Do good grades get the job?

I found this blog post about unpaid internships Above the Law blog and it got me thinking about credentials and whether your GPA will give you an edge in getting hired as a paralegal. I’ve been working hard to keep my GPA high, but I noticed that other students in the paralegal studies program at Colorado Technical University attend class about half the time and are shopping for shoes or browsing Facebook during class. Participation in online forums is an important part of these law classes and some students don’t participate in those either. Yet, their framed degree hanging on the wall will look exactly like mine. So, am I’m busting my butt for nothing?

I worked for a law firm in Minneapolis in the early 1980s and remember how law firms used to compete to hire law students from Harvard or Duke University. They wanted the brightest and the best students as law clerks, and waited patiently as they studied to pass the bar exam and then proudly added their name on the letterhead as attorneys.

Does this still happen today? Will getting good grades give me an edge in the hiring process? I hope so.

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A note to professors.

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog. You probably thought that I dropped out of school, didn’t you? Not a chance! I’m still plodding through my educational experience course by course. I have completed all of my general courses and I am left with only paralegal courses until I graduate in a little less than a year.

Over the past two quarters, I have learned to appreciate the professors who are excellent educators. For the most part, our professors are attorneys who teach paralegal courses; and, let’s just say, some of them should stick to practicing law because teaching is not their forte.

I am about to take a final exam in a class taught by one such attorney.  He is very, very smart and his lectures are interesting and informative. But he has yet to grade a test, post any scores to the website, or return any of the assignments that we have completed this quarter.  So how do you know if you’re passing or failing?  You don’t.  I guess I’ll just have to wait until I get my final grade.  I will be forever pissed if this attorney messes up my grade point average!

By comparison, I’m about to take a final exam in another class that was well organized, and where the assignments were graded and returned within a week of submission. If an assignment or quiz that I took reflected that I misunderstood the material from the textbook or a lecture, my professor could set me straight. Thankfully, this professor understands the importance of making sure the students grasp the material.

Note to professors: You simply can’t spew material it at your students and hope they absorb it. It takes a little more than that to be a good teacher.

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Intro to paralegal practice and ethics

I am two weeks into my first paralegal course ~ Introduction to Paralegal Practice and Ethics.  I didn’t want to wait until the Fall quarter to take my first paralegal course, so I opted for the condensed five and a half week online course given in the summer.  This course moves quickly and I haven’t had much time to catch my breath, but I wanted to tell you what we’ve accomplished so far.

Our first assignment was to read about the sources of law and about how laws are created.  We touched on the Magna Carta and discussed the U.S. Constitution ~ you know, stuff we all learned in high school.

Our first forum discussion was about the First Amendment.  Our assignment was to argue both sides of whether or not X-rated material should be regulated on the internet; and if we had any alternatives to laws like the Computer Decency Act, which was deemed unconstitutional. It was interesting to read everyone’s forum post. As you would expect, people are passionate about the First Amendment.

We then learned about the Supremacy Clause and why it’s important that state law not conflict with federal law. We explored what might happen if states were authorized to govern individually without any federal dictates. It was fun to stretch my mind and hypothesize about what could possibly happen in cases such as gun ownership and immigration if states ruled.

We then moved on to the federal and state court systems.  Of course, no introductory paralegal course would be complete without creating a chart showing how you would appeal a case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and then create another chart on how your local court system operates.  Of course, information on the federal courts is easy to find. ( But just try to find information about South Dakota’s court system. Go ahead, try it . . . I’m waiting . . . .  It’s not easy, it is?  I ended up reading a long pamphlet about the South Dakota Unified Judicial Court System just to create a simple flow chart.  Ugh.  On the bright side, I know more about our local court system than I probably need to at this point in the class!

Back to studying!

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O Captain! My Captain!

I haven’t had a lot to blog about recently. I’ve been plodding along in all my classes waiting patiently for my introductory paralegal class to start this summer. Unfortunately, I was the only person signed up for the summer course, so the college cancelled it.  It’s a little frustrating and that means that I’ll be taking all generals this summer. Yea  (read sarcastically). Keep your fingers crossed that this paralegal course will be offered in the fall!

