Aaron has worked in litigation since 2001 overseeing 120+ trials during his career. Currently, Aaron serves as the Director of Legal Operations & Litigation Management for Balfour Beatty, a $14 Billion market-cap multinational infrastructure group with capabilities in construction services, engineering, and infrastructure investments. Before joining Balfour Beatty, Aaron was the first ever non-attorney to serve as Director of Litigation for Copart, Inc. – a multi-billion dollar public company in the automotive technology space. Prior to working in-house, Aaron worked for several top litigation law firms in Dallas and New York as their senior managing trial paralegal. Contemporaneous to his day job, Aaron is the adjunct professor of legal technology, eDiscovery, and litigation management at Southern Methodist University, where he previously earned his Bachelor's degree in Jurisprudential studies and a graduate-level Paralegal certificate. Most recently, Aaron completed a professional certificate in Data Science & Analytics for Executives from Columbia University in New York, and a Micro Masters in Artificial Intelligence from MIT. In addition to authoring numerous articles in the areas of litigation management and legal technology, Aaron has been called as a subject-matter expert at trial for cases involving discovery abuse and violations. Aaron also serves on the Board of Directors for the Association of Certified eDiscovery Specialist (ACEDS). [Updated as of 08/13/2020]
Debbi is a litigation paralegal with over 25 years of experience in the legal field. She has worked on a variety of cases such as Patent Litigation, Trademark, Commercial Litigation, Employment, Personal Injury, Healthcare and Appellate cases. Debbi earned her Bachelor's degree from the University of North Texas and an Associates degree in Paralegal Studies from El Centro College.
Debbi joined DAPA as a student member in 1998. She became an active member in 2003. In 2010, Debbi served as Job Bank Administrator until the summer of 2011. She has served as Weekly Communications Manager distributing the Weekly E News since 2011. Debbi is the board advisor for the Job Bank Administrator and Website Administrator. She also serves as the Newsletter Editor and is a mentor in DAPA's Mentor/Protégé Program. Debbi is the recipient of DAPA's President's Award in 2012 and the Paralegal of the Year Award in 2016.
She is also a member of the Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas and The Bar College of the State of Texas. She is a supporter of Dallas Komen in which she participates yearly in the Dallas Komen Race for the Cure. Debbi is also a supporter of the Texas SPCA, Operation Kindness and the North Texas Food Bank. Debbi spends her free time gardening, reading, listening to music, and spoiling her dog or as she likes to call her "furry child".
For Laura, the paralegal profession is a second career. After almost twenty years in restaurant operations, she transitioned into the legal field. Laura earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Houston. Laura later received her paralegal certificate from Sothern Methodist University in 2012 and earned her Core Registered paralegal credential from the National Federation of Paralegal Associations in 2013.
Laura currently works as a litigation paralegal at the Law Offices of William W. Kruger, III, in Richardson, Texas. The firm's focus is primarily municipal defense. Several of the firm's cases have made local and national news.
Laura has been an active member of the Dallas Area Paralegal Association since 2012. She has held multiple positions, including Sustaining Member Liaison (2013, 2014), Director-At-Large (2015, 2016), NFPA Secondary Representative (2016), NFPA Primary Representative (2017), President-Elect (2018), and President (2019). Her dedication to DAPA earned her the Volunteer of the Year Award (2013) and the President's Award (2018).
Outside of her paralegal life, Laura enjoys spending time with friends and family, including her "Legal Beagle" Bailey. She is a Girl Scout Alum, multi-year volunteer at the Byron Nelson Golf Classic, and participates on several committees at her church. Laura is also an avid sports fan, always rooting for her Houston Cougars, Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, and Texas Rangers.
Octavia has been a partner in a local small business (W/MBE) since 2001. During the 15 years she was actively involved in business ownership, she obtained both her Bachelor and Master’s degrees, as well as received several certifications for Human Resources, Payroll, and Management.
