OVERVIEW OF THE PARALEGAL PROGRAM

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1 OVERVIEW OF THE PARALEGAL PROGRAM Our mission in union with the American Bar Association and the State Bar of California is to extend access to legal services in our local community. With this in mind, our primary focus is to prepare students to be paralegals and work in law-related environments that will ultimately lower legal fees and provide much needed legal access to our citizens. Our community and student population is diverse, so we recognize and embrace the nontraditional learner, the adult student returning to the workforce or retraining for a career in law or law-related fields, as well as the post-baccalaureate certificate student who is looking for the paralegal skill set to improve job prospects, economic futures, or with an eye towards law school and beyond. It is our intent to create an atmosphere for learning that encourages traits that are important for the paralegal when he or she enters the work force such as independent learning, creativity, organization, efficiency, and productivity. In determining how to best serve the students, we are continually seeking information and input from the legal community around us as well as our Paralegal Advisory Committee as to what skill sets they require in the paralegals that they hire. It is our goal and a requirement of our approving agency, the American Bar Association (ABA), that we train our students to meet the needs of the legal community in which we are located. We are offering student training in core paralegal skills and in accordance with the requirements of our approving agency. Traditional, hybrid, and online formats are offered to meet the diverse needs of our community. We are offering training in current technology and internships at more than fifty locations so that students will be competitive in the marketplace and an asset to their employers in our community. Program Student Learning Outcomes: Student learning outcomes have been developed for each course so that they support and relate to the overall program learning outcomes. These program learning outcomes are the following: 1. Placement at the end of the program in a paralegal position. 2. Competency in the latest law office technology. 3. Competency in drafting pleadings, discovery documents, trial briefs, and trial notebooks. 4. Competency in completing California Court Forms. 5. Knowledge of substantive law. 6. Legal analysis. 1

2 Program Analysis Student Success: As of Spring, 2011, the paralegal program student success rate was 74.6%. This rate had decreased slightly since last year, but still remains well above the Division rate of 67.9%, the college rate of 70.4%, and similar law departments statewide of 66%. All instructors continuously work to improve this rate by actively assessing their students progress on a frequent basis. Student Retention: As of Spring, 2011, our student retention rate was 85.3%. This rate has continued to climb over the last three years and remains higher than the division rate of 80.9%, the college rate of 84.1% and the law departments statewide average of 83.5%. This retention is most probably directly related to the active participation of our department in actively assessing our students work. Grade Point Average: The grade point average among paralegal students ranges from 2.93 to This appears to have remained the same over the last few semesters. Weekly Student Contact Hours: Weekly student contact hours (WSCH) has steadily risen over the past few semesters to a high of We anticipate that this will continue to increase in the semesters to come as our enrollment is now over 1100 declared paralegal majors. Full-Time Instructor Equivalency: The full-time instructor equivalency (FTIE) was 5.8 in Spring, 2010, and should continue to improve. Efficiency Rate: The efficiency rate is also higher than before in that as of Spring, 2010, we were at This was a dramatic increase over prior years and should continue to increase. Full-Time Equivalency Students: As of Spring, 2010, fill rates (FTES) are at Again, these fill rates should continue to improve. 2

