Jamie Collins: One Litigation Paralegal, Writer & Blogger Extraordinaire

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Jamie Collins
Professional Overview

Jamie L. Collins assumes her role each day as a litigation paralegal for the small, reputable, personal injury firm of Yosha Cook Shartzer & Tisch  in Indianapolis, Indiana; a firm founded by trial legend, Louis "Buddy" Yosha. Working alongside several high-profile trial lawyers early on in her career, Ms. Collins honed her legal skills, acquired a passion for law, and quickly established a successful career path. She assists attorneys at the firm in leading personal injury and wrongful death cases through the litigation pipeline from inception through trial. She is the known to those who work alongside her each day as a high energy, dynamic, go-getter, who thrives on a good challenge, loves to immerse herself into all of the intricacies of case strategy, and assumes full ownership over any task or project placed into her capable hands.

She has worked on a variety of diverse cases, ranging from those involving the seriously injured and asbestos victims throughout the State of Indiana, to multi-district litigation and complex class actions, including a case which sought to hold entities and foreign individuals accountable for the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011. Ms. Collins was the lead paralegal at her firm responsible for coordinating service of process on more than 300 foreign individuals and entities. That "service of process" occasionally led to the execution of process servers in their vehicles during the attempted delivery process. It was a high stakes litigation and unique case. When reflecting back on that particular case, she fondly states, "I truly consider it an honor and a privilege to have had the opportunity to work on such a significant piece of litigation on behalf of many families affected by one of the greatest tragedies to ever occur on U.S. soil. While we did not ultimately prevail in that action, it is a case I will never forget." She goes on to state, "With that said, I do certainly wish I could forget some of the disturbing details learned while working on that particular case."

Jamie possesses a wealth of experience in the areas of employment law, medical malpractice, asbestos, business law, litigation, and real estate. She has an incredible passion for trial work and actively assists her attorneys with all of the aspects of day-to-day life at a small firm, while embracing the higher level tasks she loves most, which include: witness preparation, jury selection, preparation of outlines, case strategy, and trial.

While Ms. Collins is fully-entrenched in the legal landscape through a grand array of professional affiliations far too long to list, the one endeavor that brings her the most personal and professional satisfaction and acclaim is far and away, her writing and legal blogging endeavors. Approximately 4 years ago, Ms. Collins decided to shake off the complacency she began to feel in her day-to-day activities; a feeling she began to experience while running what she refers to as, "the legal gauntlet." She wanted more out of her career, and life. That drove her to found what would quickly become one of the leading paralegal blogs in the country, a forum now known in paralegal circles everywhere as The Paralegal Society. Ms. Collins' vision for The Paralegal Society was to create a warm, friendly, vibrant forum for "friendly" paralegals with the intent "to educate, motivate, and inspire the pursuit of excellence for all paralegalkind." The site's following is predominantly within the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, but extends beyond, and is comprised of students, aspiring paralegals, and seasoned paralegals, alike.

Ms. Collins is no stranger to the spotlight. In September 2011, she was featured on Practical Paralegalism and Women in e-Discovery. During that same year, she was also featured on About.com (A New York Times Company) as the Founder & Owner of The Paralegal Society, on Litigation Support Guru, and on About.com as a Personal injury & Wrongful Death Paralegal. Her professional accolades and dedication to the legal professional earned her the 2012 "Paralegal of the Year" award from the Indiana Paralegal Association, Inc. At the end of last year, Ms. Collins garnered national attention, when she was featured as a Litigation Paralegal on the cover of KNOW: The Magazine for Paralegals.

Through her writing, Jamie has successfully carved out a new niche and what could be described by many as her second path in the legal profession. She was once described by a high-profile blogger as being, "One of the most prolific paralegal writers of our time." She writes a popular column entitled "KNOW Business" for KNOW: The Magazine for Paralegals, and has appeared as a Guest Blogger on The Estrin Report. Collins' love for writing led her to pen nearly 100 articles and posts over to date, many of which were published by mainstream paralegal publications, such as: Paralegal Today, Facts & Findings, National Paralegal Reporter, and in newsletters for the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE), the Institute for Paralegal Education (IPE), and paralegal association newsletters all across the country.

