Paralegal Student Success Stories

Mariano Curat, graduate/paralegal

Mariano Curat

From Argentina to Google

I moved from Argentina to San Francisco in 1998. Since I have always worked in the legal field I decided to apply my experience here in the US.

My knowledge of American law was very limited, and I did not want to go to law school. I researched and found the Paralegal Studies program at San Francisco State University and discovered that it had everything that I was looking for at a reasonable price.

The classes were excellent and the teachers were very knowledgeable. My English was not very good at the beginning of the program, so in addition to my work and classes, I spent several hours every week doing my homework and preparing presentations.

It took me a year and a half to complete the program, and on the same day that I graduated I was offered a paralegal position at Baker & McKenzie, where I worked from 2000 to 2007.

In 2007 I came to Google, where I'm still working as an international corporate paralegal applying everything I learned in the Paralegal Studies program at San Francisco State University. I have always wanted to work in international law, so the fact that I can speak a second language (in my case Spanish) helped me to market myself and find a job in that field.

One of the most valuable things that I am still enjoying from the Program is the friendship that I developed with several of my classmates. We get together every couple of months to catch up with our lives and to exchange experiences in our respective offices. Also, it's a great networking tool that has helped several of us to find jobs.

 

 

Helen Yune Trowbridge

Helen is a 1998 graduate of the Paralegal Studies certificate program and is currently one of San Francisco County Superior Court's newest probate examiners. After completing a double major in German and Political Science and a master's at Indiana University, she wandered westward and after a variety of jobs found a perfect fit working for a sole practitioner in probate and estate planning. She wanted to learn more about her job and after researching various programs decided to enroll at SF State. Helen says, "I was impressed by the solid curriculum, respected faculty, and found the downtown location to be very convenient. I had an excellent educational experience and even elected to take Contracts and Torts which was outside my area of specialization because of the outstanding instructor." She also says that the bankruptcy elective revealed to her that she actually enjoyed number crunching!

The paralegal certificate Helen earned at SF State helped to boost her hiring salary and landed her jobs at large San Francisco law firms where she worked before continuing her career path and becoming a probate examiner. Helen sums it up by saying, "The best rewards are intangible. I developed lasting friendships, increased my network of colleagues in the legal field, acquired confidence and a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning in the legal profession."

Helen Yune Trowbridge, Paralegal Studies graduate

 

 

Dean Whitney, Paralegal Studies student

Dean Whitney

Career-Changer Fit Right In

Dean came to SF State Extended Learning as a career-changer from the medical field. He graduated from the Paralegal Studies Program in summer 2014 and has since had an interesting career trajectory (working with law firms and as a contract paralegal for attorneys). Here are some excerpts from a discussion with Dean:

Please describe your experience with Paralegal Studies.
I did the entire ten-course program. I also returned and took two classes. The first was Elder Law because I was working with an Elder Law Attorney at the time. I also returned to take the Criminal Law class. The certificate program focuses on Civil Litigation, so I wanted some exposure to criminal law to get a sense of how they differed. Allowing grads to come back and audit at a discount is a good incentive.

What were some of the highlights of the course or courses?
The Torts class taught by instructor Steve Weisberg. The work done in that class paid off because I deal with that a lot in the work that I am in now.

The Discovery class with Charles Jenkins was another highlight. By having the instructor assign half the class as the plaintiffs and the other as the defendants, I was able to see the entire discovery process and learn how to draft the related documents.

Anytime an instructor brought in a guest speaker with a deep understanding of a legal area. Two memorable ones were the probate examiner for the Elder Law class and the workers compensation Judge for the Administrative Law class.

What are your career goals?
I would like to develop enough experience to become a supervising paralegal and train new paralegals. And perhaps even teach one day.

How did SF State Extended Learning help you reach your goals?
I like the support I received from the program staff and their accessibility. I really appreciated Pat's advice with course selection when I was in the program and especially the assistance she provided on my resume.

Could you say a few words about your current job?
I currently work with an attorney that handles probate and trust matters and personal injury. I work mostly on the personal injury side handling the discovery aspects.

What else would you like to you share about SF State Extended Learning?
Several points regarding the program. The first is having attorneys (and paralegals) currently working in the legal field as teachers brings real life experience into the classroom.

The second is I felt prepared for the job. No program can prepare you for everything, but I was exposed to the concepts so even if i was given a new task at work I felt I could, with the supervisor's assistance, take it on.

Thirdly I'm glad I received an ABA-approved certificate. When I went out on interviews that is what employers wanted.

A final note. I was a career changer and an older student and had concerns about fitting in, particularly with younger students. It ended up not being a problem. The students were great and I didn't feel out of place. I had similar concerns about the job hunt and competing against younger candidates. Again it wasn't an issue. I shared this with Pat Medina and she told me to how to address that by emphasizing my life experience, solid work history, and ability to interface with all kinds of people.

 

 

More Student Success

Prepared for the Real World

Hello Pat, Baseemah and Eduardo,

I completed the Paralegal Studies program this week, and I wanted to thank all of you for all of your hard work. I really loved the program, and thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated every class and instructor I had.

I know I didn't have very much in-person interaction with you, but I know how hard you work behind the scenes, and wanted to let you know how much I appreciate it.

Pat, I was in your internship class. I stayed on with the attorney with whom I did my internship, and he is now expanding, with me as his "right hand."

I have to tell you that the program was even better than I had anticipated, and I actually feel so prepared for the real world!

Thank you again, and I hope you all have a relaxing holiday break.

Best,
Michaela Nelsen

Graduate Success In-House at a Tech Company

Dear Pat,

I wanted to take some time to thank you, the faculty, and the staff from the ABA Paralegal Studies program at SFSU. I have found that obtaining my ABA paralegal certificate has progressed my legal career substantially. I started my legal career at various law firms, doing records/conflicts/intake and soon moved in-house to a biotech company as legal patent support. It was there that I realized I wanted more exposure to the paralegal world, and started the paralegal program at SFSU. This program taught me new skills, provided encouragement, and confirmed what I had already gained through my real life work experience.

Upon graduating, I was offered a paralegal job at a local pharmaceutical company. From there, I made the transition to my first tech company, Twitter, where I was able to put the skills I learned at SFSU into play. Most recently, I was offered a legal position at Snap, Inc. and the training from some elective courses I took at SFSU have been very beneficial in helping me to understand my new role. Being in-house at a tech company has been very rewarding and has helped me to grow as a person and employee. The perks don't hurt either! =)

Thank you again for all the resources and education you provide your students! It gives me great pride to have earned my certificate from SFSU!

Rolando Vega

Internships Get Honors Graduate a Job a Month after Graduation

Carmen graduated with honors in May 2016, and her internship experience made her the perfect fit for this job. More and more employers are hiring paralegals for paperless offices and consider internships as real legal world experience.

Pat,

I want to tell you that I started as a legal assistant/paralegal at a small personal injury firm in San Francisco today, and it's amazing. :) It's called Sally Morin Law. All women, paperless office, very tech-savvy, really friendly. The combination of my two internships made me the perfect fit, technically, and they also have similar senses of humor. Who would have thought that the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Department of Health and Human Services, combined, would get me the first job I applied for? :)

We're moving to a larger office in the next few months and then they may want interns from SF State. I'll keep you updated! Let me know if I can speak/present to any of your classes/orientations.

Thanks for everything, Pat!

Carmen

Special Placement Internship for Working Student Led to Promotion

Among many of the invaluable skills and opportunities I have gleaned from this program, I can attribute my recent promotion to the paralegal certificate program and Pat Medina's Special Placement Internship Program. Ms. Medina devotes careful attention and time to sourcing internship opportunities for students of the program. She then meets with each and every student to place them in the internship that will best-suit them, it is truly incredible how much time and effort she puts into this. For students like me, who are currently working in a law firm, the internship is extended to us just the same, and allows us to get class credit for working on special projects in addition to our regular jobs. By giving me paralegal tasks to complete to fulfill my internship requirements, my bosses were able to see what I was capable of and when there was an opening for the paralegal position in my office, they offered it to me. This program will get you a job and if you already have a job, it will get you a promotion, because it doesn’t just give you a certificate, it gives you the skill set to be a truly confident and knowledgeable paralegal.

Emma Heinichen

Update on First Year after Graduation

It's been about a year since I graduated from the paralegal program now. I'm sorry that I missed completing the survey that was sent out, as I'd have had some very encouraging things to say. I hope this update makes up for the lapse.

