstreet: Yes. Go to the nala.org. You can just put in nala.org and it’ll show. You’ll scroll down and you’ll see conference information or you can go the nala.org/conference and it’ll immediately pop up or you can call them at (918) 587-6828. Obviously, I’ve called them many times.
Jill Francisco: They’ve blocked my number clearly, but anyway, yes, and the other thing is too — is go to those websites, NALA’s website like Debbie mentioned and there’s a beautiful brochure. If you’re not convinced, I mean, it goes over everything from the meetings, the annual meeting, the affiliates meetings, we have a great — who is the keynote? Because I think it’s somebody — they usually try to get somebody —
Debbie L. Overstreet: She’s from Arizona Maricopa County.
Jill Francisco: I was going to say. In their local?
Debbie L. Overstreet: Yes. She’s Commissioner Melissa Zabor.
Jill Francisco: Oh, awesome!
Debbie L. Overstreet: And she’s the Maricopa County’s therapeutic courts. So, she works a lot with the participants who then experiencing the transformation drug court and the ones that are around, it’s a criminal action that she works; search warrants.
Jill Francisco: Yeah, and that’s going to play in like you said, about the social and the Injustice and things like that. That’s going to be awesome to play into that. So anyway, well, Debbie, we got to take another quick break, a commercial, and then we’re going to come back and we’re going to talk a little bit about the government stuff and see how paralegals can get into the government and learn about the government if that would be something they would be interested in. Okay, 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 Debbie Overstreet, ACP, NALA President Elect. I also wanted to touch on the government paralegal jobs or not necessarily like you and I were discussing, not necessarily maybe that’s called a paralegal, but the skillset that as a paralegal has that they’re going to fit in to a lot of things that now the government, like you said, is looking for. A lot of quality, employees that clearly a paralegal-type person is going to possess a lot of those skills.
Debbie L. Overstreet: Absolutely. And in the last two years, you would think that it might slow down but actually the government searching for quality employees that fit different parts of the organizations across the country and across the world and they show that the paralegal is just continuing to grow. So, when you look at — working for the government, there’s a great spot to go, go to usajobs.gov. That one will get you into — you put in that you have paralegal skills, you can find jobs all over the world with that. You can also put in there that you may start with legal assistant and you’ll find jobs or if you’re looking at contracting, we could use paralegals in contracting, real estate division, lots of different areas. And if you just go a wide search, you will find different levels. And there’s many times that because of your skillset, your experience that you would come in at a higher, we call them grades, then it would be a beginner just coming out of college.
So, I really urge you to do that. Not only go to USA jobs, but you can also look at Department of Justice website. You can look at any of the different military. The National Guard, and even go into city governments and county governments. It’s very interesting. We have a lot of law clerks that are paralegals that we also have those that are court clerks that are paralegals. Your skillset is needed everywhere.
Jill Francisco: Well, I don’t think you could say that any better, I mean, never to discount I always try to be encouraging because I feel like now is a great time. If you were working as a paralegal, you think, oh, I don’t have this many experience, or oh, I don’t have experience in this area, I mean, I hate to say it, but I feel like now, employers, I don’t want to use the word “desperate”, but I think that’s where we’re at. And so, like, possibly the employer that might have wanted all this stuff, maybe even excessive, let’s call it, now, they are open and willing to try to hire somebody that has potential, that is a hard worker, that is demonstrated they can learn. They’ll hire them in. You’ll get your foot in the door and I wanted to also just clarify because I remember years and years and years ago because I’m in my what? 26 year and my defense litigation at Dinsmore/Huddleston Bolen, so I haven’t been looking for years, but I remember when I did that whole great thing is intimidating, but one thing I thought I understood and you can correct me if I’m wrong because I don’t want to lead our listeners astray, but I mean, if you don’t necessarily have the experience, isn’t it sometimes you’re — like you said your education computes to a grade?
Debbie L. Overstreet: Correct. So you have education, experience and a lot of times they look up a lot at your education, but also your years of experience can overlap and bring you farther up onto the pay scale.
Jill Francisco: When you’re initially starting?
Debbie L. Overstreet: When you’re initially starting out, yes. It makes a difference and the other big thing about this is if you are searching for a job, don’t just — and make sure when you look at those government jobs, they do still have a lot that are completely remote.
Jill Francisco: Oh, wow. Which I know is exciting for people right now. Paralegals are loving it, I feel.
Debbie L. Overstreet: Yes, yes. So if you’re going to one of the big ones that I was saying is usajobs.gov or go to the military sites, the Department of Justice.
