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Kalisha Reed: Paralegal, Omaha, NE

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<<Reed juggles an incredibly full schedule as a paralegal at Legal Aid of Nebraska's Omaha office, working full-time for one attorney and splitting the rest of her time between two others. "I work in the areas of family law and Social Security. Also, under the supervision of another attorney and in conjunction with another paralegal, I assist in running the Pro Se Divorce Clinic. In this clinic, individuals who have an uncontested divorce with children are allowed to represent themselves, and we assist them with completing the paperwork," she said.

According to Reed, the most enjoyable aspects of her job are working with people from very diverse backgrounds, being an advocate, and encouraging clients. The most difficult challenge is not feeling sorry for clients but, rather, trying to understand them and the courage it has taken them to get to the points they are at in their lives.

Reed said that there are many important issues facing the legal community today. "Working at Legal Aid of Nebraska, there are still many people who are unsure of their legal rights. For this reason, I would say equal and fair access throughout the judicial and/or administrative process. It is very important for people to know that they have the right to be represented," she said.

The greatest issue that she sees facing minority paralegals today is the fact that there are not enough minorities in the paralegal field. "I don't think there is much promoting of minorities to enter the legal field," said Reed.

Over the course of her career as a paralegal, Reed said, she has seen more firms seeking paralegals with higher levels of training, such as those with certificates, bachelor's, or associate's degrees. "It seems the bigger firms are moving toward this more and moving away from having only experience," said Reed.

In Reed's opinion, the value that a paralegal association adds depends on how much the paralegal utilizes the association. "The association can be very beneficial with providing the tools necessary to continue your legal education by providing classes and seminars. It is also good to know that paralegals are recognized nationally with the assistance of these types of organizations," she said.

"I never imagined I'd be working in the legal field. Learning the law is very interesting, and it is always good to know your rights," said Reed. "I always thought I would be a teacher. A lot of my life and work experience was geared towards such work. While at College of Saint Mary (CSM), I took a family law class, and during this class, we were required to participate in a service learning project."

Q. What CD was most recently in your CD player?
A. Mary J. Blige!
Q. What is the last magazine you read?
A. TV Guide every week.
Q. What is your favorite TV show?
A. Hands down, Grey's Anatomy...everyone should get into Grey's!
Q. Who is your role model?
A. My sister, Marcie. She is the smartest person I know. Every question I ask her, she always has the answer.

"I volunteered at the victim/witness unit. It was a wonderful learning experience. This experience in itself was an amazing hands-on [opportunity to volunteer]. The experience allowed me to get a firsthand look at the judicial process and understand the different court rules and procedures. It also allowed me to work directly with victims of domestic violence and other crimes, as well as witnesses. We were able to help people every day overcome fears of testifying or seeing the accused in the courtroom. And although I did not know it at the time, it would help me land my first full-time paralegal position."

Reed only had positive experiences to share with regard to being an African-American woman in the paralegal profession. "Because of my ethnicity, I was able to attend a four-week prelaw undergraduate scholar program offered by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. It was designed to get more minorities interested in pursuing a career in law. This experience was wonderful and gave me a firsthand look at law school and pursuing a law degree," said Reed.

<<According to Reed, if she had it to do all over again, she would have prepared herself in high school for a career in the legal field and tracked down a mentor. As for the people who have influenced her most in her life, Reed said her children have motivated her. "I wanted to be able to provide for my children. I want my children to be able to look at an educated woman/mother," she said.

Reed's advice for students who are preparing to become paralegals is to "keep your grades up!" She said, "You will always find subjects that are difficult or areas that you flat-out don't like, but keep positive and work hard. Start preparing for law school now. So many paralegals begin and have an idea that they want to go ahead and go to law school, but just the preparation of law school is tough. There are many things that you can do as a freshman and sophomore to prepare for law school, so stay on top of that. Volunteer! Any chance you get—at a law office, as a runner—get experience before your internship; that way, you already have your foot in the door!"

Reed is the youngest of four children. She has one sister and two brothers. Her two children are eight-year-old Dajhia, who is in third grade, and Xzavier, who is five and is preparing to enter kindergarten this fall.

"I like to shop, and usually you can find me relaxing, catching up on my shows," said Reed. "I learned how to play golf at the age of 14 and was featured in a golf magazine when I was 16. I played for my high school for a couple of years. For fun, you will most likely find me hanging out with my best friend, Monique—catch a movie or go out dancing."

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