Legal assistant believes in 'on the job' training


– Photo by Mary Steinmetz

Becky Ostwald brings 30 years of experience to her work as a legal assistant at Marienfeld Law in downtown Jackson.

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Becky Ostwald has spent three decades as a legal assistant for several law firms, in several Michigan cities, and in practice areas running the gamut from medical malpractice, family law, insurance defense, personal injury, corporate, real estate, probate, estates and trusts, to general litigation leading up to appeals.

“I’ve worked with a variety of attorneys from fresh out of law school to P-numbers starting with the number 1, and from very self-sufficient to running errands for them,” she says.

Although Ostwald is a graduate of the Legal Assistant program at Dorsey Business School in Wayne, her real training came hands-on “in the trenches” in each of her positions.

“On the job is the best way!  Each law firm has different procedures – you can’t learn that in school,” she says.

Her first job, where she spent four years, was in the Penobscot Building in downtown Detroit for a firm that handled a variety of practice areas including medical malpractice, criminal law, probate and estates and commercial law. Her mother also worked there as a legal assistant for the criminal attorney.

“We made some great memories working together in the same office by riding the bus downtown together and having lunch every day at Sanders,” Ostwald recalls. “I enjoyed working in downtown Detroit, where all the different shops, restaurants and the waterfront were within walking distance.”

She then worked for a firm in Plymouth for six years, before spending 11 years with a national law firm in downtown Ann Arbor, one of the largest law firms in Michigan. She worked as a legal assistant for three women corporate attorneys.

“We had some very big-named acquisitions we were involved in,” she says.  “Working in Ann Arbor is like working in a melting pot. And, being that it is a college town, it made some days very interesting!”
She was at the firm when terrorists attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.

“One attorney had a television, and that’s where we all huddled around and watched and cried,” she says. “I’ll never forget that.”

Her next position was for four years at a Lansing law firm that handled probate and estates, real estate law and family law.

“The firm was located right across the street from the Capitol building, which was really interesting,” she says. “In the summertime, you could hear protests and concerts on the Capitol lawn.”

She started working at Girodat & Marienfeld in Jackson in 2011. After recently taking a break to try the medical field for six months, she returned to the legal world to work for attorney Ron Marienfeld in his new firm, Marienfeld Law PLLC in Jackson.

“I thought I would like the change of pace, but quickly realized how much I missed working in the legal field and had to get back to it,” she says. “I’m very lucky to be where I am today.  It’s great to be ‘back in the saddle’ – this is what I know, it’s what I love.”

The firm handles cases from district court all the way to the Supreme Court, and Ostwald’s work entails a lot of time on the computer, typing of letters, pleadings, court forms, court filing, e-mailing, phone calls, and filing.

The Wayne native now makes her home in Grass Lake, where she and her husband Steve own four horses, 15 chickens, two barn cats, and three dogs.  The couple has three children, Emily, Samantha and Brian, and two grandchildren, Kenzie and Liam.

A member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Ostwald also is a member of the Michigan Trail Riders Association and the Ionia Horse Trail Association, and has served as the recording secretary for the Waterloo Horsemen's Association.

“Our favorite hobby is camping with our horses and riding the beautiful trails of Waterloo Recreational Area as well as several other horse camps around Michigan,” she says. “We also have family and property in northern Michigan where we like to spend time and hope to build a home and retire someday.”

She enjoys life in the Jackson area.

“The people are down to earth,” she says. “I’ve met some lifelong friends since starting to work in Jackson.”