“She is worth her weight in bitcoin. I’d rather go to trial with her than almost any lawyer,” said AZA partner Monica Uddin.
Lawyers who work with her say her encyclopedic knowledge of a case, attention to detail and organizational skills are so amazing they figure she’s got OCD. Actually, she’s ADHD. To compensate she double and triple checks and she makes lists. Lots of lists. Lists in trial that help make her colleagues look better, lists at home with excessively meticulous details of upcoming events, household needs, and camping packing.
“She’s a paralegal who works at the level of a 10-year or 15-year lawyer,” said AZA co-founder Joe Ahmad. The 50-year-old San Antonio native and mother of twins has been involved with at least 75 trials she can name, but it’s probably closer to 100 trials.
Ms. Peter quickly becomes the one even some judges have come to ask first for help on which exhibits are admitted and where to find them. She is usually first into court and last out. At lunch she may lead others in a stress-reducing walk or a whimsical courthouse Pokémon search. Because once you are in a trial lifeboat with Ms. Peter, if you are on her team, on the bench or on the court staff, she will take care of you.
“She’s a powerful paralegal,” said one civil judge who came to rely on her prowess during a trial. A staffer in that judge’s court called Ms. Peter an “awesome all-star” who treats everyone with grace and respect and never seems to be frazzled.
She didn’t display any fear in a recent trial when the judge refused to allow much of what AZA had included in the closing argument PowerPoint. She was adjusting the slides in real time as firm co-founder John Zavitsanos addressed the jury. “On the outside I seemed confident. On the inside, I was a crazy person but I’m trying to help those around me. Afterwards, I just thought holy crap-balls that was hard!” she said.
Ms. Uddin called Ms. Peter “the Zavitsanos whisperer” for her seeming ability to read the mind of the partner she works with most often. She can hand him valuable witness questions even when he’s mid-cross examination. She has exhibits prepared to hand him before he asks.
“In a number of cases, Lynette has come up with some of the most defining questions in a case. She’s spotted an item the opposition failed to produce. She’s the one who saw two key signatures don’t match up. The jury sees the lawyers, but she does so much of the heavy lifting,” Mr. Zavitsanos said. He calls her AZA’s secret weapon.
Other lawyers said that when you work with her everything feels almost automated. The exhibits are in order, properly redacted and available in an instant. “You don’t realize all she does and how well she does it until you work with another paralegal who is good but not magical,” said one of the associates who has gone to trial with Ms. Peter.
She is compared to a lawyer so often some wonder why she didn’t go to law school. “I thought about it. I enjoy being behind the scenes. I can leverage my skills to help others be the best they can be,” said Ms. Peter, who doesn’t seem good at standing still. She hikes, skis, sews, loves Pokémon, and builds a lot of LEGO designs. If you see her on Zoom, behind her are LEGO plants and pirates. The LEGO Christmas village is up in her home now.
She has worked for AZA since 1999, never expected to stay in one job so long but it’s been the right fit. She attended Texas A&M University in Galveston studying marine science. She learned about environmental law there and got the law bug. She worked at two law firms before finding her niche at AZA.
“(AZA) challenged me to use my brain. I got to do so much more. I wanted to draft objections, pleadings and discovery,” she said. Not only that but she feels respected and valued at AZA. Mr. Zavitsanos abandoned his office for her when she was pregnant with her twins so she could take a much-needed midday nap.
She met her husband Doug in college, and he is a marine biologist by trade who creates artificial reefs using decommissioned oil rigs. They moved to Louisiana for his work and Ms. Peter has worked remotely for AZA for years. Their kids are in college, and the outdoorsy couple plans to someday get an RV and visit every national park. So, she’ll be cataloging her comprehensive knowledge of discovery documents with a view of the nation’s seas and mountains.