Georgetown’s Prisons and Justice Initiative (PJI) is working to reduce barriers to employment in the legal profession for formerly incarcerated citizens by offering career preparation through the MORCA-Georgetown Paralegal Program. In collaboration with the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA), the DC Department of Employment Services (DOES), PJI’s intensive 20-week, full-time program prepares returning citizens, or Paralegal Fellows, for jobs with law firms, government agencies, and nonprofits in the Washington, DC, metro area and provides them with an hourly stipend as they complete classes. The program supplements Fellows’ practical experience, which many gained researching and analyzing case law and preparing legal arguments while incarcerated.
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The paralegal program curriculum covers a variety of topics, including legal research and writing, corporate law, and job readiness. Fellows also learn to network and build lasting relationships with colleagues as they advance their careers. Upon finishing the program, Fellows interview with program partners for paid, entry-level, full-time paralegal positions.
Preparing returning citizens for career success
Recently, the program partnered with the Career Development team at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy to help Fellows prepare for their interviews and eventual entry into the job market. Fellows participated in workshops and mock interviews, which taught them how to research the organization and position they are applying for and form clear, concise responses to questions interviewers might ask.
“We provided the students with acknowledgement and encouragement, helping them build confidence in their experience and the learning they gained from the Paralegal Program, and educated them on how to best articulate this in an interview,” said Lynda Jones, assistant director of career development at the McCourt School.
The MORCA-Georgetown Paralegal Program recently awarded certificates in Paralegal Studies to 16 returning citizens. It will welcome its next cohort of Paralegal Fellows this spring and will continue partnering with the McCourt Career Development team. “Cross-campus partnerships help drive the success of our programs,” said Caitlin Chamberlain, deputy director of the Prison and Justice Institute. “By working with other teams across campus, we’re able to provide the students in our programs with additional services and opportunities to grow and tap into the many excellent and always-expanding resources that the university has to offer.”