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Susan Ippoliti: The Litigation Paralegal Who Keeps On Going

published October 22, 2007

Published By
( 12 votes, average: 4.9 out of 5)
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"My work style has always been quick-paced and constant," writes Ippoliti in an article. "Accustomed to working long hours (sometimes seven days a week for weeks at a time) and meeting an annual billable target every year, it has been very difficult for me to break away from the workaholic mentality that most litigation paralegals working in a large-firm setting can relate to."

Working for a small firm means no more billable hours, no more overtime, and no more weekend
work — a switch many might rejoice over. But not Ippoliti.

"The pace has been much slower than I am accustomed to," she writes.

And with Ippoliti's long list of work experience, it's no wonder this paralegal struggles with slowing down. As a plaintiff and defense litigation paralegal, Ippoliti has worked "in areas such as products liability, architectural design and construction malpractice, trade secrets misappropriation, professional liability, intellectual property, asbestos litigation, personal injury, medical malpractice, employment discrimination, and insurance defense."

In 1997, Ippoliti graduated from St. John Fisher College in Rochester with a B.A. in Political Science. Today, she works as a litigation paralegal and case manager with law firm Harter, Secrest & Emery, LLP, in Rochester, NY.

The 130-attorney, full-service law firm is committed to "providing [their] business and personal clients with zealous, proactive legal counsel and advice, not simply high-quality legal products," says its website. Clients come from locations ranging from Upstate New York to Western Florida to "beyond," and Harter, founded in 1893 in Rochester, NY, has been voted "Rochester's #1 Law Firm" for three consecutive years.

But Ippoliti's role in the legal field doesn't end there. Currently, she is the vice president and director of membership for the National Federation of Paralegal Associations Inc. (NFPA) as well as on its marketing committee. Previously, Ippoliti served as the regulation review coordinator and special research coordinator for NFPA, an organization that "promotes a global presence for the paralegal profession and leadership in the legal community," according to its website.

"Founded in 1974, NFPA was the first national paralegal association" and "is comprised of more than 50 member associations and represents over 11,000 individual members reflecting a broad range of experience, education, and diversity."

Since 1998, Ippoliti has been a member of the Paralegal Association of Rochester Inc. (PAR). She has also played an active role in her profession by serving as vice president of national affairs, vice president of professional development, chairwoman of the Empire State Alliance of Paralegal Associations, member of the New York State Bar Association Law Practice Management Committee, and second vice president of the Italian-American Community Center.

As a litigation paralegal and case manager, Ippoliti divides her time between speaking with attorneys, handling client files, and acting as a liaison between clients and lawyers.

"On a typical day," writes Ippoliti, "an attorney may call you into his or her office, inform you that your client has been served with a complaint[,] hand it to you[,] and proceed to give you the case background. It is at that moment that the attorney has allowed you ownership of the file. The first immediate steps are to respond with an answer and issue discovery demands, bill of particulars, medical records if it is a personal injury matter, and, most likely, a notice of deposition."

"Rule of thumb: always make sure that you are not the party with the 'to do list,'" she adds.

She also emphasizes the importance of not offering legal advice as a paralegal. This role is strictly for an attorney.

"Do not put yourself in a position to commit unlicensed practice of law (UPL)," she writes. "A good paralegal will know where to draw the line."

Still, there is a myriad of legal activities Ippoliti is able to participate in and, in many cases, take charge of. But be forewarned. These responsibilities are not for the inexperienced.

"The nitty-gritty and highly challenging world of litigation usually revolves around a multimillion-dollar lawsuit...Multimillion-dollar litigations are usually handled by more than one attorney — realistically a partner and senior associate — and these are the cases that keep you lying awake at night or force you awake in cold sweats."

"These cases are typically document intensive, involve massive discovery (electronic or paper), and consist of daily meetings and/or conference calls with the client, partner, associate, and you. This is when your fabulous management skills are more valuable than ever," continues Ippoliti. "The team is giving you permission to be in control, and if you let this opportunity pass you by or you are unsuccessful at it, you are likely to run the risk of never getting another chance at it again."

But the most important part of being a case manager is remembering this: "When the going gets rough, take a step back, close your eyes, and breathe deep. It's not as bad as it seems."

Looks like this Energizer Bunny turned GEICO Gecko does know how to slow down after all.

published October 22, 2007

( 12 votes, average: 4.9 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.