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Legal Assisting Alumni Stories

Benjamin H. Eagleton, Esq.

Tell a little about yourself and how you came to attend ARC.
I'm a licensed Probate Litigation Attorney practicing with the BPE Law Group, P.C.- offices in Gold River and Lincoln, California. Before law school I enrolled in, and completed, the American River College Legal Assisting program. The curriculum, esteemed faculty there, and its Photo of man in suit next to treeABA approval played a key role in developing my legal career.

When did you attend ARC? Did you graduate or transfer? If transfer, to where?
I attended in 2010 after relocating from Pennsylvania where I studied Political Science at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. After completing the Legal Assisting degree at American River College, I started Lincoln Law School of Sacramento's evening Juris Doctor program in 2011.

Can you provide a specific example how the ARC setting helped you succeed?
The Legal Assisting program provided me with a great foundation in the study of law. Many of the faculty are practicing attorneys and retired judges, and in the Sacramento area, ARC is highly regarded. Legal Assisting students are known to be well trained, responsible, and competent in the legal community. Almost immediately after beginning the ARC program, a classmate of mine introduced me to their employer Therese A. Adams, a local attorney who advised the legal assisting program in its development and its ABA approval. I was hired right away as a part-time Paralegal at Adams & Hayes Law and then after completing the program accepted a full-time position there. ARC created the opportunity for me to obtain a great job and this was a huge benefit.

The Legal Assisting coursework was also a valuable preview to my first year of law school. Going into the first year, I already knew basic Contracts theories and was very familiar with the elements of many Intentional Torts and Negligence - this really allowed me to excel. Also, taking the Probate and Estate Planning elective at ARC, in large part, inspired me to pursue my current practice area.

ARC qualified me to work in the legal field, it introduced me to a network of legal professionals, and it proved to be an invaluable source of academia for me.

Do you have any advice for our students and future students with background similar to yours?
I encourage Legal Assisting students to make the most of the program. Get involved in the Legal Assisting Club, and reach out to American River College Alumni. Pick-up any practical experience you can. There are plenty of opportunities available if you look in the right places.


Angela Grijalva

Tell a little about yourself and how you came to attend ARC.
I am a Latinx women who has deep ties to my community. It is my desire to give back to my community by dedicating myself to my craft that I might pay homage to those who came before me by doing good works.

I found my passion for law working on Accounts Receivable as a Bookkeeper for a local construction company. Time and time again I was in small claims court collecting on past due accounts. Maneuvering through the legal procedures while adhering to the time limitations was invigorating, so I decided to seek out a Paralegal Degree. After deciding to pursue this new career, I enrolled in American River College Photo of woman outside a building(ARC) Legal Assisting Program.

When did you attend ARC? Did you graduate or transfer? If transfer, to where?
I was enrolled in the Legal Assisting Program in 2011 and graduated in 2013. I transferred from Heald College and DQ University.

What was your major, is it something you always wanted to do or did you change your major?
Never had I imagined myself becoming a Paralegal. A job in the legal industry had never crossed my mind. It was William L. Porter's Construction Collection Seminar that taught me to navigate the complexities of construction law.

Do you currently work? If so, where and explain what you do there.
Currently I am self-employed as a Legal Document Assistant here in Sacramento County. I was able to use the Legal Assisting Degree from ARC to start my own legal document preparation business. I assist members of the public who cannot afford an attorney or cannot afford to take time off work to go to the courthouse to prepare their court documents. I do exactly what I used to do working as a Paralegal in a family law firm, except my clients provide me instructions instead of the attorney. I prepare court documents, make copies, file the documents at the court house and serve them on parties or witness name in the action.

What did you like best about ARC?
What I liked best about ARC was the professors. There were two professors who set the foundation for my understanding of the law, Professor David W. Abbott and Professor Julie Brynelson. I did not realize the significance of this until my first semester at Lincoln Law.

Can you provide a specific example how the ARC setting helped you succeed?
While attending American River College, I started working as a Legal Secretary at a local law firm, Mojaddidi Law. Obtaining a Legal Assisting/Paralegal Degree put me in a position to advance by receive a promotion to become a full-time Paralegal and a pay raise. 

