Three Paralegal Studies students from The University of Southern Mississippi were recently honored by the Mississippi Paralegal Association (MPA) for sweeping all three places in the 2010 Student Essay Contest.
The winners, Kelcey Nelson of Lucedale, Courtney Powell of Petal, Dionne Grant of Hattiesburg placed first, second and third place respectively. They were honored at MPA's January luncheon in Jackson.
"The essay contest is just one more opportunity for the students to practice their writing skills which is vitally important in the legal profession," said Subrina Cooper, assistant professor of paralegal studies.
The students were required to select from three fields of law in which they would like to work and discuss the reason for their selection, as well as the duties of a paralegal within the chosen area of law.
"I encourage students to participate in any sort of writing competition or activity which will hone their writing skills. The MPA has always been very supportive of the Southern Miss paralegal program," Cooper said.
Additionally, the winners received a one year MPA student membership which includes a subscription to MPA's newsletter "The Assistant" where the essays were published; a one-year subscription to Facts & Findings, a publication of the National Association of Legal Assistants; and monetary awards of $300 to the first place winner, $200 to the second place and $100 to the third place winner.
All three students wrote their essays on family law and plan to pursue law school after graduation from Southern Miss.
Nelson, a self-proclaimed ‘people person’ has an affinity for helping others. “Right now, in our society, the divorce rate is roughly at 50 percent. That means there are few families that have not been affected by the difficulties of a court action.” After graduation, Nelson hopes to find a job in the Hattiesburg area at a defense or family law firm before pursuing graduate school.
Grant started out at Southern Miss as an accounting major, but changed majors after speaking with faculty members in the Paralegal Studies program. “I really felt like the legal field was more for me,” she said. “I went and talked to Subrina Cooper about changing my major to Paralegal Studies. She and the other staff were very nice and helpful and I really liked the vibe of the College.”
Powell also found her way to Paralegal Studies after having previously declared five majors. “I knew at some point I wanted to go to law school and it seemed the logical choice. It has helped me tremendously in preparing myself for law school and I recommend it to anyone interested in law school,” she said.
The growing demand for legal services has placed great stress on attorneys to provide efficient and effective legal assistance. As the paralegal field continues to grow the Department of Political Science, International Development and International Affairs at Southern Miss hopes to continue to provide well-trained and qualified graduates.
For more information on the Paralegal Studies program, visit www.usm.edu/polisci.