Alumni Spotlight: A 3-month journey to an
exciting paralegal career
Nikki Silananda needed a
Young and single, she was working as a
real estate agent in the Los Angeles area while pursuing
a career in acting and the fine arts. She had a B.A. in
Studio Art from UC Irvine, but she decided to switch it up
and become a paralegal, a career that could provide
more stability in her life.
Silananda picked the Division of Continuing Education's
popular paralegal certificate program for a number of
reasons, not the least being the compressed three-month,
full-time option, she said.
“I decided to pursue a career as a paralegal because I
came to a point in my life where I wanted a career that
I had a strong interest in, that provided stability in terms
of hours and income, and was also in demand,” said the
36-year-old North Hollywood resident. “I chose the UCI
DCE program because I had a great experience getting
my undergraduate degree. Another major factor was
the three-month option.”
Because it was a full-time program, Silananda could only
afford to budget three months off of work. “All the other
ABA-approved paralegal programs that I researched
were either six, nine, or 18-month programs. I also got a
10% discount on some of my courses for being an alum,”
Silananda completed her certificate in March 2017 and
an internship two months later. She immediately applied
for a paralegal position with the L.A. City Attorney's
office and got the job – with a little help from her DCE
She recently took the time on a busy day to answer
questions about the program and the career rewards
that came quickly afterward.
I'd love to hear about your experience in the paralegal
program. What was your overall impression?
I had a wonderful experience. At first, I was a bit nervous
because I didn't know what to expect, having been out
of school for over 10 years. The first two weeks were very
intense, but the instructors made themselves available in
person and via e-mail for any questions. I really got the
feeling that they cared and were invested in my success
as a student and as a future paralegal. I also received a lot of support and help from my fellow students. We really
grouped together and helped each other in terms of
understanding assignments, forming our own study
groups, and for emotional support during finals.
Do you think the full-time on-campus aspect provided a
camaraderie that an online program or more traditional
option couldn't match?
I think it definitely provides a camaraderie that the
regular program might not offer, because the students
are together all day and have the time to bond.
Because the program can be intense, we're all going
through it together and have each other to lean on
for support. The support from fellow students definitely
helped me get through the program.
What part of the program did you find most appealing?
My favorite part was applying what I was learning in
class to the real-world cases and scenarios in my internship
and the clinics. It made everything come together
so quickly, because of the compressed timeline. Of
course, there was the closeness of the students and how
we all helped each other get through the program.
We'd study together, get together outside of class. I
made a lot of great friends that I still keep in touch with.
Any favorite classes?
I enjoyed all of my classes, but I learned the most from
my Torts, Legal Writing, Contracts and Internship classes.
The instructors were so passionate about the subject
matter and made it come to life. I left class every day
feeling like they really cared and had my back. I also
had a great experience at my internship in the legal
department of a corporation, because I was able to
assist my supervising attorney with research and the
drafting of letters for real issues concerning the
So you were able to get a lot of real-world experience
before applying for your job.
Yes, it was so valuable. In addition to the internship class,
I was also given the opportunity to volunteer at Legal Aid
in Santa Ana because our Business Law instructor was
the director there. I gained experience assisting with real
cases in their expungement and family law clinics while
still a student going for my certificate.
How intense was the workload? Did you have time
for a social life?
I would say it was very intense in the first two-three weeks,
then you adjust to it and it becomes more manageable.
I didn't work and budgeted in advance so I could put
my full attention and focus on the paralegal program.
Some of my classmates worked part-time, had kids at
home, and were still able to manage the workload. As
for a social life, I was able to have dinner with my family,
friends and classmates about once a week. Although it
can get intense, it's very manageable.
Tell me about the instructors. Are they all working
Yes, the instructors are all working professionals and were
amazing! I really got the feeling that they cared. Some
of them really went above and beyond to not only
teach their subject matter, but to make sure we knew
how to navigate the paralegal job world. They provided
us with supplies, books, resources, and information out of
their own pockets, to make sure we were well-equipped
for our job search and job interviews. I believe that the
letters of recommendation and references that they
provided me really helped me land my first paralegal job.
Did the program offer networking opportunities?
Yes, I definitely found the networking opportunities to be
a great advantage. While I was a student, through my
Contracts instructor, I was able to attend Orange County
National Contract Management Association seminars
and classes that were very informative and helpful.
Tell me a bit about your job in the City Attorney's office.
Congratulations, by the way!
Thank you! I work in the Civil Liability section of the L.A.
City Attorney's office and help the attorneys with legal
research and responding to discovery. Everything I
learned in the paralegal program has been so helpful in
my new job. I even bring some of my books and old
assignments to work, to use as references and examples.
The UCI DCE program has helped me tremendously in
being well-prepared to perform my duties at my new
Learn more about the Paralegal Certificate Program.