Cathy Schultheis is a professional mediator who owns and manages Mediation and Paralegal Services located in Boulder County, Colorado. For the past thirty-six years, she has provided mediation, arbitration as well as paralegal services. Cathy has been mediating family (including divorce, family and elder relationships), parenting plans and financial matters, non-traditional relationships, partnerships, workplace disputes, real estate, HOA and boundary disputes, and various contract disputes. There are many advantages to mediation including informality, speed, low cost, personally empowering, private, cooperative and creative solutions to your particular situation.
Cathy's paralegal service provides mobile notary public services, document preparation, start to finish divorce preparation, document review and trial support for attorneys. She also works with individuals who may or may not be represented by an attorney. Her supervising attorney must review all documents prepared for filing with the court. Prior to opening her company, Cathy worked as a paralegal for several large and small law firms. In the late 1970's she worked as a paralegal for Vail's insurance company’s defense team after the Vail Gondola Tragedy. Her favorite job as a paralegal was with Susan Wendall Whicher, a sole practitioner, for ten years. She was a Realtor from 2004 until 2009. The mediator and paralegal has been successfully running her business since 1989.
What can you expect when you are working with Cathy? Brian from Broomfield, CO stated, "Cathy is genuine and caring about her clients . . . . [She] was a voice of reason, which helped us to be able to come to an agreement to what seemed to be an impossible situation. She put us at ease and the way she set up the house for our meetings created a really comfortable atmosphere, which was very settling."
Cathy was born in Dothan, AL and raised in the suburbs of Chicago and on Long Island, NY. She obtained an Associate Degree in Paralegal from Arapahoe Community College and she has continued her education since 1974. Cathy earned received her mediation training at CDR Associates in 1984. The proud mother of two daughters said, "I became a grandmother in 2011. The thought of my grandson makes me smile from ear to ear and I am fortunate to have his sweet company a few days each week. We read, make fires, cook together and play a lot. He keeps me younger. His Mom and I used to love diving together in Cozumel. My youngest daughter married in 2012. I am grateful to have two sons-in-laws."
When asked about her hobbies, Cathy stated, "The ocean is a place for creative thought and serenity. The underwater world is quiet, very blue and full of other forms of life to observe. Scuba diving is my favorite hobby, as it requires strength, knowledge, good judgment and commitment. Cozumel, Mexico reefs, offer 100+ foot visibility, colorful wildlife and challenge. People say I am a good cook and somewhat of a foodie. I like gardening, hiking and snow shoeing." Cathy likes hiking Eagle Trail near the Boulder Reservoir and trails above Brainard Lake in Ward, CO and she enjoys snow shoeing at Moffat Tunnel in Rollinsville, CO. She is a frequent visitor of The Mediterranean Restaurant, which is nestled on the west side of Boulder.
Cathy's Successful Business and Tips for Legal Staff Members
Cathy was asked what is a mediator? "In mediation, parties in a disagreement meet with a neutral, confidential mediator to resolve the disagreement themselves. The mediator is a skilled facilitator who helps the parties look at options so they can come to a meaningful and mutual agreement, thereby ending the dispute. It's a form of conflict resolution."
Cathy discussed her most memorable educational experience. She claimed:
"My most memorable education experience was with my mentor, Wendy Whicher. She was my family law professor. My final was to prepare a start to finish divorce proceeding. Wendy gave me a B+ or A- (it was a long time ago) and I thought my final grade should have been higher. She thought I was more interested in the grade than working as a paralegal so I said I would work for free for 3 weeks and then she would find me irreplaceable and pay me $25/hour. In 1974 that was a great wage. Wendy and I worked together for a total of 10 years."When did Cathy decide to become a paralegal? She asserted:
"When I was 13 I worked at Burrwood Home For the Blind and Deaf in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., on Lloyd Harbor. Learning sign language, having friendships with the elderly residents, serving them meals and spending time with them on my own time was special and it was one of my favorite jobs. To this day, serving the public and using my communication skills to help is very rewarding. I moved to Colorado in 1970 and worked as a waitress while I went to school on my Associate Degree. My guidance counselor gave me some questionnaires to see what program would work best for me and it was their Paralegal Associate Degree Program."Did Cathy transition into law? "No, unless you call being [a] waitress a profession. I earned my degree in my early 20’s. I wanted a profession and my degree was an acknowledgement of my skills and knowledge as a paralegal.”
