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Unsung Legal Heroes 2019: Firm Administration

CAROL HOUSKA

CAROL HOUSKA

Director of Firm Administration, Mickes O’Toole

When Carol Houska was deciding on a career path, her sister-in-law mentioned paralegal studies. She was unfamiliar with the profession, but the more she looked into it the more she felt pulled to the law.

Houska

Houska

After earning a degree in paralegal studies and business management, Houska worked for other law firms before joining Thomas A. Mickes in 1998. She is now director of administration with the Mickes O’Toole law firm.

One of her nominators writes that Houska “values the employees that surround her and will go up to bat for them whenever it is needed. Her uplifting personality helps maintain good vibes around the office, and she is a joy to be around.”

Houska has been a member of the St. Louis Paralegal Association and is an active member of the Association of Legal Administrators.

What is the best part of your job?

I am privileged to work daily with the most talented attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants and administrative staff. Our firm is unique in that there is a team atmosphere where everyone works together to achieve success for our firm and our clients.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

I learned through [my parents’] example to be a hard-working, dedicated and loyal employee and to keep moving forward and giving 100 percent, no matter what trials may come your way. Most important, they taught me the importance of respecting every employee equally, as every position is a cog in the wheel of success — both professionally and personally.

What is something that would surprise people about you?

I am probably sillier than most of my professional colleagues would know. I love laughing and enjoying life! I was also an MVP softball player way back in the day.

What are your favorite things to do away from work?

Spending time with my sons Jimmy, Nick and my daughter-in-law, Adina, and most recently, the love of my life — my beautiful granddaughter, Aubree Jane. I love being with all of my family and friends. I enjoy the outdoors, walking, hiking and spending time with my dog, Ellie.

– Scott Lauck

TAMMY NETEMEYER

TAMMY NETEMEYER

Benefits and Operations Manager, Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard

In her 26 years with Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard, Tammy Netemeyer has filled many roles.

Netemeyer

Netemeyer

When she began her career, the firm had only 30 attorneys; now it has almost 160. Netemeyer served as name partner Keith Phoenix’s secretary, managing a heavy caseload involving the firm’s largest and most important clients.

She also has served as its employee resources manager and its benefits and recruiting coordinator. Currently she serves as benefits and operations manager,  supervising everything from software rollouts to paralegals and helping to manage attorneys’ transitions into and out of the firm.

“Her dedication and work ethic are nothing short of astounding,” a nominator wrote. “Her personal character is just as impressive.”

Netemeyer also is a leader in the firm’s Values Initiative, which has boosted recruiting, growth, member retention and client satisfaction.

What led you to choose a career in the legal field?

My first job was at the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis . . .  [Then-President] Richard Teitelman recommended me to two partners from different firms who were starting their own law firm. I had no legal experience, but based on his recommendation, they hired me as a paralegal.

What is the best part of your job?

Working with my colleagues and finding ways to help them.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

If you make a mistake, and you will, own up to it and find a way to ensure you do not repeat the same mistake.

What is something that would surprise people about you?

I donated a kidney to the husband of one of our firm’s partners in 2005. I was going through the process of donating a kidney to a stranger . . . when I found out that her husband needed a kidney. It was an easy decision to make. We were tested and a match!

– Scott Lauck

JULIE WILLIAMS

JULIE WILLIAMS

Work Product Support Supervisor, Stinson

Earlier this year, the law firm formerly known as Stinson Leonard Street rebranded with a single name: Stinson. The firm’s marketing team crafted a new logo and website, but the change also had to be applied to hundreds of forms and templates used throughout the law firm. That’s where Julie Williams, supervisor of Stinson’s Work Product Support department, came in.

Williams

Williams

Williams, who has been with the firm since 2005, is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the WPS team, making her the point person for the entire firm’s refreshed documents. Simultaneously, she helped the firm switch to new software used to format legal documents — everything from participating in vendor training to persuading skeptical users of its benefits.

“Julie is beloved by everyone in the firm, from the members of the Work Product Support team she supervises, to the attorneys to whom the work of her team is ultimately delivered,” writes a nominator. “She is friendly and always has a smile on her face, even in a job that is often high-pressure.”

What led you to choose a career in the legal field?

