Skyla Lambeth is an alumnus from the University of Chicago and is currently a paralegal at Dovel & Luner. In this interview via email, Ms. Lambeth sheds some light on the responsibilities as well as valuable experiences from working at a law firm like Dovel & Luner.
UCULR: Thank you for agreeing to do this interview over email. Let’s get started! When did you graduate University of Chicago and what was your major and minor and did those influence your current interest in law?
Skyla Lambeth: I did a double major in art history and Italian and graduated in June 2011. I began to think about law during a meeting with various students and faculty in the art history department. The art history advisor mentioned that one career former art history students consider is law. I thought about that, did some research, and then decided to apply for jobs at law firms.
UCULR: Is there a specific type of law that interests you and why?
Skyla Lambeth: Working at a Dovel & Luner, I haven’t been exposed to many types of law besides patent litigation. However, if I do decide to attend law school, I would consider studying and practicing art law, as it would relate to both art history and law.
UCULR: How long have you worked at Dovel & Luner? How did you come upon the job opening at Dovel & Luner and what made it unique from other law firms?
Skyla Lambeth: I found Dovel & Luner through the Chicago Career Connection and began working here in June 2011, about two weeks after graduation. Not knowing much about law or law firms, this one didn’t seem all that different aside from its location in Santa Monica. However, going through the interview process, its uniqueness became apparent. There is an extensive interview process involving three rounds, two over the phone and one in person, in which ideally the candidate would be able to meet with everyone in the firm in order to ensure that he would be a good fit. The entire process seemed very personal and allowed me to really see how the firm operated and how the employees interacted with one another.
There are only eight attorneys and seven legal assistants at the firm, which creates an opportunity to work closely with, and get to know everyone in the firm. The assistants take on more responsibility due to the small size of the firm, up to writing portions of briefs and making presentations that would be presented in court. Also, about a year ago we began attorney-assistant lunches that give us the opportunity to talk individually with any attorney, ask them about themselves and their careers, and ask for any advice they may have for someone considering the legal field. Finally, for the legal assistants Dovel & Luner offers a two-year retention bonus that encourages us to stay for the expected length of time and allows us, without requiring us, to move on upon completion of the two years. This has allowed me to talk openly about my plans to move on and explore other career options once I reach my two years in June 2013. All of these aspects and more is what makes Dovel & Luner a great place to work while considering a legal career.
UCULR: What are average responsibilities a paralegal has at Dovel & Luner and what do you think is the most difficult part of your job? Furthermore, what are some of the challenges paralegals face as a whole?
Skyla Lambeth: Since Dovel & Luner is so small, the legal assistants have a broad range of responsibilities including administrative tasks and tasks specifically related to litigation. The administrative tasks include accounting, recruiting, ordering supplies, placing work orders, dealing with the computers and network, and taking out the mail, among others. The tasks related to litigation vary for each assistant, as we are assigned to specific cases that are in various stages of litigation. For example, one case I am assigned to has just been filed, so I am going through various documents, finding evidence, and creating a presentation that explains the technology. For another case in the discovery phase, I am working with another assistant processing deposition transcripts, sorting through document productions, and editing and filing briefs. For each case I am assigned to, I schedule and attend case meetings with the attorneys in order to keep on top of everything that needs to be accomplished.
I would say the most difficult part about my job, and being a legal assistant/paralegal in general, is learning how to work with the attorneys in order to complete your tasks how they would like them to be completed. For example, I have worked closely with about half of the attorneys at the firm, and each of them expects something different from the assistant. One attorney prefers to handle most of the case himself, usually only involving the assistant for long term tasks or research projects. On the other hand, another attorney will email the assistant throughout the day to complete smaller tasks as well as assigning larger projects. Others will have different expectations of the assistant’s responsibilities, and as the assistant, it is my job to recognize the different expectations and work styles of each of the attorneys and plan accordingly in order to complete my tasks in the manner expected of me.
UCULR: Tell us some of the valuable experiences you have learned since you started working at the law firm?
Skyla Lambeth: Working at Dovel & Luner has given me practical skills like working with various vendors and experts in order to get what the attorney needs. For example, when one attorney wanted some data that wasn’t readily available, I needed to articulate to various consulting firms what data we were looking for and relay the information they gave me back to the attorney in order to decide whose report we should purchase. I have also greatly improved my computer skills, including Microsoft Word, Excel, Adobe, using these programs in ways I was unfamiliar with before becoming a legal assistant. One of my favorite experiences was organizing firm day, a daylong event for all the employees. I was responsible for reserving a paintball venue, followed by scheduling spa treatments, making a dinner reservation, ensuring payment went out, and putting together a schedule and directions for each participant. That particular experience taught me a lot about needing to coordinate with vendors and put together a feasible schedule, as well as how to adapt to changes and deal with issues as they arise.
UCULR: What are some of the things you love the most about working at Dovel & Luner and would you recommend others to apply there?
Skyla Lambeth: I would definitely recommend Dovel & Luner to anyone considering the legal field. As I mentioned before, at Dovel & Luner I have been able to work closely with both the assistants and the attorneys as well as get advice from the attorneys that is invaluable to someone considering a career in law. Being able to work on a specific case allows the assistant to be able to follow a case throughout the phases of litigation, showing how a case develops and the work and obstacles that come up over time. Dovel & Luner also rewards innovation: an assistant with a good idea of how to improve the firm will receive compensation for that idea. Finally, the legal assistants are all near the same age and work well together, making going to work everyday an enjoyable experience.
UCULR: What skills do you believe are useful to become a paralegal?
Skyla Lambeth: I would say that all the specific skills I needed, like formatting briefs, using legal software, and organizing documents, to name a few, I learned at Dovel & Luner. More generally, it is important to be able to multitask, be organized have an eye for detail, be able to articulate an idea well, and be able to work with others. It is also important to be able to think creatively, as there are always projects where something isn’t going right and you need to be able to think about how to do research, work with software, or work with vendors in a way that hasn’t been thought of before.
UCULR: Lastly, is there any advice you would want to give to undergraduates who wish to pursue a career in law?
Skyla Lambeth: If you are considering a career in law, I would highly recommend working in a law firm after completing your undergrad education in order to see what working here is actually like. I would also recommend a smaller law firm, as it affords more hands-on experience and a closer relationship with the attorneys you work for.
Vincent Wu is a first-year in the College.