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Well-known Missouri Paralegal Lori Robinett Reflects on a Long and Rewarding Career

published February 17, 2014

By Follow Me on
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( 6 votes, average: 3.8 out of 5)
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Professional Overview

Well-known Missouri Paralegal Lori Robinett
Lori Robinett serves as a paralegal for the Office of the General Counsel at the University of Missouri. She joined the general counsel's office in May 2008. Ms. Robinett began her legal career as a receptionist/overflow legal secretary in 1994. After she gained experience, she took a position as a legal secretary and began taking CLEs and studying paralegalism. Ms. Robinett was later promoted to a paralegal/office manager. As her experience and reputation grew, she was offered a position as a paralegal at a larger firm, where she gained valuable real estate and estate planning experience. When a position opened with the Office of the General Counsel at the University of Missouri, Ms. Robinett took the opportunity to work in higher education.


She was born and raised in Centralia, MO. Ms. Robinett earned her BSE with honors from Central Missouri State University in 1990. She also completed graduate level classes in Student Personnel Administration, and kept up with the paralegal field through continuing legal education. Ms. Robinett resides on a hobby farm in Central Missouri with her husband of nearly twenty years. The couple owns three miniature horses, three dogs, and three cats.

Ms. Robinett is a former editor of The Gavel, the quarterly publication of the Mid-Missouri Paralegal Association. She joined National Novel Writing Month, an international writing competition that inspires writers to turn off the internal editor and write with abandon. Since 2004, Ms. Robinett has won National Novel Writing Month eight times and she served as a Municipal Liaison for the Fulton group of NaNo'ers. During her leadership of the Fulton group, they frequently placed in the Top Ten producers, which is based on word count per member, in the world. In 2010, the Fulton group was number one in the United States. Ms. Robinett regularly attends Ozark Creative Writers Conference, where she has won many awards for poetry and fiction. Her short stories have been featured in The Storyteller Magazine and Bridges (an anthology). Ms. Robinett also had three short stories and two poems selected for publication in Well Versed 2014.

When she isn't working, Ms. Robinett enjoys writing, reading, scrapbooking, and jewelry making. Her favorite authors include James Patterson, Stuart Woods, Ericca Thornhill, Colleen Donnelly, and Tawna Fenske. She is a frequent visitor of Mexico's Dos Arcos. Ms. Robinett recently finished reading Dan Brown's Inferno and is currently reading Sharon Sala's Blown Away.

Ms. Robinett's Successful Career

Why did Ms. Robinett decide to become a paralegal? She noted:
"I was at a crossroads in life - recently divorced and living in a new city. Although I had worked in higher education since my college graduation, I took a stop-gap job as a receptionist at a law firm to make ends meet. The field appealed to me - I loved seeing clients helped during a particularly stressful and difficult time in their lives (let's face it - people generally aren't hiring a lawyer because things are going well) and decided to commit myself to learning more about the law and how I could best serve clients. I've never looked back, but am thrilled now to be able to combine higher education and the law in one position."
What does she specialize in? "Although my previous experience is largely focused in real estate, estate planning and transactional law, I am fortunate now to work where no two days are alike. Our office is unlike private practice, in that our 'clients' are an entire university system, made up of four campuses, plus a research hospital, numerous clinics, a school of medicine, nursing school, dental school and two law schools."

What advice would Ms. Robinett give to someone who's brand-new to her position? She acknowledged:
"Be open to learning. No matter how much experience you have, when you start in a new position, you need to learn how the new firm does things, how your supervising attorney works, and about the resources available to you. Take the time to run things by a co-worker before you 'turn in your first assignment.' If a co-worker isn't available (which can be the case in a small firm), take the time to talk to your supervising attorney about what is expected, what format he/she wants the work produced in, and how much interaction he/she expects throughout the process."
What information does she wish she had when starting out? "I wish I had been given a list of dependable resources, because there is so much information available it can be overwhelming."

What does Ms. Robinett think are the keys to becoming a successful paralegal? "1) willingness to learn (and to keep learning), 2) an eye for detail, 3) strong communication skills, 4) being a self-starter, 5) being able to work well with minimal supervision, and 6) being able to overcome bad days and mistakes - because you will have them and you will make them."

