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Kris L. Canaday is a legal analyst, advanced certified paralegal, and owner of Integrative Legal Support, LLC. Her business provides substantive legal support to attorneys, firms, in-house legal departments, and governmental agencies throughout the United States in an effort to help them regain a work-life balance, streamline processes, increase their profit margin, minimize costs, and lower their client's fees. Ms. Canaday also devotes a significant amount of time to educating attorneys on the benefits and use of paralegals in their practice and the benefits of paralegal support services.
When asked how her skills complement the services Integrative Legal provides to its clients, she explained:
"Legal work requires significant organization and analysis of facts, issues, and law. It's imperative to have these skills to succeed in most legal positions. The combination of my training and experience in the legal field together with my ability to organize, focus on details, and analyze everything I see, read, and hear (quite literally), allows me to excel in the work I do, and provide a superior work product to our clients. That level of quality and focus on attention is the foundation underlying everything we do at Integrative Legal. We are results-driven."
Ms. Canaday is also the author of Paralegal Support 101, an informal blog that provides information to attorneys regarding the paralegal profession and paralegal services. In her spare time, she actively participates in her professional association committees, does pro bono work whenever the opportunity arises, and mentors non-traditional undergraduate students returning to school.
Prior to establishing Integrative Legal Support in 2009, Ms. Canaday served in the private and public sectors. She feels fortunate to have experience and/or training in several areas of the law. Ms. Canaday is trained in the fundamentals of legal practice and support including legal review and analysis, document production, document preparation, factual and legal research, and drafting. Her natural organizational and analytical skills complement her work in the legal field.
Coupled with her executive level experience and entrepreneurial spirit, Ms. Canaday's company provides much more than legal support to attorneys. Her integral understanding of business allows her to identify problems and provide recommendations for improved business practices, enhancing a company or firm's overall productivity. Integrative Legal Support currently focuses on providing intellectual property (trademark and copyright) maintenance and prosecution; and corporate, administrative law, and litigation support. Integrative Legal is also registered to provide government contract services.
Ms. Canaday is a member of the American Bar Association. Within the ABA, she is a member of the Intellectual Property Section and the Litigation Section, and she is a member of several committees within each section. Ms. Canaday is also a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
She earned her Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies and Psychology, summa cum laude, from the University of Maryland University College. Ms. Canaday also received her paralegal certificate, summa cum laude, from the University of Maryland University College. Additionally, she has earned her advanced paralegal certification. Ms. Canaday is a life learner, so she is constantly taking courses or attending seminars for professional, business, and personal growth. As a legal professional, she is required to take several courses/seminars each year for continuing legal education (CLE) credits in order to stay on top of her field.
When asked if she has a favorite book, author, or something she is currently reading, Ms. Canaday replied, "I have 10 books on my shelf right now that I want to read. All are from various authors and relate to personal or business growth, but the first ones I'd like to finish are by one of my favorite business people (and a real, genuine guy), Mike Michalowicz."
Ms. Canaday's Successful Career
Why did Ms. Canaday decide to establish Integrative Legal Support? She explained:
"The purpose for creating Integrative Legal Support was two-fold; it solved both a personal problem and a problem I was struggling to address in the legal field. The answer to solving both of these problems occurred as an epiphany in 2009 when I realized that this one solution could resolve everything.
Personally, I'm a career military spouse. My husband has been in the service for 26 years. After moving across the country several times, employers tend to recognize a military spouse simply by looking at the spouse's résumé, which generally makes it to the trash can. Employers regularly exclude military spouses as prospective employees regardless of their qualifications because they know the spouse will move in a few years. Employers often don't realize that there is a larger turn around with locals who don't value the stability of a position as much as someone who knows they may only have a few years to embrace it. Employers also don't realize that a military spouse often brings more knowledge and ideas to the table as a result of their diverse experience. So, personally, creating Integrative Legal Support allowed me to continue moving my career forward while addressing an even larger issue that has troubled the legal field for years.
Working in both the private and public sectors in various parts of the country has yielded amazing experiences, along with an acute awareness to the struggles within both private practice and public sector work. When I worked in private practice, there were so many times when we (the support staff) were overwhelmed, working until all hours of the night to meet deadlines. I would have given anything to have a paralegal support service help us with some the work to during those times.
In the public sector, budget constraints are often a problem. The cascading result is often an inadequate number of support staff and, thus, a significant backlog of work. A paralegal support service addresses both the budget issue and the workload issue, as vendor services are generally paid from a different area of the budget and their services can be used either temporarily to reduce or eliminate backlogs, or to provide continuing support to offset the imbalance between available staff and workload demands.
Yet, it wasn't either of these situations that caused my epiphany. It occurred in 2009, when I was living in a very small, rural area. The legal community was comprised of solo practitioners struggling to make a living and build a practice in a tiny community. Many were overwhelmed trying to build and run a business, handle administrative tasks, and practice law; few had the ability, overhead, or revenue to hire traditional support staff. They were overwhelmed and I realized then that I could do more to help by providing paralegal support to the legal community as a whole than I could by working as an employee for one attorney, which likely would have done him or her more harm than good considering all the overhead and employment-related expenses s/he would have incurred. Thus the creation of what is now Integrative Legal Support."
When asked about the decision to focus on their current areas of practice, Ms. Canaday indicated that "Integrative Legal focuses on providing intellectual property, corporate, and litigation paralegal support so that we can provide comprehensive support to our clients in these areas of law while maintaining a nice balance between transactional and litigation work. I have a strong preference for public sector work, which is why we offer administrative law and government support."
What motivated her to educate attorneys? Ms. Canaday noted:
This also developed out of need to address a problem I never realized existed. When I started providing support to my small legal community, I found that the attorneys didn't know what a paralegal was or did. That, as with running a business, is something they don't teach you in law school. Being a small community, many had never worked in a law firm, and had only worked in solo practice.
