2015 – Present
As of 2015, I have been working as an independent contractor performing a variety of services including contract legal support for law firms (and legal departments); event hosting and production – offering hosting or topical speaking services, speech writing, or organizing assistance; and copy and content writing services. After four years of building my client base and relocating to Illinois, I publicly launched NethWords in 2019. I use all of the skills that I have picked up over my career to offer my clients a product that they are proud to claim.
As of 2021, I founded the Mattoon Creative Group (with support from the Mattoon Arts Council) to help bring creatives together for our community.
Past Life – From Sailor to Business and Finance Paralegal
2000 – 2003
I enlisted in the US Navy with the intent of being a “Nuke.” During the lengthy (1.5 years) training process, studying to run the electric system of a nuclear-powered sub, I received the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command’s Commanding Officer’s Personal Excellence Award. In the final phase of the training, a medical condition resulted in being disqualified from sub service, and I was assigned to JAG (military law). Starting as a receptionist, I spent my last year working up to producing simple documents such as powers of attorney and managing insurance claims. This sparked my interest in working in law, but not necessarily as an attorney.
Personal Note – it was as I was coming into my own, in the service, that I started to take a serious interest in writing. My JAG Commanding Officer was enrolled in a creative writing course, and encouraged my exploration of similar, which led me to songwriting. Two problems: I can’t sing, I can’t play music.
With the internet being still new, and Yahoo! being the main search engine, I found my way to an agency that accepted only lyrics – something no major publisher does, just in case you’re considering doing that – and was up for producing songs with me. This influenced my relocation to Nashville, post-service.
2003 – 2006
I moved to Nashville and enrolled in a junior college to receive an AS in Legal Assisting. During this time, I mainly worked as a temp office professional (a “Kelly girl”, in a couple of instances), picking up experience working in corporate marketing, accounts receivable/payable, human resources, quality assurance, child support, and insurance payment processing.
Due to working day jobs, it was not possible for me to land an internship at a law firm, for college. I opted to reach out to the Legal Aid Society and offer my services as a volunteer, independent of school. In doing so, my school reached out to me and I was selected as the student member of my college’s advisory board. I graduated Magna Cum Laude and made the National Dean’s List.
Personal Note – During this time, I was too busy to do the networking to make the circles as a songwriter, though my interest was still there. I wound up crossing paths with some mystery writers, and they fed my interest in writing things other than songs. I wrote nothing. I just took the title, just referred to myself as a :writer” around the other writers. Total poser, I know. I did a lot of homework and said that was close enough for government work. A part of this time, I did work for the state, so being a government employee allowed me to use that line.
2007 – 2009
I was caught in that entry-level trap of making the minimum education requirements, but not enough experience. For some reason, nobody was interested in accepting my JAG office as relevant to civilian practice. This led me to switch to second-shift work so that I could intern at a law firm and get my foot in the door.
I met with an attorney who was staring her own practice after several years of experience as a venture capital attorney. Credentials: Harvard Law, and a nice MBA from Cornell. I hit a goldmine of knowledge that certainly set my legal career off on the right foot. I was exposed to business formations, patent applications, municipal bond drafting, product liability production, and so much more.
As it was just us and one other attorney, at any given moment, I was involved with all aspects of the business side of the practice of law. In time, I was handling all of the admin side of the firm so that the attorneys focused on only client-related work.
During this time, I continued offering my services to Legal Aid, which were getting more useful as time passed. The Middle Tennessee Paralegal Association awarded me Volunteer of the Year, and then made me the Chair of the Board of Community Services…which I held for two years. A highlight of this, for me, was getting to then give the Volunteer of the Year award to other deserving paralegals.
Personal Note – This era of my life’s excuse for not writing is brought to you by all of the writing that I did for work. After spending hours on a computer all day at work, it’s just one more thing to dust at home.
2009 – 2012
Though the experience was priceless, rising costs of living forced me to leave boutique office work for something with more financial flex. I found a position through the MTPA job portal, which led to an interview as a Legal Data Analyst. My background featuring accounting and a lot of Excel was of particular interest, as not many paralegals had that (Excel was only recently being included in school curriculum). Though my references included a Harvard attorney and a Vanderbilt law professor, it was the Legal Aid director that paid off most as the hiring manager used to work for a firm that was a top friend of Legal Aid.
During my time as a Legal Data Analyst, I coded and summarized legal spend for Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies. Teaching myself SQL so that I could better customize queries led to me becoming a hybrid Data Analyst and Business Analyst. In addition to now pulling and analyzing information, I was now writing queries that were included in the custom reporting software for other analysts to use.
Personal Note – The “write all day” excuse was in overdrive. I still hung out with my writer friends, I just didn’t write anything other than to complain in my journal or post on that new Facebook.
2012 – 2015
Relocation of my company’s physical location to one that made for a terrible commute, and lack of upward mobility, led me to seek other avenues for work. As of the early 2010s, Nashville, TN, was building a new event venue, the Music City Convention Center. Most of their sales agreements were negotiated with outside counsel (there was no legal department with the Nashville Convention Center). Said counsel suggested creating an in-house contract specialist to serve as a legal buffer, with the need being certain due to the increase in the size of customers that the convention center would be attracting.
I was hired as the premier Contract Administrator, serving on the opening team having templatized contracts (many of which are still used). During this time, I officially wrote the book for the position. My primary duties were to ensure that the city’s liabilities were minimized in negotiations (many of which had projected citywide economic impacts of over seven figures), which expanded to include insurance verification and all ownership of all forms of document management.
Personal Note – At the beginning of this job, I used to joke that I was one of the highest paid writers in Nashville just to writing being a focus of my job and it paying well. After a decade of making the rounds and claiming the title of “writer”, I decided it was time to put up or shut up. I was introduced to non-fiction storytelling events. This led to learning where my strengths were and reevaluating my focus as a writer.
2001 United States Navy: Commanding Officer’s Personal Excellence Award
2001 National Service Defense Medal
2005 National Dean’s List
2007 Middle Tennessee Paralegal Association: Volunteer of the Year
1994-1996 American Tae Kwon Do Association: First-Degree Black Belt; Level 3 Judge; Trainee Instructor.
2005-2006 Daymar Institute: Legal Studies Advisory Board; Assistant Chairman.
2005-2017 Nashville Legal Aid Society: Senior Pro Bono Volunteer.
2007-2012 Middle Tennessee Paralegal Association: Community Services Chairman ‘09-’11.
2021 Mattoon Creative Group: Founder.