Woods Online paralegal program fills need in job market

April 27th, 2015 | SMWC

William Welch
William Welch, Woods Online student

In the next decade, the amount of jobs in the paralegal profession is expected to grow 17 percent faster than the average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a projected nearly 47,000 new jobs in the field. And Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) is dedicated to placing students directly into those positions through its Woods Online paralegal program.

“We have a placement rate of above 90 percent,” states Kathryn Myers, professor and coordinator of the paralegal program at SMWC. “We not only provide students with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the field but also facilitate networking and connections between law firms and our students.”

The SMWC paralegal studies program, approved by the American Bar Association, incorporates the core competencies identified by the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE), to which SMWC is an institutional member in good standing.

William Welch, of Terre Haute, Ind., a current student in the program, attests to this fact. He secured a position as a paralegal prior to graduation.

“This program offers a challenging curriculum that ensures you have the knowledge that you need for the real world,” states Welch. “I am considering becoming a lawyer, and the paralegal program at SMWC has prepared me for the challenges that I would incur in law school and has given me the knowledge, skills and resources required to be successful in the paralegal field.”

Tamra Inman, of Terre Haute, Ind., 1999 graduate as well as current professor of the program, explained how her journey and career advances brought her right back to The Woods.

Tamra Inman
Tamra Inman, 1999 graduate of the paralegal program, SMWC professor.

Upon graduating from the Woods Online program with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies, Inman advanced from paralegal to law office manager. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from Indiana University School of Law.

“What many may not know is that you can go through law school and never actually touch a legal document. It is primarily about reading case law. I had an upper hand and understood drafting documents and application while other students were unfamiliar,” states Inman. “The paralegal program, without a doubt, prepared me for law school.”

Inman worked in the legal profession for over 20 years before returning to SMWC as a professor in the paralegal program.

“I have been fortunate to work in various areas of the law and would like to share that knowledge with the students. The paralegal program at SMWC is phenomenal,” states Inman. “Kathryn Myers does a great job in finding quality instructors to teach along with her. The local attorneys know that they can call SMWC and get a quality paralegal from the program. I believe this program is one program that prepares a student to walk right into a job following college. It prepares you to take off running.”

As an expert and author in the paralegal field, past president of the AAfPE and 2010 Distinguished Hoosier, it’s no surprise how much Myers’ students and peers respect her. Myers has been at The Woods for 30 years, and the success of the paralegal program can largely be attributed to her. She wrote the book on paralegal studies, literally.

Kathryn Myers
Kathryn Myers, professor and coordinator of the paralegal program at SMWC

When Myers saw a gap in the available learning materials for her field, she decided to do something about it. Myers wrote and published three books about legal research, writing and analysis. One text contains all three topics; one text is legal research; and the final is legal analysis and writing. She uses the comprehensive book in campus and distance courses.

“There are many textbooks about legal research because it is a staple of any paralegal or law school program. However, I have never found a text that not only explains what to do and how to do it but why,” states Myers. “I think that students need to understand why something is done; therefore, they can better utilize the other tools of what to do and how to do it.”

SMWC offers both a bachelor’s degree and associate’s degree in paralegal studies, as well as a post-baccalaureate paralegal certification program for students already holding a bachelor’s degree. For more information about the paralegal program, visit www.smwc.edu/paralegal-studies.

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