Branching Out… By: Erica L. Gilmer
“Continuity gives us roots, but change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.” Pauline R. Kezar
It has been said that changing jobs is the third most stressful event an adult encounters in their lifetime, preceded only by the death of a loved one and divorce. That seems kind of extreme, but I can certainly relate. Change can be frightening. I am the single mother of two little boys ages 3 and 7. Like many people in today’s economy, I live paycheck to paycheck without much of a cushion. For the past four years, I was lucky enough to be gainfully employed as a paralegal with a prominent law firm in town. I had a good salary, decent perks and a work environment that I didn’t totally hate (most days), so I considered myself to be way ahead of the curve, considering the fact that so many people are unable to even secure employment in their chosen field. I was good at my job, had a great relationship with my clients, a passion for what I did and a burning desire to help people who were not in a position to help themselves.
Over the years, I became content and (oh the horror) complacent. Unfortunately, over time my work environment became less than ideal and I began to dread going into the office. I toyed with the idea of looking for another position, but the thought of leaving my comfort zone was scary… because even though I was unhappy, at least I was comfortable. When my loved ones would encourage me to “see what else was out there,” I always balked. After all, I already had a job. I had a routine. I had my office just the way I wanted it complete with my cozy “petite chair.” (Yes, they make them for those of us whose feet won’t reach the floor… Oh how I loved my special chair!) I knew the in’s and out’s of the office and had a good relationship with my coworkers. They knew I liked green tea in the morning and Moe’s for lunch three days a week. I knew who to steer clear of until mid morning and I knew who would indulge my incessant morning cheerfulness. I was attached to my clients and they needed me. I had health insurance and vacation days and a 401k and most importantly a paycheck that I knew would magically appear in my bank account every other Friday at 12:15 a.m.
Enter William W. Jones, IV. For those of you have had the opportunity to get to know our fearless leader here at the Jones Law Firm, you are well aware that he possesses the ability to shake things up a little bit. I got to know Bill when we were just a bunch of crazy college kids at Ole Miss. He was a friend of my older brother’s and therefore a friend of mine by default. Fast forward 15 years and he’s an attorney looking for a paralegal and I’m a paralegal who just might be looking for a new attorney.
Of course in the beginning I balked, as has been my natural tendency when confronted with career change. One evening, after a particularly taxing day at work, I had a conversation with Bill wherein he shared with me his firm philosophy and his vision for the future. When the conversation ended, I could not believe it, but it was true… I was inspired. I felt like Renee Zellweger’s character in the movie “Jerry Maguire.” This man had a plan to change the public perception of the legal field by doing the unthinkable… being completely forthright with his clients and treating them as individuals with actual problems and real feelings and it was working and OMG I wanted to be a part of it!! Only the truth of the matter is I am not Renee Zellweger and Bill is not Tom Cruise (sorry boss, but it’s true) and I was not being offered a “start-up” opportunity. I was being offered the chance to become a part of a fast growing well respected firm that was busting at the seams and simply needed another paralegal on board.
Obviously you know the outcome since I’m here. Today is day one of week three as the Jones Law Firm Family Law Paralegal and I just really couldn’t be any happier. As it turns out, I have a NEW comfort zone! I have officially been dubbed the “Pixie,” thanks to my diminuitive stature and Bill even bought me a perfectly cozy “pixie ” chair so I’d feel right at home.
Any hesitation I had about the impending change was gone within a few hours. My tenure with the Jones Law Firm began with a bang. There was no time for hand holding as Renee, Bill’s other paralegal, has been burning the candle at both ends for quite some time now. Thanks to lots of patience from Bill, Renee, Scott (our law clerk) and most especially our clients, I am proud to say I survived my baptism by fire with just a few minor burns and lots and lots of lessons learned. Perhaps the most important lesson being that “…change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.”