Do you desire a prestigious career in the legal field? Named 2014’s Program of Excellence by UPCEA South, our Paralegal Certificate program is designed to put you in the best position to succeed in this highly-respected field. Our program offers daytime and evening courses — making the path from the classroom to the courtroom easier than before. Entering its 31st year, it’s our longest running certificate training program.
Over the past three decades, the program has become well established and respected in the community. It’s instructed by an extensive roster of high-profile attorneys and paralegals.
We sat down with one of them, Cheryl Richardson, to learn more. Here’s what she had to say:
How long have you been a paralegal instructor for us?
I have been a paralegal instructor since January 2014.
Briefly discuss your credentials and background and how it relates to instructing this course.
My practice focuses primarily on estate planning, probate and elder law. I have been practicing since 2004, when I retired from the military. I have a vested interest in the future of this area of law and in seeing the paralegals that provide invaluable support to attorneys and clients understand not only the rules, but the reason behind the rules of estate planning and probate.
Give us an overview of the program. What can students expect to learn?
In my class, students learn about planned estate planning and unplanned estate planning. I cover every aspect of wills from formation to execution to probate. I also cover intestate succession, which is unplanned estate planning. If the individual fails to make a plan, the state has a plan for you. We also cover how to probate or administer an estate once an individual has died.
Lastly, we discuss trusts and taxes. I stress the importance of knowing why certain information is important, since the paralegal is generally the person who will conduct the client interview to obtain the information to draft the will, trust or start a probate of an estate. Additionally, I cover the Georgia Code, since Georgia does not follow the Uniform Probate Code or the Uniform Trust Code.
Who is the ideal student for this course?
Obviously anyone who wants to work in the paralegal field, but my Estate Planning & Probate class is good for accountants and other advisers who work with estates. In a previous class, I had two students who were accountants who worked with estate accounts. They wanted to understand the process behind establishing an estate plan and also the procedures for probate.
What are the employment trends showing?
I see a number of attorneys who attempt to do simple wills as part of their practice, especially attorneys who work on a contingency basis. If the fees are not coming in, you can always supplement your practice by doing wills. If a paralegal is familiar with the rules and procedures for properly executing a will and can provide the attorney with information regarding issues that will help provide better client service, then the paralegal is invaluable both to the main and supplement practice areas.
Estate planning touches almost all other areas of law. Some knowledge about the impact of law on the estate plan is essential. Everyone is going to die. When that day comes, there will be issues of real property and possibly taxes. There could be criminal or civil issues, issues regarding families and marriage and/or divorce.
Where are some of the best places to work as a paralegal?
There probably is not a bad place to work. If you are really interested in working in estate planning and probate, then obviously a firm with that as a primary practice area is preferable. Working in one of the county probate courts is also a good place to work as a paralegal.
What does the future of the paralegal profession look like?
The legal profession is rebounding from the lean years of 2007-13. Firms are hiring again, even if the salaries are not as they used to be. Today, paralegals and other legal assistants have to be capable of doing more than just one thing well. The more a paralegal can bring to a firm the better. So many things are becoming automated — several of our courts have gone to a mandatory e-file system and firms are also looking for cost-cutting/savings measures. For paralegals, this means that firms, large and small, will need less people who have broader skills sets. Paralegals with a broad understanding of different practice areas and who write well and have good interpersonal skills will succeed.
Also, paralegals with broad based skills can do contract work for firms, as opposed to working just for one firm. These types of arrangements give the paralegals more responsibility within the firm, especially in smaller firms and frees up the attorney to do the things that a paralegal cannot do. With firms, especially small firms, able to do more with less, this will help to control the costs of legal services and make lawyers affordable particularly in areas like family law and estate planning.
Is Paralegal in your future?