Paralegal Returns to College to Advance Her Legal Career
When Kelley Preston took a job at a law firm to help pay for college, she had no plans to pursue a long-term career in the legal profession. But her goals changed when she enrolled in the paralegal studies major at the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences.
“I have been in the legal field for more than 10 years, and most of my training has been from hands-on experience,” said Preston, who is a full-time student and works full-time as a paralegal at a small law firm. “But, I wanted a formal approach to better understand certain legal processes and fine-tune my skills.
“This major has provided me with an excellent background on the fundamentals of the legal profession. You learn a little bit about everything: probate, wills, torts, personal injury, criminal law, business organizations. You’re gaining the perspective of the people who do this every day in Broward County.”
“The program is taught by lawyers, two of whom are judges,” said Jessica Garcia-Brown, J.D., LL.M., associate professor at the college who chairs the paralegal studies program. “We also have one administrative traffic hearing officer for Broward County. Every professor also has experience working with paralegals.
“Paralegal studies majors receive an excellent education in legal research and writing, a foundation of the legal profession, real estate law, wills, trusts, and estates, criminal law and family law, just to name a few,” said Garcia-Brown.
While in the program, Preston has honed her skills in conducting legal research and using online resources while becoming familiar with NSU’s law library.
One project required that she research and create a “foreclosure package” that developed a hypothetical case from start to finish.
“We had to do all of the research online and pull all of the documents,” Preston said. “The instructor wanted the documents signed and notarized. It gave us a good hands-on perspective. In every class, we learn some aspect of research.”
The program also offers voluntary internships at law firms and government agencies such as the Broward County State Attorney’s Office.
“Once a student completes the program, he or she is prepared to work for an attorney, government agency, or corporation with the knowledge acquired in the program,” Garcia-Brown said. “Graduates leave the program with a portfolio that contains sample work from each paralegal class taken at NSU. This portfolio shows employers the skill and knowledge that the student has acquired in the program.”
Preston is confident that her degree and her training in the program will help advance her career.
“I’ve exceeded all my expectations,” said Preston, who has earned the Dean’s List each semester and who belongs to Lambda Epsilon Chi, the national honor society for paralegal/legal assistant studies.
“I felt that I should take this opportunity as a student to become all that I can be. The program has already helped me become a better paralegal. I am confident that my education will help open the doors to bigger, better opportunities.”