We recognized University of District of Columbia Community College for offering one of Top Associate’s Degree Programs in Paralegal Studies, adding them to our list of top recommendations for students in the area.
We were excited to hear from Janet Fiorentino, faculty member at University of District of Columbia 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.
Janet: I have many students who are returning to the work force or seeking a career change. Some of my students are currently working in law offices, but going to school to get their certificate. Others are taking this program as a stepping stone to law school.
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?
Janet: There is a big push for legal services to become more affordable to the general public. As a result, paralegals are given more tasks under the direction of attorneys. Because of this, it’s not possible to teach a paralegal student everything that they might need to do for the job, but I do try and teach them how to seek out that information when asked to do a task they might have not have done before. Our program focuses on creating self-directed learners. In addition, paralegals are often the first point of contact with clients. Hence, I spend extra time working with students on client interviewing and then transcribing those interviews for the attorneys.
Does the program at your school include an internship and are faculty available to help students find one?
Janet: Our program is in the process of adding an internship program. Most of our adjunct faculty currently works in the legal field and hence, can provide opportunities for student internships.
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?
Janet: As I noted above, classes are conducted by working attorneys who are able to share their practical experience with students. Class size is small, which allows faculty to connect and mentor students. Students themselves are great and work hard not to just succeed individually, but to also help their classmates succeed. Our location near the Capitol is also ideal for a variety of internships.
Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their paralegal programs.