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Profile: Jill Hale, Roberts & Carver, PLLC, Prescott, AZ All the world's a stage for star paralegal

published May 09, 2005

( 18 votes, average: 4.6 out of 5)
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<<A paralegal with the two-attorney firm Roberts & Carver, PLLC, Hale is very active in national paralegal associations and follows trends and changes in the profession. She was recently chosen as one of the top-15 paralegals in the country for paralegal author Carole Bruno's new book, Lessons from the Experts: The 15 Most Successful Paralegals in America and What You Can Learn from Them.

Hale believes the secrets to her success are organization, education, and determination. The variety of working in a small, general practice firm keeps her especially interested in the field. Hale has been with the firm since 1969, when she first worked as the part-time file clerk. The firm has changed names and partners, and Hale briefly left to study in Phoenix for her legal secretary certificate in the early 1970s.

"My mother and I worked here together for 10 years, and then she retired, and I just kept on and moved from legal secretary into the paralegal position and then finally went ahead and got my paralegal certificates," she said. "I have two of those now, from two different associations nationally."

Hale is a member of three paralegal associations and served as president of NALS in 2001. During her tenure as president, she realized that the president of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations was also from Arizona. So was the president of LAMA and NALA. Hale decided it was a fateful coincidence and got all the Arizona leaders together. They all met in Phoenix before an Arizona Diamondbacks game.

"I can't imagine that had ever happened before, that there would be four national presidents from the same state at the same time," she said. "We got to know each other and started a collaboration, and that's when NALS became involved in the group called the conclave during that year I was president, and that kind of came out of us all being from Arizona at the same time."

Though all four presidents have moved on, the conclave of associations exists today, with leaders getting together to exchange information and keep tabs on trends in the profession.

Hale said the associations are the best way to stay current in professional changes, particularly as many states are regulating the paralegal profession. Hale expects many states will adopt a licensing rule, where paralegals must pass a state exam to call themselves paralegals, similar to how attorneys are licensed.

Hale also does about 20-30 hours of continuing legal education each year. In 2003, she was runner-up for Legal Assistant Today Paralegal of the Year.

"I really enjoy it, especially in a general practice law firm," she said of her job. "I don't know how well I would function in some of the bigger firms, where you do one kind of work and you do nothing else, because I love the variety of meeting a lot of different kinds of clients and doing a lot of different work for them. And of course it's a huge challenge because I have to keep up with a lot of changes in a lot of different areas of law."

Hale is a motorcycle enthusiast. She drives a Honda Shadow 750 street bike and married her "motorcycle buddy" in 1974. She said her theatrical background has helped her paralegal career, especially when she was lecturing as part of the now-defunct NALS Educational Institute.

"I've often incorporated theatrical things to make my presentations a little more interesting, so I think my background in theater has helped there too, to make me feel more comfortable doing presentations," she said. "You always get a little bit nervous, and I do that at the theater as much as I've performed over the years. The day you don't get nervous, you better get nervous. You're going to blow it if you don't keep on your toes."

Hale urges people new to the paralegal profession to find a mentor within their law firms, whether it be a paralegal, attorney, file clerk, or secretary. And because law is so deadline driven, she warns new paralegals to be prepared for stress.

"Sometimes, I've got pages and pages of projects that I'm trying to prioritize all the time and as new things come in," she said.

And getting involved in a national association is the best way to keep abreast of changes in the law, she said.

"That's a really nice thing about national associations, that support. I have a huge network of friends," she said. "That's a wonderful benefit. Get involved in a national association as soon as possible. It's a great benefit."

( 18 votes, average: 4.6 out of 5)
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