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CFCC paralegal technology student wins second place in statewide essay contest

Lara Girdler
CFCC Paralegal Technology student Lara Girdler won second place in the North Carolina Paralegal Association (NCPA) Student Essay Contest. The essay contest, “I have chosen to be a paralegal…,” is an annual scholarship contest open to all paralegal students in North Carolina. Four winners receive scholarship funds to assist with tuition, books, and examination fees. Winning essays are featured in the NCPA FORUM magazine.

Law and Reverse Order

Fascinated by her grandfather’s stories from his days as a federal judge, Girdler’s interest in the legal system seeded early. Girdler thought about applying to law school after earning her bachelor’s degree in management, however, her plans changed.

“Life has a funny way of interrupting the best-laid plans,” Girdler shares in her essay. “A wedding and two pregnancies later, law school was on the back burner for the foreseeable future.”

But the desire to work in the legal field simmered in Girdler’s mind.

In January of 2020, Girdler was laid off from her administrative job. That’s when she reconsidered pursuing law school again. But with the nearest law school hours away, she let go of that dream.

Making the Dream a Reality

Then one fateful reality show introduced Girdler to the idea of working as a paralegal.

A paralegal assists attorneys with probate work, investigations, public records search, drafting and filing legal documents, research, and office management. Paralegals can work in various environments, including private law firms, governmental agencies, banks, insurance agencies, and other business organizations.

“I began researching the paralegal career field. What I found was amazing,” Girdler writes. “I could still work in the legal field but not have to go to law school.”

Further research brought Girdler to CFCC, where she is now earning her Paralegal Technology Diploma. She also found that CFCC’s Paralegal Technology program offers flexible course times at an affordable cost, making it easy for her to go to school part-time while working in her new position at a local law firm.

Finding the Pursuit of Happiness

For Girdler, the answer to “I have chosen to be a paralegal” is simple.

Training to be a paralegal at CFCC prepares me for “the pursuit of a position in an industry I have wanted to work in for a very long time,” shares Girdler. “These are the things that drive me as a person: helping others and making the world a better place through my actions and work.”

“Lara is an exceptional student in all classes. She has been working full-time in a local law firm,
while she is completing her degree,” CFCC Paralegal Program Director Susan Clarke said. “Lara’s work product is exemplary. She challenges me to be a better instructor.”

Girdler encourages others to aim for the stars if they know where their passion lies. If they need time to discover that passion, Girdler urges “don’t be afraid to make those major changes in life even if you are like me, someone coming back after 20+ years.”

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