We sat down with Rose State paralegal studies alumna Kerry Blackburn to discuss her academic experience and how it led to a rewarding career in the legal field. Blackburn graduated from Rose State in 2016 with an associate in applied science degree in paralegal studies. Blackburn currently works as a franchise administrator and legal assistant at ONE Gas and resides in the Oklahoma City area with her husband and two sons.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in the legal field?
After high school, I decided I didn’t want to go to college immediately. I moved to Tulsa where I met my husband, got married and had two kids. Fast forward eight years and I decided I wanted to go back to work full time. I went to work for my husband’s dental practice and then found a receptionist job at a law firm. During a big trial, a paralegal asked if I would help out with some stuff. I liked watching the trial process and the work they did.
One of the paralegals became a very good friend of mine and steered me in the direction toward being a paralegal. A while later, a legal assistant left and the firm asked me if I’d like to be a legal assistant. I accepted and realized I enjoyed this career path. I liked learning about the law and watching the process of each case.
Knowing I wanted more, I contacted Rose State about their paralegal studies program and started in 2014.
What did you like most about your experience at Rose State?
The professors. I had great professors at Rose State. Professor Burris was one of my favorites. He made class fun. Legal research and writing was not the most interesting topic but he made the class fun and enjoyable. I didn’t have a professor at Rose State who I disliked. I just enjoyed learning about the law.
How has Rose State prepared you for a career as a paralegal?
Rose State helped me learn more about the law than just on-the-job training. A professor asked me where I saw myself after graduation. My answer was that I want to work for the state’s biggest law firm, which was McAfee and Taft. So, I worked toward that goal and Rose State helped me get there.
After I graduated in May of 2016, I started working at McAfee and Taft in August of that year. I worked in oil and gas litigation. Never in my life did I picture myself in oil and gas but that’s where I landed. I enjoyed it and learned a ton.
All of my classes at Rose State had a huge part in preparing me for a career as a paralegal. Since I already worked in the legal field, I knew how to do the job but understanding the “why” is what the program taught me.
What are you doing now?
After about four years at McAfee and Taft, I kind of got burned out. I went to work for a small law firm in Oklahoma City that did litigation – more plaintiff work than anything. I was there for about a year and decided I wanted to try something other than litigation.
I applied for a job at ONE Gas in the legal department, which is where I work now. It took about two months from start to finish before I was hired. The deal they offered me, I mean, I would have been crazy not to take it. I’m a franchise administrator and legal assistant to the managing attorney at Oklahoma National Gas, a division of ONE Gas.
They are a very health-driven company. I went from having only five days of vacation to five weeks of vacation. I think I’m where I belong. I’m still in the legal field and I’m still doing what I love.
Also, in 2019, I was diagnosed with lupus as well as other auto-immune diseases. It was very difficult working full time and dealing with those health issues. I am thankful to McAfee & Taft for being so understanding during that time. I am also thankful to my current employer for giving me the amount of PTO I have so that I don’t have to worry about time off when I get sick.
I am the current President of the Central Oklahoma Association of Legal Assistants (COALA). I started in 2019 at the NALA/bar liaison and was elected to president in 2021 and was just recently re-elected as the 2022 president. COALA is an organization for legal assistants and paralegals to network, earn the CLE credits they need, etc. I am very active in the paralegal/legal assistant community. I would highly recommend any legal assistant or paralegal to join COALA.
Why should someone consider Rose State’s paralegal studies program?
Rose State has amazing professors. The classes are great and definitely prepare you to be a paralegal. The program teaches you everything you need to know about the law, how it works, how cases are filed and the process. The classes are a good size and you get to know your professors. I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else. It’s an amazing program.
Outside of work, what keeps you busy?
I like to read and I love movies. I have two sons. My oldest is a firefighter and my youngest plays basketball. On the weekend, I’m generally at a basketball court or at a game. I’m a big family person, so a lot of times I’m just spending time with my husband and our kids.