As part of our Coffee Chat series, a Capstone employee will be interviewed each month and featured in our monthly newsletter, The Erudite. For the April issue, the editors of The Erudite sat down with Jeanie Johnson.
Jeanie joined Capstone’s Legal Affairs department in January 2021. She brings with her over 35 years of paralegal experience and really has a passion for her paralegal profession. Jeanie loves to learn all she can, constantly expanding her knowledge of contracts and business organizations within the paralegal profession but most of all she loves to teach other paralegals, sharing all that she knows! She is an active member in NALA and AAPi and is often presenting at seminars with the organizations. When Jeanie is not involved in her paralegal activities, she spends time with her family including her grandson who is her pride and joy – and she can’t wait for her second grandchild that will be born in July!
Jeanie Johnson, Paralegal
Samford University, 1986
Associate’s Degree, Paralegal Studies
Huntingdon College, 2015
Bachelor of Science, Business Administration
Faulkner University, 2017
Master of Justice Administration
Where are you from originally? I’m from Mountain Brook (Birmingham, AL).
You have an interesting progression in your education background. What was it like going back after being out of school for so many years when you decided to get your Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees? When I went back to complete my Bachelor’s degree, my daughter was 15 so she was self-sufficient and my son was grown and married. I had been out of school though for long time before going back to get my Bachelors! I took an intro to business class my first semester back that was offered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as a night class. I really had to get back into the routine of going back to class and also committing the time to studying.
Did you live on-campus during your time at Samford? Yes, I lived on-campus the second semester of my freshman year and all of my sophomore year. With Samford being located in Birmingham where my family lived, I decided to move back home and live with my parents during my junior and senior years. I had a roommate in the dorm but she ended up moving out early, which left a room to myself. The room was your typical style room. The beds weren’t bunked, but side-by-side. The bathroom was in the room, so more of a semi-suite style unit. The building was fairly older at the time. Did you enjoy living on-campus? Yes, I did, but moving in with my parents helped save a lot of money with room and board.
I was originally a communications major but I changed my major to paralegal studies during the middle of my sophomore year at Samford. At the time, Samford offered both an Associate’s degree and a Bachelor’s degree for their paralegal program. My parents had agreed to pay for four years of school for me, so because I lost some time spent at the University of Alabama (just my first-year Fall semester) plus my first few semesters at Samford in the communications program, by the time I reached the end of 4 years I only had enough credits in the paralegal program to graduate with an Associate’s degree. But at that time (in the 80’s) it gave me what I needed to grow my career.
Did you have a favorite class from college? I chose to get a Master’s of Justice Administration because I when I looked at the course catalog, there were not any finance, accounting or statistics classes in the program! The justice administration program focused on courts, corrections facilities, etc., and it was really parallel to the paralegal program I was familiar with and liked – or at least it had a lot of the legal influences that I was wanting. My favorite courses involved the real estate aspect of the subject. Well, I think that set you up well for Capstone!
Were you in real estate prior to joining Capstone? Oh yeah, all throughout my career I’ve been in and out of real estate, mostly in the corporate side of it rather than the litigation side of the paralegal profession. Previously, I was with a company where I worked primarily on mergers and acquisitions and through that I delved into real estate through acquisitions of real estate.
Are you involved in any professional organizations? I am involved in and a member of both the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the Alabama Association of Paralegals (AAPi). On NALA, I was on the Board of Directors as the Continuing Education Counsel Chair and I was also on the Professional Development Committee for a few years. I’ve served as President of AAPi and currently I’m serving as the Second Vice President – Seminars for AAPi and in that role I organize all of the continuing education seminars that we hold. We often have judges, lawyers and paralegals join our meetings to speak on pertinent legal topics. I’ve also spoken at the NALA national conference to about 300 paralegals on the topic of contracts and how to keep your company void of risk in contracts.
If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? I would love to teach paralegals for a day! I’ve been a paralegal for almost 36 years and I want to give other paralegals all of my knowledge. In 2009 I obtained my paralegal certification, then in 2010 I obtained an advanced certification in paralegal contract administration, and in 2019 I obtained an advanced certification in business organizations. So, right now I teach a lot of those prep courses to people working to become certified paralegals.
The reason why I advanced my degree and obtained my Master’s degree was not necessarily to make more money, but rather I really wanted to teach other paralegals. In order to teach in the bachelor’s program, I needed a master’s degree. I figured out that I really like teaching paralegals through my involvement in NALA and AAPi. Through my involvement in these organizations, I would get asked to speak and I found that I really liked speaking on different topics — whether it be contracts, or business organization to name a few. So, I obtained my master’s degree and applied to be an adjunct professor at Faulkner University. Last Fall, I was given the opportunity to teach a business organizations and corporate law class within the paralegal program. I hope to continue to be invited to teach classes!
Is there a book that you are reading? I have a 95-mile commute round trip each day to the office, so I listen to a lot of audible books. I listen to mostly fiction – murder mysteries – to bide the time and get me to and from work. I look forward to getting in the car and listening to the books. Right now, I am listening to “Beard In Science” which is about a case involving the FBI and motorcycle gangs!
Is there a tv show that you are currently watching? Yes, my husband and I are binge-watching SWAT. I think that you live, breathe and sleep legal! Ha! Yes, we also watch Yellowstone, 1883 and Nashville and we have enjoyed those as well to break it up.
Before working at Capstone, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had? Some of my favorite work was when I worked at a law firm and our client was Verizon. I worked on cell tower leases. For example, if you drive down a road and your call drops, you can notify Verizon and they’ll send a team out to investigate that dead spot. If there is a tower nearby they can add one of their antennas on that tower to boost the signal. They use a legal team to help them negotiate the leasing of space on the tower owned by other entities. My team worked with landowners in rural Alabama to negotiate leases for the towers and also order Phase 1 Assessments to make sure the dirt was good for a new tower. It was fun because I felt like I was helping to solve a problem. I knew if they needed to add a tower there was a reason that calls were dropping.
Do you have a favorite quote? I didn’t have a favorite quote until you asked me this question, but now I think I do! “Spread love wherever you go and let no one come to you without leaving happier” by Mother Theresa. You just never know what someone is going through, so always be kind.
What do you like to do in your free time? I love hanging out with my grandson. He’s my pride and joy. We have another grandchild that is due to be born on July 27th – so we will soon have two grandsons! I also like to play golf. I was on the golf team from 7th grade to 12th grade, I just don’t get to play too much anymore because it is a time commitment. Otherwise we like to go out boating in the summer and entertain family and friends at our house.