Let’s Talk Tech: Administrator Roundtable

I cringed when Misty Quaintance, Technical Director of Terrapin Technology Group, talked about phishing emails and “spear-phishing” – even “ransomware” – and how common it is for people to click on the link provided in these emails. The potential damage to not only that user’s computer but the entire network made this packed house squirm a little in their seats.

2016 - terrapin july lunch
The Terrapin Team: Nathan, Marni, Misty, Betty, Joe


At least it doesn’t only happen at my law firm (and I would guess from all the squirming most administrators at the luncheon had that same thought).

Fortunately, Misty did not just present problems but she provided solutions. Educating users is a huge first step. Nathan Johanson, President of Terrapin, jumped in to stress the importance of regular, frequent system back-ups and recommended backing up the system at least four times a day.

Misty definitely lived up to her “nerd guy” nickname (in a good way) and her presentation proved how knowledgeable she is regarding technology.

Next up, Betty Nelson, Practice Support Coordinator, and Marni Beach, Technical Engineer and Instructor, talked about Best Practices. While neither have a nickname (at least not one they shared with the group) they both were just as knowledgeable and dynamic.

luncheon - July 2016 - Betty
Betty Nelson

Betty has been in the legal business since Cyndi Lauper told us Girls Just Want to Have Fun and boy does she! Betty not only has passion for helping us create an environment in our firms that encourages technical proficiency but she has the most enjoyable and infectious laugh!

Marni talked about competency skills and offering training and testing (oops! “assessment”) without scaring the staff out the front door. With Marni’s enthusiasm and can-do attitude to back up her training and technical expertise she proved to be a dynamic, motivational speaker.

Luncheon - July 2016 - Marni
Marni Beach

Marni and Betty suggested firms find internal power users to be mentors to other staff that don’t have the natural inclination to have computer proficiency. They stressed the importance of putting a positive spin on training and assessments and suggested a monthly training “lunch and learn” that can focus on areas people are struggling with. Their ideas for incentives were original and creative (for instance, spot bonuses or creating a passport that people use to collect competency stickers).

They stepped back and encouraged each table to discuss our technology challenges and then made us talk about what we discussed (but not in an annoying, classroom-style kind of way). The discussions were lively and informative and about real issues that each of us struggle with in each of our firms.

Many of us might find technology dry (not to name names or to make any confessions) but the energy of Misty, Betty and Marni was infectious and made me (I mean some other person) forget about that. The luncheon was fun and informative and left us with actionable items that we can implement in our own firms.

The Terrapin team (which included Joe O’Donnell, Technical Engineer and Instructor leading the discussion at my table) did a terrific job putting together an engaging presentation and roundtable. Their support of the SVALA as a Platinum Business Partner and as educators for our firms is much appreciated.

The lunch ended with a raffle with gift cards donated by the SVALA and a few more donated by Terrapin. I would list the winners but I was listening so intently for my name to be drawn I forgot to write down who won. (No, I didn’t win.)

luncheon - july 2016 - group 3
July 2016 Luncheon Attendees

Also, many thanks go to Kellie B. Narayan for putting together a lunch with such high attendance!

Thanks again to Terrapin! If you want to learn more about Nathan and his company, please read about them in the Business Partner Spotlight.

Coming up: watch this space for information about the August luncheon.

Board Member Spotlight

Board Member Spotlight: Paula and Kellie

In our last Board Member Spotlight, we learned Lindsey is anything but a homebody; Susan loves traveling, the ocean, her granddaughter and rescue dog (not necessarily in that order) and Joan probably surprised us all with the revelation that she has a past that includes competitive ballroom dancing!

Join me in learning about two more of our board members, Paula Lee and Kellie Narayan. Let’s see what surprises they have in store for us!

BOD spotlight - Paula pic
Paula Lee

Paula Lee, Law Firm Leadership and Holiday Event Chair
Sacramento Operations Manager
Klinedinst PC  

Tell us about your professional life. I have the exciting life of an Operations Manager. I have loved my firm and its people for 24 years. I started my career with Klinedinst PC as a production clerk right out of college (BA in Communications from UC Santa Barbara) and was promoted to the accounting department almost immediately. When I started in the accounting department there were three of us. The other two moved on and I was left to build and manage the accounting department up to an eight person team. I transferred up from the Klinedinst’s San Diego office and I helped open the Sacramento office in 2004 with one attorney and myself. The Klinedinst’s Sacramento office now has 11 attorneys and six support staff.

