We recognized UNM Continuing Education 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 Amy Thompson, faculty member at UNM Continuing Education, 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?
Amy: Yes. UNM Continuing Education offers the Paralegal course twice a year, and the enrollment remains its consistency. Due to the limited classroom space, we have an average of 10 students every term.
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?
Amy: There are three major focuses:
1. The differences between a paralegal and legal assistant.
2. Paralegal theories, skills, responsibilities.
3. Software use. Hands-on experiences are very important for students to be more familiar with the software use.
More and more responsibility means higher knowledge of the law. Unlike before where paralegals were merely assistants that worked more closely on a case than a receptionist, modern-day paralegals have to know nearly everything an attorney knows on a case to do their job successfully. To this end, it is no surprise that the list of ABA-approved paralegal programs is starting to shy away from short-term paralegal “certificate” courses that do not allow for a build-up of basic legal knowledge. In fact, we are seeing a rise in requirement for a Bachelor’s Degree instead of just the previously accepted Associate’s Degree. Employers look to potential paralegal candidates to have the proper education requirements to ensure that their legal knowledge is savvy.
Does the program at your school include an internship and are faculty available to help students find one?
Amy: Yes. UNM Continuing Education offers an internship. Every paralegal student has a chance to take this opportunity to apply what they learn.
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?
Amy: UNM Continuing Education offers paralegal program with a hybrid format. Students spend half time in the classroom and half time online. The program lasts around 8 weeks. Students found the hybrid format helps their busy work life schedule.
Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their paralegal programs.