When asked about her upbringing, she stated, "I was born in Tacoma, Washington. My father was a helicopter pilot in the army, so we traveled abroad a bit when I was younger. I lived about 7 years of my childhood in Stuttgart, Germany, on a military base. We ate some of the most fantastic German food, had a lot of German friends, visited a few famous castles, and even attended the Oktoberfest once. I made a lot of great memories while living overseas. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience another country's culture, people, and lifestyle the way I did. The remainder of my childhood, we lived in Indianapolis, Indiana, where I currently reside with my family." Ms. Collins is happily married to her husband, Christopher. The couple has an 8-year-old son named Gavin.

Ms. Collins enjoys writing articles, providing mentorship to paralegals, traveling, and reading inspirational books and novels. She also enjoys the little things in life, such as attending little league games, going to see a movie or nice dinner out - anything that allows her to spend quality time with her family. Ms. Collins is a frequent visitor of Broad Ripple's Zest, an eclectic "foodie" place. Her favorite dish is the restaurant's gourmet version of "chicken and waffles," served up with mashed redskin potatoes and asparagus. She recently read Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner and William Landay's Defending Jacob.

Ms. Collins' Successful Career

Why did Ms. Collins decide to become a paralegal? She asserted:
"I think I put it best in one of my past articles for my column in KNOW: The Magazine for Paralegals.

Luck or fate, I'm not sure which. Approximately 15 years ago, I entered the paralegal profession having no legal experience or education whatsoever. It was a different time and place then. One could readily break into the paralegal profession if you led with a good first impression, and had a glimmer of ambition, backed by a few key qualities attorneys sought, coupled with a chance encounter with the right person, at the right time.

I may have walked through the front door of my first law firm as a newbie, but Mother Experience proved to be a remarkable teacher. In fact, she was the best. You either learned to do the job (and do it well and fairly expeditiously), or the violins began to play, and you know what comes next. While the school of reality certainly wasn't an exemplary model of organization and training for a wide eyed paralegal in search of a 'real' career path, I wouldn't have traded it for the world. The school of sink or swim served me well…I was determined that I was going to make the most of it or die trying.

I spent the next few years working as the firm's receptionist, and doing legal work for one of the attorneys. Over time, my role grew, as did my passion for the legal field and the realization that I wanted to carve out a successful career path within it."
What advice would she give to someone who's brand-new to her position? Ms. Collins admitted:
"Seek out all of the information, resources, and people you need to learn to do your job and do it well. Always work to truly understand the task you are doing, all of the necessary elements, and how it fits into the bigger picture. Be ambitious. Ask questions. Reach out to those you respect and admire. Find a mentor. Work to develop a deep understanding of legal processes, procedures, trial rules, legal terminology, ethics, and professionalism. The goal is to make your supervising attorneys (and everyone else) like you, trust you, and respect you, while exuding an absolute desire, unwavering confidence, and ability to get the job done - and done well. Join local paralegal associations and sites like LinkedIn, and begin to network in paralegal circles, locally and on social media. Subscribe to mainstream paralegal publications, such as KNOW: The Magazine for Paralegals and Paralegal Today. Sign up to receive free newsletters from the Institute for Paralegal Education (IPE) and the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP). Lastly, check out some of the great paralegal blogs available online and subscribe to the ones you like. There are so many free or inexpensive ways to more fully immerse one's self into the profession. If you want to thrive in this business, you must take yourself, your career, and your future plans seriously.
What information does Ms. Collins wish she had when starting out? She claimed:
"Honestly, I wish I had read FAR more general career and self-help books. There are so many terrific motivational books out there that it's a shame I never read many of them early on in my career. You can learn virtually any career or personal skill you desire to learn: how to interview, give a speech, network, take your career to the next level, enter into a negotiation, discuss an important topic with a superior, deal with stress, become better organized or take your career to the next level. It's all out there available to each one of us, yet, so many of us fail to cash in on these tremendous resources."
What does Ms. Collins think makes the difference between a good paralegal and a great paralegal? She revealed:
"I think it's a lot of things. I think a person has to have a genuine curiosity for the all aspects of the job. While in some regards paralegals are glorified 'paper pushers,' we are also the attorney's second set of eyes and ears, right hand, and expert crisis averter, which I like to refer to as being the 'legal tactical assault ninja.' One's level of knowledge, expertise and legal intuition can really help to set him or her apart. Accepting tasks with a radiant enthusiasm certainly never hurts. I also think organizational abilities, people skills, and an in depth understanding of legal terminology, rules, processes, procedures and critical timelines is imperative. But ultimately, I believe it is a person's ambition and drive that will determine how far he or she will go in the profession…and in life."
What's one of the things that she finds most challenging about her job? "I'd say it's the pressure of performing nearly all tasks from 'file to trial,' managing attorney (and client) expectations, and the accompanying stress associated with all of it. On any given day, as paralegals, we are master jugglers, priority aligners, and legal quarterbacks, although we're often sprinting across courtrooms or down law firm corridors rocking designer suits and 3" high heels, while diffusing deadlines, creating perfect pleadings, and working to make our attorneys' lives easier."