What is the best part of your job? "The best part of my job is using my knowledge as a paralegal and my training as a mediator to serve clients."
The businesswoman talked about what she is known for professionally. Cathy stated:
"I worked for my mentor, a sole practitioner, as her paralegal for 10 years. The practice was limited to family law. She acknowledged me for my research in the ABA approved book for family law attorneys in the early '80's. What do I have the knack for? Wendy said it was mediation. I closed down her practice while she stayed out of site except to me and she paid for my mediation training in 1984 at CDR Associates in Boulder. I started a service-oriented business, Paralegal Services & Mediation in 1989 and I work with all kinds of family, divorce, elder matters, non-traditional relationships, partnerships and contract disputes."Cathy gave her opinion on the current assessment of the paralegal market. "The economy has affected the legal profession. Newer attorneys are applying for paralegal positions and young associates may work overtime doing 'paralegal work' for the firm. If you are working for a firm become irreplaceable. If you aren't treated as a valuable team member keep your eyes open for a better position. Online networking groups for paralegals discuss the market and offer ideas."
The straightforward mediator also gave her opinion about the paralegal field. "There are social media discussion groups for paralegals which discuss the challenges and rewards. You can google paralegal networking groups. I am a freelance paralegal and work with attorneys who want me to help their clients and also work with clients who are not represented. All documents prepared for filing with the court for pro se clients must be reviewed by a supervising attorney. No exceptions!"
An example of these groups for paralegals are two that Cathy follows. Paralegal Jobs and Continuing Education is one of these groups. The second is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Professionals.
What would Cathy change about the legal industry? Although Cathy candidly admitted she wasn't sure what she would change about the legal industry, she believes paralegals were treated with more respect before 2000. Cathy said as technology develops, paralegals are often used for computer types of work and are less involved with attorney and client negotiations and support. She pointed out that paralegals should be involved as a team member, assisting attorneys in cases. The mediator also explained that after paralegals graduate from college, they are having a hard time finding work. Cathy noted that unless you have a paralegal job for ten to fifteen years, salaries for paralegals have decreased.
Since Cathy has over thirty-six years of experience as a legal staff member, many readers may want to know what her advice is to new and recent legal staff members. She said, "Join your local Bar Association as an associate member. Join and become active in a section of that Bar that interests you. Volunteer. Purchase professional business cards. Take a class. Read something (other than a novel) every day. Revive your resume."
What would Cathy tell students who are contemplating becoming a paralegal? She advised high school students should see if their school has a program where they can shadow a legal staff member. Cathy believes college students should participate in an internship program. She said while she attended college, she was involved in an internship that allowed her to be a bailiff for the Denver Juvenile court.
Where does Cathy see herself in five years? "I will continue to do what I am doing right now until I strike it rich and then I will travel. I would also like to own a home near the water in Mexico."
If Cathy wasn't a mediator, what would she be doing? "I would go to culinary school and own my own catering business or become a chef somewhere."
Cathy's Mentor, Volunteer Activities and a Rewarding Job
Cathy's mentor is her former boss and family law professor, Wendy Whicher. Cathy has mentored many mediators but not paralegals.
What are Cathy's volunteer activities? "I volunteered to take care of my 18 month old three days/week since he was 4 months old. I have volunteered for food runs, at food distributors for low-income families, humane societies and on law day. I have done pro bono work for attorneys and legal clinics."
When asked why does she find her position rewarding? Cathy replied, "When people leave mediation, they are less anxious and more hopeful because they reached an agreement. They have taken charge and are thankful they don't have to go to court to resolve their disagreements."
Is there a downside to your position? "I can't think of a downside to mediation. I love my work. It's the most rewarding work I have ever done."