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DCE Magazine

Spring 2022

A Professional Paralegal Connection

The DCE Paralegal program gives students real-world experience crafting resumes and interviewing with recruiters.

Gracie DoranGracie Doran had dreamed of working in the legal field since she was a child. A stroke survivor paralyzed at the age of 10 due to a rare genetic condition, she endured a long recovery process that opened her eyes to the discrimination endured by people who are physically challenged. It inspired Gracie to devote her life to law and advocacy for others facing similar adversity.

After her recovery she became a spokesperson for her cause, but she never lost sight of her goal. She graduated college early and chose DCE’s Paralegal certificate program to help launch her career — a move that paid off before she finished her final course.

“I want to lend my voice to my community, and I’m lucky my stroke did not cognitively affect me,” Gracie said. “So, I became a motivational speaker when I was 11 and have had the opportunity to speak all around the country, and even have been invited to speak at the White House. When I decided that I wanted to get my paralegal certification I enrolled at UCI and absolutely fell in love with the profession.”

The American Bar Association-approved program put Gracie on a fast track to becoming a paralegal. After gaining a solid academic foundation she had the opportunity to get real-world exposure during the program’s final course, Legal Career Skills, which prepares students to successfully enter the job market.

Melanie KentAs part of the course, she crafted a strong legal resume and interviewed with Melanie Kent, Talent Director and Assistant VP for Robert Half Talent Solutions, a recruiter for the legal employment division.

Kent was so impressed with Gracie’s knowledge and dedication, she placed her in temp assignments as a legal assistant at Loveless Law Firm, Pacific Dental Services and Glaser Weil LLP.

Gracie plans to continue building up an impressive resume by temping while she works on her masters from Saint Mary’s College of California.

“I was able to learn firsthand by many successful legal professionals who took an interest in each person in the Paralegal program,” she said. “They each gave us the tools we needed to be successful, and at the end of the program we made the legal resumes and met with the recruiters who could set us on the right track after the completion of the program.”

Noah Ameen MotabarA real-world education

Another student in the course, Noah Ameen Motabar, also got Kent’s attention with his drive and previous experience as a legal intern with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. His goal is to eventually become an attorney and specialize in immigration law, so Kent placed him at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP as a Business Immigration Paralegal.

“The Paralegal certificate program prepared me to launch my paralegal career by providing me with legal knowledge in a variety of areas including torts, contracts and legal ethics,” Noah said. “I also found valuable networking opportunities with legal recruiters, which allowed me to hit the ground running immediately after I had completed my certificate.”

With his DCE certificate and growing body of experience, Noah is well on his way to realizing his ultimate goal. He was recently elected to the Orange County Paralegal Association Board of Directors and has submitted applications to Stanford, UCLA, UCI, and USC Gould School of Law.

Noah credits the Legal Career Skills course for giving him a better understanding of the paralegal job market and earning potential of the profession. “Additionally, the interview event at the end of the course not only led directly to a paralegal position, it also familiarized me with the interview process in the legal field.”

Gracie and Noah aren’t the only DCE students that Kent has placed in paralegal positions. The Robert Half recruiter said that several other graduates had landed jobs in law offices through the Legal Career Skills process — a priceless opportunity to get a taste of what real recruiters are looking for.

Kent has found that DCE paralegal students in general are well-prepared to jump into a professional role, with a foundation of principles, practices and knowledge that includes career coaching and help with job searches.

“Gracie did a great job in the interview process,” Kent said. “I could tell she was very smart, a quick learner, very eager and responsive. And I was impressed with her personal journey. Noah came across as really smart, plus he had experience with his law internship, which is always a big plus with recruiters.”

Getting a foot in the door

Earning a paralegal certificate from a world-class university like UCI can certainly be a keystone to launching a career in the legal field. Taught by practicing attorneys and paralegals, the DCE certificate program gives students a strong academic background and offers a wealth of networking and mentoring opportunities.

But to jumpstart your journey and set yourself apart from other candidates, Kent said it’s essential to gain as much experience as possible. And it doesn’t have to be with a top law firm — any experience, really, is far better than nothing.

“It’s not enough just to have a certificate,” she added. “To stand out from the crowd, it helps a lot if you have any type of law experience. So don’t be afraid of entry-level jobs or performing menial tasks. Just volunteering with a nonprofit to file documents means a lot to recruiters when they’re interviewing for positions.”

A resume carefully tailored for each position you apply for is another key to landing a coveted position. It’s important to list specific skills and experience that relate directly to each opening being targeted instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.

“A very general resume used for every job application isn’t going to cut it,” Kent said. “Mirror your resume to match the job listing as closely as possible. Be sure to learn as much as possible about the firm or company, and the position you’re aiming for. That will give you your best shot at landing an interview.”

Learn more about the Paralegal Certificate Program.