LSC-North Harris grad honored by City of Houston as 2009 Outstanding Paralegal

After a 17-year career as a flight attendant with Continental Airlines and a stint as a stay-at-home mom, Leslie Sears found herself as an empty nester when her two children went away to college, one at Texas State University and the other at Texas A&M University. “I had attended The University of Texas at Austin until I became old enough to fulfill my dream of being a flight attendant,” she explained, “and had, periodically, taken classes at LSC-Kingwood, so it occurred to me it may be time to put together a college degree of some sort.” In her late 40s, Sears had thought about going to law school, but having two kids in college fairly depleted the family budget for her own education. “After doing some research, I found that paralegals do many of the tasks attorneys might do, and when I found out Lone Star College-North Harris had a paralegal program, I was thrilled,” she recalled. Attending school from 2004 to 2006, Sears went on to earn an associate degree in paralegal studies from a program with the distinction of being accredited by the American Bar Association. Marcy Delesandri, director of paralegal studies at LSC-North Harris, said the program had been established 24 years ago and its graduates continue to respond to the area’s demand for paralegals. “The paralegal profession continues to be on the U.S. Department of Labor’s list of the top 10 jobs in demand, projected well into the future,” the professor said, “and because Greater Houston has such a large legal community, local demand is as great, and possibly exceeds the national trends.” LSC-North Harris currently offers two programs, a two-year AAS degree, and a paralegal certificate for someone who already has an associate, bachelor or higher degree, which is a two-semester (one academic year) program. In-district tuition for the AAS degree program totals approximately $3,000. Salaries for degreed paralegals depend on the employer. For example, in downtown Houston, paralegals with an associate’s degree and no experience earn anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000 to start. “Because our program is ABA accredited, we attract a wide variety of students,” Delesandri pointed out, “including many nontraditional students who are working and have families, so our classes are scheduled during the day, in the evening and we do offer some online classes.” Sears, who took her first job as a paralegal three and one-half years ago, works in the City of Houston’s business litigation division. “Much of what makes me confident in my work, along with my training as a paralegal, comes from my unique past experiences as a flight attendant, which required attention to detail, a high degree of organization and the flexibility to move from one challenge to another,” she said, “and as a full-time mom, I had to juggle schedules, think on my feet, be resourceful and be three places at once,” she laughed. “I still love a challenge and I like solving problems,” she added. “Our department is often asked to do spur-of-the-moment research. In one instance, both of the attorneys I work for were busy and the mayor, who was involved in a press conference, needed information immediately. It took three or four minutes, but I found the data he needed, called his press secretary and forwarded the information, which was texted to the mayor’s Blackberry while the press conference was in progress.” Not one for luncheons or other distractions, Sears said she had not planned to go to the City’s Awards Luncheon. “My bosses had to really do some talking to get me to go,” the paralegal admitted. “And when they began the awards presentation, I wasn’t really paying much attention, probably because I knew I had been there such a short time, I would never be considered for anything.” “As they began the presentation for Outstanding Paralegal, I assumed one of my highly-tenured counterparts would be honored,” Sears said, “but when they said this year’s award was going to a paralegal who had spent the first part of her career as a flight attendant, I thought there had been some mistake. When they called my name, I was speechless…probably for the first time in my life.” Sears said her experience in the LSC-North Harris paralegal program was outstanding. “After the very large classes I had at UT, I definitely appreciated the smaller campus, where it was easy to be involved in the paralegal organization and other groups,” she pointed out. “My professors were so supportive and encouraging, I never hesitated to discuss assignments or ask questions because their doors were always open – and it was easy to get to know them and for them to know me…and being trained in an ABA accredited program made my resume stand out when I began my job search. “Once I was in my first job as a paralegal,” Sears continued, “I seemed to be over-trained for the job, because most of the paralegals were treated as secretary/clerical specialists, but now the attorneys I work for rely on me more and we’re doing the work we were trained to do.” In August, Sears plans to enroll at the University of Houston to complete her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. “Because they’re accepting all my credits from North Harris and UT, I will need to complete only 27 additional hours in order to earn my degree,” she said. For more information about the paralegal programs at LSC-North Harris, contact Delesandri at 281.618.5735 or email her at Marcy.Delesandri@lonestar.edu. With more than 62,000 students in credit classes in spring 2010, Lone Star College System is the second largest and the fastest-growing community college system in Texas and the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area. LSCS consists of five colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, and LSC-Tomball, six centers, LSC-University Park, LSC-University Center at Montgomery, LSC-University Center at University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. To learn more visit LoneStar.edu. ### April 28, 2010 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: John Luedemann 281.765.7934, desk 713.875.8719, cell