Cali Schmitt — A Personal Perspective
A personal injury helped shape her future
Everything in Cali Schmitt's life — from an accident at a young age to a love of travel — led her to a career as a bilingual personal injury attorney.
The journey began when she moved as a high school student from Woodstock, NY to Raleigh, NC. She was a 16-year-old high school junior when the car she was driving was hit by a tractor-trailer. Seriously injured, she spent several days in the hospital and missed months of schooling.
"It is a lot to go through, especially at a young age," she said. "It is enough to try to deal with getting better. Dealing with an insurance company just adds to the frustration of the accident and takes your focus off of healing. What I like about our work (at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin) is knowing that our clients can focus on their recovery while we deal with the their cases."
Cali always loved to travel. Following high school, she pursued a B.A. in International Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill because it afforded her the opportunity to gain college credits while traveling the globe. By the time she graduated, she had already spent a year in Bristol, England and a semester in Seville, Spain.
An experience rooted in volunteerism
While still in college, Cali volunteered at nonprofit organizations that helped immigrants, with a focus on Spanish-speakers. She spent one summer volunteering for a church-based program in Guatemala that helped the local population with community development and healthcare projects. A few years after graduation, she volunteered assisting attorneys with translation and information gathering at the Carolos A. Costa Immigration and Human Rights Clinic in Miami Florida. In between, she did everything from tutoring in English as a Second Language (ESL) to organizing fundraisers for Project Smile.
Her first professional position was as a bilingual recruiter for a staffing firm in Raleigh, NC that specialized in matching Spanish-speaking employers with employees.
After a few years, Cali began considering her longer-term career prospects and contemplated a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. She began a graduate program in International Relations at Florida International University in Miami to become more competitive.
Eventually, Cali decided against joining the Foreign Service, and began to explore other career opportunities. That was when she discovered an opening for a Bilingual Case Manager in the Personal Injury Department at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. Her responsibilities included interviewing potential clients and serving as a liaison between attorneys and Spanish-Speaking clients/potential clients.
"The position was similar to my volunteer work," she said. "I could use my bilingual skills to give people looking for help the information they needed and point them in the right direction."
Inspired to pursue a law degree to better help clients
Cali was quickly promoted to Bilingual Litigation Paralegal, and her responsibilities expanded to include directing and monitoring case-specific litigation and preparing motions, pleadings and discovery.
Though she found the work rewarding, Cali was growing frustrated. She realized that there was only so much she could do to help clients without a law degree. So she kept her full-time job at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin while attending the NC Central University School of Law at night.
"Rather than point people in the direction where they can get help, as an attorney I can help them myself," she said. "It is a powerful thing to know the law. You see people, especially those unfamiliar with the language and culture, get taken advantage of so often. Certainly if you can help — and even prevent that from happening — that is a good feeling."
As soon as she passed the bar exam, the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin promoted her from Bilingual Litigation Paralegal to her current position as a Bilingual Personal Injury Attorney.
As an attorney, Cali is passionate about making sure everyone is treated fairly within the legal system.
"The law attempts to make things fair, to level the playing field," she said. "Will it ever totally succeed? Probably not. But if you can use the avenue of the law efficiently and well, you can make things more even. It is not perfect, but it is the best means available to achieve that."
Outside of work, Cali enjoys spending time with her parents and younger sister, as well as reading, Latin dance and studying languages (she has a basic knowledge of Italian and French).
And she never lost her love of travel.
"I love to travel. I don't think I'll ever get rid of that," she said.