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Paralegal careers still growing

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Few people associate employment at Islands restaurant with a paralegal job, but for Nicki S., that's where she's found her niche.

Prior to completing the University of San Diego Paralegal Program, Nicki worked for a number of corporations, including Xerox and Chart House Enterprises Inc., as a systems analyst and executive assistant. Although she followed a progressive career path and was consistently promoted, Nicki discovered that work experience wasn't enough to take her where she wanted to go.

Nicki decided to enroll in the University of San Diego's Paralegal Program.

"I chose the USD Paralegal Program because it is an American Bar Association approved, well-respected program offering a broad curriculum in a condensed format," she said.

By the time she graduated just 10 months later, Nicki was promoted to corporate paralegal. She manages Islands' legal department activities with outside counsel, including real estate, trademark litigation, contracts and corporate functions.

So what does the job market look like for those interested in the paralegal field?

"Paralegals are finding employment with corporations, banks and government agencies in addition to traditional jobs with law firms," said Sue Sullivan, director of USD's Paralegal Program.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Occupational Outlook states, "Paralegals and legal assistants are projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2010. Employment growth stems from law firms and other employers with legal staffs increasingly hiring paralegals to lower the cost and increase the availability and efficiency of legal services." The paralegal field not only attracts those with experience like Nicki. It is also appealing to college graduates just entering the job market. After completing a Bachelor's degree in English at the University of California, San Diego, Rhianna B. found herself working at Barnes & Noble.

"During my undergraduate studies, I worked as a waitress and a lifeguard. So, when I graduated, I didn't have any experience that specifically applied to working in an office," she said.

Rhianna also earned a paralegal certificate at USD. "What most appealed to me about the USD Paralegal Program was the legal internship and the job finding assistance," she added.

Within a month of graduating from the Paralegal Program, she was hired by a small intellectual property law firm that had contacted the school seeking qualified candidates. Rhianna likes the small firm atmosphere.

"They are very flexible with their work schedules," she said.

Best of all, Rhianna uses her undergraduate degree in her current job. She files trademarks and writes client correspondence and contracts. Rhianna credits USD with providing her with confidence to find her job. She believes the perfect opportunity is out there for everyone.

"When you find something that matches your style, go for it," she said.

The USD Paralegal Program has played a vital role in the advancement of the legal assistant profession. Recently recognized by the Legal Aid Society of San Diego for its outstanding service, the program has provided the legal community with well-educated paralegals for over 29 years.

The University of San Diego Paralegal Program offers both day and evening classes, enabling students to complete the certificate in anywhere from four to 10 months. Employment assistance, financial aid and internship opportunities are just a few of the services offered by the program. For more information, call (619) 260-4579 or visit the Web site at www.sandiego.edu/paralegal.

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