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Unsung Legal Heroes 2019: Office Manager

DARLENE FERRELL

DARLENE FERRELL

Office Manager, Blanton, Nickell, Collins, Douglas & Hanschen

Darlene Ferrell can tell you not only the day she began working as an office manager for Blanton, Nickell, Collins, Douglas & Hanschen, but also the time: Aug. 11, 1970 at 10:45 a.m.

Darlene Ferrell

Ferrell

After working at the firm for nearly five decades with no leaves or position changes, Ferrell keeps “the trains running on time” at the firm. She does everything from logging receipts and expenditures to paying all of the firm’s bills, keeping track of employee hours and handling all of the firm’s insurance and tax issues.

“The office supply stores hate negotiating with her because she always gets great deals,” one of her nominators wrote. Another noted that Ferrell simply could not be replaced.

What is the best part of your job?

I really like all of the parts of my job, and it would be very hard to say what is the best part — but probably the handling of the money and the financial part of the business.

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

I have always received the best career advice from my husband, Paul C. Ferrell, who was a medical corpsman in the U.S. Navy.  [Through] the years, he has advised me to “always do your duty” and “always do your job.”

What is your favorite thing to do away from work?

Work with my husband in his shop, mow and make little trips with my husband to look, shop and eat.

What is something that would surprise people about you?

The fact that I have worked at the Blanton Law Firm for 49 years as of Aug. 11, 2019 — and that those have been 49 years straight, with no maternity leaves and never having changed jobs.

Anything else you want people to know?

“Always do your duty” and “Always do your job.”

MARIE HAYNES

MARIE HAYNES

Case Manager, Smith Mohlman

As case manager at Smith Mohlman in Kansas City, Marie Haynes has a fingerprint on much of her firm’s work. She manages both administrative tasks and the cases of founding partner Rachel Smith, including drafting letters, documents, and pleadings — almost every aspect of legal work short of appearing in court.

Marie Haynes

Haynes

Haynes has been a fixture of the firm for slightly more than seven years. A nominator from outside her firm who works closely with her called her “the Wonder Woman of the legal profession, without the recognition.”

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

I initially attended law school as a pathway into law enforcement because I have always been the type of person who wanted to help people. After I graduated from KU Law I went into security work, then became a police officer. At KU Law, I became close to my mentor Rachel Smith, and we stayed in touch after I graduated. I began to feel like what I was doing in law enforcement was not as fulfilling as I hoped it would be. Now, working at a personal injury firm, I feel like I really am helping people navigate their claims and fight the bully insurance companies.

What is the best part of your job? 

When we settle a case and the client expresses sincere gratitude and appreciation for our hard work. Especially when the settlement is not a giant number, but the client still appreciates how hard we worked on the case.

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

Dream big, then make it happen. Make a plan for your life with big goals, write them down [and] then work backward to create the framework of steps that need to be taken in the next day, week, year . . . then start crossing those things off the list.

What is something that would surprise people about you?

First, that I used to be a police officer (with a law degree). Second, I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 3 years old, and as a result I have only one kidney.

– Jessica Shumaker

LAURA McDERMOTT

LAURA McDERMOTT

Office Manager, Stinson

As office manager at Stinson, Laura McDermott ensures the firm operates smoothly and supports the firm’s attorneys.

Laura McDermott

McDermott

McDermott has been at Stinson since 1998. She manages the firm’s Omaha, Nebraska, and Jefferson City offices. In that role, she is responsible for the overall operations of both offices, including collaborating with attorneys and staff to deliver exceptional client service, supervising some staff and communicating with outside vendors.

“You can tell from her relationship with the Omaha staff that they genuinely respect her,” her nominator said. “And in St. Louis, staff felt that Laura listened to their concerns about the combination and addressed them in a way that made the staff feel appreciated and heard. This is the mark of a great office manager.”

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

[During] my senior year of high school, I was assigned to work at a law firm as part of a work-study program, and I was hooked!

What is the best part of your job? 

The dynamic environment where each day is unique. As an office manager, I get to wear many hats and collaborate with people from all departments in the firm. It’s never boring. I also get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I am doing my best to assist the attorneys, my coworkers and our firm clients. It makes it so much nicer to go to work when you enjoy your work and the people you get to work with.

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

Learning from my parents through example to work hard, help others, give 100 percent and learn each day. My first managing partner also gave me some great career advice. He told me in order to create a team that is really effective, to build it wisely and to surround yourself with the best and brightest.

What is something that would surprise people about you?

I think most people assume I grew up in the Midwest, but actually growing up, my family moved every three years. In addition to the Midwest, I have lived all over the South, and I have lived in the Philippines and Panama.

– Jessica Shumaker

BARBARA RAGAN

BARBARA RAGAN

Office Manager, Seigfreid Bingham

During Barbara Ragan’s 40-year tenure at Seigfreid Bingham in Kansas City, she’s worn hats ranging from paralegal to IT manager and now, office manager.

Barbara Ragan

Ragan

She started as a secretary with the former firm of Rich, Granoff, Levy & Gee, which went on to merge with Burrell, Seigfreid & Bingham to become what now is known as Seigfreid Bingham.

She eventually earned her paralegal certificate and became a litigation paralegal. Later, she shifted to a more managerial and administrative role, eventually taking on her current position. As office manager, she manages the firm’s human resources, benefits, facilities and other tasks.

A nominator praised Ragan for her efficiency and sensitivity to ensure the best result for all is reached. “She cares about the people she works with,” her nominator said.

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

I have always been interested in the law and was fortunate to find a law firm that I enjoy working with.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is that I have a lot of different responsibilities and get to interact with our staff and attorneys and have communications with some of our clients. I like helping people.

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

When you are stressed, get away from your desk for a while and take a walk around the block. It usually seems to help if I take that quick break.

What is something that would surprise people about you?

I love traveling, photography and yoga.

– Jessica Shumaker

CAYLA SINAMON

CAYLA SINAMON

Office Administrator, Marler Schrum Law

As office administrator of Marler Schrum Law, Cayla Sinamon is tasked with meeting the firm’s administrative needs and managing staff.

Cayla Sinamon

Sinamon

According to one nominator, Sinamon goes well beyond that mission by also working to ensure attorneys and staff are “up to date, efficient and on point.”

She also brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as a paralegal to the role, making her an invaluable resource to the firm, the nominator said.

“Without doubt, her dedication to her work and to aiding in the representation of rural southeast Missouri residents has no equal,” the nominator said. “Ms. Sinamon’s talent and dedication are an extremely rare commodity.”

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

I went to college thinking that I was going to be a crime-scene investigator. After I got my associate degree in criminal justice, I decided to further my legal education by enrolling in a paralegal program. I loved the behind-the-scenes nature of being a paralegal. I have always been really shy and an introvert and could never picture myself going to law school, so becoming a paralegal was the next best thing — I’d get to work in the legal field and pursue my passion but wouldn’t have to speak in front of a courtroom of people.

What is the best part of your job?

The attorneys and staff at Marler Schrum Law work really hard for their clients, and it’s very rewarding to hear positive feedback from the clients our firm has helped through some of the worst times in their lives.

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

In college, my paralegal program instructor would always say, “If they ask you to sweep the leaves, you sweep the leaves.” This meant that no one is above doing anything that is asked of them. It takes an entire team of people to keep the ball rolling, no matter how big or small the job is.

What is something that would surprise people about you?

I love camping and outdoor adventures. My husband and I have a camper that we love taking [to] new places.

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