Shawnece Eberhart entered Miami Dade College’s Law Center at Wolfson Campus with a slight interest for law. She graduated with a passion and some valuable experience that assisted her in her first job at the law firm Wasson and Associates.
“When I first came I was in the mindset that I was just going to take classes and go,” said Eberhart, 21. “I was very shy. I didn’t open my mouth for anything.”
The Law Center at the Wolfson Campus, she says, changed that.
The program is the only one of its kind in South Florida that offers an associate in science degree in paralegal studies, and is also approved by the American Bar Association.
Classes within the program are an average size of 20 to 25 students. It has served as a foundation for the past 40 years to many students considering entering the legal field.
“We’re a smaller program so that students can get a little extra attention,” said Tom Nguyen, director of the program. “We try to give them a thorough education.”
Faculty members at the Law Center include an endowed teaching chair, a judge and professors with experience in law and the paralegal field.
Students have the opportunity to visit courts, participate in mock trails, get to hear from guest speakers currently working in the field and work with the federal courthouse to keep the law library operational.
Eberhart said the program helped her learn valuable skills that were essential during her job at Wasson and Associates.
“[What I learned] helped with filing the pleadings. Like I knew where these lines go or how it should be worded,” Eberhart said. “That really helped and they were really impressed with it since I was entry level—my first job in the field— and I already knew what things meant and how the motions were drafted and what court to follow.”
To graduate with an associate in science degree in paralegal studies at the Law Center, students must complete the 18 credits from the core curriculum that is required of all MDC students, and an additional 46 credits that includes an internship during the last semester.
According to professor Danixia Cuevas, the internship coordinator at the Law Center, a variety of law firms look for interns at the Center yearly.
“I place the students in the internship program and the lawyers clamor to give our students internships,” Cuevas said. “A lot of these students are hired by these lawyers later. They get to hone [their] practical paralegal skills.”