What is the best part of her job? Ms. Collins said:
"Without a doubt, I'd have to say preparing for and attending jury trials. It is an adrenaline rush for the legal professional. The first time I walked into a courtroom 6 years ago, I knew it was a place to which I wanted to return - stress and all. There's nothing like going to the brink for a client, laying it all on the line, stepping in like a miracle worker for your supervising attorney, and that exhilarating moment when you finally hear a jury verdict read. Moments when you live and breathe the legal dream, stand up for a client's rights, and work your tail off to help your trial team to ultimately reach a favorable outcome. There is truly nothing like it. For me, it truly is 'living the dream.'"
If she were not in this profession, what would she most probably be doing? "I'd like to think I'd be sitting on the beach with a laptop in one hand and a tall iced tea in the other, writing an inspirational book or novel."

What motivates you to be a paralegal every day? "A love for what I do for a living…and I must say, at this point, the paycheck isn't too bad either!"

The Paralegal Society, Being an Inspiration, and People Who Inspire Ms. Collins

What is The Paralegal Society? Ms. Collins said:
"It is a forum created about 4 years ago to educate, motivate, and inspire 'paralegalkind.' That includes seasoned paralegals, newbies, and students, alike. We are a two part social forum. We have a blog, which is a place where we post legal and inspirational posts, usually twice per week (with more than 300 articles currently sitting in our archives). We also have a related 'Social Club' element in the form of a LinkedIn group, which currently has nearly 5,000 members. It's a friendly, interactive place where members can go to peruse information, engage in an interesting discussion, post and read helpful articles, glean career advice, and become better paralegals and people. It is a lot of fun."
Does Ms. Collins consider herself a mentor? She acknowledged:
"I consider myself to be a person who enjoys helping and inspiring others. If that makes me a 'mentor,' it's a title I proudly accept and own. I have had a great deal of fun this year interacting with friendly paralegals from all across the United States, who reached out to me to ask a general question or seek my assistance. Whether we were preparing for a big interview, negotiating a salary bump or discussing fashion issues as they relate to an important event, I enjoyed every minute of it.

Helping others is my way of paying back those who helped me get to where I am today. I also find it personally inspiring to give back to others. It truly is a win-win for all involved."
Who inspires her? Ms. Collins asserted:
"There have been several key people in my life who stepped up to act as mentors in my life at pivotal times, during my career as a paralegal, and more recently, as a writer. My dad always told me I could be anything I wanted to be in life, but I think I forgot that, as so many adolescents do, somewhere along life's path. Working alongside several savvy trial lawyers, whom I greatly admire, has definitely been a big plus in helping me to become the paralegal I am today. Chere Estrin took a special interest in my writing and stepped in to help me acquire the skills to carve out a niche for myself in the writing industry. I wouldn't be the writer I am today without all of her support, feedback and constructive criticism.

