When you first meet Noelani Hatton, it’s easy to see why she was hired on the spot more than 14 years ago. With a big smile and a passion for helping others, Noelani, known to most as Noe, is a key member of our paralegal team – the professionals who ensure the critical mechanics of our work run smoothly.
Noe earned her stripes working on one of the biggest wrongful death cases in the firm’s history, and ever since, has been a key reason that the Luvera “machine” operates efficiently. And, she had the good fortune of learning from the best. To get Noe started, our firm’s experienced paralegals shared their deep insights and strategies to set her up for success.
Now, while managing upwards of 25 cases and handling the intricacies of complex litigation, Noe is no stranger to making herself available for the firm’s clients, knowing that sometimes a law firm can act as a second family as they navigate difficult and challenging times.
Read on as Noe shares her insights on the importance of communication, empathy and above all, believing in yourself.
How did you get into the legal field, was this something you were always drawn to or interested in?
This wasn’t my original plan, but I’m very fortunate to have stumbled into the opportunity. More than a decade ago, I worked for a records retrieval company, and the Luvera Law Firm was my client. Positions at the firm don’t open up very often – no one leaves! But I asked Kristy Prater, a legal assistant, to let me know if there were any openings. Luckily, she reached out the next week and said that they had a position open as a backup receptionist – but I needed to come interview right away. So, I just went in dressed as I was, with a ponytail and jeans, and was hired by Lita Luvera that day. What started as the backup receptionist, quickly became something more as I moved into a paralegal position, and now, I’ve been with the Luvera Law Firm for almost 14 years.
I remember being overwhelmed at first, but slowly I began to realize that I loved helping the people who came to our firm, and I knew it was my duty to make sure that they were taken care of. For nearly everyone we serve, their interaction with the firm starts at the receptionist’s desk – so, I took that role very seriously. When I was offered the paralegal job, I already felt like part of the Luvera family, and viewed our clients the same way, and that passion is part of why I’m still here, after all these years. At the end of the day, I just want to help people.
We recently interviewed Mr. and Mrs. Luvera about their upcoming book, and they talked frequently about how important communication was in not only preparing for trial, but also securing justice. Do you feel like communication plays an important role in your job and why?
Communication is the biggest key to how we operate. At the firm, we have an open-door policy – there are no dumb or silly questions. And, communication is an important part of our teamwork, we work like a machine, everyone knows what everyone else is working on, and it’s essential that we’re all clued in because these trials can be very in-depth and intense. The same goes for our clients. I like that I’m client-facing, because it’s important to me to build relationships.
How do you cultivate those relationships?
I try to respond to any client questions or input as soon as I can. It’s important to me to not leave clients waiting – I want them to feel heard. Sometimes, they just need someone who will listen, and I’m here for that. I’ll always try to check in via email or call, because I think it’s necessary to have that human-to-human conversation and build a personal bond.
Recognizing that attention to detail is a huge part of your job, can you talk a little bit about how you keep everything straight and why it’s so important?
Even though I’ve been at the firm 14 years, I’m the “newest” paralegal, because everyone else has done this for more than 20 years. The best part about my job is the fact that the rest of the team are my mentors. When I was first starting out, they reminded me to always look at the rulebook and to keep track of my case schedule. One of the key things I learned was to know my deadlines, and calendar everything so that I had reminders for upcoming deadlines, such as case filings. The rest of the paralegal team was instrumental in getting me started, helping me to continue to grow in this position, and reinforcing the importance of staying organized – at times I’ve had upwards of 25 cases, so this mentality is something that I practice every day.
What is your favorite part about “going” to work each day?
The people. Hands down. The team at Luvera Law Firm has been with me through a lot – all of my life’s major events. My husband even proposed to me while we were on a firmwide team getaway, and everyone celebrated. Ralph Brindley, one of the partners who has now retired, encouraged the airline crew to announce the big news on our flight home. They are family and, once you’re here, you can see why no one leaves.
Also, I don’t think I would ever find another group of women who would be so willing to go out of their way to help me learn to do my job better and help me grow. I’m more thankful for my mentors on the paralegal team than they even know.
Can you tell us about one of the most memorable cases you’ve worked on? What made it especially noteworthy for you?
The Bigler case was the first case I fully managed, and to this day, it is the most memorable. We were in trial for eight weeks, and I was working with David Beninger, John Gagliardi and Joel Cunningham, and it was Joel’s last trial before retiring. They were patient with me, and I was beyond nervous. I even told them at one point that I felt like I was living outside of my comfort zone 24 hours a day, but I felt okay about it because I was supported by this incredible team. They had high expectations, but they knew I could meet them, even if I didn’t. By the time we walked out of the courtroom, I felt like we had gone to battle together. It was one of the biggest things I had ever done and is still one of my biggest accomplishments.
How would you characterize cases you typically work on?
I work primarily with John Gagliardi, and we focus on a lot of medical malpractice cases. Recently, we’re taking more of the birth injury cases, or cases to do with kids. John and I have similar working styles – he’s an amazing teacher and we feel privileged to work on these cases, to help these families. Like other lawyers at the firm, both John and I genuinely care about people, and we really connect over that.
Outside of work, what are some of your interests or hobbies?
I recently went back to school at Washington State University and graduated in 2018, which was a proud moment for me because my daughter got to attend my graduation. I also spend a lot of time with my family – I coach my daughter’s YMCA basketball team, and we like to bake a lot together.