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Volume 51, Number 34   May 24, 2004         

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People on Campus

Pat Medina – Running the best
Photo of Pat MedinaThe dress shoes beneath the desk in Pat Medina's downtown San Francisco office get little use. On any given day, the director of paralegal studies at SFSU's College of Extended Learning rarely gets a moment to exchange them for the running shoes she wears to and from BART. Her phone rings incessantly, students pop in every few minutes, there is a June graduation and fall class schedule to see to, instructors to reach, and an office move to complete.

A part-time contractor, Medina nonetheless directs one of the most popular programs at the College of Extended Learning, assisted only by her program coordinator and volunteers. At any given time there are 240 to 250 students in the program. "Classes fill up to 75 percent on the first day of registration, and then I scramble to open new sections" Medina says. A recent survey of graduates revealed a 90 percent placement rate for its alums. "It is a hot market for paralegals. I have jobs called in to me on a daily basis and work closely with legal recruiters," she says.

Medina considers herself "a teacher first." Back when this San Francisco native began her career path she says women had limited options. "There were three things: nurse, mother or teacher." Medina received her BA in English at SFSU and met Nick, her husband of 43 years, while she was getting her teaching credentials. While Nick remained a special education teacher for 30 years, Medina left her position as an English teacher and entered the paralegal profession when it took off in the 1970s. Medina was hired to teach in the SFSU paralegal program in 1981 and combined paralegal work with teaching until 2000, when she retired from office work and became director of the program.

In 1985 Medina developed the a paralegal internship program as part of the core curriculum for paralegal students and continues to maintain a close and productive relationship with staff in the public sector as well as the top law firms in San Francisco. Ann Christina Rothchild, who will graduate from the Paralegal Studies Program this summer, describes her internship in the real estate and finance department of the San Francisco City Attorney's office as "rewarding and invaluable."

"My students always come first," Medina says. "I admire their dedication and work ethic. Many of them juggle the responsibilities of a full time job, with family obligations and a full class schedule."She is always happy to step in as an employment coach and counselor. Over the years she has found a number of professional positions for graduates of the program. There is a strong connection between the program and several high-profile law firms including Morrison & Foerster, where graduates have been hired and interns placed.

Last year, the American Association for Paralegal Educators honored Medina as Teacher of the Year.

" She gives a lot of herself as a teacher," Rothchild says. "It is obvious she spends a lot of time on student work."

Rothchild, a technical writer in the software industry for many years before entering the Paralegal Studies Program, says she especially appreciates the scrutiny Medina gives to student papers. "These can be more than 20 pages long, yet you'll find comments from Pat from the first page to the last." Rothchild maintains that she, like most of Medina's students, "will walk away from the program with a portfolio of excellent work to show prospective employers."

Ethics is Medina's favorite subject. "There's never a lack of current events that make excellent case studies and lead to productive classroom discussions," she says.

She also teaches Discovery and Trial Preparation and wrote the textbook for the course because "there wasn't any thing on the market that really addressed the role of the paralegal in this crucial part of litigation." The book, published by Aspen, is in its third edition.

In her spare time, Medina is always thinking up new course ideas. "Someday I'd love to offer a class like ‘Reel, or real, justice featuring legal issues in movies and TV,'" she says. "We could examine the obligations of court TV judges. Is it only entertainment or can it be a way to educate the public?" Though Medina has given some thought to retirement, she maintains that she'll never give up teaching. "I enjoy it too much."

-- Denize Springer

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Last modified May 24, 2004, by the Office of Public Affairs