After spending several years overseas working as an educator and editor, Meredith Chester decided to take a leap of faith and move back to the States…while ALSO changing her career! Upon moving back, she took a career aptitude test recommended by her dad. The results showed that a legal career would not only be fulfilling for Meredith but also suit her strengths and personality. Meredith discovered that the test was right; she truly enjoys working in the legal field! After working in legal support in the logistics industry for several years, Meredith was motivated to broaden her knowledge and decided to enroll in UTC’s Paralegal Certificate course.
Marah Whitaker: What made you decide to take the Paralegal Certificate course? Why with UTC?
Meredith Chester: I wanted a more formal and comprehensive education to further my paralegal skills and knowledge. I knew the course would help increase my effectiveness, credibility, and would also help me prepare for the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) Certified Paralegal (CP) exam. I knew the course’s purpose was not to serve as a boot camp for the NALA exam, but I also knew the knowledge I would gain would help me in prepping for the exam later. I found out about UTC’s course by searching online. After investigating what the course offered, I knew UTC would be a great option because the school is highly reputable.
Jeff: What did you enjoy most about the Paralegal Certificate course?
MC: I am a writer; I love writing. The course was divided into two sections (Part 1 and Part 2). At the end of each section, there was a final “exam” assignment. The first assignment was drafting a legal memo using the methods we were taught, and the final assignment was drafting an appellate brief. I was able to take the training I received on Westlaw (which I also enjoyed immensely) and use what I learned to conduct research for my writing assignments. The course also taught me how to write reports more succinctly. I enjoyed seeing the process unfold and then providing a final product.
MW: As you were taking the course, how did it help with your day-to-day work functions?
MC: Because I was learning Westlaw, I was able to apply a lot of the research methods I was learning in my role. I have been able to write summaries about certain statutes more succinctly and have seen my writing become more effective. My current job involves contract review, so the section of the course on contract review was helpful as well. I also knew the rules of being a paralegal before the course (for example: what is appropriate and what’s not), but it was nice to be told and quizzed on that information in a formal and organized manner.
J: How would you say your confidence has changed from before the course to now?
MC: I’ve become much more confident in my current role and just as a paralegal in general. I feel better prepared answering knowledge-based questions, performing research, writing reports, figuring out how types of authority relate…the list goes on! My greater understanding shows in my day-to-day role as I apply what I learn. The short answer is that I am much more confident as a paralegal since taking the course.
J: What was the interaction with the instructor like?
MC: I liked that our instructor was a licensed attorney with real-world experience. She often shared anecdotes that made the subject matter come alive. She was very responsive via email and set up weekly Zoom meetings to review material with us. The Zoom calls were recorded so that, if we had a conflict, we could watch the meeting later. As an online course instructor, she was accessible and always reminded us to ask questions (which I appreciated).
MW: How do you feel the quality of the curriculum was?
MC: It wasn’t too easy or too hard. I found it to be a “happy medium.” It wasn’t insurmountable or discouraging, but it was not a walk in the park either. I felt appropriately challenged by the content.
MW: Did you work full-time or part-time while taking the course? Is it manageable to do both and create a healthy work/life/study balance?
MC: I continued to work full-time while taking the course. It was manageable, especially taking it when I did (my many usual options for free time were limited due to the pandemic). I would tell anyone that it is doable to have a healthy work/life/study balance and participate fully in the course. I also found it beneficial to work while taking the course so I could apply what I was learning while on the job.
J: What advice would you give to someone who is not only interested in the course but also in becoming certified?
MC: First, research the credential you’re interested in earning. Taking a certificate course is not the same as becoming “certified” by one of the major credentials; however, I found that obtaining my Paralegal certificate before taking the NALA CP exam gave me a real advantage in both the knowledge and skills sections.
I would recommend this course to anyone interested in furthering their professional knowledge in legal support as well as to anyone who wants to adequately prep for a CP exam. Doing so was well worth it to me.
MW: Is there anything else you would like to share about your Paralegal Certificate course experience?
MC: The course served my goals well. Regardless of my CP certification goal, I am glad to have the course certificate and the knowledge that comes with earning it. For example, I was able to learn about other types of functions paralegals can perform which I haven’t had experience with, such as advocacy. The instructor took the material further than just learning about the “traditional” paralegal role, which gave me things to think about regarding what I could do later on the side or for pro bono work. Being online, I thought that the web-based Blackboard platform was convenient to use from home, and again, I loved that the instructor was a licensed attorney with real-world experience. I am thankful that I took this course!
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M) serves as the marketing assistant for the UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, she spends time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with CPE’s customer base. During her free time, you can find her getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, she aspires to live by Mr. Feeny’s advice, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” She strives to use her passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around her.
Connect with Marah on LinkedIn.
Jeff Grant sees himself as a storyteller, and thankfully, he gets to tell some incredible stories by serving as the marketing coordinator for the UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, Jeff can be found implementing new marketing strategies or writing content. When Jeff is away from the office, he could be found hiking the Cumberland Trail, trying new recipes, or getting lost in a good book.
Connect with Jeff on LinkedIn.