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Coming full circle

From legal student to paralegal professional

Soon after I had finished my studies in Liberal Arts at San Diego City College, I was looking through the employment advertisements in the newspaper deciding on which career path to pursue.

While there were many options to choose from, one advertisement in particular caught my eye. It was not the conventional employment advertisement you would expect to find in the classifieds, but instead an advertisement for continual education through UCSD Extension.

I had thought about going into law at one point, but never seriously entertained the idea until I met with the administrators at UCSD Extension, who explained to me the advantages of enrolling in their American Bar Association (ABA)-approved paralegal program.

First off, there were a lot of options for me to chose from, such as accelerated classes that would be completed in as little as 12 weeks, or a one-year program that would have allowed me to work part time.

All the classes were taught by attorneys and paralegals that worked in the profession and were experts in their particular practice. As soon as I learned that I had passed the entrance exam and would be starting the accelerated course in the fall, I was ecstatic! I was finally on my way to learning everything I would need to know to succeed in my chosen career as a paralegal.

While the accelerated program was demanding — I had to attend classes five days a week as well as commit to two night classes and a few Saturday lectures — I was able to better relate to the rest of the students who were going through the same program.

By the end of the first week, we were all able to support and help each other and in the process became great friends.

Through classes on such subjects as legal research, business law, intellectual property and ethics, I was able to obtain my ABA-approved certificate by mid-December. Now it was time to put my legal knowledge and certificate to good use.

Two weeks after I graduated, I had interviewed for and gotten my first job with DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. While with DLA Piper, I was able to gradually utilize all the knowledge I had gained at UCSD Extension.

While at first it was tough trying to apply my theoretical knowledge of law into everyday use, it was no time at all before my education and my work experience became cohesive. All the statutes and codes I learned at UCSD Extension that seemed so obscure at the time all of a sudden made more sense, and I was able to see the correlation between what I knew to do and what I had to do. Since then I have been able to expand on my knowledge and paralegal skills through both work and continuing education.

Over the next few years I assisted attorneys in various types of law, including probate, construction defect, subrogation, civil litigation and intellectual property. I was satisfied with my chosen career and happy where I was at, but I was always looking for another way to further hone my paralegal skills and perhaps find other professionals who were looking to do the same.

During that search I soon found a Web site for the San Diego Paralegal Association (SDPA). SDPA was an association dedicated to the advancement of the paralegal profession. I immediately joined as a voting member and starting attending free presentations the association provided. I also took advantage of all the member benefits, such as an online job bank, bimonthly newsletters and continuing education seminars.

Over time I became so involved with SDPA that I was nominated for and ran for a position on the 2006 board of directors and won! Since coming onto the board, I have taken over as editor of SDPA’s bimonthly newsletter, “Pre§edents,” and I also volunteer for SDPA events, such as Free Law Day at Kobey’s, and contribute to SDPA’s chosen charity, Children At Risk.

I have also learned so much about SDPA’s involvement in state and national paralegal associations and what it means to be part of an organization that promotes paralegal excellence. The association has accomplished a lot in the past year. It has become an MCLE provider and created the student mentoring program due in part to the dedication of the board, but mostly because of the contributions of SDPA’s student, affiliate, sustaining and voting members. Without their support the association wouldn’t be possible.

Soon after joining the SDPA board of directors, I was pleasantly pleased to find that UCSD Extension and SDPA maintain a close relationship in regard to educating, mentoring and assisting future paralegals through their education and eventual transition into the legal field. Since I had attended UCSD Extension, I am familiar with the paralegal program and how well it prepares students for getting the jobs they studied for at many law firms throughout San Diego. I am fortunate to be a director with SDPA and I am grateful that, because of the education I gained and the job experiences I have, I am able to contribute to the paralegal profession as much as I do.

I have come full circle from being a student at UCSD Extension’s paralegal program to working with SDPA and the administrators at UCSD Extension by promoting the benefits of becoming a certificated paralegal and striving for a continued reputation of excellence in the legal profession.


Rotz is director of the San Diego Paralegal Association.

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