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Paralegal Now Operating Own Law Office

By Steve Yablonski

Paralegal Now Operating Own Law Office

Nicole Reed worked as a paralegal for 25 years in various areas: criminal, civil litigation, bankruptcy, real estate and estate planning, probate and elder law.

At one point at her career, she decided she should go to law school.

“So that’s actually what I did,” she said.

“I went to Oswego State for my bachelor’s — I did a five-year plan,” she said.

Two years at Oswego and Syracuse University College of Law, juris doctorate, three years.

When she decided that she wanted to become a lawyer, she called Oswego State.

“I’m a mom. I have two little boys, so I needed something local,” she said. “I asked them what is the best degree I can get in two years because I knew I just needed to go on to law school. I didn’t care what it was; I just needed to have my bachelor’s. I said what coordinates well with my paralegal degree. And they said ‘linguistics.’”

“I didn’t know anything about linguistics, but I said sign me up! I swear to God, that was harder than law school,” she said laughing.

She got a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and a minor in psychology. Then she got right into SU. “I just rolled right in; got that done,” she said.

She graduated when COVID-19 hit.

“I was in my final semester of law school. So, we were the unfortunate group that didn’t have a graduation,” she said. “We had something online. They had something for us later, but it wasn’t well publicized. Few of us went; we were all working by then.”

AI is watching

She took the bar exam — New York state, for the first time, did a bar exam online.

“It was very difficult. We had all these rules; they wanted to make sure that nobody could cheat,” she said. “So they had artificial intelligence watching us at all times. They told us not to scratch our faces, not to have noise — even the mailman could potentially cause us to fail. We weren’t even allowed scratch paper. Every other group that goes in for the bar exam, they get scratch paper so they can map out like different questions and things. We had to do it mentally, we had to prepare mentally, map out that stuff in our heads.”

“We had to keep our hands and our eyes visible, we weren’t supposed to be looking down at anything. They scanned the area around us before and after. It was interesting, very nerve-wracking,” she added. “I sent my whole family away — and my dog! I locked up my cat. I contacted all my neighbors, I halted my mail. All my neighbors said they’d be super quiet. They were so great.”

Reed grew up in the Southern Tier; down by Corning. She moved to Oswego when she was 21.

“I got married to an Oswegonian. I’ve been here ever since. I like to say I’m an Oswegonian now. I use to have people ask me all the time when I first moved here, ‘you from Oswego?’  I’d say ‘no,’ but I married somebody from Oswego. So they were a little more accepting,” she laughed.

She does primarily estate planning and probate and real estate.

“When I was in school to be a paralegal, I wanted to do criminal law. That’s what I wanted to do and I actually interned at the Steuben County District Attorney’s office. And very quickly I learned it was not for me,” she explained.

Never say ‘never’

“I remember when I graduated I thought, ‘I am never going to do estate planning that is so boring—it is all paperwork,’” she said. “And I ended up loving this because it’s not all paperwork!”

“What they don’t teach you in school and I’ve learned over the years, is that it’s a unique area of law. You’re helping people. You may have some adversarial situations, but it’s an area of law where you are helping people in a situation where they are really down and need your help,” she said.

“It’s very encouraging for me to see an individual come in and be lost and overwhelmed. They’ve got all these papers and don’t know what to do with it all,” she continued. “I’ll go through it all—tell them what I need. We’ll sort things out. And you should see the relief. Everybody feels relief when we’re finished.”