THE GREATEST PARALEGAL OF ALL TIME
In the Summer of 2011, I was looking for a full-time legal assistant. The Peugh Law Firm was growing and I was losing the only full-time assistant that I had ever had. But, hiring can be tricky. Anyone that has done much hiring has stories and I am no exception. However, this time, I had it wired. Shortly after letting it be known that I needed a full-time legal assistant, I got a tip regarding a young woman who had worked for a local criminal defense attorney previously. She had experience, she was available and I got her scheduled for an interview that I was sure would be a formality before hiring.
I had solicited resumes for my job opening and I received quite a few. As had become the norm in my career as a private practitioner, the resumes and cover letters were not great so, there was no need to schedule any more interviews. But, this was the first search that I availed myself of the UNT Career Services Department to help me. I received one resume by way of UNT and I didn’t want to get a bad reputation with them because I didn’t offer an interview. So, against all of the odds I scheduled an interview with a second candidate. It is probably a better practice to do more than one interview in a job search and, having attended UNT myself, there would at least be more to talk about with candidate number two.
The interview with the experienced lady came up first. It was horrible. She had nothing to say in the interview and she was terrible at answering my questions. One of but, sadly, not my worst interview. The real problem was that I could not hire her. I had to start the hiring process all over again and it was going to be much more demanding of my time. One more interview to go then I could start the search in earnest.
The candidate from UNT arrived early for the interview but, not too early. A review of the resume and cover letter reminded me that I would be interviewing Cara Thompson. I met Cara in the waiting room and led her into my office for the interview. Cara was very prepared for my questions. She had a lot to say about law, working in a law firm and my practice specifically. She had actually gone onto my website and learned about my practice. I was dazzled because Cara was dazzling. The only missed beat in the interview was that Cara wanted to be paid more than the amount I paid to start for the legal assistant job. So, I informed her that I paid somewhat less than she wanted to start but, that there would be raises as she learned the job and became more helpful. I advised her to think about whether she could really be happy starting at the lower salary if she was offered the job.
I only waited one day to offer Cara the job. Lucky for me, the low pay was not a deal breaker and Cara came to work with me. I remember her first day well because I wasn’t here. I was in Colorado with my family. I left Cara in the hands of my previous assistant who was riding out the last days of her two weeks’ notice. In retrospect, that wasn’t a good idea. But, I had planned my vacation before my assistant put in her two weeks’ notice.
Cara immediately began to overachieve. In retrospect having her answer phones, do data entry and filing was way below her capabilities. She mastered those tasks very quickly and was easily doing them better than they had ever been done. As promised, I gave her a raise and more responsibilities. She knocked those things out of the park as well.
The cycle of raises and additional responsibilities went on for Cara’s first year at the Peugh Law Firm. She quickly became the highest paid and most valuable legal assistant in Peugh Law Firm History. Of course, she did not stop there. Before her first year at the Firm was over Cara was enrolled in a Paralegal Program at UNT. She received her paralegal certificate after working at the Law Firm for only ten months. She went on to join the Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas and has been diligent about her continuing legal education. The additional skills were a boon to the Law Firm.
On July 15, 2011, Cara’s first day of work here, the Peugh Law Firm had exactly zero 5-star reviews on Google. On July 15, 2011 the Peugh Law Firm had three 5-star reviews on Avvo. Today, we have forty-seven 5-star reviews on Google and one-hundred and forty-eight 5-star reviews on Avvo. In addition, we recently have received a perfect 5.0 Rating with Martindale-Hubbell. We have twice been named “Best of Denton County.”
Some lawyers would take all the credit for these accolades. I like to think that I would not do that. However, I wouldn’t be able to if I tried. All of these things came our way after Cara started being Cara here. Of all of those 5-star reviews 95% of them mention Cara and most of them mention her by name. Cara deserves the credit. She has improved the level of customer service at the Peugh Law Firm with her communication skills and her knowledge of the law and the Justice System.
It is not just our clients that rave about Cara. The praise for Cara’s abilities started coming in from court staff almost immediately. Clerks and Administrators both would frequently pull me aside to tell me how great Cara was and how much better she is than the last person. I liked hearing good things about Cara but, I began to wonder why no one ever told me the last assistant wasn’t very good. Today, there are several people at the courthouse that deal directly with Cara in order to get things done. She has earned that.
The Peugh Law Firm is a small firm. Right now, it is Cara and I. Working together all day, every business day of the year for ten years forges a very meaningful bond. I was close by when Cara Thompson’s boyfriend, Hector Montoya, made Cara, “Mrs. Montoya.” I was honored to be invited to their beautiful wedding. I have also been available to admire pictures of Cara’s first niece. She has always been very patient and very positive when I send her pictures of my family. Shortly after she started at the Firm, she became the last person on the planet to learn that my wife was pregnant with my son Daniel. More recently, Cara was the first person to find out when my wife was pregnant with my daughter Mollie. There have been some tragedies in the last ten years as well. Cara has always been very supportive of and helpful to me in times of crisis. I hope I have been half as helpful to her when she has had struggles. My family and I consider Cara to be part of our family. I hope she feels the same way about me. (I see myself as a really cool, slightly older uncle who is occasionally helpful.)
Though an overachiever like Cara could be really annoying to work with, she isn’t. Fortunately, she has a really good sense of humor. As a result, she laughs hysterically at all of my jokes. Making for an excellent working environment. She is not above laughing at me. That time when my tie got caught in my glasses and I put both of them on my face probably injured one of her stomach muscles. In that way, Cara helps me with my humility.
Cara has many other unofficial jobs here. Computer technician, phone system expert, cellphone repair, fashion consultant, mental health professional, stand-up comedy audience, building maintenance, tenant liaison, career coach, voice of reason, hostage negotiator, contractor, research assistant, music critic, sounding board, cleaning crew, COVID protection technician, nurse, OTC pharmacist, super spy, and that little voice that keeps you from doing something that you really want to do but there is no way you could get away with doing it. She is great at everything and she has made me better at my job.
The point of the above 1,347 words is that Cara Montoya is the Greatest Paralegal of All Time. She is super smart, tirelessly hardworking and a joy to be around. I appreciate Cara very, very much. It has been a great ten years. She has made me a better lawyer and she lets me pretend that I am in charge (as long as I don’t let it go to my head.) She has made my little firm more successful than it ever would have been without her. I am very thankful to know her and work with her and I hope she is up for twenty more years.
THANK YOU, CARA!