BABE #25: RACHEL CROOKS,
Paralegal @ HPTY
Rachel and I were introduced to one another by a mutual friend (and former featured babe!) Her willingness and eagerness to dive right in, get involved, contribute and spread the message of BWH has been so inspiring and of course appreciated. If I could sum her up in one word, I'd use philanthropist. She's a total hustlin' babe with a huge heart, and she spends so much of her time fighting for the justice of others and the things she is passionate about. I'm so thrilled to share a glimpse into her hustle with you today. Welcome, Rachel!
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
Current location: Austin, Texas
Alma mater: Florida State University
Degrees: B.A. in History + B.S. in Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Hustle: Paralegal at Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young LLP (HPTY)
Babe you admire + why?
Mariska Hargitay. She plays the fictional character Olivia Benson on Law and Order SVU, also known as the must-watch show for anyone interested in the criminal justice system. In preparation for her role, she trained as a sexual assault advocate. She also founded a nonprofit to support survivors of abuse and sexual violence, and has pledged to raise awareness about the high number of untested rape kits around the United States. She's also multi-lingual. So not only does she play a badass -- she actually is one.
How do you spend your free time?
Reading, running or walking around Lady Bird Lake, pilates and barre, Shondaland, and plotting my next move (to do good, I promise).
Must-have item in your purse?
Without my phone, I have no idea what time or day it is.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Michelle Obama. I would ask about her legal career and ask for her advice on practicing law and working toward gender equality. I would also probably take at least ten photos with her and keep a frame of one on my desk a la Leslie Knope.
Tell us about your hustle:
I work as a paralegal at Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young LLP, a law firm with several offices throughout the U.S. The (overwhelming) majority of cases I work involve individuals suing the companies we represent over asbestos-containing products from the 1960s and 1970s. I also work on cases involving injuries in the workplace as well as injuries through products purchased from specific stores in Austin.
What does your typical workday look like?
My workdays differ depending on whether there's an upcoming trial or settlement negotiation. Right now, my time is split between three of our clients and is within the realm of tort law, which are civil cases where individuals sue one of our corporate clients for causing them some type of harm. I spend a lot of time reading and analyzing documents received from plaintiffs with their relevant personal information such as Social Security records to draft summaries or analyses in preparation for trial and/or settlement negotiation.
When and why did you decide to pursue law?
I became interested in social justice movements after joining the board of a student organization called Empowering Women Globally in college. I realized that all the injustices in the world made me angry but also interested in what I could do to help, despite my lack of connection (and physical distance) to those involved. After a bit of traveling abroad and trying to find my roots, I wondered if I had a right to even question the idea of justice in other countries and whether or not I was even doing enough to help back home. After being repeatedly shown that societal injustice is not something I can escape, I realized that I wanted to become a lawyer to address human rights violations both in the US and abroad.
What has your experience as a sexual assault advocate been like, and how/why did you get involved?
I became an advocate after being victim to sexual violence while living abroad in college, and learning firsthand that the economic, academic, and personal effects of this violence continues to be numerous. I have also always had a knack for mediating arguments and deescalating friends who are dealing with grief or trauma. I also knew that I did not want to be a sexual assault advocate simply by posting articles online or signing petitions, so I completed SafePlace’s 40-hour Sexual Assault Advocate Training Program last year and learned the most important part of being an advocate: listen, don’t advise.
Favorite part about your job?
My work environment. From all the terrible things one can hear about law, especially as a young woman, the stereotype is a bit like Mad Men but without smoking or drinking on the job. Austin itself is progressive and from the lawyers I've met outside of my office, it seems like there’s a good legal culture here that is supportive of women! It also helps that my office is five minutes from Lady Bird Lake Trail and some really great breakfast tacos...
How do you keep a work/life balance?
I go to bed early and wake up early. I spend at least five minutes every day writing or reading my planners for both my work and personal life. I also exercise and engage in my hobbies that don't include Netflix or side projects.
What does success look like to you?
I think that success normally looks fake and manufactured because we normally see the “finished product.” To be blunt, I fail a lot and I will continue to fail a lot. Even though many of my plans fall through due to unforeseen circumstances, I'm happy knowing I am proud of the work and effort I produced. When I think about my next actions and whether or not the sacrifices I make will be fulfilling, I always consider this quote: “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” -Mousumi Shaw.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Take care of yourself physically by drinking plenty of water and eating clean regularly. Take care of yourself psychologically by trying new experiences, being emotionally honest with yourself and others, exploring your spirituality and/or religious beliefs, and practicing self-care in your workplace. It is extremely helpful to periodically do a self-care checklist to see if and how you are taking care of yourself and what you can improve on.
Connect with Rachel!