By Bailey Anne Dermanci
After completing our online, self-paced program, Sally Cameron took a chance on a new career and became the second graduate of our new Online Paralegal Certificate Program.
“I’m a middle-aged woman who went back to school, changed her career and came out stronger on the other side.“
Sally Cameron, 2021 graduate of the Online Paralegal Certificate Program
While industries and families were reeling from the impact of the pandemic on just about everything, we all had to find ways to keep our lives moving forward. For many, this has meant trying to find a new job in a time of great uncertainty. A month into the pandemic Sally Cameron was furloughed from her job in the hospitality industry as a senior sales manager and she was finally let go in September 2020.
She made use of her time on furlough, though, and began proactively researching other industries that she found interesting and that might weather the storm better than hospitality. One field had always intrigued her: law. “I always wanted to go to law school; it just wasn’t in the cards for me. So, the next best option for me was to become a paralegal,” Cameron says.
Cameron chose to enroll in the Online Paralegal Certificate Program through UT Austin’s Center for Professional Education (CPE). This self-paced program allots students up to twelve months for completion, while allowing motivated students to finish it in a much shorter time frame. Cameron says, “I was in a hurry to graduate and start earning a paycheck,” making the program a perfect option for her.
Though Cameron completed the program in a swift four months, it was not simple. Regarding what she learned and how she learned it, Cameron has a lot to say about her “tough but fair” instructor, Tiffany Haas, who also developed the curriculum for the program. Haas pays strict attention to detail in the homework her students hand in, knowing that the attorneys they work for in the future will require this, as well. “At first, I thought she was being unnecessarily strict about margins and spacing,” Cameron reflects. “I slowly learned that legal forms are formatted a specific way for a reason, which is why there were many teachable moments for me.”
Cameron says she loved the legal courses and the format of the program. And she appreciated quick feedback from Haas on her assignments. “My instructor challenged me often, whether it was to defend a position or find another solution. She was also quick to provide positive praise when I submitted a good paper.”
Stepping Into a New Career
What is next for a professional who goes from being at the top of her career to starting all over in a new industry?
After graduating from the program in January 2021, Cameron joined the Capital Area Paralegal Association (CAPA) as a student member, and immediately took advantage of a valuable membership benefit: being paired up with an experienced association member. Cameron’s mentor, a senior paralegal working in Austin, provided insightful advice about how to start working in the field. According to her mentor, working with a staffing agency helps you develop a variety of important skills, and it is possible to get a job as a temp without any legal experience.
In April 2021, Cameron found a short-term, remote job with the state of Indiana to review fraudulent unemployment claims. She gained important practical experience that she was able to leverage into her current position in legal sales and recruiting.
For Cameron, this is the perfect intersection of her previous professional experience and her new career field. “My job allows me to combine 20 years of sales experience with my newfound knowledge and understanding of the law. Who better to recruit legal assistants and paralegals than a fellow paralegal?” She works with law firms and corporations to fill legal support staff positions and interviews individual candidates to match them with jobs.
Cameron has even been able to share job postings with fellow graduates of the paralegal programs at UT Austin. Whenever Cameron has a posting that could work for another graduate, she always shares it with CPE staff who then post it on the paralegal alumni LinkedIn page.
As she considers what she has gone through since the pandemic struck, Cameron says, “I’m proud of myself. I’m a middle-aged woman who went back to school, changed her career and came out stronger on the other side. I love my new career and I’m excited about the future.”
If you are considering a professional change and the legal field intrigues you, too, invest in your career and follow in Sally Cameron’s footsteps! You might find yourself speaking to her about a job in the near future. She’s ready.
Bailey Anne Dermanci, PMP is a senior marketing coordinator. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from Washington University in St. Louis. She is certified by the Project Management Institute as a Project Management Professional (PMP)®.
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