Student Stories: Jessica Sebeck Lugo

Certificates Can Lead to Career Success

The paralegal certificate, created in 2003, is becoming almost the perfect career complement to a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts. Jessica Sebeck Lugo had an interest in the legal profession after graduating with a degree in cultural studies and comparative literature from the U of M in 2004.

“I saw my paralegal studies as a natural career extension of the skills I gained in cultural studies. The two fields have a lot in common in terms of in-depth issues analysis and writing.” Research of paralegal programs led her to Inver Hills, the program she chose because of the college’s reputation, ABA approval, value, and opportunities for students. “I was especially impressed with the internship opportunities that Inver Hills offered.”

Lugo excelled at Inver Hills, keeping a 4.00 GPA through all her course work; she completed the certificate fall semester. Her favorite classes were those with Mary McLaughlin: real estate, legal writing, and legal research. “I appreciate that she holds her students to a higher standard, especially in writing,” says Lugo. “In the paralegal profession, your work product is your writing, and she helped me bring my writing skills up to this professional level.”

Lugo did a lot of writing as an undergraduate that prepared her well for legal study, but the writing outcomes are very different now. “The legal writing class is challenging but it gives you so much practical experience through different kinds of writing exercises, from memos to legal correspondence to court briefs,” says Lugo.

The access to faculty and their approachability is another strength of the program, according to Lugo. “You can ask them anything, they’re always available for questions,” she says, and director Sally Dahlquist provides significant help and support, especially related to the internship placement.

Lugo did her internship at the 3M Office of the General Counsel where she reviewed contracts, researched international law, and provided litigation support for several paralegals and attorneys. “I couldn’t have asked for a better internship experience. The support from my supervisor, the other staff, the department as a whole was incredible,” says Lugo, and it has set her up well for work in a corporate legal office.

Her outstanding academic record at Inver Hills and strong performance in her internship lead to a job at 3M. “The fact that 3M is an international company provides me with insight into how the work I do as a paralegal can affect business on a global level,” says Lugo, who is especially interested in international law. She says she hopes to attend law school and sees the paralegal certificate as a good professional opportunity and first step in her legal career.