About a month after graduation, I ended up landing a job at Choulos, Choulos and Wyle, a plaintiff-side personal injury firm in the Financial District. I'd been working, at the time, for Rebecca Grey, a solo practitioner. It was a position I'd gotten through the internship program, owing to being placed there and subsequently being taken on permanently. Unfortunately, my hours had been reduced owing to the fact that there simply wasn't enough work to go around, and my supervisor, another graduate of the paralegal program, was ably handling the lion's share.

As it happened, my current employer put out notification on the SFTLA listserv, and I went in armed with a good word put in for me by Rebecca and a shiny, new paralegal certificate. Although I'd interviewed for a position that included both paralegal and secretarial duties directly under one of the partners, that position ultimately went to someone who had ten years of experience on me and – you might be interested to know – had also graduated from your program. In fact, she had a copy of the – I believe – third edition of your textbook from when it was a bound book, rather than a binder.

In any event, while I didn't get the position I'd interviewed for, they'd also been looking for a dedicated docket/calendar clerk. Although the firm, at eight people, is the largest firm I've personally ever worked at, the small size meant that there has been ample opportunity to take on extra paralegal work from my coworkers, who are constantly swamped. As a result, it's been a busy year, to be sure. This is the first time I've really had the time to sit down and write to refresh acquaintances.

I'm happy to report that the paralegal program has been entirely worth it and an exceptional boon. Not only did it help me to secure a job almost immediately after graduation and is helping me to maintain it, but also through it I've built up a solid network and foundation in the field. In fact, I have been receiving a relative steady stream of news about the program from running into people who are just now graduating or still in the program, and one of the law firms on our floor with whom we are mutual of-counsel just hired on another graduate, Karume Richards, who was in my year.

First Semester Student Finds Job after Taking Notary Class

A notary is an important part of the legal system so we offer a continuing education Saturday class for our students. The exam follows the class, and it is a great way for students to increase their marketability in the legal world with a one day class. This was an immediate success for this student who just completed her first two classes. She was immediately rewarded for taking the class. Many temporary jobs turn into permanent positions so time will tell what happens, but one thing is certain: she is launched on her paralegal career.

Hi Pat,
I wanted to write to thank you for recommending the notary course to us. Because I took the course and passed the exam, I have just been offered a junior paralegal role that will last for eight months. I am only in my first semester of the program, so I am very excited to have a position like this so quickly. I was told that passing the notary exam was a major deciding factor for the hiring team. I will definitely be recommending the course to others!
Best,
New Junior Paralegal

Hello from Japan — 2014 Graduate

Ryoko was an international student whose internship helped her get an interview for the job she now has in Tokyo. She was invited to an in-person interview in Japan and was hired before graduation. Her internship was not in Trademark law, but was with an Immigration attorney. Internship contacts and the networking contacts they offer are valuable for students in all areas of law.

Hello Pat,

Thank you for sending my certificates and for guiding me through the Paralegal program, especially when I was looking for an internship.

I am currently working as a trademark paralegal at Baker & McKenzie in Tokyo. I'm happy to let you know that things are going well, and I'm almost done with my probation.

There are so many things that I learned at SF State that I could apply here; writing skills, case management software, time recording, etc. I strongly believe the Paralegal Studies program is a significant program, and I'm glad that I have completed it.

I would like to keep in touch with you so that I could keep you updated how I'm doing.

Hope this semester is going well.

Best regards,

Ryoko Negishi

Greetings from Atlanta, GA — The value of an ABA Paralegal Certificate

Dear Ms. Medina,

I am writing to you from my desk in Atlanta, GA. A recent graduate of the Paralegal Studies program at SF State, I relocated to Georgia upon finishing last spring. I am writing to thank you for all that you do to ensure that we as graduates come out of the program with a well-rounded understanding of what it is to practice as a paralegal, not just in California but in other states as well.

The resources and guidance that you provide are a testament to the success of your graduates and I, being one of them, just wanted to thank you.

The challenges that we face as students in each of the required courses and then each elective we choose effectively teach each of us the skills we need to be resourceful as well as giving us the confidence to know that we can definitely do the job and do it well.

One of the last courses I took, Dr. Koory's writing class, was particularly effective in content and practice. Dr. Koory emphasized the importance of knowing your audience and writing to them concisely and effectively and it is this skill that has proven to be, in my field of work, one of the most useful. I am a paralegal in a firm that holds as its main client Grady Memorial Hospital, which is the leading trauma unit in the metro Atlanta area. My job, among many other things, is to communicate to our client the status of our cases, summarizing the complicated negotiations among other attorneys, insurance adjusters, doctors and nurses, and the patients themselves to an audience that is not necessarily legally inclined. I find myself using many of the writing skills learned in Dr. Koory's class, as well as Mark Yates's (in terms of research) and Vince Avellino's meticulous attention to detail. I have only been working in this position for two and a half months but I have excelled and have already manage to gain the trust of the Director of Client Services as well as their in-house legal department. I couldn't of done this without having completed your program.

I wanted to take the time to write you a thank you note and to wish you well. Thank you and your staff for the opportunity to learn from the best.

Sincerely,
Victor Ponce

International Student Success at Top Tier Law Firm

Golzar had completed her BS in chemical engineering in Iran, MA in environmental science in Sweden, and a second MA in engineering management prior to considering a legal career and starting our paralegal program. She graduated with a 4.0 GPA - highest honors in May and applied for a post-graduation unpaid internship at Mo Fo (Morrison and Foerster), where she was hired two months later. Her job title and responsibilities reflect the changes in the way law firms view and value the 21st century paralegal.

I earned my bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering in Iran, studied Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science in Sweden, and got my second master's degree in Engineering Management in New Jersey. When looking for jobs, I realized that my degrees are not as much help as I imagined them to be. Entry level positions in my field were few and far in between.

I entered the paralegal studies program hoping to eventually work in a field where I could take advantage of my previous education. Knowing its good reputation, I selected San Francisco State University's ABA-Approved Paralegal Studies program. I was pleasantly surprised by how caring, kind and engaged the staff were and by how focused the program was on student's career prospects.

After I finished the program, I worked as an intern at Morrison & Foerster LLP. Now, I am a "Scientific Specialist" at MoFo's patent department. The responsibilities fall between those of a paralegal and a patent agent. Had it not been for the moral support and career counseling I received at the paralegal studies program, I would not have this job now. I am truly grateful to all teachers and staff at the program!

Graduates Are Finding Jobs outside of the Traditional Law Firm

Good Afternoon Pat,

…I just wanted to say thank you for a great program. I'm currently working at a large tech company in Mountain View in their legal department and couldn't be any happier. Thanks to you, your program, and especially all your wonderful professors, I now have a great career to look forward to.

Sincerely,
Thomas Nguyen

Paralegal Classes Lead to Law School Success

Hi Professor Hanft,

I'm not sure if you remember me, but my name is Shayla Jackson, and I was a student of your Wills and Trusts course at the SF State Paralegal Studies program back in spring of 2010. I successfully completed the paralegal studies program with honors at the end of that semester then went on to attend Santa Clara University School of Law beginning that fall of 2010. Three years have passed since then, and I successfully graduated from law school in May of this year. I am now in the process of studying for the CA bar exam, which I will be taking at the end of this month.

I'm writing because I wanted to thank you. Your class was so very useful during my law school studies and even now as I prepare for the bar exam, I am still using many of the concepts you taught in your course. Your class was challenging, but it forced me to effectively learn the material. I retained the information so well, that I am able to recall so much of what I learned in your class after all of these years. It occurred to me to reach out to you and let you know that I really appreciate it and that what you do in your class works!

Well, I'm not sure if you are still teaching at SF State, but I hope all is well and once again, thank you for everything.

All the best,

Shayla Jackson
J.D. Candidate, Class of 2013
Santa Clara University School of Law

Career Changer with Social Work and Military Background

Dear Pat,
Thank you so much for your encouragement regarding the Swords to Plowshares interview. I did get the job! I started Friday, and I am very much looking forward to the work. I'm so appreciative for all that you do to make the Paralegal Studies program at SF State a strong asset in the job market, and also, a great curriculum that built my confidence to succeed. While I admit I'm a bit nervous to start, I feel prepared to make a career change. I know that I'm ready to rise up to the challenge of starting legal work! It's a great promotion for me.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer. See you on campus for my continuing education courses!
Best Wishes,
Jennie Schattle
Paralegal Studies Graduate, Fall 2013

Law School Is Easy for Our Paralegal Graduate

Pat,

After four weeks of law school I wanted to give you an update. So far, I'm really enjoying myself and thoroughly digesting the material. The paralegal studies program at SF State was a great decision! I'm quite comfortable with first year law subjects and really a step ahead of most of the class. Feels almost like I'm taking Civ Pro, Torts, Contracts and Research and Writing in slow motion from our paralegal version which provided me with a superb foundation, and has enabled me to obtain a much deeper understanding of the course material. I'm definitely using the outlines I developed in Steve's Civ Pro, Torts and Contracts classes.

