We recognized Rio Salado College for offering one of Top Entry-Level, Pre-Degree Paralegal Certificate Programs, adding them to our list of top recommendations for students in the area.
We were excited to hear from Emily Alice, faculty member at Rio Salado 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?
Emily: Being an online platform that offers flexible start dates, Rio Salado College draws a diverse student body at various stages of their lives. We certainly have students who have worked in other industries and are looking for a different career path. We have students who are fresh out of high school looking to earn their paralegal certificate or degree, we have students who have completed a four-year degree and have enrolled to earn their paralegal certificate. We have students who have been working in the legal industry for quite some time and are now ready for professional advancement. And then there are paralegals who are looking for professional development courses. Our industry-specific curriculum accommodates a variety of students– regardless of their legal background or experience. The Paralegal Program is now available to students nationally, which will certainly continue to diversify our student population.
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?
Emily: Rio Salado’s curriculum is designed to prepare graduates for certification exams. With curriculum focusing on legal writing, legal research, substantive law, legal ethics, time management, and litigation, our students graduate prepared and well-versed to take on legal tasks in most legal settings. We know the importance paralegals play within any legal setting. Lawyers want to feel confident in delegating important tasks to their paralegals. At Rio Salado, we strive to ensure that students understand the importance of deadlines, time management, problem solving and analytical legal writing and thinking.
We are continually updating our courses and adding new curriculum to accommodate the ever-changing legal environment. For example, Rio Salado just added a new EDiscovery course as well as a two-part Legal Project Management course. With cutting
edge courses such as these, paralegals add great value to their firm being able to speak to new technologies, laws and systems.
Does the program at your school include an internship and are faculty available to help students find one?
Emily: We have an extensive internship program with an internship director to help prepare and place students into internships. Students work with the director on preparing their resume, cover letter, writing sample and interview skills. We offer a number of different internship options to accommodate different student schedules; including virtual internships. Students can complete an internship for 80 or 160 hours. We encourage all students to apply for the internship program because completing an internship truly enhances their resume and provides invaluable hands-on experience that bridges the gap between their studies and professional career.
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?
Emily: One of the things I love most about Rio Salado’s program are the adjunct faculty members. Our adjuncts are seasoned professionals with years of legal experience who truly care about each student’s success. I am continually impressed with the
personalized approach each adjunct takes with students. In regards to curriculum, Rio Salado provides a comprehensive foundation for students. Each student has access to WestlawNext and completes extensive training, which gives
them an advantage when they start practicing. I also love that students can start their course on most Mondays, complete their education virtually and truly focus on the material that is relevant to them. There is no large lecture hall but, instead, personalized learning for each student.
Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their paralegal programs.