Hometown Jobs: Highlighting Virginia Western’s Paralegal Studies Program

Published: May. 9, 2023 at 12:06 PM EDT|Updated: May. 10, 2023 at 4:00 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - From the classroom to the courtroom, paralegal studies students we talked to have what it takes.

“I’ve always been interested in the legal field itself. I’ve considered maybe going to law school; overall, I just knew that I wanted to be in the legal field in some capacity and so I felt like this program was a really good entry point into doing that,” said Megan Worley, Virginia Western student.

“A paralegal is a professional staff member who provides clerical and legal support to attorneys,” said Patrick Kelly, a partner in the Roanoke office of Lewis Brisbois.

“From client contact to helping prep for court, drafting documents for court, drafting letters to clients,” said Jennifer Armentrout, Program Head of Paralegal Studies at Virginia Western.

Armentrout said there’s a need for paralegals in the Roanoke Valley.

“I get calls all the time from attorneys who are looking for legal help and they’re desperate because they value their paralegals. They need them and there just aren’t enough trained workers out there right now,” said Armentrout.

“It’s a good profession because it’s challenging... it’s intellectually stimulating. You’re going to be confronting and dealing with pretty high-end and complex questions. You’re going to have to assess some important issues and you’re helping people,” said Kelly.

Megan Worley is a student at Virginia Western, but also has a job in the legal field.

“It’s really helpful in terms of learning the skills that you’ll need on the job, but also understanding which area of the law you might be interested in practicing or working in that firm,” said Worley.

“You’ve gotta be pretty diligent. You’re going to be spending a lot of time working for long hours occasionally on some pretty difficult and daunting challenges and being able to see that through. You have to be detail-focused because quite frankly, you’re going to be picking up a lot of the things that your attorney may be missing and an attorney relies on their paralegal to do good careful work,” said Kelly.

The average paralegal student at Virginia Western is someone going back to school looking for a second career.

“Students can choose to take courses online; they can choose to take courses on campus. All of the legal courses are taught in that format... because my average student is busy. They’re raising a family, and or working full-time and they need that flexibility,” said Armentrout.

And being a paralegal is an important part of our legal system.

“I think anybody who has an interest in law, who has an interest in helping people, can have both of those needs met by being a paralegal without having to go to law school... the expense, the time, the energy to do it. The truth is paralegals are an absolutely pivotal part of the legal team. Attorneys just don’t know how to function without them,” said Armentrout.

To learn more about the program, click here.