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Everything You’ve Wanted to Know about Becoming a Board Certified Legal Assistant: A Legal Staff Profile of Michele Boerder
by Robin Salisian
The Educational and Early Career Steps to Becoming a Board Certified Legal Assistant: Boerder's Journey
"In 1976, while a high school senior, I was interested in law," says Boerder in an interview on ParalegalFocus.com. "I was the 'Speaker of the House' in my civics class and had the opportunity to travel to Austin, Texas, to see our state legislature in action."
But it wasn't until someone referred her to an attorney to discuss a career in the legal field that her journey really began.
"Will Barber, who later served on the Texas Court of Appeals, Fifth District, Dallas, was kind to meet with me, and during our discussion he showed me a magazine article that described, as he called it, 'this new thing called "paralegal."' Although I had an interest in law, I was unsure if I wanted to be an attorney. 'Paralegal' was a concept that was only beginning at that time."
Soon, she began "investigating" classes, and once she discovered an associate's degree course at El Centro College in Dallas, Texas, she enrolled. The program was a success. Besides having ties with the Dallas bar, it was launched with the help of local attorneys. Today, it is ABA approved.
Upon graduation Boerder became a certified paralegal and began working at a small firm. However, she refused to plant her roots yet. Instead, she moved to a medium-sized firm in 1986, where she began working in tax litigation and white-collar criminal defense. Once more, however, she moved, this time following her boss to "the largest law firm in Dallas at the time."
"The large law firm environment was a new experience for me," says Boerder. "I had the opportunity to work on very large, document-intensive matters…I moved with my attorneys to other law firms, and since 1998 I have been at the firm of Hughes & Luce, LLP [now K&L Gates], doing specialty litigation. I have served as the chair of the firm's paralegal committee."
Hughes & Luce, which became K&L Gates in January 2008, is made up of 1,500 lawyers from locations around the world, ranging from Beijing, Berlin, and Boston to Hong Kong, London, and New York. The company offers a wide range of services including corporate and transactional; financial; intellectual property; litigation and dispute resolution; and policy and regulatory, among many more.
But there was one thing that Boerder still wanted to do, and that was complete her bachelor's degree. She returned to school, took courses in criminal justice and mediation, graduated from the University of North Texas, and was permitted by the State of Texas to become a mediator.
Legal Associations in Which Board Certified Legal Assistants Can Get Involved: Boerder's Experience
Along with her work, Boerder also spends her time serving on the committee of the Dallas Area Paralegal Association. For 20 years, in fact, she has participated in paralegal associations as president, and she has served as president of the state paralegal organization.
But her accomplishments don't end there. Boerder has been published in numerous publications, including the Texas Legal Assistant Handbook, Introduction to the Legal Assistant Profession, Family Law, Texas Lawyer, and the Texas Paralegal Journal, just to name a few. She is also on the editorial advisory board for Legal Assistant Today magazine.
Along with publishing, Boerder also speaks at seminars and lectures.
"I have often given CLE presentations on the local, state, and national level," she admits.
Boerder, who was named "Legal Assistant of the Year" in 1995 by the Dallas Association of Legal Assistants, is a thriving legal assistant who turned a youthful passion into a successful career. So take heart, young legal professionals! You too can build your career from a high school dream. Look how well it worked for Michele Boerder.
Comments:Thanks Valerie! I appreciate the clarification. There is no such certification in California.
Posted by: Penelope Long | Date: 04-01-2009In Texas, you can apply to take a certification exam to become a board certified paralegal by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. See their website at www.tbls.org.
Posted by: Valerie Rucker | Date: 04-27-2008I'm confused as to what Ms. Boerder means by "Board Certified." Once graduated from an ABA-approved paralegal program, one receives a certificate. There are further steps a paralegal can take through NALA to become a CLA/CP, or Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal. There is also an RP, or Registered Paralegal credential. However, none of the aforementioned credentials would classify someone as "Board Certified." I think further clarification is required in order to prevent confusion for an up-and-coming paralegal who may wish to consider such a step.
I've been a paralegal for 18 years and I'm confused!
Posted by: Penelope Long | Date: 04-16-2008
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