Paralegal setting her sights on law school for criminal defense

prev
next

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

While studying for a general associate degree at Lansing Community College, Lizzy Cary worked as a legal assistant at Chartier & Nyamfukudza PLC in East Lansing.

“I was sort of lost at that point – I wasn’t sure what career I wanted to work toward,” she says. “Once I started working for Mary Chartier, things just clicked, and I fell in love with working in the legal field.

After 9 months as a legal assistant, Cary was promoted to paralegal—and found her calling.

“Now I’m finishing up my bachelor’s and I’m heading to law school—I’m so excited to make the law my life’s work,” she says.

Specializing in criminal defense and trial litigation for the past six years, Cary has served as lead paralegal on multiple cases, including high-profile matters.

Experienced in investigation, courtroom technology, and discovery management, she was the lead paralegal on a case that ultimately exonerated the firm’s client after nine years in prison. Her work included locating and managing more than 20 new witnesses, numerous exhibits, investigators, and experts for his re-trial.

“That case was what really sealed the deal for me to work in criminal defense—when the jury read ‘not guilty on both counts,’ I cried tears of happiness,” Cary says. “From then on, I was hooked.”

According to Cary, a few people close to her questioned her decision to work in criminal defense, from a compassion standpoint.

“But I think you must be extremely compassionate to work in criminal defense,” she says. “When someone has been charged with a crime – especially when they have gone through a ‘trial by media’ – the world tends to turn their back on them. We’re the ones standing by their side, still treating them as human beings.

“We call ourselves Constitutional Warriors who breathe life into the Constitution and I hold that title with pride.”

A council member to the State Bar of Michigan Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section, Cary serves as chair of the Technology & Practice Management Committee and co-chair of the Day of Education Committee, taking place May 31 at The Henry, Autograph Collection, 300 Town Center Drive, Dearborn.

“I’m very excited about our upcoming Day of Education,” she says. “This is something we’ve been working really hard on the past few months, and we have an amazing lineup of speakers and topics. No matter what area of law you practice in, we have something for you—legal writing, ethics rules, the appeals process, interviewing skills, and more.

“Aside from the great education, we also have a ton of prizes donated by Dearborn businesses to give away. Plus, as our gift to attendees, they’ll be able to sit for a free, professional headshot. We really wanted to focus on offering as much as possible in a single day. This event isn’t just for paralegals – anyone can attend.”

Cary also helps the Social Media Committee, and the Michigan Paralegal Committee, which puts together a quarterly newsletter that includes her technology tips.

“Legal technology is my specialty—I love finding new programs that can help make things run more smoothly and efficiently,” she says. “Any non-billable time I can free up by using a new program is great because that time can be spent on what’s most important – our clients.

“My goal as chair of the Technology & Practice Management Committee is to educate the legal field on tools they can use to make their lives easier. If you have a problem, I likely have a solution involving technology.”

Cary also is a member of the paralegal organization NALA, and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, and is a mentor through Perfectly Paralegal. She also is working on starting a Paralegal Section for the Ingham County Bar Association.

“I love being involved in the legal community—joining and being involved with different professional organizations opens so many doors,” she says. “The networking benefits are so great, but the education opportunities are the most important benefit. Plus, you get to hang out with other paralegals who understand some of the problems you may run into, and they can offer solutions or different points of view.”

Cary notes the importance of ongoing education in a constantly changing world.

“New technology is becoming more and more available, case law is changing,” she says. “To be the best asset to your firm, you must stay up to date on all those things. Sessions, conferences, educational luncheons – those all help you be the best paralegal you can be.”

The best part of her job, she adds, is the people with whom she works.

“I honestly believe we have the absolute best team here at Chartier & Nyamfukudza, and I’m extremely grateful for that. Plus, I have the best bosses, Mary Chartier and Takura Nyamfukudza.”

A native of Perry, northeast of Lansing, and a graduate of Perry High School, Cary now lives in Lansing with her husband, Peanut the cat, and canine buddies Stella, Miles, and Chance.

“We would likely have more dogs if my husband wasn’t the sane one and let me live out my dream of having as many dogs as possible,” she says with a smile.

“I love dogs, so I enjoy volunteering for local dog rescues and shelters. I’m on a forced hiatus, by my husband, from fostering because I keep trying to adopt them. Chance was our last foster. I decided to keep him after a day. So, now I try to raise money and donations for New Hope Pet Rescue and other local rescues.

“I really enjoy networking events and volunteer opportunities,” she adds. “Life has given so much to me that I feel it is very important to give back whenever possible.”

In addition to spoiling her “furbabies,” Cary enjoys crafting and baking, and cheering for the Red Wings.   

“My little brother and I are big Red Wings fans,” she explains. “We started a tradition 8 years ago where I buy Wings tickets for us and take him to a game as his Christmas present. It’s always interesting during hockey season because my husband is from St. Louis and is a huge Blues fan. I like to remind him that the Blues have never won the Stanley Cup.”

————————

Day of Education

The State Bar of Michigan Paralegal and Legal Assistants Section will hold its Annual Conference and Day of Education on May 31 at The Henry, Autograph Collection, 300 Town Center Drive, Dearborn.

Speakers include Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Amy Ronayne Krause, Genesee Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah, and other prominent Michigan attorneys and professionals.

Topics include rules of evidence, legal writing, the appeals process, ethics rules, skills needed to successfully interview witnesses and clients, stress management, and much more.

The keynote speakers will present their client who spent nine years in prison for a crime he did not commit. They will discuss the client’s prison experience, as well as his re-trial and the role of a paralegal in an exoneration.

A continental breakfast and lunch will be provided, and registrants will be able to sit for a professional headshot. Local businesses have donated items, gift cards, and services for a drawing at the close of the event.

All are welcome to attend. For details and registration, visit http://connect.michbar.org/paralegal/home.

Any questions, contact Marianne Delaney at mdelane6@ford.com, 313-322-9379 or Lizzy Cary at lizzy@cndefenders.com, 517-885-3305.

 

Comments

  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »