Why do I want to do this? Having been a paralegal in the personal injury field since the early 1990s, I look back today and answer that very question the exact same way I always have. The answer has been consistent: I want to help. I want to make a difference in lives, and I want to let people know I care.
I didn’t glamorize it. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Quite honestly, there are certain days that being a paralegal can be tough and bring about some of the highest levels of stress imaginable. The key to success is a good mentor who wants to see you succeed and treats you as a true member of their team. You need a lawyer that believes in you and wants you on his or her team.
As a paralegal, it can get complicated. There’s the big S word — STRESS. Stress is something that certainly, at times, can make you ask yourself, “What am I doing?” Two things really have enhanced my ability to push through those times. One is working with a strong attorney that believes in me. More importantly is when I take a deep breath and a good hard look at the individuals and families that depend on me. Yes, me. They need the best representation possible to somehow help right a wrong that’s become an endless mountain for them to climb every day. It’s a mountain they never asked to climb, a mountain that is exhausting. Yes, a good attorney and the support staff can make all the difference in helping someone climb that mountain.
What do I need to do this? Aside from the legal education, training, and technical aspects of my job, I need strong work ethic. I need to be a person of good character. I need to allow myself to live what the client(s) go through as they walk through the phases of litigation. I need to understand they rely on me too.
Once upon a time I asked myself, “Do you want a career in which you will make a difference to others?” It seems it would have been easier to choose a 9-to-5 job in which I did the same thing over and over then went home without extra weight on my mind. Am I up to the challenges I most certainly will face, not just intellectually, but emotionally? Am I willing to do what it takes to be a valued team member?
Yes, yes and yes. I want to be a part of fighting for the underdog; fighting for the people and families who so badly need that support. I fight for those who desperately need that ear to listen and that mind to understand. I need to be dependable, so I’m trusted to do the best possible and can make good changes. People are my motivation. The relationships with these people as they go through some of their darkest moments in front of me through litigation is what’s most important. The emotions are raw, and the pain is real every step of the way and, in the end, I know when I’ve done my job when I have made a difference to someone.
I may not be Erin Brockovich, but I am Erin Dodd and I am here to help.