Pamela Starr is the President/CEO and Virtual Paralegal Extraordinaire of StarrParalegals, LLC, a virtual paralegal
services company based in Georgia. As a virtual paralegal, she provides paralegal services to lawyers throughout the United States with a focus on Creditors' Rights & Bankruptcy, Commercial Transactions and UCC. Prior to opening her company, Pamela worked for a variety of firms and companies, dabbling in oil & gas, intellectual property & trademarks and employment law. At one point, Pamela worked as a Bankruptcy Specialist for the Resolution Trust Corporation. She has twenty-five years experience as a paralegal, and five of those years have been devoted to successfully running her business in the great state of Georgia.
Pamela is an active member (and former two-term, Director of Membership) of the Georgia Association of Paralegals (GAP), National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), Association of Bankruptcy Judicial Assistants (ABJA), American Bar Association (ABA), Atlanta Bar Association (also 'ABA'), American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI), and National Association of Freelance Legal Professionals (NAFLP).
Pamela has been a leader in Atlanta's paralegal community for more than fifteen years. She has spoken at several state-wide and national paralegal events and webinars and has presented her webinar, "Demystifying Electronic Filing; A CM/ECF Primer" for both Legal Typist and The Organization of Legal Professionals. Pamela been published in the National Paralegal Reporter; the e-book, Sixty-Six Tips from Your Virtual Paralegal Success Team, and The Paralegal Mentor article, "Virtual Paralegals' Top Ten Favorites." She was also featured in the December 2010 issue of BankruptcyProfessional.com and in a March 2012 Law Technology News article about virtual paralegals.
As a new start-up, StarrParalegals achieved 2nd place in 'Best Start-up Potential' in the 2009 Concept2Reality Competition. Pamela was the recipient of the Champions Medal Foundation CTJ 2010 Diva Award. In 2011, Pamela was nominated by her colleagues as a 2011 Georgia Powerhouse Paralegal and chose by ParalegalGateway as a 2011 Paralegal Superstar. These accolades were followed in 2012 when her blog, Pamela the Paralegal was chosen by the Criminal Justice Degree Schools as a 'Top 25 Paralegal Blog' and StarrParalegals was won top honors in the StartupNation Home-Based 100 Business Competition.
The dynamic and multi-talented woman has launched a new venture called Sessions with a Starr. Pamela said, "Sessions is a consulting program dedicated to dragging professionals (including lawyers and paralegals) out of their brick and mortar offices and into the cloud and helping them to redefine their career options in an evolving economy." Readers can also follow what's current on her blog, Pamela the Paralegal.
Pamela was born and reared in Texas. She graduated with a B.A. in Political Science (with minors in Psychology and Classical Civilization) from The University of Texas at Austin. Immediately following graduation, she attended and graduated from Southwestern Paralegal Institute in Houston as a 'certified paralegal'. Southwestern was one of the first institutions in the United States that provided ABA approved paralegal certification programs. In 2006, Pamela received her credentials as a Certified Bankruptcy Assistant (CBA).
On May 20, 2012, Pamela earned a Master of Science of Law (J.S.M.),cum laude, in Bankruptcy & Restructuring and E-commerce from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Training and Development from Roosevelt University in Chicago.
On a more personal note, Pamela describes herself this way: "I'm a left-handed, redheaded stepchild, born on Friday the 13th in the Great State of Texas … I survived a colorful, albeit dysfunctional, childhood (to the annoyance of some); I'm the proud mother to two beautiful cats - Mr. Sulu & Lt. Uhura (did I mention that I'm a Trekkie?); oh, and I'm Ken Starr's daughter."*
In what she refers to as her 'copious' spare time, Pamela is an active member of Ladies Who Launch, an amateur cantorial soloist and she recently returned to her avocation as a Hebrew school teacher - something she has done, on and off, for the past twenty-five years. Although Pamela hasn't followed sports in years, she has an affinity for the Texas Longhorns. When she isn't working or studying, she enjoys reading short stories and historical fiction and when Pamela is home in Houston, she makes a point to visit Pico's Mex-Mex Restaurant.
Pamela's Successful Business and Tips for Paralegals
Does Pamela have a most memorable educational experience? She claimed:
"There have been so many - one of the earliest was learning to write (I'm left-handed). I was fortunate to have a forward thinking teacher and parents. My first grade teacher showed me how to arrange my paper and hold my pencil so that I mirrored my right-handed classmates. This set up allowed me to learn to write without 'hooking' my arm around the paper. On the other hand (oops, bad pun), writing 'properly' made it nearly impossible to write on a chalkboard/whiteboard …
Why and when did Pamela decide to become a paralegal? She explained:
Most recently, it was attending and graduating from law school. A friend discovered an LL.M. program that was also being offered to non-J.D.s. Attorneys and non-attorneys attended the same program, so most of y classmates were lawyers. I was intimidated at first, but the deans, my professors and my classmates were all so supportive. It was a tremendous confidence boost, topped only by having my thesis professor suggest that I publish my graduate thesis."
