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Well-known Paralegal Brynne Williamson Reflects on a Long and Rewarding Career

published March 03, 2014

By Follow Me on
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( 19 votes, average: 4.3 out of 5)
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Professional Overview

Well-known Paralegal Brynne Williamson
Brynne Williamson PP, PLS, SC, serves as a probate paralegal at Helsell Fetterman LLP , in Seattle, WA. She specializes in taxation, estate, and trust administration issues. Ms. Williamson prepares probate and trust administration documents; prepares estate tax returns; document review; and assists attorneys with estate and trust administrations.

Prior to joining Helsell Fetterman in 2010, Ms. Williamson served as a paralegal at Dietrich Glasrud Mallek & Aune before serving as a legal assistant at McNaul EbelNawrot & Helgren, PLLC. She also served as a paralegal at Graham & Dunn. Ms. Williamson explained:
"While I was still in school, I contacted a local attorney for an informational interview about practical applications of tax law and, apparently, he was impressed enough to invite me back to interview for a paralegal position that was opening in his firm. I learned so much from Bob Mallek and his staff at Dietrich Glasrud Mallek & Aune, and I truly believe that they helped me build a strong foundation that serves me still."
She was born in Glendale, CA, and she enjoyed growing up in the Los Angeles area. Ms. Williamson is a 2004 graduate of the San Joaquin College of Law paralegal program, where she focused on contracts, probate law, tax law, legal analysis, business organizations, and research and writing. During that same year, she earned her ALS certification from NALS, the Association for Legal Professionals. In 2005, Ms. Williamson obtained her PLS certification and she received her Professional Paralegal (PP) credential in 2007. She also earned her NALS Specialty Certificate (SC) in the area of Estate Planning.

Since joining NALS in 2004, Ms. Williamson has been an active member of the association. She started volunteering on the National Education Committee by moderating online study groups. Ms. Williamson served on the NALS national board as the NALS Region 7 Director, representing the states of Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska. In addition, she served as the NALS Secretary/Treasurer and Marketing Director. Ms. Williamson also served as Secretary and President of NALS of Greater Seattle and Membership Director of NALS of Washington.

Over the years, she has been awarded with several honors and awards. In 2006, NALS awarded Ms. Williamson as Greater Seattle Volunteer of the Year. She became the recipient of the 25th Silver Anniversary Edition of Who's Who of American Women in 2006 through 2007. In 2008, Ms. Williamson was chosen by NALS as the Greater Seattle Legal Professional of the Year and The Paralegal Mentor profiled her in 2010. NALS named her Washington member of the Year in 2011 and she also earned Paralegal Gateway's Superstar during that year.

When asked about her hobbies and interests, Ms. Williamson replied, "A little less than a year ago I took up Bikram yoga and I love it. I have never been athletic and since moving to the Northwest, I have become a little intolerant to heat, but despite those things, I have grown to love hot yoga. After spending an hour and a half in a 105 degree room, pushing my body to move and stretch in new and sometimes uncomfortable ways, I emerge feeling energized and strong."

Does she have a favorite restaurant? "I would classify myself as a bit of a foodie and I love to try new and interesting foods. We are really lucky in Seattle to have so many great restaurants, so whether I am craving Thai, Spanish, classic American, or even gluten-free pizza, I have many options!"

Ms. Williamson's Successful Career

Why did Ms. Williamson decide to become a paralegal? She noted:
"I worked in the hospitality business for many years and really enjoyed it, but one day I decided that I wanted to do more with my life. I knew that I wanted to work in the legal industry, but at that point I didn't know much about it except for what I saw on TV, so I enrolled in a court reporting program. Once I started learning basic legal theories, I wanted to learn more, so I did my research and found out that the San Joaquin College of Law had an excellent paralegal training program. Oddly enough, while in school, one of my least favorite subjects was probate. Now, I cannot imagine doing anything else!"
Does Ms. Williamson specialize in other areas of the law? "Right now, I primarily work on Estates that have more complicated issues and require estate tax returns to be prepared. Working on estate tax returns and preparing proposed allocations of estate assets is actually a lot of fun - like puzzle solving. And it's all numbers, so while it takes time to come up with the final answer, you can always be sure that there is a correct formula to get there."

What advice would she give to someone who's brand-new to her position? "My biggest bit of advice would be to pay attention to the details and ask questions. As professionals, we need to show our attorneys that they can count on us to not only look at the issue at hand, but especially in the areas of probate and trust administration, to look at the big picture and to make sure that the solutions we are proposing do not conflict with the overall scheme."

What does Ms. Williamson think are the keys to becoming a successful paralegal? "To become - and stay - a successful paralegal, you need to stay curious and keep learning. Yes, you need to know how to fill out the forms and prepare the documents, but more importantly, you need to understand the big picture and why certain procedures might be important."

