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Profile: Siobhan Smith; Corporate Paralegal; Steptoe & Johnson, LLP

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                             Profile: Siobhan Smith; Corporate Paralegal; Steptoe &
                             Johnson, LLP
                             [by Regan Morris]
                             Corporate paralegal Siobhan Smith comes from a long line of legal professionals and says there was never any doubt that she
                             would pursue a career in the law. LawCrossing speaks to Smith about her career and the secrets to her success; she was recently
                             named one of the top paralegals in the nation by legal author Carole Bruno.




Smith’s father was a judge; her brother is a        Other parts of corporate law in Britain are         research. It’s very interesting to me. It might
prosecutor; her mother worked in a law firm;        more efficient than in the United States. Fil-      not be interesting to the rest of the world,
and several of her cousins are attorneys. At        ings can all be done online, and the process        but I love it.”
age 8, Smith said she knew she wanted to           is centralized through Companies House.
join the family business.                           In the United States, one would have to file        Smith has been with Steptoe since 99,
                                                    with an individual state depending on the           aside from a 0-month stint when she was
Smith’s first legal job was in the account-         company’s location.                                 lured away by another firm. Steptoe missed
ing department of Steptoe & Johnson, LLP.                                                               Smith, and she missed it. When the firm
During college, she earned her paralegal            “Here, you have Companies House. That’s             called and asked her to come back, she did.
certificate as she pursued a Bachelor of            where you form your company. It’s very con-
Science and eventually moved to a paralegal         venient,” she said. “The language differences       Smith was thrilled to learn that she had been
position within the firm.                           are great. It’s been challenging, but very,         nominated as one of the top-5 paralegals
                                                    very interesting. I love it.”                       for Carole Bruno’s book. The paralegal
Smith intended to go to law school, but she                                                             manager and several partners at the firm
also wanted to start a family and worried           Smith, like many legal professionals, initially     nominated her. What’s the secret to her suc-
about juggling the long hours of an attorney        wanted to pursue a career in criminal law.          cess? Be open-minded, get the job done, and
with the demands of raising children. While         But when she discovered corporate law, she          keep smiling.
many of her colleagues and family still urge        knew she’d found her niche.
her to attend law school, Smith said the                                                                “I would say the number-one thing is to
paralegal profession is a perfect fit for her.      “I bounced around in all different practice         communicate with everyone around you and
                                                    areas, and I loved litigation. The hundreds         to keep it really short and sweet,” she said.
“I get my legal fix from nine to five, and then I   of boxes were a little daunting. And it just so     “Attorneys don’t want to hear how awful it
go home to my kids. In my mind, it’s the best       happens that at one point, they had this very       was or how hard it was for you to get the fil-
of both worlds because I don’t know too many        large transaction, and the corporate para-          ing through. They want to hear the filing was
lawyers who get to leave at five every day,”        legal at the firm at the time asked if I would      made on this date, evidence is on the way.”
she said.                                           consider helping her even though I had no
                                                    corporate experience,” she said. “I jumped          If you complain about how difficult your job
Normally based in the DC office, Smith has          on it and loved it. And I decided that was it.”     is, you’re unlikely to rise through the ranks
been working from the firm’s London office                                                              and get more responsibility, she said.
for the last eight months and plans to stay a       In corporate law, Smith said she felt she was
few more years. While the U.S. legal system         getting more responsibility and she doesn’t         “Stay positive and keep smiling. Out here in
is based on English Common Law, there are           have to deal with as many documents, which          Britain, the same thing goes, and I think it’s
many differences between American and               she disliked while in litigation practice.          true in any profession,” she said. “People
British corporate law. For example, appoint-                                                            just don’t want to hear your stories; they
ing a company director in the United States         “I was doing much more substantive work as          want to know what the problem is and how
is simple and does not require government           a corporate paralegal than I was in any other       you propose to fix it.”
agency. In Britain, the process, which Smith        practice area,” she said. “And in corporate
says can be “convoluted,” involves numerous         law, I actually draft documents. I coordi-
forms.                                              nate the transactions, and I do a lot of great




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Description: Smith's first legal job was in the accounting department of Steptoe & Johnson, LLP. During college, she earned her paralegal certificate as she pursued a Bachelor of Science and eventually moved to a paralegal position within the firm.
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