Christi McGowan is Co-Owner of eDiscovery Litigation Specialists, Inc. and an Adjunct Professor at the UCSD Extension. She is an active member and current Co-Chairman for the Criminal Section of the Orange County Paralegal Association (OCPA). On top of all of this, she was selected as a Law Practice Management Technology Executive Chair for the State Bar of California. This is a three-year term that began in October 2015.
PRTW: Why did you choose the paralegal profession?
CM: As a young adult I wanted to get into law enforcement. My life path took a different turn, and I became a mother earlier than anticipated and felt that I could not be in a job that came with high risk. I took a position right out of high school with a law firm as receptionist and my career began to unfold. I would not change a thing about it.
PRTW: Tell me about someone who has influenced your decision to become a paralegal.
CM: My daughter, Tiffany. If not for her, who knows what path or where I would be today.
PRTW: What do you find most challenging about being a paralegal, and how do continue to do your best work in light of these challenges?
CM: Working a case from inception to completion and the outcome is not what you’d hoped for. I continue to do my best because I know that the next client is counting on me. This drives me to continue to work hard no matter what the end result may be.
PRTW: What advice would you give someone interested in choosing the paralegal profession?
CM: Find passion in what you do because it will drive you to do better and be better. Never stop educating yourself, complacency is nothing but a trigger of mediocrity and failure.
PRTW: What was your educational path?
CM: I attended paralegal school online at Washington Online University.
PRTW: How do you deal with stressful situations?
CM: Knowing when you need to take a 5 minute break, and go for a short walk is important. Never send emails when mad or frustrated, they will sound much different when you come back to it an hour later.
PRTW: What certifications do you possess?
CM: LAW PreDiscovery EDD – Certified User, LAW PreDiscovery EDD – Certified Administrator, Concordance Certified Software Trainer (CCST), and Concordance Certified Software Administrator (CCSA).
PRTW: What did you do to obtain these certifications?
CM: Each course was a 3-day training course and then a test.
PRTW: How have these certifications helped you in your career?
CM: They have allowed me to be front and center of the litigation team, attend and participate in dozens of trials and now, I co-own an eDiscovery business.
PRTW: What skills should a paralegal learn today?
CM: Any and all technology they can get their hands on. Obtaining certifications in database platforms is required for any paralegal seeking a litigation position.
PRTW: What do you find most rewarding about being a paralegal?
CM: Mentoring paralegal students. I began teaching at UCSD Extension Paralegal Program to make a difference in paralegal education. Technology is critical to the paralegal profession. Seeing students eyes light up and say “wow, that’s cool” or “I’ve learned something new” makes me smile, and know I have made a difference.
PRTW: Do you have a professional mentor?
CM: I do not have a professional mentor, but do feel they are important.
PRTW: Why do you feel mentors are important to success as a legal professional?
CM: Mentors provide guidance and support. They steer their students in the right direction. They can prepare them for the dos and don’ts of the profession and advise them of the different organizations that will prepare them for success.
PRTW: Are you a mentor to someone in the paralegal profession?
CM: Yes, and I am proud to say that I have hired one of my students and the other student I mentor obtained a paralegal position very shortly after she graduated.
PRTW: If you weren't a paralegal, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?
CM: I would be a a nutritionist and yoga instructor. I would find joy in seeing people’s lives and health improve with a healthy lifestyle.
PRTW: What is a “typical day” like in your shoes?
CM: I am available around the clock to clients and staff. My day starts by responding to 20 plus emails by the time I get to the office. Possibly a conference call while I am driving to the office. I handle 10-15 different matters a day, from pulling documents for depositions, to preparing a privilege log to preparing documents for production. I have no less than three conference calls a day and by the end of the day have about 80 emails. I run conflict checks for new matters at least three times a week. We have a busy practice, and at no time do I find myself with down time.
PRTW: What do you think will change in the paralegal profession in the next five years?
CM: I think we will see more Limited License Legal Technicians instead of the office paralegal.
PRTW: What might someone be surprised to know about you?
CM: I have played soccer on the same team for 13 years, and I love to garden.
PRTW: Please name a highlight in your career.
CM: Being selected as a Law Practice Management Technology Executive Chair for the State Bar of California.
PRTW: What is the best book you have ever read? Why?
CM: The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule. Anne Rule worked with one of the most notorious serial killers, and was able to write this book knowing who Ted Bundy was. Having read dozens of true crime books I am still intrigued by the psychology of the human mind and what make them tick.
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?
CM: Criminal Defense and Litigation. My technology background works well in my specialty because I am able to use litigation and forensic technology with all my cases.
PRTW: Why did you choose this specialty?
CM: My fascination with the criminal justice system made me want to take a position with a defense firm. It just so happens that the firm also specializes in Litigation and Bankruptcy Insolvency.
PRTW: Do you believe paralegals employed in either public or private sectors possess different skill sets, and if so, what are they?
CM: No. Paralegals should be diverse, and have skills to move between the public and private sectors.
PRTW: Does the United States require continuing legal education for paralegals? If so, what are the requirements?
CM: Yes, the State of California does. Paralegals must obtain eight hours of CLEs in a two-year period. Four of those hours need to be ethics hours and the other four can be general education.
Christi can be reached via LinkedIn.