D.C. and Georgetown relaunch paralegal program for returning citizens

Georgetown University recently relaunched a program that enables formerly incarcerated people to prepare for careers as paralegals. Through a partnership with the D.C. Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA) and the D.C. Department of Employment Services (DOES), the MORCA-Georgetown Paralegal Program provides both training and work experience, expanding the pipeline of talent available to D.C. employers.

Fourteen students entered the program in mid-September, many with valuable professional experience and self-taught knowledge of the law. The cohort will complete 12 in-person courses across 16 weeks to earn a certificate in paralegal studies from Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies (SCS). Participants will receive a stipend while attending classes full time and will have access to several mentors from the paralegal program’s first cohort, which graduated in 2018-19.

Students will graduate in December and transition to a one-year paid fellowship position at a law firm, nonprofit, or government agency. There, they’ll get hands-on experience and build a professional network. Employers, meanwhile “will gain qualified, dependable professionals with a unique and valuable perspective,” said DOES Director Unique Morris-Hughes.

Program leaders say that initiatives like the MORCA-Georgetown Paralegal Program—as well as Georgetown’s Pivot Program—help address some of the challenges known to thwart re-entry, such as resume gaps, lack of educational opportunities, and the stigma of incarceration. “These students are talented, motivated, and they are more than capable of succeeding and thriving in any industry,” said MORCA Director Lamont Carey.

“Reentry programs that combine Georgetown academics and professional development open doors for our students,” said Marc Howard, director of the Georgetown Prisons and Justice Initiative. “They also create change within the business community, encouraging employers to expand their own second-chance hiring practices.”

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