Most agree that when it comes to absorbing course content, learning directly from the experts is best. That’s why Minnesota School of Business-St. Cloud Paralegal Program Chair Joseph Bazan recently invited Kim Bartell and Patty Hanson, paralegals from the St. Cloud City Attorney’s office, to speak to legal justice students on campus.
That the experts happen to be an Minnesota School of Business alumna and current student was icing on the cake.
Kim Bartell graduated with an associate degree in paralegal studies from MSB in 2010 and has been with the city attorney’s office ever since.
Hanson has worked as a paralegal for 23 years and is now seeking a college degree. “It’s time,” she told her fellow students.
They explained to the legal justice students and faculty that working for a city situated in three separate counties poses plenty of challenges.
“Each county has its own way of doing things,” Hanson said. She emphasized that it’s a paralegal’s job to know how to keep those details straight.
Hanson and Bartell deal with non-felony crimes. Every Monday they come into the office needing to know who has been arrested, if the jurisdiction is listed correctly and what level of prosecution will be sought.
In addition, holidays like Thanksgiving often mean a lot of warrant sweeps and arrests. Then the two women find themselves especially busy on that first day back to work.
Research is of vital importance in their jobs, but so is prioritizing complaints and speaking with victims and witnesses.
Bartell and Hanson explained that there are three major characteristics of a good paralegal.
- Be able to listen. Victims need to tell their story, and they also have a lot of questions about the process.
- Be calm. There is often a lot of emotion attached when people call in. It’s very important to be able to respond calmly about what comes next.
- Be able to suspend judgment. Sometimes you know you are being lied to. You have to remain professional at all times.
Hanson elaborated that there tends to be three types of clients: those who want to be helped, those who call but then don’t show up for an appointment, and those who either don’t seem to care or who just can’t do it anymore.
As a paralegal, you need to be able to communicate with them all, she emphasized.
Sharing their wisdom with future paralegals feels good to these two women. Listening to their stories helps current paralegal program students feel more prepared for their own professional futures.