Sarah Landers is one of the students in Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College's paralegal studies program. (Photo by Kyla Asbury)

Griffin

INSTITUTE – The Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College's Paralegal Studies program director has big plans to expand and develop the program.

Craig Giffin, who was hired as the program director in August, is admitted to practice law in West Virginia and has practiced law in both the private and public sectors for 12 years.

"We are looking to develop the program and be able to reach out and expand it," Giffin said. "We train our students to assist lawyers and judges in various tasks and also help them develop strong computer, legal assisting and oral and written communication skills to use in office environments."

Students who are enrolled in the paralegal studies program are required to complete an internship prior to graduating. The internships are designed to be performed during the last semester that the students are taking courses.

Giffin said during the internship, the student must work at a designated law firm or other organization as a paralegal intern for 120 hours during the 16-week semester.

Currently the internships "are a great deal for organizations with whom the intern is placed because the organizations are not required to pay the intern for the 120 hours of service," Giffin said.

"We have had several smaller firms and the WVDHHR, in particular, take advantage of this 'free labor' arrangement," Giffin said. "While the organization with whom the intern is placed does have to exercise some supervision over the intern, the internships end up greatly benefitting both the organization with whom the student is placed and the student."

"KVCTC's goal in utilizing the internships is to put the paralegal students in the environment that they will be in with a paralegal career," Giffin said. "In that environment, they'll be able to do the things they will be doing when they finish their degree."

Giffin said he is currently trying to develop a database of law firms and other organizations in the area to refer students to when it is time for their internships.

KVCTC's paralegal studies program is only one of a handful in West Virginia. Program enrollment has grown by approximately 45 percent since Giffin took over the program.

"The Charleston area has a large legal community and our goal is to serve the legal needs in the area -- as well as other portions of the state which may not be served by a paralegal studies education program," Giffin said. "We want to fill those needs by recruiting students and helping the community."

Paralegals organize and manage work flow in law office settings, draft legal documents, research and draft legal memoranda and file then with the appropriate court.

"The students in our program are required to take a variety of courses in order to make sure they develop a strong background in computers, a transactional law practice, writing skills, oral communication skills, civil litigation and criminal law," Giffin said.

For more information regard the program, visit www.KVCTC.edu, or contact Giffin by e-mail at cgiffin@kvctc.edu or by phone at 304-766-3023.

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