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Achieve More with Athens Tech

Learning legalese through Paralegal Studies

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In this episode, we will find out the details of the Athens Tech Paralegal Studies program.

Achieve More with Athens Tech, the official podcast of Athens Technical College.

A unit of the Technical College System of Georgia. Equal Opportunity Institution.

Welcome to achieve more with Athens Tech, the official podcast of Athens Technical College. This is where you'll discover how the programs at Athens Tech can connect you with in-demand and high paying careers. Today, we're going to hear how the Paralegal Studies Program has changed people's lives.00:00:19S2Without Athens Tech, I would not be sitting here as a lawyer. I certainly wouldn't have gone on to get a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies. I would never have gotten a job as a paralegal in the first place. And Athens tech, at least for me, was an institution that was there at the exact right time for a price that I could certainly afford with a schedule I could certainly make, and literally set me up in a whole different trajectory than I even imagined. But she let me go all the way through and in just a handful of years end up going to law school, passing the bar, joining a law firm and making partner with two attorneys that are better than I am. So I don't think any of that was possible without them.00:01:02S1We'll also hear from graduates who've come back and are now professional lawyers.00:01:08S3I talk to people all the time and they say, I'm thinking about going back to school and thinking about this and thinking about this. And something that that attorneys tech will allow people to do is to kind of dip their toe into the water, take a class or two and see if they like it. But in Athens tech, it's affordable. And I think that you can experiment a little bit without jumping completely into the pool. For those of you who are kind of on the fence about it, I would just say if your heart is telling you to that you may be interested in it, why not just try it? Pick one class that you may be interested in. Take the class. And if you don't like it, fine, and you have it and you're not out thousands and thousands of dollars like you would be at a university. My advice would just be to just just try a little bit and see it and see if you like it or maybe even speak to a lawyer close to you about what they do and maybe go shadow them for a day and see if there's something that you're interested in as well.00:02:04S1Kai Hamer is the program chair for paralegal studies at Athens Tech, and she recalls a student who returned to give back to the community.00:02:11S4My name is Tai Chi Moore. I am the program chair for paralegal studies here at Athens Technical College. Andrew Prater, he is actually a graduate of the program. He finished his undergraduate degree and then decided that he wanted to pursue something in the legal field. So he came back and got his an additional associate's degree in parallel studies and then went onto Fossil. So he's been working in the legal field for a while and he wanted to come back and give back to the program where he got his start. And so he is teaching in our program.00:02:58S3So my name is Andrew Prater. I am an attorney based out of Winer, Georgia. I did graduate from the state and paralegal program, I believe, about ten years ago after I did that work as a paralegal in Athens, Georgia, for about four or five years, and then decided to go back to law school, went to law school at Georgia State University, worked in Atlanta for a couple of years and taught at other places. And now I'm back up in Athens and teaching at Athens Tech. So it's good to be kind of back in the.00:03:36S1Athens tag paralegal program will prepare you to enter the workforce and get ahead of the competition.00:03:41S2My name is Brian Cathy. I'm currently a partner at Jordan Woodward. Kathy we're a medical malpractice firm in Atlanta, Georgia, and recently opened an office in Athens, Georgia. And I went through the Athens tech paralegal program. Several classes had me prepare a project, prepare pleadings, prepared to see a case all the way through, bringing the case in. It intake through, working it up all the way up to filing a complaint. And that project in particular, when I ended up at a firm that did some contract litigation and was moving over into doing personal injury litigation, I actually use my project from Athens Tech to double check myself behind the scenes. Sometimes before I would present it to the attorney. I worked for it and it gave me almost a cheat sheet and a little bit of extra confidence so that as I was putting this together and acting like I'm somewhat knew what I was doing in a law firm, I gave it an extra boost of confidence, an extra little thing I could check to make sure I was doing it the way I'd done it before and prepared me for a way that probably convinced my boss I knew maybe even a little bit more than I actually did.00:04:46S1The paralegal studies program is not just a certificate, it's a real accredited degree. Professor Andrew Prater explains.00:04:54S3Right. So I think that one of the things that I've said this before is the ABA is sort of sort of. The occasion I think is important. I felt proud being able to put that. I had a degree that was certified by the ABA on my resume. I thought that that would help my resume stand out to against an applicant who may just have a paralegal certificate. Not to diminish other programs because they are excellent programs. But it is the fact is that those are certificates. They are not degrees. Another something that I think students that are considering this program should take into account is that you never know what you're going to necessarily want to do in the future. You may want to go to go on with your education, get a bachelor's degree, you may want to go on and get after your bachelor's degree. You may want to go to law school. So if you instead of getting a certificate, which is going to help you in that