As with most careers, volunteer experience on a resume can bolster a job seeker’s chances of landing a job in their chosen profession. However, for aspiring paralegal students finding these opportunities within the profession hasn’t been easy.
Kofi Montzka’s Ethics of the Law class at Minnesota School of Business-Brooklyn Center set out to make the search process easier for paralegals by researching and putting together a binder listing organizations which offer volunteer positions as part of the classes early fall quarter service-learning project.
“Volunteer opportunities within the law field for paralegals are hard to find because they can’t give legal advice to the public.” said Montzka, MSB-BC’s paralegal program chair. “There are options out there for paralegals to volunteer, but often times they are difficult to find.”
To combat the issue students were asked to research and contact up to 10-12 organizations in the Twin Cities where they thought would offer volunteer positions to paralegals. After the initial contact, students would then complete a formatted information sheet to place in a larger binder that students in the paralegal program would have access to.
Students were required to speak with a volunteer coordinator at the organizations they contacted to make sure they offered opportunities for paralegals. A master list was then pieced together with the names, contact information, the organization’s mission and training requirements for volunteer openings. For additional resources the class went to a continuing legal education seminar on how to help pro bono clients and attended a required training session for potential volunteers looking for opportunities with the Volunteer Lawyers Network legal clinic.
At the end of the project students were able to compile a list of around 50 organizations that offered volunteer openings. The majority of organizations found to offer positions to paralegals were nonprofits that offer free legal advice to those who can’t afford it.
Montzka feels volunteering is a must for paralegal students because it gives them invaluable experience in the field prior to graduation and helps improve the overall image of the law profession.
“Volunteering is important because you are giving back to the community,” said Montzka, “It also improves the integrity of the profession and helps make legal services more accessible to those who otherwise couldn’t receive any.”