We had the privilege of spending time with the staff of McIlveen Family Law Firm during the filming of our annual report video. We were able to see first-hand how managing attorney Angela McIlveen’s forward thinking approach has set their firm apart as innovators in the industry. From their transparent management style to their collaborative workspace—they are constantly finding ways to move their firm forward. Let’s meet one of their paralegals, Keramilah Davis.
LM: What led you to pursue a career in the legal field?
KD: Since I was a little girl, I have always been intrigued by the law. I can binge watch shows such as Law and Order, CSI, 48 hours, Unsolved Mysteries, etc. They never seem to get boring and there are always new episodes to watch.
LM: What is one of the biggest misconceptions people have about the work you do as a paralegal?
KD: That all we do is coffee runs and grab lunch. We do wait on our attorney, hand and foot, but we actually do a lot of the grunt work. From meeting with clients, drafting correspondence and pleadings, to talking strategy about our cases. We do everything an attorney does besides giving legal advice and appearing at court for hearings and trials.
LM: We understand that the firm culture of McILveen Family Law is a bit different from most firms. What do you enjoy the most about being a paralegal at McILveen Family Law?
KD: I enjoy the culture the most. It’s very different from any other firm and they always know how to keep everyone motivated. We’re constantly doing challenges with great prizes to keep everyone motivated. We also have a lot of socials to help everyone unwind and enjoy spending time with each other outside of work. It really helps the morale in the office.
LM: How has the open office layout of the firm effected the dynamics of the office?
KD: The open office concept was definitely challenging to get used to. You have to make yourself focus on your work and not what is going on around you. Even though we have quiet rooms for our heads-down, uninterrupted work, we can’t hog the quiet rooms all day, every day. You learn to tune out your surroundings and really focus on what is in front of you. Now I get to the point where I can be so focused on my work that I don’t realize the person next to me is talking to me until they tap me on the shoulder. I also think the open office helps me learn. Since I can overhear the conversations going on around me, I’m constantly learning new things I might not have known to ask. It also makes me more likely to ask someone around me if I have a question. Everyone seems to be more approachable since you don’t have to knock on their door and ask to come into their office.
LM: Based on your experience in the industry and stories you’ve heard from others, what are 3 common frustrations of paralegals?
KD: 1) Workload; it can be hard to keep a balanced workload. There are times where you can be really busy, really slow, or steady. Sometimes, when you’re lucky, all of your clients have trials at the same time.
2) Deadlines; you know when your deadlines are but then your workload randomly shifts. You go from slow to really busy within four hours. You’ve been saving Jane’s box of documents to review until two days before the hearing and now you have Jane’s box and an emergency hearing tomorrow that just retained today. Your task list went from 4 things, to 24 things.
3) Turning your mind off; Although you leave your tablet at work and don’t plan to do any work while you’re home, you’re constantly thinking about your cases. You’ll think of the things you need to do, documents you’ll need to get, if you should’ve done something differently, etc. It’s hard to turn it off, especially at night. I constantly wake up and remember things I should do that day. I’ve gotten to the point where I keep pen and paper by my bed so I can jot it down and go back to sleep. I don’t think anyone that works in a law firm can honestly say that they never take work home.
LM: How has your role, or the role of the paralegal in general evolved with technology?
KD: I can work from home! I literally don’t need to leave me house. I have a portable scanner, work cell phone, and all of my files located on my tablet. I can look up any document in our office, from my tablet. If I need to speak with a client, I can call them from my work cell phone. Maybe I need to reference something in their file while we’re on the phone. No problem. I don’t have to dig through 500 boxes of client documents at the office to find the document I need. I can simply find their electronic file and see every document our client has every produced, along with the opposing party. Soon, North Carolina will be following suit to do electronic filing. That would save even more time and money allowing clients and attorneys to e-sign and then file with the click of a mouse.
LM: As a paralegal, you often set the tone for the client experience at McILveen Family Law, What sets your client service apart from that of other law firms?
KD: We try to be as accommodating as we can. Immediately after retaining, our clients are contacted and scheduled with a time to meet with their paralegal. We go over the background of the case, anything we might need from them, and our next steps to move forward. At the same time, we’re immediately building rapport with our client. We give them our direct cell phone number so that they can reach us at any time without being put on hold. We also give them their attorney’s direct cell phone number. Yes, you heard that right. We give out our attorney’s cell phone number to all clients. However, we strongly encourage scheduling a time to speak with their attorney to make sure that they are available which prevents most clients from calling without an appointment scheduled. I think this makes our clients feel comfortable knowing that they can reach us at any time.
Keramilah was born and raised in Jacksonville, NC. She comes from a family of six which has made her very family oriented. Keramilah followed in her eldest sister’s footsteps when she accepted a scholarship to play at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke Women’s Soccer team. While Keramilah attended UNC Pembroke, she was able to continue her love of the game of soccer while she got her degree in Criminal Justice. After working with McIlveen for almost a year, Keramilah realized she wanted to continue her education so that she can grow as an individual and professionally. Keramilah went back to school to get her Paralegal Certificate from Charlotte School of Law and completed it in Summer 2015.