So, when I told them I was making myself available to help them (I started as a freelance paralegal, growing later into what is now Integrative Legal Support), I found that I was answering the same questions over and over again: What is a paralegal? What do they do? How do freelance paralegals and paralegal support services work? How do they differ from hiring employees? And so on. I was answering them one conversation at a time. After a while, I realized I could provide those answers to attorneys everywhere, anytime they needed them by simply starting a blog and publishing articles addressing those specific questions. Thus the creation of Paralegal Support 101 in 2010.
Since then, I've spoken with and helped so many attorneys and firms set up their practices and streamline their processes for efficiency that I've been asked to provide training to guide attorneys in setting up systems and processes for their practices.
So I guess long story short is: the more immersed I become in not only supporting law firms and legal departments, but also in helping them with the overall success of their practice, the more motivated I become to do more."
When asked how long Ms. Canaday had been a legal analyst and advanced certified paralegal before she established her business, she said:
"My career in the legal field began by chance when a prominent attorney needed someone to fill in temporarily for his legal secretary. Although I declined the position multiple times, he insisted I take the position based on my non-legal skills and experience. I fell in love with the legal field that first day, and quickly realized that the legal field was the perfect place for my organizational, detail, and analytical skills to thrive. I quickly found permanent work in the legal field, working my way up through the ranks, eventually becoming a legal analyst around 2001 or 2002. It's the level of work I enjoy the most, as it allows me the most significant opportunity to utilize my skills. During that time, I also decided to back up my career with formal education, returning to school for a bachelor's degree in my field and attaining a paralegal certificate along the way. A few years after receiving my degree, I decided to again further my career by seeking paralegal certification in 2013, and becoming an advanced certified paralegal at the beginning of 2014."
What advice would she give to someone who wants to become a legal analyst? "Organizational and analytical skills, and attention to detail are essential. While formal education isn't a requirement, I cannot recommend it enough. Never stop learning, be a team player, and ask questions."
When asked what information she wished she had when starting out in the legal field, Ms. Canaday replied:
"On the job training is great, and I would have never have had this opportunity if not for on-the-job training. However, I wish some sort of formal education, at least the essentials (legal ethics, introduction to law, legal writing, and legal research) had been required if not beforehand, then concurrent with my initial position. There is so much information that is not, and cannot be learned on the job that is essential to becoming a competent and successful paralegal."
What does she think are the keys to becoming a successful legal analyst? "Listen, ask questions, always be open to new ideas, be willing to learn, be a team player, focus on the details, be able to think independently, and always come to the table with potential solutions when presenting an issue/problem."
What does Ms. Canaday think makes the difference between a good legal analyst and a great legal analyst? "I think what I've seen differentiate good legal analysts from great legal analysts is the same skillsets mentioned before: analytical skills, organizational skills, and attention to detail. I would also suggest that a drive and determination to do their absolute best in everything they do, and a genuine interest in what they do completes the differentiation between good and great analysts."
What's one of the things that she finds most challenging about her job? "My biggest challenge as a business owner is building the grand vision that I have to the scale I envision. I love my work and often find myself focusing more on that than the grand plan, and have to redirect my attention again."
What would Ms. Canaday say is the most important thing she learned as a legal analyst? "My experiences as a legal analyst have driven home the importance of people; of being open to new ideas, experiences, and learning; the importance in doing what you enjoy and what you believe in; and doing it alongside really great people."
What is the best part of her job? "Our attorneys. Plain and simple. Our clients and the attorneys I meet along the way are hands down the best part of my job (besides doing the work I love to do). They are great people. I have had the great privilege of getting to know them, and I love being able to help them. My job affords me the opportunity to meet and get to know so many great legal professionals that I would not otherwise have the privilege to meet."
What is Ms. Canaday known for professionally? "The level and quality of my work, and my analytical skills, organizational skills, and attention to detail seem to get the most attention."
If she were not in this profession, what would she most probably be doing? Ms. Canaday acknowledged:
"I like to say that psychology is my love and law is my passion. If I had it to do over again, I would continue the joint degree theme (I have a Bachelor's in both [Para]legal Studies and Psychology) and pursue a dual J.D./Ph.D. in psychology in order to focus research efforts on eyewitness testimony and false confessions with the goal of developing a nationwide training program to educate jurors on the limitations of eyewitness testimony and develop better interrogation techniques to eliminate coerced false confessions."
What motivates her to run her business every day? "A desire to succeed, do what I enjoy, and make a difference."
Being a Mentor, Volunteer Activities, People Who Inspired Ms. Canaday, and Her Goals
When asked about mentoring, Ms. Canaday said, "I've been mentoring for several years. Formally, I've been mentoring non-traditional undergraduate students since 2009. Informally, I often talk with attorneys about their practices, and am frequently asked for advice by other paralegal support companies and freelance paralegals."
Is she involved in any volunteer activities? "The mentoring and training programs mentioned earlier. I'm also an organizer of the New Orleans Lawyers Meetup group, which was created as an opportunity for seasoned legal professionals to mentor newer attorneys, and share practice and technology tips. I'm also actively involved in my American Bar Association sections' committees."
Who inspires her? "My father, my grandfather, my husband, and my mentor when I became a legal analyst are the people who inspire me the most. They embody all that's important: family, friends, love, compassion, honesty, genuineness, morals, values, and hard work."
Ms. Canaday has accomplished a lot in her career. What's next for her? "Only time will tell. Two life lessons I've learned is to never say never, and to never pass on an opportunity that I might later regret not doing. I plan to continue moving my career forward, growing personally and professionally, and, hopefully, make a difference while doing what I love."
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