"My plan was to attend law school. Well, the original plan was to go to medical school. Like most college students, I changed my major a few times (and ended up with two minors). I finally settled on Poli-Sci/Pre-Law. As they say, 'best laid plans' - life got in the way and I chose to put law school on hold while I got my bearings. In all honesty, I had never even heard of paralegals until I graduated from Texas. I knew I wanted to be in a law related career, so I did my research and discovered this 'new' program (c'mon folks, this was last century; the paralegal industry is only about 40 years old) - paralegal training. I signed up; figured I'd work as a paralegal for a few years and then go to law school … the rest, as they say, is history."
When asked if she transitioned into law, Pamela said, "It has pretty much always been law; in fact, I spent a couple of summers in high school and college working as a runner/clerk for law firms. At one point I did take a sabbatical from law for a career in the non-profit sector, but I came running back."
The businesswoman discussed the best part about her job. She candidly disclosed:
"Being able to fire attorneys...seriously, the best part is, well, all of it!! As I tell my clients, 'have laptop, will travel'. As long as I have an Internet connection, I'm in business - I can travel, spend time with my family and friends in the GSOT, attend conferences, [and] yet remain available and productive. Because I set my own hours, I have the freedom to observe Jewish holidays without it taking a bite out of my 'personal leave bank'.
Pamela also discussed why she appreciates working for herself. "I am the one in charge. I have the luxury of working anywhere at anytime. It's empowering and unrestricted. As a business owner, I decide how I divvy up my time; I control what hours I work and, if needed, I can work at 3:00 AM in the morning (shh, don't tell my clients that). I choose to whom I answer and, when warranted, I can turn down work…ultimately, I'd rather turn away work than be treated with disrespect."
I've also become more confident (and maybe a bit outspoken) and attorneys treat me with much more respect since I went solo.
I've always said that 'being a paralegal is almost like being a professional student; I am always learning something new'. I suppose I need to revise that now that I'm working on my second Master's degree."
What is the paralegal known for professionally? "I am a self-proclaimed Virtual Paralegal Extraordinaire and ECF Maven; I specialize in Bankruptcy & Creditors' Rights, primarily motion work - pretty much everything that happens after the petition is filed. I suppose I'm known for making my clients' billable hours worth every penny."
Pamela was asked about her current assessment of the legal market. She stated:
"Funny you should ask; my graduate thesis is titled "Paralegal Paradigm Shift: The Changing Face of Legal Practice as Paralegals 'Go Virtual'" The industry has evolved in ways that I never quite anticipated. We all have access to technology that a mere 20 years ago was still considered science fiction. Coupled with the recent economic downturn, we are definitely seeing a shift away from brick and mortar law practices and a growing list of paralegals who are ready to move out of 'BigLaw' and into the cloud.
She also gave her opinion about the paralegal legal field today. What would she change about it? Pamela acknowledged:
The combined effect of attorney layoffs, along with the continuing influx of law school graduates, has created a situation in which there are considerably more lawyers and law school graduates than there are positions available in law firms. With the shift in the economy it is not uncommon for recent law school graduates, and even seasoned attorneys, to seek jobs as paralegals. As paralegals, we need to be willing and able to adapt as the industry evolves."
"As paralegals, we have definitely made our mark on the legal industry. We are no longer considered glorified legal secretaries and, in several states, legislation has been enacted to authorize non-lawyers to prepare legal documents for people doing their own legal tasks. Mind you, these Legal Document Assistants/Preparers are strictly monitored for compliance; they must sit for, and pass, a certification examinations; attend a set number of hours of continuing legal education programming each year; and they are legally prohibited from giving legal advice.
Since Pamela has twenty-five years experience as a paralegal, many readers may want to know what her advice is to new and recent paralegals. She advised:
I would like to see the industry allow for even greater autonomy - with proper regulation and oversight - so that paralegals are able to provide even more services within law firms/legal departments and to the general public. Certification is a move in the right direction, but paralegals should be licensed and regulated, not only for our protection, but to provide more opportunities for employment."
"I frequently blog, post and comment on this topic. It is a tough time to be looking for a job…you're competing against experienced paralegals, law students, and unemployed lawyers. You have to bring your 'A' game - first impressions count, whether in person, by email or snail mail, or the way you appear in social media. Potential employers are reading what you write and post. You need to know the basics: grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization. I know it may seem elementary, but employers will toss your resume if you get this stuff wrong. Paralegals are held to a higher standard.
I have encountered a number of newly minted paralegals who believe they are entitled to jobs with top pay and responsibilities simply because they have their degree or certificate. It doesn't work that way in any other field. You start from the bottom and work your way up as you gain experience and demonstrate your capabilities. Why should being a paralegal be any different? When looking for a job, keep these things in mind:
What advice would Pamela give to students who want to become a paralegal? "It's an amazing career, but prospective paralegals need have realistic expectations about the job market. They also have to hone their skills before they put themselves out there. It's the best career on the planet. I wouldn't tell them not to pursue being a paralegal."
