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Law School Dean & Author Therese Teri Cannon Stays Close to Her Paralegal Roots

published April 12, 2023

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( 76 votes, average: 4.5 out of 5)
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Therese Teri Cannon is a distinguished law school dean, author and paralegal-turned-lawyer. As the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Dean and Professor at Yeshiva University, as well as a practicing attorney and successful author, she has achieved many accomplishments and is an inspiration for aspiring law students and paralegals. Cannon's journey from paralegal to law school dean is an inspiring one.

Cannon began her career as a paralegal in the 1980s, working in areas of the law that interested her – mainly labor and employment law. As a paralegal, she had the opportunity to learn the process of law, develop a better understanding of the law, and gain valuable insight into the law profession. As a paralegal, Cannon had the opportunity to work on different areas of law including contract work and document management, helping to prepare legal documents, and even assisting in trials.

After several years of experience as a paralegal, Cannon decided to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer and attended law school. In 1994, she was accepted into the Tulane University Law School, where she went on to receive her law degree. After graduation, she served as a judicial law clerk for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia. After her judicial clerkship, Cannon continued her law career as a partner at a law firm in Philadelphia.

In 2009, Cannon accepted an offer from then-President Richard Joel of Yeshiva University to be the first female Dean of Cardozo Law School. As Dean, she led numerous initiatives to make Cardozo a leader in legal education and research. This included the expansion of curricular offerings, the introduction of a visiting professor program and the establishment of a new center for legal research and development.

In addition to her dean duties, Cannon is also an accomplished author, having written two books on the labor and employment law – The Employee's Lawyer: A Guide to the American Workplace and. Winning in the Workplace: A Practical Guide to Labor Law. Cannon has also written numerous articles, papers and book reviews on labor, employment and labor-management relations law.

Despite her long list of accomplishments, Cannon still remains close to her paralegal roots. She continues to mentor, teach and inspire paralegals. She has a keen eye for the challenges and opportunities the profession faces and believes that it's the paralegals that help make the legal system work. She also stresses the importance of paralegal professionalism and education and offers tips and advice to aspiring paralegals for success in the field.

Cannon's inspiring journey from paralegal to law school dean and beyond serves as a reminder that dreams can be achieved with hard work and dedication. By staying close to her paralegal roots and advocating for the profession, she continues to be an example for paralegals and aspiring law students. Therese Teri Cannon is a prime example of how dedication and hard work can lead to success.

Therese Teri Cannon: Law School Dean and Author

Therese Teri Cannon graduated with a degree in paralegal studies in 1992 and has held the position of dean of the College of Law at the University of Tulsa since 2008. This accomplished professional has made her mark in the legal field, becoming an authority on the topic of paralegals.

In her role as dean, she has been an advocate for the professional development of paralegals within the legal field. She has pushed for the recognition of paralegals as capable, valued professionals, and was instrumental in the establishment of the American Bar Association (ABA) standards for paralegal education and the National Federation for Paralegal Associations (NFPA) standards for paralegal certification.

Cannon has also had a hand in other professional achievements, authoring several books and numerous articles on topics related to the law, such as legal ethics and professional responsibility. Additionally, she served as the president of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations from 2006-2007. Her publication entitled, "Paralegals and the Ethical Practice of Law" is a well-regarded guide on the subject.

Cannon's endeavors have been met with praise, as evident in the numerous awards she has earned. Most recently, she was recognized with the President's Award from the Tulsa County Bar Association for her outstanding service to the legal profession.

Advancing the Legal Profession through Paralegal Education

Therese Teri Cannon is a passionate educator and advocate for paralegal professionals in the legal field. She earned her degree in paralegal studies in 1992 and holds the position of law school dean at the University of Tulsa. Cannon is an authority on the topics of paralegal and law, having authored books and numerous articles on legal ethics and professional responsibility.

In her role as dean, Cannon worked to develop and implement the ABA (American Bar Association) standards for paralegal education and the NFPA (National Federation for Paralegal Associations) standards for paralegal certification. She also served as the president of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations from 2006-2007. Her publication entitled, "Paralegals and the Ethical Practice of Law" is used globally as a reference guide on the subject.

Her dedication has been recognized in the legal community, with many honors and awards such as the President's Award from the Tulsa County Bar Association for her service to the legal profession. Cannon is paving the way for the advancement of the paralegals in the legal industry and encouraging the respect and recognition of the role these professionals play.

Not every law school graduate wants to practice law. Teri Cannon always wanted to educate. LawCrossing speaks with the law school dean, author, and former paralegal about her career.

