This Week's Paralegal RTW ~ Sara L. Gerdon

I met Sara L. Gerdon while serving on the Board of Directors for the Red River Valley Paralegal Association (RRPVA). She is currently a paralegal at Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a non-profit national healthcare corporation at their Fargo, ND location.

She is an active member of the RRVPA, has held various positions on the Board of Directors, and currently serves on the Mentorship Committee.

PRTW: Why did you choose the paralegal profession?  
SG: I chose this profession because the laws and justice system have interested me ever since I was quite young. I was unsure if I wanted to attend law school or what I wanted to do. I was then introduced to the idea of becoming a Paralegal, which at the time, I didn’t even know what that was. After learning more about the profession and the program Minnesota State University - Moorhead (MSUM) had to offer; I knew that was the right career path for me.

PRTW: In the United States, paralegals have a variety of career options to specialize in, from elder law to technology law to criminal law. What is your specialty?
SG: My current specialty is Contracts and Business Law for CHI.

PRTW: What other specialties have you worked in?
SG: I have worked in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death, Corporate Business law with an emphasis on Mergers and Acquisitions.

PRTW: Why did you change specialities?  
SG: After several years in civil litigation I needed a change from trial work.

PRTW: What advice would you give someone interested in choosing the paralegal profession?
SG: Find a four-year accredited ABA program. The undergraduate degree is excellent to have when applying for jobs that are outside the realm of a law firm. Additionally, I suggest exploration. We have so many options in this profession, make sure you are aware of all the ways private, public, and the government utilize paralegals.

PRTW: Do you believe paralegals employed in each of private or public sectors possess different skill sets?
SG: No, I have worked in a variety of positions as a paralegal. I feel that although the work is different, the same set of high functioning skills is needed. You must be able to multitask and manage your time appropriately. This is a fast-paced, high-stress profession, so these skills are ultimately needed in every sector.

PRTW: What was your educational path?
SG: After high school, I enrolled at MSUM. I majored in Paralegal Studies with a minor in Accounting and Women’s Studies.

PRTW: What skills should a paralegal learn today?
SG: Time management, communication (both written and verbal), and organization skills.

PRTW: What is the best book you have ever read & why?
SG: I would have to say The Shack by William P. Young. It was released at a time when many questions of equality in our society began to arise, which left me question my religion. This book reaffirmed some of my individual beliefs without being influenced by an organized religion.

PRTW: What role does mentorship play in your career, both as a mentor and a mentee?

SG: Mentorship is, and should be, a large role in all careers in my opinion. Being both a mentor and mentee allows you to not only be a teacher, but to be the student and continually learn. Learn what others are perceiving of your career and what their expectations are. Especially working in healthcare and the legal field, the laws and regulations are ever-changing.

PRTW: Who inspires you?
SG: My mom inspires me. When times gets stressful and I think there is not one more thing I can handle I think of her. She raised 11 children, worked on the family farm and outside the home; she was the hardest working and most resilient woman I know.

PRTW: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
SG: I have received a lot of advice throughout the years, but one in particular sticks with me. I would say that "Don't ever forget where you came from" is my favorite piece of advice. We've become who we are today because of where we came from. Whether it be good, bad, or neutral, our past shaped us in a way to be exactly where we are supposed to be on this very day.

Sara can be reached via email at slyn24@yahoo.com.