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Paralegals Share Lessons from the Field with MCCC Students

10/31/18


Paralegals Lisa St. Clair, left, and Nyree Benitez offer professional advice.

Both paralegals stayed to answer students' questions.

Thanks to Lisa St. Clair, seated, left, and Nyree Benitez for coming out to MCCC to share their knowledge. They are pictured with Paralegal Program Coordinator Erin Rybicki, standing, far left, and some of the students who attended the session.

West Windsor, N.J. – Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Paralegal students got a revealing look at life in the real world as two seasoned paralegals shared their insights during a panel discussion on Oct. 22. Approximately 30 students attended the event arranged by Program Coordinator Erin Rybicki, who served as the moderator.

Participating in a candid, wide-ranging discussion were paralegals Lisa St. Clair (Keefe Law Firm) and Nyree Benitez (Rebenack, Aronow, & Mascolo). Both stressed the importance of making connections with attorneys and other paralegals and encouraged students to join the Paralegal Association of New Jersey. “Networking is invaluable. If you are looking for a job, you never know who you will meet who can help you,” Benitez said, adding that the more exposure students get to attorneys and other paralegals, the better their communication skills and comfort level in the field.

St. Clair noted that paralegals have a fast-paced job, but their job description can encompass many different tasks, depending on the firm. “Some paralegals have a lot of client contact,” she said. “Administrative work is key, so staying current with software and other technology is expected, including the ability to do online research.”

Both women emphasized that people skills are one of the paralegal’s most valuable assets. “Keep your cool at all times,” St. Clair advised. St. Clair has enjoyed steady advancement at her firm, starting as a clerk, then being promoted to legal secretary, and now working as a paralegal.

They stressed that personal social media must remain private, especially so when students are job hunting. “The first thing we do when hiring is to search a potential employee’s name on the internet,” Benitez said.

Students asked many questions, including the level of credentialing necessary for hiring. Benitez earned her associate degree in Paralegal studies at a community college and has now returned to college to earn her bachelor’s degree for personal fulfillment. St. Clair, who earned a bachelor’s degree in another field, went back to a community college for a year to earn her paralegal certificate.

Rybicki notes that MCCC’s Paralegal Studies Certificate (30 credits) and Paralegal Studies AAS degree (65 credits) are both approved by American Bar Association (ABA). “The ABA approval really helps because it qualifies students for certain positions," she said.

Theresa Engelhardt, a returning adult student who attended the session, was an administrative professional in a corporate office for many years. With her current family responsibilities, she has returned to MCCC to get her Paralegal certificate, anticipating that the paralegal profession will provide her with a good living and a good balance between work and home. “It was interesting to hear from people working in the field. This information session was very helpful,” she said.

Paralegal Program: AAS Degree Curriculum

Paralegal Program: Certificate of Proficiency Curriculum

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