Teri Cannon was one of the first certified paralegals, graduating from the University of West Los Angeles in 1973. She'd been working for a small law firm and intended to attend law school. The firm suggested she check out the paralegal program along the way.

"I was working in a law firm that was affiliated with the University of West L.A., and they told me about this program that was starting up and sort of invited me to apply," she said. "I always knew that I would go to law school eventually. It was kind of just along the pathway of going to law school. After I went through the paralegal program, I finished my undergraduate degree at UCLA and went to Loyola Law School."

From the start of her career, Ms. Cannon pursued opportunities in higher education. After she finished her paralegal certificate, she went to work for the University of West Los Angeles, or UWLA, in the placement office. She continued to work at the university while she finished her degree at UCLA and throughout law school at Loyola. She eventually became dean of the paralegal program and then dean of the law school.

During her time at UWLA, Ms. Cannon wrote a paralegal textbook, which is still used in courses throughout the country today.

"When I was with the University of West Los Angeles as the dean of its paralegal school, we had at that time about 300 students," she said. "And in the early days there were not good textbooks designed specifically for paralegals, and I was teaching an introduction class, an introductory class that all the first-year students had to take. And one of the things we covered in that class was ethics and, in particular, the applications of the rules of ethics and professional responsibility to paralegals."

Because there were no textbooks, Ms. Cannon used her own experience and various materials to teach her class: case studies, articles, legal ethics.

"There are hundreds of paralegal textbooks now, but at the time there was nothing," she said.

Little Brown approached her about writing a book, and she said it was easy, since she had already gathered so much information for her courses. Now the book, Ethics and Professional Responsibility for Paralegals, is in its fourth edition, and an abridged version is also available.

Ms. Cannon, 54, said she always viewed higher education and teaching as ways of helping people improve their lives. "I never practiced. I never intended to practice. I always wanted to be in higher education," she said. "I've done consulting work in the ethics area and always been a legal teacher, a law school administrator, and a writer."

Ms. Cannon, who has worked as a consultant to law firms interested in continuing education programs for their lawyers and paralegals, has been at JFKU Law School for two years. She was teaching at San Francisco State for two years previously and has been the American Bar Association's educational consultant for their paralegal programs for about nine years.

JFKU is a small, private, nonprofit university in Contra Costa County, California. The law school has just 200 students, predominantly women. It's a state-accredited school, not ABA approved, so the graduates tend to practice in California once they graduate. The university was founded 40 years ago in the wake of John F. Kennedy assassination, with the mission of helping adults go back to school.

"Our law school is about 65% women. And it has been more than 50% women for about five years," Ms. Cannon said. "We also have 40% racial ethnic minority students. We're a law school that's designed for people who have other life and work and family responsibilities and who want to go to school on a part-time basis, day or evenings, for four years instead of the traditional three years."

Many of the students are raising children or working fulltime jobs.

Ms. Cannon said she doesn't know where her interest in the law came from. She was the first in her family to graduate from college, where she studied political science with an emphasis on constitutional law.

"I always also was interested in education and in helping people to uplift themselves through the education process, both personally and on a socioeconomic basis," she said. "So I was fortunately able to combine both of those interests and those areas that really felt like vocations to me—not like just something I went into by accident. I always really wanted to do something in the law and to do something in education, so I was able to do both."

While some brilliant litigators may have gotten mediocre grades in college and law school, if you want a career in academe, Ms. Cannon said grades count.

"Within higher education, where you went to school and how well you did and what you did during that experience is critical to getting you in the door," she said. "So you want to go to the most prestigious undergraduate school, and then if you go on to law school, that you can. You want to get really good grades. Grades really matter when you're going into academe."

And the old adage "publish or perish" is also true in the world of legal academics.

You will want to undertake as many kinds of scholarly activities as you can, so that includes writing and speaking," she said. "There are journals in the legal field. The American Association for Paralegal Education has the Journal of Paralegal Education and Practice. So you can write and publish articles in that. If you work in the criminal justice area, there's a journal in that. There's a journal of legal education. You can write books and magazine articles. And giving presentations to groups of paralegals or lawyers or educators, those things all help as well."

And if you don't have a stellar scholarly record, you'll likely need a rich and successful practice. Many of the best educators, Ms. Cannon said, have left their practices of 25 years to teach.

"If you go that path, where you are in practice first, then you bring to your teaching position great connections and that great practical experience that law schools are looking to share with their students," she said.

published April 12, 2023

( 76 votes, average: 4.5 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.