ANN HALKETT joined Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang LLP in 2000 as a senior paralegal and has more than eighteen years experience. Ann became Litigation Support Manager in 2014. Ann advises and assists on a wide variety of litigation support systems and technologies including evidence management, electronic discovery and specialized databases and trial presentations.
Ann has dealt with all levels of the courts from Small Claims to the Supreme Court of Canada and in a number of civil litigation practice areas including municipal nuisance and negligence, fire loss, sexual assault, construction, commercial, aviation, personal injury (plaintiff and defence), foreclosures and collections.
How and why did you get involved with CLEBC?
I think the year was 2003. I accepted as I enjoy teaching and because teaching forces me to learn a subject very well. This has helped me immensely in my job as it forces me to keep on top of the latest developments in technology or otherwise.
What has been your most memorable CLEBC experience?
The first CLE in 2003 was the most memorable. My topic was chambers practice and the audience was primarily populated with legal support staff. If I recall correctly, one of the other speakers called in at the last minute to advise that they could not make it and I was asked to extend my seminar from one hour to two hours to fill in the time slot. I turned the seminar into a teaching session in which I taught attendees basic drafting principles through a series of exercises.
You were recently involved in some courses on eDiscovery, as well as presenting on the topic at this year’s Family Law Basics for Paralegals and Legal Support Staff course. Can you share some thoughts on evolving technology and digitization in the industry? What does it mean for support staff?
Approximately 98% of all documents originate in electronic format. It is already challenging to gather electronic evidence due to myriad of different electronic formats in which the evidence resides (e.g. social media, the cloud, different operating systems, and file formats to name a few). I read about newer forms of technology each day such as driverless cars, and wearable tech (e.g. Google Glass), etc. Then there is the vast volume of evidence. This has made (and will make) it even more difficult for law firms to gather and review evidence. More firms will be forced to invest in technologies and staff who specialize in dealing with electronic evidence so that they can continue to compete. These staff will need to have a firm footing in both the legal and technology arenas.
When we asked you for this interview, you responded, “I very much enjoy working with CLE. I wish more support staff would volunteer.” Why do you think more support staff should consider contributing to CLEBC and other legal communities in BC?
Absolutely! Knowledge is the key. I have always been a very strong believer in education. All of our jobs easier when we are all on same page in terms of knowledge level. I see so many mistakes being made with electronic evidence by opposing parties that cost clients a lot of money. I believe education is the key to solving this issue.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you have received?
“Jack of all trades and master of none.” It is a clichéd phrase, but rings true. Specialization is the key. If you want to do a job well you need to do it all the time. Some of the software programs I use have very steep learning curves as they are not intuitive. You have to use them every day in order to master them. When you master them you can become “creative” in how you use them.
Who has influenced and inspired you in your career?
My mother. She was a very stubborn Irish woman. I admired her because she never gave up. When she set her mind to something she worked tirelessly until she achieved it. She didn’t listen to the naysayers.
What advice would you give to new paralegals and legal support staff?
Never become complacent—always strive to learn and improve your skill set and abilities. Think outside of the box. I also think it is critical that paralegals and LAAs obtain software skills. Master Excel, PowerPoint, etc. before moving on to more advanced technologies. You become more marketable when you are tech savvy.
If you could change one thing in the legal community/profession what would it be, and why?
I wish the courts would embrace technology. There are so many efficiencies and cost benefits to be gained through its use.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
Mentoring others as it is a two-way learning process.
What is the most difficult part of your job? How do you work through it?
I would say extremely tight timelines. Electronic evidence can be voluminous. You would be surprised at how much evidence can sit on a little flash drive. Sometimes it is just not physically possible to produce the evidence in a format for review within a few hours. I overcome hurdles like this through communication with the lawyers I work with and with opposing counsel. When people understand the process and what is involved they are very understanding. It is rare that we cannot find a solution that everyone is content with.
If you weren’t working in law what career path would you have chosen?
Perhaps a novelist. I worked as a reporter for a spell, but the pay was awful so I switched to law as I found it very interesting. I admire those who can write prose well.