Sheila Stephenson celebrates 5 years with Atlee Hall

Written by Emma Parnham

Sheila Stephenson joined Atlee Hall in 2015 and has over two decades of experience as a paralegal.

Having grown up in York, Sheila graduated summa cum laude with honors from York College of Pennsylvania with a BA in English (writing concentration option). She then went on to pursue her paralegal career.

Sheila works as part of a legal team with partner Jaime Jackson; paralegal, Diane Fultz; and legal assistant, Karen Montgomery. Diane recently celebrated 15 years with Atlee Hall, and Karen recently celebrated her 20 year anniversary.  Including Jaime, that adds up to an impressive 60 years’ of service at Atlee Hall among this team alone. It comes as no surprise, therefore, the number of significant successful outcomes this team has achieved for its clients.

Sheila is meticulous in her case organization and management, leaves no stone unturned, and often offers alternative perspectives for consideration based on her years of experience.

Sheila reflects on her role below:

What aspects of your job do you most enjoy? 

“I enjoy being able to (hopefully) make a difference in our clients’ lives. People come to us not because they want to sue someone, but because they need help. Something has happened, either to them personally, or someone in their lives, and they want answers. They want to understand. And if something happened that should not have happened, they want help in trying to make the situation better. If I can help to achieve that for them, then it’s been a good day. 

I enjoy the opportunity to learn. Each case is different. Each case involves unique circumstances and a unique set of facts, and getting to the heart of the matter – asking the hard questions, doing the investigation, working to piece the puzzle together – is what keeps my job interesting and rewarding.”

What aspects of your job do you least enjoy, or find that you procrastinate about most? 

“There’s a loss of innocence that goes with the job. We see all the bad things that can happen, whether it be a doctor who caused irreparable harm to a patient through an act of negligence, or a truck driver who caused a crash because of a thoughtless or careless act or poor judgment. Those things stay with you, because we see, through our clients, the very real consequences of those actions. We see the gruesome photographs that the police had to take of the deceased accident victim. Or the autopsy photos. We see the infected wound that will not heal, the video of the burn victim screaming in agony during a physical therapy session, or the person with a traumatic brain injury that prevents him from doing simple math or preparing a three-step meal. 

Who would text while driving if they knew it would mean a lifetime of devastating pain and loss to a friend, family member, or neighbor? If you are a caring person, it can be very difficult not to take clients’ problems home with you.”

What advice would you give to aspiring paralegals? 

Do some soul searching. Ask yourself, what are you hoping for in a position? What unique skills do you bring to the table?  Can you wade through dozens of depositions, thousands of pages of document discovery, and scores of discovery requests? Do you enjoy fact-finding, researching and writing, or do prefer a more administrative role? Do you need more structure, or are you more of a “roll with the punches” type? How well do you manage the stress of multi-tasking and competing deadlines? 

There are many ways to apply your particular talents and skills. A small firm might need a paralegal who can handle bookkeeping and administrative tasks. A large firm might need a paralegal with a particular skill set for a specific role. In-house counsel, or a firm that does wills and estates, might not have the same time pressures as a litigation firm. A local firm that specializes in family law will not have the same needs as an urban firm that practices in complex litigation (for instance, class actions and multi-district litigation, which can involve huge numbers of documents, thousands of plaintiffs from all over the country, scores of firms, and hundreds of filings). Know what you enjoy, know your strengths and, just as importantly, recognize and respect your weaknesses.”

You’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. How have you seen plaintiff personal injury work evolve?

“The biggest change I’ve seen is the evolution of social media. Social media can be like a diary, telling the world exactly how someone feels about anything and everything. But just like a diary, things can be said that are sometimes regrettable (for plaintiffs and defendants alike), and once something is posted and “out there”, it can never really be taken back. A word to the wise that I recently read: before posting, ask yourself, is it true? Is it kind? Does it really NEED to be said?   

On a personal note:

Few people may know that Sheila’s favorite movie is the Wizard of Oz, which she would watch every year with her mother as their special tradition. Ever the practical thinker, if stranded on a desert island, Sheila would bring with her a lighter, a solar-powered water purifier, and a whole lot of sunscreen.

Atlee Hall is fortunate to have Sheila on the team and thanks her for her commitment and hard work.