Regards,
Ken Breiten

Internship Leads to Job for Career Changer

After a 12-year career in technology services, I came to the SF State's Paralegal Studies Program with the desire to steer my career in a new direction. Anyone considering such a significant life decision wonders whether it will be wise, and usually no less having decided, but from the very first class session of Introduction to Law and Civil Procedure I knew that I loved returning to school and that working in the legal field could be interesting and meaningful.

Because I was changing careers, I was very attracted to the program's internship placements that offer students the opportunity to work at local law offices and public agencies in exchange for experience and course credit. After completing five of the required courses, I decided I was ready to try and find an internship, and I spent time between semesters reviewing student journals in the paralegal library to find a law firm or agency that would appeal to me. Although I have genuinely enjoyed every class I have taken in the program, the internship was perhaps the most fulfilling, as I was able to apply in a workplace what I had learned in the classroom. And though I did not know it at the time, that internship would be invaluable to me.

At the time of this writing I am completing my last course in the program, and though I have yet to graduate, last week I began a promising new career at the public agency where I had interned, working as a Case Assistant until I complete my certificate.

I would like to express my gratitude to Pat Medina, the faculty, my fellow students, and SF State Extended Learning for providing me with the opportunity to embark on this fulfilling new career!

Graduate Looks to SF State Students for New Hires

Hi Baseemah & Pat:

I am an old time student of SF State Paralegal Studies program. My maiden name when I studied there was "Dharma Gudapati."

I want to start by saying that I am extremely glad and proud that I did the program. I proudly display my certificate in my cube and have recommended this program to a lot of my friends. :) I am very happy with the way my career has progressed since the time I graduated in 2006. In the past five years, I have worked as an Immigration Paralegal in various law firms and now am working for HCL Technologies/HCL America as an Immigration coordinator for their company.

Thank you for a great program that has provided me a basis and the right guidance to where I am now. I know as a student, all I wanted to do was to get a job. So am sure you have a lot of eager students out there looking for a job. Below is a job opening in our company for a Legal Assistant. We are not looking for much experience. But, someone who has some admin experience and is spirited to do the job. :) You can send the resumes to my attention and I would be glad to forward it to the right person. :)

Thank you for all your help and guidance. Do let me know if I can be of any help for the school or the Paralegal program.

Thank you!

Warmly,
Dharma Devarapalli

Hi Pat,

Hope you are doing well. I wanted to share this good news with you personally, I just recently found a job as a business immigration paralegal. The job is in Pleasanton, CA so I will be closer to my new home. I am excited to go work for another level of immigration, this last year has been such a great learning experience, my current bosses have been so great to me. I have learned a lot from them and will take those teachings with me for the rest of my professional life. I actually start my new job this Monday, May 14, sadly, today is my last day at my old job. Everything has worked out wonderfully, the San Francisco State paralegal certificate program definitely prepares you for the paralegal profession!

I want to thank you for your continued support and guidance and please let me know if I can be of any service to you. Thanks again. Talk to you soon.

Silvana Cordon

Pat,

I received a phone call yesterday from Marimart Paulbitski, she indicated that you had given her my name. I appreciate very much the reference. I will keep you posted on my job search. I also want to take the opportunity to thank you for a great experience in the paralegal program at SF State. I have recently had the opportunity to meet some paralegal students from other programs, and I recognize and appreciate the high quality education that I have received and the opportunities to learn all that I have learned. I feel very prepared to enter the job market.

Thank you,
Michelle Barton

Fall 2011 Graduate Found Job through Networking at January Career Fair

Hi Pat,

This is Korinn Ruiz. Hope the semester is going well. I wanted to let you know that your career fair was a success! I spoke briefly to Kimberly Cooley-Reyes afterwards and she told me about the Foreign Filing Assistant position at Mo Fo. I applied and two interviews later, I got the job! I will be in the Palo Alto office and start this coming Monday, Feb. 27. I am so excited for this opportunity and look forward to learning as much as I can.

Thank you for your help during my time in the paralegal program. I'd be happy to come back and speak to new students about my experience. Finishing the program in a year was hard work but it seems to paying off!

All the best,
Korinn

It's Never Too Late to Return to School for a Successful Career Change

I was a paralegal for several law firms in San Francisco from 1986-1992. My areas of interest were probate and family law. I relocated to New Mexico and continued briefly as a paralegal in employment law. I then changed career paths, and returned to school in Colorado in 1999 to become a Landscape Architect. By 2004, I was working in Seattle.

At the end of 2009, I was laid off and unemployed. I decided to return to the Bay Area to be closer to family. It was clear that in the current economy I had to find work in a field that was growing and hiring. I contacted my prior employer, a family law specialist, for a meeting. He said I should return to school to upgrade my skills. I did my research and attended the orientation at San Francisco State. I began the program in June 2010 and completed it this past August.

What have I learned?

  1. It's never too late to return to school to either gain new skills or upgrade the ones you have.
  2. Pick an area of law you enjoy and would like to work in, and then excel in that class. Show the teacher how you would be an outstanding candidate for that specific paralegal position.
  3. Make every writing assignment count. Save the best and place in a binder to take to your interview.
  4. For paralegal salary information in the Bay Area, visit the Robert Half website (roberthalf.com) to download their free survey. It will detail appropriate salary information based on the ZIP code, firm size, and position level.
  5. Network with everyone by joining the SF Paralegal Association, and attending the law section that interests you. Locate an internship in an area you like, and volunteer for an organization willing to give you the opportunity.

So, did I listen to my own advice?

Yes, and here's a brief overview.

  • While returning to school was difficult at times, it was enjoyable and I learned something new every day.
  • I enrolled in probate, estate planning and family law classes. I worked hard and made sure the teachers knew me and my capabilities.
  • I took my writing assignments seriously, and placed the best ones in a binder for future use.
  • I downloaded the Robert Half salary survey and kept it in a binder for future use.
  • I joined the SF Paralegal Association and attended their meetings and sectional meetings. I joined their Pro Bono committee. I located an Internship that provided real world experience, and a great professional reference. I am currently a volunteer with the Alameda Bar Association's family law and guardianship clinics. It is rewarding to help those unable to navigate the legal system.

And the good news.

  • I just accepted a paralegal position with a family law firm.
  • My family law teacher had emailed her former students about this position. When I applied, I referred to my teacher and was told at the interview she gave me a great reference. My binders included work from both discovery classes, family law and estate planning, as well as my internship supervisor's evaluation. The interviewers definitely reviewed everything.
  • When we discussed salary, I referred to the Robert Half survey, handing them a copy highlighting what was the market salary.
  • My volunteer work was discussed at the interview.

Don't give up and keep all options open. Be prepared and ready for the opportunity that will surely come.

It is so easy to get discouraged and so hard to be patient. Patience is usually rewarded.

I wish you the best of luck.

Graduate Receives a Full Scholarship to Law School

Hi Pat & Eduardo,

My old law school, Golden Gate University, has offered me a seat for fall 2016 and a full-tuition scholarship for all three years! I’m still waiting to hear from other schools, but I don’t think I'll be able to turn down a full scholarship, especially with a baby on the way.

A huge part of my application was highlighting the fact that I spent the past few years enrolled in SF State's paralegal program, obtained my paralegal certificate, and found work in the legal field. All of these things I owe to the paralegal program and to you, Pat, for recommending that I apply to work here at Grotefeld Hoffman.

Thank you both for helping me while I was a student and during the law school application process!

Best regards,

Hilary Chen
Legal Assistant

John Ravelo, Paralegal Studies student

South Bay Student Makes Commute Count

When I learned about SF State's Paralegal Program, I knew that it would pave way for an opportunity to finally shift into a legal career, despite numerous failed attempts in the past. Indeed, while halfway into the program, I got hired by a law firm to work as a paralegal. I believe that the mention of the program on my résumé significantly helped me in being selected for the position. Thanks to the Program Director, Pat Medina, who helped me tailor my resume for the new career that I was pursuing. I have been working for a law firm for almost a year now, gaining valuable paralegal experience even before my graduation from the program in spring 2011.

I chose to attend SF State's Paralegal Studies Program because of its good reputation as an ABA-approved program, the impressive roster of professors, and the availability of financial aid, despite the presence of other paralegal schools closer to my home in the South Bay. I am grateful to Pat and my professors who were not only supportive in school; since I did not have prior law firm experience, Pat and my professors provided me with excellent references during the hiring process.

