...people from all backgrounds and walks of life and at many different stages of their careers. We have featured a few below because others people's stories are often a source of inspiration or reassurance as you travel your own career pathway.
If you feel that you have an interesting story to tell and would like to be featured, simply drop us a line with brief details to profiles@ theiop.org (note the break in the address to impede spammers)
JoAnna is the Trade Mark Manager for Premier Foods Plc based in St Albans, UK and is responsible for the management of the company’s trade marks, designs and patent portfolio.
She holds a Bachelors Degree in Paralegal Studies/Prelaw from Rivier College, New Hampshire US. She is also a US certified paralegal and a certified paralegal specialist in intellectual property.
JoAnna has been in the intellectual property profession since 1995 and has worked as a paralegal in the US and London in both corporate and private practice firms. The previous companies she has worked for are Raytheon, Wang, Velcro, Epstein, Becker & Green and US Filter (Vivendi Water) in the US and The London Stock Exchange and Forresters in the UK.
JoAnna is also married and a mother to two young boys (currently 2 and 6 years). In her spare time she enjoys Pilates and is trying to complete a Masters Degree in Intellectual Property Law with the University of London, Queen Mary Distance Learning Program.
We began in 2009 with an initial plan to offer legal support to litigant in person businesses, particularly those trading internationally within the EU, needing help in recovering overdue invoices through legal action either through the County Courts or the new European Small Claims and European Order for Payment procedures. We're somewhat proud that we were the first legal service of any kind to file European claims at our local County Court - something which didnt go smoothly at first since the Court itself hadnt been appraised of these kinds of claim and had to train its staff on dealing with them - training in which we were specially and unusually invited to take part as contributors as well as observers.
Since then our activities have broadened to include helping businesses with the likes of employment law, defending commercial and civil claims against them, drafting and editing contractual conditions and agency agreements - and lately, helping litigant in person individuals with various claims too.
What we're finding is that many smaller UK businesses, European businesses of all sizes and individuals seem to seek us out because they have concerns about going to a qualified lawyer, whether this is anxiety about how they perceive things may escalate out of their control if a lawyer gets involved, anxiety about costs or about the formal nature of bringing a lawyer in. We seem to offer a more economical and friendly point of access to English and EU law, more responsive to needs and by dint of our nature as a paralegal firm we of course leave the client in the driving seat.
This of course comes with certain caveats as to what we may and may not do for clients when it comes to claims with which they'd like us to help. Claims regulation, credit licences and the like come on top of matters such as rights to conduct litigation, rights of audience and limitations to our knowledge and ability to provide legal advice, and these have to be explained to clients when they arise. And then there are the equally important matters of advising to the best of our ability on whether a client really ought to consult a lawyer rather than attempting an action himself with or without our help in preparing claim forms, particulars of claim, correspondence and eventually, trial bundles, and negotiating the Civil Procedure Rules.
It would be true to say that we have learned a great deal in starting our paralegal service. Our initial plan was to make use of our long experience in European international trade and transport and running our companies in that sector to provide the services we originally envisioned, but with each new client it seems that some new area opens up to us that because we have to research it and become familar with it, it adds to our knowledge and our capabilities. Alongside the more general knowledge we're acquiring from enlisting with the OU for the LLB, this more specific knowledge helps us to deliver a wider range of service to clients. At the same time though its vital we believe to know our limits and where necessary to refer enquiries to more appropriate sources of help - much of the everyday activities of law firms after all fall well outside our specific expertise and, unless we're sure we can help, a referral is often the best help to provide.
Going forward we see ourselves becoming more established as a specialist service for our target clients in European international trade and transport and becoming the "go to guys" for European claims procedures, developing ourselves and our business as professional service providers and as members of the Institute into the future.