THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH
continued on back
Hon. Elizabeth White: Judge, Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles
[By Charisse Dengler] Judge Elizabeth White has her bases covered. Having worked as both a paralegal and an attorney, White is currently a judge with the Los Angeles Superior Court’s South District, which includes Long Beach and San Pedro.
“I have what is called a general jurisdictioncivil assignment, which means I handlecases which have in controversy $25,000or more; so it could be a relatively smallpersonal injury case, or it could be a largeconstruction dispute or a Jones Act casedealing with a seaman who’s been injured orkilled at sea,” she said. “[There are a] wide,wide, wide variety of civil suits.”White completed the paralegal program atUCLA Extension in 977 and went on to workas a paralegal at Loeb & Loeb for a yearand a half. She said the skills she learnedas a paralegal student and as a workingparalegal have helped her greatly as both alawyer and a judge.“I don’t think I would’ve become a judgehad I not been a good litigator, and I don’tthink I would’ve been a good litigator hadI not learned the organizational skills inthe paralegal program and working as aparalegal,” she said. “The key to success inlitigation is not only presenting the documentbut being able to find it-having key pieces ofevidence at your disposal and organized insuch a fashion that you can present them atthe appropriate time.”She thinks paralegal training can beextremely beneficial to someone thinking ofpursuing a career as an attorney.“I think it’s a good way to test the waters, a)so that you know whether you like the fieldand b) to get the kind of nuts and bolts skillsthat most people don’t get in law school sothat you become a better lawyer once you’relicensed,” she said.As a paralegal at Loeb & Loeb, Whiteworked in civil litigation on some prettywell-known cases, including the Jack Ryanvs. Mattel Toy Company litigation over therights to the Barbie doll.When it comes to giving advice to paralegalstudents, White said she thinks studentsshould look for opportunities to getexperience while they are still in schooland try to carry that experience over intofull-time jobs.“My advice would be to take an opportunityto participate in whatever internshipsare offered so as to just get out thereand meet people and look at the differentenvironments-whether it’s a law firm,whether it’s working for government-butdon’t be afraid to have an unpaid internshipfor a month or two and then try to transitionthat into something that pays,” she said.White’s advice comes from her ownexperience. Upon completion of UCLA’sparalegal program, she accepted atemporary position indexing documents atLoeb & Loeb. When the temporary timeframe was up, she told one of the partnersthat she would like to stay with the firmpermanently. In her words, she “took thebull by the horns and got the permanent jobout of it.”White went on to attend Loyola Law Schoolin Los Angeles after getting her feet wetin the legal field as a paralegal. Aftergraduation in 98, she practiced law untilshe was appointed to the bench by GovernorWilson in 997.White applied for the judge position for twomain reasons: she wanted to play a differentrole in thelegal process, and she wanted tohave more freedom in her schedule.“I wanted to see what it was like, as opposedto being an advocate, being a more neutralobserver but still playing a very active role,”she said. “I had been doing significantnumbers of trials, and so the demands on mytime were very, very high; and I had a smallchild, so I wanted to find a way to be able tostay in the courtroom but not have to do all ofthe homework that was involved.” Even though she admits there are challengesto being a judge, such as dealing with casesthat are emotionally draining, White enjoysher job and her new role in the courtroom.“I love the theater of the courtroom,” shesaid. “I love a good case when it’s wellpresented. I love to be able to ensure that
Advice to Young Lawyers
Judge Elizabeth White thinksparalegal training can beextremely beneficial to someonethinking of pursuing a career asan attorney.“I think it’s a good way to testthe waters, a) so that you knowwhether you like the field and b)to get the kind of nuts and boltsskills that most people don’t getin law school so that you becomea better lawyer once you’relicensed,” she said.