Why did you choose to serve on the SVALA Board? I decided to serve on the board to hang out with a couple of friends and put my spare time to good use. My very first time on the board was in 2012 as the Newsletter Editor and I also served as the Community Connection Event Chair in 2013. This year I am co-chairing the Holiday Party and Leadership Luncheon with Cindy Pilon. Save this date: Wednesday, December 7 for the Holiday Party at Empress Tavern. Jolly times ahead!

BOD Spotlight - Paula puppy
Meet Delilah

Tell us a little about your personal life/passion. I love Star Wars and have attended San Diego’s Comic-Con for the past four years and I am very blessed to have a husband and two nephews that tag along. I also have an adorable golden retriever named Delilah who is so sweet and very spoiled.

My favorite SVALA event to attend is the Community Connection Event. The charities that we sponsor are always so appreciative and thankful and it’s such a great way to serve our community. What a fun way to support others and do some good.


Kellie B. Narayan, Programs and Education Chair
Executive Director
Wilke Fleury

Luncheon - June 2016 - Kellie 3
Kellie was also our June SVALA Luncheon speaker

Tell us about your professional life. I am the Executive Director at Wilke Fleury in Sacramento. I have been with Wilke Fleury since January 1, 2015 when I joined the firm after relocating from the Bay Area to move closer to family.

I have worked in the legal field for 25 years and done absolutely every job there is to do in a firm except become an attorney, which I decided at the last minute not to do after taking the LSAT, and applying and being accepted to Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. I decided to go into personnel management instead and obtained my SPHR certification. I let it lapse a few years ago since H.R. is just one (vital) part of the overarching operational management roles required by an E.D. That said, effectively managing Human Resources is always close to my heart and informs so many of the issues we manage on a daily basis.

I have a B.A. in Communication and minor in Sociology from the University of Hawaii, Manoa. I returned to college as a 27-year old single mother with an 8 year old. Kayla Joy, who is now 27, lived on campus with me in Hawaii for 3 years while I attended college. I walked her to school each day, went to my classes, then picked her up and we went to the beach in Waikiki. It was amazing!  I also studied Japanese for 3 years while attending UH and traveled to Kyoto, Japan for summer study my second year. Unfortunately, I have forgotten most of the Japanese I learned, but I can still order food and say “Good morning!” if necessary. I received several scholarships while attending UH, and won the Best Public Speaking award in my first-year Public Speaking class.

Why did you choose to serve on the SVALA Board? I have a sickness – I am obsessed with being better, learning more and making law firms better. I absolutely love how incredibly smart, savvy, interesting, capable and strong law firm administrators must be, and I am always hungry to learn from others who daily navigate the incredibly challenging positions we all hold. Cheri Blethen and I got together for lunch one day and she mentioned that there was a position coming open and asked if I would be interesting in serving. I told her I would be thrilled to be considered, and she nominated me to the Board.

BOD spotlight - Montage-Kellie
Kellie’s Lovely Family

Tell us a little about your personal life/passion. After 16 years as a single mother, I married my husband, R.D. (who I actually dated when Kayla Joy was 3!). Our tale travels down a long and winding road, but we are happy to have been married for 11 years and added two beautiful children to our family. Elaine is now 10 and Daniel is 6. We also just recently adopted a beautiful 2.5 year old German Shepherd named Brando. Our families are all in the Folsom/Sacramento area and we are thrilled to be so close to family now that we see everyone so much more often. We attended the same church in the Bay Area for 20+ years and enjoyed a rich circle of friends with so much love and support, so now that we are in the Sacramento area, we are thrilled to have found a great new church and have met some wonderful new friends and families.

I spend all of my off-work time with family. We love just to be together, watch the kids jump on the trampoline in the backyard, enjoy outdoor bbqs with the neighbors and friends, sip a great glass of (red) wine and enjoy the amazing summer nights outside Sacramento. I love the rolling hills, the cows out by where we live, and the fresh strawberry stands along Grant Line Road — the poetry of nature sings to me as I drive home from work each night; drawing me gently away from the stress of the day and ushering me into peace. I love it!

