What Paralegal Students are Saying

Photo: Elena Zheltova

Elena Zheltova

How did you hear about the College of Extended Learning?
Searching online. I was living on the east coast and looking for legal programs on the west coast and the SF State Paralegal Studies program came up. I didn't have enough time to collect the documents by the application deadline for fall and there was an issue with the TOEFL. So Joy O'Donnell recommended that instead of losing a semester I apply to the American Language Institute (ALI). I think it was a better way to go. At ALI we focused on writing skills, oral communication and presentation skills. After finishing the ALI program, I enrolled in the Paralegal Studies program.

What courses did you take at the College of Extended Learning? Why?
At ALI I took four classes. There are two main classes everyone takes: Writing and Speaking. The other two classes were electives. I chose American Short Stories, and Business English.

What were some of the highlights?
I liked Evan Kaiser's writing class a lot. He is a great professor. He was very demanding but helpful. I learned a lot from him. The speaking class with Stephanie Trujillo was also very good. We were preparing for the presentation for six weeks by doing it in steps. We started with the library and how to search for materials and work with a database. We kept following, step by step, until we put everything together into a presentation. It was pretty interesting. My topic was sweatshops.

What teaching moments in the classroom were especially helpful?
I liked the news report assignment in the Speaking class that each of the students prepared for the beginning of the class. It was really helpful because we are learning new things from the other students. One of the students would give a news report that was really interesting and after we would discuss it for ten to fifteen minutes in a group. My topic was corporate and environmental responsibility. It was difficult to learn because I had to translate and then try to understand, but it was interesting too.

What are your career goals?
For now I just want to concentrate on the Paralegal Studies program, but becoming an attorney is my ultimate goal. My law degree is from Russia and getting a certificate from the Paralegal Studies program is going to be helpful to me because I've never worked in the American legal system. I want to learn the basics of the American system of law, do an internship and focus on immigration, corporate, or business law. While I think about it, the paralegal courses will help prepare me for law school.

How did the College of Extended Learning help you reach your goals?
The classes prepared me to be more confident to go to higher education at a university. Each professor individually worked with us based on our interests. The staff at ALI office was also very helpful. They want to make sure that each person pursues their goals and accomplishes them. They helped us a lot with advising and helped students stay on top of their goals.

What else can you share about the College of Extended Learning?
ALI is the best English program that I have ever attended. Seriously. Everything there was flexible, but structured. My class had six people from different countries and everybody was very goal oriented. Everybody prepared their homework and participated in class. I was very lucky to be in this group of like-minded students.

I would also highly recommend to anybody who has a law degree from a foreign country to apply to the Paralegal Studies program. I think it can be very helpful if you want to practice law in your country.

Photo: Deepali Mahajan

Deepali Mahajan

Deepali Mahajan joined the College of Extended Learning in spring of 2016. As a trained lawyer in her native country of India, she joined the University's paralegal program to gain a better understanding of US law. Deepali hopes to leverage her training in the program to prepare for the California Bar Exam, and work to eventually become a US attorney. We recently spoke to her about her time in the program, her experience as an international student and why she chose the College of Extended Learning for her educational needs. Here are some highlights from our discussion.

Why She Decided to Join the Paralegal Program:
I've already done a Master's of Law in India so I wanted to gain some law experience in the US without having to get another master's degree. Then my boss back home mentioned paralegal programs and he told me about how a paralegal program in the US could teach me the foundations of US law.

How the Program Helps Her Prepare for the Bar Exam:
Many of the program's professors are working attorneys so their teaching is very practical. For example, I take mock Bar Exam tests online and I'm able to grasp about 60 - 70 percent of it, and that's only after one semester.

What Makes San Francisco Such an Ideal City for Her:
There's no better place than San Francisco when it comes to studying law in California. The city is very well connected with law firms, especially when it comes to the international community. In Silicon Valley to the larger Bay Area, companies are always looking for people with international legal experience.

How The Courses Are Challenging Her for the Better:
When I joined I thought the classes would be a cake walk because I've been practicing law and I did a Master's in India as well. But I was pleasantly surprised because the coursework was really challenging. I did have to study to do well on these exams, I was probably studying four to five hours a day. I originally thought I could just go to class, take notes and take the exam, but I was wrong. I'm definitely learning a lot of new things.

Who Are Her Favorite Instructors:
Professor Yates is a very light-hearted person so he'd often start the class by talking about the Giants or Warriors game, or current events. He makes the class feel very light and interactive. Every class he passes out papers with practical questions and then discusses it with the class. He really ensures that everyone is participating and really understanding the material.

Hooray for Computer Applications Class

I just want to say thank you to Pam Wolpa for her enthusiasm and interest in teaching the Computer Applications class which I took in summer 2017. I am so glad you included Adobe Acrobat DC in the resource guide because I have been using it in my job and the "How To" lesson I created was very useful. All together, we reviewed 14 software programs, and after completion of the online tutorials I received an NSLT Technology Certificate. We reviewed CaseMap, TimeMap, Concordance, Sanction, TrialDirector, Legal Solutions Plus, Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Nuance Power PD, FileSite and LiveNote. The attorney I work for is very impressed. Some may be skeptical about taking this class because they feel they know about computers or software programs, but I would encourage anyone with any level of experience to take the class because there is always something to learn.