journey in the same way and allows you to get a degree which is, you know, halfway through in a lot of cases, halfway through a bachelor's degree. So that was hugely important to me, and I think that's a huge advantage of the program.00:06:18S1It's not only a quality accredited program, it's even recognized by the American Bar Association.00:06:25S4Definitely it is a quality program. We are an FDA approved paralegal program. And in fact, Athens TEC was the first school in Georgia to get ABA approval in 1992. So it has been recognized as a quality program for a good while. We are because of our ABA approval. That means that in addition to the state regulations, the state standards that we are operating under through the technical college system of Georgia, we also have standards from the American Bar Association that we have to adhere to. And in fact, I actually just hit submit on our re approval report to the American Bar Association. I feel confident in that. We you know, we produce excellent products. I have had nothing but positive reviews from the employers in our local legal community. So I feel good about our program and I think it is a wise investment, especially with the, you know, the affordable tuition from the technical colleges in our state.00:07:55S1The Athens TAC Paralegal Studies Program prepares you for law school and can lead to further opportunities within the community.00:08:01S2I think the few of us that were paralegals just to start there, the few of us that had paralegal experience before law school, the whole first year of law school was much, much easier than it was for anybody else. We had somewhat already adjusted our thinking, already knew somewhat what to expect coming into it, and knew the basics of law in at least several of the areas that we could build on. So for anybody going that even thinks about going to law school as part of a long term plan, I think paralegal school is definitely worth it. I don't actually recall anybody else in law school that I can remember which paralegal program they went through to necessarily compare. But I can say that I have never met anybody that came through the Athens tech program that got out of the other side and seemed like they didn't have a pretty good handle on what they were doing. So even though I didn't see it in law school, I have seen it in other firms, I have seen it in other people I've met. And currently I've been doing an internship where I was an internship site for a Athens tech paralegal student, and she was so incredible that we literally offered her a job last Friday. Not not only can I speak to what it did for me, but now I'm kind of going back to the well to look for new talent and take advantage of how good the program is.00:09:17S3Working as a paralegal before law school, I do think people ask me all the time if that gave me a leg up in law. So I think it I definitely think it did. I think it's given me more of a leg up now that I'm on the other side of law school, because as is paralegals that are working in the profession, know, you're the one doing a lot of the actual work. So so learning how to do that and doing the actual work before law school and then keeping that in the back of my mind as I was, you know, going through law school. And it's really made a big difference to me.00:09:51S4So if someone is, number one interested in the law and they may or may not be interested. And ultimately go into law school, but they want to be involved in the legal profession. Paralegal is a awesome opportunity and option if you enjoy being in a support position and not necessarily being the person in the limelight, it's a great position for you. I would say that some of your skills that you probably want to already have, but that you could also develop while in the program are being well-organized, detail oriented. Curious about not just the law, but people. And you know what happens in our daily lives and because there's so much that, you know, we as as citizens are touched by the legal system. And it's a wonderful opportunity if you're curious about how the system works, if you are already working in a profession where you have, you know, worked with in customer service, you worked in areas where, you know, you are supporting others. You are already a great candidate to be a paralegal. It's not I don't think that it has to be something where, you know, you're blowing out an IQ test or you have the highest grades from high school or previous college. It's more about your your soft skills and your dedication to the profession and your dedication to to supporting your supervising attorney than it is anything else.00:11:49S1Are you still on the fence? Let's talk to Shelly Stevens. She's an Athens tech graduate and a practicing paralegal, and she tells us how rewarding the profession can be.00:11:59S4My name is Frances Michele Stevens, but I go by Shelly from for Michel. Do it. What are you waiting for? Like, I. I don't know. What why? I don't know why I chose culinary arts in the first place. Because paralegal studies is really where it's at. I am so I'm so comfortable in my life right now. I have I have two kids who both my daughter's going into middle school. My son's already in middle school. And and I have a husband and I live and work in my community. I work 6 minutes from home. I am 10 minutes from each of my children's school. If there's anything that me that I need to do, I have this amazing work life balance where I'm able to drop my kids off at school in the morning. I'm able to pick them up in the afternoons. I'm able to return to work and complete. It needs to be completed after after that, if necessary. And and and it's just rewarding. It's so rewarding. I see clients come in and they're going through some of the toughest times of their lives. And this this industry is not for the faint of heart, but it's so rewarding to be able to help them see something to fruition, see something to the end, one of one of the hardest parts about the area of law that we practice, we practice in as a we, not me. I don't practice law. My supervisor, an attorney practices