ASHLEIGH STARNES | JULY 30, 2019
Family Law Program Paralegal Andrea Taps started off as a volunteer. Now she’s serving survivors of intimate partner abuse beyond the protective order.
Tell me about what brought you to AVLF. Why did you want to volunteer here?
I worked as a paralegal for almost a decade before my twins were born in 2009. After the twins entered kindergarten, I decided it was time to go back to work. I thought part time volunteering would be the best option for me to ease back into things. So, I googled “volunteer opportunities for paralegals” and AVLF came up! I had no idea there were volunteer opportunities for paralegals that assisted the community in this way and it really spoke to my desire to make a difference.
Why did you choose to volunteer with the Safe Families Office?
I knew I needed to volunteer during the week while the kids were at school, and SFO had weekday hours available. I had never worked in this capacity as a paralegal and I felt really lucky for the opportunity.
It was fulfilling to be able to help people in a way that’s altering their lives and keeping them safe. I found I could finally combine my passion for social service and my legal background. This gave me a professional purpose that I had never felt before.
I found I could finally combine my passion for social service and my legal background. This gave me a professional purpose that I had never felt before.
How did you go from volunteering to working here full time?
After my time volunteering at SFO, I was lucky enough to be offered a position as a legal assistant at the prestigious law firm of Davis, Matthews and Quigley. There I acquired invaluable knowledge under the guidance of some of the top family law attorneys in Atlanta. At the same time, AVLF was growing more and more and began developing new programs to further assist clients. Eventually, a position for a family law paralegal was created which encompassed the combination of family law experience and passion for helping survivors.
How is working in the Family Law Program different than your volunteer experience?
It’s just another level of care for survivors. Once the Family Law Program kicked off, we were able to provide survivors with another resource to be free from abuse by helping them divorce their abusers, obtain, keep, or regain custody, and with any other family law need they may have. Now, we can take survivors through this additional legal process to help them regain independence.
To other volunteers, I would say: look at the big picture. Be open to all of the client’s needs.
What would you want to say to current volunteer paralegals?
There’s purpose to this, paralegals are such a vital part of the legal process and serve so many important client needs. I am often the first point of contact when survivors apply to our program and I take pride in my ability to connect with clients. My goal is to make clients feel assured that we are on their side and trust that we will do everything in our power to help. I also believe that this process is ongoing, we will always assist clients past the closing of their family law case if needed. We care about the whole person and their well-being moving forward. Each case is different, each client is different—and we have so many different resources available to them for support.
For example, if someone calls us seeking a divorce, but they mention that their children aren’t doing well, I might call our social workers to see if we can find therapy for the kids. Or if a survivor seeking custody is having housing problems, I might refer them to Safe and Stable Homes. There are so many resources available that can support the whole person, not just fix a situation temporarily.
To other volunteers, I would say: look at the big picture. Be open to all of the client’s needs. Be educated about all the resources we have available. It makes a big difference!
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Paralegal, Family Law Program
Andrea moved to Atlanta in 1985 and attended St. Pius High School before attending Georgia State University and Valdosta State University.
Andrea has worked in the legal field since 2002 with a focus on family law since 2014, when she was introduced to AVLF as a volunteer. Through the course of her working career, Andrea always enjoyed and thrived on helping others and found her true calling in assisting AVLF clients as a volunteer. Andrea is extremely excited and honored to have the opportunity to assist in an even greater capacity moving forward as part of the AVLF team.
The majority of Andrea’s personal time is devoted to her 9 year old girl/boy twins. She also enjoys exercise, spending time outdoors (as long as it’s not too cold), and enjoying all that Atlanta has to offer – including festivals, sporting events and concerts. Andrea is a member of Saint Thomas More parish, where her children also attend school.