We recognized Monroe Community College for offering one of Top Post-Degree Certificate Programs, adding them to our list of top recommendations for students in the area.
We were excited to hear from Michael Martella, faculty member at Monroe Community College, who took the time to answer a few questions about how the school works to create a great student experience that helps prepare graduates for a career in the legal field.
Are you finding a lot of career changers in your program looking to get their start in the legal profession?
Michael: Most definitely. While this is not necessarily true for all of our students, I would say it is true for the majority of our students that enroll in our paralegal studies program. With this is mind, our program is structured to accommodate students who work full-time day jobs or weekend nights. All of our classes are Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:00 – 8:50 pm and Saturday mornings from 9 – 11:50 am. It is a cohort program with compressed sequences courses. I know of no other ABA approved paralegal program like ours in the country.
Paralegals are really getting the respect they deserve these days, and taking on more and more responsibilities on the job. How is this changing the approach to educating new paralegals?
Michael: I would agree that the paralegal profession is finally getting the respect it deserves. Paralegals work very hard. The profession requires excellent soft skills along with high proficiency in the hard skills like technology. However, paralegals need to remain cognizant of the line between practicing law which is for the attorneys, and the support they provide the attorneys. With that in mind, throughout our program we continually emphasize the important role of paralegals, the ethical boundaries they must abide by, and the lines they should never cross.
Does the program at your school include an internship and are faculty available to help students find one?
Michael: Our program does have an internship component. Both our faculty and advisory committee help our students find internships. However, the burden of finding an internship is ultimately on our students. I assist them with a list of potential firms and agencies that have utilized our internship program in the past or are currently looking for a paralegal intern, but I do not place students. We view the process of finding an internship very much like finding employment in the field. One reason being that many of our students are offered employment by the very firms and agencies that they intern with.
What are some of the things you love most about the paralegal program at your school – the kind of things you’d like future students to know about as they consider their options?
Michael: There is a lot to love about our paralegal studies program. The program is limited to a small number of students each year. We are a relatively small community with limited paralegal employment opportunities so we do not want to flood the market with too many graduates. We want our graduates to find employment as paralegals and many if not most eventually do. It is important that we are ABA approved. That gives us credibility in the legal community. The cohort nature of the program means that each class of students starts and finishes with the same group of individuals. They often become friends and great supporters of each other. That is very gratifying to be a part of as the Program Director. However, the thing I love the most is when an employer of one of our graduates comes to me to let me know how thrilled they are to have hired that individual and how happy the graduate is to get that job. It just confirms what our role as a community college is all about.
Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their paralegal programs.