Three DeRouens are making their mark at Southwest Louisiana Law Center

Helping others is a vocation and way of life shared by a mother and her two daughters serving together at the Southwest Louisiana Law Center.

Ruby DeRouen, the first in the family to be hired at the center, works as an administrative assistant to executive director Mark Judson. Her mother, Lilly Jo, is the office’s front desk manager and her sister, Lilly, is a summer intern.

“We all get along so this working arrangement is perfect for us,” said Lilly Jo, a mother of five. “A lot of people say it would be hard to work together but we have a good relationship and then working here in this family atmosphere has been awesome. Mr. (Mark) Judson is wonderful to work for as are all the other employees.”

Judson said the center — a nonprofit law firm that provides legal services to the economically disadvantaged — had been down three people due in large part because of the hurricanes when Ruby DeRouen dropped off her resume at the receptionist’s desk.

“Following the lead of Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints football team, when you have good talent on the draft board you grab it,” Judson said with a laugh. “We were able to use Ruby in a position I had always wanted to create, administrative assistant to the executive director.”

As Judson sought additional applicants in the weeks after to fill open positions, Ruby suggested her mother might be interested.

“I said, ‘Well, one DeRouen has been pretty good so let’s see about another one,’ ” he said. “Lilly Jo then joined the staff and not long after it came up that Ruby’s younger sister might be interested in a summer internship. The DeRouens have been such a great asset to the team at Southwest Louisiana Law Center so we decided to go for it.”

Ruby is a McNeese State University graduate who is working on her MBA with a concentration in human resources through an online program offered by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

“I was looking for experience in administrative work and I’m also interested in the human resources aspect of it,” Ruby said. “In this position I get to deal with administrative work working with board members, sometimes it’s legal work, sometimes it’s fundraising or community outreach events. I do definitely see a benefit working here because I also get to see employee relationships.”

Her biggest feat so far is helping to rewrite the center’s 70-page human resources manual.

“We met with an HR professional, but Ruby took the lead on revising the manual and now we’re going to make her recommendations to the full board,” Judson said.

Lilly Jo, who has worked as both a paralegal and receptionist at three other law firms in the region, said she happily applied when she was told of the open position.

“I do receptionist work, intake, set appointments, just whatever it takes to keep the front running,” she said. “It’s a great place to work for and I have heard people talk highly of this place and Mr. Judson, plus I get to work with my daughters and spend time with her.

“Ruby has this passion behind her and she’s driven, I’m just so proud of her,” Lilly Jo said.

Not long after the mother and daughter began settling in, Ruby’s sister, Lilly, joined the staff.

“It has been so interesting reviewing some of the case files, getting to use what I’ve learned from my family psychology and child psychology courses and apply it to family law cases,” said the St. Louis University psychology major.

Lilly said some of the therapist reports she’s been able to review have been eye openers.

“There’s a diverse array of cases and they can get pretty complex and it’s interesting to see how it works between the psychologist and the patient and how that plays out in the court of law,” she said. “It’s interesting how they examine the cases and when to know you can’t take everything at face value in certain situations.”

She’s also been interested in polygraph-involved cases.

“There are so many interesting facets working in a law center, such as industry life, different careers, different people, it’s just a well-rounded place to get experience,” Judson said. Ruby said the working arrangement has worked out well for all of them.

“We always spend every day together anyway, so there is not much difference here at work — although I had to get used to not calling her ‘Mom’ all the time,” Ruby said with a laugh.

Attorney LaWanda Gibson said the DeRouens are very professional and are willing to collaborate with others.

“They’ve been very helpful in client relations, arranging appointments, and have been a big help in talking with clients.”

Tonda Moreland, a senior paralegal at the firm, said the trio have been very eager to learn and jump in to help without being asked.

“You can tell the upbringing was correct because they’re so professional, so courteous, so respectful,” Moreland said.

Lilly Jo said the best part of the job is helping the community.

“We have people who come in from everywhere and they’re needing help, and to help those people is just wonderful,” she said. “We get to see them light up and leave happy and relieved. They have someone who is going to listen to them and it’s rewarding to see that.”

Judson said the front desk is the first impression their clients have of the organization and the DeRouens give the warm welcome needed.

“I’m just so glad Ruby brought them in to the organization,” Judson said.

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