law and I assistant. So that area of law that we're in is as a personal injury. Mostly we do mostly personal injury. We do some family law, but mostly personal injury. And I have to say, these people are coming to us broken and bruised and hurting, and they're just looking for some form of relief. They're they're looking for somebody to say, oh, yeah, this definitely should not have happened to you, and we're going to help you get back to as good or better, because that's what the law says, is that there should be or they should be returned back to as good or better. And so when that happens, we actually get to see them live. When we settle something and you see them go like it's like a relief that comes off of them and you're like, we did it. You know, this was really the most rewarding day to see you take a deep breath and actually able to exhale finally. And and that's really what it's about is actually, you know, helping them. And it's as if this person that I'm speaking to is is if you're on the edge or on the fence about whether or not this is the right thing for you, if you want to see somebody be put back together, be put whole, made whole again, you want to see that that this is the place for you because you get to do that. You get to help them do that. And I mean, it's rewarding. It's rewarding. Absolutely. To be able to put those pieces back in the right place.00:14:55S1The paralegal studies program at Athens Tech not only prepares you for law school and. On the learning about the mom can be fun.00:15:04S3I think this is fun. The law is fun. It's interesting. It's engaging. I think that this this career as a paralegal is suited to people who are just curious. Curious people by nature. Because. It is impossible to know everything, even if you've been practicing law for 25 years. I would wager that if you talk to lawyers that have been practicing that long or paralegals have been doing it that long. They'll probably tell you that they still learn something new almost every day because the facts that your clients will present you with and the situations where you may be called upon to to help or do research are just so varied. So it's a good opportunity to learn something new every day and to into a thing. So I think being a curious person is hugely important. I think it's also important. It would be a good profession for people who enjoy writing, because the law, if you ask me, is it's just words where the word oriented people are written and spoken. So for those of you who like to write, this might be a good program to look into.00:16:22S1Earning a degree in paralegal studies at Athens Tech can also translate to financial stability.00:16:29S2I know in firms that I have worked in, I've seen ranges, you know, from about $15 up to somebody who's been doing it for, you know, five or six years. That can certainly get up to 25, 30. And really the sky's almost the limit. You know, if a paralegal is able to help the attorney make money, then it's certainly in the attorneys best interest to keep the paralegal happy and keep the money flowing, keep that relationship going.00:16:54S3I have seen, I think, the typical salary range for paralegals that I see right now is somewhere between that maybe 35, 30, 35 on the very low side, all the way up to 70 or more. I know plenty of people that are earning $70,000 as a salary, as a paralegal, which is more than some attorneys make. To be frank. So it's an excellent profession to to to get into. And I think that the probably average is somewhere between 40 and 50.00:17:37S1Whether you're a new student or someone with a postgraduate degree who's looking to change careers, Athans Tex offers multiple options to accommodate you.00:17:46S4Well, we actually have two program options. One is our associate's degree, which is the degree that we've had since the beginning of the program. It's a two year degree, and it is composed of some general education courses in addition to the paralegal courses. We then have also gotten ABA approval to offer a post baccalaureate certificate in paralegal studies in order to qualify for that program. You obviously because it's post back, you have to have an undergraduate degree already, doesn't matter what it's in. And so then you come in already having those gen ed classes and so you only take paralegal courses and it has a shorter time period. It is actually the only post baccalaureate certificate that the technical college system of Georgia is currently offering is being offered at several schools who have paralegal programs, but it is the only post back certificate in the system.00:19:00S1At Athens Tech. You can achieve more and start a new career.00:19:04S3And I have said this many times and I'm in I mean it. Athens Tech, literally. I mean, it changed my life completely. I, I did have a bachelor's degree, but when I came there to Athens Tech and like I said, I had I had mostly worked in the service industry and I was 30 years old. And I didn't I had never worked in an office in my life. I certainly didn't know how to tie a tie, but I went to Athens Tech. The program exposed me to a variety of ideas and subjects within the law that allowed me to exercise more control over my life. It allowed me to apply for jobs in a variety of legal settings. And like I said, yeah, that was important that it was ABA certified and it exposed me to like I said a moment ago, the curriculum in the program is going to expose you to a variety of legal practice areas criminal law, bankruptcy, family law, more transactional stuff like contracts or business. And surely between all these ideas, a student will find something that they are interested in. In again. And control, I think is is a good word. More and more agency over your own life and giving yourself more options is really important. And when you graduate with an associate's degree in paralegal studies, I think that a student has a lot more control and many more options available to them.00:20:46S1Thanks for listening to achieve more with Athens ten, the official podcast of Athens Technical College. For more information, visit Athens text edu.