Nancy Carmen McLaughlin, CLAS
March 27, 1949-December 8, 2000

Nancy Carmen McLaughlin, born on March 27, 1949 to Willa and Carl McLaughlin died in a tragic car accident on December 8, 2000 on her way home from work. She was preceded in death by her parents, Willa Brackett and Carl E. McLaughlin, and by her stepfather, Jerry Rivers.

Although, many of you had not personally met Nancy, each of you knew her through her work as a dedicated volunteer for the Legal Assistants Division. Nancy was the editor of the Texas Paralegal Journal. You probably noticed her at Division events; she was the one taking the pictures and standing at the podium during the Annual Meeting asking for you, as members, to take an interest in your magazine. It is without saying, the untimely death of Nancy has left a tremendous void in our lives.

Because of her strong belief that legal assistants receive CLE to further their careers and to be the best they can be at their jobs, Nancy began her work as a volunteer for the Legal Assistants Division as a speaker at Division-sponsored seminars. Upon the resignation of Christine Levy in 1997 as editor of the Texas Paralegal Journal, Nancy volunteered to take the reins and take the reins she did. She began her mission without hesitation diving head first into her assignments. She was very ambitious when it came to her goals she had set for herself and the Division’s publication. The first issue Nancy edited was entitled “Elder Law” which was a great success. The transition from one editor to another editor was complete. In Nancy’s eyes, the Texas Paralegal Journal was always a work in progress.  Beginning with the Winter 1998 issue entitled, “Environmental Law,” Nancy initiated a series of “Interviews with High Profile Legal Professionals.”  Among those interviewed were State Bar of Texas President Richard Pena, Travis County Bar Association President Beverly Reeves, and Chris Gunter, an Austin Criminal Law Attorney. There were many more on her list, but not enough time. The Spring 2000 issue brought a new format to the Texas Paralegal Journal for which Nancy was so excited. Her eyes would light up at the mention of the “new” Texas Paralegal Journal. She had tremendous energy and never ceased to want improvements. Last, but not least, was the Winter 2000 issue entitled, “Thanks, Norma.”  It was bittersweet when I read this issue shortly after Nancy’s death, knowing that all along this was a secret she could hardly keep from telling me. As many of you know, Nancy delighted in surprising her victims [the ones that didn’t have a clue their photos or personal info would appear in the next issue of the TPJ].

The Division’s web site, as it looks today, was also Nancy’s responsibility. Even though the job of TPJ editor was very time consuming, she never hesitated to keep all of the information on the web site current. A job well done.

In addition to spending many hours working on the Texas Paralegal Journal, Nancy received her CLA designation from the National Association of Legal Assistants in December 1992, her CLAS in Civil Litigation designation in March 1993, her CLAS designation in Criminal Law & Procedure in December 1993, Legal Assistant Board Certification by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Personal Injury Trial Law in April 1994, and Legal Assistant Board Certification by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Civil Trial Law in June 1996. To recognize Nancy for her dedication, she was awarded, by the Legal Assistants Division, the Chair of the Year Award in June 1999 and the Award of Excellence, the highest award given by the Legal Assistants Division, in June 2000.

For the past twelve years, Nancy worked as a legal assistant for William (Bill) Schmidt, an Austin attorney. She was dedicated, hard working and attentive to the needs of clients and employer. Nancy was very loyal to Bill and we all know he will miss her dearly. Our prayers and thoughts are with Bill and his family.

Nancy was also very active in the Capital Area Paralegal Association in Austin. Nancy served in many volunteer positions including Membership Committee, Continuing Education Committee, Programs Committee Chairperson, CAPA President Elect in 1995–1996 and CAPA President in 1996–1997 and was Sustaining Member Liaison in 1999–2000. Nancy’s friends from CAPA know how special she really is.

One of the most important things in life to Nancy was her pets. Nancy would always make sure they were taken care of when she traveled out of town. She is survived by four dogs and a cat. She lived her life fighting for animal causes.

