October 25, 2016
As a vocational nurse seeking to further her education, Melissa Moorehead needed a program that could accommodate her schedule, allowing her to learn at her own pace as she juggled her career, life, and education.
She found the perfect fit with Blinn College’s Paralegal Program.
“The program offered the flexibility for me to work full-time, go to school, and I wasn’t overburdened with so much that I couldn’t handle it,” Moorehead said. “The program adapted to my needs and Robert Stanberry, the program coordinator, worked with me to schedule courses according to my needs. It’s very adaptable to people with families, jobs, and situations that could otherwise make it impossible to get a degree.”
A working vocational nurse, Moorehead originally came to Blinn’s Bryan Campus to enroll in its highly regarded Associate Degree Nursing Program, but as she was completing her prerequisites, she discovered a new passion through Blinn’s legal studies courses.
Before she could begin working toward her degree, Moorehead had to make certain the program could accommodate a student with a full-time career.
“Before a semester starts I ask our students, ‘When do you want to take courses this semester? What is your schedule like?’ Then we work it out,” Stanberry said. “We have courses during the day, but we also offer many online and evening courses because our faculty are practicing lawyers and judges.”
Once enrolled, Moorehead found caring, professional faculty members with an abundance of legal experience.
“I really enjoyed coming to class,” she said. “Mr. Stanberry and the other professors were top-notch. They genuinely care about making sure you understand the process, how our government works, and what is expected of you when you get out of the program and into the legal field.”
Now, Moorehead is putting that education to work as a paralegal at Shurtleff Law, the same firm where she served as an intern during her final semester in the program.
“When Melissa joined my law firm, she was proficient in advanced tasks, docket control, and planning for the continuous deadlines of our civil cases,” said Bryan attorney Hunter Shurtleff. “Her personal attention to our clients and interactions with attorneys has been exemplary.”
Paralegals, or legal assistants, serve as attorneys’ top assistants in the delivery of legal services, performing duties that include attending trials, assisting in testimony preparation, locating and interviewing witnesses, conducting client interviews and conducting investigations and research. Their role is expanding as companies look to hire employees with a broad understanding of legal matters. Job opportunities abound in private law firms, courts, government, insurance companies, administrative agencies and corporations.
“Every day is different,” Moorehead said. “I loved that about nursing and I love that about the legal field. You never know what is going to come across your desk the next day.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for paralegals is expected to increase 8 percent between 2014 and 2024, creating more than 21,000 new jobs in the field. Paralegals earn a median pay of $48,810 per year, or $23.47 per hour.
With traditional classroom and online tracks available, Blinn equips students for a variety of law careers with an Associate of Applied Sciences (AAS) degree or a Legal Office Certificate. Courses are taught by a faculty comprised entirely of lawyers and judges whose classes are structured to promote quality student-faculty interaction. Students completing the AAS degree are eligible to sit for the National Association of Legal Assistants certification exam, and majors in the program join the Legal Assistant Student Organization.
In addition to preparing students for careers, Blinn’s Paralegal Program provides a strong foundation of legal knowledge for students who choose to continue their education via law school. For more information, visit www.blinn.edu/twe/legal.
“Blinn provides a lot of flexibility and a lot of options that allow for people to better themselves,” Moorehead said. “Thanks to Blinn, I was able to work and get an education at the same time, and if it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”