This Week's Paralegal RTW ~ Angela M. King

I met Angela M. King through the National Capital Area Paralegal Association (NCAPA) in Washington, DC. I had the privilege to serve on the Board of Directors with Angela in 2013. Her career path is an amazing story, and I am delighted that she was willing to share her insight with us this week.

Ms. King is employed by Dentons US LLP as a Paralegal Coordinator for the Washington, DC and Northern Virginia offices. She is an active member of several associations, including NCAPA, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), the Virginia Alliance of Paralegal Associations (VAPA), the American Bar Association (ABA), and the Society of Industrial Security Professionals (NCMS). She currently serves as NCAPA’s President-Elect, and as NCAPA's Sponsorship and Pro bono Committee Co-Chairs.

PRTW: Why did you choose the paralegal profession?
From the age of 16, I knew I wanted to go into the legal profession. My mom took my resume (that contained no relevant experience at the time because I was only 16 years old) and mailed it to 15-20 different law firms near where we lived in Prince George’s County, Maryland. A small, three attorney firm responded. I spent the day with the receptionist typing interrogatories and other legal documents. My love for a legal career was born!

After high school, I started working in a Government position focused on civil remedies – related to  Medicare, and Medicaid cases. I was able to work with Administrative Law Judges and Staff attorneys throughout my tenure in college. Once I received my undergraduate degree in business, I decided that I wanted to go to law school.

That all changed when I took a job for a law firm as a file clerk right after my college graduation. I was promoted to a Case Assistant within a few months, and had the opportunity to work with Senior level paralegals. It was then that I realized - I like what paralegals do; I didn’t want to go to law school. I wanted to be a paralegal. A paralegal’s schedule is more flexible than an attorney’s schedule.

I continued with the firm for two more years. I then moved to a paralegal position at McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP (now Dentons US LLP).

PRTW: Tell us about someone who has influenced your decision to become a paralegal.
There is not one specific person. In general all of the Senior level paralegals at Paul Hastings when I first started as a case assistant were very influential in my decision to become a paralegal. I had the opportunity to work with some of the best paralegals in the business at that time, and they actually took the time to guide me. This is where I learned how to cite check. They took a chance and let me do the work (of course, they double checked the work, but allowed me to try). They helped shape me to the point in my career that I knew I wanted to become a paralegal. Of course after moving to McKenna, Tara K. Eberhart, taught me that utilizing paralegals is about proper structure and guidance. She is one person that has influenced my career. She brought me to NCAPA. Because of her, I became a better leader. I would not have made some of the important decisions in my career without her guidance.

PRTW: What was your educational path?
AK: I spent a year at Howard University, and then transferred my sophomore year to Bowie State University. My degree is in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing.

PRTW: Do you possess any certifications?
AK: Not currently, but I am in the process of studying for the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam® (PACE®).

PRTW: What skills should a paralegal learn today?
AK: Technology is one of the most important skills needed in the paralegal profession. People skills are also a must.

PRTW: What do you find most rewarding about being a paralegal?
AK: Having the ability to share my experiences with my peers.

PRTW: Do you feel mentors are important to your success as a legal professional and why?
AK: A great mentor can have a successful impact on your professional career. Working with a mentor, especially early in your career, can contribute substantially to your learning, career satisfaction, and success.

PRTW: Are you a mentor to someone in the paralegal profession?
Yes, I have a mentee within my local paralegal association. It started out as a 6 month program with NCAPA, but almost two years later, we continue to have a thriving professional relationship. Even with being a mentor, it’s allowed me to bounce ideas around with my mentee and get a honest perspective on key issues regarding our field.

PRTW: If you weren't a paralegal, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?
AK: My other goal was to be a sports agent (I love sports).

PRTW: What advice would you give someone interested in choosing the paralegal profession?
AK: One thing is never pigeon-hole yourself. Working in a law firm as a paralegal, it is both imperative and important to be well-rounded and diverse. Pick up other trades; do not just focus on only one practice group/department. In your office, offer to do cross-office work or cross-department work. Hone your technology skills. If you can keep abreast about how the world and how technology is changing in the legal field, that is always a plus!