Another one of Nancy’s passions was to help those in need. She volunteered many hours for the Meals on Wheels program in Austin, TX. I have been told the persons at that organization were devastated to learn of Nancy’s death. She had many friends whom she talked with and served.

On a more personal note, Nancy always had a smile on her face, loved a good joke, laughed a lot, and never met a stranger. Her causes were great and many. She always stood up for her beliefs. She was a true friend!

May the road
rise to meet you,
May the wind be always
at you back,
May the sun shine warm
upon your face,
May the rain fall soft
upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the
palm of His hand.

Irish Blessing

“Did she have family?”  That was a question frequently asked by those who heard I had lost my legal assistant of 12 years in a tragic automobile accident. The quick answer was “No”.  No surviving parents, no siblings, no children, never married. A more accurate reply would require more of a response than anticipated by those offering condolences. 

Nancy and I started our employment with a personal injury law firm in Austin, Texas on the same day in 1986. She was assigned as an assistant in the worker’s compensation division. I was an attorney in litigation. Two years later she filled my opening for a legal assistant. Her drive and determination overcame any initial experience deficit. It wasn’t long before her accumulated knowledge became an asset for her, for me, and for many others.

Our firm was notorious for its growth and sudden cutbacks, dependent upon the variable economic dynamics of the personal injury practice. It was an inside joke, albeit serious, to always check the latest rendition of the firm’s employee log to make sure you were still listed. Our time came in 1990, when, although breaking most employee longevity records, we were invited to leave.

My first inclination was to find a new employer, even though the severance included taking my case docket with me. Nancy was relentless (as she was known to be) in her efforts to convince me to start my own practice. For this, I will always be grateful. Those who knew her well could appreciate having Nancy behind their project or cause. Setting up a new business, a new office, a new practice was a major project which was benefitted greatly by Nancy’s commitment to the cause.

Nancy’s loyalty and devotion extended beyond the practice. My wife and children were included on her long list for birthdays and Christmas. But life’s everyday traumas and successes for my family were significant to her also. We came to depend on her not as a paid employee but instead as a friend who brought her skills in aid of our personal and community endeavors. She was also adept at convincing me to join her in some of her many causes.

If Nancy had knowledge of something she considered good or important, it was her nature to share. While this might, for example, lead to unsolicited advice on what to order at a restaurant, it was also evident in her active role in the advancement of her profession. She had spent many hours in administrative responsibilities for the Capital Area Paralegals Association and I know she will be sorely missed by the State Bar of Texas Legal Assistants Division. Certainly, many of our clients came to know Nancy not as their attorney’s paid staff, but  as someone who was genuinely interested in solving their problems.

Not until her death, however, did I come to appreciate how many people Nancy had touched in a significant way. I have been contacted by many clients, past and present, who were emotionally shaken by the news. The mailman, the yard man next door, her meals-on-wheels clients, and many others who were beneficiaries of Nancy’s active concern knew her as much more than a professional contact. Did she have family?  More than you know.

William Schmidt,
Attorney at Law, Austin, TX


Nancy My Friend 

The first time I met Nancy McLaughlin was at the first publication committee meeting after Chris Levy had resigned as editor. Nancy was like a whirlwind. She called the meeting to order and proceeded with a detailed outline of what was to occur in the next year of the Texas Paralegal Journal. I later learned that it was not necessary for me to take notes, as within a week I had received a written outline of everything that had been discussed at the meeting. It was so very detailed including each person’s task in the upcoming months. Having been on the publication committee since 1992 I know that it takes a lot of hard work, determined effort and dedication to put one magazine together. Simply put, Nancy not only took on the job as editor, she was the committee. In the years to follow, our committee meetings decreased in size and membership, but TPJ continued to be outstanding. I feel that Nancy was so very dedicated to TPJ that she took the assignment as editor very personal and strived to leave no room for error. Nancy was a fascinating lady.

The last time I saw Nancy she had not changed from the first encounter. She was very full of life as she whirled into my office that Saturday morning around 10:00 a.m. The committee completed a year’s business and had lunch prior to Noon thanks to Nancy’s hard work in preparing for the meeting. Nancy already had the agenda for TPJ for the next year. However, this time I did take notes.