How do you think ARC prepared you for your future?
The legal education I obtained from ARC not only prepared me to be a Legal Assistant/Paralegal, but also put me on the pathway for a Juris Doctorate.

What has been the key motivating factor or factors in your life to pursue your goal(s)?
The key motivating factors that push me to pursue my goals are my dedication to my community and wanting to leave a better world for my child.

What are your future plans?
After completing by Baccalaureate at CSUS, I plan on pursuing a Juris Doctorate, passing the bar, opening my own firm, and running for office.

Who inspired you in life and how?
I am inspired by all those who have come before me who have laid down the pathway so that I might walk down it one day. I am inspired by my mother, who, even in her retirement, dedicates her life to civil justice. I am inspired by my grandmother who overcame language, discrimination, and other socioeconomic barriers to become the Director of Nurses at the Valley Baptist Hospital in Harlingen, Texas. It was my grandmother's drive and determination which lead the first Latino Doctor to be hired at the Valley Baptist Hospital. It is this same drive and determination that fuels my passion for life.

Do you have any advice for our students and future students with background similar to yours?
My advice to my fellow Legal Assisting/Paralegal peers present and future is that you find your passion and pursue it with vigor. Go boldly into your future and when you fall, as we all have and will, stand up again and continue on. You are where you are meant to be, right here, right now, in this moment. I too have had my share of setbacks and struggles. I did not graduate from High School, instead I obtained a GED. While attending the Legal Assisting Program I was escaping domestic violence. On one occasion, I could not turn in my homework because the power was turned off without notice in my home. Do not let the struggle defeat or define you, rather let it sharpen and polish you. Hold your head up, for you are perfect. You are the hopes and dreams of our ancestors. Honor them and yourself in the living of your life to its fullest.


Jennifer Reilly

Tell a little about yourself and how you came to attend ARC.
I worked in retail management for almost 20 years at companies such as Starbucks and Chipotle. Unfortunately, I was injured at my last job and it forced me out of that industry. I knew I needed to find another career for myself so I looked into becoming a paralegal. I found only two places in Sacramento where I could get a degree in legal assisting. I chose American River College because of the affordability and the timeframe in which it would take me to get my degree. I am a returning student as well - I had been going to Sacramento City College on and off over the years however I never finished by degree. Due to this injury, I now had the Photo of woman outside with flowersopportunity to complete it. 

When did you attend ARC? Did you graduate or transfer? If transfer, to where?
I attended ARC from Fall 2016 to Fall 2017. I graduated in December 2017.

What was your major, is it something you always wanted to do or did you change your major?
My major was legal assisting. I was originally going to school for biology. When I came to ARC, it was specifically for legal assisting. I chose this major because of how many different types of jobs there are in this field: private law firms, government jobs, or companies. 

What did you like best about ARC?
The students! I met a lot of great people in my classes from all different walks of life. 

Can you provide a specific example how the ARC setting helped you succeed?
Having the professors be attorneys helped me understand the profession better and not only did their real-life examples help but also their different styles of teaching helped me understand the types of attorneys I would/will encounter. The other part that was exceptionally helpful was DSPS. My injury has left me disabled and I was able to get the support/assistance I needed to be successful.

How do you think ARC prepared you for your future?
The types of classes I took gave me a diverse picture of the legal field as I am new to this career and the types of resources that were available to me, like DSPS.

What has been the key motivating factor or factors in your life to pursue your goal(s)?
Having to change careers abruptly and to make sure I had the ability to find a completely different type of job.

What are your future plans?
To get a job! Then to pursue my bachelors degree.

Who inspired you in life and how?
My mother also had to change careers at my age and she went to Sacramento City College to earn her A.A. and went on to UC Davis for her bachelors degree. I had her as my example when I found myself in a similar situation.

Do you have any advice for our students and future students with background similar to yours?
Take advantage of all the resources on campus. There are wonderful people working there that are only interested in your success, like Anita Fortman from the Counseling offices, Asha Wilkerson, the department chair, and Julia Brynelson, a professor in the major. Ask for help with whatever you are struggling with because it's a safe environment to do it.