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This NYC Paralegal sits down with us to share what she has learned in 14 years of experience working for law firms as a bilingual professional, speaking English and Romanian. She has found this career in a fast-paced firm to be very rewarding and worthwhile despite requiring her to hold unusual hours.

Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?

A: I work as a Renewals and Certificates Manager in a mid-sized New York law-firm specializing in International Trademark Litigation. I have been working as a paralegal in several New York law firms for the past 10 years, and as a manager for the past 4 years. I think of myself as creative, passionate, and driven.

Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?

A: I was born and raised in Romania, a country located in Eastern Europe, and my mother tongue is Romanian, a distinct Romance language similar to Italian. I live in New York, where my unique background and my accent did not stand out too much and did not make me a target for discrimination. I found out, however, that getting my foot in the door with employers was harder due to my not being as articulate as my American competitors, as well as due to the fact that my résumé was not eye-catching. I had to work harder to prove, and also to improve myself. It was not until I started working in international law that my foreign background and education became invaluable assets. I do not think I was treated differently for being a woman.

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A: I manage the Renewals and Certificates Department in my firm, which is currently comprised of paralegals, clerks and a secretary. We are responsible for the maintenance of our clients’ intellectual property rights worldwide, and to this end we work with attorneys, investigators and other professionals on every country and continent. Our work is 24 hours, 7 days a week due to the urgency of the matters and the time difference across the globe. In addition, I manage the firm’s database and I am responsible for the training of the firm’s clients and new employees.

Q: How would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

A: I feel fortunate to be satisfied with my job, but I am always looking for new challenges and responsibilities. I would welcome more variety in my work.

Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

A: The international aspect of my job is very rewarding, along with the knowledge that I can bring a real and valuable, albeit indirect, contribution to the lives of so many people worldwide. I try to channel the creative energies not used in my job into hobbies, such as sports and writing.

Q: Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

A: I moved to United States when I was 23 years old with a passion for writing, after graduating college with a Bachelor’s of Science in Law. My possessions fit into two suitcases and my knowledge of the English language, which is the quintessential skill for being a lawyer or a writer, turned out to be rather unsatisfactory in the real business world. I took a job as a paralegal out of necessity, and what was meant to be a temporary solution to my language barrier problem turned into a very rewarding career path. Adversity can force us to be creative and discover strengths and talents we never knew we had.

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A: I would probably focus more on working smarter, rather than on working harder, to prevent burn-out.

Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?

A: When I first started working as a manager I had a hard time convincing my staff to implement any changes. I had to learn the hard way that each member of my team deserves individual attention, and that although change can be good, it can also be very scary, and it is better to be done gradually.

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A: Brilliant ideas don’t matter unless they have a practical application.

Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

A: There was an entire re-shifting of my relationships with my colleagues and friends at work over a one year period after my promotion four years ago. That was very unnerving, and a tough lesson in human nature.

Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

A: I’m glad you asked. A few years ago one of our pharmaceutical clients could not ship a life-saving drug to Colombia due to problems at the customs relating to the ownership of the drug. I was able to prepare and coordinate the submission of the necessary documents to have the medicine quickly released in this country. Days like this are what keep me going.

Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you want to just quit?

A: Being available at all hours of the day and night is, certainly, a challenge. I had some 3 am Monday morning conference calls with associates in Zimbabwe that made me question if what I was doing was really worth my loss of sleep. The answer was yes.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

A: I work in a very fast-paced, deadline oriented and unpredictable environment, which is the reason I had to learn the hard way to relax and enjoy every free moment to the fullest. Becoming friends with my colleagues also helped make work feel more like play than hard labor.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A: Salaries in my field vary greatly depending on one’s skills and experience, the region, and the employer, but ultimately each job is unique, and so is the compensation. I am satisfied with what I make, and my salary allows me to have a pleasant life-style.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A: You got me here. I haven’t had a vacation in a year, but I am really looking forward to my ten-day trip to Belize at the end of October.

Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

A: A keen attention to detail, good communication skills and the ability to follow instructions are a must if you want to succeed in the paralegal field, as are hard work and tenacity.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A: It’s a very rewarding career for those who are willing to put in the time and effort. It’s not a stroll across the red carpet on most days, but when those days do come, they make up for all the hard work.

Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

A: See you in Hawaii?