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DCE Magazine

A Scholarly Reward

Winter 2021

Richard Rieth wanted to be a paralegal – a DCE scholarship helped make it happen.

After working in the legal field for 16 years, Richard Rieth made the life-changing decision to get his paralegal certificate from UCI and take his law career to the next level. But he can’t really take credit for pulling the trigger — it was his wife’s idea.

Linda had recently lost her job due to a merger and wanted to transition to the legal field, so they decided to enroll together. It turned out to be a successful and rewarding experience for both, an adventure partially funded by a new DCE scholarship program.

“In truth it was my wife’s idea,” Richard said. “It seemed like it would be more fun to do it together, so we both signed up. I was employed and wanted to take the program to enhance my knowledge and skill set. There is always more knowledge to gain, and I thought that the program would add ‘arrows to my quiver’ as it were and be useful to my career now and in the future.”

Taking the DCE Paralegal program together was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, made easier with financial assistance that helped pay expenses and pave the way to getting their certificates faster.

As a displaced worker due to a company merger, Linda was eligible for an academic grant under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, so the WIOA paid for her courses. Then Richard got an email from the Division of Continuing Education telling him about the scholarship program, and he promptly applied.

The process, he said, was surprisingly easy and straightforward. He soon received the award and happily invested it in his future.

“It was really very simple,” he said. “I filled out an application, answered a few questions online and sent a letter of recommendation from a colleague who knew my work. Apart from the letter I actually did the rest on my phone!”

“I was aware of the UCI program and its stellar reputation. The instructors are really committed to making sure that the people who complete this program are ready to work in the paralegal profession.” Richard Rieth

A financial lifeline

Created to assist students who want to advance their careers or personal goals, the Scholarship Program offers a limited number of awards of up to $1,500 to offset course fees.

“The DCE scholarship was a huge benefit,” Richard said. “I used the money to pay for my Tech Practicum course in the Winter Quarter 2020 and it paid for the course in its entirety. Every bit helps when it comes to meeting expenses, and the program was worth every penny.”

So far, the experience is everything Richard was hoping for. He’s already completed his required courses and has just one elective left to go — a great opportunity to pick a subject of personal interest, he said.

Taught by practicing attorneys and paralegals from a wide variety of backgrounds — law firms, corporations and nonprofits included — the ABA-approved program covers more than 300 hours of instruction, including one-on-one career coaching and job search assistance.

“I was aware of the UCI program and its stellar reputation,” Richard said. “The instructors are really committed to making sure that the people who complete this program are ready to work in the paralegal profession. The program really dives into so many areas of law. Everything I’ve learned I can use in my job and take with me wherever I go.”

Advancing to a new career

Now that the finish line is in sight, Richard and Linda are looking forward to taking their careers to the next level. She was hired by the law firm where she interned as part of the program, but that position was put on hold when the pandemic hit. Richard plans to put his certificate to good use after also being laid off due to COVID-19.

After working mostly in medical malpractice and liability defense, he’d like to branch out into something new, a field that will keep him interested and engaged for the long run. “I’m especially interested in intellectual property and entertainment law,” he said. “I haven’t had experience in these areas, but I believe with this certification new doors can be opened. The information taught in the program applies to all areas of the paralegal profession. All the skills and knowledge you take with you can make you a valuable asset to any law office or organization.”

Like any high-level university certificate program, the paralegal program is clearly time-consuming and intellectually demanding. It became a bit more challenging for the couple when the pandemic hit and converted their onsite classes to online only.

Classroom interaction was Richard’s favorite aspect of the program, the give-and-take of exchanging ideas, so having Linda by his side at home as a “study buddy” was a huge benefit.

“It was great to have her as a sounding board,” he said. “We each did our own separate work, but it helped a great deal to talk over difficult concepts and get a different point of view.”

The couple was surprised that their instructors never had a couple attend their classes together, although they all agreed it was a great idea. “We’re both carrying a 4.0 grade-point average for the program,” he said. “So it obviously works.”

Learn more about the DCE scholarship program.