The legal assisting program of Utah Valley Community College has received the approval of the American Bar Association.
"We have a very good program. UVCC is the only state institution that offers a degree in legal assisting and classes for college credit," said Ellen Hall, the legal assisting program coordinator. One of her goals for the past six years has been to get program approval by the American Bar Association."ABA approval will be good for UVCC and its graduates, but it will also give greater credibility to our profession in Utah," Hall said.
Hall said she has seen an appropriate shift recently from law firms using trained paralegals for clerical duties. "It makes good sense to let paralegals do those professional tasks they are trained to do, such as managing cases, interviewing clients and witnesses, drafting pleadings, investigating, digesting and summarizing documents, and billing clients at a reasonable rate for those services. Both the client and attorney benefit."
The program assists in the placement of students in internships as well as in permanent job positions. During the 1986-87 school year, school officials placed 100 percent of students seeking employment.
The Legal Assisting program was approved by the Board of Regents in April 1975, but wasn't functional until August 1977. The first legal research classes were taught at the J. Reuben Clark Law School on the Brigham Young University campus.
Maxine Christensen, an instructor at UVCC, organized the program. "When we first had the idea for the legal assisting program, no one except (then) President Wilson W. Sorensen and Lucille Stoddard, who is now vice-president of academic affairs, believed in us," she said.
Christensen said when the three initially approached regents about the idea, "we were shot down; but when we went before the board again, we were accompanied by Dean Hawkins from the J. Reuben Clark School of Law at BYU. With his support we got approval."
The program has 130 students, 90 percent female and 10 percent male. Ninety-five percent of the students are from Utah, and average 26 years old.