SF State's Paralegal Studies Program also boosted my interest in the law. I am highly considering law school in the future, and I am glad to have gained an excellent foundation in legal education by attending the program.

International Student Finds Success

Dear Pat,

I graduated in fall '10. It would be nice to get an invitation to attend the graduation ceremony. I'd like to thank you once again for guiding me through the program. Without your kind advice and various opportunities you have given me, I would not have been able to make it this far. I have finally found my true self. I realized immigration law is what I want to specialize in, particularly the scope of criminal immigration, e.g., Deportation Defense, U-Visa petition, VAWA Petition, T-Visa, S-Visa. Business immigration is somewhat colorless. In addition, I am truly fortunate to have been training with Ms. Angela Warren. She is one super sharp/sophisticated attorney. I have already learned so much from her. I strongly suggest that later-generation interns from our program be referred to her. They will learn considerably being with Ms. Warren.

I wish you good health, Pat. Please continue being with us/giving us advice/teaching here at SF State.

Warmly,
Badin Kangsadarnsenanont

Education + Experience: A Winning Combination!

I graduated from the program in January 1999, which I completed to bolster my understanding and skills for my law firm job-shortly before California Business & Professional Code §§6450-6456 became law in September 2000. I had been doing some paralegal work along with legal secretarial work, and while my supervising attorneys were willing to teach me, full-time law firm work did not allow much "spare" time at the office for training.

I had come to the program after several years in education; law was my second career. Completing the program provided a range of knowledge and skills that qualified me to move into full-time paralegal work. The program assured my bosses that I had the professional background for more advanced work, first at the law firm for several years; then at a major Internet company for the last six years; and now, starting next month, at the world's global technology leader. My new employer wanted experience, and the SF State program made it possible for me to acquire it-and to earn a six-figure income as well!

Through the program, I also gained invaluable networking connections and real friendships that encouraged and helped me take advantage of new career opportunities at each step in this second career.

At an age when many people retire, I am taking on a new challenge in 2011, thanks to the SF State program that started my preparation for ever more responsible paralegal roles!

- Pam Rolph

Raymond Rollan, Paralegal Studies student turned faculty

Opening New Doors

My interest in the law has brought me to many unexpected and wonderful places. I graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 2009 with a degree in Political Science. In order to figure out if law school was right for me, I enrolled in the SF State Paralegal Program in the summer of 2010. While my main intention was to gain knowledge in legal procedure and practice - what I received in the process was more than anything I could have ever hoped for. Through the program, I not only figured out the importance of torts and ethics, but I also made lifelong friends, met amazing professors, interned for an incredible attorney, and more importantly, gained confidence in myself as a legal professional and as a future lawyer.

Through the help of Program Director Pat Medina, I obtained an internship at the District Attorney's Office Insurance Fraud department, where I worked with attorneys and investigators in prosecuting worker's compensation and auto fraud for 7 months. I applied classroom theory to actual practice and gained first hand legal experience by creating timelines for case files, accompanying the attorneys to court and judges’ chambers, summarizing depositions, and preparing trial exhibits.

While attending the program, I was also actively involved with the San Francisco Paralegal Association (SFPA), serving as the SF State Student Representative. In this capacity, I attended Board meetings, met and talked with students regarding membership, and expressed student concerns to the Board of Directors. Through hard work and dedication, I helped in organizing the very first Student Focused Track at the Annual Paralegal Day and I was also able to help in creating the very first Student Forum Committee of the Association.

I successfully leveraged my experience at the District Attorney’s Office and the technical skills I gained from school to land a position as a Junior Intellectual Property Paralegal at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.

The solid training I received at SF State’s Paralegal Program set the foundation for my success as a law student at the University of San Francisco School of Law, where I worked full-time as a paralegal while attending classes at night. While at USF, I practiced the leadership skills I developed at SF State and served as the Vice President of the Student Bar Association, as well as the President of the Pilipino American Law Society. I also had the amazing opportunity of working with two judges as well as the Oakland City Attorney’s Office.

I graduated in December of 2014 and passed the California Bar in May 2015. Currently, I work as an associate attorney at a law firm in Oakland practicing civil litigation defense.

I never expected that my decision to enroll in SF State’s Paralegal Program would lead me to where I am today and open the doors that it has. The experience has truly been life changing. I learned that anyone who is willing to open themselves up and work hard while keeping a positive attitude will get where they need to be - whether that goal is finding employment as a paralegal, gaining legal experience, or becoming an attorney.

The education and training I received while attending SF State’s Paralegal Program has truly enriched my practice as an attorney. As an attorney, I value and respect the work that our paralegals do in ensuring that cases are handled efficiently and effectively. I am extremely thankful and blessed to have been a part of such a wonderful program with top-notch professors, caring staff, and a supportive community.

Graduate Finds Immediate Employment

Esteemed SF State faculty,

After graduating from the SF State Paralegal program in December, I was astonished to find employment immediately. Since my employment was directly the result of your classes, I thought I would share with each of you what has been going on.

A plaintiff-only toxic-tort firm in Berkeley needed a paralegal to perform special duties. The previous paralegal had left the position abruptly, causing significant stress to the other paralegals and attorneys. This caused the firm to be particularly cautious during the hiring process. That combined with their already low hiring rate (due to staff staying causing little turnover), created a very intense interview process. I had three interviews plus background checks and reference checks and tests. The first test they gave me was on civil law and had 60 questions, divided evenly into basic, intermediate, and advanced sections. I was only given 15 minutes to complete it. To my dismay, I got them all correct, except for one "basic" question about municipalities.

After I was finally offered the position, my (now) boss confided in me as to why they selected me from among the roster of candidates. There was the usual stuff about personality and job fit and so on. But a huge contributing factor was my education from the SF State paralegal program. For a firm that doesn't hire much, they surprised me by saying they were already familiar with our program and regard it as the finest in the Bay Area! They looked at my coursework in detail. And I truly mean that! They didn't just look at a transcript. They wanted to see my relevant coursework syllabi (and notes). The nature of the position requires the paralegal to have a fundamental understanding of Torts and Bankruptcy. So they wanted to see what my classes taught me.

I showed them Steve Weisberg's Tort syllabus and all of my class notes (which thankfully are thorough). They liked what they saw and nodded appreciatively. In fact, the Torts midterm proved to be a real "ice-breaker" as the attorneys and paralegals argued which parties could be sued. They thought the one-page multi-party, multi-actions situation was stimulating. HAHA! It sure made me feel better, I can assure you. I also read some of his anecdotal wisdom from my notes, which delighted them. The same was true for each of his mini-scenario questions on the final exam. Mr. Weisberg is really very witty!

Apparently very few paralegals take Bankruptcy. And although the firm is a tort firm, they need a paralegal for this niche position who likes and understands bankruptcy as well as torts. They examined Vince's class syllabus and agreed that he put together a decent introductory course, covering all of the major beginning concepts. They also liked my bankruptcy binder, which is a visually appealing tool to produce during an interview (trust me!). But most of all, they really approved of Vince's work procedure. The fact that every single assignment had to meet exacting standards or be redone, impressed them. Some of my bankruptcy work had so much red ink, I think a marker bled to death on it! But they didn't frown on that. Quite the opposite, they thought that was an excellent teaching technique.

Anyway, I am very wordy and could chatter all night. I haven't seen any of you recently, so I just thought that I would share with you that I found paralegal employment immediately after graduating, and that I am doing it in the two fields which I enjoyed most during my coursework there: torts & bankruptcy. It sure is funny how things work out sometimes, huh? I still have a little more time left until I am 100% part of the team. On that day, I will get my business cards. Right now I do have my own desk and phone and email though, so that is nice. When I get my business cards, I will mail you each one (if you want).

Thank you for everything. You are first-class teachers, and your classes were thoroughly fun and enriching. It was a true privilege to study under you!

Ben Harrison
Bankruptcy Coordinator

A Bold Move in a Poor Economy
February 7, 2011

After graduating from the SF Paralegal Studies program in spring 2010, I felt optimistic about my future in the legal profession. With a cross country move looming over my head shortly after graduation, I felt confident that my ABA-approved certificate and paralegal association memberships would not only provide me with employment opportunities, but would give me a huge upper hand on my competition.

I registered with Robert Half Legal before my move and interviewed with them my first week in Philadelphia. The recruiter was very friendly and attentive, and my paralegal studies impressed her. She was also impressed with my test scores, for which I thank the paralegal program at SF State. I was offered a temp position within days of my interview. Although I declined the offer, I was so happy to be offered a job so soon, especially in a struggling economy!

