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Unsung Legal Heroes 2019: Legal Secretary

THERESA CAVALIER

THERESA CAVALIER

Legal Administrative Assistant, Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale

During the 19 years that Theresa Cavalier has worked at Greensfelder, she has gained a reputation for coming in early and staying late to assist her attorneys. She helps to manage one of the firm’s major clients and is an integral part of that team.

Cavalier

Cavalier

As the legal industry evolves, Cavalier evolves along with it, showing a willingness to learn new skills. She’s also a thoughtful communicator — so thoughtful that the firm’s human resources department has come to rely on her for feedback on new ideas and changes.

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

I started my secretarial career at a bank. When I was working on my associate degree at a junior college, I took some classes in the legal field and found that this interested me. After I got my first job as a legal secretary, I knew this was my new career. I have worked at small law offices and large firms, and I have enjoyed the variety of the work at both.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is my assignment: I work for five of the best attorneys at Greensfelder.

Best career advice you’ve ever received?

If you don’t enjoy what you are doing at least most of the time, it might be time to move on.

Something that would surprise people about you?

I’m pretty much an open book, so people who know me know everything about me. The only thing that I could tell them that might come as a surprise is that I will be married 40 years in August.

Anything else people should know about you?

I enjoy being outdoors, and since we have no children, our cat is a member of the family and gets treated as such.

JEAN ERSKINE

JEAN ERSKINE

Legal Secretary, Franke Schultz & Mullen

When Jean Erskine is out of the office, clients take notice.

Erskine

Erskine

That’s according to one of her nominators, who said Erskine has been the top secretary at Franke Schultz & Mullen for nearly two decades. When she recently went on vacation and her out-of-office reply did not include a return date, her nominator received several client calls inquiring about her well-being.

“I could stop coming to the office tomorrow, and Jean could keep my practice going another 10 years, she is that good,” the nominator added.

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

I was interested in advancing to the top position available as a secretary, for instance as secretary to a corporate president or CEO where the work would be interesting and the remuneration good. By selecting the legal field, there was the additional benefit of being able to find work anywhere in the country, not just in large metropolitan communities.

What is the best part of your job?

While the expectations are high at the Franke Schultz & Mullen law firm and, as in any law firm, deadlines are always looming, the lawyers where I work consistently exhibit mutual respect, are quick to commend and recognize that we are all just trying to represent our clients to the very best of our ability. There is great satisfaction in being part of that effort.

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

My father told me to pick something that utilized my skills and training, utilized my best natural abilities, would provide opportunity for work anywhere and would not consume my life to the exclusion of all other things I enjoy.

What is something that would surprise people about you?

I spent my childhood chasing minnows in a spring-fed creek on the Kansas prairie, learned to drive in a cow pasture, spent summers swimming in a homemade swimming pool I helped to build and gazed up at the night sky, never dreaming I would one day work in a sophisticated legal environment for a nationally recognized attorney in an important law firm. I’m surprised, myself!

RUTH KUNKEL HASKINS

RUTH KUNKEL HASKINS

Legal Administrative Assistant, Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice

During Ruth Kunkel Haskins’ 43-year career, she has helped to launch two prominent St. Louis law firms. Her work has been so integral to her firms that some attorney colleagues consider her to be a founding member.

Haskins

Haskins

She started with Coburn, Croft, Shepherd and Herzog in St. Louis, then left to help found Shepherd, Sandberg & Phoenix. From there, she moved to Armstrong Teasdale and later to help start Williams Venker & Sanders, which merged with Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice.

A nominator called her “responsible, reliable and hard-working,” adding “I cannot conceive of having practiced law without her and her invaluable support. We really are a partnership.”

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

Being very young at the time, the excitement and diversity this field provided was very attractive and seemed to be a good fit for my outgoing personality and skill set.

What is the best part of your job?

The people I have met and worked with during these past 40 years have been amazing. During my journey, I have been blessed to have worked in top-notch firms, and [I’ve] been mentored by some of the finest individuals I have the pleasure of knowing. It has been my joy to continue to assist in those successes and working together towards those common goals.

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

Work hard, be loyal and honest, and good things will come your way.

What is something that would surprise people about you?

My choice of occupation originally after school was to become (with Title IX in its infancy) a sports broadcaster/sportswriter.

– Jessica Shumaker

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