In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups- the police, who investigate crime, and the District Attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.
Shannon Rezanina would spend countless hours in front of the television, not just watching what was going on, but studying it, being mesmerized by it. Whether it was Lenny Briscoe and Jack McCoy or Elliot Stabler and Alexandra Cabot, the characters Rezanina watched enchanted her. They inspired her. In all honesty, they set her future in motion and cemented the idea of what she wanted to do with her career.
“Watching Law and Order is what first interested me in the world of law,” laughed Rezanina. “That probably sounds stupid, but it’s true. I thought that the world was really interesting, and it was one I wanted to be a part of, so I went to school to be a paralegal, and got my Associate’s of Science degree in Paralegal Studies.”
She received her degree from Casper College in 2005, and shortly thereafter she began working for Williams, Porter, Day and Neville which was, quite literally, a dream come true.
“The process of getting hired was actually a pretty smooth one,” Rezanina remembered. “My teacher at the college helped all of us find jobs. She was very well-respected, so a lot of attorneys would go to her if they were looking for paralegals. Craig Silva, at the time, was looking for a paralegal, so they contacted me, I went in for an interview and they offered me a job the next day!”
Sometimes, people just click. That’s what happened with Rezanina and the rest of the team at WPDN. They saw how eager she was, how talented she was, and how passionate she was. She saw how honest, hardworking and trustworthy they were. It was a good fit, that’s all. If Rezanina needed any more proof about the integrity of the attorneys at WPDN, she would find it in a case she worked involving a truck driver who was being sued because of an accident. It was during that case that she found out just exactly what WPDN was made of.
“One case that really sticks out is one involving a truck driver who had gotten into an accident and was being sued because of it,” Rezanina said. “We were representing the driver and when he got in the accident, it totaled his truck. He basically lost everything because he lived in his truck. He had nothing and was living in a cargo trailer in one of the trucking companies’ lots. We met him in Denver for his deposition and saw that he was down and out and had no money. So, the attorney I was working for gave him money for his medication that he hadn’t been taking, because he couldn’t afford it. And we just helped him out as best we could.”
They didn’t have to do that. They were only required to defend the man in court. They didn’t need to go above and beyond that, but they did because it was the right thing to do. Eventually, they were able to settle the case for the driver, who ended up getting back on his feet and started working for another company. It was not a fun situation for any of the parties involved, but the man got a happy ending, simply because his attorney and paralegal offered not only a handout but a hand up. And that made all the difference.
“During the case, I would talk to him a lot, of course. And even after the case was done, he would talk to me. That story really sticks out to me the most because we’re not just representing these people; we play a big part in some of their lives. Plus, it was really cool to see another side of my attorney as well, just the fact that he reached out to this man and gave him something without expecting anything in return.”
That was when Rezanina knew, really knew, that she was in the right career, with the right firm.
These days, Rezanina works primarily for Scott Ortiz but, she says, everybody basically works for everybody at WPDN. They all help each other out when they can, which is something she absolutely loves.
“I really like working for Scott, which is good because, before I started working for him, I was very nervous to work with him,” she laughed. “But now that I’m working for him, I have a great working relationship with him that I cherish. He is very caring, and he genuinely cares about his staff. He’s really good at teaching things and including me in decisions. Whether we’re at trial, or picking the jury, he’ll always ask my opinion about things, which is really nice.”
In addition to offering her opinion when asked, Rezanina also performs a lot of the behind the scenes work during the case and at trial.
“We do a lot of insurance defense,” she said, “so my responsibilities include all of the discovery. I do a lot of medical chronology, which means I go through the medical records and create a summary of events of somebody’s medical history. Paralegals can also draft initial pleadings. We can go to trial with the attorneys and help pick the jury, we can manage the exhibits and create PowerPoints (sometimes in minutes!), and we can offer our opinions as well.
In essence, paralegals are the backbone of a law firm. They’re the unsung heroes of the legal world, and that is a position Shannon Rezanina holds with great gratitude. She loves her job and she admires the people with whom she works.
“It sounds silly, but I just think we’re one big family. I call my coworkers my second family because we’re with each other more than we’re with our real families a lot of the time. We work well together and, while I mainly work for Scott, any one of us would jump in and help another attorney or another paralegal on a case that they’re working on. The partners also like to encourage us to be active in the community and to continue our education.”
That’s exactly what she did, too. In addition to her degree in Paralegal Studies, she has also completed her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, an area that could absolutely apply to her job if she ever wanted it to. Rezanina is an Advanced Certified Paralegal and, every year, she is required to take the CLE to keep her certification, which speaks to the drive and passion she exhibits in her career.
For most of us, just watching a television show and being entertained by it would be enough. But that show was more than just a TV show to Shannon Rezanina. It was a challenge. It was a glimpse into a potential future. And when she had the opportunity to move towards that direction, she jumped at the chance. She may not be cross-examining a witness or going toe-to-toe with a prosecutor. But what Shannon Rezanina does matters. She helps people. She impacts people. She changes people.
More than anything, she gives people a sense of law and order.