Maisha Smith, GW Online Paralegal Studies Graduate

Maisha Smith, Graduate
Master’s in Paralegal Studies Online Program
The George Washington University


Tell us about yourself.
My name is Maisha Smith and I’ve taken College of Professional Studies, Paralegal in my master’s degree.

Why did you choose the GW Paralegal Studies online program?
Well, I’ve been in a paralegal profession now for about ten years. I have maybe about six years of experience and I was looking for a program that would advance my degree. There’s not many programs specifically for the paralegal field, and when I found Paralegal Studies — online, it fit me perfectly.

Well, I work currently as a paralegal. I’ve been in that field for about ten years now, so it enhances my job responsibilities now. I’m also looking to branch off into different areas; different fields that I have learned in this master’s program now, I will be able to use and bring it to the next level for my profession.

What surprised you most about online learning?
What surprised me the most about online learning would be the amount of work, and it’s funny, I think, that you start off at first… your first year you don’t get as much volume as you get in your second year, which would make sense, because your second year you’re going more into your core classes. As the second year moved on, there was a lot of more work that I had to do, which usually maybe two or four hours a week, and then going into the second year, maybe sometimes four to six hours. So that’s what surprised me the most.

What was your favorite course in the program?
I’m going to have to say contracts. Yes, that’s a field that I’m interested in and I work with… and I’m actually just interested in it overall, because I just have the opinion that contracts basically run every aspect, regardless if it’s entertainment, construction or whatever, so that was my favourite.

Currently what I do is, I work with lease administration, so it helped me tremendously, specifically with language in contracts and interpretation and you know, how you would basically review the language and how you would interpret it to fit what whatever contract that you need to either draft or review for a client.

What would you tell a friend or colleague about this program?
It is a very good program. Often times a lot of people think that, you know, especially when you get older and if you’ve done undergraduate school, if you haven’t done graduate school, that they may not have time, you know, to go to school and to get things done. But with this particular program, because it’s online, I work fulltime and you know, I work at a job where it’s not a nine to five thing every day, so… to fit this into my schedule was not too much of a burden, you know, and I was able to do it.

How has the program impacted your career?
I’m going to say that the program impacted my career tremendously. As I stated before, has brought me up to the next level. There’s a couple of attorneys and things like that that I work with and sometimes we may have conversations about languages and things like that, where in the past I may have not known what they were referring to. And now, because I finished the program – I’m graduating – there’s a lot of things that I’m more privy to, I understand, and then we can have a full conversation about it.

How do you balance work, family and school?
It’s very hard… it’s very hard to balance work, family and school. However, with the program, I think that they tried to make it where, you know, if you work a fulltime job and you work a nine to five and just say you get home at six, they try to give you during the week maybe only about an hour and a half, maybe two hours’ worth of reading, or maybe an hour’s worth of reading and then a program to do, or an assignment, which I think is doable, because you know… Just think about it: if some people sit up… when they get home from work they’ll watch TV for five hours, you know, when they get home. But if you think about that five hour time period, if you squeeze in what you need to do, it’s definitely doable, and I think as long as you have the discipline and it’s something that you really want to go after, then you’ll get it done.

I would say definitely let your employer – if you do work full time – let your employer know that you are in school and that you are working on an online program, because that’ll just help with… you know, sometimes some employers think as though, because you’re there, you can stay there and pass your time, you know; but if you let them know that you have an assignment to do or that you’re in school, then they’ll typically say, okay, I know this person has to leave at five o’clock; let me let them get out the door. So I think as long as you let your employer know that you’re in school, that would probably help the best.

How does interaction work in the online environment?
We have a great deal of interaction on the online environment; we have weekly discussions, we also have chats and e-mails with your professors and also with your facilitator. So you have interaction with everyone, including your fellow students. We have mainly all of the students’ contact information, so you know, several students and I, we would just e-mail each other back and forth and you know, say like if we had little questions on assignments and things like that, so there’s always an interaction; even though there’s not a person that’s face-to-face with you, there’s usually always interaction with either a professor or your fellow students.

Any final thoughts?
I definitely think that it’s a very good program. I know for sure the timeframe when I was in it, seemed like it was long. Now that it’s done, it seems like it flew by. You know, because sometimes you think about the two years like oh, it’s a long time, you know, classes and things. And a lot of people don’t do the program straight through, but that’s probably what I would recommend, as my final thought. I would say that if you can do the program straight through, it’ll probably be the easiest thing you can do, because it’s not too much, even if you work a fulltime position, for you to get the full program done with internet – so your period – as opposed to stopping and then starting another class, another summer or something like that. It’s just very easier to get it done, so if you have the ability, that’s what I would leave my final thought as, is to complete the program within the allotted two year time period.

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