I had several interviews lined up within weeks of my relocation, one of them being a sole practitioner of a general practice. I knew that working for him could be tough, as sole practitioner offices can tend to be, but it would provide me invaluable hands on experience with the court system and its inner workings. In my interview, he had reservations about me having no experience in my new state, but the combination of my ABA-approved certificate and work experience landed me the job!

I presently work as both a paralegal and secretary for my boss. I enjoy the small office atmosphere, and I like that I am involved in all aspects of the work. My boss bills me at paralegal rates, and provides me the opportunity to interview clients, draft complex discovery, and prepare financial documents as well as other diverse duties as necessary. I work closely with both my boss and our clients to ensure a high standard of care and attention to each matter, and I enjoy the variety of work in a general practice.

I can't overstate my appreciation for the program and its dedicated teachers enough! Having my ABA-approved certificate has given me the confidence to go after what I want at work. The teachers urged us to join our local paralegal associations, and because of that I network monthly with fellow paralegals in my area. In addition, having an ABA-approved certificate has provided me with a unique opportunity from my paralegal association that will allow me to become a New Jersey certified paralegal. I will then have state-specific credentials that will make me even more marketable. The SF State Paralegal program is a stimulating and diverse program and is perfect for anyone who wishes to explore the paralegal field in any capacity and in any of our 50 states!

Although I had roughly three years of legal experience by summer 2009-working in different capacities as a legal clerk or legal intern within various legal offices-I decided the best way to secure my future within the legal field was to pursue a paralegal certificate from an ABA-approved Paralegal Studies program. I ultimately found that completing the certificate program within nine months was the best use of my time while my husband was deployed and serving in Iraq.

SF State Extended Learning's Paralegal Studies program offers a wide variety of practice areas, which is still growing to this day. The courses and instructors were great: informative, challenging, and involved. The most surprising but rewarding aspect about this certificate program is that a good portion of the instructors have their J.D. and are not only teaching the law but practicing it as well. Legal topics, procedures, and practices became easier to digest because the instructors were aware of the evolutions in the law within their specific practice areas and industries.

I am currently employed with a prominent, international East Coast firm. Although I was not hired during the firm's typical hiring and recruiting season (the firm usually recruits in late spring/early summer by visiting college campuses in the Washington, D.C. area), nor was I aware of any vacant paralegal positions within the firm, I was invited to interview with the firm's paralegal supervisor and manager. I believe the fact that I possess a certificate from an ABA-approved Paralegal Studies program greatly impacted their hiring decision. To my knowledge, I am one out of a dozen of my paralegal co-workers (within my age range) with a paralegal certificate.

I credit a lot of my success to the SF State Extended Learning Paralegal Studies program. A BIG "Thank You" goes out to Pat and all of the wonderful instructors there!

Tina Ho accepted an administrative assistant job that was sent to us from one of our graduates because she wanted to work in the Patent & Trademark field. Entry-level paralegal jobs in the field are very rare, so she chose to work closely with our graduate and learn the field in an administrative capacity to gain experience She was recently promoted to a full-time paralegal position at the same law firm.

Dear Pat,

I appreciate everything your paralegal program has done for me and many graduates coming from SF State Extended Learning. In particular, I just wanted to thank you for your unwavering guidance and encouragement in helping me land a solid job in a patent and trademark law firm. I could not have done it without you! It was a long ride and journey, but throughout it all, you were my rock. And I sincerely wanted to say that you have helped so many students in this program, including myself.

A paralegal certificate, a Bachelor's degree, plus the hard work, diligence, and perseverance, I believe will be the formula for success in the legal world, not to mention, for life, in general. I encourage all paralegal students as well as graduates, to never stop working hard for what they believe in, and to live the life that one deserves. Always believe in yourself, and towards that end, the hard work will pay off.

I can still remember the first day of paralegal orientation, you always said enrolling in this paralegal program, attaining an ABA-approved certificate will enhance one's career options and you were certainly correct. I am glad I came upon this program and that I took the time to invest in it. I thank you Pat for all of your assistance and I also wanted to take the time to thank all of my professors who have been there for me.

Sincerely,
Tina Ho

Kate and Sam Ha are students from Vietnam who came to the Paralegal Program with EDD funding that required them to complete the 30-unit certificate program in one calendar year, which is three semesters.

They live in the Sacramento area and drove over 135 miles each way to attend our classes. They chose SF State because of our reputation in the legal community and ABA-approved status. They both did internships and excelled at their studies. Their success is due to their dedication and the sacrifice they made to commute such a long distance to attend class three times a week.

Hi Pat,

Sam and I wanted to share with you our experiences and how the program has impacted our life. The year went by very fast. Sam and I still can't believe that we finished in just under one year. We feel completely equipped to enter into our career path because of the training we received. All the classes and internship truly were invaluable. I know for a fact no other institution can provide as much training and impact a student's life as SF State! For this we are truly indebted to your genuine love and devotion for your students and career. Thank you, Pat! SF State could not and would not make students feel this way without the your devotion and true motivation for your students to succeed.

Our experience with meeting and getting to know you was the best gift we received from the program. Seeing you in the hall way was like seeing a celebrity! I know it sounds funny because you are very humble and mild. I took in everything that you taught me. Every conversation was ingrained into us. We knew that everything you taught us would soon be valuable. Pat, when entering into the program I wanted someone to hold my hand and tell me what I need to do in order to be successful. I thought it was asking too much, but I did not need to ask you-you simply had everything I needed through the professors and Eduardo. I have no regrets in the program, expect for one: I really wish I had more time to learn from you, Pat.

Everyone I meet, I tell them about you, your school, and the great professors.

Pat, thank you. We are indebted to you. Please let us know if there is anything we can do for you or the school.

Sincerely, your devoted students,
Kate and Sam Ha

Pam Wolpa, Paralegal Studies student turned faculty

In June 2006, I enrolled in the SF State Paralegal Studies program, optimistic that a paralegal certificate would afford me greater opportunities in a career path I fell into. I hired an attorney in 1994, we developed a great rapport and when our business relationship ended she offered me a job as her secretary. Four years later, I became her paralegal. I continued working as a paralegal for many years but felt that getting a formal paralegal education could only make me a better paralegal.

I graduated with highest honors in June 2008 with 17 classes under my belt. When I spoke at graduation I said that I hoped to have the privilege of teaching in the program someday. Well, that someday came sooner than I imagined and I began teaching Computer Applications in Law Practice in spring 2009! I have wanted to teach since I was in grammar school, and I am ecstatic that I've achieved that goal. The rewards I receive from teaching are innumerable. Not only do I get to share my knowledge and experience with our amazing students, I also get to learn from them. All of this helps to make me a better paralegal.

Computer applications is the perfect class for me to teach because of my strong interest in and aptitude for technology from the time I bought my first computer in 1984! I've always been the unofficial "go to" computer person at work and I enjoy helping people learn and understand software. The programs I use most in my paralegal work include Adobe Acrobat Professional, the Microsoft Office Suite, CaseMap, Summation, Judicial Council forms and timekeeping and calendaring software. I sincerely believe that paralegals need to master computer skills to be successful.

I have the paralegal program to thank for my current job where my experience, skills and education allow me to take on challenging and stimulating assignments. Pat Medina has a talent for matching her students with precisely the right job. When my firm contacted her looking for a paralegal candidate, Pat instinctively knew this was the ideal place for me. I am extremely grateful to Pat, her assistants Baseemah Rahman and Eduardo Cerpa, and the many teachers who helped me to become the teacher and paralegal I am today.

Graduate Found Job in Two Months in this Tough Economy by Accepting an Entry Level Position

Hello Pat,

I wanted to thank you for all your help with my résumé, cover letter, and insight into the profession. After finishing the program in August and leaving my position with Nordstrom, I just landed an entry level position with a firm here in San Francisco with the possibility of growth witnin the firm. I will be starting on Monday as a full time file clerk at Hersh Family Law Practice. I am very excited and thankful as I embark on my journey into my career.

