Friday, February 26, 2021

CVTC Paralegal Interns Gain On-the-Job Training

Article Photo - CVTC Paralegal Interns Gain On-the-Job Training

Nadia Sigler, left, of Ellsworth and Jessah Schnack of Eau Claire are learning the paralegal profession with on-the-job training as interns at the law firm of Weld Riley, S.C. in Eau Claire.


As a former president of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, John Behling has shown that he has a commitment and understanding of the importance of post-secondary education. And as president of the Eau Claire-based law firm Weld Riley, S.C., Behling also knows that what students learn in college classrooms, though important, is no substitute for actual experience in the field.

That’s why Behling welcomes interns from the Paralegal program at Chippewa Valley Technical College to one of the largest and most prestigious law firms in western Wisconsin. Two CVTC interns recently joined his team, Nadia Sigler of Ellsworth and Jessah Schnack of Eau Claire. Both anticipate graduating in May.

“We’ve been hiring CVTC students for over a decade,” Behling said. “They are well-trained and can hit the ground running. As an employer, you know what a great opportunity it is to have CVTC in your backyard, with graduates and students who step in and they're superstars. The two we have this year, on day one, everybody on the staff thought they were great.”

A well-designed internship benefits both the employer and the intern, who gains real-world experience, starting with how to present yourself in an interview seeking a job in a professional office.

“It was my first big job interview,” said Sigler, 20, a 2019 graduate of Ellsworth High School. “I saw a posting for the position and asked my instructor, Mark Barker, about Weld Riley.”

The internships are paid, but still meet the requirements of a CVTC class. Internship time is often a challenging semester for CVTC students.

“I work 28 hours a week here, and I also have a second job and then I have five classes still going on for my final semester,” Sigler said. “It's been busy, but it's been good because learning things here is helping make my classes easier.”

The Paralegal program at CVTC is fully online, but the interns feel that is working out well.

“There are pros and cons. It makes my schedule a lot more flexible for being able to work here,” Sigler said. "But our instructors have done well to make sure we're still getting all the content we're supposed to be learning and making it as close as possible to being in person.”

Schnack, of Eau Claire, a student originally from Minnesota who graduated from high school in 2010, has a lot of experience with online learning and a busy schedule.

“Not only am I'm taking five classes, I'm here 28 hours a week,” she said. “And then because of the pandemic I have to virtual school my son on Monday and Tuesday mornings. That's been a lot of juggling.”

A UW-Eau Claire criminal justice program graduate with aspirations to become a lawyer herself, Schnack started a family and later decided on CVTC’s Post-Baccalaureate Paralegal program, which differs from Sigler’s program.

"There are only four classes that you have to take,” Schnack said. "Everything else you can just take what you're interested in. For the associate program, it's more structured and you have to take certain classes each semester.”

As paralegals, Sigler and Schnack help draft correspondence and legal documents, draft motions, update and close out files, and various other tasks to help the staff attorneys.

"I was nervous at first because you're learning this stuff in school, but then you have to come here and put into practice,” Schnack said. “You don't want to do anything wrong or make anything difficult for anybody else. But I'm getting more comfortable. I've learned not to be afraid to ask for help.”

“Typically, for the required Paralegal Internship course, we place 12-15 students at law firms or courthouses. That number reflects 100 percent placement,” said Barker. This semester of the students who are presently placed, 10 of the 12 are working for private law offices. For the other two, one is working for Dunn County Clerk of Courts, and one is working for the Chippewa County Clerk of Courts.”

Schnack said she liked CVTC’s approach of teaching what the students need to know to do their jobs. Behling is a fan of that as well.

“What you're doing today with CVTC students is training them,” he said. “You're making them productive far quicker than most educational institutions. That's really the goal at the end of the day. Let's make great citizens who are smart and have good backgrounds and can step into a job in day one. CVTC hits the ball out of the park on that one.”