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Center for Advanced Legal Studies Paralegal Education and Training
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James I. Wiedemer J.D. - Real Estate Law

Posted by Joy Oden

Feb 3, 2016 9:18:37 AM

James I. Wiedemer, J.D. Paralegal Instructor

Jim Wiedemer is a real estate lawyer, teacher and writer.

“Yes, but which one is your favorite?” I ask. He can’t decide; he likes them all.

“Working as a lawyer helps me see how things actually work, which makes me a better teacher; teaching helps me fine-tune how I present a concept. The best writing comes from teaching because you get immediate feedback, and the writing makes me a better lawyer.”

Jim is a well-rounded individual.

Long-time Favorite Teacher

He was the second teacher hired by Center for Advanced Legal Studies in 1987, four months after the Center opened its doors. He has taught most legal classes, but these days, as he does in his practice and his writing, he focuses on real estate law.

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Topics: faculty, education and training

Five Tips for Managing Speaker's Anxiety

Posted by Gretchen Havens

Mar 19, 2014 7:38:00 PM

fear of public speakingIf you dread the mere thought of “public speaking,” you are among millions of individuals who feel the same way. Giving a speech ranks above snakes, death and financial ruin in the hierarchy of human fears. Furthermore, it doesn’t take a large audience to trigger panic. Just presenting material out loud to one person can set your heart pounding and your mouth feeling as dry as the Gobi Desert.

You may think that, as a paralegal, you will never have to give a speech. But if you define a speech as any information you prepare and deliver verbally to another person, or a group, then you could find yourself becoming a “speaker” fairly often.

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Topics: faculty, education and training

Academic Dean's Commitment To Paralegal Students

Posted by Gail Armatys

Jan 31, 2014 11:06:00 AM

Thomas B. Swanson, Paralegal Dean & Faculty 

Thomas B. Swanson, J.D.
Academic Dean and Faculty

"Students realize that I'm committed to them entering the field and doing well..."

An Original Paralegal Instructor

Thomas Swanson is an original. He was the first teacher that the Center for Advanced Legal Studies hired 27 years ago and his crusty charm, self-effacing humor, and extensive knowledge of the law make him someone to impress and emulate for students and faculty alike.

An Original Paralegal

Born in Washington, D.C., Swanson served in the United States Air Force from 1971 to 1976 where he worked primarily as a paralegal. He received a Commendation Medal for his outstanding service as an investigator in the USAF Foreign Claims Commission in Taipei, Taiwan. After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Florida,  he came to Houston, where he entered  the South Texas College of Law, graduating with a Doctorate of Jurisprudence. He was licensed as Texas attorney by the Supreme Court of Texas in May of 1981. After having worked for a number of years at an established Houston law firm, Swanson started his own firm in 1986.

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Topics: faculty, online classes, education and training

Paralegal College Instructor Highlighted in 'Legally Mom'

Posted by Gail Armatys

Jul 12, 2012 3:20:00 PM

Vy Nguyen  “I don’t think my career has affected my motherhood, and I don’t think my motherhood has affected my career in any negative, detrimental way. Instead, they enhance each other…You can definitely do it and be happy.” Vy Nguyen, Legally Mom



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Topics: faculty

How Speech 101 Can Help You As A Paralegal

Posted by Center for Advanced Legal Studies [CALS]

Apr 1, 2012 3:25:00 PM

Gretchen Havens

Gretchen Havens is a faculty member who teaches Introduction to Speech at Center for Advanced Legal Studies.


How many speeches do you think you’ll give during your life? “Hopefully,” you say, “none!” So what purpose can a Speech course serve for a paralegal in the real world?

If Speech were only about giving speeches, you would have good reason to doubt its usefulness. But a Speech course also helps develop a number of skills that come into play once you are working. As you know, few occupations demand more of you than the legal profession when it comes to thinking on your feet and communicating clearly. Interestingly, those are just the skills you need to deliver a good speech.

Looking at the comparison more closely, the process of preparing a speech requires the same analytical and organizational abilities required of a paralegal. On the job, you may use those abilities in writing deposition or document summaries, case status memoranda, or something as simple as a transmittal letter. In Speech class, analyzing and organizing data are used to develop an outline of what you’re going to say, the first step in putting a speech together. In either case, incidentally, you usually don’t have much time to get the work done!

After outlining a speech comes the actual writing. Because strong written communication skills are a universal requirement for a paralegal, speech writing proves quite valuable. During the Speech course at Center for Advanced Legal Studies, AAS Degree students write and deliver one talk a week. This provides an extended opportunity to increase your proficiency in sentence structure, grammar, usage and spelling. In general, delivering speeches just naturally develops your capacity to formulate and transmit ideas more clearly. Why? Because, as authors know, there is nothing like speaking your own words out loud to give you a valid perspective on the quality of your writing.

Another major component of creating a speech is research, a task you may perform in your paralegal career. Legal research includes identifying appropriate laws, judicial decisions, legal articles, and other materials that are relevant to your assigned cases.Besides locating the data, you must sort through it to pinpoint the exact material you need. Preparing speeches serves as good practice, since even a three-to-five- minute talk can entail tracking down and summarizing information from a number of sources.

Of course, any discussion about Speech has to address the fear factor, since it is a matter of record that most people would rather have a root canal than speak in front of others. A wise speech teacher addresses this issue right away, getting you to write down your fears and leading a class discussion on the topic. S/he will also teach you a variety of tools for reducing your anxiety both before and during a presentation.

But it is often the repetition of giving speeches in class, week by week,  that helps manage your anxiety the most. Stepping out of your comfort zone in this manner reaps big benefits, specifically a boost to your self-confidence, self-worth and assertiveness. You begin to enjoy these rewards on the spot with the peer support that emerges in a Speech class. The positive feedback exchanged during critique sessions raises individual morale and promotes team spirit. Teamwork is also cultivated with exercises in which students break into groups, then block out and write speeches together. Exposure to this kind of brainstorming helps prepare you for the future possibility of workingin teams with one or more lawyers, paralegals, or legal secretaries.

You can see that, even if you never give another speech again in your life, you can carry over a good deal of relevant experience from a Speech course to a paralegal post. Reassuringly, these six weeks of instruction take place in a supportive environment where you learn from your missteps and expand on your strengths while your classmates root you on. Once you settle into the workplace, you may look back at this experience as one of the most helpful building blocks in your paralegal training.

- Gretchen Havens

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Topics: faculty, education and training

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