I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Hrouda, RP during my term as President of the National Capital Area Paralegal Association (NCAPA) in Washington, DC. At the time, he was the President of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), and provided the keynote message at NCAPA’s Education Conference. He captivated the audience while addressing important issues in the paralegal profession.
Robert Hrouda, RP, is a Litigation Paralegal with Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller in Pennsylvania. He is an active member in The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc.; South Jersey Paralegal Association; and the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals. He currently serves as the Board Advisor for NFPA.
PRTW: Why did you choose the paralegal profession?
RH: I enjoyed a Business Law course at Northeast Catholic High School for Boys in Philadelphia, PA, and I researched the profession and decided to move towards a career in the paralegal profession or law school. I chose to stay in the paralegal profession.
PRTW: Tell us about someone who has influenced your decision to become a paralegal.
RH: There were two - first, my adoptive father, who first told me about the profession and that started my research into it, and the second was my Business Law teacher, Mr. Conti. While taking his class, I also had a part time job in a law firm library in Philadelphia. While we were reviewing cases in class, I would look them up in the library and come back to class with more information than was in the book. Mr. Conti was impressed with my research work and told me I should consider a legal career.
PRTW: Paralegals have a variety of career options to specialize in, from elder law to technology law to criminal law. What is your specialty?
RH: I am in Litigation, but have always been involved in the technical side. At my last firm, a plaintiff personal injury firm, I assisted our outside IT consultant handling many issues within the firm relating to viruses, network slowdown, day-to-day computer troubleshooting, and updating software. I would also go in late at night, run upgrades on the server and workstations for the case management software we used. When that was done, I would start my paralegal duties. While there, I would also set up and run Sanction for mediations. I like to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies including all databases used by paralegals.
PRTW: Why did you choose this specialty?
RH: Like the law, technology is always changing. It keeps it interesting.
PRTW: What other specialties have you worked in?
RH: I have worked in Family Law, Aviation Law, and Employment Law.
PRTW: Why did you change specialities?
RH: I really enjoy trials. You put all that effort into a case, from start to finish, and at trial you get to see all that hard work put into action. And, it is great working as part of a team for your client.
PRTW: What advice would you give someone interested in choosing the paralegal profession?
RH: Be prepared to work long hours and while in school, take as many computer classes as you can take in order to increase your knowledge in this area. A good work ethic and knowledge are keys to a successful career.
PRTW: What do you think will change in the paralegal profession in the next five years?
RH: We have heard for many years that Regulation of the profession is coming. Well, it is here and expanding. The big change I expect to sweep the nation is the Limited License Legal Technician (“LLLT”) which originated in Washington state. I recently participated on a call with a committee put together by a New York judge to investigate the LLLT program’s use in New York for Pro Bono matters. Many other states are looking at this program - more than people might think.
PRTW: What might someone be surprised to know about you?
RH: I could give you two items. First, that I’ve been with my wife since I was 15, she was 14. We dated all through high school and college, and got married after I graduated college. We also have two great daughters who are excelling in school, one pursuing a career in special effects makeup and design, the other music.
Second, while at one of my firms, I and four other paralegals formed a band and played in many venues in Philadelphia; although by the time we started playing the venues, two of our members moved on and were replaced by non-paralegals. We played for about three years.
PRTW: Do you believe paralegals employed in either public or private sectors possess different skill sets, and if so, what are they?
RH: Paralegals from every sector and every specialty have many different skill sets - the ability to work with people, technological ability, research capabilities, product knowledge - there are so many skill sets in all sectors and specialties.
PRTW: What do you find most challenging about being a paralegal?
RH: The paralegal field is challenging in many ways including the constant changes in technology, changes in the laws and court rules, and changes in the way we work (working from home vs. the office). One needs to stay up-to-date on all of these changes. With technology, it does get challenging when you are comparing many different web review tools and trying to determine what is best for your firm and/or company.
PRTW: How do you continue to do your best work in light of these challenges?
RH: Continuing legal education (CLE) is the best way to stay on top of the changes in the law and technology. Your local and national associations provide great speakers on these issues, and I encourage you to attend. Also, I find it very helpful to go out to lunch with vendors and discuss their products. It gives you time with the vendor to discuss how their product compares to another and they are there to answer your questions. These meetings also benefit the vendor because you may be the key to opening up your association to them, so it is a win-win scenario.
