After a very successful and fulfilling career as a Registered Nurse, Susan Leedy made a personal decision to pursue a second career—in the law.
Q. What brought you to UCR University Extension? Tell us about your path leading up to today.
A. I always had a passion advocating for others, and I am forever grateful that I was introduced to my boss and attorney, Corey A. Hall. During one of our discussions, what seemed out of the blue, he said, “I’m sure you’re a great nurse, but have you ever considered law?” It didn’t take long before I began my legal career working for him in an employment and personal injury law firm.
We have had a mutual goal since the beginning for me to first become proficient as a paralegal, so that he can sponsor me for the Law Office Study Program as a path to earn my California law license. Although this is a long-term goal, completing the paralegal program at UCR University Extension provided me with the education and tools that will make my goal more attainable.
Q. What were some of the unexpected hurdles in your journey?
A. My journey at UCR University Extension began at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was concurrently working as a supervising Registered Nurse overseeing Covid patients during uncertain times and taking my first paralegal classes.
Due to the extreme demands at work caused by the pandemic, I had to put my paralegal classes on hold for about one year. After I resumed my paralegal classes, I didn’t allow any other obstacles life threw my way to slow down my progress. I continued taking classes--one, two, or even three at a time, until I completed the program in March 2023.
Q. What were some of the unexpected benefits?
A. I began my paralegal program in spring 2020 just as life as we knew it was abruptly changed. Classes were no longer held in-person at the UCR University Extension Center but were moved online and conducted via Zoom.
Although the pandemic was tragic in many ways, an unexpected benefit was the ability to complete an ABA-approved paralegal program, which was important to me, from the comfort of my own home. I could conclude my workday at 5:59 p.m. and start my classes at 6:00 p.m.! This flexibility is appreciated by students like me, who are juggling a job, family, and school! Online was not an option pre-pandemic.
Q. What are you doing now?
A. I began working full time at Hall Law Group about two years ago, but I’m now working as a paralegal at multiple law firms including Hall Law Group, NewPoint Law Group, and Accident Pros. My titles are Paralegal, Discovery Coordinator, and I perform work in every aspect of the discovery process. This includes propounding and responding to discovery, drafting legal documents, meeting, and conferring with opposing counsel regarding discovery issues, meeting with clients, assisting the attorneys and clients with deposition preparation, and obtaining and producing documents in preparation for trial.
Although I work primarily from home, I am fortunate to work with a team of attorneys and paralegals who make themselves available throughout the day as questions and issues arise. I’m also able to take the occasional “field trip” to attend depositions with the attorneys or doctor’s appointments with our personal injury clients to advocate for them as they are examined by the insurance company’s doctors.
Q. What career (or other) advice would you give to students or graduates looking to move into your industry?
A. The advice I would give others who are considering a career change is don’t be afraid to pursue a second career you likely have been considering for years. Skills transfer, and your experiences from your first career can only benefit you and your future employer.
Also, if possible, DO NOT wait before you begin your professional program at UCR University Extension. Sign up and make the commitment. Time is going to pass with or without you.
Q. Was there a particular department, staff member, or instructor memorable to your experience?
A. I have several instructors who were memorable to me, but the one who stood out the most was Judge Hopp who taught Civil Litigation. Not only was this course the most useful and interesting to me personally because I was currently working in civil litigation, but Judge Hopp was also an active judge in Riverside County who was up to date on the ever-evolving law.
He was engaging in his lessons and shared fascinating stories with purpose that were relevant to the curriculum. Judge Hopp cared for his students’ success and looked forward to the pandemic ending so that he could invite his current and former students to court hearings, as he had enjoyed doing for his previous students. He emphasized the importance of not only learning the law in class, but watching the process unfold in person.
One small but very important lesson Judge Hopp drilled into his students’ heads was to get witnesses’ statements signed with the “magic language” under penalty of perjury. I can’t help but remember his words every time I obtain these invaluable declarations from potential witnesses.
Judge Hopp stressed the importance of ethics in the legal field and was always happy to give his students legal information that has helped me personally and professionally. I hope Judge Hopp continues to teach at UCR University Extension for many years to come so future students can be captivated by his insightful, thought-provoking lessons the way I was.
Thank you for sharing your story, Susan. Your commitment to advocacy—whether for a patient or a client—is admirable. We know that you will be an inspiration to current students and future students, and people like you make the world a much better place. We are honored to have been part of your journey! If you need someone in your corner, or are looking for representation, reach out to Susan for help.
Discovery Coordinator, Hall Law Group, APC and Accident Pros, LLP, Santa Ana
Paralegal, NewPoint Law Group, LLP, Santa Ana
BSN, California State University, Bakersfield
Graduate, UCR University Extension
Professional Certificate in Paralegal Studies