In 1981, a young woman, interning at Fox Valley Institute’s (now known as Fox Valley Technical College) placement office, was told about a job posting at law firm in Appleton. She promptly sat down at a typewriter, composed her resume and sent it off in the mail. She hoped her training in the secretarial science program would make her a good fit for the law firm. We won’t leave you hanging; 40 years later, she’s thriving.
The young woman is Julie Kaepernick, the office manager at Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C. When Julie began her career, the firm was called Robinson & Smith. On her first day of work in January of 1981, she wore a herringbone, tweed skirt with a green leather belt, green sweater and brown pumps. She loved that outfit and felt confident in it. Despite being confident with her look for the day, she had some first day jitters. Julie nervously walked into the Zuelke Building in downtown Appleton, took the elevator to the 10th floor and got to work immediately.
In Julie’s early days with the firm, she did transcription for attorneys Mary Lou Robinson and Ron Smith. She met with clients to prepare discovery responses. She answered the phone and scheduled appointments. Julie took every opportunity to try a new task and learn another skill. She became proficient in forming connections with clients and got incredibly good at confronting any road block head-on.
At the start of her career, gazing out the office window down the street towards Lawrence University, Julie had no idea that years later she would be managing the office. Julie proved to be a trustworthy employee, who could persevere through changes. It wasn’t unusual for new projects to be delegated to Julie, because the attorneys knew she would work hard to get things done. She took every challenge in stride. She gained experience in many areas of law, including family, personal injury and criminal defense. Julie effortlessly took on her role as office manager, ensuring the office kept running, despite moves, staff changes and new technology.
When asked what she likes about her job, Julie said, “I love knowing that I work for people who are professional, caring, and have integrity. I have always felt that our attorneys practice law not for money and prestige, but because they genuinely wish to help people.”
The person Julie has worked beside the longest at Peterson, Berk & Cross is John Peterson. “Julie and I started working together in October of 1982. She assisted me with working on personal injury and civil litigation cases. Since 1995 she’s been our office manager. With the exception of being a lawyer, she has held every position in the office and done everything necessary to keep our business going. If someone has a problem, including me, the solution is usually ‘go see Julie.’ She has helped my family and me on countless occasions. We consider her family. Thank you for everything, Julie.”
What John says is very true; Julie is our “go to” person. She has joked that she seems to have been the person designated to address wardrobe malfunctions in the office. She has untucked skirts from nylons, pointed out undone zippers and straightened ties on numerous occasions. She could go into more detail, but she prefers to protect her co-workers from embarrassment.
Julie is not only a valuable and celebrated employee, but she is a dedicated daughter and aunt. She is the primary caregiver to her mother, who has had some health struggles in recent years. Julie is very close to her nieces and speaks lovingly of them, as if they were her own. She is also a devout member of her church and is very active there.
Everyone in our office knows that Julie loves her Kindle. She is an avid reader and a lover of books. When she was a kid, she wanted to be a bookstore owner or a librarian. She loved walking amongst the stacks and rows of books, running her fingers across the spines and breathing in the aroma of the pages. Although she’s not living out her dream of owning a bookstore, working at a law firm allows her to always be surrounded by paper and books and interesting stories.
About the Author
Meghan Petters has been with Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C. for over 15 years. She spent the majority of her time as a family law paralegal but has also been managing the firm’s social media platforms for many years. Prior to joining the firm, Meghan had a background in communications. She currently serves as the firm’s Social Media and Marketing Coordinator.