Anything else you’d like to share? I am extremely competitive. In college, several of the top students and I would compete to see who had the highest “A” on a test or in the class. #NerdFun. Confession: When I was raising my eldest as a single mom, I wouldn’t even let her win at Candyland. I would be like, “Boom, Yeah!  You GO to that Gumdrop Forest!!”  I’m happy to say I’ve matured since then and take the kinder, gentler route with my young ones.

I am also in the process of writing a novel, which I hope to finish by the end of the year. No, it is not at all about law firms!

Many thanks to Paula and Kellie for sharing a little bit about themselves.

It is so much fun to learn new things about people we work with, whether it is in the office, on the Board of Directors or just socializing at a member luncheon. I encourage you to consider joining the Board of Directors at some point in your career. I guarantee you won’t regret it! (Well, you might regret it once you realize you have to participate in an interview with the Editor but it will only be slightly painful . . .)

Business Partners

Business Partner Spotlight: Terrapin Technology Group

One of the benefits of being a member of the SVALA is getting to know our fabulous Business Partners.  Several have been supporters of our group for many years so the members get to see these companies on a regular basis and talk with them on a personal level without the pressure of a sales presentation.

labor bkfst - terrapin - 1-2015
Terrapin Technology at the 2015 Labor Law Breakfast

Business Partners are people too!

Terrapin Technology Group has been one of those long-time supporters and is one of our Platinum Sponsors. Nathan Johanson has created an IT firm that many of our members are familiar with and use in various capacities. My firm (Murphy Austin Adams Schoenfeld LLP) has used Terrapin for some of our training needs and Boutin Jones uses them for tech support and training as well.

There are several other member firms that have used Terrapin which probably has helped propel them into the Sacramento Business Journal’s Top Ten Fastest Growing Companies in the Sacramento region! Wow!

Terrapin Technology is hosting a “Let’s Talk Tech” Administrator Roundtable at our July 27 luncheon at the Casa Garden Restaurant.

For now, let’s learn more about Terrapin Technology Group and Nathan Johanson!

Thank you for being a Platinum Business Partner of the Sacramento Valley Legal Administrators Association.  Please tell us why you chose to support our organization.

Terrapin is focused on meeting the IT needs of law firms. We work with legal administrators all the time and help them make effective IT strategy and purchasing decisions. We respect the work that SVALA does in serving these professionals, so it’s a natural fit for us.

Please tell us about Terrapin Technology Group and the services you provide.

Terrapin provides a full range of IT consulting services, from day-to-day user support to system maintenance, complete system engineering and training, with a focus on serving the needs of law firms. Terrapin also offers installation of network cabling, telephone, audio visual and security systems. Our dedicated team is available whenever issues arise – even during odd hours.

Give us a little background about yourself.   

I worked for The Computer People (now Terrapin) for six years prior to purchasing the company with my business partner Tim Raney in 2008. I was previously the west coast information systems manager for Pumatech in San Jose, where I managed IT for the San Jose, Los Gatos, Santa Cruz and Emeryville facilities.

How is it different working with law firms than other non-legal businesses?

Because of the nature of the business, law firms understand the importance of their IT infrastructure and can easily calculate the costs of downtime: they simply need to multiply the number of billable hours lost across all attorneys. They’re a highly educated client base and are quick to understand our recommendations for securing and improving their infrastructure and systems.

Tell us how you would describe your working style.  What makes you successful at what you do?

Terrapin is fortunate to have a tremendous team, with the right combination of technical and people skills. We have a real understanding of the legal community and many of our employees have previous experience as legal secretaries, administrators or law firm IT professionals. In fact, the two latest additions to our team each have more than 20 years of experience at law firms. We only hire people who have an attention to detail and a strong work ethic, including a personal sense of obligation to the client.

Tell us something fun you enjoy doing outside of work. 

When I’m not at work, I enjoy spending time with my family. We keep busy with our kids’ activities, including soccer, guitar lessons and swimming. I also love listening to music; I’m an audiophile and have been steadily building my record collection. Remember those old vinyl records? I also recently started cycling and will compete in my first Eppie’s Great Race this year.

