UC Clermont

Page Beetem on the Perfect Time for Paralegals

What brought you to UC Clermont?

I'm an attorney. I practiced law for 15 years prior to teaching. But I didn't start there. My undergraduate degree is in radio, television and film. But when I finished undergrad, I wanted more of a challenge. So, on the last day I could apply, I walked my application to the Chase College of Law.

Law school was miserable, but I loved it. After graduation, I practiced for a law firm in Covington in general civil litigation. Less than a year after law school, I went on to another firm where we focused on personal injury, worker's comp and social security. I did a little bit of everything, including contracts and family law.

I had my first daughter in 2000 and decided to make that my priority. So, I opened my own practice; little did I know how much work that would be. But it gave me flexibility, and that was a godsend. I was able to have my daughter on my lap as I worked. That'€™s also when I started teaching as an adjunct. In 2005, I came to UC. I transferred my practice to my partner in 2009. I keep up my practice skills current by doing volunteer work with entrepreneurs and staying active in the legal community.

What's your favorite aspect of working with students?

I like the opportunity to make a change in people's lives. Because we are an open access campus, you don't know what kind of background a student has. I look at it like this: I can help take you from wherever you are, and move you up 10 notches. Some people will go farther than others, but I promise I can make a difference, and that'€™s really exciting to me.

What is the current state of paralegal education, particularly at the college?

The college has a lot of opportunity right now, as reflected in the paralegal profession itself. The American Bar Association came out with a report in August 2016 about the future of legal services. In that report, they recognized that there'€™s a huge gap in access to justice in the United States: 80 percent of low income individuals who need legal help cannot get it. That's an atrocity.

To address this issue, the American Bar Association is actually encouraging states to look at whether non-attorneys, like paralegals, could help people. This potentially opens up an entirely new aspect to the paralegal profession. I’ve spoken to the UC Clermont Paralegal advisory board about this avenue, and they are supportive. The other thing that the ABA is endorsing heavily right now is technology, and our program is a national leader in technology. So, we are primed to be able to step up and, with the support of these recommendations, advocate for a bigger role for paralegals.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in becoming a paralegal?

First, you want to look for a quality education. The bar for a quality education, for paralegals, is approval from the ABA. Only about a third of the paralegal programs in the United States are approved. We have worked very hard at UC Clermont to be one of them. The other thing that you want to look is the quality of the faculty. Our faculty average about 15 years of experience working in the field as attorneys, but also working with paralegals during that time. We're not just teaching theory; we want to make sure that our students are effective on the job from day one. And we offer several options for incoming students — our associate's degree program, and also certificates for those who already have an associate'€™s degree or a bachelor'€™s degree in another discipline.

I hear from many contacts in the legal community who want to hire a UC Clermont paralegal graduate. I don't have enough students to fill those jobs. The job market is very good for paralegals right now. Many attorneys were laid off during the economic turndown, and now, as law firms recover, they are filling those spots with paralegals. Attorneys are recognizing and utilizing paralegals the way that they should. The paralegal, by definition, is someone who does the work that an attorney otherwise would be doing, under the supervision of an attorney, outside of giving legal advice and standing up in court. This is real, substantive work, and UC Clermont’s program is perfectly poised to help graduates tap into these opportunities.