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Kristine Farmer: Immediate Past President and Board Advisor for the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and Trial Paralegal for Godwin Pappas Langley Ronquillo, LLP, Dallas, TX

published November 27, 2006

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( 45 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
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<<Farmer, who has been a paralegal for 16 years, first became interested in the field after working in law while attending college.

"The summer before I transferred to the University of North Texas [UNT], initially as an accounting major, I began working for one of the best labor attorneys in the state of Texas, if not the nation," she said. "He had previously represented the labor union for which my father worked, and I had met him on several occasions prior to learning about the position as his part-time bookkeeper. During my tenure with this attorney, I learned so much about labor law and labor unions, which served to expand upon all that I had learned from my dad, and I was eager to learn more about the litigation process and the handling of cases. Within a very short time, this attorney began giving me legal assistant work to do, and I knew I had found my true love—labor law. Within a semester, I changed my major at UNT to labor and industrial relations management (human resources), graduated 18 months later, and have worked in the area of labor/employment law for the majority of my time as a paralegal."

It was Farmer's current firm's appreciation for and use of technology that ultimately sold her on the position. She said she loves all things technology-related, including paperless trials and evidentiary hearings. Looking back on how the legal field has evolved since she first became a paralegal, it is the evolution of technology that stands out the most to her.

"When I began as a paralegal, we had a fax machine that used thermal paper. We did not have the Internet. We did not even have Windows," she said. "All of our programs were DOS-based, and you could only launch one program at a time. We had a dedicated computer that had a modem, which we used for online legal research through Westlaw's software. Of course, we used this only sporadically because we were charged by the minute of connection time. During the times when one of our legal secretaries would take vacation, my boss's retired secretary would fill in. She used a Xerox Memorywriter typewriter—not a computer—to do Marvin's pleadings and correspondence!"

Farmer also thoroughly enjoys being able to assist the attorneys at her firm in the courtroom by utilizing her strong organizational skills.

"Being organized is one of the most important qualities a trial paralegal can have," she said. "Moreover, being very attentive and cognizant, not only of the jury as they react to witnesses' testimony but also of the perceived credibility of witnesses, is key for a paralegal. In trial, my attorneys are focused on their examination and cross-examination of witnesses. Once I am assured that they have all of the documents and facts they need to be as prepared as possible, I then focus on reading the body language and juror reactions to that testimony, which aids our trial team in their overall trial presentation—especially in closing arguments."

However, with so much to keep organized and so many people to manage, Farmer admits that her job can be overwhelming at times, especially when documents have to be added to or changed at the last minute. How does she deal with this?

"Generally speaking, people in the world of litigation do not work ahead of schedule, but, rather, they work towards deadlines," she said. "My group does a very good job of establishing target dates for completion of drafts so that we have ample time to review, rework, or conduct additional legal research before the deadline to file or serve whatever is due. This aids in keeping the frustration of procrastination to a minimum."

In addition to her work as a trial paralegal, Farmer is also Immediate Past President and Board Advisor for the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), Inc. In this position, she assists the current president in any way that she can and, to some extent, provides a historical viewpoint for the association by putting together a report of her presidency. She also serves as a timekeeper for the association's annual meeting and a reporter for Inside NFPA.

"NFPA is a nonprofit professional organization headquartered in Edmonds, WA, comprising state and local paralegal associations throughout the United States," she said. "Founded in 1974, NFPA is a federation of 50 member associations representing more than 11,000 members who reflect a broad diversity of experience, education, and job responsibilities. NFPA has been the national voice for the paralegal profession for over 30 years."

Farmer added, "As the board advisor, I also serve as the supervisory board member to the nominations coordinator, special projects coordinator, and the strategic planning coordinator. I also serve as the chair of the marketing committee and am the co-chair of the Tech Institute planning committee. I am very excited to be working with our planning committee to plan our first annual NFPA Tech Institute, "Learn, Leverage, Lead," which will be held at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 19th and 20th, 2007."

Farmer became a member of the association in 1995 after joining the Dallas Area Paralegal Association, which is a part of NFPA. A year after joining NFPA, she began serving as the chair of the litigation section. In 1998, she went to her first NFPA convention in Anchorage, AK, as the association's primary representative, and she said she has been hooked ever since.

"I like to use the analogy that NFPA is structured very similarly to the United States Senate," she said. "No matter how large or small the member association, each association can send two delegates to the NFPA conventions, where each association has one vote. The member associations of NFPA make the policy decisions for the federation. The board of directors is charged with implementing the policy initiatives the delegates put into place with their votes. This process makes NFPA very unique. The federation is driven by its members."

Farmer encourages paralegal students to get involved in paralegal associations, not only to network with other paralegals but also to help them see that they are part of something bigger than themselves—a profession that matters within the legal field and the world.

"The delegates and members of NFPA are the best paralegals in the country," she said. "I have learned so much about the profession by simply attending NFPA meetings, conventions, conferences, and workshops. I developed leadership abilities through my involvement and also believe that my membership and active involvement gives me the opportunity to give back to the community that has given me so much."

"Paralegals are an integral part of the legal system, and we should celebrate the profound impact the legal system and democracy have had on American society," she said. "I consider it an honor and a privilege to work in the legal profession. I enjoy doing more than what is expected, and I always strive to learn more, do more, and help more."

A native Texan, Farmer loves to read and travel, and she is also currently pursuing an education degree at UNT in the hopes of teaching paralegal studies or business law and business education in the future.

published November 27, 2006

( 45 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
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