Improvements made to paralegal program

Laurel Kraus, Staff Reporter

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The first class of Oakland University’s newly formatted Paralegal Certificate Program is set to graduate this December.

The program, a part of OU since 1974 and approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) since 1976, previously had an average two-year completion rate gave students the ability to take as many classes per semester as they preferred, and an offer of numerous electives.

“We ran into the problem of too many classes, not enough students,” said Linda Wallace, director of the program. “So we were canceling classes, and we were running it like an academic program when in fact we are a noncredit CE paralegal certificate program.”

After doing research and looking at other programs throughout the country, Wallace decided on a cohort system, which is an accelerated system consisting of one group that stays together for all classes.

Each group has a set schedule, meaning no selection of classes, but completes the program in three semesters, which equal one year.

The program is accelerated because semesters used to be 12 weeks and are now 14, and classes have gone from 2½ hours to three hours.

“The new format of the paralegal program worked really well for me,” said member of the first graduating class DeAnza Garcia. “I liked that I was able to get it done in a single year and that it set me up for a career. I feel like it was just enough work and material in the time allotted.”

After discussion between the board and faculty, it was determined that the electives, now called special topics, would be centered on auto law, employment law and probate.

“We’re still giving them the appropriate legal information, knowledge base, that we feel comfortable that when they go out in the field as paralegals, that they know what they’re doing,” Wallace said.

The program also ensures participants will have an internship and help with job placement. Interns are commonly placed in paid positions at The Sam Bernstein Law Firm and The Mike Morse Law Firm.

“There have been many job and internship options that have come up through the program, which, if I was more flexible, I would have considered,” said Jennifer Giannotta, member of the first graduating class, via email. “Because of my personal situation, I have to be more selective, but there are many jobs/internships that have piqued my interest.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an 8 percent increase in the job outlook of paralegals and legal assistants from 2014 to 2024.

“What a nurse is to a doctor, a paralegal is to a lawyer,” Wallace said.

The Paralegal Certificate Program costs $5,390, which breaks down to about $585 per class. Each class includes 42 contact hours.

Any potential students interested in the program are welcome to sit in on a class.

This January, the ABA will send representatives to OU for an onsite review, which it conducts every seven years to evaluate the curriculum, faculty, courses and overall program.

For information on the Paralegal Certificate Program, contact Linda Wallace at (248) 370-3090 or [email protected]