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Paralegal work set this attorney on her career path

Coming from a home with your typical overbearing Korean parents, I was given several limited career options when I was heading into high school.

“Hae Eun, you can either be a lawyer, doctor, dentist, or teacher.”

My parents immigrated to this country in 1979, and they were adamant that the only way to survive in the American world was to possess a profession that would give you some semblance of stability. I immediately chose to be a teacher, because well, let’s be honest, it sounded like the easiest option at the time.

However, a brief stint in a volunteer teaching position during college made me quickly realize that I had underestimated the patience required to enrich young minds in an educational setting. By 1999, I had several run-ins with science-based courses that also directed me to the conclusion that I was truly inept at succeeding in that world.

I wish I had some romantic story about how I had always dreamed about helping the indigent receive proper legal services and, therefore, that is why I went to law school. But alas, it was merely my blind trust in my parents’ advice at the time that caused me to choose the law as my future occupation.

To this day, I am so glad that I chose to work in the field prior to going to law school. I worked as a paralegal for a sole practitioner in Atlanta for two years and the D.C. branch office of a San Francisco law firm for one year.

Thank the holy heavens that I did, because it is through my experience as a paralegal that I began developing a passion for the law. One of the most painful tasks for a paralegal is legal research — the hours spent scouring over hundreds of cases printed from a hugely broad legal question could push a saint to the edge of a cliff.

But, I will say, the sheer elation you feel when you find the perfect case and, then, the discovery of other cases aligned to your side of the issue, is something that still throws me into excitement. (I have the sneaking suspicion that being a paralegal and completing law school exacerbated masochistic tendencies already present within my personality.)

Side by side with my love of research is the joy I feel when I complete a quality piece of writing. I was that freak in law school whose favorite course was “legal analysis, research, and writing.” At the time, I lived to perfect those assigned memorandums and briefs.

While my job now as a first-year litigation associate at Nelson Mullins consists of a lot of motions practice and drafting of briefs, I still craved a creative outlet to help unload the stresses of a work-dominated schedule interspersed with new personal challenges. While the desire to help the indigent did not motivate me to enter the legal profession, I do exist in it currently with the burning desire to learn more about animal law, and use my skills to assist animal rescues and advocacy organizations. (I have two lovely mutts who reside with me at home — Dexter, 8, and Luca, 6).

I daydream about the opportunity to dabble in the field of fashion law, and figure out how those field-specific legal issues work their way into fashion design or designer collections showcased at your nearby Neiman Marcus. In fact, I post on a fashion and style blog I share with my best friend, check it out at www.fleurstyle.blogspot.com.

Enter this blogging opportunity at Generation J.D.! Come join me on this wild ride — I am absolutely positive that I am not the only person in this world who feels like life is a pretty intense roller coaster in their personal and professional worlds. We will traverse the “highs” and “lows” of our peon status on the totem pole of lawyers together.

2 comments

  1. Is this parody? If so, bravo.

  2. @Pushkin, thanks for the feedback. I’m The Daily Record’s managing editor/online. Dorothy is one of our new Generation J.D. bloggers and wrote an introductory post for the blog at my request. As a journalist, one of my favorite questions to ask interview subjects has long been, “How’d you get into [insert line of work here]?” I really enjoyed reading about her journey from fledgling teacher to paralegal to associate and know many of our readers did, as well.