Alum helps serve justice at The Sam Bernstein Law Firm

Laurel Kraus, Life Editor

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Danielle Van Maele graduated from Oakland University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and big dreams of becoming a probation officer, only to find her life going in an entirely different direction than she had anticipated.

After job searching for a little over seven months, she received an email promoting OU’s ABA-approved paralegal program and decided it could not hurt to add just a bit more diversity to her resume.

When the program set Van Maele up with an internship at The Sam Bernstein Law Firm however, new puzzle pieces began to fall into place. Over the years, the Bernstein family, specializing in personal injury law, have become one of the most recognizable names in Michigan.

Currently, five graduates of OU’s paralegal program are employed at the law firm.

Van Maele was hired full-time in January 2017 and currently works under attorneys Michael Battersby and Leonard Miller.

“At our firm, we tend to work for multiple people, so she’s good at multitasking and jumbling all the different people that she works with because that can be challenging,” said Marie Adams, litigation paralegal at The Sam Bernstein Law Firm and graduate of OU’s paralegal program.

A typical work day for the Oakland alum consists of document preparation and investigation, otherwise known as the discovery stage of a lawsuit.

This could have her doing anything from interacting with clients and talking with witnesses, to getting police reports and putting together documents for the attorney to sign and send to court.

Van Maele stated that what she finds “really inspiring is to help other people during really difficult times in their life.”

While the option for casual clothing and the open-door policy that The Bernstein Law Firm holds are certainly appreciated perks, she is ultimately the happiest with being afforded the ability to lend a helping hand to those in need.

“We’ve had a couple clients send, not specifically to me but to the office, a gift basket or balloons or write a nice thank you card to the firm,” Van Maele said. “Just the overall positive feedback from clients is what stands out, knowing that what we do makes a difference.”

Van Maele is not yet sure what the future may bring as far as her career goes, but holds a positive outlook.

“Right now, I’m happy where I am and I can see myself growing to a legal secretary there because that’s the next step up at that particular law firm,” Van Maele said. “Law school’s still always in the back of my mind, but right now I like what I’m doing.”

The places of work for other OU paralegal program graduates include The Mike Morse Law Firm, General Motors and Fakhoury Global Immigration.