Judge Ruth Astle
Ruth Astle, JD, has been an administrative law judge for 22 years. In this capacity, she presides over hearings in many areas of administrative law, including licensing and entitlements such as public employee and teacher retirement issues. She also serves on a Medical Quality Panel and does contract work for the CA State Bar. Her experience and knowledge come across humbly confident without requiring extra space for ego. Although a major personal undertaking, she mentions her pursuit of an SJD (Scientiae Juridicae Doctor) in International Legal Studies at Golden Gate University as a side note. Her subject: Judicial Ethics. Judge Astle loves teaching. Fortunately for us, she has brought her passion to the SF State Extended Learning Paralegal Studies program and has been a great contributor to the growth of this program for over 20 years. Judge Astle remembers teaching only five students in a class years ago. Today, the classrooms are filled to the max. She stresses that administrative law is an area in which Paralegals are able to take on much greater responsibilities than in many other areas of the law, for example as social security advocates. Outside of the courtroom, Ruth Astle is an accomplished photographer, specializing in architecture and portrait photography, and a proud grandmother of four.
Program Director, Paralegal Studies Program
Pat Medina, program director, is, so to speak, the "mother" of the Paralegal Studies Program (PLS) at SF State Extended Learning. Typically, her desk is decorated with heart felt thank-you notes and flowers from graduates of the program who have just accepted great jobs or have been promoted. She's never short on volunteers, and recruiters of the Bay Area's most reputable law firms swarm her program's career fairs. So, what is it about Pat?
Pat was a High School English teacher for several years before considering the paralegal profession. She was always attracted to the legal profession, but when she graduated from college — as she says: "in a very unenlightened time" — women were not encouraged to go to law school. Formal paralegal training was still in its infancy, but Pat decided to combine night classes with teaching and her small children, setting out on a new adventure in 1979.
Solidly in the Industry
Pat joined the SF State paralegal faculty in 1981 – at a time when really only attorneys were being hired to teach paralegal classes. She continued to work as a litigation paralegal and built many solid working relationships with attorneys, paralegals and legal support personnel. She served as an officer for the San Francisco Association of Legal Assistants, now known as SFPA, and chaired the Education committee. "Many paralegals who began when I did, moved into management positions at large law firms and are now on our Paralegal Advisory committee. I remember working with paralegal managers on a joint professional committee. One of the original committee members was Hilary O'Brien who is now the Director of Administration at Morrison and Foerster. We have remained friends all these years and her continuing support has been fantastic and includes catering our annual graduation celebration, hiring many of our graduates, and working with our intern program."
Running PLS on Both Ends
A program needs to be run "on both ends" – and that means understanding the students' needs and concerns, and lending them a helping hand throughout the process. Pat knows that new students ask about transitioning from one career to another, job potential and age discrimination. She offers academic and career counseling to all students on an individual basis which includes revising their resumes to highlight transferable skills, and strongly advises students to do an internship to gain legal work experience.
Age is a Non-Factor
Many job orders Pat gets prefer a "mature" paralegal candidate. While age is not a factor in legal employment, prior work experience — and most of all computer knowledge — are prime factors. Some of the older students need to increase their computer savvy and the program offers classes to help them do that.