What do you want the SVALA members to know about you and Terrapin Technology Group?

Since our formation, Terrapin has developed a strong reputation for providing excellent customer service and, as a result, virtually all of our new business is generated by referral. This is due to our strong team, who are not only tech-savvy but who have a real commitment to doing a great job for our clients. We pride ourselves on having employees who are professional, well-spoken and friendly. We get the legal business, so there is no learning curve when we start work with new law firms.

Many thanks to Nathan for his time! I am looking forward to the “Let’s Talk Tech” Administrators Roundtable and hope to see everyone there!

Board Member Spotlight

Board Member Spotlight: Lindsey, Sue & Joan

There are 15 members of the SVALA 2016 – 2017 Board of Directors and we would like to introduce all of them to you!

We asked questions and got them talking about their professional life, why they serve on the SVALA board and even pried into their personal life. We love to know what people do in their “real life” or what they are passionate about, right? Or, we might just be nosy! Either way, we have the scoop for you.

Without further ado, let’s introduce the first three of our Board Members and find out who these people are (spoiler alert: you’re going to love them!).

BOD Spotlight - StaplesParis
Lindsey with her husband, Sean

Lindsey Staples, Membership Chair
Senior Manager of Operations & Professional Recruiting
Meyers Nave

Tell us about your professional life. I joined Meyers Nave 10 years ago as the Office Manager for the Sacramento office. Over the years, my role has evolved and I am now the Senior Manager of Operations & Professional Recruiting. How it all began….I started my legal career as a receptionist at a law firm and became a legal secretary and also worked as a paralegal. I was always drawn to the administrative/operations side of the business, so when a partner I worked for opened his own firm and asked me to manage his office, I jumped at the opportunity. And, as they say, the rest is history!

BOD Spotlight - UnicornStaples
Meet Unicorn Lindsey

Why did you choose to serve on the SVALA Board? I chose to serve on the SVALA Board as a way to get more involved in the Sacramento legal community. I had been a member of SVALA for years, but never really got involved. There were always “more pressing” duties at work that kept me seated at my desk and not attending luncheons and mixers, so I joined the Board as a way to force myself to get out there and connect with colleagues. It’s been a great experience and a wonderful way to expand my network!

Tell us a little about your personal life/passion. Personal life? I’m a law firm administrator. What’s a personal life? KIDDING!!! My husband and I love to travel. We LIVE for traveling! Whether it’s a long weekend in Palm Springs or two weeks traveling around Europe over Christmas, we love to explore new places and live like locals! Next up is Hawaii….Aloha!

2015 - CCE Sue with granddaughter
Sue with her granddaughter, Hayden, Community Connection Event 2015

Susan Nielsen, Salary Survey Chair
Firm Administrator
Segal & Associates, PC

Tell us about your professional life. I have been the administrator of Segal & Associates, PC (formerly Segal & Kirby LLP) for over 25 years. Prior to that, I was in the accounting department for a large local developer. I wanted to join the legal industry to enhance my career by working in a deadline driven, detail oriented, and often high stress atmosphere. Being a law firm administrator has definitely kept me on my toes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Why did you choose to serve on the SVALA Board? There were two or three administrators that recommended that I join the board (many years ago). Cindy Snook, HR Director for Downey Brand, was definitely a big part of that decision. Intermittently, over several years, I have served on the board. It has kept me in greater contact with the members on a professional and personal level.

Tell us a little about your personal life/passion. The simple truth: I work to travel. I enjoy traveling to faraway places as much RV’ing locally with family and friends. Ocean destinations are the best. My granddaughter and rescue dog are being raised to be extremely travel worthy. Whether it is paddle boarding or ocean kayaking, we’re happy… just put us in the water!

BOD spotlight - joan at Napoleons
Joan at Napoleons (gorgeous!)

Joan Gabrielson, Community Connection Chair
Firm Administrator
Cook Brown

Tell us about your professional life. I have been with Cook Brown a total of eleven years – six years the first time around and five+ years this time. My background is in small to mid-size financial institutions. I have served in several roles from Controller to Chief Financial Officer to Chief Administrative Officer. When I left the world of financial institutions I consulted in several different industries and found that the professional environment of a law firm is a good fit for me.

