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Jimmie Murvin Celebrates 27 Years as Instructor in LSU Paralegal Studies Program

In the spring of 1983, Tokyo Disneyland opened, the final episode of "M*A*S*H" aired, and instructor Jimmie Murvin began her journey with the LSU Paralegal Studies Program. Murvin has been teaching in the LSU Paralegal Studies Program for 27 years and was honored by the program at a recent luncheon of the Baton Rouge Paralegal Association for her many years of service.

Next to almost every attorney is a paralegal that assists and performs duties such as performing legal research, writing briefs and memoranda, interviewing clients and witnesses, summarizing depositions, drafting pleadings or carrying out investigative work.

Murvin said she first became interested in the legal system from watching television's popular defense attorney Perry Mason. In 1973, Murvin left her job at the American Red Cross to work in a small "country" law firm in Monroe as a legal secretary. It wasn't until five years later when her family moved to Baton Rouge that she became interested in the paralegal profession.

"In 1978, there weren't any paralegal programs in Louisiana and the closest program was in Atlanta," Murvin said. "I was very interested in the paralegal profession. The skill level of a paralegal seemed higher than a legal secretary, and it just sounded fun and interesting intellectually."

Murvin was teaching legal education courses for the Baton Rouge Legal Secretaries Association when she received a call from LSU Continuing Education Coordinator, Mary Tessier, who was looking for lawyers, professors and other legal professionals throughout the community to act as teachers for the new paralegal studies program. Murvin jumped at the opportunity and was hired in 1983. She began her work for the LSU Paralegal Studies Program as a part time instructor teaching the introductory course for paralegals.

The LSU Paralegal Studies Program is Louisiana's only non-credit certificate program approved by the American Bar Association. The program originally received its ABA approval in 1993 and has maintained the approval by completing an intensive review process and on-site evaluation every seven years.

"The objective of earning the ABA approval is so that LSU may continue to foster high quality paralegal education and training that also meets the distinguished ABA guidelines," said Charlotte DesHotels, manager of the LSU Paralegal Studies Program. "The guidance and direction of the ABA has led to the development of superior paralegal education programs across the U.S."

In order to earn the paralegal studies certificate, a student must take five required courses, three paralegal electives, a 150-hour internship, attend Court Day and a one-day legal ethics seminar. The program graduates more than 15 students a semester. Nearly all of the semester-long courses are held on the LSU campus. The program can be completed in one year as a full time student or two and a half years as a part time student.

The majority of students who enroll in the program have already earned a bachelor's degree, and it is recommended that students complete their undergraduate degree before earning a paralegal certificate. However, students will be considered for admission without a bachelor's degree, if they meet certain educational requirements.

Murvin's favorite aspect of teaching in the LSU Paralegal Studies Program is the close relationships she forms with her students.

"I get to know each and every student," she said. "I'm able to watch a student graduate and then enter the workforce. Our graduates become our colleagues and our coworkers. As instructors in this program, we are able to watch these students grow and that's a privilege many teachers do not have."

Murvin likes to use her personal experiences in the legal field when teaching and considers them her "war stories."

"I like to give fictional scenarios, but I incorporate the real cases I've worked on," Murvin said. "I don't mind telling stories about myself or the mistakes I've made because it helps the students learn."

When Murvin isn't in the classroom she is busy working within the legal field. Murvin worked for the law firm deGravelles, Palmintier, Holthaus & Frugé in downtown Baton Rouge for more than 25 years. Today, she performs freelance work for two law firms in Baton Rouge, one of which is her former full-time employer.

According to Murvin, there are trends emerging among the students who are enrolling in today's program.

"In today's classes, we have students who are looking for a career change. Many individuals who enroll in the program had always been interested in law but never had the opportunity to pursue it," Murvin explained. "Also, the program requires certain educational prerequisites to enter the program so the educational level of students is more even than in the past."

Murvin's interests lie in civil litigation, but she has helped to create a federal litigation course and other courses for the program. Many of faculty within the program specialize in certain legal subjects.

The LSU Paralegal Studies Program offers job placement for its students who want to pursue a legal career. Murvin said the paralegal profession offers certain career securities and benefits because law firms can shift their areas of practice according to current social or economic conditions.

"One of the nice things about working in the legal field is that no matter the state of the economy, people always need lawyers, and lawyers need paralegals," Murvin said. "A struggling economy may hit large firms harder than small firms because they have the bigger corporations as clients, but all lawyers and law firms can adapt their practices when necessary."

When Murvin is asked how much longer she plans to continue teaching, she said it hasn't crossed her mind.

"I enjoy working as a paralegal and all the responsibilities and challenges the profession brings," she explained. "I've also enjoyed my years teaching in the classroom, and I haven't thought about ending that anytime soon."

In closing, Murvin offers these words of advice for any individual who is considering a career as a paralegal, or in the legal field.

"Many students enroll in our paralegal program that are considering law school or a career change into the legal field," she said. "Law school is such a big decision and the paralegal program is a great way to find out if you really have the skills and personality traits to work in the legal field. In the legal field, you have to be organized, meet strict deadlines and work under stress. If you can't do that, it will be difficult for you to thrive in the legal environment, and I would hate for anyone not to be happy."

The LSU Paralegal Studies Program is a program of LSU Continuing Education. LSU Continuing Education acts as a leading university provider of educational outreach and engagement to help people achieve their goals and improve their quality of life, their organizations and their communities. Visit www.outreach.lsu.edu for more information.

Follow LSU Continuing Education on Twitter at LSUCE.