- Think outside the box - not every job that uses paralegal skills has a paralegal job title or is found in a law firm or legal department;
- Never stop learning - take CLEs, attend seminars/webinars;
- Keep your mind and your options open;
- Sometimes 'no' means 'not now';
- Your life and business experience give you an edge - sell the employer on your transferable skills."
Where does Pamela see herself in five years? "On my own private island directing my team of virtual paralegals and leading 'Sessions with a Starr' - a Career Mitigation© platform devoted to helping professionals redefine their career options in an e-based economy."
If the businesswoman weren't a legal staff member, what would she be doing? "Teaching. I never thought I would ever say that. When I chose Liberal Arts for my major, Mom insisted that I get my teaching certification. She said I might need it to 'fall back on'. It was an idea that I summarily 'poo poo-ed'. Talk about famous last words … I am working on my Master's in Training & Development so I can be a proper mentor and career mitigator©.
What motivates Pamela? "Life - my mom - my friends - the desire to be the best I can possibly be."
Pamela's Mentor and Nonprofit Mentors, Volunteer Activities and Favorite Quote
Does Pamela have a mentor? She replied:
"Lyza Sandgren was and is my mentor. We met as officers on the Georgia Association of Paralegals Board of Directors and became fast and furious friends. She became a virtual IP paralegal after leaving BigLaw. When it was my turn to transition out of a traditional brick and mortar law firm, Lyza provided encouragement and guidance. As her business has grown and evolved, she has continued to share her wisdom with me."
Does the paralegal have any nonprofit mentors or organizations she admires? Why? She stated:
"Definitely SoloSez™ - SoloSez, sponsored by the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division™, has become the internet discussion forum for solos, small firm lawyers, and legal service providers. The 'firm' as it is fondly known, is comprised of 4,000± Sezzers discussing everything from tech tips and legal opinions to what to wear to court.
Is Pamela involved in any volunteer activities? "I'm embarrassed to admit that I am not as involved as I once was, or would like to be. I support MS and cancer research, the Cup of Joe program sponsored by GreenBeansCoffee.com, and several local charities. My Hebrew school class coordinated a lemonade stand and clothing/supplies drive for victims of Hurricane Sandy."
There are also several virtual/freelance paralegals that have helped me on my journey. The support they have provided has been priceless."
Pamela has two favorite quotations, the first is 'all Pamela': "A) Don't mess with Texas; B) Don't mess with redheads; and C) For the love of Pete, don't mess with a redhead from Texas!" The second is a quotation from fellow paralegal, Allen Mihecoby, "I could have been a doctor, a reporter or a scientist. Instead, I am gifted with crisis management skills. I am a problem-solver, an innovator, a sympathetic ear, the reassuring presence, and a professional. I am a PARALEGAL!"
A Rewarding Position and Goals
Why does Pamela find her position rewarding? "I know I make attorneys' jobs easier. Our job, as paralegals, is to make lawyers look good. Yes, we are often 'unsung heroes' and we rarely get the recognition we deserve, but that's just part of the picture. Now that I have hung out my virtual shingle, I find that attorneys respect my opinion on issues and they see me as an equal."
Is there a downside to her position? She admitted:
"There are several downsides. For instance, I no longer have the relative security of a benefits package; I am responsible for 110% of what goes on in my business. When you are self-employed, it's all on you. As a business owner, I have to handle all of the day-to-day administrative matters and be professional, accessible, efficient, responsive, and technologically adept. Also, [you have to] watch how you present yourself - all the time. In a world focused on social media - and in a business based on interconnectedness people expect you to be a professional all the time."
What to Expect When Working with Pamela
Does the Texan have goals? "For now, I'm looking forward to completing my second Master's degree. It would be wonderful to travel more; perhaps take an extended Mediterranean cruise or two. Professionally, I would like to expand my businesses and be more involved with GAP, ABJA and ABI."
What can you expect when you are working with Pamela? Glen Rubin, a Managing Partner at Rubin Lublin, LLC, asserted, "Pamela is an extremely bright and capable paralegal. She maintained very high standards and was a real self-starter. She could always be counted on to go above and beyond. Her performance was exemplary."
Craig Smith, a lawyer with Miller & Martin PLLC , stated, "Pamela is an extremely capable and thorough paralegal, who consistently produces top quality work product. I highly recommend her to any attorney or firm in need of a paralegal, whatever the level of sophistication of the subject matter."
Mike Ackerman, a Managing Partner at Zucker, Goldberg and Ackerman pointed out, "I have worked with Pamela for years. I have been consistently impressed with Pamela's attention to detail and ability to understand the Bankruptcy Code and how to solve secured creditors problems. I would give Pamela my highest recommendation. She would be a wonderful addition to any team!"
*You'll have to ask her about being 'Ken Starr's daughter' …
Here's a short video of Pamela in which she talks about identifying unclaimed funds and filing a claim:
***Pamela Starr is not an attorney and cannot give legal advice. ***
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