Why did you choose to serve on the SVALA Board? I chose to become a board member to give back to our ALA chapter. I have gained a great deal of knowledge through the monthly luncheons, conferences and emailing others for answers to specific questions. And being a board member has the added benefit of developing friendships.

Tell us a little about your personal life/passion. My passion is ballroom dancing! I have not been actively involved in dancing for a number of years but hope to get back to it in the next couple of years, perhaps teaching children rather than competing. For now I spend time gardening and reading – my book club consists of a fabulous group of neighbors!

2015 - CCE Group 2
2015 Community Connection Event, Walk for Alzheimer’s

Note from the editor: Mark your calendars for the 2016 SVALA Community Connection Event! We will be assisting with registration for the Walk for Alzheimer’s on October 1. We did such a great job last year that the Alzheimer’s Association is letting us help again this year! You don’t want to miss this wonderful event so watch for more details from Joan.

It is a privilege to serve on the Board of Directors with these smart, talented (not to mention fun) fellow legal administrators. I encourage all of our members to consider joining the Board of Directors at some point in your career. Please leave a comment or email one of the board members if you are interested.

Of course, the catch is that you will have to answer these questions when you serve!

Watch this space for our next Board Member Spotlight when we introduce more Board Members!



You Did Not Just Say That!

One of the delights of being involved in the SVALA is meeting new people and discovering their “hidden” talents.

The June luncheon provided just such an opportunity!

Luncheon - June 2016 - Kellie 1
Kellie B. Narayan, Executive Director Wilke Fleury

Kellie B. Narayan, Executive Director at Wilke Fleury, recently joined the SVALA Board of Directors and took over the Programs and Education Chair position.  Kellie has not only arranged for a wide variety of speakers and topics to educate us in the coming months but also stepped into the role of speaker for the June luncheon!

Kellie has been a terrific addition to the Board of Directors and now has shared her “hidden” talent of “Speaker” with the rest of the membership.  Kellie’s presentation on Communication Strategies to Shape the Culture of Your Firm was engaging, insightful and laugh-out-loud funny.

Luncheon - June 2016 - attendees
June 2016 luncheon attendees

Kellie’s self-described passion is to help “law firms enact strategic initiatives to accomplish the universal goals of effective business generation and succession planning, along with intentionally creating of a positive work environment that eliminates bias, fosters positive rapport, incentivizes hard work, rewards effort, communicates openly, effectively resolves conflict, and facilitates the development of positive professional relationships that contribute to successful recruiting, training, and retention of talent for generations.”

With a B.A. in Communication and 25+ years of law firm management experience, Kellie certainly has the credentials to back up her passion. Not only does she know her stuff but she presents her information in an engaging and humorous way.

In other words, this woman can communicate!

Kellie talked about the Uncertainty Reduction Theory and how this applies to the workplace. For instance, lots of closed door meetings create an air of uncertainty which can translate to problems in the workplace and the spread of misinformation and the deflation of morale. Kellie not only explained how communication problems in the law firm can negatively impact the office environment but gave us tools to enact change.

She also is a Star Wars fan so tossed in some insights from Yoda:

Luncheon - June 2016 - cheri
You never know what to expect at a luncheon: President Cheri almost made us do the Chicken Dance!

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hates leads to suffering.”

No one can disagree with the wisdom of Yoda!

Kellie gave us tools to take back to the office so we can recognize how others might be communicating in a destructive way and how we can successfully communicate within our firms and lead others to more effectively communicate as well.

A few tips for successful and effective communication include:

  • Exercise good judgement;
  • Be intentional;
  • Communicate directly (stop stewing and avoiding!);
  • Communicate differently (be aware of tone of voice and body language);
  • Communicate privately (“praise publicly; criticize privately”);

Kellie left us with one of my favorite quotes:

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Dalai Lama

Many thanks to Kellie for a terrific presentation!

The SVALA would also like to thank its Platinum Business Partners! It is always a pleasure to see them at the monthly luncheons. Please be sure to say hi to them at the next luncheon or check out their websites through the links below.

See you next month!