Kind Regards,

Taliah Hobbs

Melanie Getting, Paralegal Studies student

The Road from Legal Secretary to Paralegal

I am a career legal employee. I have worked in a variety law firms since 1988 - almost straight out of high school. I started out as a secretary, but back then, "paralegals" were not well known, so as a secretary, I did a lot of paralegal work. Because I married my first husband shortly after graduating from high school and we began our family within a year, I never had time to continue my higher education, and I had obtained very few college credits. In 1993, my first husband died, leaving me with 2 small children (my oldest had just turned 2 and the youngest was a month shy of her 1st birthday). I got in touch with Jim Parker, an attorney I had worked with at a firm before and who had recently opened a solo practice, and I began doing paralegal work for him from home. Over the years, my professional relationship with Jim grew stronger, and in 2003, he joined forces with two other partners to become the managing partner of what is now known as Brydon Hugo & Parker in San Francisco. He brought me on board with him as his secretary

In 2005, Jim learned about the new statutory requirements for paralegals (Business and Professions Code 6450) and offered to send me through SF State's Paralegal Program to get my certificate (before that time, a certificate wasn't required in order to perform and bill out my paralegal work - all I needed was an affidavit from an attorney). He felt that I was a valuable paralegal and wanted to be able to continue to bill my time out, so he even offered to pay for it! I chose not to go back to school for the certificate when Jim made this offer because by that time I had two teenaged daughters at home, my second marriage was on the rocks, and my full-time job was providing the sole income for my family. His offer stood, though, and a year later I decided to take advantage of it. I began by taking 2 summer classes at SF State's downtown campus. After many, many discussions with Pat Medina, the director of the SF State Paralegal Program, I began attending various classes at Diablo Valley College to obtain basic college credits while concurrently attending one to two classes per semester at SF State. I also continued to work full-time and raise my daughters. Although it took 2 1/2 years and a lot of work, I finally graduated with honors from SF State's Paralegal Program at the end of 2008.

Although I already had plenty of experience and already knew what I was doing when I attended SF State's Paralegal Program, I think that, overall, the classes at SF State were very good. They reinforced what I had learned on the job. I already knew "how" to do my job but my classes helped me gain a better understanding of "why" certain things needed to be done in a specific way. SF State's classes provide a lot of hands-on and practical practice - things you actually use out here in the real world. One reason Jim chose SF State's program for me was that he knew it was ABA-approved, and he has told me that if given a choice between a paralegal candidate who graduated from SF State's ABA-approved Paralegal Program and a candidate from any other program, he would choose to hire the SF State graduate.

I currently work a dual position as both a secretary and a paralegal. As a paralegal, I am definitely an integral part of a team, and it is very rewarding. I love working in the field of law, and if I had to do it all over again, I would follow the same path.

Ted Rowell, Paralegal Studies student

Out of the Blue

One of the many reasons I signed up for the paralegal certificate program at SF State Extended Learning was its emphasis on helping students find work after graduating. I'd been out of work for several years, having taken a break after a 19-year career in litigation support, and wanted to get back into the legal profession at a more substantive level. Bay Area firms were interested in my background, but I lacked a Paralegal certificate, private firm experience, and I didn't know how to design and create a database. The SF State Extended Learning program proved to be a boon in many ways: the school was conveniently located, the classes - teachers and students - were engaging and insightful, and it offered an internship program and job placement assistance. The program has some wonderful teachers - and by this I mean "teachers" who transmit insights about their class topics and how these apply to the real world. It became clear early on that this program would be a great opportunity for anyone committed and curious enough to do the work, ask questions, and develop their own talents.

After graduating from the program, I found a paralegal position with a firm in the financial district. This job opportunity came out of the blue: I was called in for an interview a month after I'd applied for the position. Several of the determining factors in my being hired were the Paralegal certification from SF State Extended Learning under Pat Medina's direction (Pat is well-known in the legal community), the Paralegal internship, and the Computer Application courses. The latter were especially relevant as I was hired to streamline an internal document handling and tracking process for one of the firm's practice groups, including the design and implementation of a new database.

Looking back, I see several common traits so far as completing the Paralegal program, job hunting, and thriving at a law firm: preparation, adaptability and congeniality - preparing for classes, interviews and work projects; adapting technologies, work technique, and strategy to a given situation; and treating people and circumstances with sensitivity and aplomb. One additional trait - a strong sense of commitment - has made it possible to focus and move forward despite the periodic setbacks and disappointments. My goal of working as a legal professional at a more substantive level - building databases, drafting pleadings and motions, participating in a trial - is a work in progress, but all the more real and tangible for having completed the SF State Extended Learning Paralegal program.

Paralegal Goes to Law School

Elizabeth Jessup is a Law Student at Lewis & Clark in Portland, Orgeon & a Probate Paralegal.

I started taking classes at SF State's Paralegal Studies Program because I ultimately wanted to become a lawyer. But before embarking on at least three years of schooling to earn a JD, and investing tens of thousands of dollars, I thought it wise to be certain I was making the right choice. I'm really glad that I first earned my paralegal certificate at SF State. Having completed the paralegal studies program has also helped me immensely as a new law school student.

For those who are considering law school, becoming a paralegal first is advantageous for numerous reasons. For example, you'll find out what it's really like to work in a law office. Unlike others in your law school class, you'll know what lawyers do every day. And you will learn whether or not you would like to do the same kind of work. When I finished the paralegal program, I knew that I wanted to do transactional work and not litigation. As a law school student, I can focus on taking classes in the areas of law that I already know I prefer.

Also, the courses you take at SF State will prepare you for your first year of law school. First year Civil Procedure, Torts and Contracts are a lot easier when you've already taken all three as a paralegal student. You will already know the language of the law. And many of the cases you read as a paralegal student will show up in your first year casebooks. But the biggest bonus of all is that your exam scores will likely be higher because you will have already been tested on the same concepts at SF State.

Another huge reason to become a paralegal first is that with your paralegal certificate, you can work while you're in school. I'm in an evening law school program, so I work as a paralegal during the day. Not only am I earning enough money to help defray some of my tuition costs, I am also building up a network of attorney contacts through my job. And I get to apply what I learn in law school on a daily basis, not just for a few months over the summer.

After graduation from the paralegal program, my first job was in the trust department of a major bank. Now while I am attending law school at Lewis & Clark in Portland, I am also working as a probate paralegal in a large firm and find the work quite different.

Working at Bullivant Houser Bailey is very different from working in a bank. Of course, having to make my billable hours goal every month changes the nature of the work in many ways. Whereas at the bank, we were encouraged to contact clients all the time just to check on them and see if they needed anything, at the law firm, I don't contact clients unless I have to, because just sending an email or making a quick phone call costs them a lot of money! But I really like working at Bullivant. The attorneys are so smart (and so fast and articulate - it's a bit intimidating). And the work is very fast-paced, so I'm never bored.

Finally, I think that having an ABA-approved paralegal certificate helped me get into law school. Law schools know that an ABA-approved program is more rigorous academically, which means that you are more prepared to study law. Also, I was able to ask several of my instructors to write letters of recommendation. It had been fifteen years since I had finished college, and without recommendations from my paralegal instructors, I would not have had any letters of recommendation from teachers or professors.

I think that anyone who is considering law school should also think about attending SF State's paralegal program first. It certainly helped me!

John Stewart, Paralegal Studies student

Recently my 16-year old daughter was perusing my senior high school yearbook. When she got to my picture, she laughed out loud. She said, "Wow, big dreams, huh Dad?" Under my name the caption read, "John plans to study law at Stanford."

My initial reaction to her comment was one of disappointment in myself. I remembered how much I really planned to pursue a career in law. We all have dreams, but then somewhere along the way, life happens.

I went on to UC Berkeley immediately after high school and received my BAHowever, law school became a "dream deferred." I went on to have a good career in the petrochemical industry, while helping out in my family's business.

Then an unexpected thing happened on the way to my mid-life crisis. My dad dropped dead of a heart attack. That's when the legal field came back into the forefront. After leaving my job and going into the family business with my siblings, the reality of going into business with family evolved as ill conceived and a tragic misstep. One word - "probate" - think very long and hard before you go into an inherited business with family - I found myself looking for a career change.

At my wife's encouragement, I took a job as a temporary "document coder" at a large, now defunct, national law firm. While the work was repetitive, it renewed my interest in a career in the legal field. I soon got a job at another large law firm, now also defunct, as a file clerk. With my college degree and lots of hard work, I quickly moved into a job as a "Legal Assistant."

My road to certification started when Business and Professional Code 6450 was an Assembly bill. In the beginning of my career, a paralegal would need to have a declaration signed by a supervising attorney to validate their credibility as a working paralegal. In looking for new work this "signed letter of recommendation" had to be schlepped to each and every job interview. I wanted to obtain the credentials which would allow me to be recognized as a paralegal because I say I am, not because I could get an attorney to sign a piece of paper.

I took my first class at SF State Paralegal Studies Program in the summer of 2002. I could not afford to go full time with a family to support, so it was "one class at a time." However, the road to obtaining my certificate would not be easy. I had several personal trials along the way, including the death of an uncle, who was like a second-father to me. I had to take an incomplete to attend his funeral and then there were some semesters when I didn't have the money because of my daughter's school tuition, or ballet lessons or piano lessons, so I would have to wait to take a class.