Most of all, I'm inspired by people around me, physically and virtually, each and every day. Seeing people attempt to do great things always tends to inspire me. It makes me want to do more and become better myself. There really is no substitute for surrounding yourself with a crowd of incredibly inspiring people, whether they work down the hall, at a firm across town, or you interact with them along the social media highway on a site such as LinkedIn."
Writing Engagements and Ms. Collins' Goals

Will Ms. Collins continue her writing engagements? She replied:
"Absolutely. Writing is a painful privilege. I like to write when I'm inspired. Admittedly, it's usually my absolute fear of never producing my next great piece of writing that drives me out of uninspired waters and onto a blank screen to write my next 'best' piece. I consider it an honor to have the opportunity to share my thoughts, ramblings, rants, and knowledge with others in written form. One day in the not too distant future, I plan to write an inspirational book, and perhaps eventually, even a paralegal book or novel."
She has accomplished a lot in her career. What's next for Ms. Collins? She candidly stated:
"I was recently asked to speak in Ontario, Canada, and I'm pretty excited about that endeavor, assuming we are able to work out the details. I plan to eventually launch a legal product geared toward paralegals. I would also love to one day write an inspirational column for a mainstream publication. It will be interesting to see where my paralegal career and writing endeavors lead me. (It's probably bears mentioning that I'm oh so patiently waiting to be discovered by a non-legal editor in search of his or her next best writer!) I look forward to seeing what comes next."
What to Expect When Working with Ms. Collins

Lindsay Valek, a litigation technology analyst at McNair Law Firm & Freelance Writer claimed:
"Jamie Collins is a passionate and talented writer. Her writing style is a breath of fresh air to the legal profession and she has a knack for transcending across industry lines. Collins's style is best described as 'real.' When Jamie puts pen to paper she exposes a raw truth that resonates with readers on many levels. At times comical and at others affecting, Jamie's abilities, simply put, stir. I come back time and time again, and she never disappoints."
Chere Estrin, the Editor-In-Chief of Know: The Magazine for Paralegals & Co-Founding Member of the Organization of Legal Professionals stated:
"Here's the deal. I love Jamie Collins' writing. Her articles in KNOW, the Magazine for Paralegals, get great reviews; her blog posts on The Estrin Report are fantastic. Can I get any more specific? She's the best. End of story."
Patricia E. Infanti, PP, PLS, managing editor at Paralegal Today; NALS Past President said:
"Jamie is a fabulous writer! Her writing style is witty and enjoyable to read while providing useful information to her audience. She can produce amazing articles quickly and writes from her heart. Jamie is always on time and on point - exactly what the readers of Paralegal Today magazine have come to expect. It is a pleasure working with her, and I hope our relationship will continue for years to come."
Carmen Hunt, managing paralegal & team leader/an expert in brand enforcement & trademark protection for leading global brands noted:
"Jamie is more than just a gifted writer. To me, she has been a force of nature. Like a hurricane, once she impacts your life with one of her memorable, 'take-no-prisoners' articles, you are not likely to forget her name. Her profound, genuine passion for the written word, and the uncompromising effort she puts forth in every piece of writing that carries her name, is nothing short of extraordinary.

In case there's any doubt, I'm an avid fan of Jamie's writing, and I'm fortunate to have followed her work for a little more than two years now. During that time, Jamie's larger than life personality, her drive to always do her absolute best, and her powerful writing have influenced my life more times than I can remember. Suffice it to say, her work, and her words, have been a constant source of much needed inspiration, leadership, motivation, counseling, wittiness, consolation and Laugh-Out-Loud humor--always with an uncanny and precise sense of timing. On occasion, she'll even throw in a free 'kick-in-the-pants,' 'find your gratitude' or 'don't stop running…' advice article for good measure.

I am honored to be part of Jamie's network, but even more honored to call her a friend. She weaves a special kind of magic with words, and every time she writes, her message is powerful, poignant, inspirational and transformative. So go ahead, read one of her articles-you'll be glad you did."
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Yosha Cook Shartzer & Tisch


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