ABA Faculty Spotlight
SF State is proud of being one the few ABA-Approved Paralegal Studies Programs in the Bay Area. An ABA requirement for attorneys on our faculty is that they have first-hand knowledge of and experience with working with paralegals in the "real world."
We have an outstanding faculty which includes: three graduates of our Paralegal Studies Program, four paralegals, twelve attorneys, and an Administrative Law Judge.
Full biographies of all our faculty members are available on this site to allow students an opportunity to know more about their instructors. The following is a brief overview of their practical experiences with paralegals.
Ruth S. Astle
At least two paralegals who work for the California Department of Justice represent agencies in hearings before us. One represents the Respiratory Care Board and the Barber and Cosmetology Board; the other represents the Contractors' State License Board. Last semester I had a Deputy Attorney General and a paralegal who works for her come into the Administrative Law class and give a presentation about paralegal work at the California Justice Department. Paralegals also work for the Department of Social Services. They do not present cases, but they do prepare cases and we see them in that capacity. A few semesters ago, I had a senior attorney come in from the Department of Social Services with her paralegal and they gave a presentation on paralegal work for the Department of Social Services.
After graduation from San Francisco State University College of Extended Learning Paralegal Studies program, I worked as a contract paralegal in probate before enrolling in San Francisco Law School. I continue to work as a Contract Attorney specializing in Probate and bring both paralegal and attorney work experience into my classes.
John M. Hanft
I have hosted and mentored several paralegal interns who worked on editing and cite-checking legal manuscripts. Their attention to detail and proofreading skills are invaluable in the field of legal publications.
I have worked with paralegals throughout my career, and litigated in countless cases against firms and attorneys who had paralegals on their staff.
In my first job litigating medical malpractice claims, I worked closely with paralegals during the discovery process to obtain and review medical records, as well as investigate medical conditions and causation.
When I litigated prisoner civil rights cases, I worked with paralegals on a regular basis. Paralegals opened cases and initially investigated the claims, and then worked with me to follow up and prepare for trials. Some of the civil rights cases were large class actions that involved electronic database management and voluminous discovery with the corresponding data management for trial. In these class actions, each side of the litigation had teams of paralegals and I was required to work with my opponents' paralegal teams.
In addition to teaching paralegal students at both San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco for more than twenty years, I have had many paralegal student interns work for me in my office. In that capacity, I supervised them and gave them practical instruction.
In addition, I was formerly the Consulting Attorney for the HIV Immigration Project of the San Francisco Bar Association, Volunteer Legal Services Program; in that capacity I gave trainings on immigration law to both attorneys and paralegals, and I supervised volunteer attorneys and the paralegals assigned to help them on their cases.
Nancy Van Tassel
I have had the privilege of working with several excellent paralegals-one of whom is a graduate of our program.
Most of the paralegals with whom I have worked are employed by institutional lenders. These paralegals handle litigation matters. They tender the defense of the insured lender under the title insurance policy and monitor the litigation for the lender. They assist us in the defense of the lender by responding to discovery, verifying pleadings and reviewing documents. Occasionally, they attend mediations, either in person or by telephone. They are very professional and knowledgeable.
Brian Momany of First American Title is a graduate of our program and is a paralegal in the Claims Department. Brian and I have worked on two litigation matters and I have been very impressed with his knowledge of real estate law, litigation and settlements. He is a credit to our program.
S. Joseph Tobener
I have worked alongside paralegals for eight years. From 2004 to 2005, I supervised two paralegals as co lead attorney for eighteen months during a multi-million dollar black water lawsuit. As a housing rights attorney, I have worked with or supervised paralegals who performed many tasks, including conducting research, interviewing clients and witnesses, hiring expert witnesses, translating, and drafting briefs.
I have been involved with paralegals since 1980 in a variety of ways. I have been an instructor at the San Francisco State University Paralegal Studies Program since the early 1980s. During those early years, I also taught in the paralegal programs at Napa Valley College, California State University Hayward, and the University of San Francisco.
In addition to teaching, over the last twenty-eight years I have had various and numerous contacts with paralegals. I have interfaced with various firms' support staff to insure correct calendaring, proper pleading practices, optimization of discovery plans and trial preparation.
Paralegals are utilized in various manners in different firms. While some of the firms I have worked with use their support staff in "paper-flow" situations, others use paralegals to create pleadings and, in some cases, prepare briefs. The full range of contacts I have had with paralegals over the past decades is varied and substantial.
Louis L. Wu
My experience working with paralegals primarily involves patent prosecution matters in a law firm and in-house corporate settings. As a patent attorney, I rely on patent paralegals and administrators to assist me with all aspects of patent prosecution.
Typical duties include preparing and filing formal documents associated with patent applications in a timely manner, docketing all domestic and foreign response dates in a patent management database and organizing files and other information related to clients' intellectual property portfolios.
As a result, the paralegals and administrators must be current with the procedures and requirements for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as well as international procedures and requirements.
In my experience, attorneys and paralegals are more like collaborators than teachers and students. For example, patent laws and procedures are constantly revised, particularly the format of filings, fee calculations, etc. It is generally more efficient and cost-effective to have paralegals rather than attorneys flag changes in such laws and procedures. Once such changes are brought to my attention, we work together to adjust our practice accordingly.
As a litigation associate at Pillsbury Winthrop, I worked quite a bit with paralegals. Mostly they helped me with document review and management. They sorted documents according to issue and they worked with me in creating databases.
As a public defender we also relied to some extent on paralegals. Paralegals played a much more active role in actual legal work. They assisted me with research, drafting motions, and investigation.
In either setting it was important that the paralegals have a grasp of the basic legal issues involved in the cases they worked on. Using them effectively led me to take a much more focused and efficient approach to my own work.