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Mianne L. Besser serves as a senior paralegal with Otten Johnson Robinson Neff + Ragonetti, PC, in Denver, CO. We previously profiled Ms. Besser and wanted to catch up with her two years later to see where her career has taken her. She works with the firm's litigation group as they represent real estate and business clients in litigation, bankruptcy and land use matters. The group's practice covers a broad spectrum of real estate, land use and commercial litigation, and Ms. Besser contributes her eighteen years of experience as a litigation paralegal.
Prior to going to school to become a Paralegal, Ms. Besser's experience was in facilities and purchasing management. She was elected President/NFPA Secondary for Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association (RMPA) in May 2012. Ms. Besser will be stepping down in May 2014, but will remain as a member of the Board serving as Advisor and NFPA Primary. She was initially President/Secondary from 2007 to 2010 (this is her second term as President/NFPA Secondary for RMPA). Ms. Besser has been a member of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA) since 1996 and volunteered for the Budget Committee in 2010. She has been a co-chair of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, Legal Support Staff Committee, since 2006. Ms. Besser is also a member of the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc., the Colorado Bar Association, Paralegal Committee and the Colorado Women's Bar Association, Non-attorney Legal Professionals Committee.
From November 2009 to June 2010, she served as an adjunct instructor of Paralegal Studies at Kaplan College. Ms. Besser also served as an adjunct instructor of Paralegal Studies at Community College of Aurora in 2012. She served as a member of the Paralegal Advisory Committee for both schools. She has spoken at several events, which include: The Many Faces of Paralegal Students, 2011 American Association for Paralegal Education Pacific Regional Conference, in Denver, CO; Understanding and Using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association, Half Day Education Summit on May 10, 2012; Social Media: An Evidentiary Goldmine, Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association, Half Day Education Summit on May 10, 2013; and Drafting Discovery Requests and Responses for Paralegals, Institute for Paralegal Education on February 10, 2014. In 2011, Ms. Besser was interviewed by Andrew Morkes regarding the paralegal profession for the book Hot Jobs for College & Career Press. She was also interviewed in 2013 by Laurel Vietzen, for a Career Corner Profile found in Practical Contract Law for Paralegals, Aspen College Series, Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.
In August 2009, Ms. Besser was profiled by Lynne DeVenny for PracticalParalegalism. When asked about her profile, she stated, "It's wonderful to be recognized by your peers and it ensures that the work you are doing is good work that ripples throughout the paralegal community. Ms. DeVenny and I continue to keep in contact with one another." In August 2011, Ms. Besser also wrote The Many Faces of Paralegal Students, which was published in The National Paralegal Reporter.
She was born at the US Air Force Academy Hospital in Colorado Springs, CO. Ms. Besser
received her Bachelor of Arts in Management and Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, Colorado Campus, and she earned her Paralegal Certificate from the Denver Paralegal Institute. She is married and she has a son and daughter.
When she isn't working, Ms. Besser enjoys reading, cooking, hiking, camping, and mountain biking. She stated, "I don't think I have 'one' favorite restaurant, but if I do go out, I prefer Mexican food (not of the 'chain' variety)." Ms. Besser discussed what she likes to read. She explained:
"I like historical nonfiction. I'm fascinated by the Civil War era: One of my favorite books is Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I also found Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson, a great read. I am intrigued about Native Americans from the late 18th Century to present and have read several books which have provided great insight into our Nation's history as well as a glimpse into Native American culture and history including Native American History by Judith Nies; Son of the Morning Star, Custer and the Little Bighorn by Evan S. Connell; Native American Testimony: A Chronicle of Indian-White Relations Prophecy to 1992 by Peter Nabokov; Black Hills/White Justice: The Sioux Nation Versus the United States : 1775 to the Present by Edward Lazarus; and Panther in the Sky by James Alexander Thom."
Ms. Besser's Successful Career
How long has Ms. Besser been a paralegal? "I graduated from the Denver Paralegal Institute in May 1996; this is my 18th year as a Paralegal."
What has changed for her professionally since she was last profiled on LawCrossing in 2012? "In October 2012, I was recognized by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Outstanding Local Leadership Award. I am flattered and honored to have been chosen for this recognition."
Why did Ms. Besser decide to become a paralegal? She noted:
"I wanted to go to Law School, but with two young children and college educations on the horizon, I thought becoming a Paralegal would help me decide if Law School would be the next progression in my career. Once I began my career, and found myself working with attorneys who were willing to share their legal experience and skills with me, I knew I found my career niche. There are times when I think about Law School, but with all of the incredible opportunities and individuals whom I have met as a result of where my career has taken me, I would not want to be anywhere else, doing anything else."
