Hand-Picked: Paralegal Intern Works Directly with Family Court Judge

Posted by on February 15, 2013

paralegal degreeInternships are one of the greatest professional experiences for paralegal degree students at Minnesota School of Business. This experience is what sets them apart and truly allows them to apply the skills obtained in the classroom through working in a law setting.

An interesting internship opportunity was presented to Kofi Montzka, paralegal program chair at the Blaine campus, with Judge Bruce Peterson of the Hennepin County Family Court. The email said he needed an intern right away, and Montzka immediately thought of Heather Pekarek, one of her paralegal students.

This intern would work with the judge in the Co-Parenting Court, a pilot program for parents who are not married. The court determines the legal father, sets child support, and has a program in place to help the parties work together on a parenting plan. It was started because Judge Peterson felt that the family court focused more on divorcing parents, and missed the population of parents that were never married.

Below is a quote from an article from the Star Tribune on Co-Parenting Court:

The most important work takes place, not in the courtroom, but in a classroom. For six weeks, parents must take two-hour classes each week on subjects such as communicating, managing stress, dealing with domestic violence, and promoting bonding between the child and the parent – usually the dad – who isn’t at home.

In the final class, the couples must fill out a parenting plan that puts in ink how they will resolve arguments, decide on the child’s education and religion, schedule holidays and vacations. It even spells out how they get in touch with each other with Facebook and texting among the options.

Then they return to Peterson’s courtroom, where he reviews the plan, tweaks it if necessary, and issues it as a court order. If either parent violates the terms, he or she will be called back into court to explain.

The whole idea, Peterson told the seven parents in the jury box, is that it’s better for them to make decisions about raising their child than a judge.

Pekarek has learned a lot about the family court and herself through this internship.

“At first I was intimidated when I thought about working with a judge and the importance of my work,” she admitted. “I am a perfectionist and give 110 percent to everything I do, and if I don’t get something right the first time, I get frustrated.”

However, she has now been at her internship site for over a month, and feels confident. “Four hours feels like four minutes because I am so busy,” she adds.

When asked what advice Pekarek has for others about getting the most out of their internship, Pekarek encourages students to go into the experience with an open mind.

“An internship can help you figure out what you like, what you don’t like, what you’re great at, and what you can improve on,” she explains. “My internship was totally different than what I thought it would be. It was a really good learning experience and gave me more confidence in the paralegal field.”

To learn more about a paralegal degree, visit: http://www.msbcollege.edu/degree-programs/legal-science/paralegal/bachelors-degree/

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