Crowe & Dunlevy paralegal Jo Balding stumbled into her job at the Oklahoma law firm. Literally.
A native of Medicine Lodge, Kan., just north of Alva, Balding was in downtown Oklahoma City for a lunch date with a friend who worked on the fifth floor of the First National Center. Balding took the wrong elevator whose doors opened to the law offices of “Crowe, Boxley, Dunlevy, Thweatt, Swinford & Johnson.”
She was a little early for lunch — and her older sister wanted her to move here — so she “took a deep breath and thought ‘why not?'” Balding said.
Thirty minutes later, the firm's personnel manager, impressed with Balding's experience at a law firm back home, offered her the job as secretary for co-founder Fred Dunlevy.
That was 50 years ago, long before the term “paralegal” was coined to identify a professional who assists lawyers with legal work.
Today, Crowe & Dunlevy, now in the Continental Building, has 39 paralegals and 133 attorneys, up from 18 when Balding joined the firm. In the early days, she took a lot of shorthand and most attorneys used Dictaphones. Now many attorneys do much of their own drafting, and paralegals can rely on the Internet to send and retrieve courthouse and other documents.
Balding started in the area of commercial real estate and finance and oil and gas title work, and voluntarily took night classes at Rose State College to better understand real estate and finance. In 1979, she transitioned to just commercial real estate and finance, and finally to the litigation department where she assists seven attorneys.
Balding said her most memorable case was helping the firm represent Crest Foods against Walmart in an antitrust, price-fixing case in which Walmart settled. “It was easy to relate because everybody buys groceries, and everyone is concerned with the price of them,” Balding said.
Among other efforts in the case, she led a team of seven who collected evidence by going to different stores to buy groceries, which the firm later donated to food pantries, she said.
Balding said her job takes strong organizational skills and, with a lot of last-minute tasks, the ability to handle stress.
As a way of relieving stress, she said she joins friends she's made through various quilters guilds in making quilts for wounded soldiers who return to the U.S., quilts for soldiers in Afghanistan and quilts for preemie babies at the various hospitals.
“It feels good to do something for someone else, and it's calming and relaxing,” Balding said.
Crowe & Dunlevy directors Michael Laird and Brooke Murphy praise Balding's five decades of service.
“For 50 years, Jo Balding has invested her intelligence, savvy, courage and wit in this firm and in the clients we serve. She has truly been the professionalism benchmark by which so many others who have come after her are judged,” Laird said.
“She understands the importance of strict attention to detail for each client matter on which she assists our attorneys,” Murphy said, “and she has dedicated her career to consistently maintaining high standards.”
For 50 years, Jo Balding has invested her intelligence, savvy, courage and wit in this firm and in the clients we serve. She has truly been the professionalism benchmark by which so many others who have come after her are judged.”