3 The Cerritos College Paralegal Program has been continuously approved by the American Bar Association since Dr. Mary Pribble participated in the initial approval process of the paralegal program by the ABA. She has served as the Assistant Dean of the Business Division, twice as the Dean of the Business Division, and Department Chair of the Business Administration, Real Estate, and Paralegal Department. Dr. Pribble is currently serving as the chair of the Law Department and Director of the Paralegal Program. Dr. Pribble is the only full-time faculty member in the Law Department and is assisted by ten part-time instructors. The administration has approved the hiring of a new full-time instructor effective Fall, Although our enrollment in the program has significantly increased in the past four years, our number of graduates (approximately 50 per year) has remained relatively the same. One of the issues facing this program is that we are limited to the number of courses that we may offer each semester. Therefore, it is taking students longer to complete the program due to impacted classes. Our program seems to attract students due to our traditional classroom settings in which students are required to interact with instructors who are either practicing attorneys or judges. We also offer the latest technology in law office software coupled with a well established internship program incorporating more than fifty different law sites. While attending an Area Deans Meeting in Spring, 2010, our program was highly recommended as a model for other schools to follow when developing their paralegal programs. The American Bar Association requires that students be placed upon graduation. At this time, there is no designated individual on campus that focuses on placing our students. The Paralegal has developed a strong relationship with the surrounding legal community and more than half of our students are placed directly through our Paralegal Internship Program. However, this requires significant effort by the Paralegal Program Director and her assistant in contacting both graduates and students regarding pending job opportunities that occur during the semester. The ABA highly recommends that 85% or more of our students be placed within the first year of graduation. Although the Paralegal Department has been assigned three counselors to assist our students, many of the students prefer to talk directly with the. The counselors refer students to the if any courses are taken at another paralegal school to see if the department will accept these courses in lieu of ours. This takes additional time for analysis of students transcripts. During the last ten years, our traditional enrollment varied between 350 and 450 students. We had three full- time instructors assigned to the paralegal program. Two of the three full-time instructors did not return in the Fall, As a result, there is only one full-time 3

4 instructor assigned to the Law Department. This instructor is also acting as the Law Department Chair and Paralegal. This coupled with the fact that our enrollment has soared to more than 1100 declared majors in the paralegal program as of Fall, 2011, has placed a tremendous burden on the paralegal program director and support staff. If this enrollment is maintained for the next few years, it is imperative that the Program Director be given a twelve month contract so that he/she will be available throughout the year to address the needs of the student body for academic advisement and job placement. Further it is necessary for the Law Department to hire additional faculty. At the end of each semester, students are asked to complete a Student Course Effectiveness Evaluation Form for each class completed that semester so that we have continuing feedback regarding the effectiveness of our courses. Employer Survey Forms are sent to our work experience sites once a year to allow employers to evaluate whether our students are properly prepared for the legal worksite. And finally, we ask our current graduates to complete a Graduate Survey Form each semester to determine whether our graduates are able to either locate employment in the legal field or be promoted in their current position upon graduation. All of this information is tabulated and reported to the American Bar Association. With the strong support of our dean, Rachel Mason, the administration, and the Cerritos College Board of Trustees, we hope to continue serving the legal needs of our surrounding community. Both the 2009 ABA Reapproval Report and the 2012 ABA Interim Report are available for review. These reports will provide a more thorough and detailed analysis of the Cerritos College Paralegal Program. A full reapprovel report and site visit is completed every seven years. Interim reports must be submitted every two years. 4

5 Cerritos College Instructional Program Review Instructional Program Review Goal Establishment Form (Appendix D) Goals Action to be taken Timeframe Person assigned Mid-range goals (next 3 years) 1. Maintain American Bar Association currency in professional training and development. 2. Provide continuous directorship for the paralegal program. 3. Stay current in providing legal technology used in the legal profession. 4. Maintain ABA standard of providing student support. 5. Improve assessment process. 1. Attend both the regional and National American Association for Paralegal Education conferences as required by the American Bar Association (ABA). 1. Work with the District to provide a twelve month contract for the paralegal program director to ensure continuous direction during the summer months for academic advisement and career placement of students and graduates per ABA requirements. 1. Review current hardware and legal software. 2. Must maintain those programs that are currently being used in the local legal offices. 1. District must provide adequate funding to maintain a legal assistant for a minimum of 24 hours per week. 1. The Law Department will continue to evaluate their assessment process and determine the effectiveness of this process on student success and placement. 2 5 years 2 5 years Long Term Goals 1. Redo curriculum to incorporate course assessment results. 2. Insure and maintain the quality of the program. 1. Review curriculum for areas that require reworking, updating, and/or other types of changes based upon results of course and/or program assessment results. 1. Work to provide adequate fulltime faculty to meet the needs of 1100 declared paralegal majors. 3 5 years 3 5 years 5

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