Jessica Kubiak is the Senior Paralegal in the Domestic Relations department of Phillips and Mille. She also is the president of the Cleveland Association of Paralegals (CAP). She was kind enough to sit down with me and tell me a little bit about herself and her paralegal profession.
Q: So how long have you been a paralegal?
A: 16 years
Q: So how did you find out about CAP?
A: That was funny! In 2011 after I had gotten my certification, Christy Zeyer had emailed me and asked me to come and sit on a panel for certifications and then shortly after that they said, “Hey you should run for vice president” I didn’t want to get in over my head, but they all said that they would walk me through it and I went ahead and did it. I became vice president, and have just gone from there. I love it, I meet a ton of people. I love having the events. To me, being a paralegal is not just my job, it’s my profession and I’m proud of it. I want to see this profession excelled, and see other people be proud of it, and really enjoy it. So for me it’s not just, “Oh, I’m a paralegal”, I am a paralegal, I am a professional and that’s how we want to be viewed. So I’m all about that, I’m proud of my profession, and I want to make sure that others coming into the profession are aware of what it takes. I think everyone should have high expectations of themselves when they come into a profession like this.
Q: That is a great outlook. While it is your job, it encompasses so much of your life, and so much of that depends on what you bring to it.
A: Exactly, the whole reason I got into this was because I wanted to do a job that actually helped people, and I want to feel like I am helping people. When I worked at child support I got someone a large lump sum of money, and she sent me flowers, she was so thankful. We get emails from clients that say thank you for helping them through a time in their life that was not good. It’s definitely rewarding.
Q: Has CAP played a role in enriching your profession as a paralegal?
A: Yes, I would say definitely. Through CAP I am a member of the NFPA (National Federation of Paralegal Associations) and I have become much more of a participant in all of that. I am the student growth coordinator and serve on NFPA committees. The NFPA is a huge network, and when other paralegals have questions they contact me or my firm. I am in my third year as president of CAP, and I want to educate people in our profession regarding issues that will be upcoming, and how they will affect paralegals. We are also maintaining our relationship with the CMBA (Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association) which helps people who are looking for jobs network with attorneys. Also with CAP, my attorney and I have had the opportunity to go and speak with new attorneys about their paralegals, what they do and what to expect. So CAP presents a lot of opportunities to help me grow.
Q: When you started out as president, what goals did you have for the association?
A: My goal was to increase our membership and participation. And get things out there that our members really wanted. I find that the lunch and learns are something that people really enjoy. My goal was to try and get people interested again and participate. So that was the main focus. At the beginning, I had something every month! At this point, my goal is to keep our name out there and keep everything going. Sometimes we have five people and sometimes we have twenty. I just keep something out there so if they want to attend they can.
Q: What event has been your favorite?
A: I think our spring CLE last year was my favorite. Phil Henry (attorney at Phillips and Mille) presented and everyone thought he was a riot, loved him and thought he was great! We had it at Tri-C, and everything just went great. A lot of people turned out to attend so that was probably my favorite.
Q: What other goals have you accomplished as president?
Our membership has grown, and we have a lot more student members which I think is important. The students are really the future of our association, so if we don’t have students coming and finding out about us and being a part of it we are doing a disservice to everybody. We accomplished becoming friendly with four or five of the local colleges that have paralegal programs. They invite us to events, to speak, to use their college, it is really awesome. In turn, we go to their classes and talk to them about what it’s really like to be a paralegal, what the responsibilities are, and other things they don’t teach you in paralegal school. It’s a double benefit. It benefits us, it benefits them.
Q: What challenges have you overcome in your tenure as president?
A: You will always have that naysayer, that one person who wants to tell you how to do things rather than help you do things. It’s hard because you don’t want to offend, discourage but you have to firmly put your foot down and say “thank you but I’m going to do it my way.”
I never take on things on my own. I bring everything to the attention of my board and then let them discuss and we decide together how to handle it. I know I don’t completely ‘run the place’ there are 5 other people who I have to confer and discuss with before any decisions are made.I would basically say just overcoming personality differences, people being people. I just move on.
Q: So where do you see CAP being in 5 years?
A: I would hope that it would continue to grow. For us, CAP is the only Northeast Ohio Association. Cleveland is the only one for all of the counties up here. There is nothing in Akron, nothing in Lorain. I do try to make us flexible and accessible, and I would hope that as technology grows there is an opportunity for people who don’t have an association but would like to be a part of one, can join ours and get the benefits that everyone else has. If we continue to get people who are interested and want to be there and help develop that, I think we’re going to go pretty far.
Q: For a paralegal that has not yet joined CAP, what would you tell them that the top 3 reasons to join are?
A: The first would definitely be networking. Just going and speaking, I meet so many people. I meet attorneys who are looking for paralegals. I get offered jobs all the time because people know who I am, they’ve seen me at events. If you are going to participate, that is just the top benefit of our association. We are doing things so that you can network, we want you out there, and we want to help you.
The second would definitely be our website with our job bank. Just this past week I have posted 3 jobs already. When it’s booming, it’s booming and there are always opportunities there.
The third thing is meeting people in the profession. You have a chance to have a mentor if needed, you have someone who you can connect with even outside of your state. With the CAP membership, you also get the benefit of the CMBA and the NFPA
Memberships also, which give you even more opportunities to attend events, webinars, CLEs or whatever else you need.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
A: One thing I would like to include is this: don’t be afraid to participate! Don’t be afraid to contact a board member and tell them that you want to be involved but don’t know how. We are all very approachable, we want to help you, help people grow to take over this association. We don’t turn down ideas, just email us. We’re very open to ideas and what our members want to do because that’s what keeps us going. I can plan things all day long but I want things that people are interested in seeing. We are not only open to ideas, but we want to hear them.
Q: If someone came to you and said, “I want to be involved in CAP, but I don’t have a lot of time” what would you say?
It’s not that time consuming. If you have an email address and 5 minutes, you can easily participate with us and be a coordinator or a board member. Most of our information is via email or conference call. Technology has really opened those doors for us to where we don’t have to have a physical meeting anymore. We find the best ways to communicate, we even text each other. If you really want to participate, we want you to. We will find a way for you to become actively involved. I would definitely encourage anyone who wanted to participate to let us know because we are always looking for people to participate who have new, fresh ideas.
Contact Jessica Kubiak at firstname.lastname@example.org . She can answer any questions that you may have about the Association.
This article was written by Michelle Cady-Cook. She is the Director of Marketing and part owner of Cady Reporting (a WBENC company). She is a sustaining member of the Cleveland Association of Paralegals and is currently serving as Chair of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association Green Initiative Committee and Chair of the Follow Up Committee for the National Network of Reporting Companies (NNRC). She has been officially involved in the legal community for over 10 years. Within the framework of Cady Reporting Services, she partners with locally owned court reporting firms across the country to continually improve the practice of litigation.
Cady Reporting Services is located at 1468 W. 9th St. Cleveland, OH 44113. Our court reporters and videographers personally serve the state of Ohio, and we daily schedule court reporters and other litigation support services through our partners in the NNRC. The National Network of Reporting Companies is your personal connection to coverage wherever and whenever you need it.