 As I drove Nancy to the airport, in my new red mustang, she talked about how she was going to renovate her little sportscar—she was so full of life and plans for the future.

Next week upon reviewing my notes from the meeting, I discarded those notes. I knew that before the week was out I would have a written report from Nancy. A few weeks later, I heard the sad news that Nancy had lost her life in an automobile accident. I felt so overwhelmed by the loss of a friendship that had blossomed and now was gone so quickly. Words can not express the loss that our Division will suffer from having lost a most dedicated and honorable paralegal.  It was my blessing to have known Nancy McLaughlin.
Brenda Stockton


I met Nancy in 1989 and then studied for the CLA exam with her in 1992-93, I believe and she passed her exam and later got her specialty.  She was always a source of joy and inspiration for me.  I believe that every time I saw her, she was full of energy and devotion.   I participated on many committees under her direction and wished that I could just keep up with her and the never-ending ideas she had.  Her time and contributions to CAPA, the Legal Assistants Division of the State Bar of  Texas and the Texas Paralegal Journal will always be remembered by us all. She will be missed and loved always.
Peggy H. Nelson, CLAS

Dear Nancy,

The day before you died, I purchased a Christmas present for you. It is a collection of poems and photographs of your favorite animal, dogs. The book is entitled If Only You Knew How Much I Smell You. This is my favorite poem in the book:

            What does that mean, “expensive shoe”?
I ate it because it smelled like you.

Nancy, if only you knew how much I loved you. If only you knew how much I miss you.    
awn Crider

Dear Nancy,

Girl, all you ever did was make me laugh. You found humor in everything and everyone. I, for one, have been the brunt of one of your favorite things to do—find the worst photos to publish in the TPJ!  You loved doing that, and instead of making us mad, you just made us laugh at ourselves. You ran around like crazy at our functions taking all kinds of photos—and I know how much you delighted in figuring out who you could embarrass the most. You could have made a fortune as a blackmailer!  I love and miss you.
Javan Johnson, Longview

Do you ever reflect on how you became involved with a particular professional organization, or how things change over time and suddenly you find yourself more involved than you ever intended to be?  Do you often recollect that it seems like overnight your activity and involvement increased and suddenly other members are looking to you to provide them with information!  Do you often take a moment and say, “Who do I owe the credit (or “blame,” said with a smile) of not having enough hours in a day to do the things I want to do as a member and representative of my professional organization?”

When asked for an article in memory of Nancy McLaughlin, CLAS, this is exactly what came to mind. . . . Who do I owe the credit of my involvement with LAD?  It did not take me long to remember that Nancy McLaughlin is the responsible person for getting me involved with the Division. In June 1999, I remember seeing a “request for help” in the Legal Assistants Division’s Annual Report prepared for the Texas Annual Bar Meeting in Ft. Worth. The request was placed by Nancy on behalf of the Publications Committee. At  that moment, I thought that I might like to work with that Committee, so I responded by email to Nancy. Nancy’s reply email sounded so excited, and she immediately expressed acceptance for me to help. Nancy made me feel like I had done a really good thing; she immediately put me to work.  Being involved with LAD has been very rewarding for me personally and for my career. For that, I owe Nancy McLaughlin a huge “Thank You.”  In hindsight, I only wish I had told her what an impact she had made on my decision to be involved with LAD. Thank you, Nancy!  
Kim Cantu, CLA, Dallas

Dear Nancy,

Why did you go so soon?  Who am I going to tease unmercifully about looking like a bag lady with socks and high heals?  Who is going to try to shove veggie burgers and tofu down my throat when I really want a juicy burger at Hut’s?  Who can I tell my silly doggie stories to?  Who else can Tucker, Friday and Poco visit at work and receive such a warm welcome?  Who else is going to bore me endlessly with CAPA crap?  Who is going to give me presents made by prisoners or Christmas decorations made out of light bulbs or gourds?  And if I start another company, who will design my logo?

