Tips for Newbies

15 Aug

Tips for Newbies

Welcome, Newbies!  I hope you will enjoy your paralegal technology classes as much as I do.   I began the program last fall as a part-time nontraditional (i.e., senior citizen) student.  Not having been on a class roll for more than 35 years, I was a little more than nervous.  But I found myself surrounded by eager and clever classmates, taught by first-class instructors, and reading and learning material that I enjoyed and that challenged my thinking.  Along the way, I learned a few things that I think helped me become a better student.  All of us learn differently, but in the hopes that you might find at least one of these helpful, I’d like to share my Tips for Newbies with you.

  1. Buy some three-ring notebooks and a hole punch. Many Paralegal Tech instructors provide handouts, study guides, and other materials in the classroom or in Resources section of Sakai.  You will need and want to refer to these in preparing for class or studying for exams.  It helps to have these organized for quick access.  Colorful tabs make it more fun.  And keep the syllabus up front!
  2. Take good class notes. I found it helpful to leave a good-sized margin on the left to take notes on the notes when I was reviewing or studying for an exam.  I also found it useful to draw a line near the bottom of a page when the instructor gave an assignment I needed to jot down, or mentioned something to follow up on—a website, case, statute, whatever.  Others may want to keep an assignment notebook or use an app on their phone, but I’m old school and like to get it down right then and there and see it quickly on the page.
  3. Listen to your classmates; let their curiosity inform your learning. Paralegal technology students come from all kinds of backgrounds.  I found that virtually everyone in my classes contributed to my learning, whether by a thoughtful remark, sharp question, or creative and well-informed answer on a Sakai Discussion Forum.  Paralegal students also help each other out with supportive nods and camaraderie.  You are not alone! 
  4. Ask questions. As program director Attorney Susan Sutton frequently reminds us, paralegals have an affirmative duty to get clarification about anything they do not understand.  I was reluctant to do so at first, but found it far better to get the itchy question scratched than to ignore it.  When I didn’t get clarification, my withheld question often came back to bite me.  In the work environment, going off without having the task nailed down can lead to real fiascos for paralegal, client, and attorney.  Far better to learn the lesson as a student. 

Here’s to a wonderful first-year in the Program!  I’m sure by the end of the year, you’ll have even more tips to share.

– Barb Stenross

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