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CSUEB paralegal certificate grads find legal jobs quickly, survey reveals


Since its inception in 1980, CSUEB’s Paralegal Studies Certificate program has qualified aspiring paralegals for entry-level positions in a variety of organizations.

  • July 30, 2013

The Paralegal Studies Certificate program at Cal State East Bay reported a 75 percent employment rate in the legal field for its graduates, according to a survey of recent graduates. Former students who earned a certificate in paralegal studies consistently reported finding work in the legal field, mainly as paralegals, within six months of graduating the program.

“If you are willing to study and work, upon graduation you can be prepared for a great position,” said recent CSUEB paralegal program graduate Ronni Maestas, who serves as a paralegal for the governing document team at Berding and Weil LLP in Walnut Creek.

Since its inception in 1980, the Paralegal Studies Certificate program has qualified aspiring paralegals for entry-level positions in the field, whether in law offices, corporations, government agencies or other organizations. Paralegals perform tasks to support lawyers, including preparing and drafting documents, conducting legal research and assisting in trial preparation.

The program provides students with career assistance in several ways, including access to a paralegal career counselor and quarterly career workshops, which assist students with resume writing and developing interviewing skills. The paralegal job listings board — available exclusively to students and graduates of the CSUEB Paralegal Studies program — provides employment opportunities in settings from law firms to federal courts.

“It’s an excellent ABA (American Bar Association)-approved paralegal studies program which does a great job preparing students for their first or second or third paralegal position,” said Paralegal Studies Program Coordinator Janet Kelly. “We strive to help our students in any way we can to make their academic experience successful.”

As one of the first ABA-approved programs in the East Bay, legal professionals hold Cal State East Bay's Paralegal Certificate program in high regard, said Kelly. Many graduates have become accomplished paralegals at some of the most prestigious law firms in the East Bay Area.

Past graduates have secured legal jobs with organizations including the Santa Clara County Public Defender Office; Pixar Animation Studios; Wendel, Rosen, Black and Dean LLP; and Intuit Inc.

Maestas credits the program with helping her advance her career more rapidly than she expected. 

“In fact, the job I have now I would have never applied for, based upon the job description,” said Maestas. “I would have assumed I wasn't qualified. I actually interviewed for a more junior position. I didn't get that job, but they offered me the (more senior) position I have now - and I couldn't be happier!”  

Similar to many CSUEB paralegal students, Maestas, 47, started the program in mid-career with no prior legal experience. She previously worked as a freelance graphic designer for more than a decade when she decided to enter the paralegal program at CSUEB and begin a new career.

It appears Maestas has chosen a booming field. Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is expected to grow by 18 percent from 2010 to 2020, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Although competition is prevalent in the legal field, CSUEB paralegal graduates offer future employers not only a well-rounded education but also prior field work experience, said recent graduates. The program, which students can complete in as little as 15 months, includes an internship as part of its 11-course curriculum.

“The internship component, which is mandatory for students without paralegal experience, is solid paralegal job experience and looks great on their resumes,” said Kelly. 

Interning also can lead to a full-time position for many graduating students. This was the case for Catherine Wagner, 62, who interned as a part-time paralegal at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development office in San Francisco. After graduating from the paralegal studies program in 2012, she was promoted to a full-time paralegal specialist.

“The paralegal studies program enhanced my prior paralegal experience, and it was because I was in the program that I could apply for the government position,” said Wagner.

Admission to the Paralegal Studies Certificate program is open to any student who has completed at least 80 quarter units of academic college credit. Classes are held in the evenings year-round at the Hayward and Concord campuses and in the mornings at the downtown Oakland Center. Paralegal courses also are offered online. 

For more information on CSUEB’s Paralegal Studies Certificate program or to attend an upcoming information session, visit the program’s Web page.

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