Who will be my friend regardless of my flaws?  Who will take your place . . . no one ever could!  I miss you every day and thank you for being such a large part of my life if only for a short while. Our time was cut short but our memories will live forever!
Love and licks (puppies),
Debbie, Ed, Tucker, Friday & Little Poco (Austin)

Dear Nancy,

The first time I read “Rainbow Bridge” it made me cry but also gave me comfort. I knew that my very special dog, Dumus, would be waiting for me there and that this place had to be a kind of “pit stop” to Heaven.

I can only imagine how happy Nancy is now that she is there with ALL of her favorite animals that have gone before her. If I know Nancy, she is organizing the arrival of those she left behind to make sure that everything is perfect for their romp through Heaven together.

I miss Nancy very much but know that she will be looking after all of those friends (those she knew on earth and those she has just met) who are waiting to go over the Rainbow Bridge with the one they left behind. I hope she finds peace and happiness over the Rainbow Bridge.

Rainbow Bridge
(author unknown)

Just this side of Heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine and our friends are warm and comfortable. 

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing:  they each miss someone very special, someone who was left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; his eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly, he breaks from the group, flying over the green grass, faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into those trusting eyes, so long gone from your life, but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together . . .
Joan Warren, Pipe Creek, TX

February 5, 2001
Dear Nancy,

Jill wanted a dog for Christmas. A puppy, actually, but we kept putting her off, telling her that we need to build a fence, puppies require a lot of care, etc. So when Elayne offered your dog Max to us, I took it as a sign that it was meant to be that we would include a dog in our lives.

We’re building that fence, and getting ready to welcome him to our house. But it is with mixed emotions for me that we do so—I’d trade him a thousand times for you. I still have trouble believing you’re really gone. That’s why I procrastinated so long to write this letter. Every time I tried to think about what I would say, I cried.

For the first few weeks after the accident, I would think of something having to do with the magazine, or with CAPA, and think, “I’ll just call Nancy,” and have to stop myself before completing the thought. I can’t call Nancy (or go to happy hour with you) again. That’s a big hole in my life. But I’ve learned and gained so much from you that will always be a part of me. Like leadership. Confidence. The value of diversity and inclusion of others. Compromising without abandoning my most important ideals. And now, your dog.

Through your work for the Legal Assistants Division, CAPA, and Animal Trustees of Austin, you touched so many lives. I am grateful to have known you and have called you my friend. Rest in Peace.
Love, Pam [Pamela Horn, Austin]

My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.
Richard Adams—Watership Down

All of the animals except man know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it.

Dear Nancy,

I remember the first time I met you. You came into the Southpark Omni Hotel like a whirlwind, carrying clothes and makeup. You had just come from a beach cleanup and was next on the list to speak at a Division seminar. Although we had not actually seen each other face to face, we had talked on the phone. We were immediately friends. Since then, we shared talks, jokes, email messages, lunches. . . . I just did not want to believe that you had gone. Too many times, I picked up the phone to call you only to place the phone back on the receiver. Guess from now on, I will just have to send messages through my thoughts. . . . I know you will hear me. Thank you so much for being a friend, for being the super volunteer that you were, the kind of person that you were, the tiny things that you did to make my life easier and brighter, thank you for making me laugh. I only wish I could tell you this in person.

No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.
Francois Mauriac

See ya,
Norma Hackler, Austin

A Celebration of Nancy's Life was held on  Saturday, March 24 at 4:00 p.m. at Spicewood Beach (Spicewood, Texas), the community in which Nancy lived. The Memorial Service included dedicating a  picnic table in Nancy's name. Friends gathered for a dinner  following the Memorial Service exchanging memories of Nancy and valued the good times shared. If you would like to make a donation in Nancy's name,  please send to either the Animal Trustees of Austin, 5129 Cameron Road, Austin,  TX 78723 or to the Humane Society—SPCA, 124 W. Anderson Lane, Austin, TX  78752.

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© 2001, Legal Assistants Division State Bar of Texas