DOBSON — The classroom transformed into a courtroom for students enrolled in LEX 141: Civil Litigation II at Surry Community College as those studying Paralegal Technology put their knowledge and skills to the test by holding a mock trial complete with a jury and multiple witnesses.
Surry’s Paralegal Technology curriculum prepares students to work under the supervision of attorneys by performing routine legal tasks and assisting with substantive legal work. Students study topics like commercial law, property law, legal research and writing, criminal law and family law.
The 11 students who conducted the trial as part of their final exams drew upon lessons learned in each of their previous courses, and have been preparing since last spring as Paralegal Lead Instructor Selina Dougherty explains.
“All of the preparation for the trial actually starts in Civil Litigation I where they begin to learn how trials work. Then in Civil Litigation II, they begin to prepare for the trial. About midway through the semester, students are broken into two teams to represent the defendant and plaintiff. During this time, they learn about discovery and serve each other with interrogatories, requests for production and requests for admission,” Dougherty said.
In preparation for the trial which focused on fair housing regulations, students also practiced opening and closing arguments and watched trials and voir dire, the art of picking juries.
The day of the mock trial, students began by selecting their own jury, made up of Surry Early College students. Each side presented witnesses and evidence and argued their case before the jury was asked to deliberate and produce a verdict. Paralegal Instructor Robert Payne served as the judge presiding over the case, while Dougherty moderated the trial.
SCC Paralegal student Gabbie Cope, who acted as a member of the plaintiff’s team during the trial, commented on the benefits of conducting a trial in class.
Cope said, “We had a blast, and we learned a lot about how actual trials are conducted and a great deal about trial procedure as well as how to conduct oneself in a courtroom atmosphere.”
Dougherty echoed Cope’s sentiment by adding, “One of my goals in the Paralegal program at Surry is for the students to learn all aspects of the law, while also realizing that learning about the law can be fun.”
SCC is designated as a Qualified Paralegal Studies Program by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Paralegal Certification. Graduates of Surry’s program are trained to assist attorneys in probate work, investigations, public records search, drafting and filing legal documents, research and office management.
“We have a superior Paralegal program at Surry Community College,” Dougherty said. “For those outside of the legal profession, they can think of a paralegal as one who assists attorneys as a nurse assists a doctor. When our students graduate, they can hit the ground running and support their attorneys with researching and writing legal documents.”
Students enrolled in Surry’s Paralegal Technology program can earn an Associate in Applied Science Degree or a Paralegal Certificate. Employment opportunities are available in private law firms, governmental agencies, banks, insurance agencies and other business organizations. The average annual salary for a paralegal in North Carolina is about $48,000.
Registration is currently open for spring 2018 classes. The deadline to register is Dec. 21. Spring classes will begin Jan. 8. For additional information contact Student Services at 336-386-3264 or Lead Paralegal Instructor Selina Dougherty at 336-386-3257 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the program, and all other Business Technologies programs, on Facebook @surrybusiness.