The School of Business began offering a new paralegal studies program this academic year. After seeing several business graduates take positions in law firms in the local Greenville community, the BJU faculty saw an opportunity to create a new program specifically designed to train students for paralegal work.
Dr. Robert Hucks, the chair of the Division of Business Administration, was one of the early proponents of the paralegal studies program. “We began having conversations with attorneys in town, and they were like, ‘If you all had a program, that would be a very positive thing,’” Hucks said.
At that point in time, BJU already had qualified faculty, interested students and supportive alumni. “The Lord had everything lined up,” Hucks said. “So the next logical step was we need a program.”
This is the first academic year BJU has offered paralegal studies, which is available as an associate degree. This coming fall, BJU will also offer a paralegal minor. The minor is ideal for students majoring in a liberal arts degree such as English, history or math. Students take classes such as Civil Litigation and Property Law.
Because law is one of the fastest growing fields today, the number of job opportunities is also increasing. As assistants to attorneys, paralegals play a critical role in the legal system.
“[Paralegals] are more valuable than most of the attorneys in the law firm,” said Dr. Jeffrey Adams, a business professor at BJU who holds a law degree from North Carolina Central University. “I always say lawyers can do anything, but actually, the work is most often done by paralegals.”
Skills like law research and writing, interviewing, knowledge of court systems and legal procedures are just a few of the skills that make paralegals so indispensable to attorneys. Communication and interpersonal relationship skills are also a large part of paralegal training.
But law firms are not the only places paralegals can work. Government organizations and businesses are also potential workplaces for paralegals. Having such a variety of available positions creates job security for the paralegal student.
Kevin Collins, a paralegal studies major, currently works at BJU Press but began paralegal studies as a backup plan. “I love my job right now,” Collins said. “But basically, looking to the future, if anything happened where I needed to do something else, I thought it was a good fit.”
But possibly the most important and appealing aspect of becoming a paralegal is the ability to help others during a stressful time of life.
“Everything you do in life is all about loving others,” Collins said. “Sometimes the legal profession gets a bad reputation, but you’re basically trying to reach out and help other people when they have a time of need.”
Paralegals and others in the field of law have the power and skills to influence politics, business and other institutions that impact the everyday lives of people. From defending innocent people in court cases to helping businesses create contracts, the possibilities are endless.
“One of the things we say in the School of Business is that we’re training our students for the ministry in business,” Dr. Hucks said. “[The paralegal studies program] opens the door for Bob Jones [University] to place Christian students in an arena that will allow them to have an influence.”