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Profile: Victorialei "Nohea" Naka'ahiki, litigation paralegal, Day, Casebeer, Madrid & Batchelder

( 7 votes, average: 3.8 out of 5)
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When Naka'ahiki moved to California from Hawaii nearly five years ago, she was at the top of her career. Well respected at her firm and a leader in the Hawaii and national paralegal community, Naka'ahiki said it was difficult to leave, but the opportunities on the mainland were too good to pass up.

Geography has played a key role in Naka'ahiki's career. She dreamed of becoming an attorney, but when she and her husband moved to a remote part of Hawaii, there were no law schools or four-year universities nearby. She started taking some paralegal courses and was hooked on the profession. She got a job in a firm and began working as a paralegal in 1988. When the family moved back to Honolulu, she attended the ABA-approved paralegal program at Kapi'olani Community College, earning a degree in paralegal studies in 1993.


Naka'ahiki joined Day, Casebeer, Madrid & Batchelder in Cupertino, CA, just over a month ago from Seagate Technology, LLC, where she was an in-house paralegal. While she credits Seagate for helping her learn a lot about the intellectual property field, Naka'ahiki found the pace of working in a corporate setting frustrating, especially because outside counsel was handling most of the caseload. She said her role mainly involved supervising outside counsel, but she longed to be the one building cases.

"People used to say 'What are you complaining about? You don't have to bill time! You don't have to work overtime! What the heck is wrong with you?' And I would say it's like shifting gears," she said. "It's like being in a sports car going 100 miles per hour and then having to shift gears. It's just really hard. You grind the gears."

In a law firm, Naka'ahiki said, she loves the pressure of various deadlines and a heavy caseload. Naka'ahiki is used to long hours. Especially when she first moved to California and had to commute two-and-a-half hours to get to work because her family could not find affordable housing during the dot-com boom in Palo Alto. Although she liked her job then, she switched to Seagate to be closer to her family.

Even during the hefty commute, she found time for local paralegal associations. She is also the appointed Commissioner to the Juvenile & Justice Delinquency Prevention Commission for the County of Santa Cruz and the Vice President of Communications of the Brigham Young University Hawaii Alumni Association, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter.

How does she find the time?

"I'm a litigation paralegal used to moving at a higher speed, working seven days a week," she said.

Naka'ahiki said she has no idea who nominated her for Carole Bruno's top-15 paralegal contest, but she was extremely honored. The secrets to her success, she said, are working hard, not giving up, and being proactive.

"And believe in yourself. Because I think we all have what it takes and we just have to push ourselves to get what we want," she said.

Naka'ahiki said she equally loves the thrill of preparing for trial and being at trial. She encourages new paralegals to accept any job they can get within a firm, even if it's not as a paralegal, and work their way up.

"I love the entire process," she said. "And actually, it's funny, because you want to settle out. You don't want to go to trial, because it's better for your client in the long run. But I always feel this little letdown when we settle at the eleventh hour: You're ready for trial. You have all your exhibits. You're ready to go, and everything's been done, and you're ready, and then it settles. You're bittersweet."

Naka'ahiki said working in the high-tech area of Palo Alto would dramatically help her career when and if she returns to Hawaii, which she still calls home. The cost of living in Hawaii is high, and salaries are often low, she said.

While in Hawaii, she specialized in maritime/admiralty law. Intellectual property litigation was hardly on the radar in Hawaii, she said. But it will likely be a more prominent field of law there in years to come.

"Hawaii is like 10 years behind the mainland—in everything," she said. "So to have this experience and to gain this knowledge in intellectual property is a good thing."

Seagate Technology LLC

    


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