“I feel like I’m helping out as opposed to being just another cog in the wheel,” says Stephanie Lopez of her work at Rodriguez & Associates.
Stephanie has worked with the firm for more than a decade as a paralegal, keeping the attorneys and their caseloads as organized as possible in addition to interacting with clients. Ten and a half years, she says, has given her many chances to work with families in the Bakersfield, California area, bonding with them over the experiences that brought them to the firm in the first place.
Rodriguez & Associates is, of course, not your average personal injury firm. Stephanie likens the staff to “a family unit,” and points out that this type of camaraderie between staff is not always a given at a law firm. “My colleagues are some of my closest friends,” she says.
This closeness inevitably spills over into work with clients. Rodriguez & Associates makes it a point to form strong, familial-like bonds with the families and individuals they represent. Stephanie says she feels this approach is really what allows her to feel that she is helping these people, rather than simply executing the details of yet-another case. And as a paralegal, part of her job includes staying in contact with clients on behalf of the firm’s attorneys. These close interactions give Stephanie an insider view of what the individuals behind each case are going through. “You get to learn a lot about them and their struggles,” she says of the firm’s clients. That includes the tragedies as well as the stories of victims overcoming their losses and injuries.
One case that has made an especially deep impression on her involved a shooting at a high school that left the victim with severe injuries as well as physical and psychological pain. The victim underwent more than 30 surgeries for his injuries. Stephanie says working with him and his family in the aftermath of this experience has left a deep impression on her.
Another notable experience has been her work on a trial team that secured the highest verdict in Kern County history. As a native of the county, Stephanie says she felt honored to be part of a group helping put Kern in the history books.
Her status as a Bakersfield-area native also gives her an automatic connection to the community, which can be helpful when dealing with clients. Certain information, like understanding the city’s agricultural background or even the precise layout of the place, can automatically strengthen the bond between client and legal team. “Knowing where you are allows you to advocate for clients in a much more impactful way,” she says.
That in turn makes it easier to form a deeper connection with clients—one that lasts longer than any court case.
“I don’t want them to ever feel like they’re just a number in our book,” she says of clients. That’s a point on which Stephanie has built her career, and one that will ring true for the rest of it, too.