A Legal Secretary’s Pioneering Spirit

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17Aug2007

A Legal Secretary’s Pioneering Spirit

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alaskaHave you ever, out of the blue, felt like you needed a big change in your life?  And, if so, did you ignore it or did you do something about it?

Ellen Collins, a legal secretary from Texas, felt she needed a change and she did something most people only dream about – she sold her house and moved to Alaska!

Ellen has been a legal secretary for over thirty years. She is a grandmother, basset hound dog lover, and even a published author.  Last September, she felt the strong desire to relocate and so she packed up her things and her closest companions, Marty and Suze, her basset hounds, and headed clear north to Anchorage where she has been relishing the new experience ever since.  Ellen had purchased property in Kenai, Alaska, and the move was made in order to get closer to that property on Daniels Lake.

A couple of months ago, I met Ellen on the phone when I called to thank her for some kind words she wrote in an email.  She was very pleased with how an Atkinson-Baker account rep helped her with her last-minute deposition needs early one morning in Cincinnati.  After a few minutes, our conversation took an interesting turn when I asked her, out of curiosity, if she was born and raised up in Alaska.

“Heavens no!” Ellen said to my question. “I’m just an adventurous grandmother who knew it was time for a change in my life so I packed up and left the Lower 48!”  Needless to say, that piqued my interest and I wanted to learn more about her.

Our Pioneering Spirits

I think we all have a pioneering spirit within us to some degree, but perhaps the difference with some people is that they act on it with no turning back, just like Ellen did.  It doesn’t mean we don’t feel fear or trepidation as we face new things. A pioneering spirit means that we are willing to move forward, overcoming the fear, keeping our eye on the goal along the way, and feeling good about the accomplishment in the end.

As our conversation progressed, I became more and more fascinated with Ellen.  She shared another adventure she embarked upon, which was writing her first book.  Her published work, “A Biography: My Life As a Basset Hound : (By Katie the Blue Heeler),” was a passionate project for Ellen as she learned so much from Katie, her beloved blue heeler dog.

“Katie, the blue heeler, who is the world’s first “official” basset hound, talks about her life, her joys and sorrows, her whipped-cream experience, the orange sofa, and her mom. Most of all, she will touch your heart by showing you her greatest accomplishment—her smile. It is no wonder that Ellen’s love for animals has given us this wonderful, light-hearted, and truly touching tale about Katie, who so very much wanted to be a basset hound. She worked hard her whole life to accomplish her dream. Marty, Suze (basset hounds), and I hope that you enjoy Katie’s story. She indeed taught us many things about life.”  Amazon.com

Ellen’s adventurous side also takes her exploring the outdoors, and what better place to do that than Alaska!  Hiking is one of her favorite things to do, and, even though it could include a chance encounter with a bear, moose or anything else that’s “at home” in the wilderness, she relishes the magnificent beauty in and around Anchorage in every way.  Not for one second has she regretted leaving the Lower 48 behind, and each hike confirms that in her heart.

Facing Challenges Wherever We Are

Yes, relocating to a new part of the country, writing your first book, and trying dangerous extreme sports are adventurous things that require a pioneer spirit.  However, our daily lives at home and work are also peppered with new challenges every day. We are faced with tasks to juggle, choices to make, and fine-tuning our people skills. For legal professionals, these areas are important in easing attorneys’ burden and lightening their workload.

Ellen shared with me that the most challenging part of her job as legal secretary in Alaska is learning Alaska rules and regulations.

“Having Courtview available to check on filings in cases is very helpful.  I have also joined the Anchorage, AK chapter of NALS and attend the monthly meetings, which are very helpful.  The NALS handbook has a snapshot of the Alaska Civil, Criminal, Appellate and Supreme Court rules applicable for legal secretaries, legal assistants and paralegals, which is a wonderful resource,” she said.

Ellen regularly visits the Alaska Court System online to see what’s new and what has changed. She visits the court clerk’s office and has built a professional rapport with them.  “They are very helpful and know that when I come to their office, I have legitimate questions and concerns; and the staff is always ready to help me,” she shared.

Ellen stressed how necessary it is to be involved in her surroundings and to know where the resources are in order to be an effective legal secretary, but especially when one moves from one state to the next.

And moving from state to state is what Ellen did with resilience. So, next time you feel a change on the horizon, let your pioneering spirit lead the way and hold on for a great ride!

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