In 2016, she decided to step aside from her self-employment responsibilities and joined Hunt Consolidated, a multi-billion dollar privately owned energy firm headquartered in Dallas, TX. Octavia’s employment at Hunt began in the Research & Development section of their venture capitalist division, in a department named HEE Solar. In her role as Office Manager, Octavia oversaw the day to day operations of the department. To add value to her position, in 2018, Octavia decided to pursue her Paralegal certificate from SMU. Upon successful completion of this program, she also obtained her Intellectual Property Specialist Certification from University of Texas in Austin and began a role as an IP Paralegal for HEE Solar.
In 2020, she was promoted to the role of Business Services Manager for Hunt Energy, the parent company of HEE Solar. In this position she has maintained her Paralegal responsibilities as well as acquired several additional keys roles that help ensure the success of the various start-up ventures that are initiated within Hunt.
Octavia has been married to her husband, Godswill, for 21 years and they have four children, Faith (18), Hope (17), Godswill II (14), and Gabriel (12). Octavia is a Dallas native that currently resides in Lancaster, Texas.
If interested in this Board position, please contact any of our Board members to start a conversation. We would love to get you involved.
Jill graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in English in 2013. She has had the privilege of interning with the Office of the Attorney General in Washington, D.C. as well as Neal, Gerber, Eisenberg in Chicago, IL. She began working exclusively in family law when relocating to Houston, Texas and joining the Fullenwider Wilhite law firm in 2016. Before moving to Dallas, Texas, Jill recently received a certificate from the University of Houston for their Advanced Paralegal Program. She is currently a paralegal at Verner Brumley Mueller Parker, P.C. In addition to her voting membership and entertainment committee chair position, she is also a member of the National Notary Association and Lambda Iota Tau (LIT).
Melody is a graduate of Florida Metropolitan University in 1993 with an Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies. Melody became Certified through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) in 2006. For over 20 years, Melody has worked in a variety of large document production, complex litigation, construction litigation and personal injury cases, etc. In 2007, Melody relocated from Orlando, Florida and began her employment with Heygood Orr & Pearson, where she was the Senior Lead Paralegal in the hundreds of pharmaceutical cases filed against the Fentanyl manufacturers. The Fentanyl manufacturers were producing defective Fentanyl patches that delivered an uncontrolled and unintended amount of Fentanyl, causing patients to overdose, resulting in serious and potentially fatal side effects, and ultimately death. These pharmaceutical cases were filed in State and Federal Court nationwide. In 2012, Melody joined Ramey Law Firm running a 1+ attorney law firm as Senior Litigation Paralegal and Office Administrator. Melody believes the best part of working in the personal injury industry is that you have the opportunity to help people who are feeling overwhelmed by something that was not their fault. Taking the stress away from the client and allowing them to focus on their health and well-being is my top priority. In her spare time, Melody enjoys traveling with her husband, cooking, singing in her Church choir, entertaining and decorating.
Bio coming soon!
Luisa started her legal career in 1992 after graduating in the top 5% of her class from Gladys Porter High School in Brownsville, Texas. She started as a dictation clerk for a personal injury law firm and has diligently worked to be in the position she is now. She has worked as a litigation paralegal for over 14 years in different types of litigation.
Luisa is currently employed with a Plaintiff’s Personal Injury firm in Uptown. Her work includes civil trials and commercial litigation. She is also considered a trial technician for her use and knowledge of Sanctions. She previously worked for an insurance defense firm in Houston until she moved to the Dallas location in Spring of 2012. She followed her current attorney whom she met in 2006 while both employed for an insurance defense firm in Houston. During her tenure in the smaller firms, she has worked in real estate closings, personal injury, bankruptcy and bookkeeping. She acquired the bookkeeping skills early on in her career while working for a solo attorney who handled every case possible – divorces, criminal, general litigation and collections.
Luisa was born in Galveston, Texas. She has two fur babies - Bubba who is 10 years old and Maddie who is now 4 years old. In her downtime, she enjoys traveling, reading, gardening, sewing, beading and cooking. [Updated as of 08/24/2020]
Cindy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Southwest Texas State University in 1998. She received her Paralegal Certificate through the University of North Texas Professional Development Institute in 2012. She joined the Dallas Area Paralegal Association in 2016 as a student member while attending El Centro College to earn her Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies in 2017. She is currently employed as a paralegal at The Silvera Firm. She moved to Coppell from Austin with her husband and cat in 2015. While Cindy pursues a wide variety of interests, she is especially an avid reader and knitter.