However, in the fall of 2007, five years after my journey began, I graduated with honors from the SF State Paralegal Certificate Program. So while I never made it to Stanford to study law, I found a career which affords me to support and work with some of the best-trained lawyers in the country. I am now a paralegal specializing in Wage and Hour Class Action litigation at Jackson Lewis LLP.

Thank you, SF State, for helping me realize my dream.

Thank you for all your help when I was a student at the SF State Paralegal Studies Program. I think of you and Baseemah fondly, because the two of you made it possible for me to succeed in the program.

I work at the County of Alameda, Office of the County Counsel, as a legal secretary. The skills and knowledge I acquired from the Paralegal Program are so important to my everyday work and are instrumental in my future career in law. I am very grateful to both you and Baseemah for holding down the fort and for all you kindness, helpfulness, and consideration in helping me succeed in the program.

December 4, 2008

Greetings Pat Medina,

It was great speaking with you by phone this past weekend! You made my day!

As discussed on the phone, my military duty brings me to Joint Base Balad, Iraq of which I serve as the Brigade Paralegal of the 304th Sustainment Brigade (headquartered out of Riverside, California.)

We have approximately 100 (plus) soldiers in Brigade. As a paralegal, I am the non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of the military justice, administrative law, operational law, and legal assistance issues for the 304th Brigade. There are 3 Battalions paralegals of which I monitor who are responsible for a cumulative of approximately 3,000 soldiers while in Iraq. Also, I am responsible for the eastern Legal Assistance Office in Joint Base Balad, Iraq which helps the soldiers with such things as: power of attorneys, wills, passports, notaries and the like. For attorney advice, we have several attorney present. This has been a rewarding experience utilizing my paralegal skills acquired from San Francisco State University via my paralegal certificate. My intentions are to continue growing it this field of law while working in the JAG corp. of the US ARMY. As it stands now, I rotate from my two offices throughout the day while maintain my military bearing.

Keep me in your prayer, and again it was a pleasure sharing with you on the phone.

Give my greetings to all there and Happy Holiday!

Sincerely,

SGT Freddie Scott
Paralegal, NCOIC/Legal Assistance NCOIC
304th SBDE
US ARMY

Sergeant Scott would enjoy hearing from other graduates.
Feel free to email him at freddie.scott2@us.army.mil.

Jen Walters, Paralegal Studies student

In the summer of 2007, it became more and more clear that my career in the mortgage industry would end soon. It was, and still is, heartbreaking to see my friends struggle with finding new jobs. Although I was worried about paying my rent and my bills, I didn't want to get just any job. I wanted to do something that was interesting and challenging. I don't remember what made "Paralegal" pop into my head. I guess it really doesn't matter that much now. The more I researched the responsibilities of a paralegal, the more I realized that was the path for me. That meant I had to go back to school.

There are so many factors in choosing a paralegal studies program. Whenever I make a decision, I think in terms of ROI, Return on Investment. What will I get in return for the cost? The amount of time, money, energy and work invested in a program compared to the quality of education and paralegal job in return made my choice an obvious one—SF State. There are several schools with paralegal studies programs that are much closer to where I live. However, none of those are ABA accredited programs. Does that really matter? YES IT DOES! In order to be accredited by the ABA, a standard of excellence must be maintained. At SF State, excellence is apparent in the students and the faculty. Employers in the Bay Area know that. In this economy, any advantage is priceless.

I began the Paralegal Studies program at SF State in the spring 2008 semester. When I first went to class, I felt like I was in a foreign country and didn't speak the language. I had no idea how to do any of the homework and felt like I was just bumbling along. I eventually hooked up with a study group and found out that I was not the only stranger in a strange land. Since then, I have met so many great people in this program. Everyone from my classmates to the faculty has been supportive and has helped me to excel.

This semester has been the best yet for me. I am doing an internship at a litigation firm in Novato that specializes in the mortgage banking industry. What a perfect fit! I've been able to apply so much of what I have learned in class to my internship tasks. In addition, a graduate of the SF State Paralegal Studies Program encouraged me to apply for the San Francisco Paralegal Association scholarship. I recently found out I won the scholarship! With the success I have been experiencing, my ROI in choosing SF State has paid off in spades!

Baljinder Heer

Evidence at her Fingertips

Baljinder Heer came to the US from India with a great work ethic, and little professional education. She started out working her way up to managing donut shops, then to clerical work by getting an Associate Degree in Accounting. Determination being one of her strong suits, she decided that there must be more for her to accomplish. She investigated and joined the Paralegal Studies Program (PLS) here at SF State Extended Learning.

Despite initially enrolling in the wrong first class, a class that required basic knowledge of legal terminology and concepts already, she mastered it with the help of a fellow student, with whom Baljinder still laughs about her worried "deer caught in the headlights" look. She was hooked on the subject from there on out, enjoying it more and more.

Upon graduation from PLS in 2003, Baljinder asked Program Director Pat Medina for job hunting advice. She has always been very independent and was not necessarily seeking a 9 to 5 situation. Pat had just received an inquiry from an attorney—an SF State alumnus himself who turned to the PLS program based on the quality he expected from his alma mater—seeking a contract paralegal (paid by the court) for a federal drug case. Baljinder was a perfect match for the position and saw a dream coming true working in a maximum security court.

She continued her career as a contract paralegal, which included working on and sitting through a complete murder re-trial alongside the attorneys and the defendant, preparing evidence in real time to be projected onto the courtroom screen, responding to the prosecution. Baljinder had over 30,000 pieces of evidence at her fingertips, enabling her to assist her attorneys discredit witnesses, for example, by finding contradictory statements in a matter of minutes, doing her part in helping release an individual who already spent 11 years—wrongfully—in prison.

During such a trial, she mostly worked 16-hour days, got very little sleep, and even squeezed getting married between two meetings. In addition, Baljinder got her Bachelor's in Criminal Justice from SF State, where many of the academic units she earned in the PLS program were accepted. She's taking a little break now with less work, and a lot of focus on her big traditional Indian wedding ceremony.

Part of her work is also talking to clients and working with investigators as requested by the attorneys she works for. Baljinder has also been instrumental in helping many PLS students from India get a great start in the program.

It's been quite an amazing experience coming from the point where I realized I was interested in law to working in a national law firm which handles securities litigation. The SF State Extended Learning Paralegal Studies program was absolutely wonderful in helping me facilitate that process, and I couldn't believe how confident in my abilities I was coming out of the program.

The program gave me an essential understanding of the legal process which has helped guide me in so many ways. From small research tasks to helping to edit and make sense out of pleadings which are hundreds of pages long, being able to be an effective part of a lawsuit has been invaluable.

Furthering my education after getting my bachelor's degree was probably the best thing I could have done for myself, and the Paralegal Studies program was the perfect place for me to do it. It's been a great foundation for a journey into the field of law that I feel like has just begun, and I'm absolutely optimistic that when it comes time for me to go to law school I will be able to excel above the majority who haven't had any experience in the field.

A Job in Tokyo, Please

Anne Koike is on her way to Japan. She will be managing paralegals in the Tokyo Morrison and Forester office. The freshly-baked graduate of the SF State Extended Learning ABA-approved Paralegal Studies Program is looking forward to this new challenge.

Anne has always had a great interest in the law, but her husband's career has required frequent moves, not giving Anne enough time to get into and through law school in the same city, or even country. When they moved to San Francisco she investigated the paralegal programs offered in the Bay Area, hoping to have enough time to finish one before the next move. Anne picked SF State after attending the Information Session and went on to graduate with straight As.

When it came time for Anne's husband's next assignment—in Japan—she turned to program director Pat Medina for job-hunting advice. What should her strategy be? Although Anne speaks Japanese fluently, she decided to look for work at a US firm, dealing with US and Japanese clients. Pat knew just the person to call. She recommended Anne to a Morrison and Foerster member on the program's advisory board, who facilitated an introduction to their Tokyo office. Shortly afterwards she was contacted by a recruiter for Morrison and Foerster, and was hired promptly as a manager of the paralegals in their Tokyo office.

We wish Anne all the best and are looking forward to hearing about her Tokyo adventures.

Mark Kapp, Paralegal Studies student

Hello, Pat,

I graduated from the Paralegal Studies certificate program in 2002. Completing the program was one of the most rewarding and fruitful projects I have ever undertaken. I am indebted to you for guidance and support during my years in the Program, and belatedly offer you my heartfelt gratitude.

