OREGON PARALEGAL ASSOCIATION
OPA’s Certification Ambassador, Linda Odermott, RP, congratulating the 2015 Newly Credentialed Paralegals: Mary VanKleeck, CRP, Leah Aldred, RP, Marjorie Machen, CRP, Kimberly Kindred, CRP, RP, and Kris Woods, CRP
The decision to sit for the PCCE was solely to prove to myself that I am good enough, smart enough. Having been in the legal field for nearly 20 years, starting in a position with no legal experience simply because of knowing the right people at the right time, everything I’ve achieved has been because I’ve worked hard for it. But still, there are those that continue to look at me like I am less because I don’t have a college education or any formal training. I needed validation that my hard work over the years had actually taught me something; that I am consistently earning my place as a paralegal with my attorneys, not just skating by because I’m adequate at what I do. To me, for me, adequate is not good enough.
I took the PCCE™ because I’ve wanted to since I first became a paralegal. For one reason or another, life got in the way and I just kept pushing this back. We struggled for years raising kids, putting them through college and dealing with aging parents.
At my performance review two years ago, I wrote down obtaining my certification as one of my goals. The HR Director asked me why I would do that to myself. I actually entertained for a moment not doing it, but then it became not only a personal goal, it was a challenge. I finally realized that something – be it work, health, life – something would always get in the way. And finally, it was just my turn.
When my coworker, Kristen Baker, CRP, and I talked about it, when we said the words, “let’s do it,” there was no turning back. I committed myself to finally accomplishing this goal and I committed to Kristen to go through it with her. I won’t lie, there were times I thought I had lost my mind; I was terrified of failing. But I survived – and I’m finally a certified paralegal! As an added bonus, I believe that achieving my certification this late in the game stands as an example to others. There’s always more you can learn and it’s never too late to reach your professional goals.
Linda Escobar, CRP™
The PCCE was fairly new when I graduated from the Paralegal Program at Everest College in May 2012. As a student member of OPA, I was aware of the exam. However, I didn’t really put much thought into taking it, as I had a job waiting for me after graduation; I just wanted to focus on my new position.
A year and half later, I found myself looking for a job. This led me to WorkSource Oregon and Neil, my Career Specialist. Neil asked me if there was anything he could do to help me find a job. I replied “yes, actually there is”. I told him about the exam and how I believed it would be a very beneficial thing for me to do. Neil was immediately on board and suggested that I write a proposal.
With some guidance, assistance, and a beautifully-crafted letter from Linda Odermott, RP (OPA’s Certification Ambassador) explaining the benefits of the PCCE, I prepared and submitted a proposal to WorkSource Oregon requesting federal funding. A few weeks later, my request was approved and I was enrolled in the next on-line course scheduled to begin in two weeks. The week after my funding was approved, I accepted a new position at a law firm in Portland: I started my new job and the on-line course in the same week!
Although the course moved at an incredibly fast pace, I enjoyed it and learned a lot. The study manual was helpful and absolutely necessary, but I found most of what I needed in the recommended supplemental book that I purchased on my own. I completed the on-line course around the holidays and realized there were some areas on which I needed more study time, so I scheduled my test out as far as I could. I spent the next couple of months reviewing all the materials.
I took the two days before my test off work and used those days for a final review. I had done absolutely everything I could to pass the exam. I came to the realization at that point that “I know what I know, and what I don’t, I don’t.”
I made sure to get a good night’s sleep and on test day I felt rested, ate a good lunch and took off to take the test. I felt confident, but was nervous. I checked in, sat down, did the tutorial and dove right in. The first two questions were two terms I had never heard before: I had no clue what they meant and immediately panicked. But then I remembered there were 123 more questions, took a deep breath, marked those questions for review and moved on. When I didn’t know something or wasn’t sure, I marked it for review and kept going. I knew I would have plenty of time to think about and review the questions I wasn’t sure about, but first I wanted to answer the questions I did know. After I answered all the questions, I had plenty of time left so I went through the test one final time, took a deep breath and submitted it.
When the passing score and notice popped up on the screen, I almost jumped out of my chair and started doing the happy dance! But then I remembered there are other people in the room taking tests, so I quietly grabbed my things, bolted out of the room… and then did my happy dance!