What advice would she give to someone who's brand-new to her position? Ms. Besser claimed:
"Find the area of law that is your passion. Start networking as soon as possible and connect with Paralegals who work in the area(s) of law which interest you. Look to your network to find a mentor. Locate the Paralegal Association in your area and become a member and volunteer for a committee which you believe suits your personal/professional interests. Volunteer in your community - several community service organizations welcome Paralegal volunteers because of the education, experience, attention to detail and professionalism we bring to any environment. Continue your paralegal education by attending legal education opportunities, whether in your chosen field or of personal interest, presented by your local Paralegal Association as well as those made available through the American Bar Association, national Paralegal Associations (NFPA, NALA, NALS, AAPI, etc.) and companies like NBI/IPE, Lorman, WestLegalEd. Be attentive and aware of what constitutes the unauthorized practice of law. Never be in a position where your ethics are a subject of discussion."
What does Ms. Besser think are the keys to becoming a successful paralegal? She asserted:
"Excellent communication skills; ability to work positively and effectively with others; time management and clearly understanding priorities; anticipating the attorney's needs; cultivating a network of professionals (legal and non-legal) on whom you can rely; understanding the area of law in which you work; understand how to apply legal knowledge learned in the classroom and apply it in a 'live' environment; the ability to receive information, find the facts and, depending on the direction of the attorney, compare to the applicable rule of law; mastering MS Suite and having knowledge of at least one electronic document management system (Summation, Concordance, Relativity, etc.). As stated above, be conscious of behaviors that may be considered the unauthorized practice of law and avoiding situations where personal ethics come into question."
What's one of the things that she finds most challenging about her job? "It can be challenging working with several different litigators given the various deadlines; however, I work with a great team of litigators and we try to identify those projects with solid deadlines and set priorities."
What would Ms. Besser say is the most important thing she learned as a paralegal? "There are two: (1) To be successful in my job, communication with the attorneys is key; and (2) Be attentive and aware that no matter the situation, irrespective of the number of years a paralegal has been employed in a particular field of law, a paralegal should never give legal advice."
What is the difference between her and other paralegals doing the same thing that she does? "I respect my colleagues and I try not to compare myself to them; instead I try to learn as much as I can to improve my skills and become aware of new methods and/or technologies which I can utilize in my job. That being said, I would offer that some paralegals embrace their work as a 'career' whereas, there are others who look at it as a 'job.'"
What is the best part of Ms. Besser's job? "Taking on the challenge of difficult projects and seeing them successfully to the end."
What's her favorite part of her day as a paralegal? "It may sound odd, even cliché, but I prefer the first part, the morning. It's an opportunity for me to survey the work that I've been assigned, ensure that I have my priorities established and acknowledge those things that are complete."
What is Ms. Besser known for professionally? "I have a passion for the paralegal profession."
What does she think about the paralegal field in Colorado today? "When the economy turn a downturn, the legal field was also affected. Law firms and corporations were not looking to bring on new staff, they would tend to fill positions internally or absorb and divide the work between existing staff. As the economy has improved, so has the career options becoming available in Colorado."
What would Ms. Besser change about her field? "Perhaps a standardization of the paralegal curricula provided through the various paralegal programs available within our community colleges as well as the proprietary programs. In addition, I would like to see paralegals represented within discussions held by the American Bar Association, local state bar associations and various legal institutions and designated representatives with respect to 'Access to Justice' as I believe that paralegals can be utilized to a greater extent to provide legal support to those who need assistance using a low-cost or no-cost model."
If she were not in this profession, what would she most probably be doing? "I might still be in purchasing/facilities management."
Where does Ms. Besser see herself in five year's time? "I hope with more leisure activities on my schedule than at a present. In addition, I hope that I am teaching and writing. I would also like to be involved more in my community as well as find non-paralegal activities to pursue."
What motivates her to be a paralegal every day? Ms. Besser admitted:
"I enjoy the challenges of my job. I appreciate the opportunity to work with attorneys who are engaged in the process and work to help me succeed within the confines of the caseload, but also outside of work with my paralegal pursuits. I embrace the opportunities that have been given to me because of my paralegal career and endeavor to work hard in order to feel as though I've achieved a personal level of accomplishment and satisfaction. I am mindful that I never take any opportunity for granted."
Mentoring Paralegals, Volunteer Activities, Being an Adjunct Instructor and People Who Inspire Ms. Besser
Does Ms. Besser consider herself a mentor? "I embrace the opportunity to help paralegals, whether they are students, new or well- established in their careers. I firmly believe that by helping others, I become a better paralegal."