After I chose not to attend a four-year college, my mother encouraged me to attend some type of trade school or two-year college. (OK, let’s be honest — she begged me to get out of the house because I was driving her crazy.) That led me to Kansas City Business College, where I spent 12 months earning a Legal Secretary Certificate.

What is the best part of your job?

I truly love everything about my job. I love troubleshooting difficult documents. I love organizing projects and figuring out the quickest, most efficient way to get something done. And I love all of the people I work with. They are amazingly fun, kind and generous.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

My father taught me to take on every job without complaint, always double-check my work and always stay until the job is finished.

What is something that would surprise people about you?

Every year I spend my vacation time volunteering at youth camps for high school and middle school kids. It’s exhausting, and I get about five hours of sleep a night while I’m there, but it’s totally worth it!

– Scott Lauck

ALLISON WORLEY

ALLISON WORLEY

Operations Director, Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal

Allison Worley is responsible for maintaining the operations of the 30-attorney law firm of Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal. That ranges from the firm’s information technology and facilities to records management and marketing.

Worley

Worley

As a nominator describes her, “She is the glue that holds us together and who gets all of the important, behind-the-scenes things done.”

Worley’s recent accomplishments include managing an expansion of the firm’s St. Louis offices, which involved negotiating with architects and contractors, moving attorney and staff offices and — perhaps most important — keeping a positive attitude when things weren’t going as planned.

Worley holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in business administration from Fontbonne University. She is a member of the Association of Legal Administrators and the International Legal Technology Association.

What led you to choose a career in the legal field?

I started many moons ago at Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin as a file clerk. At the time, it was a “just a job.” I quickly discovered that, in legal, there is always something new to learn and some interesting challenge to meet. Now, of course, it’s an intentional decision to be in this field. It suits my desire for continuous learning and allows me the opportunity to make a positive impact in others’ lives every day.

What is the best part of your job?

I love taking a problem apart, rearranging the pieces and putting them back together in a different way to create a solution. This takes a host of skills — active listening, collaboration, research, finding champions, testing, implementation and follow-through. Each issue gives me an opportunity to grow in all of those areas.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

“Trust your instincts.” A dear friend and mentor has told me this since my file-clerk days. It’s taken me far too many years to truly believe her.

What is something that would surprise people about you?

For several years, I volunteered with a local community theater. I did everything from acting to stage managing. I had a lot of fun roles, but my favorite was in the thriller “Wait Until Dark.” I played the main character, who was blind.

– Scott Lauck

ZACK ZIDZIK

ZACK ZIDZIK

Trial Tech Specialist/Marketing Assistant, The Simon Law Firm

Zack Zidzik is the type of employee every law firm needs.

Zidzik

Zidzik

As a trial tech specialist and marketing assistant for The Simon Law Firm, Zidzik gets involved with just about every aspect of the firm’s cases. That’s everything from printing exhibits for trial, editing videos, assisting with PowerPoint presentations, running software at trials, gathering information and documents from potential clients or making court runs for attorneys.

“The word ‘no’ is not in his vocabulary,” writes one nominator. “Zack is always the first to lend a helping hand, even if he already has a full plate of his own.”

It’s a tough job, with early mornings and late evenings. Zidzik does it all with a smile.

“He always, and I mean always, has a positive and optimistic attitude — an attitude that is necessary around a law firm that is constantly [steeped] in serious and tragic legal problems,” writes another nominator. “There isn’t a job that Zack can’t do. I wish our firm had 50 more Zacks.”

What led you to choose a career in the legal field?

Honestly, life sent me down one career path, then to another and then finally to where I am at now. I fell in love with the work I was doing, so I can say for sure I know this is where I am supposed to be.

What is the best part of your job?

Interacting with clients. We meet people at a low point in their lives. And when they see every person at the firm, no matter what their job is, working day and night to fight for them, you get to see a little ray of hope come over them. Seeing that fills me with joy and makes me appreciate my job and where I work.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Take the time to sharpen your ax. It was this story about an axman who started off great, but over time his ax became dull and his work suffered. Taking the time to sharpen your ax or revamp your skills gives you consistency and guarantees you’ll do great in the long run.

What is something that would surprise people about you?

I’ve always wanted to be a DJ. It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do.

– Scott Lauck

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