Pamela Dela Cruz, Fall 2017 Graduate

I am a third semester student in the paralegal program. It is with great pleasure to let you know that thanks to the program, I was able to secure a legal assistant position (pending Paralegal position after one year) with the immigration firm Berry, Appleman, & Leiden, LLP. I used homework from the program as work samples to supplement my application to this position. The enrollment of this program greatly boosted the weight of my legal résumé; I have not even graduated yet! I can't wait to submit a glowing review of this paralegal program upon my graduation!

Song Jayden Kim

Dear Ms. Medina-
I had my first class in the Paralegal Program last night, (PLS 300) and had the pleasure of listening to you talk about Paralegal studies for the second time. I went to the spring info session, which helped me make the decision to start the program. My reason for writing is to thank you. I have so enjoyed listening to you in both instances; at the info session and last night. Your love of the profession and of the program itself is apparent. I have to tell you that your enthusiasm is inspiring, and I am looking forward to working hard on my certificate for the next 18 mos to two years. I also look forward to meeting you in person. So, once again, Thank you so much for your time, energy and contagious enthusiasm!

Sincerely, Megan Mills

My new firm has been keeping me very busy. I'm at the Cotchett, Pitre, & McCarthy firm now...and am enjoying the challenge. All the classes that I took at paralegal program have definitely prepared me for the civil litigation world!

Oni Szeto

I just completed the paralegal program last week. I am very happy to have completed the program and look forward to progressing in my career. Working on the paralegal program was very helpful to me in gaining new employment at my present firm. I am sure it will continue to benefit me throughout my career. I am looking forward to new endeavors, to which end I am going to start learning Arabic at Pacific Arabic Language School in San Francisco.

Paul Coaker, Patent Docketing Assistant

I must admit, your dedication to the field has certainly enhanced the SF State program, and I am confident we are one of the best out there. I checked out several programs; only YOU came through to me as grounded in sincerely providing the field with very well prepared paraprofessionals. It is in that vein that I will continue to update you of things that will be of value to our program overall and the students in particular. You're the best! and we are sooo fortunate to have you as our Program Director.

Aileen Ford, Second Semester Paralegal Student

I am going through a career change and was very excited as well as scared to set foot in to this completely new field. For starters, I attended the open house at the beginning of the semester, and I cannot begin to express as to how much information I gained by just listening to working paralegals and Pat Medina. At the end of the session I was absolutely sure about this program here at SF State Extended Learning. At the open house Pat Medina welcomed us and shared her experience as a paralegal and also as the director for this program. She made this career transition very smooth for me and is always been there for her students.

A couple of months into the program, I started looking for a job within a law firm. As Pat had encouraged us to look at the job board on campus and also online, I did so and started to apply to various entry-level positions. Meanwhile, Pat also helped me, with my résumé and she really geared it towards becoming a perfect résumé for a position at a law firm. I had never worked in a firm before, but Pat was very supportive and did not let me get discouraged for not having any sort of experience in the legal field. Her support and contribution towards me and many other students is incredible. She is an asset to the University.

I now work in a law firm, here in the financial district as a part-time law clerk, which is perfect as I continue my studies. So, I encourage all new students to take advantage of our job board and also seek guidance, help, and support from our great mentor, Pat Medina.

Lekhini Joshi, First Semester Student from India

I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the Advanced Legal Research Class. Since January, I have been asked to research the legislative history of a statute, trace the ownership of a piece of property, check the registration of a fictitious business name, and determine the availability of a trademark... The syllabus of your class has proven to be extremely topical and the skills you taught us immediately applicable. Thank you.

Anne Koike, Graduate

I am grateful for all that you have told us about paralegal work, particularly in regards to UPL. I can see why your program at SF State is held in high regard by students and employers. Graduates can really hit the ground running because your program touches on every aspect of paralegal work.

Jo Ann Lew, Student

I recently took a professional exam for a position as an Investigator. Along with English grammar and logic questions, there were many technical, job-related questions directly related to our Evidence class this summer. All of the evidence questions were topics we had gone over in class: Chain of Custody, Relevancy, Collection of Evidence, and Motions in Limine. I didn't have to debate for even a second because I knew the correct answer right away. Whether the laws of evidence pertain to Civil Litigation or Criminal Law, Pat and David's combination style class definitely gave me an edge on my exam. Thank you.

Ruby Johnson, Student

...may I just say that I really enjoyed the fact that you pushed all of us to be better communicators, especially when it came to presenting in front of the whole class. It may have been torture in the beginning, but it will all pay off in the end when we're really called upon to present in front of clients or attorneys.

Meghann Payumo, speaking about the Communication and Ethics class

Many times in my life, I have said that, if I had it to do over again, I would have studied law. I found out that it's never too late. After completing a twenty-year career with the US Postal Service, I was ready for a new career. In order to determine what kind of work I would be best suited for, I completed a battery of aptitude and intelligence tests, which resulted in a very strong indication that the paralegal field was the job for me.

Luckily, there was a highly acclaimed paralegal program right here in San Francisco, where I live. The ABA-approved paralegal program at San Francisco State University is so well organized, and the instructors are so knowledgeable and helpful, that nothing stood in the way of my getting a paralegal certificate. The courses I took were all very enjoyable and informative. And, I feel confident that the knowledge I have gained will be a great asset to any employer.

Several times a year, the paralegal program sponsors career fairs, where students (or prospective students) have the privilege of taking part in a friendly panel discussion. The panel is made up of job recruiters and people actually working in the paralegal field. They offer valuable information on what to expect on the job, what to include in a résumé, how to prepare for a successful job interview, and many other helpful and informative topics. Every time I have attended the career fairs, I have picked up additional helpful information that I could not have gotten any other way.

Gordon Gee, Student