Paralegal Studies – An Internship Experience Report

James LeHeup selfie with woman

Internships are an integral part of the Paralegal Studies Program at Madonna. Senior James LeHeup (pictured on the right), who graduated with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 1999, is interning with the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Pro Se Legal Assistance Clinic. Under the supervision of the Clinic Director and UDM Law School Professor Barb Patek, he is serving indigent Pro Se litigants who are attempting to represent themselves in federal court. 

"The internship has been a great experience and I have been learning a lot about the judicial process," LeHeup said. "I can see first-hand what it means to be a part of a law firm and how important it is to stay on top of things."

Paralegal Studies Program Director Mary Meinzinger Urisko said she encourages students to find paid internships where they can remain full-time employees once they graduate. 

LeHeup is already employed full-time as the video coordinator at the Wayne County Sheriff’s office scheduling video hearings for prisoners. "I've gone on interviews for internships last summer and a lot of places told me that I didn't have enough experience for them to hire me," LeHeup said. Going back to school while having a family and a full-time job scared him, but he was glad when it finally worked out with the Pro Se Legal Assistance Clinic. LeHeup said Urisko was a great help with that.

In his internship, LeHeup works with Patek to conduct client intake, evaluate claims, perform legal research, and assist with the drafting and filing of federal lawsuits. LeHeup also works with Clinic Director and Madonna Adjunct Instructor Rebecca Simkins Nowak (pictured on the left) at the UDM Law School campus in Detroit in the Law School's Expungement Clinic where they work with citizens to expunge their criminal histories from their records. LeHeup's role is to interview clients, perform legal research, and prepare filing packets for the courts from which their clients seek expungement.​

“​Internships provide a wonderful opportunity for students to explore their careers before they graduate,” Urisko said.  “If they do it at the end of their degree, they graduate employed.”

Urisko said the Paralegal Program offers great job opportunities and a very good return on investment in students' education.