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Phyllis Tidwell: Paralegal for Vinson & Elkins, LLP, in Houston, TX [By Charisse Dengler] As a paralegal for Vinson & Elkins, LLP, Phyllis Tidwell is mainly responsible for managing complex litigation cases. In addition, she serves on the firm’s pro bono advisory board, where she works with an attorney on cases from the area Volunteer Lawyer Association, and she also coordinates and manages the firm’s Innocence Project work.

Tidwell, who has been a paralegal for 23

“I’ve worked with some of the best attorneys

was a very private person, and few people

years now, said she fell into the paralegal

in the business, and I have the best support

knew at that particular time,” she said. “He

profession by accident. Her first job after

staff,” she said. “I’ve worked on great

told me that I had to learn to balance my life-

college was with an international marine-

teams and some interesting cases. Equally

that I had to get the work done but that my

product company that she was put into

important to me, I’ve been able to work on

son should always be my first priority. I took

contact with by an employment agency.

some pro bono and community projects and

that advice to heart and applied it to the rest

During her time with the company, a

been given an opportunity to give back to the

of my life. I worked whatever hours I needed

Middle Eastern oil platform exploded, and

community. My job has also given me the

to get the job done, but I can honestly say

a paralegal was sent out to get information

flexibility that I needed as a single parent.”

that I never missed my son’s extracurricular activities. I learned to manage my time both

about the types of products Tidwell’s company produced. Tidwell was assigned

Tidwell’s son, Philip, is 21 and is currently

professionally and personally. Sometimes

to assist the paralegal, and she was very

attending Texas Southern University. He is a

that meant sacrificing the huge raises and

interested in the type of work the paralegal

huge part of her life.

bonuses because I didn’t have the highest hours, but time spent with my son and

was doing. “He and I are very close, and I’ve had to

ensuring that he had stability in his life was

When her company began laying people off

learn to let go and let him grow,” she said.

more important to me.”

after the explosion, Tidwell went back to her

“Sometimes I think that he hasn’t heard me,

previous employment agency, which sent

and then he surprises me and responds to

Tidwell has bachelor’s and master’s degrees

her to Vinson & Elkins to interview for a

a situation [in a way] that shows me that he

in sociology, and she feels that her education

paralegal position. She recalled her interest

was listening after all.”

helped prepare her for dealing with all types of people in all types of situations. It also

in the type of work the paralegal she met had done, and after some encouragement from

Throughout the course of her career, Tidwell

helps her to control her stress levels and to

her cousin who had worked as a summer

has always put her son first, before her

maintain a professional and positive attitude

intern with Vinson & Elkins, she interviewed

professional responsibilities and goals, and

that reflects well on her firm.

for and accepted the position.

she is extremely thankful for the attorney who hired her and the compassion he has

“I’ve come to an understanding that my work

“Initially, I didn’t like the work because I

shown her and her son. During her first trial

reflects not only me but [also] the attorney

started out page checking, and I kept telling

at the firm, she was not only learning how

in charge and, ultimately, the firm,” she

myself that this wasn’t what I went to college

to prepare for court, but she was also going

said. “My pastor teaches, ‘Find out who’s

for,” she said. “In hindsight, I’m glad that is

through a divorce. The attorney was nothing

in charge, find out what they want you to

where I began my career because I gained

but understanding about her needs to bring

do, and then do it.’ I’ve applied that simple

insightful knowledge about the litigation

her son to the office or leave to go get him

principle to my life, especially at work.

process and, specifically, the discovery

from daycare, and she has never forgotten

Another principle is that I can’t control

process from the beginning through the end.”

the kindness he showed her.

people or their reactions and responses to

Some of Tidwell’s favorite parts of her

“After the trial and my evaluation, the

is myself and my reaction/response to people

job are the people, the flexibility, and the

attorney told me that he had no idea what I

and situations. My goal is always to give my

diversity of the assignments she gets to

was going through regarding my divorce and

best and provide the best work product that

work on.

subsequent problems after the divorce. I

will reflect well on the firm.”

situations. The only thing that I can control

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THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH

LEGAL STAFF PROFILE

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Neighborhood Centers, Inc.

On the Net

autobiographies and historical books, and

When asked if she had any advice for

State Bar of Texas

volunteering. In addition, she is a member

paralegal students, Tidwell said, “Ask

www.texasbar.com

of Mt. Corinth Missionary Baptist Church,

questions, ask questions, ask questions.

a member of the Paralegal Division of the

[Have] patien ce with people. Control

State Bar of Texas, a committee member

your response and reaction to others and

of the Texas Friends of TransAfrica Forum,

situations. And lastly, we can’t all be Erin

and Ripley House Advisory Board Chair for

Brockovich.”

Tidwell currently lives in Houston, TX. In

1. 800.973.1177

her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading

PAGE 

TransAfrica Forum www.transafricaforum.org Vinson & Elkins, LLP www.velaw.com


Phyllis Tidwell: Paralegal for Vinson & Elkins, LLP, in Houston, TX