Paralegal Studies: Graduate Success Stories
Paralegal Studies: Graduate Success Stories
- 2020 marked the 45th anniversary of the American Bar Association's Approval Process for Paralegal Education Program
Since 1991, Loyola's Institute for Paralegal Studies has offered post-baccalaureate paralegal programs and certificates, approved by the ABA.
In honor of this landmark celebration, Marie Harrigan, Director of the Institute met with recent graduates to see what life after Loyola looks like.
Elizabeth Danaher Berger
Paralegal, Nielsen, Zehe & Antas, PC
Moving to Chicago after graduating from the University of Oklahoma, Elizabeth wanted to explore the legal world. Working at a law firm would help her decide if law school was right for her: She started as a receptionist and then a legal secretary. After transcribing hours and hours of dictation, she was ready for more substantive legal work and investigated paralegal programs. Elizabeth chose Loyola because it was ABA-approved, has an excellent reputation and accommodated her work schedule. She enjoyed learning about the legal system and filling in the blanks of why things were done the way they were at her firm. Armed with a paralegal certificate, she moved on to Kitch Drutchas Wagner Valitutti & Sherbrook. She helped open their new Chicago office and had opportunities to wear many hats as well as work on substantive legal matters. She grew with the job and the job grew with her.
Elizabeth loved her position at Kitch, but in 2014 she received a terrifying diagnosis: breast cancer. The firm was supportive and wonderful. But living in the suburbs and commuting downtown with young children was a lot to handle. After completing her treatment, she decided to look for something closer to home. She worked at a corporation in Itasca for a couple of years and then took a position as Director of Health Information with a nursing home group. She gained management and supervisory experience. She was part of the risk management team. During this time, her body regained its strength and she was around for her children and her mother when she became ill.
Last year Elizabeth was feeling well and missing litigation. She took a position downtown at Nielsen, Zehe & Antas, PC and is loving it. She really appreciates the many opportunities to take on challenging positions as a paralegal. She’s also grateful for the flexibility to find positions that allowed her to face life challenges without giving up her career.
Litigation Manager, Humana
“Wait on pursuing your masters’ degree.” Kara Wort enjoyed her marketing internship and had planned on graduate school. But this advice from her internship supervisor gave her pause. Maybe she should work for a while? Kara found a job at a credit union, but then decided to move to Chicago. She could transfer but the only open position was “legal assistant.” She found that she really enjoyed the work and researched paralegal programs. Loyola’s flexible schedule allowed her to continue working while earning her paralegal certificate. Before graduation, a classmate told her about a paralegal position at a midsized firm and she ended up spending 7 years at Segal McCambridge as a litigation paralegal.
Kara liked the pace and challenge of preparing for trial, but it was time for more regular hours. An attorney friend suggested that she apply for the Humana litigation manager position after she shared that she was ready to move on. Kara loves her position at Humana because every day is different, and she is able to solve problems with creative solutions. She compares a litigation manager to a traffic cop, directing lots of moving parts. Kara works with both outside counsel and GC’s within Humana. She regularly uses her legal research and writing skills and cite checks pleadings. Her extensive knowledge of the litigation process which began in the classroom is vital. Kara learns something new every day and has become adept at knowing who to ask which questions. This position was a big learning curve, but she’s so glad that she made the jump. Much of what Kara likes about being a paralegal is the variety and number of opportunities to grow your career in a direction that suits you. Kara has found challenging work where she is a respected legal professional.
Corporate Paralegal, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
Teaching kindergarten—what could be better? After several years in a high-need school, Kirsten was burned out and ready for something new. She enrolled in Loyola’s Institute for Paralegal Studies and has no regrets. Kirsten interned with Gould & Ratner, but there was not a paralegal opening when she graduated. She moved on to another firm but was delighted when Gould & Ratner reached out to her the following year. After a few years, she pursued other opportunities, eventually landing at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP. Katten has been an exceptional fit for Kirsten’s skills and personality. She thrives in positions with a high level of responsibility and interaction with clients. She loves the variety of the work and using her critical thinking, writing, and analyzing skills. She works long hours, but feels well-compensated and, even more importantly, is valued by her legal team. Her group is in a growing practice area and there have been wonderful opportunities to learn and take on new projects.
Kirsten has had great experiences with mentors and managers along the way. She advises new paralegals to think about their network: Stay in touch with your classmates, former work colleagues, old bosses. You never know when you will need to ask them how to do something or if a firm is a good place to work. Chicago seems so big, but the legal community feels small after just a handful of years.
Paralegal, Wilson Elser
Methodical and meticulous, Ray has been investigating the legal profession for years. His bachelor’s degree is in Criminal Justice and as a student, he was involved in the Criminal Justice Association and Pre-Law Club. He volunteered with CASA, the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic and worked for a general practitioner while pursuing his paralegal certificate. Since graduation from Loyola, Ray has been at three firms, moving up to larger and more sophisticated practices each time. It’s not unusual to run into Ray at Illinois Paralegal Association events. Not surprisingly, Ray is studying for his LSAT’s and hoping to attend law school in the next few years.
Ray’s goal is to be useful. He enjoys learning and anticipating clients’ needs. Ray credit’s Loyola’s Institute for Paralegal Studies with providing him a foundation of practical legal skills through locally relevant information and interactive and engaging courses. He has worked on car accident cases, premises liabilities, trucking accidents. He’s summarized medical records, answered discovery, drafted pleadings, planned for depositions, reviewed site inspections and written many reports and more letters than he can count. He’s researched jury verdicts and updated statutes. His recent work was for a summary judgment motion. Loyola’s Institute for Paralegal Studies furthered Ray’s legal education and opened doors to allow him to gain relevant legal experience. He now has the information he wanted and the confidence that law school is the right next step.