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Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, serves as a legal secretary and administrator at Sacks, Ricketts & Case, LLP, in Phoenix, Arizona.
Kathy was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona. She has lived within 20 miles of Mesa her whole life. Kathy earned her Associate of Applied Science in Legal Assisting (With Distinction) from Phoenix College in 1992. She received her NALS Professional Legal Secretary certification in 1994, the NALS Professional Paralegal certification in 2004, the NALA Certified Legal Assistant certification in 2007, the NALA Advanced Certified Paralegal certification in 2013, and the NALS Specialty Certificate in Litigation/Civil Law in 2014.
I asked Kathy what is the biggest case she worked on? "A case in Florida involving a satellite provider and some of the television networks. It involved many different issues, thousands of documents, an overwhelming exhibit list, a Supreme Court constitutionality brief, and four weeks living in a hotel in Florida."
What makes her stand out as a legal secretary in her field? Kathy said:
Probably my dedication to the field, the satisfaction I receive in mentoring others, my constant desire to learn as much as I can by attending lots of seminars and obtaining certifications, my proofreading skills which bring me emails and telephone calls from people I haven't worked with in years asking for advice, and my other skills, which have been honed over many years of practice and a continuing desire for improvement.
What is the sexiest case Kathy worked on? "I'm not sure it qualifies as "sexy," but a very interesting case was about cows, milking, and artificial insemination. I learned a whole lot about an industry that I knew nothing about."
What is her most recent case that is big or noteworthy? "Probably one that is about franchise and class action issues. I've not dealt with either before, so every day is a learning experience and the issues are important to that industry."
Prior to working at Sacks, Ricketts & Case, Kathy served as a legal secretary at DLA Piper and Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. She also served as a probate administrator for Ehmann & Hiller.
Kathy contributes Grammar Nuggets to the NALS docket and an article to Vicki Voisin's Paralegal Strategies each month. She is scheduled to have an article published in the upcoming 3rd quarter edition of Paralegal Today.
Kathy is a member of the Association of Legal Administrators. She is involved in NALS Chairing the Basic Legal Training Course Task Force and co-chairing the National Forum Task Force - 2015 Las Vegas. Kathy is also the President-elect for NALS of Phoenix. Additionally, she volunteers with the American Diabetes Association and she is currently the Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes Volunteer Chair for the Phoenix walk.
When Kathy isn't working, she enjoys shopping, traveling, and spending time with her husband, two kids, and seven grandchildren.
Kathy's Successful Career
When asked why she decided to specialize in litigation, Kathy replied, "It wasn't really a decision I consciously made. I was a probate paralegal for 15 years and was laid off. I worked as a temporary legal secretary in an international law firm and landed in their litigation department. I'm still doing litigation today and can't imagine life without the excitement, intensity, and satisfaction of litigation."
Why did Kathy decide to become a paralegal? She explained:
Initially, it was because I knew one person who worked in the legal field and thought she made a lot more money that a 'regular' support staff person. I got my first legal job as a legal secretary trainee in a boutique tax law firm and loved it. I started working in probate and was soon doing paralegal work. I saw a college catalog and some classes that I thought would help me and decided to get my degree.
What advice would she give to someone who's brand-new to her position? Kathy acknowledged:
Be a team player. Be prepared to do anything that needs to be done to accomplish the goal.
Be open to learning-always. You can never know everything about everything.
Respect everyone. The career ladder goes up and down and you need everyone's help to get your job done most efficiently. When you respect others, it generally comes back to you and everyone wins.
What does Kathy think are the keys to becoming a successful paralegal? "The ability to change focus instantaneously and then refocus when you get back. The ability to be open to new technologies, new software, new ways of getting things done. The ability to work with others on the team. The ability to be organized, calm, communicative, and willing to do whatever needs to be done."
What's one of the things that she finds most challenging about her job? "Interruptions. I am constantly interrupted by emails and people with projects more important to them than what I'm currently working on. It gets frustrating when things are constantly on the bottom of the to do list, but I don't always get to set priorities."
What would Kathy say is the most important thing she learned as a paralegal? She noted:
Patience is a valuable skill. There is lots of 'hurry up and wait' and then crisis mode. To learn to be patient when necessary and not turn into a raging lunatic when things are in crisis mode is probably one of the most important things I've learned. That and that you can learn from every person and every situation you come in contact with. I've made lots of mistakes and worked with a lot of different people, but like to think I learned a valuable lesson from all of them.
What is the best part of her job? "Probably variety. No two days are ever the same. And the satisfaction of knowing that most days I'm really good at what I do and the people I work with recognize that."
What is Kathy known for professionally? "Proofreading. I still get emails from people I have worked with in the past asking me grammar questions. I finally decided to use that skill to help others and publish a proofreading blog proofthatblog.com which recently celebrated a two year blogiversary."
What does she think about the paralegal field in her area today? Kathy stated:
I think too many schools are pumping out paralegal students with unreal expectations for what their jobs will entail and how much money they will make. It is generally not Erin Brockovich in a law firm. I think more support staff need to be certified to prove that it is their profession and to ensure that they are all being educated about timely topics. The law changes constantly, and I'm not sure a lot of legal support staff are changing with it.
If Kathy were not in this profession, what would she most probably be doing? "I would probably be an administrative assistant to some big CEO. I've wanted to be a secretary since my 8th grade typing class, so I would probably be doing that somewhere."
Where does she see herself in five years' time? "Some would think I should be retiring, but I don't see that. I love getting up every day to see what my job has in store for me that day. It isn't always what I would have planned my day to be, but it is certainly never dull. I would hope to be writing more and perhaps teaching again a little bit."
What motivates Kathy to be a paralegal every day? "Working with intelligent people who are willing to answer questions and help me understand things I don't quite understand, feeling like I might be a role model or mentor to young people who want to get into the field, and knowing that my piece of the work product is helping our clients."
Being a Mentor, People Who Inspired Kathy and Her Goals
Does Kathy consider herself a mentor? "Definitely. I very willingly share my love of this career with others and want to see them grow and get the same sense of accomplishment I do."
Who inspires her? Kathy said:
My boss, Cindy Ricketts, whom I've worked with for 19 years, inspires me every day. She has been more than patient and spent the time to explain things to me when I started doing litigation without really comprehending the difference between a plaintiff and a defendant. She had a big task at hand, but she recognized my potential value to her and to the firm and I've tried to live up to that.
My many NALS friends, who have pushed me to do things I would not have done otherwise that were far outside my comfort zone but have made me a better person.
My husband, who has put up with a whole lot of crap with my legal career and stuck with me and has handled a bunch of stuff he shouldn't have had to so I could focus on my career.
My besties, who are always there for me-to celebrate good times and commiserate with me for the not-so-good times-who have always given me faith that I could do anything I set my mind to and were always there to help me accomplish my goals, even when I wasn't sure what those goals were.
Kathy has accomplished a lot in her career. What's next for her? "For right now, focusing on my blog. I have a project in mind that I haven't started yet and I need to spend more time writing more thorough blog posts about topics helpful to readers. That, and spending time with my seven grandchildren who are growing up much too quickly."
LawCrossing has the most listings of any job board I have used. It's actually a great site. The website had a lot of detail. It’s nice that you don't have to go through a recruiter if you don't want to. You can actually contact the law firm directly for the positions listed. LawCrossing had a ton of great features.