Carmen Marolla. Photo: Sherri Thomson

As a senior paralegal at one of Vancouver’s largest law firms and current vice-president of the BC Paralegal Association, Carmen Marolla knows what it takes to succeed in the legal world. A graduate of Capilano University’s long-running Paralegal Diploma program, she has carved out an impressive career in litigation that includes work with the Supreme Court of Canada and the Court of Appeal of British Columbia.

Along the way, she has also become a strong advocate for the advancement and recognition of the paralegal profession within the legal industry. She has represented the BC Paralegal Association on two Law Society Task Forces—the first time the Association was invited to participate.

Aspiring paralegal students can strive to reach similar heights through any of the three academic avenues offered at Cap, either the Paralegal Diploma, Paralegal Certificate or the recently added Bachelor of Legal Studies.

“Capilano U really is the standard for paralegal training in B.C.,” says Carmen. As a testament to its excellence, Carmen’s employer Borden Ladner Gervais is a long-standing supporter of Capilano University’s paralegal program.

Flexible program options

It was the intellectual challenge that initially drew Carmen to the legal profession. After completing her Bachelor of Arts degree at UBC, she began looking for programs that would suit her interests. On the advice of industry professionals, she set her sights on Cap’s Paralegal Diploma program.

The paralegal programs at Cap are well-known in B.C. and have been training students to a high industry standard for nearly four decades. This reputation has created a significant demand for the programs and made entrance requirements more competitive with each passing year.

In response to this growing popularity, Capilano established the Bachelor of Legal Studies in 2010. The program is designed to give high-school graduates access to the same calibre of paralegal training as the five-year part-time certificate and two-year full-time diploma programs.

While the certificate caters to students already working in a legal setting and the diploma requires a minimum of two years of post-secondary eductation, the degree offers an entry point into the paralegal profession for students without prior professional and academic experience.

Over the course of the four-year degree, students receive the same legal classes as diploma students, with additional time for elective courses. Each program arms aspiring paralegals with the competitive edge they will need to succeed in the industry.

“No matter which way the students get their credentials, they are just as employable,” says Legal Studies program instructor Debbie Jamison—herself a former Cap paralegal graduate. “Our program is very tough, but when the students finish and go into the real world, they’re ready.”

From class to practice

For Carmen, the Cap diploma was exactly what she was looking for. After the free-form structure of a general arts degree, she was ready to dive into an intensive program and learn some on-the-job skills. “I could see how the material I was learning would apply to tasks I would be doing on a daily basis,” says Carmen.

At the end of the four-year degree and two-year diploma, students are required to complete a six-month paid practicum placement to begin gathering in-field experience. Capilano students, true to the school’s reputation in the industry, consistently land competitive positions across Vancouver. “We’ve had 100 per cent placement for the past few years,” says Debbie.

Under the guidance of an instructor, Carmen landed the practicum that has helped her reach her career goals. Although her law firm has merged and grown since her initial placement, she continues to work for the same company that she first cut her teeth on as a diploma student, Borden Ladner Gervais.

Words of advice

Now, after nearly 20 years in the paralegal profession, Carmen can boil success down to two key characteristics: good writing skills and an inquisitive nature. “You’ve got to be able to find whatever you need to complete the picture, whether it be interviewing a witness or investigating missing information,” says Carmen.

Debbie would second those sentiments and add strong work ethic, dedication and a team attitude.

Looking back over her impressive career, the seeds of which were sown in the Cap program, Carmen emerges as an inspiring example of the career possibilities that await paralegal students in any of Cap’s three available programs.

“She’s made huge strides for the paralegal profession in the last few years,” says Debbie. “And she’s brilliant and approachable—someone who I am proud to say was in our program.”

Submitted by Marketing & Communications, written by Natalie Walters

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