For 14 years, Kimberly French has served as a paralegal in various areas of the law, but for the last seven years, she has primarily served her clients in the arena of family law. As she showed me around Mathers, Dincher & Stapp, the firm in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where she has been gainfully employed for that afore mentioned duration, Kimberly explains how her day begins and why she decided to remain a paralegal rather than pursuing her law degree. “It just wasn’t for me,” she said with a smile. “I always thought I wanted to be an attorney and working as a paralegal seemed to be a logical step, but as I advanced through my career and was two weeks away from attending law school, I decided to remain here. I just thought it was a better fit” (K. French, personal communication, July 2, 2014).
As a teenager, Kimberly decided her career path was most definitely the law. While still a sophomore in high school, she made the decision to become an attorney and practice environmental law. She loved researching and writing. She also wanted to make a difference with her work. Therefore, she took as many courses as she could to prepare herself for college and eventually law school. As a sophomore in college, she decided to obtain her paralegal certificate and then became an intern at a local law firm, where she worked until her graduation. With her two degrees in political science and history, in addition to her paralegal certificate, Kimberly decided to hold off on applying to law school and obtain more legal experience working as a paralegal. She also could save money for her future education rather than take out loans. She worked for a real estate attorney and a bankruptcy attorney before being hired at Mathers, Dincher & Stapp in 2007 to be Randi Dincher’s family law paralegal. As she had been a Court Appointed Special Advocate and worked with abused and neglected children, Kimberly was thrilled to obtain the position and could not wait to apply her knowledge, as well as her enthusiasm.
“Family law can be a tricky field,” she explained. “You are dealing with some very emotional situations and of course finances, custody, personal property. Many attorneys and paralegals can only practice in this area of a law for a certain time before experiencing burnout, and it can be difficult to be objective as well as steer away from ethical concerns. The work, however, is extremely rewarding because you are really making a difference in peoples’ lives” (K. French, personal interview, July 2, 2014). She also tells me each day is the same as far as her routine of scheduling appointments, preparing legal documents, performing legal research, fielding client calls and filing documents at the court house. “At times it can be difficult for me not to dispense legal advice, because our clients are so emotionally invested in their case and want answers immediately rather than waiting for Randi to return from the courthouse,” Kimberly said. “I always count to three and then explain to them that I understand their position but I do not a have a license to practice law and that’s what they pay Randi the big bucks for. It usually works like a charm.”
The insight I have gained from this interview is how much Kimberly seems to enjoy her job. Some of the daily tasks appear to be rather mundane and she explains the ends justify the means. I think I would certainly like to pursue a career in this profession, but I would rather be the attorney than the paralegal. After watching Kimberly at work, she definitely is the administrative arm the attorney relies on, but I would enjoy spending time in court and arguing cases. I don’t think I would select family law as my area of expertise either. I would enjoy being a prosecutor and putting criminals behind bars for their actions. Also, I think the case laws would be more interesting and the clients would be more varied. Overall, Kimberly interviewing Kimberly was an excellent experience and shed some light on how I would like to proceed with my career choice.