SIOUX CITY | Some people just know from a young age what line of work they want to get into when they get older.
Stephanie Parry may have known earlier than most. When she was knee-high, as she puts it, she was already hanging out in her father's law office, watching and learning.
"By the time I was 12, I was sitting in on jury trials and watching my dad work," Parry said. "He had such a passion for what he did and it was always about helping people. The passion and helping people is what drew me in from an early age."
It was no surprise, then, that Parry decided to go into law, too.
"There was never anything else that I considered doing," said Parry, the daughter of Ginny and the late Bill Forker, of Sioux City.
On Friday, Parry will be sworn in as a district associate judge in Iowa's 3rd Judicial District. She officially began her duties on Monday.
Not only does she credit her late father for her interest in law, Parry, a 1991 North High School graduate, said he also played a major role in her interest in juvenile law. While she was still an undergraduate student at the University of South Dakota, Parry's father helped arrange a summer internship for her in the Juvenile Court Services office in Sioux City. Parry loved it.
After graduating from law school at USD in 1998, Parry returned to Sioux City and joined the Forker and Parry law firm, a partnership of her father and husband, Pat Parry. Stephanie did some criminal defense work, but focused on juvenile law. She took court-appointed work and delinquency cases, but also represented children and parents and later focused much of her work on child in need of assistance cases.
"I saw there were so many things that could be improved upon," she said. "There's always something more that can be done, collectively, to help children."
Early in her career, Parry decided she'd like to be a judge so she didn't always have to take on an adversarial role in the courtroom.
"At the time, I was doing a lot of criminal defense, and it's nice to sometimes be a neutral party in the middle," she said.
In 2007, Parry was appointed as a part-time magistrate in Woodbury County, spending a day and a half each week presiding over traffic court and hearing small claims cases, conducting initial appearances and signing search warrants. When not presiding in court, Parry continued to practice in juvenile court.
As a district associate judge, Parry's duties will include presiding over serious and aggravated misdemeanor cases, small claims and civil causes for judgment of up to $10,000.
Due to recent retirements and job shuffling among the 3rd District bench, Parry will spend much of her time presiding in juvenile court, an assignment she welcomes. Juvenile court is different than other courts because, everyone involved in a case is usually trying to work in the child's best interest. Parry believes that as a judge, she'll be able to help more children.
"It's nice to be in that neutral role because without a doubt, you're there for the kids and no other reason," she said. "I love juvenile court and what I do as a magistrate. This is a perfect marriage of the two that allows me to do both things all day long."
Speaking of marriage, once Parry was appointed to the bench, she had to give up the private practice partnership she shared with husband Pat. They've since dissolved the partnership, and he will continue as a solo practitioner.
"He's happy for me, but I think he's a little bit overwhelmed," Parry said, laughing.
Parry said she'll miss working with Pat and also will miss the children and families she was working with at the time of her appointment to the bench.
"I've had cases where I've represented kids and parents long term. It was hard to hand those off," she said.
As she assumes her new role, Parry said she knows there will be a learning curve, but she believes that working 10 years as a magistrate will make that transition a little easier.
"I hope it prepares me," she said.
Parry has been in law offices and courtrooms since she was little.
You can't get much more prepared than that.