Is she involved in any volunteer activities? Ms. Besser acknowledged:
"With my responsibilities as President of RMPA, I'm not able to put as much time as I would like into activities which benefit the community, but if something interests me, I try to find a way to participate. A few examples include: serving breakfast to clients of The Gathering Place; collecting 350 bras for Free the Girls; collecting sports equipment, school and cleaning supplies for the youth using services provided by Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives; and participating for a number of years as a member of RMPA's Walk Team, Paralegals for Pink, as part of the Komen Colorado Race For the Cure®. I also participate in 5K events which benefit organizations that are of interest to me."
What motivated Ms. Besser to teach? She stated:
"Presently, I am not teaching due to conflicts with my work schedule. That being said, I am grateful to Margaret Ann Uchner, Legal Studies Program Coordinator for Paralegal and Criminal Justice at the Community College of Aurora, for providing me with the opportunity to help CCA students with their paralegal education. As I noted before, I believe that opportunities to assist other paralegals make me better at my job.
I also enjoyed my time at Kaplan College who closed the doors of the Denver campus in November 2012. I am thankful to Charles McNeil, former Legal Studies Program Coordinator, and Renee' Keddington, former Director of Education, for extending the invitation to share my knowledge of paralegalism with students at Kaplan."
Who inspires her? Ms. Besser said:
"There are many paralegals who have inspired me throughout my career and I am immensely thankful for what they have shared with me, whether that was professional advice, personal advice or both. Naming those paralegals here may not be appropriate because (1) I don't have their permission to 'name names;' and (2) I wouldn't want to be discourteous or unintentionally hurtful to someone whom I have had the pleasure of knowing throughout my career but whose name doesn't appear in this column."
Winning Awards, Writing and Teaching Engagements, Being Featured on Vicki Voisin's The Paralegal Mentor Blog and Ms. Besser's Goals
Ms. Besser is the recipient of the 2011 ParalegalGateway Paralegal Superstar Award. She was recognized among the 2011 Class of Paralegal Superstars from across the United States. Ms. Besser was also awarded the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc.'s 2012 Outstanding Local Leadership Award. The award recognizes an individual NFPA member for outstanding leadership contributions to their location association. How does she feel about winning these awards? "It is humbling and flattering to be recognized by your peers for the work that you do on behalf of the profession. I have had the great fortune of meeting several of the others who were included in the 2011 Class of ParalegalGateway Superstars. I am mindful of the standards of excellence that each of my peers has established and work to ensure that I am exceeding their standards as well as those that I set for myself. I was contacted about being a Paralegal 'Superstar' directly from Jeannie Sapp Johnston who is founder of ParalegalGateway and we have stayed in touch to this day. The two awards that I received provide me with motivation to build on these successes and to bring as many of my peers with me as I can reach."
Will Ms. Besser continue her writing and teaching engagements? She noted:
"I am always open to the idea of writing and sharing my thoughts on the paralegal profession with my peers. I have ideas for article topics, but it's a matter of finding the time to sit down and put those ideas, at least one, into written form. As far as teaching, I would absolutely welcome an invitation to return to the Community College of Aurora and assist those students with their paralegal education. In the interim, I have given presentations through my local association or through NFPA and the Institute for Paralegal Education (IPE) to speak on subjects relevant to the paralegal profession.
In addition to the article for The Reporter, I have written two 'White Papers' during my tenure as Special Projects Coordinator for NFPA. The first document, Legal Process Outsourcing, was published to members in January 2012; the second paper, Ethical Considerations for Paralegals and Social Media, was published to members October 2012."
Ms. Besser was featured on Vicki Voisin's The Paralegal Mentor blog. How does it feel to be recognized for her work? "As I noted in my previous remarks, it is humbling and flattering to be recognized by your peers. Ms. Voisin is someone with whom I've become acquainted and I appreciate the work that she does on behalf of the paralegal profession."
She has accomplished a lot in her career. What's next for her? Ms. Besser replied:
"That's an interesting perspective and I appreciate your comment/observation. I often feel as though I've not accomplished all that I've set out to do with my paralegal career. I feel that there is more to do; more to benefit newly employed paralegals, seasoned 'veteran' paralegals and paralegal students.
That being said, as I've noted throughout this interview, I would like to continue writing and teaching. Teaching can be in the classroom or it can be through webinars or speaking opportunities through my local association, NFPA or other opportunities that may be made available to me through the Institute for Paralegal Education as well as offers which are being formulated but not yet presented."
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