Legal administrative assistant is driven to excel

Breanna Takasaki, Legal Administrative Assistant at RDM Lawyers

The phone call from RDM Lawyers LLP caught Breanna Takasaki off-guard. She was gearing up to start a practicum at the local law firm after completing her training as a legal administrative assistant through UFV Continuing Education.

Breanna had developed an interest in the legal profession during career planning in grade 12. While researching career options, she found out about UFV’s Paralegal program. “UFV was a good choice for me because I could stay close to family and friends and keep my job while going to school,” says the Sardis resident.

Sadly, even though Breanna had been working since grade 10, cost was an obstacle. “I thought I’d have to wait at least two years to save enough to enrol,” she admits.

But this bleak prospect changed when Breanna booked an appointment with a UFV financial aid advisor. “The advisor mapped out my options and encouraged me to apply for a student loan,” she says. “I filled out the form, sent it in, and my loan came through direct deposit. I expected much more of a headache. But it wasn’t.”

Before Breanna could start her legal administrative assistant training, she needed to gain advanced office skills. So in September 2014, she started in the UFV Applied Business Technology (ABT) program.

Breanna credits her ABT teachers with spurring her to excel. “They changed my point of view,” she says. “They inspired me to work hard for what I’m passionate about. And they helped me change how I portray myself to project more confidence and professionalism.”

Once equipped with the required office expertise, Breanna entered the five-month Legal Administrative Assistant program. All through her studies, she kept working evenings and weekends at the Chilliwack Leisure Centre.

To manage her demanding schedule, Breanna stuck to a Spartan routine. “I’d stay on campus for four hours after class to finish my homework,” she recounts. “On the evenings I was not working, I’d go to the gym. Then I’d go home and fall into bed.”

The Big Interview

Breanna’s dedication paid off when she aced her practicum interview at RDM Lawyers. “Breanna’s only nineteen, but she showed a maturity that’s beyond her years,” says RDM’s Administrator, Carol Mitchell, who conducted the interview.

At that point, RDM ran a reference check, which led to the surprise phone call Breanna received a few days later.

“I certainly wasn’t expecting it,” Breanna says. “They wanted to hire me before someone else could scoop me up. They offered me a position as a legal administrative assistant in their corporate department. I was ecstatic.”

Later on, two more UFV grads were hired to fill vacancies arising from a retirement and business growth at the firm. “Of all the years we’ve hosted practicum students, we’ve never had that many openings all at once,” Carol says. “It’s such a highlight when you get to help good students make a start in the industry.”

Two months into her new job, Breanna is thriving. “Corporate law is my area of interest,” she says. “And the environment is very helpful and welcoming.”

The young woman is preparing for her next challenge: to become a paralegal. “I first need to get one year of experience,” she says. “UFV offers courses in the evenings and on weekends, so I can keep working while studying to advance my career.”

Practicum Host Helps Legal Administrative Assistants Get Job-Ready

Carol Mitchell, RDM Lawyers' AdministratorFormerly known as Robertson Downe and Mullaly Lawyers, RDM Lawyers LLP is a full service law firm that has served Abbotsford since 1971. Over the years, the company grew from three lawyers to over 50 staff. Located in a landmark building at Abbotsford Five Corners, the firm is known for its quality work and great customer service. RDM Lawyers has hosted UFV practicum students since the Legal Administrative Assistant program’s early beginnings. “We host them whenever we can,” says Administrator Carol Mitchell. “We feel a responsibility to give back to the industry by helping train upcoming talent. And it’s an opportunity for us to try someone for free and find out who’s out there.”

“Over the years, we’ve seen that UFV puts out good students on a consistent basis,” Carol points out. “We know they screen applicants before they let them in the program.”

During their two-week practicum, students shadow experienced legal staff. They rotate through departments to be exposed to all aspects of law. “We mostly expect them to listen and watch,” says Carol. “They can absorb a lot by listening and observing. They may also help with filing, dictation, scanning, document preparation, or binder assembly.”

“If we cannot hire them after they complete their practicum and they’ve put their best foot forward, I notify a group of law office administrators I belong to in the Fraser Valley to see if there are openings elsewhere,” Carol explains. “I also keep résumés on file for further reference.”

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