Paralegal Certificate Program hires new coordinator

Barbara Lister-Tait has been hired as the new coordinator of the Oakland University Paralegal Certificate Program.

Lister-Tait officially assumed directorial duties at the beginning of June, replacing previous program coordinator Linda Wallace, who announced her retirement in March.

“It’s a wonderful program,” Lister-Tait said. “It has such a wonderful reputation that it was really an honor to have the job and have this be sort of the second part of my total paralegal career.”

Her paralegal career included jobs at Dickinson Wright and General Motors, the latter from which she retired in 2017 after over 30 years of employment. Going from GM to OU may seem like a big transition, but having hired several graduates from OU’s paralegal program during her time at GM, she said it didn’t phase her in the slightest.

“Actually, they’re sort of similar because they’re both institutions,” she said. “A lot of the bureaucracy and stuff doesn’t phase me at all because I’m used to it from General Motors. Knowing that something has to be approved at five different levels…That seems normal to me.”

For years, Lister-Tait, who was balancing raising a family and her career at GM, declined a seat on the Paralegal Board, which meets twice a year to discuss matters such as student evaluations and new ideas for the program. Shortly after her retirement, she was approached about joining the board again and eventually accepted the offer. Since her appointment as program coordinator, she has made expanding the board one of her top priorities.

“We have great people on the Paralegal Board, so I just want to expand it to maybe some more business people,” she said. “I also think the more diverse that board is, from all the different types of backgrounds… I think it just enriches the paralegal program itself, and it brings a lot of different ideas.”

Lister-Tait said she wants to spend some time getting accustomed to the position and listening to students, the board and herself before making any changes to the program.

“You can’t have so much change that it’s just disruptive all the time, but you can’t be scared of change [either],” she said. “I think that’s not only in the paralegal profession, in my profession, but also in life. Who would’ve thought that General Motors would ever go bankrupt? And then there we were. Who would’ve ever thought this job would’ve been here when I was retired? Here I am.”

It’s changes like these that she credits with helping people, like herself, find the paralegal profession. She said the most important lesson she learned in her career was that “life just happens, and you’ve gotta be prepared to change your course and be okay with that.” It’s fitting, considering her initial career goal didn’t involve the law at all.

Before becoming a paralegal, Lister-Tait earned her Bachelor’s of Science in child development and teaching from Michigan State University in 1980. It was only after her unsuccessful attempts to find a full-time job as a teacher that her sister, who was a lawyer, encouraged her to enroll in the Institute for Paralegal Training in Philadelphia.​

“Out of all the years that I’ve been a legal assistant and paralegal, I only knew one person that started out from high school saying they wanted to be a paralegal,” she said. “Everybody else came through what I call the back door.”

However, for Lister-Tait, coming through the back door helped her out in the long run.

“Now I get to put both my passions together in one job,” she said. “Which is literally a dream for me, a dream come true.”

For more information on the paralegal program, visit the Professional and Continuing Education website or contact Barbara Lister-Tait at [email protected] or (248) 370-4386.