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Meredith Steirer; President, Cleveland Association of Paralegals; Cleveland, OH

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<<Steirer, who has been a paralegal for eight years, has worked at Swartz Campbell, LLC—a firm specializing in toxic tort and asbestos cases—since it opened in April 2002. Upon graduating, she worked as a file clerk and then a legal secretary in the areas of collection, medical malpractice, personal injury, and appellate law.

Steirer admits that at first, she was disappointed at the process she had to go through to get a position as a paralegal, but now she sees the process as beneficial.



"I can honestly say that because I held those positions, it made me the diligent paralegal I am today," she said. "It is imperative to realize that every position is an important one and, at some point in your life, you are going to need help from people in those positions. Understanding, respecting, and getting along with people in various positions makes your job all the more easier, not to mention builds a solid reputation for you as a working professional."

In fact, she even encourages recent graduates to work as legal secretaries.

"I highly recommend working as a legal secretary before an entry-level paralegal," she said. "You'll learn more than you know, and you will be promoted to paralegal faster."

For Steirer, an average day at the office is a study in the art of multitasking.

"On any given day, I sort through 100-plus emails, multiple telephone calls, in-house requests and assignments, breakdown billing percentages, check an online docket, review medical records, network, train new and old personnel, maintain 90,000-plus-file databases, take telephone conferences, etc.," she said.

However, the variety of tasks doesn't seem to bother Steirer, who says she enjoys the flexibility of her job.

"The Swartz Campbell Cleveland office is a satellite office; so I have the backing of a big firm, while still working in a small firm environment," she said. "I get to perform an array of responsibilities, duties, tasks, and assignments that most paralegals do not."

Steirer, who found her current job through an advertisement in a local newspaper, decided to become a paralegal because she wanted to be able to support herself without going to college for a long period of time.

"Having watched my three older sisters all graduate from college and be unemployed for six to eight months, I knew I had to pick a field that was high in demand and would also pay well," she said. "The paralegal profession was my answer."

Steirer says one of the more difficult challenges she has faced as a paralegal occurred when she was promoted to senior paralegal and was given the task of overseeing another paralegal.

"Having trained that person for many hours—we got to know each other. Eventually, we became friends. This made it difficult when I had to evaluate work product and performance," she said. "What I have learned is, if you are courteous and nice and conduct yourself in a professional manner, then usually compromises can be met and there are no hard feelings."

Over the course of her career as a paralegal, Steirer has experienced numerous emotional highlights.

"In 2001, I was the only paralegal (accompanied by three attorneys) to be flown to a high-powered meeting in Chicago," she said. "In 2002, I co-authored an article with the managing partner of my firm that went out to 250-plus clients. In 2004, I was elected to be president of my local paralegal association. In 2006, I was nominated for Legal Assistant Today's Paralegal of the Year Award, as well as the NFPA Paralegal of the Year Award and NFPA's Local Outstanding Leadership Award."

Steirer urges future paralegals to get involved in their local paralegal association as soon as they get out of school, advice that she wishes she would've followed herself.

"I became a member of my local association as soon as I graduated, but I never got involved. I feel if I would have been more active, it would have opened up more job opportunities for me, as well as enlarged my network," she said.

However, Steirer has since made up for lost time and currently serves as President of the Cleveland Association of Paralegals, where her duties include, but are not limited to, being supervisor, advocate, liaison, and visionary for CAP.

She prepares the association's agenda, reviews and approves all written materials, writes or delegates a column for the newsletter, and oversees the daily operations of the association and its board members.

"In my opinion, a local paralegal association brings a huge value to an individual as well as the community," she said. "It not only keeps you in touch with what's going on in your community and your fellow colleagues, [but] it also keeps you aware of what's going on at a national level. It broadens your network and opens more doors professionally and personally than you could ever do on your own."

Steirer, an experienced traveler, has already visited Spain, Hawaii, Ireland, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Caicos/Turk Islands, the Mexican Riviera, Belize, and Peru and is currently looking forward to exploring Africa this summer. In addition, she is an animal rights activist and an avid gardener, and she has no plans of slowing down.

"Between work, CAP, and my social life, I keep pretty busy," she said, "…and, I'm happy to say, I couldn't imagine my life any differently."



Swartz Campbell LLC

    

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