PRTW: Name a highlight in your career.
RH: There have been quite a few highlights to my career. On an association level, my elections as President of the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals and later as President of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations are highlights for me.
On a work level, I have been blessed to work on some amazing pro bono cases. First, a child custody matter where we were able to change the lives of 13 siblings through adoption and foster care as their parents were incarcerated for nearly starving to death the youngest of the siblings. Second, working on the Whitewood v. Corbett matter which brought marriage equality for same-sex couples to Pennsylvania. And third, working on the Luzerne County “Kids-For-Cash” matter which involved judges who were sentencing juveniles to detention centers and profiting from it. This case was made into a movie, titled Kids for Cash.
PRTW: What is the best book you have ever read? Why?
RH: I have read almost all of Tom Clancy’s novels. His books seem to grab you and put you at the center of everything that is occurring as you read. You get entrenched in the book, and it takes your mind off a lot of other things.
PRTW: What was your educational path?
RH: I went to high school at Northeast Catholic High School for Boys. I attended Holy Family College for a year and a half, majoring in Management and Marketing. Then I transferred to Temple University, and received my Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Law and Business.
PRTW: How do you deal with stressful situations?
RH: There is no better way to deal with stressful situations that to hit them head on, get through it, then find a way to relax. My favorite way to relax is to play my piano. My family can always tell the week I’ve had by the music I play. A bad week means plugging the keyboard into the amplifier and banging out some Meatloaf, Kiss, or Aerosmith. An easier week means 60's music, Elton John, Billy Joel, or Styx. Now my oldest daughter is taking guitar lessons, and my youngest daughter is taking drum lessons, and both made Philadelphia All-City Grade School band for flute and clarinet. It will be nice to “jam” with them once they get a few more lessons. Who knows, maybe a record will be out soon?
PRTW: Do you possess any certifications?
RH: I am a PACE Registered Paralegal, designating me as an RP.
PRTW: What did you do to obtain your RP?
RH: I passed the NFPA's Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE).
PRTW: How has the RP helped you in your career?
RH: Having the credential signifies to my employer my advanced competency in the field; it also aids my firm’s clients because they know they have a very capable paralegal handling their matters. I also believe it could be potentially helpful when filing fee petitions.
PRTW: What do you find most rewarding about being a paralegal?
RH: I love going to trial. Even though it means long hours, and the stress level increases, seeing all that hard work pay off for your clients is really rewarding.
PRTW: If you could change one thing about the paralegal profession what would it be, and why?
RH: I am a firm believer that the national paralegal associations need to communicate and work together. We are in the same profession, and should be working together as much as possible. During my tenure on the NFPA Board of Directors, I have been striving to make this happen, and I will continue to do so.
PRTW: If you weren't a paralegal, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?
RH: Prior to deciding on the paralegal profession, one thing I considered was a pre-med degree with the thought of becoming a pathologist. In a way, I think that is why I am so fascinated with computers and trouble-shooting. There is something wrong, or something happened, and you are trying to find out why and how. It keeps things interesting.
PRTW: What is a “typical day” like in your shoes?
RH: I actually wish there was a typical day. As everyone in the field can attest to, once you leave the house, depending on what is going on at the office, you don’t know what your evening will bring. But I guess the most typical day is I awake around 6-6:30, take our two poodles for a walk each morning, and then hop on public transportation to work. At the end of the work day, depending on the day of the week, I am either coaching girls soccer (twice a week and games on Sunday), taking my daughters to music classes or art class, training my oldest daughter for high school soccer tryouts, or barbecuing in the back yard - especially on Friday nights, where we would then sit out back for family game night. But during the day, the life of a paralegal takes many twists and turns, so you never know what the day will bring. You might be researching a corporate entity or expert, preparing a motion, preparing for trial, performing database searches, or working to get a subpoena served.
You can reach Robert on LinkedIn and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. A note from Robert on Facebook - despite loving technology, I’m not a fan of Facebook. I’ve seen it abused and causing too many issues.