You can go to all of the law enforcement ones too, the CIA, which is going to be one of our vendors at conference but they are looking for paralegals. You can go to DEA, all of the acronyms, the FBI, all of those use paralegals in their programs that they have. So I definitely urge you to look at those positions. There’s so much to say for not only the pay scale is good, but you have nice retirement, you have nice — the insurance benefits, you have time off, and you don’t normally work the 80 hours a week that you do a lot of times in the corporate world.
Jill Francisco: Right, that’s true. Well, and I think you bring a good point to like people. I know that I didn’t even put two and two together until like you said the CIA became a vendor a few years back. I want to think they showed up when, St. Louis maybe? I don’t know, I can’t remember, but I never really —
Debbie L. Overstreet: In Vegas.
Jill Francisco: Yeah, yeah. Or Vegas. True. But no, it’s like I didn’t put that together just because — it’s not like you have to be out like you said actually out on the field but like you’re in the office because there are still things that need to be done in the legal realm. And so I think like that is a good — if the message and I think Debbie’s message is the same. This is a good time for paralegals to explore, to switch, if you want, if you feel like you’re not going to be able to advance so you want to switch to a different area or a different branch or just something in order to advance, if you feel like you’re stagnant and also think I’ve called it the employees market now because I feel like, like we were laughing, but it’s like if you’re a — like for instance for me, Dinsmore presented us?
I mean yes, I think it probably started from COVID, unfortunately, but now it’s like it has nothing to do with it. We’re allowed to work remotely because we’ve kind of proven ourselves, you know? We’ve done our work, we’ve done our job, we’re accessible and I think just overall, our mental health, our just well-being and balance and things have improved and so it’s like that’s a great opportunity. That may have not been something for paralegals that wasn’t afforded. Maybe you had to get in higher management or supervisory where you could actually be more controlled. And I think now that’s another — if that’s the reason like you were just talking about remote with government positions, if that’s appealing to you, go for it.
Debbie L. Overstreet: Right.
Jill Francisco: Don’t you agree?
Debbie L. Overstreet: I agree. And the nice thing about the virtual work is that you can focus. I sat here today. This is one day that I’ve actually said I’m going to telework today and I could look at some legal documents without interruptions that you might have while you’re in an office or if you’re like many of us that they’re now sharing cubes or they’re sharing office space of some type. So it does afford you that time alone to make sure you produce quality work.
Jill Francisco: Yeah. And like you said, focus, I think it’s a big area. The only person that’s bothering me is my cat, Otis, right now, and she sleeps a lot, so it’s been okay.
But anyway, Debbie, I am so excited to have you today. Like, it was so great talking with you again. I’ve missed talking with you because like you said, we’ve been on the board forever, becomes a family. I think what, it was 12 years, probably or so, but it was great catching up with you personally, it was great talking about the NALA Conference coming up. We are going to be together whether it’d be in-person or virtually, something for everyone. So paralegals, please at least go to the website, nala.org and check it out because just make sure that there’s not some — because there’s got to be something there that that’s going to be appealing to you, and you don’t want to miss it. It’s going to be awesome. And then also the career advice that Debbie had was very extensive about her government. She brings that experience and I know she’s going to bring that to NALA, but also for our listeners, for anybody that wants to reach out, I’m sure Debbie, you would be acceptable to that. So where is the best thing if they have any more questions or a follow-up or anything like that? How’s the best way to get in touch with you, Debbie, after this?
Debbie L. Overstreet: The easiest way is we have the email for NALA which is doverstreet, so it’s like [email protected] and you can email me there, or you can call me if you want. I’ll be happy too if you email me. I’ll send you my phone number either personal or work. I’ll be happy to talk to you about your career changes or your thought about career changes, or even becoming a certified paralegal.
Jill Francisco: Yeah. Debbie is, like I said, Debbie, that’s why — I know you’re going to be very successful at the NALA realm because you’re just like me. You love to help at any time, any place, anywhere to the paralegal field because of our — and I think it all stems from the love of the profession that we have ourselves.
So, I really appreciate it. And also, don’t worry for the listeners, you can go to the Legal Talk website when they put this podcast out, and you’ll be able to get the information. We’ll put all the nice and the helpful websites that Debbie gave for the jobs and for NALA, and you’ll be able to get that information there. So anyway, thank you so much, Debbie, again, I appreciate it.
Debbie L. Overstreet: It’s wonderful talking to you.
Jill Francisco: So much fun. So anyway, thank you, also, to all our listeners who tuned in with me today. If you have any questions or comments for me, please contact me at [email protected]. Hope you will join me for one of our episodes next month. I’m Jill Francisco for The Paralegal Voice signing off.
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