Stephanie Straka had never really imagined herself starting a career at her parents’ family business, the law office of Rhame, Elwood & McClure. Sure, she had worked as a receptionist on and off over the years and did enjoy it, but she was studying to be a beautician.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and she found herself trying on a new hat at the office – that of a criminal secretary. In this role, she has experienced a whole new side to law that she had never seen before, and that has left a big impression.
“As a receptionist, I’d never had a set clientele that I was responsible for, I never really had a chance to learn about the people we represent,” Straka said. “Once I got moved over to working as a criminal secretary, I realized I was responsible for specific sets of files and people, and I built a relationship up with all of them. It became really important to me to see them through to the end of their case.”
As a criminal secretary, her job is to handle a lot of the paperwork, day-to-day communication, scheduling, and serves as one of the primary points of contact for their clients – down to helping ensure they head to the right courtroom.
“It’s all about making sure everybody is in the loop and knows what’s going on,” she said. “In the Porter County Courts alone there are six courtrooms, and only two of them are actually in the Portage courthouse – the other 4 are in Valparaiso. And then we have cases in Lake County and La Porte County, and even Elkhart County which is in another time zone. It can be a lot to coordinate.”
One of the reasons that Straka was able to jump into a new role and succeed so quickly was thanks to her mother, Edna Elwood, who serves as a highly dependable mentor to anyone on the team at Rhame, Elwood & McClure.
“She’s always joked that she’s been in the legal field for a hundred years,” Straka said. “Any questions that I have, I can come to her. She’s worked in the courts, as a secretary, as an office manager, and even as a billing manager. If there’s a legal question, she can answer.”
The nature of that work means that Straka works with clients from day one, and seeing how they grow and improve in demeanor as their case moves along is one of her favorite parts of the job.
“We just recently had one man’s case just finish up, and he totally turned his life around,” she said. “You can see difference right on his face. The difference in his daily expressions from when he first came into the office was amazing.”
Seeing and taking a role in that change was something special for Straka.
“It really brought me a lot of joy knowing that I was part of that, part of helping him succeed by being there for him through that whole process,” she said. “I was, and am, just so proud of him.”
To learn more about Rhame, Elwood, & McClure, visit rhameandelwood.com.