STEM JOBS

EARLY SPRING 2018

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34 EARLY SPRING 2018 // STEMJOBS.COM LAW // TERRIA BLUNT A REAL-LIFE CLAIR HUXTABLE Phylicia Rashad portrayed such a successful lawyer and strong mother as Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show in the late 1980s that Terria Blunt was inspired to believe "Hey, I can do that!" From her fascination with that television show as a young girl, Terria never lost her interest in a law career. She has worked in the legal field for 10 years in many law offices in many different positions and is currently a legal/law assistant for an attorney. Paralegals and legal assistants perform many of the duties an attorney would do if she did not hire such a professional. "I am generally the first point of contact for clients," Terria reports of her current job. "I speak with them about their case and assess their legal needs." Legal assistants, also known as paralegals, do legal research and draft pleadings, contracts, leases, and other court and legal documents. "If the case goes to trial, then I usually attend the trial to assist the lawyer," explains Terria. Although legal assistants perform many tasks in a law office, they cannot give legal advice or guide clients toward one course of action or another. They also cannot sign pleadings or other documents, which must be reviewed and signed by the attorney. The experience gained from working with her current employer has been important to Terria. "She has given me hands-on experiences by allowing me to attend numerous trials and work in the forefront with her on cases, not just in the background. The skills I have learned from working with her are invaluable." Terria has also pursued additional education and is very proud of the fact that she graduated from the Nashville School of Law last year where she earned her Juris Doctor degree and is preparing to take the bar exam. An associate or bachelor's degree is required for the position of legal assistant, and Terria received her bachelor's degree in political science. But she cautions students interested in a paralegal career that there are also paralegal or specific certification courses that may be required for work in some positions. STEM skills required for the job of legal assistant vary depending on the type of law practiced by the attorney or law firm which employs them. Those working in bankruptcy, real estate, business law, and estates, for example, must have strong math skills. Paralegals in a criminal law firm may need forensic science skills. All legal assistants, however, need technological skills as all of their work in research, drafting documents, and preparing clients' reports is done on a computer. Many online legal research programs assist paralegals with this important part of their job. Terria reports the most challenging part of her job is prioritizing tasks. "This job is very demanding and I must be able to manage my time and use it efficiently. I must also be creative, flexible, and able to solve problems." There are many STEM roles available in the field of law and justice, Terria explains, and the options are limitless. In addition to legal assistants, lawyers often require assistance from medical experts for injury and accident cases, mechanical engineers in product liability matters, e-discovery professionals in identity theft and cyber fraud, and accountants for determining business planning and valuation. Terria advises students interested in a law career to gain as much knowledge about it as possible. "Connect with someone in the legal field. Research the different types of law and find the ones that interest you," she suggests. "Consider interning at a law firm, and if you find that you really want to pursue a career in law, go for it. All things are possible if you believe in yourself." Fangirl Reaches the Bar BY SUE HAMILTON "I MUST BE CREATIVE, FLEXIBLE, AND ABLE TO SOLVE PROBLEMS." TERRIA BLUNT LAW ASSISTANT/ASSOCIATE DEGREES: BACHELOR'S DEGREE IN POLITICAL SCIENCE, JURIS DOCTOR (JD) YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY: 10 STEM TYPE: ADVISOR

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