What does she think makes the difference between a good paralegal and a great paralegal? Ms. Williamson acknowledged:
"A good paralegal keeps control of his or her desk, doesn't miss deadlines, and works well with others. A great paralegal does all of these things, but is also able to add additional value to the firm by understanding how to provide the attorney with the assistance and backup they need to give the client the best service possible. And no, this is not mind reading or some other silly thing like that, this skill takes time and the willingness to look past one's own ego when necessary to focus on what is best for the team and the client."
What's one of the things that she finds most challenging about her job? "The most challenging aspect of my job is finding enough hours in the day to complete the tasks I need to complete. And the key to meeting this challenge is to be able to prioritize your projects and have the flexibility to jump into something else when your plans for the day suddenly take a sharp right turn."

What would Ms. Williamson say is the most important thing she learned as a paralegal? She stated:
"As a probate paralegal, the majority of my job involves numbers, spreadsheets, valuation formulas, and tax returns, but at the end of the day, the skill that serves me best is the compassion I've learned. Each client is different and is dealing with their loss in a unique way. So if someone calls me up and is frustrated because they don't understand a part of the administration process, the best thing I can do for them is to listen and help them understand that they are not alone and that we will do whatever we can to help them through this process."
What's her favorite part of her day as a paralegal? "My favorite part of the day is coming in early before most people are in the office. I use this time to check in with the head of our Estate Planning/Probate Department and think about issues that I will need to deal with during the day. It is always a time of smiles and laughter and, as nerdy as it might sound, excitement for the projects ahead."

What is Ms. Williamson known for professionally? "Within the firm, I think I am known for my organization and attention to detail, but perhaps it is for my enthusiasm for the work we do and desire to make ours the go-to probate team in Seattle delivering the best service."

Where does she see herself in five years' time? "During the past year, I've taken on a more supervisory role in the office. Of course, I would love to see that role grow and would love to continue to be a vital part of the team, and still be able to keep a full case load of probates."

What motivates Ms. Williamson to be a paralegal everyday? "The profession itself, the work I do, and the people I work with all motivate me to be the best paralegal that I can be. In the almost four years at my firm, there has only been one day where I only 'sort of' didn't want to come to work."

Mentoring Her Team, Volunteer Activities and Winning Awards

Does Ms. Williamson consider herself a mentor? "I try to be. At the moment, I work with a really accomplished group of individuals, each with their own talent and skill set, so more often than not, I find myself learning from them."

Is she involved in any volunteer activities? "This year I made the very difficult decision to take a step back. Since joining NALS in 2004, I've been involved in multiple committees and task forces; served on the local, state and national boards; planned conferences; and prepared newsletters, and though it is a little strange not to be in the middle of everything, I am very excited to see the changes and improvements that are being made by other dedicated volunteers."

What do your awards mean to you? "It makes me proud to know that people appreciate my contributions and the work that I have done."

Ms. Williamson's Leadership Roles with NALS, Being Featured on Vicki Voisin's The Paralegal Mentor Blog and Her Goals

Ms. Williamson served as Secretary and President of NALS of Greater Seattle and Membership Director of NALS of Washington. How was this experience? She asserted:
"Serving as the President of NALS of Greater Seattle is a three-year commitment and so when I went into it as President-Elect, I also served as NALS of Washington's Membership Director, which turned out to be a great way to learn more about the association and its members. My year as President was one of the most exciting years for me. My board worked extremely hard to make sure that each and every event we planned was a great success, and amazingly, we had a lot of fun while doing it. I am very, very proud of the work that we did."
Ms. Williamson served on the NALS national board as the NALS Region 7 Director and she served as the NALS Marketing Director and the Secretary/Treasurer. She wears many hats. How does Ms. Williamson accomplish all of her tasks while working as a paralegal? "I would not have been able to accomplish the things I did without the incredible support of my firm, Helsell Fetterman LLP. This firm has not only shown appreciation for the contributions I make within the firm, but they also show me that they respect and are proud of the work I have done on behalf of the paralegal profession at large."

Ms. Williamson was featured on Vicki Voisin's The Paralegal Mentor blog. How does it feel to be recognized for her work? She claimed:
"It was a huge thrill to be contacted by Vicki Voisin for a feature in her newsletter. I have been following The Paralegal Mentor for quite some time, as do many of our colleagues, and I must admit that my heart skipped a beat or two when she asked me to get involved. Vicki has been an amazing advocate for paralegals and I still look forward to her weekly newsletters with industry news and profiles of amazing paralegals from around the country."
She has accomplished a lot in her career. What's next for Ms. Williamson? "Oh goodness, I don't know, I suppose another cup of coffee is first in order…"

published March 03, 2014

By Follow Me on
( 19 votes, average: 4.3 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.