PRTW: What do you think will change in the paralegal profession in the United States in the next five years?
Technology. Think back to how things were in 2010. Technology has changed so much since then. Attorneys are not the ones focusing on learning the technology; they are leaving that to the paralegals. I think technology is something that will continue to evolve. Billing for clients will continue to evolve in-house.

PRTW: What do you find most challenging about being a paralegal?
AK: Working with attorneys (such kidding – but attorneys are our internal client) and they tend to have a variety of personalities. In this profession you have to be able to deal with different types of personalities. To your client, time is money; you cannot waste a client’s money trying to get negotiate personality issues.

Understanding your team can also be a challenge.  Figuring out what you can bring to the case team, and thinking outside the box. This allows you to all grow as a team.

PRTW: How do continue to do your best work in light of these challenges?
AK: With training and time. You should always continue take Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes so you can enhance your skills or learn something new. There are trainings available to help you deal with people on a daily basis. Teamwork and having a skilled back-up in your office is important. Have these conversations with your colleagues. You can help each other and continue to enhance your skills.

PRTW: Please name a highlight in your career.
When I was promoted to Paralegal Coordinator. I accomplished this before I was 35 years old. My goal was to move on to paralegal management  before I was 35, and I accomplished the goal by the time I was 30.

PRTW: What is the best book you have ever read, and why?
AK: Seventeen Essentials Qualities of a Team Player by John C. Maxwell. I liked it for several reasons. One take away from the book was -  when everyone gets along things get accomplished. The book breaks down quotes, stories, and shows essential ways to relate as a team. There is always a daily takeaway. There was even a sports theme (I was so happy)!  The book gives you tips you can employ to your team. Plus, there is a team in every relationship - not just work, but family relationships, friends, etc. These concepts work for each relationship.

PRTW: Have you ever been published?
AK: Yes. “The Growing Practice of International Law” Facts & Findings (The Magazine for Paralegals - NALA), Nov/Dec 2014 (Vol. XLI, Issue 2), and “Pro Bono Corner: Catholic Charities Legal Network” OnPoint (The Premiere Publication for Legal Professionals Membership of NCAPA)Spring/Summer 2014.

PRTW: What might someone be surprised to know about you?
AK: I am an avid sports fan. I would say - I love sports more than anything else (of course not before family). I would come home and look at sports all night long. I am a fanatic. My favorite teams are the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA), Washington Wizards (NBA), Washington Redskins (NFL), and Washington Nationals (MLB).

PRTW: In the United States, paralegals have a variety of career options to specialize in, from patent law to elder law to technology law to criminal law. Do you have a speciality?
AK: I have worked in several specialities, but my main focus is working in the  Government Contracts department, and handling cases that relate to bid protest matters. I have substantive knowledge of litigation matters with contractors on the battlefield issues. I also work on handling the preparation of Safety Act Applications with the Department of Homeland Security.

PRTW: Why did you choose Government Contracts?
AK: The speciality actually chose me. When I was hired, I was hired as a litigation paralegal. I worked with the office managing partner, and his speciality was government contracts.

PRTW: What other specialties have you worked in?
AK: I have previously worked on Medicaid and Medicare cases with the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services and the Office of the Inspector General during my time at the Department of Health and Human Services. The focus of this work was ensuring that hospitals, long-term care facilities, and skilled nursing facilities were in compliance with the federal regulations. I have also worked in the private industry in litigation and employment law.

PRTW: Why did you change specialities?
AK: I originally worked in the government during college. Once I graduated, I wanted to work in law – but in the private sector.

PRTW: In the United States, paralegals can be employed in different sectors, such as private or public sectors. What sector are you currently employed in?
AK: I am employed in the private sector.

PRTW: Do you believe paralegals employed in each of these sectors possess different skill sets?
AK: Of course. The terminology is different for government and litigation attorneys and paralegals.

Angela can be reached via LinkedIn.