Interview with Vicky La Celle, Past President of the Orange County Paralegal Association
We had the opportunity to interview Vicky La Celle, who at the time of this interview was the president of the Orange County Paralegal Association. She is now serving as the organization’s VP of Technology. Vicky has over 18 years of legal experience and was also an instructor at the paralegal program at Fremont College from 2010 to 2015. She currently works as Manager, Legal Operations/Shared Services at Beckman Coulter. In this interview, she shares her career journey and advice for new paralegals who are looking for their first position after graduation.
How did you get started in the paralegal field?
After I graduated from college, I wasn’t sure what to do next, so my mother offered to pay for me to get my paralegal certificate. I took her up on her offer and started working as a file clerk in a law firm before I graduated. I was promoted to a paralegal/secretary position within one year and have worked as a paralegal since. Everyone always says that “mothers know best” and in my case my mother did.
Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you?
Most days start for me at 8:00 a.m., but since I support our international operations, I will have early morning conference calls. Luckily, I am able to take those calls from home. In addition to the daily requests for legal support, I have many special projects that I work on, and I am the manager for my company’s legal department.
Can you share a meaningful case that you worked on and what your role was?
Working as an in-house corporate/contract paralegal, I don’t have many cases that I work on; however, I do have many projects that I lead for my company. Of the many projects that I have worked on, one of my favorites has been working with my international operations to develop SharePoint sites to help them better manage their relationships with outside business partners. I’ve also helped develop and create a training website for those outside business partners. I consider myself a bit of a techie, so anything I can do that involves technology is always fun for me.
What qualities and skills are helpful for being successful in the paralegal field?
Paralegals are responsible for keeping everyone organized, so being organized is an essential skill. I believe that a successful paralegal is willing to help when she can and do what it takes to get the job done. Many times I have driven to the court to file documents or to a client’s office to have documents signed just to ensure that a deadline will be met. It also helps to have a great sense of humor.
Can you share any observations about the job market for paralegals in your area?
Being in Southern California, we are lucky to have a lot of great law firms and companies. Over the past year, I’ve seen more and more open positions in my area, even ones for entry-level paralegals.
What advice would you give to new paralegal graduates for getting hired in the job that they want?
Sometimes you need to just get your foot in the door and prove yourself. I started as a file clerk but in less than one year I was promoted to a paralegal position. I worked hard and learned as much as I could from the paralegals and attorneys. I always looked for opportunities to help and was able to show my value to the law firm.
Can you tell us about the history of the Orange County Paralegal association?
The Orange County Paralegal Association (OCPA), was formed in 1977 in response to a growing need for an organized professional association for paralegals. Originally formed as a section of the Orange County Bar Association, OCPA became an independent, voluntary, non-profit corporation in 1986 for paralegals interested in furthering their professional development. In 1995 OCPA joined the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) as an affiliated association. NALA promotes the ethical practices of the paralegal profession and administers the CLA program, a self-regulatory program offering a national credential for legal assistants.