San Jacinto College graduate Nicole Mercado, shown with San Jacinto College administrator Ernest Davila, is enthusiastic about working as a paralegal at the Harris County District Attorney’s office. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.
HOUSTON – Nearly 40 percent of paralegals at the Harris County District Attorney’s office are graduates of San Jacinto College’s paralegal program, which is significant given the esteem and desirability of a DA’s office paralegal position.
Ernest Davila, business and professional department chair at the North Campus, says the Harris County DA’s office is widely regarded as one of the premier paralegal work places in the region. “The starting pay for paralegals at the DA’s office ranks among the best,” Davila commented. “Also, the medical benefits are excellent, and DA paralegals get plenty of court and trial experience, which is a great addition to a resumé. The fact that such a high percentage of the paralegals at the DA’s office are San Jacinto College graduates is also significant because there are at least 10 paralegal training programs in the Houston region.”
In addition to working at San Jacinto College, Davila is also a practicing attorney, and has had considerable work experience at the DA’s office.
Scott Durfee, chief of the DA’s office general litigation division, says the DA’s office does not give preferential consideration to San Jacinto College students when hiring paralegals. “But the fact is that the San Jacinto College paralegal graduates we have hired are some of the best employees we have at the District Attorney’s office,” Durfee commented. “They are prepared for and enthusiastic about the work we do, and we trust them to be able to handle anything we throw at them. Although each applicant for a paralegal position is evaluated on his or her own merits, we do look favorably upon San Jacinto College graduates because they have developed the skills we need from our paralegals. In short, we like them because they are ready to hit the ground running.”
The enthusiasm and work ethic described by Durfee is personified by San Jacinto College graduate Nicole Mercado, who earned a paralegal associate degree from San Jacinto College in 2013, and was hired by the DA’s office shortly afterwards. “I love what I do at the DA’s office, and being a paralegal in criminal law has not only become my career, but also my passion,” commented Mercado.
Mercado has long been attracted to law. “I have always been intrigued by law, and a friend of mine who went through the San Jacinto College program recommended it to me,” she remarked. “Choosing paralegal and San Jacinto College were the best decisions I’ve ever made. My favorite part of the job is anything involving trial. It’s always a thrill for me to assist however I can when a prosecutor is in trial, particularly in voir dire (the process of selecting a jury).”
Mercado is particularly thankful for the practical, hands-on experience she gained as an intern through San Jacinto College paralegal program. “I interned with a civil litigation firm, and I certainly feel like that practical experience made me a better paralegal,” she said.
According to the most recent statistics available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary of paralegals is $46,680 ($22.44 per hour). The BLS predicts that nationwide, the paralegal profession is expected to grow by 18 percent from 2010 to 2020.
Graduates of San Jacinto College’s paralegal program generally have no problem finding jobs. During recent years, the job placement rate for paralegal graduates has ranged from 90 to 95 percent.
San Jacinto College offers a two-year paralegal associate degree program at the North Campus, as well as distance learning paralegal courses that are available online. The College’s paralegal program is one of only a handful in Texas approved by the American Bar Association.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.