Posts filed under Law

Sarah Hierl: Legal Assistant

Name: Sarah Hierl

Age: 22

College & Majors/Minors: University of South Florida St. Petersburg, Bachelor’s in English Literature and Cultural Studies

Current Location: Clearwater, Florida

Current Form of Employment: Legal Assistant for an Insurance Defense Law Firm

Where do you work and what is your current position?

At the moment I work at Cole, Scott & Kissane, P.A., as a sort of assistant to the legal assistants. I help a team of around twenty people with any overflow work that they come across (which tends to be a lot, as our firm is one of the largest in Florida). I do quite a few things, such as drafting and serving pleadings and subpoenas, tasking trial orders to ensure the attorneys have accurate deadlines to follow for trial, as well as transcribing billing and correspondence for about three of the firm’s managing partners. It is quite a big job that takes a lot of time management to avoid getting overwhelmed.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

Well, my first job ever was as a Kids Zone Employee at Brighthouse Networks Field, a baseball field near my house where the Philadelphia Phillies had their spring training. I found the job through a friend I was in a volunteer club with, which launched me into my first ever work experience! I was responsible for attending the playground and various games in the kids zone, such as our batting game and bounce house. Although, the most challenging part was babysitting some of the tipsy adults trying to use the bounce house.

I found my current job through my sister, who is actually a client of our firm. She is an adjuster and has many connections with different attorneys in different firms. I was looking for a firm that would work with my college class schedule, and CSK just happened to work out perfectly for that. As I worked here longer my responsibilities have grown and I’ve learned many valuable new skills as well. I am currently looking to move outside of the legal field to a career which offers more room for growth without requiring additional degrees, as that isn’t something I can afford right now.

“Knowledge of spelling and grammar is super important in the legal field, since one mistake on a pleading could cost the firm or client millions of dollars, or even cause a legal malpractice case (definitely no bueno).”

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I would say that the first law firm I worked for, Vernis & Bowling of the Gulf Coast, P.A., really gave me a leg-up in the way of proving my skills in order to be successful in a career. I had always been told that an English degree was going to be useless unless I went into teaching, but the managing partner of the branch would introduce me to guests as “the resident English major,” which always gave me a lot of pride in what I chose to do. Knowledge of spelling and grammar is super important in the legal field, since one mistake on a pleading could cost the firm or client millions of dollars, or even cause a legal malpractice case (definitely no bueno).

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

I was fortunate to have professors that stressed preparing a portfolio for future applications. Though I was often stressed and cursing the time I spent on carefully compiling one of each document I wrote for every single class, I now appreciate the results of that hard work. I was also taught how to prepare a resume, something that I feel isn’t often adequately stressed to college students, but which makes a MASSIVE difference once you graduate. Jobs don’t even look at you if your resume is sloppy or has poor spelling. It was a huge bonus that my teachers cared about giving us tips that would help in the real world.

“Also, if you graduate and end up stuck as to where to apply, start with administrative positions. Most start with a decent pay rate of 10-15 dollars an hour, and you can always find the ones that have room for upward mobility. There is no shame in starting from the bottom and working your way toward success, as cliche as that sounds.”

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Don’t listen to the people who tell you that an English degree is useless. It may be more of a niche job rather than finding a Fortune 500 company to work for, but there will always be work for you. We all know how bad Microsoft Word is at grammar checks and spelling, so having a human with the skills to edit and write properly is invaluable to a lot of companies right now. Also, if you graduate and end up stuck as to where to apply, start with administrative positions. Most start with a decent pay rate of 10-15 dollars an hour, and you can always find the ones that have room for upward mobility. There is no shame in starting from the bottom and working your way toward success, as cliche as that sounds. I had many times where I wanted to give up, but one thing that we young people have is a lot of drive, and that has kept me going. Not to mention, who knows how far it will take me? I still have a lot of time to find out!


Posted on February 18, 2017 and filed under Interview, Interviews, Law.

Mariah Kline: Legal Assistant

Name: Mariah Kline

Age: 23

College & Majors/Minors: University of Louisville, Bachelor of Arts in English

Current Location: Louisville, KY 

Current Form of Employment: Legal Assistant, O’Koon Hintermeister

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work for a law firm as an assistant to two attorneys. I write letters, draft wills and other estate planning documents, and speak with clients when the attorneys are unavailable. I also handle referrals. Our firm works with a larger company called LegalShield, a service that allows people to pay a small fee each month and receive legal advice whenever they need it. When Kentucky LegalShield members need someone to represent them in their area, I’m in charge of finding an attorney for them. This often involves writing up a summary of the member’s legal issue and sending it to an attorney. I make sure they have the essential facts about the case so they can determine if they want to take it or not. 

“Whenever my boss needs a letter or document proofread, he brings it to me and says, “Use your English degree, that’s why we brought you in here.” I really enjoy what I do, and I know that my English degree helped me prepare for it.”

People often confuse my position with that of a paralegal, but they are somewhat different (paralegals are total superheroes, by the way). Paralegals have a specific degree that teaches them about the law and how to work with attorneys. Though you won’t learn about the law in most English classes, I think this is a great area for English majors to work in because it involves so much writing and communication. Whenever my boss needs a letter or document proofread, he brings it to me and says, “Use your English degree, that’s why we brought you in here.” I really enjoy what I do, and I know that my English degree helped me prepare for it.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different). 