It is an incredibly rewarding and empowering feeling to have my hard work pay off, and definitely worth the effort.
Marjorie Machen, CRP™
I first heard of PCCE™ when I was preparing to graduate from the Paralegal Program at Portland Community College (PCC not PCCE™) in June, 2014. I put it on my “to do” list with the intent to begin preparing once I was done with school, but then life got in the way. I immediately began a new job and became more involved in OPA, and before I knew it, almost six months had gone by and I was no closer to my goal. After attending a workshop in November, 2014, I was finally able to create a schedule and goals, and establish a study group of six. Then that went sideways. Over the holidays, our group dwindled to two.
Once the New Year arrived, I got back on track with a revamped schedule, and set a target date for my exam. While my study partner and I met once a week to discuss the assigned chapters, I did really well studying on my own. I used Quizlet to test my knowledge and re-read chapters that just weren’t clicking. I stuck with my written schedule, and finally approached my firm about paying for the cost of the exam. I spent far more time drafting and redrafting a proposal than I did in his office making the request. Thankfully, it was an easy sell. Still, logging in to register for the exam, WITH my attorney’s credit card in hand…I’ll admit, I felt a little nauseous.
I spent about a week prior to the exam cramming and reading the entire text book two more times. I was the first to attempt the test without having taken the additional 7-week online course, and I began to question that decision. I had stress nightmares, that I was at the exam and read the wrong textbook, or that I cut off all my hair, or I was late and they wouldn’t let me in. I’m usually confident and prepared, but this was an exception. On May 9, I arrived 40 minutes early, trying to not hyperventilate when I sat down. I read through every question, then took a few more breaths and went through them all a second time, slowly. At the end, I closed my eyes and turned my head away as I hit “submit”. When I looked back at the screen, there were no fireworks, but I’d passed by a healthy margin.
My biggest regret is that I didn’t take the exam sooner. Much of the text book was a review of the courses I’d taken the two years prior at PCC. I would likely have felt much more confident if I’d jumped in earlier when those memories were fresher. I’m encouraging upcoming grads to make it a priority, as those additional credentials will open more doors. Was it hard? Yes. Was it worth it? Most definitely! The professional achievement is equal to the personal satisfaction I feel, and it stands as proof that I have the skills and drive to excel in the paralegal profession.
*Mary received preliminary results immediately after taking the exam that she had passed the test. She is currently awaiting confirmation from NFPA when the next scoring run comes out before she is able to use the CRP™ credentials.
Mary VanKleeck, CRP™
When I graduated from Portland Community College Paralegal department, I knew that I needed to stand out. Having been a member of the Oregon Paralegal Association I knew how valuable taking the NFPA’s PCC exam was. What I didn’t know is how much it would do for me.
At first it was just something I was interested in, not really committed to. But then, I was lucky enough to win a study manual at an OPA event. I started out in a study in a group with a few other OPA members but I really struggled. It was not like school. Thankfully I was given a timeline that created structure. I spent many nights after work in Starbucks, trying to really cram it all in. Finally I decided I needed the online study course. I was so thankful I signed up. Without it, I don’t think I would have passed.
The Friday before my test I was sitting at the Starbucks and another paralegal who had already taken the test was stopping in for their evening treat. (Mary Ann Ivey) I expressed my fears and she comforted me, and said something I’ll never forget “You either know it and you’ll pass, or you don’t and you won’t.” It was to the point and so true.
The day of the test I woke up very ill. I knew I couldn’t reschedule, so I took the test with the thoughts that I could fail. I sat down and went through all the questions reading them very slowly. I set aside the questions I had no idea on and decided to revisit them at the end. I used the entire time. And only submitted my final answers with less than a minute to go.
When the screen popped up that I had passed, I was so relieved. But what’s been most amazing is what happened now that I have CRP after my name. I received a raise at work. I received fancy new business cards with CRP on them. And when I talk about it people really take me seriously about my career. I’m no longer interested, I am committed.
I highly recommend taking the test, it’s worth it. Something happens when you add letters after your name, professionals take you more seriously because they know you are invested in your career.
Kris Wood, CRP™