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Profile: Michele Boerder, Paralegal, Hughes Luce, LLP

[by Regan Morris] A paralegal for 25 years, Michele Boerder was recently named one of the top paralegals in the country by legal author Carole Bruno. Law Crossing speaks to Ms. Boerder about her career and how she discovered the nascent paralegal profession.

As a high school student in Texas, Michele Boerder wasnt sure what she wanted to do when she graduated. She was curious about the law and asked her church pastor for advice. I was interested in the law, but did not think I wanted to be a lawyer, she said. While I was in high school, my church pastor referred me to an attorney; and I went to talk with him. This lawyer had coincidentally, or by fate, just received a bar magazine about this new thing called a paralegal. That was in Dallas in 1976. Boerder points out that the National Association of Legal Assistants, or NALA, began operations in 1975; and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, or NFPA, started in 1974. So the career really was just beginning. Boerder was intrigued. She liked what the attorney told her about paralegals and the legal profession in general. I was very interested, so I began to investigate paralegal educational programs, she said. El Centro College in Dallas had started an associate degree program only a couple of years earlier. So I enrolled in 1977. Meanwhile, that same attorney who told her about the profession hired her to work in his rm. By the time she graduated from the program in 1979, she already had two years of law rm experience under her belt. She later returned to school and earned her Bachelors degree at the University of North Texas.

paralegal with expertise in large-case and specialty litigation. She handles general business cases, civil tax controversy work and tax litigation, white-collar criminal defense, and domestic-relations matters, among other areas. She supports about 10 attorneys and credits much of her success to her many colleagues and mentors. Law is a team practice, she stresses, and you have to both give and take. I give a lot of credit for my success to the team I work with: lawyers who have mentored me, other attorneys and paralegals from whom I continually learn, and the near-20year working relationships I have enjoyed, she said. Additionally, I believe I have also given to the team my loyalty; professionalism; and continually looking for ways to assist my attorneys, not just in the specic work assignments, but in providing them with information they may not have even asked for. She sees her job as helping attorneys become more effective, to often anticipate what a case needs without being told. Ultimately, the client and the rm win in the end, she said. With Hughes Luce since 1998, Boerder started out in a small rm, but has worked at various larger rms throughout her career, including Davis, Loegering & Daniel, Jenkens & Gilchrist, and Johnson & Gibbs. She said the paralegal/attorney relationship is much like a nurse to a doctor.

lawyers, she said. This includes marshalling the facts, maintaining the evidence, and bringing information to their attention that can assist them on a case. Considering Boerder has moved with her attorneys through various rms over the last 19 years, its clearly been a productive relationship. When working on a case, Boerder said its important to get the full story and to be proactive while investigating a case. She urges young paralegals to be proactive within their rms and within local and national professional associations. I have always wanted to know the whole story, she said, not just be fed piece parts to perform a selected task. I think I have demonstrated to my lawyers how necessary and productive this can be for them. In 1984, Boerder was asked to join a committee on the local paralegal association in Dallas. She was later asked to ll a board position. I guess I fell on fertile ground, because this involvement helped me blossom, learn tactics that served well both in the organization and for on-the-job application, she said. Over a period of seven years, she has served as president of the local association and then as president of the state association, now known as the Paralegal Division, State Bar of Texas. I learned skills and strategies in the parale-

But my tools are informationgathering, At Hughes Luce, Boerder is a senior litigation


gal-organization environments that I continue to use, she said.

packaging, presenting of information for my