Robyn Ice, J.D., M.F.A., is a Professor of Practice and Director of the General Legal Studies and Business & Leadership Programs at Tulane University’s School of Professional Advancement, where she also teaches the practicum course and serves on the University Senate and the Academic Integrity and Equal Opportunity Committees. Before joining Tulane in 2014, Ms. Ice practiced environmental and toxic tort law for 23 years, first in Atlanta and then in New York City, including twelve years as a partner with the firms Alston & Bird, LLC, Rosenberg & Estis, P.C., and Troutman Sanders, LLC; and four as in-house counsel with Zurich Insurance. Ms. Ice serves on the Approval Commission for the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Paralegals, is an active participant and regular presenter at AAfPE conferences and has assisted in the development of the New Orleans Paralegal Association’s Mentoring Program. Ms. Ice received her B.F.A. from West Virginia University, magna cum laude; M.F.A. from the University of Georgia; and J.D., cum laude, from Georgia State University College of Law, where she served as Editor in Chief of the Georgia State University Law Review. Before entering law school, Ms. Ice performed as a puppeteer and designed costumes and puppets for theatre and television for over a decade.
There are two vital aspects of ABA's role in paralegal education and the profession of which I was unaware when I first became a paralegal program director. First, I did not realize the great value of the ABA approval process in establishing and maintaining program quality and fostering development. When I assumed the position of Program Director in 2014, I was coming from 23 years of law practice. Although I had taught as an adjunct, I had never worked full-time in the academic world. One of my first tasks was to prepare and submit the report in support of our reapproval application, which was due three months after I began. Ours was among the last submitted in hardcopy form and was sent via overnight mail in two massive 3-ring binders. At the time, I understood that compliance with the Guidelines was required for ABA approval, but due to the single-minded haste with which I prepared that 2014 report, I had no time to ponder the practical meaning and intent of the Guidelines. These aspects of the Guidelines became apparent as I worked with our site team in preparing for their 2016 visit and, soon thereafter, when I was required to submit copies of our assessment plan and other records to SACSOC, our accreditation body. Thanks to ABA’s requirements, and unlike my colleagues directing programs in other subject areas, I already had in place an assessment plan and data evidencing its implementation and use. I had a well-credentialed faculty and a strong advisory committee whose regularly scheduled meetings were documented in formal minutes. As our school began to move forward with online course offerings, I already had online classes that had been developed in compliance with ABA’s rigorous criteria, which are consistent with and/or exceed the requirements of SACS and the DOE. Thus, I have learned that the ABA’s Guidelines are not merely a checklist of things that must be done every 3.5 years to maintain approval but actually provide structure and meaningful operating standards for academic programs.
Second, I was not aware of the valuable role of an ABA-approved program in supporting our graduates’ employment. In the New Orleans/Gulf Coast Region, where nearly all graduates of Tulane’s General Legal Studies Program seek employment, most law firms require an applicant to possess a certificate of completion from an ABA-approved paralegal studies program. As an ABA-approved program for over 35 years, our program has an excellent reputation and strong relationships with legal employers throughout the area. As a result, most of our graduates find jobs readily, as reflected in our high rates of alumni employment.