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Profile: Susan Ippoliti, Litigation Paralegal, Harter, Secrest & Emery LLP, and National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) Vice President and Director of Membership [by Regan Morris] Network, network, network! LawCrossing talks with NFPA Vice President and Director of Membership Susan Ippoliti about the art of networking in the legal profession and the importance of finding a mentor. Susan Ippoliti says she gets bored easily. So

including construction, asbestos, personal

“I have two pieces of advice: the first is find

she gets involved--a lot.

injury, and medical malpractice, teaches

yourself a mentor, a mentor who is a senior

courses on leadership through the NFPA.

paralegal. Someone who can help you and

The litigation paralegal with Harter, Secrest

While she credits the organization with

guide you,” she said. She met her mentor

& Emery is the Vice President and Director

developing her leadership skills, she was a

through PAR, and then the woman mentioned

of Membership of the National Federation of

born leader.

an opening at the law firm.

just eight years, Ms. Ippoliti has been on the

“I’ve always been this way. I’ve always been

“I think it’s a little intimidating at first, but

board of both local and national legal asso-

very active,” she said. “I sort of take the

then all of a sudden you realize you’re in a

ciations and advises people who want to get

bull by the horns and I run. I get bored very

really good place full of really good people

ahead: ‘join the club.’

quickly, so I like a constant challenge. I enjoy

that can offer you so much in terms of advice

the challenges.”

and knowledge, and you really have to latch

Paralegal Associations. As a paralegal for

on to that,” she said of asking for a mentor.

Not just any club, but The National Federation of Paralegal Associations or a local

Ms. Ippoliti became a paralegal the old

“She actually said to me in passing one day

association. Part of Ms. Ippoliti’s current

fashioned way--through on-the-job training.

that there was an opening. She just dropped

NFPA role is to recruit new members to

While studying at St. John Fisher College in

a little carrot, you know, and dangled it and

the association, which she says is a perfect

Rochester, Ms. Ippoliti had a local internship

said ‘you know, you really ought to check this

haven to learn new skills and meet peers and

with the District Attorney’s office.

out.’ And so I did, and that’s how I made it here.”

possible mentors. “It was great,” she said. “I just wasn’t reThe day Ms. Ippoliti joined the Paralegal

ally sure that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I

Association of Rochester, or PAR, in 1999,

wanted to be in the profession.”

she became a member of the group’s board.

Before taking on a national role in an organization, Ms. Ippoliti notes it is important to consult your employer and make sure you

And now at just 29, Ms. Ippoliti holds a senior

When she graduated from college with a

leadership position on the NFPA.

bachelor’s degree in political science, Ms.

can count on their support.

Ippoliti answered an ad in the newspaper for

“It’s really been a whirlwind. I do travel more

“Networking is really a big part of this pro-

an entry-level clerical position in a law firm.

than I anticipated,” she said. “Before you do

fession. The day I became a member of the

It wasn’t her dream job, but she knew it was

something like this, you really do have to sit

Paralegal Association of Rochester, I became

the right profession. She started applying to

down and literally have a conversation with

a member of the board of directors. So it re-

law schools, but realized she didn’t want to

your employer and make sure they’re behind

ally happened overnight,” she said.

become an attorney. She was learning on the

you and will support you. In my position, you

job how to become a litigation paralegal, a

have to travel a bit more, because I have to

fast-paced area in which she excels.

go out and recruit people, and I get asked to

Through PAR, Ms. Ippoliti said she found out

visit various associations quite often.”

about her current job with Harter, Secrest & Emery, found a mentor, and learned crucial

Ms. Ippoliti has now been with Harter, Se-

leadership skills.

crest for five years. She got that job through

Ms. Ippoliti’s other crucial piece of advice is

her mentor--something she feels every

to ask questions. Or as she puts it: “You re-

young professional should have.

ally have to know what you don’t know.”

Ms. Ippoliti, who has experience with plaintiff and defense litigation in various areas,


continued on back


“It’s something that I say a lot to people and they look at me and go ‘huh?’ But it’s really important to understand that it’s okay to not have all the knowledge early on. And even later on, there are some paralegals who are 25-year paralegals who are asking questions,” she said. “You have to remember that you’re acting on behalf of the client. You don’t want to find out when it’s all completed that it’s done incorrectly. You really have to know what you don’t know.”


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Profile: Susan Ippoliti, Litigation Paralegal, Harter, Secrest & Emery LLP  

Susan Ippoliti works as litigation paralegal at Harter, Secrest and Emery LLP, and National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) Vice...

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