What’s a nice Greek like Nikki Karakostas doing in the paralegal field?

KarakostasNikki

By Lottie Wathen
Guest Blogger

The mid-Atlantic region of the United States is dotted with nine offices of Offit Kurman, a law firm with approximately 200 employees (100 attorneys) situated between New Jersey and Virginia. Offit Kurman has experienced a dramatic growth over the last five years and, were you to visit the Washington DC office, you would find an Offit Kurman employee who is also a member of the Paralegal Internet Association, Nikki Karakostas. Nikki is a paralegal in family law and bankruptcy and with Offit Kurman for just under a year. 

Nikki, who comes from a large Greek family, was exposed to legal jargon at an early age from her attorney step-father (the person having the largest impact on her). Growing up in “the house that law built” plays a great deal in determining her career path. 

As many full-time paralegals can attest, going to school while working is tough but we have a survivor here. Enrolling in Montgomery College, she emerged with a Paralegal Certificate and an A.A.S in Paralegal Studies continuing on at the University of Maryland University College earning a B.S. in Legal Studies.  

Nikki, who comes from a large Greek family, was exposed to legal jargon at an early age from her attorney step-father (the person having the largest impact on her). Growing up in “the house that law built” plays a great deal in determining her career path. 

How many people know walking into their first law office job, it’s the right fit? Fortunately, she recognized there was going to be hard work and she wasn’t naive enough to minimize the responsibilities.  Her first job as a receptionist set the tone for a choice to become a paralegal. 

Talk to any paralegal who went to school while working and they'll tell you it is tough but we have a survivor here. Enrolling in Montgomery College, she emerged with a Paralegal Certificate and an A.A.S in Paralegal Studies and continued on at the University of Maryland University College earning a B.S. in Legal Studies.    

Thankfully, she just doesn’t do the same thing every day. Contrary to a number of paralegal jobs, we can’t say “routine and repetitious”.  Her duties would drive someone set in a routine absolutely nuts. She varies from working on discovery, pendente lite issues in a family law matter, or perhaps preparing financial statements. The next day, she may be focused on document management and a favorite, working directly with clients. 

On really good days – she might do all of those and more. Helping a client understand the process of their case and assisting them in navigating a sometimes terrifying journey is extremely rewarding.

With reward comes challenge and for Nikki, one of the biggest challenges is time management. She knows how easy it is to be pulled in multiple directions at the same time and the importance of staying on top of projects while constantly interrupted. It must take a lot of patience. A hand-written task list is her primary tool for meeting deadlines. The simple act of crossing off an assignment provides a sense of accomplishment and a visual instrument of how her day has gone.  

Who can truthfully say they absolutely love what they do? Be honest. While most people open with their “don’t like” list, getting Nikki to confess what she does not like was not going to happen. When pressed, she admitted to difficulty dealing with frustration when, after passionately putting forth a great deal of hard effort, the case ends with a thud.  

Here’s a quite reserved and sophisticated woman measuring each response carefully before speaking. When asked to talk to about family, a tiny crack appears. Is this the same person? An infectious laugh and booming personality comes unexpectedly. The affection Nikki feels for family is obvious. The two sides of her family are as different as two sides can be. On one side she has a small, quiet, loving “American” family with most members down in Florida. On the other, she has a large “very loud Greek” family with lots of relatives nearby and some still in Greece. 

A huge fan of Greek food and the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (a romantic comedy written by and starring Nia Vardalos), there was absolutely NO WAY to pass up an opportunity to ask if this Hollywood portrayal of Greek families is accurate. While no one in her family proclaims Windex® to be a cure-all (another reference to MBFG Wedding – you really must see it if you haven’t), the booming, loving way Greek families interacted on screen is pretty accurate.  

No surprise that food is an important part of Greek family life and, as a result, Nikki spent a lot of time in the kitchen as a child. She grew up cooking and now, were she not a paralegal, she would be a chef. She is a self-proclaimed “foodie”.  Taking risky adventures with food, she is always willing to try new things. Of course, there are limits.

She is not willing to sacrifice taste just for the sake of saying she ate something strange. Living and working in the D.C. area provides Nikki with ample opportunities to try new and different restaurants on a regular basis but things cooked and eaten at home with family are favorite meals. 

Nikki’s enthusiasm for the paralegal profession is evident and refreshing. If you’re feeling a bit jaded and wondering how to get “oomph” back in your job, give Nikki a ring. You’ll come away with a chuckle, a bit of comforting advice and probably a recipe for good Greek pastitsio. 

About the Author
Lottie Wathen is a litigation paralegal at Cohen & Malad, LLP in Indianapolis, Indiana where she works exclusively on family law matters. She has held leadership positions in several civic organizations, is presently a member of the board of directors for the Indiana Paralegal Association where she serves as the editor of the newsletter. Lottie may be reached at lwathen@cohenandmalad.com.  

Readers:  Need your input! Paralegal Knowledge Institute (www.paralegalknowledge.com) is surveying the community regarding continuing legal education topics the community needs. Here's an opportunity to participate and get what you need! info@paralegalknowledge.com

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