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Kathleen Leroy: Placement and Internship Coordinator for the Division of Extended Education, California State University, Los Angeles

published May 01, 2006

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( 14 votes, average: 4.8 out of 5)
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<<"In my position at CSULA, I have the opportunity to continually look for ways to make the student paralegal's learning experience more practical and interesting," she said. "I am constantly on the lookout for new and inspiring instructors who actually work with paralegals, instructors who know their area of the law and can teach it in a practical way to the students."

Leroy—who is Placement and Internship Coordinator for CSULA's certificate program in paralegal studies as well as a paralegal for Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP—believes that paralegal education programs are intrinsically valuable to the legal field as a whole.

"I believe that the certificate programs hold the future for new paralegals," she said. "It used to be that a paralegal's education was in the hands of the attorneys who they worked for. If the attorney was interested in teaching the paralegal, they were very lucky and learned a great deal. If, however, the attorney was not interested in training and explaining, then the paralegal would not have an opportunity to improve skills and obtain experience."

Leroy first became involved with the CSULA division of extended education when she enrolled in its paralegal program as a student. After working in elementary education for 12 years, she was ready for a change. Once she had completed the program and worked as a paralegal for a while, she got an idea that would combine her new profession with her old.

"I approached the then-coordinator with an idea for a lab class which I called 'Litigation Skills for the Paralegal.' I had been working on the idea for about two years and worked up a class which was based on projects that I had been given to do on the job and which I felt could be taught in school," she said. "I taught that class for two years and was eventually asked to be the co-program coordinator."

In her position at CSULA, Leroy is involved in the areas of instructor recruitment, internships, and graduate career development. She believes that the paralegal program in general has improved immensely since she was a student.

"Our instructors at CSULA are 100% better than when I attended the program at CSULA many years ago," she said.

One thing Leroy strives to deliver in her role at CSULA is a paralegal curriculum that is relevant and timely.

"In addition to making classes practical at CSULA, we are trying to improve the technical skills taught to the students. We are committed to bringing the teaching of litigation automation into the classroom," she said. "There is a fully appointed computer lab available, and we encourage our instructors to teach any computer skills related to their area of the law. We are also developing a lineup of classes which will cover the new developments in legal automation areas."

As a teacher and a paralegal, Leroy is particularly passionate about continued education, and she advises students to remain teachable and continue learning throughout their paralegal schooling and their careers.

"I learn something new almost every day," she said. "I believe that when a person stops learning, they start moving backwards in life."

When it comes to the day-to-day responsibilities of being a paralegal, Leroy appreciates a work environment that challenges her.

"I like working with attorneys because they are usually very intelligent and most are hardworking," she said. "The attorneys I have worked with demand excellence and a high degree of competence from their paralegals. This keeps me on my toes. I like that I am seen as a professional and as a member of the team."

Leroy said she decided to go to work for Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP, after hearing that the attorneys at the firm were interested in upgrading the paralegals' responsibilities. With her history at CSULA and her extensive experience as an educator, she thought she might be able to lend a helping hand.

"The attorneys here are some of the best I have ever worked with, and they are interested in paralegals," she said.

Over the past 20 years, Leroy has worked for a long list of large Los Angeles firms, including O'Melveny & Meyers, Lillick & McHose, Pillsbury Madison & Sutro, and Bowman & Brooke.

"My first really exciting career experience was as lead paralegal in a very large litigation matter at Lillick & McHose," she said. "The matter was a breach of contract case against an egg farm in Ventura County by a multinational Japanese corporation. L&M represented the Japanese firm, who were the plaintiffs—which was rather unusual."

"It turned out to be an extremely fast-paced litigation," she said. "The complaint was filed in federal court in early February, and the trial was set for November of the same year. All of our documents were in Japanese and had to be translated and reviewed by a team of attorneys."

Leroy said it was also an emotional trial for L&M because it was the last one it would try before merging with Pillsbury Madison & Sutro, the largest merger of two firms up to that date.

"The trial was physically exhausting, but a great experience," she said. "I was in the courtroom every day preparing documents for the witnesses. Each night, we would prepare for the next day in court. The eventual outcome was great and resulted in a multimillion-dollar plaintiff verdict for the Japanese firm."

Leroy, who lives in a wooded area of La Crescenta, CA, near the Angeles Crest Mountains, plans to continue working toward improving paralegal education. She is a woman on a mission, combining her talents for the benefit of the profession; and she won't stop until she's convinced that paralegal students at CSULA have every resource they need to achieve their full potential.

published May 01, 2006

( 14 votes, average: 4.8 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.