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Name: Daniel Foster
Years of experience: 7
Occupation: Formerly — Paralegal, Currently — Director of Legal Studies at Herzing College
Q: How did you get started in your industry?
A: Circa 1999, I began part-time paralegal and law clerk studies at a community college. While studying, I began volunteering as a paralegal for friends and family. After about a year of advocating for clients, I began teaching legal studies part time while continuing to practice as a paralegal. In 2004, I began a full-time teaching position at Herzing College. In 2007, I won the Teacher of the Year award for the entire North American Herzing College system and was promoted to Director of Legal Studies at the Toronto Campus.
Q: Describe the ideal qualities a person should have to succeed in your industry?
A: Number one: You must have a commitment to lifelong learning. Whether you want to be a paralegal or a law clerk, no one person could ever “know it all” when it comes to the law. The more you know, the more likely you will advance in your career.
Number two: Your listening skills must be twice as good as your talking skills. Being a good listener shows others that you are professional, patient, and mature.
Number three: Someone entering the industry as a legal professional must be a “people person”. You can look perfect on a resumé ... but your attitude and behaviour are what matter at the end of the day. There is an old saying that “you hire people for ‘what they know’ and fire them for ‘who they are.’”
Q: What kind of background, either educational or other, best suits someone starting out in your industry?
A: A college diploma is compulsory in order to begin a paralegal career. To become a law clerk, it is indispensable. A university degree is helpful as well.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: At Herzing College, we offer each student a caring, convenient and career focused environment which is unmatched in the industry. These qualities exist because the instructors are allowed to let their individual personalities flourish. This leads to a great working environment.
Q: What are the most challenging aspects of your industry?
A: The first challenge is to find a job once you have finished your education. Most law firms require someone with experience. Getting your “foot in the door” is the hardest step.
Q: For newcomers to the industry, what tips would you offer them on getting started in their career?
A: Visit the Law Society of Upper Canada website and familiarize yourself with the current rules and regulations. According to the LSUC, anyone currently wishing to become a licensed paralegal must have graduated within three years prior to the application or be graduating from a legal services program in Ontario, approved by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, that contains at least 18 courses, the majority of which must cover areas within the permitted scope of paralegal practice and must include a course or courses on Professional Responsibility and Ethics, and a field placement component of no less that 120 hours. There are currently no regulations for law clerks.
Q: What kind of local associations/organizations/volunteer activities would you recommend for people just starting out?
A: Simply volunteering at a law office, government agency, or corporation will serve the prospective law clerk or paralegal well. Additionally, once a graduate has started their career, they will often find that their employers are willing to pay for continuing education courses. A certificate in Dispute Resolution from York University would suit the developing paralegal nicely. Or perhaps the ambitious law clerk could join the Institute of Law Clerks of Ontario as an opportunity to network with colleagues. Either way, it does not hurt to ask.