I do have one thing that I’d like to share with you. We’ve been discussing poetry in my Values of World Literature class.  Now, I’m not a huge fan of poetry, but I must admit that Walt Whitman’s O Captain! My Captain! caught my attention. This is the first poem that I truly enjoyed reading. If you haven’t read it in a while, or if you’ve never read it, I recommend it.

Walt Whitman

O Captain! My Captain! (1865)

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up — for you the flag is flung — for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’s wreaths — for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! My Captain! was written soon after the death of Abraham Lincoln and was one of Whitman’s most popular poems.

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Move along now, there’s nothing to see here

I’ve been a bad blogger. Sorry I haven’t written anything recently, but there simply wasn’t anything to report during spring break — and now that classes have started again, I don’t have time to blog at all.

The first week of each term I spend trying to figure out how I’m going to get all of my homework done. I put my head down and plow through each assignment to see how long it takes me. I realize now that I probably shouldn’t have taken both Values of World Literature and English Composition in the same quarter. The reading list is quite extensive and well, let’s face it, I’m a slow reader.

Well, here I am on Thursday night. I’ve finished most of my homework for the week. I have 3 chapters to read before my next algebra class, and I plan to finish reading those chapters the night before class. If I read them now, I won’t remember any of the information come Tuesday. Algebra is my nemesis.

So, I’m feeling pretty good about being able to handle my homework and, hopefully, still have a life.  It’s time to relax for the evening.

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Cost of college textbooks

Tuesday afternoon I went to Colorado Technical University to buy my textbooks for the next term. I’ve been pretty lucky up until now. Other than my initial investment of my stenograph machine and the stenography theory textbooks, court reporting was pretty easy on the book budget. Yes, I was spoiled. Since my conversion to the Paralegal Studies Program, I’m learning what a normal college textbook budget looks like.

I purchased my books for English Comp I, Values of World Literature, and Elementary Algebra. The total you ask? $366.37. That’s for used textbooks. As the bookstore employee put my books in a bag she said, “These English books will take you through English Comp II as well.” Thankfully, that will ease the cost of textbooks over the summer when I take English Comp II.  

College Textbooks
Textbooks for Spring Term 2011

I saw a segment on the news about a month ago which reported the trend of students renting college textbooks. What a wonderful idea! It’s apparently very economical and a great way to recycle.  A quick internet search brought up several websites that will rent college textbooks. I’ll have to research this as soon as I get through Spring term!

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Just for Grins

One of the perks of being a student member of the National Court Reporters Association is receiving the monthly edition of the Journal of the Reporting and Captioning Professions (JRC).  I usually jump to the end of the magazine where they publish funny trial transcripts sent in from court reporters around the country.

I thought I’d share a couple of them here:

Q. All right. Give me a brief overview of the examination. It’s a four-part test?
A. Yes.
Q. What are the four parts?
A. Part one, party two, part three, part four.

Q. Have you ever, for instance, been to see or been evaluated by a psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor?
A. No.
Q. You ever been to any type of counseling?
A. No.
Q. Okay.
A. Well, not yet.
Q. Okay.
A. But after you get through with me. I’ll probably have to go straight there.
Q. Well, I hope not.

Q. Well, I will quote from your part of your counterclaim. This is line number 38. It says defendant made material misrepresentation of fact. And I’m trying to find out what material misrepresentation of fact did she make?
A. I don’t understand what that — I mean, what that exactly means.
Q. Well, this says defendant made material misrepresentation of fact. The representation was false, that representations was made with knowledge of its falsity and made recklessly without any knowledge of the representation’s truth and as a positive assertion, the representation was made with the intention that the representation be acted on. The plaintiff relied on the representation. The plaintiff suffered damages as a proximate result of said false and fraudulent representations.
A. Okay, in layman terms, are you — I guess what you’re trying to ask me is, did she tell you a bunch of bullcrap, yes. I mean that’s pretty much what she did.

Q. Can you tell me anything else?
A. The weather is beautiful today.
Q. Anything else with regard to this subject matter?
A. No, sir.

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