To put it simply, I am an avid bookworm who possesses an unrelenting passion for learning, a trait that serves me well in the paralegal profession. During my youth I thought that I would become an architect or a teacher, both demonstrate a need for continuous learning. However, I did not pursue either career. Instead I pursued a career in the legal field. After acquiring a substantial amount of legal experience, I decided to further my education by enrolling in the Business Administration Program at Essex County College, located in Newark, New Jersey, to learn about the business side, organization, and structure of law firms and other legal organizations. During my tenure I made the Dean’s list and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa. After graduation I realized that Essex County College had a Paralegal Certificate Program, I contacted Professor Linda McDonald Carter, Esq., who still to this day, serves as the program’s director. Since I had experience working for law firms, Professor Carter invited me to sit in on a class and share my experience working in the legal field. This opportunity was the catalyst for my current success. I enrolled in the Paralegal Certificate program, was appointed as class facilitator, and served as a liaison between the professor and students. Although I had worked in the profession for years, the information that I learned during my tenure in the program filled many gaps in my understanding of the legal professions. Additionally, it helped me understand the various connections between my responsibilities, that of the lawyers and the firm, in total. As a result, not only did I become more proficient in my job; but the lawyers recognized my contributions to the operation.
Later, I had the unique opportunity, that rarely students or even paralegal graduates have, to assist the Paralegal Studies Program director with preparation of the ABA Application for initial ABA Approval. During that process, I learned a great deal about assessment, approvals, and accreditation. It was a rigorous process. This rewarding learning experience has enhanced my resume and contributed sizably to my personal and professional toolbox of skills, talent, and market value.
Since completing the Essex County College Paralegal Certificate Program, I was invited to serve as a Project Assistant for the Paralegal Program tasked with research, investigation and compiling data associated with maintaining compliance with the ABA Guidelines to ensure the program’s continued ABA approval.
I became an active member of the New Jersey State Bar Committee on Paralegals. In 2019, I was appointed to the position of Co-Chair. I was recently reappointed to serve another term.
Reflecting on past educational and professional experiences, the most important actions any new and rising paralegals can engage in is to love reading, possess a passion for learning, engage in networking, and taking advantage of continuing legal education. These actions have permitted me to expand my knowledge and become an even more marketable paralegal.
I am currently employed at the firm of Bendit Weinstock, P.A. in, located in West Orange, New Jersey.
-Submitted by Linda McDonald Carter, Program Director, Paralegal Studies Program, Essex County College