Yesterday afternoon, I was digging deep into the world of Romi James, paralegal. During a small break from editing, I realized that people outside of my met-them-in-a-law-firm bubble might not know what a paralegal even is!
Enter today’s blog post, which I will start with the tale of how I became a paralegal … so many years ago.
After high school, I found myself at the local-to-Prince George University (UNBC) not entirely convinced that I was where I wanted to be. I found the paralegal program at Capilano College, as it was back then, applied and was accepted. When I started the program, in the fall of 2004—ohmygodsixteenyearsago—I remember realizing that I never actually knew what studying was before. We were told that our first courses in the paralegal program were comparable to the first semester of law school. It was tough work, memorizing laws, reading and comparing cases, balancing seven courses per semester with a part-time job and social life. The program required an average of 80% to pass, which was hard work, let me tell you!
To be honest, I’d talked about becoming a lawyer when I was growing up. I even remember speaking of aspirations of becoming a judge, too! But that was until I worked in a law firm for the first time—in between my first and second years at Cap—and realized that lawyering just wasn’t for me.
I was happy at school, it being the first time I’d lived away from the home I grew up in and when I really started to develop on my own as a person. And while I maintain that what you learn at school doesn’t technically prepare you for the real world, I was also quite happy as a paralegal. I practiced for eleven years, with a mat leave (and a half?) sprinkled in there for good measure. I worked in personal injury law firms, doing both defence and plaintiff’s work, family law and, my most surprising-but-favourite, construction and general litigation.
As a paralegal, my time could be billed to the client. I was responsible for preparing documents for court, drafting correspondence, managing lawyers’ calendars, keeping organized (my favourite thing!) and everything in between. I worked in hybrid roles, as a legal assistant/paralegal, where I helped answer phones, worked at the photocopier, transcribed letters, spoke with clients, and even hand-filed/delivered documents in person where necessary. One of my favourite tasks was drafting lists of documents, which, basically, entailed organizing a client’s documents and making a list describing them in preparation for court. Sometimes I miss my first career, but I struggled to find lawyers that were a good fit for me, and now, looking back, I know that it would take a lot to get me back to working a 9-5, at someone else’s instruction.
I’m meant to be self-employed.
But my time as a paralegal will always be special to me; I learned a lot and met many friends along the way, a few of which I am still close with. And, most importantly, I gained the knowledge that I am now turning into my next book about new paralegal Romi James. As part of my experience in Creative Writing at The Writer’s Studio through SFU, I drafted an approximately 200-word summary of the book that I was working on during the program.
How ‘bout a sneak peek?
Romilegal: Downtown follows Romi James, a comically clumsy recent graduate of Caplilano University’s Paralegal Program. Learning from her lush boss and polished co-workers, Romi copes with feelings she has for their medical malpractice clients, finding herself bonding to one woman in particular, whose tragic experience mirrors Romi’s own significant loss that, try as she might, she cannot seem to bury.
Follow Romi as she learns how to juggle her first career job at a prestigious personal injury law firm in downtown Vancouver with the needs of her busy and demanding boyfriend, while hiding from those family truths that she’s reminded of at the turn of every page, the bottom of every martini glass. Add a dash of courage to the trips and spills we all face in our day to day lives, and you’ll be Downtown with Romi: a dramatic comedy sprinkled with romance. You will be hooked by the drama and laughing out loud as this tale, written by former paralegal, Anya Wyers, sucks you into life in legal and leaves you feeling like one of the gang in this circle of friends and family, in and outside of work.
Now, tell me. Would you read it?
Be kind. And it’s okay if you wouldn’t be interested in reading about Romi. Though I want to encourage everyone to branch out of their comfort zones every once in a while. Something I learned at TWSO is that all writing can be beautiful if you take the time to respect it in its own right, for what it is. As part of my writer’s group, which is made up of my fellow students from TWSO, I’ve been reading a horror/psychological thriller, a book about the apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s and a fictional novel about mental illness in a family. And even though I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen these types of books for myself previously, I can’t wait to read the finished products.
Even more, I can’t wait to share Romi with you. My plans for her have been delayed, but I think I’m on track to start querying my book to agents in the new year.
Is it awful to think of things in terms of the new year when it’s only August?
I mean, it’s not as if I’ve got autumn decorations up or, worse, the Christmas tree!
After you tell me whether you’d read Romi below, or on my Facebook or Instagram posts from today, I’d love to hear what you’re reading these days! I find myself reading a writing book. Which is great, but I keep trying not to pick up another book so I don't get distracted from the book that is helping me with my novel. The silver lining is that I haven't had much time to sit down with a book anyways. Though I have a few on my to-read shelf that I’m itching to get started …
Anyone else have that problem? There aren’t enough hours in the day for reading!