It was a cold winter’s day in New York City and Christina Ladyman was working as an assistant manager at a local house wares store. She was a new mom and a fresh college graduate with a major in marketing and a minor in law, and she was waiting for the next chapter of her life to begin. At the moment, however, she was busy wrapping a package for a waiting customer. The man, who happened to be an attorney, was chatting with her companionably. He wondered out loud why she was working there and asked her if she had ever considered a career as a paralegal. His current assistant was going on maternity leave and he was impressed with Christina’s people skills and attention to detail, so he offered her a job on the spot.
Although Christina did not accept, the anonymous customer had opened up a world of intriguing possibilities in her mind. "I had been unaware of that profession," she says. The time was not right, but a seed had been planted.
Life continued in New York and at the dead-end job. After a failed marriage and with a baby daughter in tow, Christina decided to make a change and moved home to extended family and Houston. She looked hard for jobs in marketing, but these were rare. However, she did find an advertisement for the Center for Advanced Legal Studies. She had enjoyed the law classes that she had taken in college and would have pursued a law degree if it hadn't been so expensive. She thought back to that wintery day and the chatty customer. The seed that he had planted began to germinate and form roots, and Christina could now start to envision a flourishing paralegal career. She signed up for classes. "I'm a perfectionist and I want to have as much knowledge about a job before I begin, and the Center really helped with that. Classes really showed me what the job would be like; they helped me to be sure that this job was for me."
Since graduation, she hasn’t looked back. "This is a good career - I love it. It fits with my personality. I'm a perfectionist, an organization-freak. And I love being social." Christina enjoys the support and camaraderie that she finds in her profession. "The legal field is such a small community; you meet so many friends."
And she is giving back, too. She is president of the Houston Paralegal Association, a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants and the Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas. She works hard in a variety of functions outside of her job from organizing events and finding vendors, to sourcing volunteer opportunities and networking. Despite the effort, Christina appreciates the encouragement and friendship she receives through her various volunteer activities. "All of us talk and we discuss problems that we're having, especially if one of us has to change to a new area of law. It helps us stay abreast of other issues nationally, too."
Christina has worked at Hays McConn for over five years and has no plans to leave. She’s busy, fulfilled and needed. "They appreciate me as a paralegal and as a person here," and Christina continues to grow. That customer all those years ago saw something in Christina that even she hadn't seen, and while his offer didn't work out for him, it sure did for Christina.
K. Joy Oden, B.A., M.L.A.