Between 2001 and 2004, I served as a litigation and trial paralegal for the firm of Stoel Rives, LLP, in the San Francisco Financial District. My responsibilities included management of over 150 actions. By the time I left the firm in 2004, I had been granted the privilege of sitting at counsel's table at trial, was offered promotion to full-time trial paralegal, and was making more money than could ever have imagined.

In 2004, at age 51, I turned my attention to fulfilling some lifetime dreams. The money I saved during my paralegal career helped make this possible.

Since 2004, I have completed several 2-3 month silent meditation retreats in California and New England; completed several journeys to remote corners of Asia, and undergone formal training as a Zen Buddhist monk in the mountains of Big Sur, California.

I now am making plans to return, once again, to full- or part-time work as a litigation paralegal in San Francisco.

I look forward to meeting with you later this summer, if possible, to catch up, and to explore continuing education opportunities with the Paralegal Program.

With gratitude,
Mark Kapp

Abby Everson, Paralegal Studies student

SF State's Paralegal Studies program gave me the grounding necessary to capitalize on the many diverse networking opportunities it offered.

Additionally, they afforded me the support needed to develop my own personalized paralegal internship.

It was this grounding, networking, and internship that led to my dream job as an Intellectual Property paralegal, specializing in trademarks!

Thank you, SF State!

Joan E. Barton, Paralegal Studies student

Background

I am a native of San Francisco and have a degree in music. I played the viola for over 35 years, seeking work during the day time hours to ensure a steady source of income and benefits. After holding a variety of jobs in retail, accounting, credit management and leasing, I eventually ended up in the legal department of a gold mining company for 22 years doing land transactions.

The company was sold and I decided to take some time off to recharge my batteries as well as consider my job options. After going through a battery of tests at an executive outplacement agency, I decided to enter the paralegal field.

Experience with the program

I simply cannot say enough about the Paralegal Studies program at SF State's downtown campus. The teachers are not only very experienced legal professionals, but they are highly committed both to the program and to the students, encouraging us every step of the way. All of the classes that I took gave me a solid foundation of legal knowledge to bring to my new job. Going through the PLS program has been one of the best investments of my time and money!

What job leads did the Paralegal Studies program help me with?

The program director and the teachers were very generous about sharing job leads, giving recommendations, helping us with resumes and cover letters.

  • The internship program not only gave me recent legal experience to use on my résumé, but my supervisor at City Hall gave me a glowing recommendation to prospective employers.
  • The on-campus job fair introduced me to many fine recruiters with whom I still keep in touch as friends.
  • There was a great deal of support and encouragement for the mature (translate: "over-50") students going thru the program. Clearly, all of our life experiences can be relevant in the legal world and being a "mature" paralegal is not an obstacle.
  • For those entering a brand new area of employment, (as I was), the program provide a way to build new professional contacts and form new networks.

How did I find my present job?

I wanted to work for a small to midsize law firm in San Francisco that focused on elder law, wills, trusts, estate planning and conservatorships. There were virtually no openings, until I spotted an intriguing job posting on Craig's List. (Normally, I would not have considered Craig's List, but the program director, Pat Medina, always encouraged us to try everything!) As it turns out, Pat was right and the job posting on Craig's List turned out to be my ideal job. I love going to work every day! There is no doubt in my mind that getting my paralegal certificate from the ABA-approved program at SF State was the key to my success. Thank you Pat and all my wonderful teachers for sharing your time, knowledge and experience!

Lenore Thorpe, Paralegal Studies student

Lenore Thorpe commutes from Oregon to attend the SF State Paralegal Studies program.

"I have always wanted to work with the law. That is why I got my B.A. in Legal Studies from Cal. That is why I bent my career toward Employment Law and Human Resources. I have never wanted to be a lawyer, although I have considered it many times. Voila, Paralegal!

With that epiphany, I moved on to the complicated logistics and many details of getting into the best paralegal program, and adjusting my work and personal life around it.

My home state, Oregon, does not offer an ABA accredited paralegal studies program. I read about all of the programs in Washington State and Northern California from the Bay Area to Sacramento. Then, there it was, the door of opportunity, opened wide in front of me, SF State CEL Paralegal Studies Program! SF State CEL simply provides the best program with the variety of classes, a demanding course of study and a professional staff and faculty all made available at an amazing price!

I started SF State's Paralegal Studies Program this past spring completing Legal Research & Writing, Introduction to Computer Applications and Introduction to Law and Civil Procedure. I commuted between my home in Lake Oswego, OR (15 minutes south of Portland) and the Bay Area every other week to attend SF State and keep my marriage happy and play with my dogs! I completed a summer internship in San Francisco with the Legal Aid Employment Law Center.

Great news! I've just been hired as a litigation paralegal in Portland with the Tonkon Torp law firm where I'll complete an internship that will fulfill my last requirement for the PLS program. Then I'll start full-time with the law firm in mid December. My appreciation goes out to Pat Medina, program director, and to Baseemah Rahman, program assistant without whom I would never have been able to figure it all out, get into this wonderful program, and have an opportunity to learn from the great SF State CEL Paralegal Studies program staff and faculty."

Internship Leads to a Job

When I first enrolled in the San Francisco State University Paralegal Studies certificate program, I was looking for a new career. I had been considering getting my paralegal certificate for a couple of years and finally I was able to enroll in the program. To my delight, the first class, Introduction to Law, by Steve Weisberg, was so fascinating that I was "hooked" on the law. My subsequent classes, Pleadings and Motions, and Discovery, all went into substantial depth about the pre-trial and trial litigation process.

When Pat Medina encouraged us to take the Internship class, I looked at the list of private and public law firms that sponsored paralegal interns. I chose to do my internship with a local government agency that assists indigent clients because I was really interested in helping people who could not afford a private attorney. My internship was very rewarding in many ways. I got "real world" work experience. I was able to use all of the skills that learned from my classes during my internship. And the internship led to a paralegal position with this agency.

I would highly encourage students to take the Internship class as a stepping stone to finding opportunities in the paralegal field. It is a chance to get work experience on your résumé and an opportunity to find out what kind of law you would eventually like to practice.

I cannot say enough good things about the San Francisco State Paralegal Studies program. This is the best program in the country and it is ABA-Approved. Getting my paralegal certificate through this program has opened up new career doors for me and has led to an exciting future in law.

Graduates Using Paralegal Skills in Related Fields

The paralegal program sends regular surveys to our graduates to see how they are doing, and also to get their feedback on our courses and suggestions for curriculum improvement. This graduate was hired at the end of her internship at a real estate firm and graduated in fall 2009. When her job ended due to the downturn in the real estate market, she used the skills she had learned in our paralegal program to create her own web site and start a blog. She had a teaching background, was multilingual and used the combination of skills to start her own business.

Dear Pat and Eduardo,

I will complete the survey shortly. I am also using the opportunity to let you know once more how much I appreciate the educational experience with the Program. I worked with Cooper, White & Cooper until April, after which the work dried up, and while looking for another job, I decided to register my own tutoring business. I'd never even have considered the possibility without the eye-opening experience as a paralegal. I built my own website from scratch and established a blog as a promotional tool. My business took off and a college in Moraga took heed - this semester, I am teaching Latin and Greek for them. Having your own business is great if you are ready to work hard, even on weekends.

Sincerely,
Rali

I am not currently working as a paralegal because I have a background in journalism and I was offered a journalism-related job before being offered a paralegal job. I use the skills and knowledge that I learned in my paralegal classes in many ways on my jobs in writing and editing for various websites.

I have drafted and/or edited legal-related documents for websites such as Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, Contest Rules, and Copyright/IP Policy. I also helped practicing lawyers on staff strategize about the site's liability coverage with regard to these documents as well as copyright law. In January of this year I started a job at a law-enforcement related website called PoliceOne. There, I'm sure I will use the knowledge of criminal law and evidentiary rules, as well as the court system, that I gained in the SF State Paralegal Studies program, among other things.

I am not working as a paralegal but use the knowledge and skills I learned in my paralegal classes every day in my in job. My position in Human Resource as a consultant in community college human resources was GREATLY enhanced by my Paralegal Studies program courses! They added to my ability to respond to agency complaints, lawsuits, and to assist employer-counsel in writing complaint answers, interviewing complainants and respondents, and drafting contracts.

My work as a Human Resources management consultant in the California community college system has been GREATLY enhanced with the knowledge that I gained from Paralegal Studies. Among other skills, I can now research court cases online, write concise and meaningful employer responses, draft contracts, interview complainants and respondents for investigations; respond to agency interrogatories and requests for documents; understand legal terminology; and therefore be much more of a "partner" to legal counsel than before I took these courses.

This is a wonderful, well-organized, relevant and future-oriented program that adds value to the professional development of current and future paralegals and non-legal professionals.

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