Paralegal Certificate ensures UD student is on right career path
Comparing their belief that they are “pretty sure” they can afford a house to the detrimental results that can occur from being “pretty sure” they are eating non-poisonous mushrooms or are equipped with parachutes before skydiving, potential homebuyers in a Rocket Mortgage commercial are shown by comedian Tracy Morgan why “pretty sure” is not good enough and why they need to be certain they are ready to make the substantial purchase.
Aug. 30, 2021-July 20, 2022
Prepare for a career as a paralegal or paralegal assistant
Though University of Delaware undergraduate Dominique Kendus was “pretty sure” she wanted to go to law school after she earns her bachelor’s degree in English in December, she wanted to be certain about her career choice before making an investment that can rival the cost of some homes. According to a U.S. News survey, the average tuition for full-time law school programs in the 2020-2021 academic year was $51,268 at a private school, $29,074 for in-state students at a public school and $42,143 for out-of-state students at a public school.
Led by experienced attorneys
To ensure she was making the right decision, Kendus recently complemented her full-time undergraduate studies by completing the University of Delaware Division of Professional Studies (UD PCS) Paralegal Certificate program, which is conducted by a faculty of five experienced attorneys. Taught over six modules, including Introduction to Law for Paralegals, Legal Research and Writing, Civil Procedure, Torts, Contract Law, and Criminal Law and Procedure, the 11-month program begins its next cohort on Aug. 30 live-online.
“Because I am a legal studies minor, I have taken a bunch of classes about different aspects of the law, which had me thinking about going into law,” said Kendus. “Taking all of these paralegal modules consecutively with lawyers who have worked in the field for so long really made me realize that yes, this is what I want to do.”
Attorney Stacey Sawa has been an instructor in the program since 2008 and has enjoyed teaching many undergraduates over the last 13 years. Sawa can relate to students like Kendus and others in the same position who are taking additional measures to prepare for their future at a young age.
“Having undergraduates in the Paralegal Certificate program is exciting for me as a teacher because I remember myself as an undergraduate wanting to learn more about the law and properly prepare myself for law school and a career in the legal profession,” said Sawa. “Therefore, I enjoy helping those undergraduates learn more about the subjects I teach to prepare them if they decide to enter the legal profession as a paralegal or an attorney.”
Convenient evening format
Kendus learned more than she thought she would in each of the modules and found it easier than expected to add the Paralegal Certificate program to her full-time course load. By scheduling all of her undergraduate classes early in the day, there were not any conflicts with the Monday and Wednesday evening paralegal sessions.
“As long as you are paying attention in class, the assignments do not take so long, so it was not that much of an adjustment for me,” said Kendus. “You just have to remember that it is not supposed to be easy and you’re not supposed to be able to pick it up in a day. If you review your notes regularly, actively participate in class and do the assigned readings, you’ll be fine.”
New approach to writing and research
Two of the skills she worked hard at picking up and excelling in were research and writing. While she had done plenty of both in her undergraduate classes, the Legal Research and Writing module taught her a different and necessary approach to both practices.
“Writing legally is totally different than writing academically,” said Kendus. “You have to format your documents and sentences differently and use different wording. Legal research is not Googling. It’s going into databases, searching for related cases and really taking your time to understand everything.”
Multigenerational classes benefit all
Kendus, who turned 21 while enrolled in the Paralegal Certificate program, was one of a handful of people around her age in her cohort that enrolled several generations of learners. She had no problem fitting in with her classmates who developed a high level of camaraderie and utilized their age differences and varying backgrounds to form mutually beneficial relationships. Despite being held live-online instead of in its customary in-person format, strong connections were made during the class.
“We had group chats, talked all the time, shared advice and bonded over the fact that we were all in this class together and could support each other,” said Kendus. “We are going to get together over the summer at some point to finally meet each other in person.”
Kendus and the other younger students helped some of their classmates with navigating technology, such as Google Forms. In return, they received advice on the importance of not rushing through assignments and how to balance work, school and other commitments. Additional real-world experiences, especially stories from those already employed in the legal field, were welcomed by the students and instructors alike.
“I enjoy teaching students with a wide range of ages in the same class because each student comes with a variety of life experiences that add to the learning environment,” said Sawa. “Having students coming from a variety of generations enhances the discussions on the topics discussed.”
Along with assisting Kendus with her undergraduate legal studies courses, the program has helped her study for the LSAT (law school aptitude test), which she is preparing to take in August. She is not yet sure where she wants to go to law school, but the lifelong Delaware resident knows she wants to stay close to home and is acquiring letters of recommendation from her paralegal instructors. Wherever she continues her education, the Torts module and the Criminal Law and Procedure module have shown her why she would like to practice criminal law.
“I’ve discovered that I like to argue, so I definitely want to be a courtroom lawyer,” said Kendus. “We learned what constitutes a crime and how to formulate our arguments, and I find it so interesting.”
Discounts are available for the University of Delaware’s Paralegal Certificate program, and a payment plan is offered. For more information, visit pcs.udel.edu/paralegal-institute, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 302-831-7600.