Actually my first job found me! I posted my resume on Career Builder and the office manager at the firm called me a few weeks later. I spent months filling out online applications for places that never contacted me (which is still a good idea for someone in need of a job; it is a numbers game after all) but it turned out that letting them find me was the way to go. 

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I didn’t have any writing-related jobs prior to this one, but the writing I did in college definitely helped me prepare for the job I have now. Composing articulate emails and summarizing cases are part of my day to day work. You may not think the short essay assignments you’re doing right now will help you later, but I’ve found that the writing skills you develop can translate really well in an office.

“Some people believe networking and making friends with every professor will guarantee them a good job after college, but I believe gaining work experience is the way to really impress. Going into an interview and being able to discuss the various roles you’ve already had in the working world can really set you apart from other recent grads.”

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

I tried to have my resume fine-tuned in the months leading up to graduation so that I could start applying for jobs immediately. I also worked many part-time jobs in college, not only to support myself but to show future employers that I had a good work ethic. Some people believe networking and making friends with every professor will guarantee them a good job after college, but I believe gaining work experience is the way to really impress. Going into an interview and being able to discuss the various roles you’ve already had in the working world can really set you apart from other recent grads. 

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

First, don’t be discouraged by the job market. It is very tough out there, but if you have some job experience, a good attitude, and a solid work ethic you will find a good job. Also, don’t be too picky. If you get a call about an interview but the job doesn’t seem appealing, take the interview anyway. You might enjoy the people you meet and the office environment, even if the work doesn’t sound right up your alley. 

Second, it’s OK to take a break from reading once in a while. I felt so guilty about watching more TV and not picking up a book for several weeks after graduation, but your brain needs a rest sometimes. You spend months on end doing nothing but reading, so binge watching old episodes of the West Wing doesn’t make you a bad English major. 

Last but not least, be your genuine self. Don’t be ashamed that you chose to major in English, and don’t let potential employers make you question your choice. Whether it be five weeks or or five years from now, you will find a job someday that will make you glad you studied English. 


Posted on July 26, 2016 and filed under Law, Writing.

Sidney Charlotte Tribe: Appellate Lawyer

Name: Sidney Charlotte Tribe

Age: 42

College & Majors/Minors: Willamette University, English Lit, University of Washington, J.D.

Location: West Seattle, Washington

Current form of Employment: Appellate lawyer, Talmadge/Fitzpatrick/Tribe, partner

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

After undergrad, I did not know what I wanted to do for a career. I had an English degree and was not very creative or diligent about researching ways to use it. The only job I could think of was teacher, and that required more school. So I moved back to Seattle and spent the next five years going from job to job—bookstores, clothing retail, whatever. My first job was at Half Price Books in Crossroads Mall in Bellevue, Washington. I had worked there a couple of summers during college. I was a little overqualified, so I must admit it wasn’t very hard to land the job.

In 1998 was temping through an agency when I landed a job as a receptionist at a law firm on Capitol Hill in Seattle. I got to see firsthand what lawyers do every day, and it convinced me that my skills (reading & analysis, writing, researching, etc.) were a good fit. That’s when I decided to go to law school, which obviously got me into my current career.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Honestly, I don’t think I did much of anything to prepare myself for after graduation. I focused on school and I guess I just thought the rest would take care of itself. Obviously I was not correct about that. I did not avail myself of the many resources I had at my school for career planning. And I really just did not research what to do with my degree. However, I want to stress that I do not regret how I spent my five years after undergrad. I think that a really lasting career comes from understanding what you want out of life, and that comes from just living everyday. 

I also think the retail etc. jobs I had in high school, college, and after, gave me an appreciation for what is a good job and what is a bad job. I had both. Plus I had a lot of fun before I had to officially grow up. I started an 80s cover band and was a barfly at my best friend’s cocktailing job. I travelled (on the cheap) and enjoyed life a bit. I was very hard-charging all my years through college and honestly it made me quite a basket case. By the time I started law school I knew who I was and what I wanted. I don’t think I would have been as successful in law school or in choosing my particular field if I had gone straight after undergrad. Maybe I didn’t need five years, but a little break can be good for perspective.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

My advice is first, definitely think about your personality, work habits, and predilections, and how they led you to be an English major. In other words, why, out of all the other fields of study, did it interest you? And the answer can’t just be because you like reading. Go deeper. Your job is what you will be doing eight or more hours a day, five or more days a week. You’ve got to figure out what you actually want to be doing with that time before you can narrow down careers. 

Second, use the resources at your disposal to research as broad a range of jobs as possible. Don’t just approach the issue with the question “What are good jobs for English majors?” Instead, approach it from a skill set. What are good jobs for creative writers? Technical writers? Researchers? Readers? Analysts? Did you get into English study because it is an exploration of the human condition? Maybe you want to pursue something related to sociology. Did you get into it because you like technical writing? You can write anything from journalism to users manuals. 

Being an English major gives you a lot of fundamental skills, but unfortunately most of them are somewhat unquantifiable and “intellectual” and I don’t mean that word in a bad way, as some people do. These qualities make the career search challenging, but give you more of a range of options than you might think.

You can view Sidney's website at Tal-Fitzlaw.com.


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Posted on April 6, 2015 and filed under Law.