Paralegal enjoys the challenges of criminal defense

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

After earning her undergrad degree in criminal justice from Western Michigan University, Kim Barrus landed a paralegal position with the criminal defense law firm of Chartier & Nyamfukudza in Okemos.

“I was lucky to find a fantastic position where I could use my skills and interests to assist in helping other people who are at one of the lowest points of their lives,” she says.

“It’s a perfect fit for me. There’s always something new and challenging that’s demanded from our team…and we always find a way to deliver it.”

Paralegals strive to make the lives of attorneys easier, she notes.

“There’s a varied list of hats paralegals must wear—one day may entail reviewing medical records, another police reports. We may need to meet with a client who needs a soft touch. Other days we may be required to edit a brief or file an appeal. And there are times where we must fulfill all of these roles in the same day, sometimes at the same time.”

Barrus adds that a non-exhaustive list of necessary skills and talents for paralegals includes focus and dedication; attention to detail; ability to organize, schedule, and prioritize; research and writing; compassion, support, empathy, and sympathy; creativity, problem solving, and quick thinking in critical situations; efficient use of technology; and teamwork and communication.

Barrus’ work was discussed during the keynote presentation at the SBM Paralegal Section Day of Education presentation about how the Chartier & Nyamfukudza team gained exoneration for client Dennis Tomasik, a Kent County man who spent nearly nine years in prison.

“Whether in the courtroom or at the office, every member of our team was vital to the success for Dennis and his family,” she says. “While at the office, I kept in constant contact with the trial team while they were in court. I was responsible for making sure our witnesses were kept informed and were at the right place at the right time.

“I also handled matters for all of our other clients to the extent I was able, so the trial could be the attorneys’ main focus.”

Barrus is a member of the State Bar of Michigan-Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section, the Ingham County Bar Association-Paralegal Section, and NALA – The Paralegal Association.

“These professional organizations provide a wealth of information and support to members,” she says. “Through newsletters, published articles, and educational events, they give up-to-the-minute and cutting-edge information to those who need it most. Tips, tricks, and how-to’s are shared and they enable employees to better support their teams.”

Barrus received two recent kudos for her work, honored in December 2018 with the ‘Shining Star Award’ from the SBM Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section; and with the Michigan Lawyers Weekly ‘Unsung Hero Award’ in 2019. Both offer public recognition of – and gratitude for – all legal support staff.

“It’s truly an honor to be selected for these awards, and the words behind the nominations are so heartwarming,” she says. “I’ll be forever grateful I work with amazing people who value and respect the efforts of every member of our team.”

An Ohio native, Barrus moved to Battle Creek at the age of 5, and has lived in Marshall for 25 years. A recent newlywed, she and her husband started dating at a 25th class reunion eight years ago and were wed this past August. The blended family includes her three children, two stepsons, “and three fur babies, who are endlessly loved and spoiled,” she says.

Spending time with family and friends is a top priority, and sharing a meal and games of cards or darts helps everyone stay connected.

“We have friends who are in the process of opening a brewery in Battle Creek and many of us who love to pitch in are helping in any way we can,” she says. “Also, my husband and I are updating our home, so there is lots of renovation work being done.”

Barrus and her family love being outdoors and in summer can often be found on their boat or kayaking. “And ice fishing is a favorite hobby in the winter when the ice is thick enough...and I can stay warm in the shanty,” she says with a smile.

Barrus has also taught kickboxing and other classes at a local gym. “All the classes I instructed, including kickboxing, helped teach me how to develop a plan to reach my end goal,” she says.

“It may not have always been easy, but I learned that hard work, determination, and focus can help you achieve the end result you want, whether it be constructing a challenging and effective class, reaching a fitness goal, or accomplishing that challenging task you’ve been struggling with.”

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