Kelli Smith brings a comprehensive background coupled with numerous years of experience working in the legal industry to the Dallas Area Paralegal Association and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. Kelli is a Senior Paralegal in the Legal Affairs Division of Hilltop Holdings, a diversified Dallas-based financial services company, and one of the largest bank holding companies in Texas.
Kelli obtained her AAS in Management from Eastfield College in 2006, and in 2011, was one of the first 148 paralegals in the nation who passed the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam® pilot test. Sixteen Texas paralegals passed the exam earning the CRPTM credential.
Kelli has been a member of DAPA since 2008, serving on the Board of Directors since 2011, and has held various positions within the organization including Vendor Co-Advisor, Professional Development Director, Director-at-Large, Membership Vice President, NFPA Primary, Education Vice President, President-Elect, and President.
Kelli has served and continues to serve on several committees including NFPA Convention Committee, Scholarship Committee, Mentor/Protégé Committee, Paralegal Day Committee, Holiday Luncheon Committee, Nominations Committee, and Membership Committee. Kelli is also a member of the State Bar of Texas-Paralegal Division. In 2013, Kelli was the recipient of the Dallas Area Paralegal Association’s Paralegal of the Year Award.
Kelli currently volunteers for, and is a 19-year veteran and Co-Chairman over nearly 200 Corporate Venue Volunteers at the Byron Nelson Golf Classic, volunteering on behalf of the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the quality of life of young people through education and mental health services. [Updated as of 11/24/2020]
Michele is a senior paralegal with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in Dallas, Texas and has 39 years of experience. She holds a bachelor's and master's degree from the University of North Texas and an A.A. from the El Centro College Paralegal Program. She is a Board Certified Paralegal - Civil Trial, Texas Board of Legal Specialization and a Certified Paralegal ("CP" through NALA) as well as a past President of the Paralegal Division, State Bar of Texas and a past President of the Dallas Area Paralegal Association. Michele has also served on the State Bar of Texas Paralegal Committee, the TBLS Paralegal Civil Trial Commission, NFPA's Certification Standards Committee, and Paralegal Today magazine's editorial review board. She received the Dallas Area Paralegal Association's Paralegal of the Year Award in 1995, NFPA's Paralegal of the Year award in 2005 the Dallas Area Paralegal Association Lifetime Achievement award in 2006 and NFPA's Robie Leadership Award in 2011. She is currently an Instructor and Consultant in SMU’s Paralegal Certificate Program. [Updated as of 08/13/2020]
Lindy has provided detailed legal support as a paralegal since November 2019 by working through complex litigation and transactional cases from beginning to end. Lindy was first introduced to DAPA by attending the Wendi Atwood Rogers Mentorship Workshop where she first felt inspired to pursue a career as a paralegal. Lindy’s education includes having graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Fayetteville State University, and a graduate-level Paralegal Studies certificate from Southern Methodist University. In conjunction with her Paralegal Studies certificate, Lindy has continued to expand upon her knowledge and passion of the legal field by serving on the DAPA Board of Directors since 2021.
Sarah received her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and Paralegal Certification from Indiana University (Indianapolis) in 2007. Immediately after, she began working as a Litigation Paralegal at Barnes & Thornburg’s chief office in Indianapolis, Indiana. After a decade of assisting attorneys and clients with their nation-wide product liability, toxic tort and class action matters, Sarah transferred to the firm’s Dallas, Texas office in 2019 to broaden her trial experience. Sarah currently works directly under a trial attorney and handles high-profile and high-stakes jury trials of virtually all types. Sarah also works with the firm’s Washington D.C. office, currently serving as a member of the team assisting the Special Compliance Coordinator appointed by the U.S. Department of Commerce to monitor, assess and report on the U.S. export control compliance of Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation, of Shenzhen, China, and ZTE Kangxun Telecommunications Ltd. of Hi-New Shenzhen, China (collectively, ZTE). In addition to her recent trial and monitorship work, Sarah continues to support attorneys across the firm in their various litigation matters from inception to trial. This is Sarah’s first board appointment and she is excited to collaborate and grow with other like-minded professionals.