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Interview: Gail L. Armatys, M.S., Co-Founder at Center For Advanced Legal Studies

Gail ArmatysGail L. Armatys, M.S., Co-Founder of the Center For Advanced Legal Studies, joins us today to discuss paralegal education.

Tell us about the programs offered at Center For Advanced Legal Studies

The Center specializes in paralegal education. We offer a Paralegal Certificate Program for College Graduates and an AAS Degree for Undergraduates. Students may attend in the morning or in the evening. Morning classes are taught in the traditional manner. The evening classes are provided in a ��blended' format where students ultimately attend class only one night a week. This summer, we anticipate that students may begin attending class in a live, interactive, online format as well. This will be something more than a typical distance education class. Students will be able to see the instructor, and the instructor will see the students via webcam and the Wimba learning system. Students and instructor will have the ability to discuss topics, issues, and assignments in real-time. It's exciting.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

Students in the Certificate program may complete their paralegal education in as little as 7 months. AAS Degree students may graduate in only 15 months. The programs are accelerated but in-depth.

What would you say makes Center For Advanced Legal Studies programs different and better than other comparable programs?

The Center specializes in paralegal education; we are accredited, and approved by the American Bar Association. This means we have met the highest standards of paralegal education that an institution can receive. Employers like that.

Another important service available to students is our life-time Placement Assistance for program graduates. This is a free service to graduates and employers. Our Placement Director prepares graduates for interviews, helps with resumes, and screens applicants for employers. The State reports that in 2008, 86% of our graduates were successfully employed. Of the 14% of graduates that this report assumes are unemployed, a good percentage of them continued their education, remained at a current job, or were international students that went back to their home country. In a nutshell, the Center's placement services are very successful.

Another thing that makes us different is that we believe in not wasting students' time. Our desire is to prepare a student for paralegal employment in the shortest period of time possible. This, however, is not to be confused with short-term paralegal programs housed in the continuing education departments of prominent colleges and universities where programs are completed in short order due to the lack of content. At the Center, classes are accelerated because of scheduling and because we concentrate solely on what graduates need to know.
Another important aspect to note about the Center is that every student, faculty, and staff member at the Center works toward the same goal focusing on the same profession. Paralegal education is all we do and students appreciate the personal attention that comes with this specialization.

How important would you say accreditation is when choosing a college or university?

Accreditation is an important topic of discussion for anyone looking to attend a college or university. Accreditation reveals an institution's ability to meet certain standards. Students should be aware that continuing education paralegal programs are not accredited although they are taught at an accredited institution.

Other approvals are also important to the stability and excellence of an institution. For paralegal programs, approval by the American Bar Association (ABA) is the highest among these achievements. Attorneys who employ paralegals have invested many years and thousands of dollars in their education. This approval is a standard that they understand and respect from their days in an ABA approved law school. They like the validity that comes with students who have received an ABA approved education.

What qualities or accomplishments do you look for when admitting students to your program?

As far as admission requirements go, all Certificate students must have earned a bachelor's degree prior to being admitted. AAS Degree candidates must have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Beyond that, there are innate qualities that are very significant. Maturity, organization skills, integrity, communication skills are all important. However, in order to truly be successful, students must come to us with an interest in the law. In our 22 years of experience, we see that as students complete their studies with our experienced faculty, this interest develops into a passion for the law. It's that passion that makes our graduates so successful.

Given the growing popularity of online degrees, what would you say are some of the benefits of a traditional classroom setting?

This is an interesting question based on the fact that we are getting ready to provide classes online. Still, our foundation is the traditional classroom and we know this setting is important to some students. Traditional students are the people that believe they may have more one-on-one communication with their instructors and their classmates. They may prefer the brick and mortar surroundings and perhaps be better able to concentrate and understand in such a setting. Even in this electronic age there will always be a place for traditional education. However, the Center has found a way to provide live, interactive education that mirrors traditional methods of teaching except for the location of the seat in which the student sits.

If a student enrolled in one of your programs was interested in finding an internship in their field in their area, do you have any means of assisting them in acquiring an internship position?

Students enrolled in our programs have every opportunity to gain experience as a paralegal through an internship. In fact, our AAS Degree students are required to complete an internship as part of their program. The Certificate students do not have this requirement but we recommend that they participate in this service as well.

Our Placement Director assists students in acquiring their internship. It is a tremendous opportunity to learn and apply newly acquired skills. In fact, it often happens that the internship turns into full-time employment. Even if it doesn't, the student now has paralegal experience and a reference to include on their resume.

Does Center For Advanced Legal Studies offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

The Center offers free life-time placement services to our graduates. This means that from the time students graduate through any and all job changes, they can come to our Placement Director and request assistance at no charge.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

Yes. The Center offers a variety of payment options to our students. Financial Aid is among these options and it is available to students who qualify. In addition, we are here to help students navigate the often confusing application process. The Center's staff includes an experienced Financial Aid Director who guides students through the application and assists in any way she can.

Do you have any advice for students enrolling at a college or university for the first time?

Yes. Your education is the key to so many aspects of your life. Search out the best possible options that provide the service and outcomes you should expect from an educational institution. Quality education can create an enjoyable life for you by allowing you to grow, learn, apply your talents, and reach and exceed your personal and professional goals. Take it seriously. Apply yourself. Be determined to succeed and if you start, make sure you finish. An incomplete education will most likely not get you where you want to be.

What do you enjoy most about your position at Center For Advanced Legal Studies?

As co-founder and administrator of the Center, what I enjoy most is two-fold. First, I enjoy watching our staff and faculty push themselves to excel and provide the highest quality of education and service to our students and their employers. I enjoy the creativity and excitement that is part of this opportunity. Secondly, the satisfaction I receive in watching students graduate while having the privilege of shaking their hands and saying ��job well done' cannot be compared. Students who complete their paralegal program go on to do many great things in both big and small ways. As a graduate, they enter a field where they have the opportunity to help others through their skills and knowledge. They make a difference, and I am grateful to be a part of their success.

Thank you Gail, for sharing and participating in this piece.

That concludes our interview!

For more information on the paralegal programs available at Center for Advanced Legal Studies, visit them online.

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