What does she think makes the difference between a good paralegal and a great paralegal? "A good paralegal completes the assignments that he or she is given in a timely, thorough manner. A great paralegal does that, but also sees the next step that is needed and takes that step."

What's one of the things that Ms. Robinett finds most challenging about her job? "Conflicting priorities. Sometimes everything needs to be done at once, and that isn't humanly possible."

What would she say is the most important thing that she learned as a paralegal? "To trust my instincts. That's not to say my instincts answer the question, but they often tell me which direction I need to go to get the answer."

What is the difference between Ms. Robinett and other paralegals doing the same thing that she does? "I come from a private practice background, so I am aware of the difficulties (and mindset) that the opposing side may be dealing with."

What is the best part of her job? "Generally being in control of my day. I start each day with my to-do list. That list may change throughout the day, but at least I get to set the framework of my day."

What's Ms. Robinett's favorite part of her day as a paralegal? "Helping a parent/student navigate the University's legal landscape (frequently through collections)."

What is she known for professionally? "Working with computers - I am proficient with Adobe Pro, Worldox, Word and I am glad to help others."

What does Ms. Robinett think about the paralegal field in Missouri today? "The field is changing, largely due to economic concerns. For a while, paralegals were being let go due to firms constricting, but I think firms will figure out that paralegals are good for the bottom line. Paralegals are not taking work away from attorneys - they are allowing attorneys to bill more time at the same time their paralegals are assisting clients (and billing time)."

If she were not in this profession, what would she most probably be doing? “Working in higher education, perhaps in career counseling.”

Where does Ms. Robinett see herself in five years time? "Hopefully in the same office, but with an office of my own."

Do she consider herself a mentor? "Yes. I'm always open to questions from other paralegals, and enjoy the opportunity to network."
What motivates Ms. Robinett to be a paralegal everyday? "The fact that what I am doing matters."

Volunteer Activities, Serving on the Editorial Board for the Reporter, Motivated to Write and People Who Inspire Ms. Robinett

Is Ms. Robinett involved in any volunteer activities? "I am active in The Children's Miracle Network (my daughter was born at 28 weeks, weighed 2 lbs 7 oz at birth and has had multiple surgeries - we know firsthand how important the CMN is!), and I am a former Municipal Liaison for the local region of National Novel Writing Month."

She served on the Editorial Board for the Reporter, a national journal for paralegals. How was this experience? "It was exciting to help guide the publication that I had been reading for years. It also made me realize how much work goes into a publication."

What motivates Ms. Robinett to write? "Writing is a creative outlet that is part of who I am. I've been reading and writing for as long as I can remember, and I hope that others enjoy reading my work as much as I enjoy writing it."

Who inspires her? Ms. Robinett asserted:
"Lynne DeVenny, who blogs as The Practical Paralegal (though she is now known as The Goodwill Fangirl - an excellent resource for how to look professional on a budget), and Vicki Voisin, who produces The Paralegal Mentor. Both women have mentored paralegals (including myself) while maintaining personal identities. They are busy women who help educate paralegals yet still find time to be active in the community, have a family, etc. Both showed by example how important it is to be balanced."
Former President of the Mid-Missouri Paralegal Association, Being Featured on Vicki Voisin's The Paralegal Mentor Blog and Ms. Robinett's Goal

Ms. Robinett served as President of the Mid-Missouri Paralegal Association. How was this experience? She explained:
"Being President was a great experience (as was all my time with the organization). I got to connect with paralegals all over the state. It gave me a higher view of the profession, to see what is possible for all of us. I made friends that I still keep in touch with, and have a network that I've drawn upon for numerous things over the years. It also reinforced my opinion that professional organizations are important - the networking is invaluable both for on-the-job questions and job opportunities."
She was featured on Vicki Voisin's The Paralegal Mentor blog. How does it feel to be recognized by your work? "Being recognized is encouraging, because so much of what a paralegal does is behind the scenes."

Ms. Robinett has accomplished a lot in her career. What's next for her? "I am currently working on a handbook for paralegals, to serve as an on-the-desk resource for those working in the field."

published February 17, 2014

By Follow Me on
( 6 votes, average: 3.8 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.

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