2011 Intensive Day graduate, Tiffany Psilovikos, shares her memories about USD’s Paralegal Program and gives some great advice for new paralegals entering the field. A native of Orange County, Tiffany always had an interest in the legal field and chose a paralegal certificate as a possible stepping stone to law school.
Q: How did you hear about USD’s Paralegal Program and why did you choose to enroll?
A: I heard about USD’s Paralegal Program from research I conducted and discovered it was the best program in San Diego County. Additionally, it was ABA approved, so I decided to enroll because I read some great things about the program, the classes seemed interesting to me and the mandatory internship was great for those who may not have prior legal experience.
Q: What was your previous education and work experience?
A: Prior to attending USD’s paralegal program, I received my bachelor of arts from San Diego State in Communications and Political Science. During my last year at SDSU, I worked full time at a law firm. Additionally, during the summers during undergrad I interned at the Orange County DA’s office and was the sole undergrad intern in the family law department.
Q: What was your favorite class/instructor/assignment in the program?
A: I think my favorite class was real estate law, but my favorite assignment was in legal research. I remember the experience in the USD law library and how hands on our assignment was, it was tedious, but taught us a lot about legal research. I think my favorite instructor was the criminal law instructor because his lectures were very interesting. The class that has helped me the most in my career is Computers in the Legal Field.
Q: What is your favorite place on campus?
A: One of my favorite places on campus was the USD law library. I remember during finals week only USD paralegal and law students were allowed in and there were plenty of great spots to study.
Q: What was your greatest personal takeaway from the program?
A: My greatest personal takeaway from the program is the internship. I did mine at the DA’s office downtown and it was great to get hands on experience in parallel to the program.
Q: What was the greatest challenge you faced in the program and how did you overcome it?
A: I think the greatest challenge I faced was how stern the start time of classes were at the program. Rumor was the doors would lock to one class in particular even if you were a minute late. I remember one morning my alarm didn’t go off and I woke up on my own and I was so worried I was going to be late for class, but I ended up making it right at the start time.
Looking back, it was a good thing to instill the “be on time or early” rule to the students since it will eventually help them in their future careers.
Q: What advice do you have for current students?
A: My best advice is to network, join the alumni group after graduation, and attend as many MCLE events as you can as it is an excellent way to network within the legal community.
Q: Describe your job search process after graduation.
A: I ended up interviewing quite a few different places, both small and large firms. A few of the places I interviewed for called me back for second interviews and some even gave computer tests, but it came down to two employers. I ended up receiving two different job offers on the same day. I weighed the pros and cons, benefits, pay, commute and opted for the job closer to home and it ended up being a great choice. After I left that firm, I transferred to Qualcomm in 2012 and have been in the legal department at Qualcomm ever since.
Q: What interested you about this particular job opportunity?
A: What interested me the most about my current job opportunity was the fact that I had zero IP experience. I joined a company that was focused on IP and I had so much to learn from day one.
I didn’t let the fact that I had zero IP experience stop me from pursuing a job at Qualcomm. They were appreciative that they could train me and how eager I was to learn.
Q: Describe a typical day in your position. Is it what you expected?
A: In my current role, I manage projects in the legal department and coordinate support between our customers and internal attorneys. I must keep deadlines in mind and make sure we deliver analysis to our customers in a timely manner. During a typical day, I usually have a few meetings, I run reports and provide stats to attorneys as well as email our customers or their outside counsel to discuss the projects at hand.
Q: What’s your favorite part of your position?
A: I think my favorite part of my position is I am always thinking of new ways to improve and make things more efficient. It is great to work with others who support my ideas and encourage me to bring my ideas to them to implement them.
Q: What keeps you motivated to stay in the profession?
A: What keeps me motivated to stay in the profession is how quickly technology is changing.
I enjoy seeing firsthand the new tools paralegals have access to and how we are evolving at such a fast pace.
Q: What networking or job search advice do you have for recent graduates?
A: The best advice I can provide for recent graduates is don’t dwell so much on the salary.
Unfortunately, many people get so hung up on the “what will I make?” question but don’t focus on the experience. The best advice I can provide is to interview, see what position is best suited for you and take it, get the experience, and the money will evolve with time and experience.
Q: Any hobbies or outside interests you’d like to share?
A: I am an avid runner and have completed over 40 half marathons to date. I also volunteer in my spare time and have been a Big Sister through the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program, a CASA- court appointed special advocate and I sit on the Patient Family Advisory Council at Saddleback Hospital.
Tiffany also regularly attends MCLE and networking events to stay current and connected in the field. Her next goal is to seek an MBA or JD.
If you’re a graduate of USD’s Paralegal Program and would like to be featured in our Spotlight, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.